Friday, January 5, 2007

Remembering the Maine Yarn

At SnB yesterday evening, when the conversation turned to stern or winking resolutions to Knit from Your Stash, a consensus formed that everyone in the blogoverse should visit Risa and leave a comment requesting her to flash her fabled stash. For those of us fortunate to know her IRL, it's a token of affection and esteem – a tribute to the lady's crazy fiber skillz, thanks for her work as one of two fearless Knitting Blogs ringleaders, and a monument to avid curiosity. If everyone else joins in asking, she can't possibly refuse (sez me).

Having exhorted another to flash, one can hardly abstain oneself. Kim asked about the contents of the Maine yarn box. Well, it's mostly nostalgic oddments – remnants of old projects and souvenirs from vacations spent in America's Vacationland. According to the Yarn Harlot's typology, they're a cross between core stash and souvenir stash. The yarns share a certain crunchy quality not usually found in LYS yarns. To knitters accustomed to a mono-diet of refined Merino, these are the whole grains, nuts, and pulses of the yarn world. I love their heathered luster, strength and sproing, and outstanding stitch definition.

Inside the box, there's Victorian 2-ply Wool from Halcyon Yarn in Bath, which I finally visited in person for the first time this past summer. Halcyon is a weaver and her shop reflects her interests, but knitters, spinners, and felters can find plenty of coned and skeined yarn, fiber, books, tools such as the pictured needlesizer, and unique buttons.

Halcyon Yarn sportweight and needlesizer

There's some heavyweight 2-ply yarn from Barlettyarns in Harmony, leftover from an old gansey. Bartlettyarns is one of the few mills left that uses a spinning mule to produce "woolen," rather than "worsted," yarn. Just to keep things confusing, woolen-spun yarn can be a variety of weights, including worsted weight; worsted-spun yarn can, of course, be made of wool. Whatever their weight, woolen yarns tend to be soft and lofty, very nice to knit. Even given their tendency to pill, they're definitely worth seeking out.

Bartlettyarns 2-ply

The old gansey was a favorite cool-weather hiking sweater. As the happy mileage accumulated, abrasion felted the parts under my backpack straps. I considered the scars badges of honorable service. Alas, on a bad laundry day careless inattention resulted in more drastic felting. It was traumatic – my severe pilopoiiaphobia [fear of f-f-felting] dates to that tragedy. At least I've finally intentionally felted some Jersey Fresh tomatoes.

Also in the box were some odd bits of fingering-weight Shetland yarn from Harrisville Designs of Harrisville, another mill that offers woolen-spun yarn. I've made lots of EZ baby sweaters out of this yarn, also my Vine and Branches cap and other colorwork. Most of this yarn was purchased from Martha Hall in Yarmouth, Maine (sadly defunct, Martha died of cancer many years ago).

Maine yarn

For those who never got to go, the shop was located in a handsome house in the Yarmouth historic district, long before such things became fashionable. It was an inspiring wonderland for knitters, full of classic yarns – I petted my first cobweb and my first Shetland there. There was a (pre-Internet) Martha Hall catalog and line of patterns – while some of the designs look dated now, others are still fresh and available for sale. I smile whenever I see one.

Not Maine yarn   Not Maine yarn   Not Maine yarn

At the bottom of the box there was a clamp for an embroidery hoop that busted, some dress patterns (old classics and a doublet (shriek) of a dirndl skirt pattern (SHRIEK!)), and the oversized Argyle Christmas stocking, knit from Brunswick Germantown (not a Maine yarn). It's an Area 151 project – I recognize the yarn and my own knitting but can't remember when I made it or why. I guess space aliens amuse themselves by making abducted knitters work on inexplicable projects.

In recent years, Maine has seen a remarkable efflorescence of all things fibery. Notable producers not represented here include Mel and David's A Craftsman's Touch Alpaca Company at Sea Hill Farm in Kittery Point and Tess Designer Yarns in Steuben. Maine Fiberarts publishes a fiber tour map and sponsors open farm (y'know, like open house) in early August. Needless to add, I've been trying to figure out how to attend.

Incidentally, there's a Vermont box, too. That's another story, for another time.


Kim P said...

I guess I am a whole grain, crunchy granola, quinoa, sprouted wheat kind of girl because I loved the yarns in the Maine box. Now I am off to Risa's blog to urge her to flash. See you Thursday!

CrazyFiberLady said...

I loved seeing what was in the Maine box. As for flashing my stash? Hmmm. Going to be tough as a good part of it is in one of the storage units :) Oh wait, I flashed most of it last spring, I'll have to dig up those photos :) Thank you for those wonderful compliments.

See you tomorrow!

randi K design said...

I love the hat! Also, your page is very nice looking. I have blogger also, but don't always get the pictures the way I want it, - frustrating!