Friday, July 25, 2014

Book report: Garden of the Brave in War

I wouldn't really want to be a shepherdess in Iran either then or now, but my interest in sheep keeps leading me to provide more quotes from this book before it goes back to the owner

"Come," said Jahan Shah. "Let's go and see the animals---a relief from the whining humans.";  He put the sheepskin coat around my shoulders, and we went out into the muck of the farm courtyard. A little snow now whirled in the wind and we ducked quickly into the stables, dark and warm, smelling of hay--the sheep, at our entrance, thumping their hoofs and bleating. Jahan Shah leaned against a stall while the shepherd moved amount the sheep, pulling them around one by one to show the heavy flap of wool and fat that hands downs over the rumps of the local sheep. Sometimes Jahan Shah would lift a flap, as tough to gauge its weight. Then he moved over to the sheep that had lambed and, kneeling down, he picked up to of the lambs in his arms and began to rub his cheek against their fleece, whispering to them, tickling them, finally holding them out from himself and laughing at them" p. 118

Another instance O'Donnell is talking to Khalom,

After a time, Khanom appeared leading two sheep by long chains Only the oval of her face and her arm in its bright blue sweater sleeve caught the light that was left….I asked her to sit down for she loves to talk…It came out that she had sold the sheep. I knew that dealers had been around all day, prodding and poling at the sheep, and there had been much prolonged and scrappy bargaining. Iranian men do not like to bargain with Iranian women; the latter can be very difficult. In any event, she had sold them and at her price, and further she had known that she would, for she had dreamt the whole affair the night before. p. 127

So, in my internet research started in the last post for knitting in Iran, I found these lovelies from the Brooklyn Museum which has permitted sharing of the image (yay)

If you would like to see a stunning color image of these check this out

Back on the subject of socks, Priscilla Gibson-Robert's Ethnic Socks and Stockings might help one get a little closer to a pair of Iranian inspired socks

And there are some interesting comments on "jorabs" which are toe-up socks from central Asia knit in beautiful colors 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Knitting in Iran and Thoughts on Provenance and some Synchronicity on the Solstice

I am reading an interesting book for my book group, entitled "Garden of the Brave in War: Recollections of Iran," by Terence O'Donnell.  It is a lovely apolitical book describing the culture in Iran by O'Donnell, who lived there between 1957 and 1971, years that include the hostage crisis.  The book was  published in 1980.  O'Donnell, born in 1924, died in 2001.

 The apoliticalness (is there a better adjective for that…perhaps the political equivalent of "secular"?) of the book is of interest as according to Wikipedia, O'Donnell lived in Iran between 1957 and 1981, during the hostage crisis. (A timeline note: THE Shah of Iran  Mohammad Reza Pahlavi  (1919-1980) was in power between 1941 and 1979 (remember he was the one who was a little more open to modernization and secularization…timing is everything). 

I worked at New York Hospital starting in 1983 and into the mid 90's. I would from time to time go to see a patient in the suite in which the Shah had stayed,  overlooking the East River.

At any rate, I was totally surprised to read that O'Donnell had a male servant, Mohammed Ali, "Mamdali" for short, who could knit.  Toward the beginning of his book he delivers this paragraph

The activity that occupied most of his time…was knitting.  In his village the women wove [does this sound like South America or what?!] , the men knitted, and so Mamdali provided not only his family but also me with all the sweaters, caps, scarves, socked, and mittens we needed.  When there was no other chore to do, he would sit cross-legged in a chair by the fire, or in warm water on the cobbles by the pool, and knit--the yarn threaded and held out from himself by his big toe--improvising with colors and patterns as he went along. Once he made me a pair of mittens from undyed wool, "They are very plain," he said on finishing them, and so "to make them pretty," he embroidered a red flower on the back of each. Once, too, he held up a sweater he had started and said, "I think I shall put a man in it," and then, with a raised stitch which an Aran Islander might have envied, he filled the front panel of the sweater with a saluting warrior. When the sweater was fished, I found he had knitted in "the man's horse," on the back of it. 

So…off I go in online search of men knitting in Iraq: 

No, I should have but did not go through all my back issues of Wild Fibers. [It's a pity that Linda Cortright does not offer an archive of back issues but that would severely cut into her travel schedule which would  be to our tremendous disadvantage.  And as I for one am all about living vicariously through Linda, and that's OK….]

I admit that I limited my search to Iran…knowing full well that just as in the Northern European cities and ports knitting styles were traded and borrowed, that fluctuating borders and boundaries of the middle east would not interfere with the transfer of fiber traditions…

Here's what I found on pinterest


The stitch count…can't even see. Green is the traditional and revered color in Islam. So…where exactly did this image come from?  Here's where my rant about provenance ("the chronology of the ownership, custody or location of a historical object" ty wikipedia) comes in these were found on pinterest via Tumblir…so source…no information. They are hand knit socks from Iran, 19th century according to tumbler no I won't say where but really, I don't even think there was an "Iran" in the 19th century.

So..where did this photo come from? Just because its ONLY textiles, doesn't mean it isn't history that needs proper documenting or notes from the source.

At the top of this page are some socks that I knit.  I actually, believe it or not, translated the pattern from Norwegian.  It's been a couple of years and other than seeing them on Helene's blog, I don't recall how I got the pattern.  Here is the pattern info on Rav.   Called "Russian socks" because they were knit in Northern Norway for trade with Russia for other goods, once upon a time.

I am hardly a big sock expert, and I am not one of those people who only knit socks...but it was interesting to me to see the similarities between the "Russian sock" and the 19th century Iranian sock with the afterthought heel. Although, on "further "research, this construction appears in many cultures throughout the middle east and elsewhere, along with similarly wildly beautiful and intricate patterns in fantastically small gauge.

So here's the big big synchronicitous coincidence…the blue socks that I knit were too hot for even winter in South Carolina…where did I send them?  To, of course, Afghans for Afghans...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

FO: Estonian Lilies of the Valley, A bit on the Wales trip, and A visit to the Fiberguild of the Savannahs show

I finally completed the first project in the "subcategory" (haha) of "Yarn Purchased in Wales in 2013." Why yes, as we all do, I subcategorize my yarn collection in my head.  

This is Lily of the Valley Lace Shawl  from Pam Allen's Lace Style.  ( I love the Pam Allen era Interweave Knits magazine and the fact that her beautiful daughter, Caitlin Fitzgerald, graces the cover of this book).  The pattern is of course a Nancy Bush Estonian-inspired creation.

The yarn is Collinette Jitterbug in Wasabi. While in Wales we visited Colinette's gift shop in Montgomery, and later her store (and dyeing facility) in Llanfair Caereinion, 
Powys, website here.

Here is a map showing Montgomery and Llanfair Caereinion, note where Welshpool is.

Above is a bigger map of Wales with Welshpool as your reference point; it's to the left of Shrewsbury. Yes, this is a hard-to-see map; Welshpool is just to the right of the "N" in "Cambrian Mountains" if your'e interested.

Below is the store front of Colinette's gallery in Montgomery

Here is yours truly at the top of the street in Montgomery…on fiber vacation, what could be better??

And here is the storefront of Colinette Yarns in Llanfair Caereinion

The store held a riot of colorful yarns, but I loved the soft spring green of the Jitterbug Wasabi, so appropriate for the lily of the valley pattern. 

A bit closer to home, the Fiber Guild of the Savannahs held their annual show at  the Coastal Discovery Museum close by in Hilton Head.  It was titled "Fibers Glorious Fibers!" and I went to have a peek.  I did not take photos of works of art as I did not have artists' permissions, but here are a couple of shots

I love all antique spinning wheels

Here is the handwoven finished product from the "Sheep to Shawl" that I viewed the weaving of in Savannah two months ago…

On the garden front, one of the mulberry trees that I got as a birthday gift was settled from the pot into the yard last fall.  I may never have silkworms to feed it's branches to, however it's gift to me was is the first year of berries, perhaps my reward from liberating it from it's way outgrown pot!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wolle's shawl and Sheepy Birthday Art

I finished Heaven Scent by Boo Knits.  It is lovely in the Wolle's that was gifted to me by Deb!

Now I am not a big fan of cotton yarn but this is very pretty.  I did have a very difficult time reading the lace and keeping track of where I was. And I'm not sure what I did at the top border but it's very tight…next time perhaps…read the directions a little more closely!

Why yes, it is my birthday week.  Expletive deleted.  I gifted myself with some art that I had seen in Wales: 

This is by Helen Elliott, spotted on a wall in one of our lovely accommodations.  Thank you again, Joyce James. It is 12 x 12 and I just love it. You can commission one yourself at  Helen's website

It goes well with the mermaid theme in my bathroom…

And then, to my surprise, my Mom and Dad gave me a painting by a local artist,  Emily Watson. The scene is from Chincoteague.  I love this one too! 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

New mini triloom and some art

I have wanted a tri-loom forever and lucky I found a small version to practice with, not pricey…it's small, 7" at the hypotenuse. I'm thinking jewelry of some sort... 

While pondering that, I went to the Savannah College of Art and Design Sidewalk Arts Festival last Saturday, here are some of my favorites


Misplaced snake art

un peu de Monet

where I didn't go in Spain, darn it...


Alpaca with yarn…I had to call the artist's attention to the fact that I am wearing a silver alpaca around my neck...

The man…gonna reread


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Birthday Gift: Silken Straw

I knit a small scarf-shawl as a birthday gift

Doesn't the color look lovely against the spring green?

The  yarn is Silken Straw from Alchemy Yarns of Transformation


The yarn was a bit like knitting with … yes …straw;  I found myself pulling down on it when I couldn't see my stitch to make it bigger.  It's lovely and a bit "crunchy" in texture.

The pattern is an old standby, Forest Canopy by Susan Lawrence.  I tried a more complex lace pattern but this yarn is impossible to frog so I went with something that I knew would work and likely not need too much frogging!

A bit similar to knitting with this all cotton from Wolle's: 

(how I spent Easter morning before house cleaning)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Oatland Island Sheep

Had a grand time last weekend at Oatland Island Wildlife Center at their annual sheep shearing and fiber demonstrations.  Oatland is a center for "conservation, education, discovery" on the outskirts of Savannah.  I was surprised to see that they have many animals including two bison, wolves, a cougar, and two Shetland sheep, both males, who somehow manage to survive our hot summers!

The Fiber Guild of the Savannahs generously donates their time to do a "sheep to shawl" demonstrating all aspects of fiber prep from shearing to weaving, in support of Oatland and the fiber arts.
I've watched sheep shearing a couple times in my life but have never seen such a tender loving (and slow) production of it. The women are using those old fashioned hand shears that my Dad used to use to trim the edges of the lawn!

Someone's nephew practicing his hand carding…he promised me that when he grows up he will have a farm with four sheep and that Aunt Wendy could keep the wool.  An hour later after having so much fun at this event he revised his total to five sheep….we have not yet discussed the breed….

There was spinning of last year's fleece

Here's an antique wool wheel, begging for some restoration

Ginned cotton 

The shawl was actually woven from last year's fiber, which had been mill-prepped. I was expecting to see a lovely lanolin-y hand knit triangle produced on the spot, but that will be at another event!

There was also some dyeing going on;  here's an indigo pot

My darling nephew cracking black walnuts which then went into the dyepot

I would love to do this over an open fire!

And here are some other interesting sights 

This Scottish "shotgun" style cabin is a creation of Scottish southern forebears. I had no idea that the "shotgun" style building, where front and back doors are in line, and often seen in our Low Country beach homes, was Scottish in origin. It was moved from another location in Georgia and restored, it dates to to 1830's

Baking cornbread in a fireplace, the concave lid has hot coals placed on it

 A crusher for sugar cane

The cane is then boiled in a huge vat, they actually still do this and sell the cane syrup

The Coastal Empire Beekeeper's Association has been busy here. Here bees are getting a drink of water, the stones add needed minerals

Bison…no the soft under coat is not harvested

Sleeping wolf