Friday, July 15, 2016
|Christmas Boxes in Camp, 1861 by Winslow Homer *|
Union soldier L.W. Wolcott wrote to his mother on September 22, 1862:
If this reached you in time I wish you would send me my rubber blanket, two pair of homemade socks (they are so much better than we can get), a good stout tablefork and a spoon as it is impossible to get them here. The socks Mrs. Lockwood gave me are about worn out but the towel does good service yet.It warms any knitter's heart to hear someone say that a pair of homemade socks are "... so much better than we can get," and I can imagine Wolcott's mother picking up her knitting needles the second she put down his letter!
Side Note: So what are "drawers"? Underwear. Men in the 19th century didn't wear the briefs or boxers of today, instead they wore long cotton pants under their wool trousers to keep clean (drawers were washed more frequently than the trousers) and to prevent itching in delicate areas.Those socks you sent me came in just the time. Our boys are mighty hard up for socks, they have neither socks, or drawers.
|Six and Eighty-Six Knitting for the Soldiers, 1865 **|
Want to try knitting a pair of Civil War socks? Here is an original pattern from 1865, posted by the Atlantic Guard Soldier's Aid Society (a Civil War reenacting group). It's fun to read, but hard to knit - primarily because knitting terms have changed over the years ... you'll feel like you're reading a foreign language. However, all is not lost! The March / April 2009 edition of Piecework has wonderful patterns for both a Union sock and a Confederate sock, written for the modern knitter and available on Ravelry.
Need help with your socks? The staff at FiberWild! have knit many socks, both modern and historic patterns. Give us a call, we're happy to help!
|Civil War woman knitting. Perhaps socks?|
* "Christmas Boxes in Camp - Christmas 1861" by Winslow Homer and published in Harper's Weekly on January 4, 1862.
** "Six and Eighty-Six Knitting for the Soldiers" is from The Tribute Book: A Record of the Munificence, Self-Sacrifice and Patriotism of the American People during the War for the Union (yup, that's the whole title) by Frank Goodrich. Published in 1865, it highlights the aid societies and volunteer work done by many, and especially women, during the Civil War. Click here to see a digital copy of it in the Hathi Digital Trust.
Posted by Scout at 3:25 PM
Friday, July 8, 2016
|Female Skiers in Norway, 1890s *|
In 1899 President William McKinley signed a bill authorizing the creation of Mount Rainier National Park, the nation's fifth national park. The park encompasses all of Mount Rainier, a large active stratovolcano that is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range and the highest mountain in the state of Washington.
|Mount Rainer National Park **|
|Paradise Inn, about 1933 ***|
Visitors flocked to the Paradise Inn! Almost immediately bungalow tents were built to house additional guests, and three years later (1920) an annex was constructed with an additional 100 rooms (58 of which had their own private bathroom!).
|Paradise Inn reception desk, about 1933 ***|
The Paradise Inn installed a ski tow rope in 1936. So how did skiers get to the top before the tow rope? They had to walk! While anyone could do cross-country skiing, only the extremely athletic were able to walk to the top, ski down, then walk back up to the top repeatedly. After the first skier tow rope was installed in Quebec in 1933, resorts everywhere started using tow ropes and interest in downhill skiing increased.
The Paradise Inn has had it's ups and downs but continues to operate today. Downhill skiing is no longer allowed because it is damaging to the vegetation beneath the snow, but cross-country skiing is encouraged - and said to be the best way to experience the lush beauty of Mount Rainier under the new-fallen snow!
Is it possible to design socks that are as pretty as the Paradise Valley of Mount Rainier? Well, we sure tried! Check out our Paradise Meadow socks that combine the green of the valley, the blue of the sky, the white of the clouds and the purple of the blossoming wildflowers.
Happy Knitting . . . Scout
* Women skiers in Norway in the 1890s. Note that they are shown with a single pole, the most ancient method of skiing. Prehistoric petroglyphs (drawings carved into rock) show figures on skis with a single pole, not two poles as we ski today. For more on ancient skiing click here.
** Stunning photo of Mount Rainier with wildflowers in full bloom, taken by Judi Kubes and posted on the U.S. Department of the Interior's Facebook page. The photo was entered in their Share the Experience photo contest.
*** Paradise Inn photos are from a collection in the Library of Congress, most taken around 1933.
Posted by Scout at 10:57 AM
Friday, July 1, 2016
|Abigail Adams in 1766, age 22 *|
Abigail Adams was the wife our second president, John Adams, and the mother of our sixth president, John Quincy Adams. She was far more than just a pretty face!
While the country was new there was no skimping on the education of boys and young men. Boys were taught reading, arithmetic, foreign languages, business and science. Harvard began in 1636, the College of William & Mary in 1693 and Yale University in 1701. Of course, they only admitted male students.
Early American girls, however, were taught far fewer subjects, with the emphasis on reading, knitting and needlework. The idea wasn't to produce well-educated women, but rather to raise women who were capable of running their household. Abigail Adams was appalled by the "trifling narrow, contracted education of the females of my own country."
|Abigail Adams in 1810, age 66 **|
Abigail and John Adams were third cousins and had met as children, but things didn't click until the two met at a social gathering in 1762 when Abigail was 17 (John was about ten years older than her). Three years later they married, and nine months later their first baby was born. They had six children in total, four of which lived to adulthood.
Abigail and John Adams were frequently apart during their marriage. Adams is best known as the second President of the U.S., but he also served as Vice President under Washington and served terms as ambassador to England, the Netherlands and France. For much of that time Abigail was at home to manage their farm. While separated she sent frequent long letters to Adams, detailing her life at home, comments on their children, and politics. Today over 1,000 letters between Abigail and John Adams are in the Massachusetts Historical Society where they give us a personal look into domestic and political life during the revolutionary era.
My favorite quote is from an April 5th addition to her letter of March 31, 1776. She says she will try to find some time to make saltpeter (a component of gunpowder, no doubt for the ongoing Revolutionary War), at Adam's request. But she also says "I find as much as I can do to manufacture cloathing for my family which would else be Naked." The idea of making homespun clothing in revolt against the Wool Act of 1699 and the Stamp Act of 1765 instead of purchasing wool and clothing exported from England was a lofty goal - but she was finding that it was very difficult to clothe herself and her five children entirely in homemade garments! The letter implies that she has vowed to clothe her family in homespun or have them go naked!
However, her most famous quote is from the same letter when she urges her husband and the other members of the Continental Congress to remember the importance of women in the founding of their new nation:
I long to hear that you have declared an independancy—and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.Written almost 150 years before women were given the right to vote, the letter would have invoked a patronizing pat on the head and an "Oh, isn't she cute!" sort of response from most men at a time. In fact her own husband replied with "As to your extraordinary code of laws, I cannot but laugh." Her preposterous suggestion of giving some power to women was treated as a joke at the time, but today it is viewed as the first effort in a long line of women who fought for women's equality.
Abigail Adams was almost certainly a knitter. While I found no reference to her knitting, it was such a common part of a woman's everyday life that it would have been noted if she was not a knitter. So when you knit this weekend think of Abigail Adams and her silly little suggestion that the new laws of the land be more favorable to women!
Looking for a new knitting project? Or just want another one? Give us a call at FiberWild, we are glad to provide lots of new project ideas - or perhaps two or three!
Happy Knitting . . . . Scout
* Painting by Benjamin Blythe, 1766
** Painting by Gilbert Stuart, 1810-1815. Yes, it took him five years to finish the portrait! The original is in the National Gallery of Art.
Posted by Scout at 2:10 PM
Friday, June 24, 2016
|The Seven Sutherland Sisters, 1911 *|
The epitome of long hair was the Seven Sutherland Sisters - who wouldn't want their gorgeous hair? A singing group that was said to be mediocre, each of the seven sisters had long dark hair that reached the floor. Their manager-father soon realized that it was their hair and not their voices that attracted the crowds, and he capitalized on it. They started their show with each sister's hair tied up with a ribbon. After a few songs they turned their backs to the audience and simultaneously pulled out their hair ribbons so that a cascade of dark hair fell to the floor. They credited their locks to the secret hair tonic their mother made for them, and ended up making more money selling their own brand of hair tonics than they ever could from singing alone.
|Irene & Vernon Castle, 1914 **|
By 1920 short hair was all the rage among the young, and cutting your hair into a short bob was seen as a sign of modernity and independence. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" (1920), Bernice goes from being dull and boring to becoming popular with the boys just by talking about bobbing her hair. The older generations still felt that short hair was a passing fad. Many hairdressers, trained to dress long hair, refused to accept the new styles so young women shocked society even more by going to men's barber shops to get their hair bobbed. (It turns out barbers, used to cutting short styles on men, were great at cutting bobs!)
|Doris Kenyon in turban, 1920s ***|
One of the advantages of short hair is that it is so easy to wear a hat! Hats and bonnets in the 19th century had to be designed with room to stash buns and braids, but the new hats of the 1920s were sleek and close fitting - a style that is only possible when the hair is short.
The cloche, a tight-fitted cap, was popular worn low over the face so the eyes were just peeking out - very sexy! Turbans were also popular, adding an exotic and mysterious flair to the new short hairstyles.
Fortunately, 1920s style hats are easy styles to knit! And the knitted versions look great whether you have long hair or short hair. Check out our new Abalone Shell Hat and Nautilus Shell Hat turban style patterns (for a limited time both patterns are free with the purchase of the yarn!), or our Modern Cloche pattern or the Simple Crocheted Cloche with Flower pattern - then put some ragtime on the Victrola, grab your mint julep - and get knitting!
Happy Knitting . . . . Scout
|Abalone Shell Hat|
** A page from Irene & Vernon Castle's book Modern Dancing, published in 1914. The title is "The Tango of Today" and they are demonstrating a hands-free tango. Irene's hair is bobbed and in a turban style hat.
*** A silent film star who later performed in movies and even TV, Doris Kenyon's career spanned from 1915 to 1962.
Posted by Scout at 3:04 PM
Monday, June 20, 2016
|The Mayflower (knitting needles on board?) *|
So the Colonial family's knitting was done at home. The first record of a knitting machine frame in America was a full 150 years after the Mayflower landed, in a 1771 ad in the Virginia Gazette for a "newly invented instrument for knitted, knotted, double looped work, to make Stockings, Breeches Pieces, or Silk Gloves, Cotton or Worsted."
Knitting at home fit along perfectly with the colonial mindset. Colonists abhorred idleness and laziness, and diaries of the period are often a dull list of the tasks accomplished each day instead of the juicy gossip and guarded secrets that we modern folks think a good diary should contain. The greatest compliment was to say that one was an "industrious woman." A good woman should be busy at all times, and in her idle moments waiting for a pot to boil or the bread to rise, she should pick up her knitting needles!
|Girl Knitting by André Bouys **|
The 1765 Stamp Act required paper products such as legal documents, magazines and newspapers to be printed on "stamped" paper, meaning paper that was printed in London and had received a stamp certifying that the paper tax had been paid. Some had suggested a boycott of English goods after the Wool Act, an idea that gained greater momentum after the Stamp Act.
When the Sons of Liberty was formed to boycott English goods and resist the Stamp Act, women followed with the Daughters of Liberty, vowing to forgo all British goods and instead spin, weave and knit all of their families clothing and wear nothing but homespun.
|Martha Washington knitting ***|
Wearing homespun became a political statement. At the first commencement of Rhode Island College (later Brown University) in the 1760s, the president proudly wore homespun clothing while conducting the ceremony. At Harvard, the faculty and students all wore homespun clothing.
Women were now in an unusual situation. Women were not allowed to vote and it was considered inappropriate for a women of the time to be involved in politics, but in their role of maintaining their homes and purchasing or producing food and clothing for their families, they had the ultimate say in whether their family would purchase British goods in loyalty to England or produce homespun clothing as a show of independence.
|Knitting, 1793 ****|
You may not knit as a form of political protest today (hey, I just knit because it's fun!), but whatever your reason for knitting, at FiberWild we're happy to help!
Want more? My favorite book on the history of knitting in America is No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting by Anne L. Macdonald.
Happy Knitting . . . . Scout
* The Mayflower in Harbor, painted by William Halsall in 1882 and now at the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
** Girl Knitting by André Bouys, a French painted who lived 1656 - 1740. This had been in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum and was sold in 2014.
*** A gorgeous lithograph of Martha and George Washington. Unfortunately, I don't have any more information than that.
**** The caption on this 19th century costume plate says "Tricoteuse, 1793" which translates from the French as "Knitting Machine." So is she the knitting machine? Note that her yarn is held in a "pocket" on the outside of her skirt. The original is in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Posted by Scout at 1:29 PM
Friday, June 10, 2016
|Athena with her Sword and Shield *|
Mount Olympus in the US, you say? I thought it was in Greece? Well, it's not that Mount Olympus.
The Olympic Mountains is a mountain range in the state of Washington, and Mount Olympus is the highest point of the Olympic Mountains. With a long approach, heavy annual snowfall and difficult terrain, it is known by mountain climbers as a particularly difficult peak to climb.
And yes, indeed, it was named after the legendary home of the Greek gods. The local Native American name was Sunh-a-do, and it was later given its first European name "El Cerro del la Rosalina (The Hill of the Holy One Rosalia)" by a Spanish explorer in 1774. But just four short years later in 1778 British explorer Captain John Meares was so astounded by its beauty that he named the mountain Mount Olympus and said "For truly it must be the home of the Gods."
In Greek mythology, the peak was the home of the Twelve Olympian Gods, but of the dozen my hands-down favorite Olympian god is Athena. The goddess of war who was also the goddess of handicrafts, she was known for her spinning and weaving and was sometimes shown with a distaff in her hand.
|Girls learning to spin and hold their distaffs. **|
A distaff is used for flax and other plant fibers, not wool and other animal fibers. Today in legal terms your mother's side of the family is called your distaff side, because your spinning skills (and your distaff) would have been handed down from your mother's side.
But back to the goddess Athena ... the favorite Athena myth among fiber friends has to be the legend of Athena and Arachne.
|Athena weaving on the left and Arachne on the right. ***|
|Fern and Forest Socks|
Note to self: If you are ever challenged to a weaving competition with a goddess, stick to weaving scenes of rainbows and butterflies - not a subject that is going to enrage a goddess!
Today spiders continue to spin and weave flawlessly, and the scientific name for spiders is arachnids, named after the great spinner and weaver Arachne.
If you feel inspired by Arachne, you are welcome to spin your own yarn for the Fern and Forests socks, but if you are short on time we suggest the gorgeous colors of Rowan's Fine Art Yarn.
Happy Knitting . . . . Scout
* This figure of Athena is one of many gorgeous statues at the Academy of Athens, Greece's national academy. The city of Athens was named after Athena and she was their protector goddess.
** Painting by Swiss painter Albrecht Samuel Anker. It shows a medieval domestic scene of a woman teaching spinning to young girls, although it was actually painted much later, in 1888.
*** I could not find the original source of this intriguing photo anywhere - so if you know where it came from please let us know! Athena, on the left, weaves a scene of herself before the chariot of Poseidon, and Arachne's weaving on the right shows Zeus, in the form of a white bull, seducing and abducting Europa (yup, it's creepy).
Posted by Scout at 3:28 PM