Bakeapple: a knit design in progress

It is just a few short days until we reach the official start of autumn, but you wouldn’t know it around these parts. Calgary has been uncharacteristically cool, dreary, and wet and reminds me much more of living on the East Coast than nestled beside The Rockies. While so many folks around me groan about the chilly weather, I am thrilled about it because as a knitter, this is my time to shine! I love being able to layer all of my clothing, especially when so much of that clothing is me-made.

This weather also has me thinking about designing and making new things. While I have a pattern that is just about ready to be released on Ravelry (watch this space, friends!), I also have a new hat pattern in the works that has got me all heart eyes and I am excited to share some progress with you!

 In the foreground, Lichen and Lace Matte Sock in the Orchid colourway.

In the foreground, Lichen and Lace Matte Sock in the Orchid colourway.

First, let me tell you about the yarn. I have had this skein of Lichen and Lace Matte Sock in Orchid in my stash for well over a year. I had intended to use it for a shawl at one point but it ended up getting frogged and was tucked away until I could figure something else to do with it. When I got the idea to work up a hat in mohair and fingering weight yarn, I knew that the subtle pink speckling of this mostly cream yarn would pair so nicely with the hot pink silk mohair from Rico Designs.

 Rico Designs Mohair Silk in a brilliant hot fuchsia.

Rico Designs Mohair Silk in a brilliant hot fuchsia.

This silk mohair is so lovely. I highly recommend it for these kinds of projects not only because of the quality (it is SOO soft) but also the price point. In Canada, this yarn is a fraction of what other indie dyed silk mohairs can be. Plus, the yardage is pretty generous at 219 yards per 25 grams and it is available in a wide range of colours.

When this mohair is held together with the lovely hand dyed fingering weight from Lichen and Lace, the fabric is almost too much for me to handle! The mohair tends to take over, giving the fabric a overall pinkness that totally makes my heart sing. Plus, the halo. Oh, Lord! The halo mohair will give any and every project can make the dullest project feel super luxurious!

 Bakeapple in progress - I mean, just look at that  squish !

Bakeapple in progress - I mean, just look at that squish!

Speaking of fabric, I decided that this toque needed to full of texture. I was flipping through a few of my stitch dictionaries and settled on this all-over alternating welt pattern that is deceptively easy to execute. As I was working it, I couldn’t help myself from constantly squishing the fabric with my hand, my fingers fitting perfectly into each little dimple that makes the resulting hat super slouchy and warm. While I think the pattern could be worked without mohair and still have a great effect, that fuzziness just adds something super special and I am obsessed.

 I mean really. LOOK AT THIS.

I mean really. LOOK AT THIS.

 And here is the “wrong” side, which seems all sorts of  right  to me!

And here is the “wrong” side, which seems all sorts of right to me!

The really cool thing about this stitch pattern is that it creates a highly textured surface on both sides of the fabric. The inside (or “wrong” side) shown above has an almost honeycomb appearance and is just as lovely as those welts on the right side. This means, in theory, the hat is completely reversible and will give you two completely different looks. Have two hats with the effort of knitting one - brilliant!

Now maybe you’re wondering about why I chose the name Bakeapple for this pattern. Bakeapples are a type of berry found in Newfoundland, as well as other northern parts of the world. They also go by other names like bog berry, or its most common name: cloudberry. These berries kind of look like a very large raspberry but they taste a little like an apricot dipped in honey. Bakeapples are pretty common where I grew up and foodstuff with bakeapples in them were also super common. Bakeapple tea. Bakeapple wine. Bakeapple tarts. Bakeapple jam. I have many childhood memories of seeing folks selling bakeapple jam on the side of the road, mason jars lining the hood of a parked car as the golden berries glowed in the sun.

The texture of this knit reminds me so much of a bakeapple - those welts and dimples. And given that all my knitting patterns are inspired by my childhood in Newfoundland, it seemed quite fitting to name this unusual hat after an equally unusual berry.

I am currently working up some more samples of this pattern, experimenting with colour choice and different textures of fingering weight yarn. You can expect more from Bakeapple real soon!

Radical Craftivism & Other Forms of Subversive Stitching: A reading list

This week there has been a lot of chatter on social media about politicizing craft, specifically in the knitting community. In my own social feeds, I have seen the comments from other knitters criticizing the intersection of personal politics and craft, suggesting that the online knitting world should remain a reprieve from the angst and general What-the-Fuck-ery of current world events. "I didn't come here for politics, I came for the knitting," is a sentiment I have read far too often and it leaves me scratching my head every time because isn't the very act of crafting, of making something with your hands, a subversive and ultimately political action?

Don't get me wrong, knitting can provide a much needed outlet for self-care but that does not mean it is devoid of critical thought. In her essay, Rebellious Doilies and Subversive Stitches, Kirsty Robertson cites Rozsika Parker, suggesting "that although the position of the needleworker -- head bowed, shoulders hunched -- appears to be one of submission, it also contains within it a hint of autonomy and self-containment at odds with complete subjugation". In other words, knitting is anything but mindless.

So, in response to recent events I thought I would do the typical librarian thing and write a reading list of books, articles, and other stuff that investigate knitting and other traditional feminine crafts as social, subversive, and radical political activities. My hope is to provide some resources to inspire some critical discourse and self-reflection on how our knitting practices express much more than skilled craftsmanship--it reflects our values too. 

For a longer read...

 Cover image from Amazon.ca

Cover image from Amazon.ca

The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine by Rozsika Parker

Originally published in 1984, this comprehensive study traces the history of embroidery through a feminist lens. Considered by many to be a classic, Parker's examination of the relationship between embroidery and the feminine was pretty groundbreaking, and has helped inform the foundations of our radical crafting communities today. Re-published in 2010, it includes an updated introduction that helps contextualize Parker's work in light of fine art and craftivist practices.  

 Cover image from Amazon.ca

Cover image from Amazon.ca

No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting by Anne L. MacDonald

This is a must-read classic for any knitter looking to contextualize their practice in the history of knitting. Originally published in 1988, MacDonald guides the reader through a well-researched history of knitting in North America, and includes a spattering of visual documentation of vintage patterns and social commentary of the time. I read this book from cover-to-cover during my undergraduate degree and it completely changed the way I looked at knitting. For a while, this book was out of print but a quick search on Amazon shows that you can now purchase this book in a full spectrum of formats, including audiobook!

 Cover image from Amazon.ca

Cover image from Amazon.ca

Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, edited by Maria Elena Buszer

You cannot really talk about activism, politics, and craft without jumping into art theory. Some of the best essays I have come across talking about the subversive power of craft comes from the art world, and this collection edited by Maria Elena Buszer is a great introduction for those who may not necessarily spend all their time reading art theory. The contributors cover a huge range of craft discourse, including an entire section on Craftivism that looks not only at yarn bombing but how other types of craft can be used to subvert the status quo and fight for social justice. Oh, and this book also includes full-colour illustrations and is printed on that kind of glossy paper that makes writing in the margins with a ballpoint pen a definite guilty pleasure. 

 Cover image from Amazon.ca

Cover image from Amazon.ca

Craftivism: The Art and Craft of Activism by Betsy Greer

Now this book is amongst the newest titles on my list and is probably the most accessible read. Betsy Greer is the name most associated with the term "Craftivism", a deceptively quiet form of activism through craft. Greer pulled together experts, activists, artists, writers, and academics to survey different ways in which craft is being used for political activism throughout the world. I think that is probably the best part of this book, how it is much more inclusive of art, craft, and activist stories from around the world and not taking a purely Western viewpoint. There are tons of colour images and lots to be inspired by as contributors talk about craftivism from their own experiences. 

For those who want a shorter read...