Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The First Triangle Shawl

As promised yesterday, here is the first shawl to be completed from our mountain of triangles. Unlike the many snapshots I have taken where heads were inadvertently out of the frame, this time I meant it. The shawl is intended to be the star in the forefront and Meg and I are as wee images in reflection in the mirror.

When I collected the shawl from Meg, I knew it would be lovely and also that there would be stories and laughs about the efforts and creativity to make it. "You don't know how things are going to turn out when you begin," said Meg. I agree. So for me seeing the finished product so well turned out was a sigh of relief. I never doubted that it would work, but I had no idea how it would turn out.

Meg is a skilled knitter and a trained artist, so she can make her flowers behave and knows how to put colours together so they get along well. The front of the shawl is finished with a pair of these lovely flowers on either side. The trim was knitted separately and then crocheted to the main part of the shawl. It gives the shawl not only a lovely decorative edge but also makes it hang nicely. Most importantly, Meg added her own good wishes into the shawl so whoever gets it can enjoy both the craft and the good will.

The idea for the shawls and their use here in Caithness came from the shawl ministry. One of our members discovered it in a book about knitting for peace. When we began the idea of Northern Loops, that seed of an idea was there and it is a pleasure now to begin to see it come to fruition.

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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

From Triangles to Artwork

Thanks to all those who made triangles for us we now have plenty of material for shawls for the community outreach from Dunnet Kirk. Especially thanks to one especially dedicated member of Northern Loops with very fast hands who made more than a hundred triangles, each with the care and concern we want to integrate into our shawls. Her dedication was so intense that when she recently went into hospital, I took wool and needles to her and she kept up with her triangles.

Now sadly she has lost her husband and while she does the sad hard job of picking up the pieces of her life, we gratefully pick up the work she has given us and hold her in our thoughts until she feels able to come back to us. She and her husband are very private people, so I respect their privacy and acknowledge our debt to her and our support in this time as discreetly as possible.

Tomorrow I'll collect 2 shawls made from triangles by two of our most talented knitters-artists. It seems a good tribute to the efforts of our trianglers and a tangible reminder of what the shawls are meant to be. So-called women's work has always been at the heart of transitions such as births, deaths, weddings, funerals, sickness, christenings, confirmations, or comfort from the cold. These triangle-shawls to be given anonymously to folks who may need an extra dose of comfort typify women's work and the heart of Northern Loops.

One women made a hundred or more triangles; another made fewer than a dozen but each and every triangle and each and every stitch has been indispensable. What we do--however large or small--is an essential part of something larger.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Naptown Knitters--using knitting for re-entry

A friend from Indianapolis sent me a link to a story about how knitting is being used in a prison in Indianapolis. ( They call themselves the Naptown Knitters (Indianapolis earned the nap of Naptown in the notorious ganster era when Chicago hoods went the 200 miles south to lay low from the scrutiny of police or other gangs.)
I like to think that people who have strayed can find their way back into the social network that holds us together.
I also like this story because recently I have been baffled as to how to get people to understand the power of knitting. All too often it suffers from the image of Nanas who knit matinee jackets for babies or posh hobbyists buying expensive imported wool to make playthings for themselves.
Since its inception (probably not as early as some texts claim, but knitting has been around at least 500 years), it has been practiced by the upper classes or lower classes or men or women or children and gone in and out of fashion dozens of times.
Throughout that varied history,k nitting has been a powerful force for change--both personal and social. It meant eking out a meager income for herring girls and their families or keeping troops alive at Valley Forge. It also meant learning control and achievement. The meditational and therapeutic benefits are beginning to get attention outside the knitting magazines, which is another reason why I was chuffed to see about the Naptown Knitters.
Northern Loops is about that power to take control of some small part of your life and to put your knitting needles to work on a project of your own choosing. When that is a project for the community in which you live, it has the added benefit of reminding us all that we can do something for ourselves and our community. With a little knit and a purl and a laugh or two that's what we're up to at Northern Loops.