Knit Your Own Gear

1:05 p.m. on December 29, 2012 (EST)
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Okay, I feel a little silly with this one, but I really would like some input, if anybody cares to offer some. I've been given a large quantity of high-quality pure wool, very expensive yarn. It's two-ply, which means I can knit single-strand on small needles for a thin, dense material, or double-strand for thick material, either dense or loose depending on the needles. I have enough to do either:

A. one large thing, and I'm thinking a zip-front hoody with pockets, double-knit in body and hood, or

B. a bunch of little things, whether thin or thick: socks, gloves, flip-top mittens, a tube-style buff, a hat, a scarf with pockets...a bit ridiculously matchy-match to have all of these things made from the same yarn, but whatever, the animals won't judge me.

TOO MANY OPTIONS. I've spent the last few days on this dilemma, fingers twitching to get started, and I can't decide. Which would you do?

1:32 p.m. on December 29, 2012 (EST)
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I take it that you are a good kniter. I would kill for a good wool cap with ear flaps!

3:07 p.m. on December 29, 2012 (EST)
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If you want great mittens, make them loose with large needles. Make them almost twice the size they need to be then felt them. You either boil them with a hard rolling boil while poking and prodding them with two wooden spoons or put them in a top loading washing machine. The washer should be on hot, hot with it set for max agitation. It will prob take 2.5 cycles for mitts. This will make the wool solid like a dreadlock, it will be super warm and almost completely waterproof. I have tried both methods, I like the washer. You dont have to let them cool to check the size. I check them at five min intervals. Once you get good at the process your mitts will be really waterproof. Ive made a bunch now and I can hold my hand under the tap on high for five mins and my hand stays totally dry. Pm me for some better directions. Someone post that link to that retail site again please. They want a lot of money for boiled wool products, partually cause the wool is expensive. Yours is exactly the style I use. I live in nh and use them instead of gloves I have bought. Really warm.

5:28 p.m. on December 29, 2012 (EST)
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My mom knits. My favorite is a heavy wool sweater, crew neck. Nothing fancy but it is over 15 years old and fabulous.

6:22 p.m. on December 29, 2012 (EST)
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Felted mittens. Hotdog has my vote.

12:51 p.m. on December 30, 2012 (EST)
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Mittens and hats are hard to beat, not to mention a quality scarf.  A garment may be kind of bulky and it is hard to get it to fit well for the long term.

It would be a great opportunity to make some gifts for people you care about.


11:34 a.m. on December 31, 2012 (EST)
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Just bought a pair for the wife for xmas. Got a pair for myself also.

5:30 p.m. on December 31, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks, everybody! Sorry for abandoning my own post, the blackout started just as I logged off. Nothing like an extended power outage to help justify all that camping gear. In other news, we now have 3 feet of new snow!

You can only play so much cribbage, so the knitting has begun. (Knitting by lantern light, a fine Newfoundland tradition.) In the end, the little-things option won out, and I'm happy to see it was supported here too. More fun, more use, more options, more immediate gratification! 

mikemorrow, thank you for mentioning the earflaps. Definitely.

hotdogman, if the lights stay on, you'll see a pm from me. Never have tried felting, and yup, now's the time. I've envied the results, but haven't had the nerve. Want to learn. If I do, I can imagine myself running around yelling "FELT ALL THE THINGS".

ppine, you're right about the opportunity to make things to give, and that was the deciding factor. The wool was given with explicit instructions: "Make something for yourself this time!" because the only thing I ever made and kept was an early sweater attempt that didn't fit anybody else. But with this much wool, I can certainly get a few extra mittens done, and the gift-giver will still see me wearing the rest. Win-win.

Heartfelt thanks to all, and the very happiest of all possible New Years!

6:49 a.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Try the 'radio operators balaclava', fully functional ear flaps, on the V&A pages here:

1940s Patterns to Knit

Apparently, it is straightforward, though PM if you have any probs. It is about halfway along and is titled "balaclava helmet".


12:49 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Since few men nowadays learn to knit, I was curious to see who would answer this thread. Some good ideas, indeed. 

Looking at the 1940s patterns from the Victoria & Albert Museum reminded me of an historic family anecdote. When my great-grandfather was gassed at Vimy Ridge in WW I, he was taught to knit while recovering in the hospital back in Britain. Thenceforth, he knitted socks, mittens, toques and scarves for all his family. Different times, now. With new socks so cheap, it's easier to throw old ones out instead of darning them. 

As for felting, I did it by mistake with my favourite wool toque. It's definitely warmer and more windproof, but it's way too snug now. Now that I know the right way to do it, maybe I'll try felting another one on purpose!

3:34 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Pathloser said:

Try the 'radio operators balaclava', fully functional ear flaps, on the V&A pages here:

1940s Patterns to Knit

Apparently, it is straightforward, though PM if you have any probs. It is about halfway along and is titled "balaclava helmet".


Jon, you have indeed brought joy this holiday season. This is treasure. The "Fatigue Cap" a.k.a. buff is there (I suggest a drawstring in one end, better hatness), and flip top mittens (with buttons? no velcro then), also a nice long glove. The balaclava is brilliant, pure functional detail. There's a good version of everything (even ladies' dainties and fishnet stockings, and you don't see many patterns for those anymore). Clear, well-written and printable patterns, too! I'll have to get on that before the lights go out again.

Peter, if you went back a few generations in a fishing or seafaring culture, you'd probably find a lot of knitting men. A natural companion craft to netmaking and knotwork, I guess. Practical or even necessary then, a fun hobbycraft now. Good winter pastime, for sure.

The ability to tailor and fine-tune something is pretty rewarding. Socks, for example, can be knit as thick as you like, in any part you like, such as double soles and heels. An old local technique called thrumming lets you make deep-pile fleece linings in things by knitting in unspun tufts of raw wool wherever you want.

Holy crow, I just googled 'thrummed knitting' for the first time and apparently it's indigenous to Newfoundland. Is this true? I'd certainly be interested to hear from any knitters reading this, whether they're familiar with it. It's just too ridiculously cozy not to be more widespread than that.

5:58 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Islandess, I am jealous that you can knit. However, I am surrounded by knitting ladies and one or two gents, in our family/friends circle. I have about five balaclavas, many hats, slippers and jumpers, all handknitted, even home-spun and dyed, so I see no reason to learn myself. I have two of the balaclava helmets already, so I lend one out :-)

One of the joys of touring places like Scotland is being able to visit a croft/farm where they breed their own sheep, then spin, dye, weave or knit the wool, for tourists and enthusiasts. Such crafts are a joy to own, so must be deeply rewarding to produce oneself. Alpaca is growing in popularity as well in the UK.

I'll mention to my partner (who is downstairs watching Poirot and knitting a hat, in a rocking chair) that 'thrummed knitting'.

Edit: it was new to her; she's very excited about it, thanks.

7:16 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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I'm envious you can knit. some fliptop mittens would be cool!

9:18 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Fliptop mittens are very cool! Also cool: the one-fingered mittens called 'trigger mitts' here, a nice balance between the warmth of mittens and the dexterity of gloves. Oddly, no outdoor manufacturer seems to have jumped on that idea.

Like Pathloser, I'm surrounded by knitters, too. It's kind of funny, I mentioned owning only one thing I've made myself? It's because all my other handknit things are gifts from others.

By the way, handknit socks have their own word in Newfoundland English, they're called 'vamps'.

4:45 p.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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trigger mitts - made so you can pull a trigger with your mittens on. good for hunters. I wouldn't take my rifle out in winter...too wet. but then I'm not a hunter, I'm a target shooter.

5:51 a.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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Islandess, you might like this video:

(Via 10engines)

We have very little Harris Tweed, I think only a handbag, as it is quite pricey. It is often to be found in the secondhand clothes shops, though. I don't think the label has changed much. The fact that it is trendy will at least see it survive.

There is a nice video (probably PAL not NTSC) of Harris by Mountain Media, short preview here:

4:44 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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Jon, thank you for sharing these! Beautiful things made in a beautiful place. I particularly liked the quick shot of the Harris Tweed bike saddle :) Those complicated-clockwork looms, and the bike-pedal mechanism that runs them, are amazing. I hope that girl that scrutinizes and hand-fixes the fabric is well paid!

It's wonderful how much your side of the North Atlantic looks like mine. In the Hebridean video especially, the quality of the light and the colours of the land and water, it could be eastern Newfoundland. Throw in a bit of Norway to make western Newfoundland, and we'd be twins!

5:16 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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I was saving up for a Brooks saddle but I hesitate to buy one and a leatherette seat won't get stolen. A Harris Tweed one, well, I would have to have matching knickerbockers.

I have a feeling some kind of loom will end up in this house, those small ones that go on the table. What do you get the wool-obsessed person who has everything (spinning wheel, carder thing, some stuff I can't pronounce...)?

I think there was a land mass that extended up the Appalachian Mts and down into Scotland at one time, Bill S. might remember it, so it looks similar for those reasons perhaps. In the book, The Crofters Trail by David Craig, he talks with Canadians in the north east islands who emigrated after the clearances and such; it's a good read.

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