If you’re not a knitter, a spinner, or somebody who is interested in historical accuracy, you really won’t find this post interesting (or even rational) at all. Please forgive me.
It all started when I was going to be having one of my surgeries and I just was really struggling to find exactly the right books to read – and for reading aloud. My friend Elizabeth F., who is friends with Melissa W., knew just what to suggest. Next thing I knew, there were beautiful, UNABRIDGED copies of the Martha Years books in the mail to me. (The unabridged part is significant, but beyond the scope of my blog – here’s Melissa’s story from her blog HERE.)
Anyway, I LOVED the books, and I was amazed to find out that Melissa isn’t a spinner – although she is a weaver/fiber person. Her research about the textile history – and domestic history – in Scotland of that era is awesome. Plus the books are just good. Pure good. And yes, I’m making her a pair of socks. She’s not even allergic to wool 🙂 .
Last week I showed you the spinning I was doing… a cashmere / silk / bowmont blend that I figured I’d use for the center of a hap shawl.
But it bothered me and nagged at me all week. I spent way too much time thinking about the Bowmont breed of sheep (see HERE, again, more than I can explain all at once…) and wondering what Martha from the books would have thought about feeding mulberry leaves to silkworms.
For a little tiny section of a very small country, Shetland has an enormous fiber history. But cashmere and silk aren’t much a part of it. And if they were, they wouldn’t have been made into hap shawls, the Shetland spinners would have been able to spin them into true gossamer cobwebs.
So I just couldn’t do it. If I was going to knit 120 hours (I’m slow) on one thing, it had to be more authentic. I don’t care if socks are historically accurate, I don’t even knit ribbing at the top. But this was different. So I went through my yarn, and found something a little better.
It was a little thinner than real Shetland Jumperweight (which is about 450 yards per 100 grams) so I doubled it and swatched it. The center of a hap shawl is a garter stitch diamond, increased with a yarnover as the very first stitch of each row, which is subsequently opened by knitting into the back of the last stitch of the next row.
It still wasn’t right. Fine Shetland wool is really soft, but sort of like micro-velcro. Think “opposite of silk” but even though each individual fiber is skinny it has more character, KWIM? So I gave up. I was obsessing far too much over this.
There you are. Real Shetland wool, in grey-greens, a deep red, heathery white and a little bit of almost black. After reading the Martha books, I couldn’t do it any other way.