Road Rage in the Barbie SUV

October 5, 2008


My great granny, born in “ought-three,” was a skilled knitter who kept the whole (large) family in Granny Gloves, mittens, and hats–she liked to use the same few patterns over and over; the gloves were particularly nice.  Everyone loved getting them for birthdays.  The familiar squishy bundle always came tied up in beautiful (not re-used!) wrapping paper by yards of curly ribbon, with a greeting card and a roll of lifesavers taped on top.  She didn’t have the patience for sweaters and things when I knew her, though she did once; I remember being sent out to play in the red wool snow suit she’d made for my mom as a tot, circa 1957.  It takes a lot of knitting to make wool soakers (quiz: does anyone else know what these were?) and snow suits for all your grandchildren.

Unfortunately Great Granny thought acrylic yarn was the greatest invention since whipped topping, whipped topping was the greatest invention since instant coffee, and instant coffee was the greatest invention since sliced bread.  (Actually, she often baked her own bread.  She had a miniature loaf pan, and an early memory is the wonder of visiting her house when she had just been baking and being given my OWN loaf of bread to take home, wrapped up in a bread bag.  Her bread tasted like nothing else.  It’s purpose in life was buttered toast, to be eaten by visitors with ancient green tea in her cozy aqua kitchen.  Great Gran made dense white loaves with a “good crumb” that slightly resembled what they used to sell at grocery store bakeries as English Muffin Bread, before they started adding more dough conditioners and sugar to it.  Sigh.)

You get the picture: all that skill went into mittens that pilled horribly, were cold when wet, and could not survive washing without returning to the piles of matted plastic filament from whence they sprang.  My great granny died while I was in my last year of college, so I was spared seeing her decline.  Also, since I’m six years older than my half-siblings, I have more memories of her when she was energetic enough to bake bread.  She knitted to the end.  She started a new pair of Granny Gloves just before she died.

Her stash had a lot of acrylic yarn but only a few odds and ends of wool, mostly from the first half of the 20th century.  Granny separated out the wool when she cleared Great Granny’s house: there was a little tapestry yarn, a couple of full skeins of sport weight, and maybe a dozen partial skeins of other stuff.  She gave it to me when I got my loom.  Most of it is not very pretty, and not enough to dress my countermarche, but I’d really like to use it.  It’s one of the things I had in mind when I bought the Spear’s.

So, here is my first finished rigid heddle project.  I’m not a fan of pink.  On the loom, I kept noticing that it looked like tire tracks with skid marks:

That is why I call this scarf. . .


Road Rage in the Barbie SUV

Road Rage in the Barbie SUV


Warp:  98 ends combined of a) anonymous eraser pink wool baby yarn and b) subtly variegated periwinkle synthetic-and-mohair blend I picked out and asked Great Granny to knit into an a ice-cream-cone hat (it’s the cowlick hat seen in the first section of Stitchy McYarnpants’ book; a Gr. Granny standard) when I was about 11.  This is a slippery, INCREDIBLY hairy yarn that I now realize must have tortured her.  The hat was too big because she wasn’t used to knitting anything but acrylic, and wasn’t able adjust the pattern properly for the yarn.  I don’t have the hat anymore.  It itched my ears.  I didn’t realize how much sacrificial love went into it.

Weft: eraser pink baby yarn.

Heddle: 9-10 epi

Weaving Width: 9 3/4″

Finished Width: 8 1/2″

Weaving Length (excluding fringes): 45″

Finished Length (excuding fringes): 43″

Finishing: Hot hand wash with lots of agitation and 10 minute soak.  Air dry.  Brushed the mohair stripes a little.

Fringe:  3″  Four strand round braids secured with guided half-hitches.

Mistakes:  Many, but weave is too open to bother with repairs.  They’d show more than the mistakes do.

Conclusions:  I should put tiered blocks on this loom.  Holding the heddle in the up position at arm’s length puts too much stress on my neck.  When, as here, a heddle has wires with eyelets instead of slats you can use thicker yarns for the heddle size, which is nice; but the wires easily become bent which causes visible tracking(?) in the cloth.  The weaving goes quickly (well it would; I went from weaving 23 ppi to weaving 6 ppi!), but it’s hard to notice your mistakes because you weave at pretty low tension and the widely spaced warp threads confuse your eyes.  Weaving on a floor loom is a lot easier and produces more consistent cloth.  Even so, the ease of slapping a warp on the Spear’s and being able to use up all those nasty little bits of yarn make rigid heddle weaving quite compelling to an impressionable child-of-a-child-of-a-Depression-era-child like me.  I even considered saving the 4 inch thrums of 70-year-old yarn for a minute.  Shame!  Shame!

10 Responses to “Road Rage in the Barbie SUV”

  1. You’ve given me a good reason for dragging out my rigid heddle—using it for my handspun, or at least some of it.

  2. What a sweet scarf, and a great way to remember your great granny! It looks just like bubble gum and wrapper colours to me. Perhaps bubble gum run over by Barbie’s SUV?

    As a mother whose child was cloth diapers, I do know what wool soakers are! The reason they were used is that wool can absorb 40% of its weight in water — this was a natural solution to covering a cloth insert from back in the days when there were no plastic covers for diapers. There’s a resurgence in knitting them among those who use cloth today. However, I did not get bitten by the knitting bug until my son was already in training pants. Do you remember wearing them?!

  3. Cally Says:

    That is the perfect name for your scarf – I love it.

  4. Barb Fessler Says:

    Great project for the ridig heddle. I’m also a person who does not like pink but I love your scarf and especially what you named it.

  5. Jane Says:

    Love that title for your scarf — and loved even more, your memories of your great-granny.

    We now get squishy packages (wrapped in used paper!) from our 20 year old daughter whom I taught to knit when she was 17-ish. She has become a really good knitter despite the G L O V E that she gave her father two years ago. Yes, just one glove, and of a size that would have been just right for Herman Munster. We suppressed our giggles, and are still awaiting its mate!

    Weave on!

  6. Suzan Says:

    A memory scarf for sure. I love it.

  7. Anne Says:

    Many thanks for posting pictures of the finished project. I may just drag my Spears out and give rigid heddle weaving a go.
    Best wishes

  8. trapunto Says:

    Elizabeth knows about soakers! Wow. No, I’m the plastic pants generation. Plastic pants are rashy, but I can’t imagine a modern mom who is already suffering through washing cloth diapers (watched my mom do it for six kids) wanting to expand that suffering into washing pee-sodden wool pants! A pair for every diaper change, presumably. It also sounds miserable for the baby, if the wool ever came in contact with their skin around the leg holes or waist.

    Hello Anne. Do! I highly recommend it. In fact, I just whipped on a warp for another scarf.

    Maybe that glove is the start of a halloween costume, Jane. Rooster comb?

  9. […] to make a rigid heddle scarf for my mom and each of my aunts out of the bits of yarn remaining from Great Granny’s stash.  They were all quite close to […]

  10. […] drawers and found yet another stash of sewing/knitting notions that had belonged to her mother. Great Granny was such a pack rat, it took Granny about a year to clean out her small house after she died, and she’s still […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: