Three Sisters

December 13, 2008

Here are the rigid heddle scarves I have been working on over the past few months while I give my treadles a rest.  They are made (mostly) from the odds and ends of  knitting wool in my departed Great Granny’s stash.  It was interesting to work with so many strictures: limited quantities of yarn (well, that’s normal; I’m an eeker-outer), two shafts, only one possible sett, peculiar colors.

You may remember my mission.  These scarves are for my mom and my aunts, so the fact that the yarn was my Great Granny’s is pretty much the whole point.  Posthumous granny-gifts.


Auntie Perfectionist, the Master Gardener


My granny thought this yarn had some wool in it.  I’m not so sure after a burn test.  However, Auntie Perfectionist isn’t particularly attached to natural fibers and I know she likes the colors.  I think the yarn was probably left over from something Great Granny knitted for her.  Taking into consideration the fact that Auntie P doesn’t like to wear anything around her neck, a skinny wear-loose-under-the-lapel-of-her-coat scarf seemed like a plan.  The weft is a non-shrinking green sock wool.


To prepare the warp I pulled each individual warp yarn out of the skein and cut it off after one complete color cycle.  This makes the ikat-like striping effect.


Auntie Aesthete, the graphic designer


You know how you can pick out a Frenchwoman or a stylish Japanese just from the not-from-around-here aura of their clothes?  Auntie Aesthete looks like that, and she dresses from yard sales and consignment stores.  She has An Eye.  All kinds of interesting mustards and rusts look fabulous on her.  She wears colors I would enjoy wearing if they didn’t make me look like a radish.


So, it was fun working with the rust and blue, but the check pattern was extremely fiddly to weave without a floating selvedge.  I twined the shuttles and carried the cream and rust threads along the edge, but I didn’t think it would look right to have the blue traveling too, so I cut it off after each blue stripe.  Not an ideal project for a rigid heddle loom without blocks.  The colors are clearer in person.


Mom, the ingenue


My photo does not convey the violent color scheme of this 1950’s self-striping wool.  There was a lot of it, so I think it was even too loud for Great Granny!

I don’t have a handle on my mom’s taste except that it is inclusive.  I remember trying to explain to her as a kid “what was wrong” with things like: a giant impressionistic foral print in khaki, banana yellow, black, kelly green and lipstick red; electric op-art Madras plaids; chinz slipcover lookalikes–in fact most any of the splotchy fabrics she brought home from the 99 cent table at Hancocks.  There was a conversation that went something like, “But don’t you like flowers?”  “I like flowers, just not if they’re too big.”  “This is too big?” “Yes, the blossoms have to be smaller than a quarter.”  Mom recently said that she is glad we are finally on the verge of getting back to the pretty colors and “nice comfy” oversized styles of the eighties.

I wasn’t worried about the Granny yarn being too bright for her, but I did wonder how I was going to put those disparate colors side by side without turning them to mud.

This threading works well for 9-and-a-bit dpi of my heddle:  The multicolored fat knitting yarn goes in the slots, pink baby yarn goes in holes–except when it goes in a slot to replace an end of fat yarn.  Breaking the fat yarn up with the baby yarn makes the fat yarn stripes stand out more crisply, since the ends of fat yarn always rise to the surface of the cloth at the same time.  The extra-fine springy wool weft is beaten at roughly 8 picks per inch.  This picture will probably make more sense than the explanation:


The pale pink stripes in the warp and the interaction with the hot pink weft really transformed the gaudy old knitting wool.  The finished scarf has all the same colors as Great Granny’s favorite pantsuits: mint, fushia, reddish purple, lavender.  I can almost smell the Coty face powder.


13 Responses to “Three Sisters”

  1. Holly Says:

    I love them all!

  2. Anne Says:

    They really are fabulous and with the restrictions they’re even more spectacular. I loved the descriptions of your aunties and mum and your granny memories. Beautiful.

  3. Rachel Says:

    What a wonderful project! The fact that each scarf is tailored so wonderfully to their recipients is delightful, and they are all so very lovely.

  4. You must have had a great deal of fun with this project. Good work!

  5. Dot Says:

    What fun, scarves with personality!

    Must be fun to be challenged to find ways of using different yarns like this.

  6. Dot Says:

    What fun, scarves with personality!

    Must be fun also to have the challenge of finding ways of using different yarns like this.

  7. What a wonderful way to preserve your great-grandmother’s memory (and yarn)! Auntie P’s my favourite, with the ikat technique. And I really love how the self-striping yarn is used to good effect as warp.

  8. Absolutely Fabulous! You put so much thought into each gift. I love the idea of posthumous Granny gifts. I think your Mom and Aunties will be delighted.

  9. deborahbee Says:

    Oh yes!Lovely cheery-up scarves. I’m all for the discipline of producing something out of what you find in the cupboard (store/stash/stuffed behind the bookcase!) they are all so wearable.great gifts. makes me want to have a go with a rigid heddle…though not until I’ve mastered 8 shafts a la Bergman.

  10. Cally Says:

    You really know your aunts, don’t you? Do they know that you know what you know?? How fabulous to be able to imbue their gifts with so much personal meaning.

  11. Taueret Says:

    how gorgeous all the scarves are and I love the little history of the yarns and the ladies.

  12. trapunto Says:

    Hm. I never thought about whether they know I know what I know. I suspect they suspect I suspect, though.

  13. […] Great Granny yarn, padded with a bit of Goodwill yarn from the same era. Perhaps you remember the three scarves I made last year for my aunts and mom? I’m not sure who this one is for. Maybe one of my sisters. The urge just […]

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