Lost Arts studio

A lot of the fiber arts I enjoy are things like tatting, netmaking, chair caning, and even weaving, where people will come up to me when I demonstrate and solemnly tell me, "That's a lost art."

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Location: SW Outer Nowhere, Michigan, United States

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a chicken. (With apologies to Peter Steiner.)

05 January 2006

Peg knitting frames

Although I now (finally!) needle-knit, I started out only a couple of years ago knitting on a series of peg frames, like the Knifty Knitters that seem to be in every Michaels and Wal-Mart these days.

How did I discover knitting frames?

I'm a weaver and a tatter, and along with other members of the West Michigan Lace Group, I demonstrate lacemaking every year at the Michigan Fiber Festival. This is mainly a weaving & spinning festival, but there is at least one booth (Mielke's Farm) that has a great selection of tatting stuff.

Usually we have enough people to man our demonstration and information table so that some of us stay and demonstrate, while the others can go browse and shop! Great fun, sometimes a little hard on the pocketbook.

I was taking my turn walking around the vendors. There are lots of vendors, alpacas and llamas to admire, sheep-herding demonstrations, yarn in great quantities to pet, books to look through. Anyway, I walked down one aisle, and this woman was doing -- something. I walked a couple more steps, and my brain said, "Hey! Wait a minute, what the heck was that she was doing???"

You'll see lots of looms set up and people weaving on them, spinning wheels being used, lucets for sale, but this was different!

So I spun around and said, "What is that you're doing?" She was using a double rake, I think now one of the Amish Looms, and some fancy eyelash yarn. And she explained that, yes, it was sort of like spool knitting, and the yarn went like this, and all she had to do was lift the loops over. Well. Wow.

I walked away, and went back to let someone else go spend their money, but this idea wouldn't let go of my brain. The fiber festival is in August, and this was the 2003 one. I went home and modified my old adjustable metal potholder loom into a double rake. I bought some wood and wire brads, a couple of bolts and some washers, (and my dad's drill press), and made my own double rake. I went online and searched for information. I read needle-knitting books and tried all kinds of things. I joined Yahoo groups. I *started* a Yahoo group.

I can't believe that was only about 2-1/2 years ago!

Peg-frame knitting is also called "loom knitting", rake knitting, French knitting, and bunches of other names. It is mentioned in "Mary Thomas's Knitting Book" (a whole chapter), and very briefly (a couple of paragraphs) in Richard Rutt's "A History of Hand Knitting". It is also mentioned in Miss Frances Lambert's "The Hand-book of Needlework" published in 1842. (That's eighteen forty-two.) Piper Publishing has reprinted the 1846 printing of this book, and sells it for $39. Piper tells me that this illustration (scroll down to "Purse Moulds") is included in the 1846 printing. So it's a lot older than those bright plastic frames might lead you to believe.

I had someone on a knitting list write me and say they were glad to hear I had started using a knitting frame, and then gone on to needles. This person had a young daughter, and her father wanted to get her a set of knitting frames, but the knitting mother was worried that if she learned to knit on a frame, she wouldn't be able to learn to knit on needles.

I do hear this from knitters sometimes, that knitting on a peg frame is a sort of "knitting for dummies". I really don't think that's true. A knitting frame is just a tool to hold the stitches. A knitting needle is a tool to hold the stitches. The fabric that comes off a knitting ring is knitted. (Okay, starting out, it's usually knitting with the twisted stitch, but I can do "regular knitting" on my frames, too.)

One of the things I realized, soon after I started frame-knitting, was that lace patterns that used a consistent number of stitches in each row were very easy on the knitting frame. All you did was move loops over, so you had double-loop pegs and empty pegs. Wow again. Lace-knitting, one of the "calculus" frontiers of knitting, and I could do it.

On my Yahoo group, I have learned that frame knitting attracts

  • People who had never been able to master needle knitting, sometimes despite trying over the course of decades (for example, me!)
  • People with limited vision, impaired vision, or who are legally or completely blind
  • People who had needle-knitted for years, but who had been forced to stop because of physical problems, like arthritis or fibromyalgia
  • People who love to try all different forms of fiber arts

    And it certainly didn't stop me from picking up needles with a whole new understanding of knitting!

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