Friday, October 15, 2010

Book Review - The Ohio Knitting Mills Knitting Book

I grew up in the greater Cleveland-Akron area in the 50's and 60's.  If you had asked me what this part of the country was known for, I would have promptly answered heavy manufacturing for the automobile industry - oil, steel, rubber, and a host of related products all in support of the production of cars for a car-crazy nation.

Imagine my surprise when I read The Ohio Knitting Mills Knitting Book. It seems that Cleveland was also home to a thriving garment industry catering to the needs and wants of an increasingly affluent middle class.  While Cleveland was hardly known as a couture capital in the league of New York City or Paris or Milan, it provided  affordable and fashion conscious clothing for many national brands and stores.  All this time, I had lived in ignorance of this wonderful segment of Cleveland history.

A friend of mine had knitted several of the models for the book and I was anxious to look at the pictures of her garments.  But, I learned alot more about the place of my early childhood than I thought I would.  Author Steven Tatar, a sculptor, happened upon a huge archive  of original knitwear while searching for materials for his artwork in the abandoned factory of the Ohio Knitting Mills.  He bought the collection, numbering about 5000 garments and began selling the vintage garments online and in New York City.  He also worked with knitters and designers to document the originals with photographs and pattern instructions to reproduce the sweaters with one eye on the vintage part and one eye on current fashion colors and fibers.

By decade, he reviews the history of the Ohio Knitting Mills(OKM)  and the history of  what he terms "All-American fashion."  There are many wonderful photographs showing the workers at OKM, the complex knitting machines, and the original garments themselves. An interesting sidenote is that  Ohio Knitting Mills  supplied Mr. Rogers with some of his sweaters after his mother, who had knit so many of his earlier zip-up cardigans, passed away.  There are 26 garments featured with pattern instructions to reproduce the garments, updated for today's yarns and hues.  I like the "Winter Wonderland",  a ski sweater from the 1940's  the 1950's Suburban Sci-Fi pullover.  The 1965 "Mondrian Skyline", color-block dress, and the Poor Boy sweater, produced by OKM since the 1920's are right in step current fashion trends.(click here for link to Cleveland Plain Dealer Style section)

As I read this book, I couldn't help but feel a little disoriented.  Its always surprising to see how others describe you or the era in which you grew up.  The observations of each decade could be generalizations or mere caricatures of a more complex situation, but it is fun to look back and realize that what goes around comes around again, and again, and again.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is officially the day when we in the U.S. remember those who have served our country in the armed forces..  Not only do I remember the service of my father and my maternal grandfather and now, my son, but I also associate the day with many other special things.  May 30 is my birthday and when it was the official holiday (not the Monday nearest the 30th), there were parades to attend or to march in as a Girl Scout.  It was and also remains the official start of summer in terms of swimming pools opening and newscasts, despite the calendar start of the season later in June.

When I was just 6, I spent a week in the early summer with my paternal grandparents Schultz on the farm of Grandma's mother, Great-Grandma Clausing, in St. Mary's Ohio.  Grandma and Grandpa were taking care of her.  She must have been around 90 at the time.

This was my first ever vacation without my parents.  I took to journalling for the first time ever then as well.
We drove into the town of St. Mary's and I bought a paper-bound, 5-year diary at the local dimestore (maybe it was Woolworth's).  I still have that diary and my young attempts at recording the days of my life.
It was also the first time I ever drank coffee.  We had run out of milk and Grandpa wryly suggested that I could have some coffee.  At the time, it was a terribly disappointing drink, bitter and all that.  But, I claim that this was the start of my coffee addiction.  I have a cup or two every morning (my children would say that I have much, much more).

There was a huge tulip tree in the yard of my great-grandma's house. Grandpa introduced me to the that tree and I really, really wanted to have one of the blooms; however, this was a very tall tree and the flowers were totally out of reach.  That may be my fist experience with covetting.  I never did get my own tulip tree blossom. 

Fifty years later, I found this tulip tree blossom on my morning run this week.  It had fallen on the path through the woods that is a part of my favorite running route in town.  I picked it up and carried it lightly between my fingers the two miles to home. My grandpa died around Memorial Day in 1975, shortly before I graduated from college.  Could this be my memorial of him?  Thank you, Grandpa.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bits and pieces

I've frogged the flounce on my Olympic Cormorant. The sweater had a tendency to hang open. I decided that the flounce needed to begin closer to the buttonhole so that the right front would overlap the left a bit more.
See the dorky picture to the right for the telltale gap. Note to self - take time to assess your work as you go. It is far easier to be quite analytical and critical at each step in knitting a garment than it is to rework the entire 7" of flounce!

On a more positive note, I wore the Einstein coat yesterday to work and then to shopping and my hair appointment. In the cute cooking store in town, the sales person admired my coat and asked if I made it. When I answered "yes", she responded that it was too bad that the yarn shop in town closed. I think told her that I had worked there and that yes, it really was too bad. I confessed that I'd like to have my own yarn shop in town, minus the huge lease that accompanied the old shop.

Today, I read that my former co-worker at said yarn shop has begun working at another yarn shop in the area. She loved it! I can't help green feelings of envy. I am happy for her though.

To add to my yarn shop envy, I finally read The Friday Night Knitting Club. Why did I wait so long to read a book that my friends and customers had long recommended? I woke up at 4 am this morning to finish the book. One of the comments on the jacket described the story as "Steel Magnolias" in Manhattan. Now, my daughter watches Steel Magnolias whenever she feels like a good cry. I found myself crying in bed as I finished the book, so the comparison holds water, so to speak.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Einstein Completed

I finished the Einstein coat! This was such a delight to work, just as Sally Melville describes it in "The Knit Stitch". On top of that, we actually had sun in northeast Ohio by which to photograph the finished object! Really,
the artificial light that I used to photograph the work in progress did not capture the true color of the Lopi that I used. These photos are pretty close to the actual shade of green.

A few comments about my coat. The set-in sleeves eliminated some but not all of the underarm bulk. At this point, I might even go back to the drop sleeve design because Dolman sleeves are reappearing on the scene. The only problem with this is the sheer bulk of the Lopi yarn.

When I made my buttonholes, I first followed the directions in the book and knit into the back of the yarnover. Sally Melville says this is to tighten them. Mine were so tight that I could barely find them. So, I knit into the front of the yarnover instead, which produced a nice round buttonhole, visible to the naked eye.

When seaming the sleeves, definitely consider the yarn to use. The Lopi tended to tear apart as I pulled the seam together. Although I was able to carefully complete the seams with Lopi, an easier choice would be a more tightly spun yarn in a suitable color.

A group of us are meeting at the library in town, working on their Einstein coats. My coat provides a visual for them and inspiration to knit on!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympics Cormorant

Cormorant, a cardigan from Nora Gaughan's Volume 5, was my choice for the Ravelympics. However, I didn't sign up in time (I can't believe they actually have deadlines!), so I made my own petulant Ravelympics project.

In the same spirit of independence, I modified the pattern to knit the body in the round. To have any hope of completing this by closing ceremonies, I had to streamline this. I do love Ultra Alpaca. The yarn is soft and nice and drapey at this gauge. The body is done and the sleeves are about 9" long thus far. I'd have more done but I get sleepy and can never stay through
the entire NBC broadcast.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I just love this photo, taken in Dartmouth, as we waited in line to cross the river by ferry. I am convinced that this box and these flowers were put there just for photo ops! In fact, all of Dartmouth seemed like one big photo op with colorful buildings, boats, blue sky. Gorgeous!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Einstein in Boston

I'm stranded in Boston. Intending to stay two nights on a quick trip with my husband, the east coast storm caught me. My return flight was cancelled yesterday. Then, the snow never really
accumulated here in Boston. So I have one whole day before I return home. What to do?

Keep on with Einstein. The second sleeve is well under way. Now, my only concern is whether or not I'll have enough yarn. Frankly, I'm pretty sure that I can complete the sleeve, but I had wanted to add a collar. It looks like I'll be trolling for more Lopi to make the collar. Dye lot shouldn't be a problem as long as it is only the collar for which I need extra yarn.