Inukshuk Messengers … and Socks!

How do you create a road sign, before road signs?  In Canada, the answer was ​an inukshuk (pronounced in-ook-shook).  But an inukshuk was more than a road sign, they relay a message, just like leaving a person behind.  The word inukshuk means "​to act in the capacity of a human."

An Inukshuk

Inuksuit (the plural of inukshuk) ​are man-made, carefully arranged piles of stones.  Many are in the shape of a person, and most are large enough that one single person couldn't have made it by himself - it was a group effort. They appear in the Arctic regions of North America, from Alaska to Greenland. 

It would take quite a bit of work to pile these heavy stones on top of each other.  So why go to such effort?  The inuksuit were long distance messengers for Canada's indigenous people.  In a flat, barren tundra with few natural landmarks the large inuksuit and able to be seen from a long distance.  These communication markers were used as navigational, hunting aids and even warnings.

For example, an inukshuk may have meant "Great Camping Ground Here" or "We Had A Good Hunt Here, Let's Come Back to the Same Place Next Year!" or "This is Where We Buried the Food We are Saving for Later."

An Inukshuk

The inuksuit can also serve as a tribute to the human spirit.  Each ​individual stone doesn't amount to much, but when piled together they send a vital message.  Often their message was to help other travelers, for example, by warning of dangerous ice or currents.  This was seen as a mark of selflessness.  Rather than continue on their journey, the builders took the time to stop their travels long enough to build an inukshuk to send a helpful message to the strangers that may follow them.  They remind us that we are all connected, and that we can succeed as a group where we would fail alone. 

How's that spelled?  The official English language spelling is inukshuk, which is what we at FiberWild! are using.  But the indigenous Inuit of Canada spell it inuksuk (without the H), so the Government of Canada has adopted the H-less inuksuk spelling as well.  Either way is correct. 

Today the inuksuit are a cultural symbol of the indigenous Inuit and of all of Canada.  The symbol is used on the flag of the territory of Nunavut, and in business names and logos.  The symbol was even used as the logo for the 2010 Olympic Games held in Canada. 

Our newest Sock of the Month: World Traveler Series is the Inukshuk Sock, honoring the helpful people of Canada.  The design has cute little inuksuit along the top of the foot and around the leg.  So what is the important message these little guys are communicating?  "An Awesome Person is Wearing These Socks" or "Look at the Cool Socks I Knit!" ... you decide!

Happy Knitting! ... Scout

History of Knitting Part X: WWII Knitting

Knitting during the Depression in the 1930s was stylish knitting.  The goal was to ​copy the glamorous fashions of Hollywood and Europe - but on a tight budget. 

Knitting Bee at Great Kingsmill Village Hall, Buckinghamshire - 18 Nov 1939

Knitting Bee at Great Kingsmill Village Hall, near Buckinghamshire, England, on Nov. 18, 1939

Knitting took a drastic turn in the 1940s.  World War II started in Europe in 1939.  World War I had ended just 21 years ago and was still painfully fresh in people's minds.  Women provided emergency knit goods for war refugees and when the US entered the war in 1941 they added comfort items for servicemen to their knitting lists as well.  The motivation to knit was obvious: one woman spoke for many when she said, as she was dropping off her knit goods to the Red Cross, "You see, I lost two sons in that other war, and somehow, doing this, I feel that I am helping to keep them warm."  (Red Cross Courier, July 1940, p.15)

"The woman who knits, like her sisters in the munitions factories, and in the hospitals, is doing important war work."  Knitting for the Army: Official Guide, 1941.

While knitters could provide their own yarn, the Red Cross would provide free yarn to knitters, and many knitters took them up on the offer.  This could have been very bad for yarn retailers who were trying to sell yarn.  Who can compete with free yarn?  But instead many retailers took a "... if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" attitude. Macy's sponsored special knitting contests, kept knitting instructors on staff to help customers with their work, and shipped completed garments to servicemen and refugees for free.  The hope was that while you were in the store for some free instruction or to drop off your knit goods, you would purchase something at Macy's, since you were there knitting anyway!

​Women knit everywhere.  There was debate over whether knitting was appropriate in church, and most parishes agreed that knitting for refugees or servicemen during the sermon was ok; knitting fashionable accessories for yourself was not.  When an abundance of knitters brought their work to lectures and concerts, etiquette writer Emily Post published wartime knitting etiquette to knit politely without distracting the speaker: 

Do not wave long or shiny needles about in the air; Do not flap your elbows as though you were a bird learning to fly; Do not leave your wool in a bag at your feet and keep hauling it up every so often with a thrust higher than your head . . .

Song Sheet - Pick Up Your Knitting

Sing along:  Pick up your Knitting.
There's a job to do! British boys
would love a pair of socks from you!

​Women didn't only knit for servicemen and refugees.  Fuel shortages meant patriotic families kept their homes cooler, to preserve heating fuel.  Women were encouraged to knit warm sweaters and cozy afghans for themselves and their families at  home.   But it wasn't all practical knitting, women also knit fashionable clothes that copied European designers.  Saks Fifth Avenue triumphantly declared 1941 as "The Year of the Hand-Knit Fever," and Vogue coined the term "tailorknit", which sounds so much more sophisticated then the dowdy "home-made."

Remember Pearl Harbor, Purl Harder

'Nuff Said.  1942 Poster

The government always referred to the knit goods as "comfort items," making it very clear that the servicemen's necessities were provided for, but additional knit goods were appreciated as a reminder that the folks back home were thinking of them. 

Want to do some WWII knitting?  The American Red Cross Museum has a great collection of vintage patterns.  But beware - the patterns are rather vague when compared to the super-detailed patterns of today!  We suggest you read through the comments of our Ravelry friends who have knit these patterns and are always happy to share their suggestions and pitfalls!  The 1940 Muffler (a scarf), is a good place to start since the gauge isn't crucial on a scarf like it is on other garments. 

The yarn for your WWII Red Cross knitting should always be 100% wool.  Some patterns require olive drab or navy blue, while others just say "not too bright."  We are happy to help you select your yarn, just give us a call or send an email - and have fun knitting a "comfort item" to remind loved ones near and far that you are thinking of them!

Happy Knitting! ... Scout

Got Your Goat!

Horses are very social animals.  ​They don't like to be alone.  Horses have relationships in their herd and "horse people" can easily tell you which horses in their herd are best friends. 

Goat and Horse Postcard

A horse and his goat companion.

Well, that's fine if your horses are home-bound, but what about horses that travel? 

Traveling is stressful for horses, and, let's face it, we all like to have our bestie with us in stressful situations.  It is especially important for race horses - you want your race horse to be as mentally comfortable as possible so he can have his best possible race (and win money for you!).  It can be cumbersome to travel around with a whole herd of horses just to make your star happy, but race horse owners have a secret weapon ... goats!

No one knows who was the first to pair a goat with a nervous race horse, but at any race track today you'll find horses - and goats - in the horse stalls.  Horses are calmer with a goat around.  That's important, because a nervous horse who spends the night pacing in his stall isn't going to race as well as a horse that calmly slept through the night beside his goat companion.

Horses can become very attached to "their" goat, so much so that companion goats often travel with their race horses, riding in the trailer together and then bedding down in the same stall.  Some stalls have the door designed so that the goat and go in and out of the horse's stall, allowing the goat to come and go as he pleases.  Others are designed to keep the goat inside with the horse at all times.     

The term "get your goat" refers to doing something to agitate someone else.  The phrase is from the practice of stealing the goat of a competitor's race horse - knowing that it will cause their horse to become agitated and nervous enough to race poorly. 

Do you feel stressed out and agitated?  Who doesn't!  We're not suggesting that you get a goat to travel with you on your morning commute to work, but we do recommend that you knit with Mountain Color's Mountain Goat yarn.  Mountain Goat is a smooth, non-fluffy blend of 55% mohair (goat hair) and 45% wool.  You'll get the warm, comforting feel of mohair - without the stink and mess of having a goat in your house! 

As a bonus, when you buy Mountain Goat yarn you'll get a free pattern for the super cute Ruffler Wrap - a fun circular shawlette with a feminine ruffled edge. 

Happy Knitting! ... Scout

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