Something Old, Something New

Letah Schlintz was born on August 13, 1896.  She grew up on Tomah, Wisconsin.  Although she was born in the U.S. she was from a German family, lived in a German neighborhood, and even went to a German school ... and yes, of course, she knit German (continental). 

Nana's Knitting Notebook

Nana's Knitting Notebook, 1942

Letah was the grandmother of our shop owner, Amy Loberg, and it was "Nana" who taught Amy how to knit.  ​Amy's mother also knit, so why did Amy learn from Nana instead of her mother?  It depends on who you ask.

According to Amy's mother it was because she knit English while Nana knit German.  German is a faster, more efficient and all around more practical way to knit - so why not send her to Nana's to learn German knitting?

But according to Amy, Nana taught her because Amy was "Child Number Four".  Although her mother taught her sisters how to knit, it was just plain easier to get Amy out of the house and taught by someone else than for her busy mother to sit down and teach her herself!

Whatever the reason, Amy enjoyed spending time with her Nana.  By then Nana lived in Janesville, the same town that Amy grew up in, and they visited frequently.  Amy learned knitting, tatting, and various other handicrafts from her.  Nana could also spin, weave, sew, crochet - practically anything that involved fiber ... she was the sort of woman who kept a tatting shuttle in her apron pocket and would sneak in a few moments of tatting in the kitchen while waiting for a pot to boil. Her husband, a carpenter, even built Nana a few weaving looms!

Nana died in 1977, when Amy was about 13, and while her love of fiber lived on in Amy, it seemed that the lessons from Nana had come to an end. Or so Amy thought ...

Nana had two children, Ralph (Amy's father) and Lois.  Much of Nana's handiwork was passed down to Aunt Lois, and over the years it accumulated into boxes in the basement.  Lois and her husband lived in the same house for over 50 years, and after Aunt Lois' death in 2012 it was time for the dreaded chore of cleaning out the basement. 

But the dreaded chore turned into a wonderful surprise when one box yielded a packet of 3 x 5 notebook papers pinned together . . . a set of knitting patterns.  The gem was the very first pattern, titled "Five Petal Doily" and dated July 24, 1942.  It was in Nana's handwriting, some in blue pen, some in green pen and some in pencil - obviously a work-in-progress as she worked the pattern and made changes to the design.  Amy started working on the doily pattern immediately (of course she had her knitting bag and needles with her!).  The doily was awesome ... but what to do with it?  Who has a need for a doily today?

Amy started thinking that the feather-like petal pattern would make a nice shawl.  When Diana and Leslie from Mountain Colors asked her to come up with a design to celebrate their 25th Anniversary and showcase their new and completely luscious fingering weight Silkdance yarn ... she knew exactly what to do!

The result is the Feather Dance Shawl, Nana's historic doily pattern vamped up into a gorgeous and practical modern shawl.

Nana's Knitting Notebook

FiberWild! Feather Dance Shawl

It's elegant and sophisticated enough for a bride to wear!  Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue . . .  but which is it?  Will it be her "something old" because of the original 1942 petal design, or "something new" because you made it, new, especially for her?  Knit it in the blue icicle colorway and it will be her "something blue" - or knit it for yourself and loan it to the bride for her "something borrowed."

Happy Knitting! ... Scout

Fred (the sheep) has Passed

Every year, the whole crew from FiberWild takes a field trip to Suzy the Shepherdess's farm to visit her sheep and play with the lambs.  One of the highlights of the trip is visiting with Old Fred (the sheep), so we were all very sad to hear of Fred's passing.  The following is Suzy's tribute to our old friend ...

Fred (2005)

Sheep don't hug or hold hands, but they do show affection by standing very close to their mother, leaning against her.  Fred did the same to me, which made him very difficult to photograph!  Here I'm pushing him back with one hand while taking a photo with the other (2005).

As a rule, sheep don't like traveling. But there is an exception to every rule!

Named "Frederich" in honor of his German (East Friesian) heritage, Fred the Sheep was born in 2004 and was bottle raised by me.

Normally, bottle babies are a mess. Either the mother or the lamb is weak, and the lamb is left with "replacer" - a powdered "just add water" fake sheep milk that is simply not as good as the real stuff. But Fred's mother, Fritzi Girl, was in good health and had simply rejected him. She was an East Friesian sheep - a "milking breed" that is usually milked like a dairy cow and used to make cheese (most commonly Roquefort, but there are many other sheep cheeses as well). I was able to milk Fritzi Girl and then feed Fred the real milk, so he grew up strong and healthy.

Pictures of Suzy's Farm

When selling my yarn at local markets, I'm always surprised at how many visitors to my booth don't really understand what wool is and where it comes from. I had been thinking about training a lamb to travel and be my "spokes-lamb," promoting wool. During the bottle feeding process Fred had bonded to me and soon believed that I was his mother - he seemed the perfect candidate to travel.

Once I made the decision for Fred to travel, I started getting wacky. While giving him his bottle and halter training him, I'd dance, sing, screech, poke at him, and generally make a nuisance of myself - all the while hoping that none of my neighbors stopped by for a surprise visit! The result is that very little flustered Freddy. I was pleased to note that while the militia was firing their muskets at a living history event at the Apple River Fort, humans were startled when the guns fired - but Fred remained perfectly calm!

With his very own dog crate in the back of my van, Fred traveled to events in and near Stockton, Illinois. He was a regular each Saturday while I sold yarn at the Stockton Farmer's Market.

At events I would set up a small pen next to my table and visitors were encouraged to pet Fred and ask questions about sheep and wool. He enjoyed the attention and special treats, made many friends, and probably thought each event was held in his honor!

Shearing Fred - March 2007

Me shearing Fred with hand shears at the Apple River Fort (March 2007).

Fred was best known for volunteering at the Apple River Fort in Elizabeth, Illinois, a reconstruction of a fort built in 1832 in fear of Black Hawk and his warriors. For many years Fred was the star attraction at the Fort's "Cabin Fever Jubilee" event each spring, where we demonstrated 1830s springtime chores. I sheared him with the hand shears while I was wearing a dress, multiple petticoats, and 1830s stays! Needless to say, it was a challenge! His wool looked like a pale brown, but underneath the "summer highlights" he was a deep gray - a very nice color!

Evelyn feeding Fred (June 2012)

My 2-year-old daughter Evelyn feeding Fred (June 2012).

When my first human baby was born in 2010 Fred retired. He had enjoyed six years of touring and was ready to spend his weekends in the pasture with the other sheep instead of on-the-road.

When my children were toddlers I used to fence in an area behind my tent to give them a safe play area while I sold my yarn - many of my long-time customers recognized that I was using the old Fred-Fence to corral my children!

Fred aged gracefully and was healthy and strong up until just shortly before his demise. The average lifespan for a sheep is 10 years. Fred made it 13 years - a good run for a good sheep! -Suzy the Shepherdess -

Pictures of Suzy's Farm

Hanami: Flowers and Fun!

Cherry Blossom Viewing - from Famous Views of Osaka - 1834

Hanami Festival in 1834

Do you like spring?  Of course you do!  Do you like parties?  Who doesn't?  Then you would love a visit to Japan during the Hanami festival!​

Hanami is the Japanese ​tradition of enjoying the beauty of flowers ... specifically the cherry blossoms called "sakura."  The flowers are pretty, but more importantly they are a metaphor for life - they appear in a burst of beauty then quickly die, reminding us that life is short and we should enjoy the beauty of our own lives, now!

The tradition is said to have started around 700 AD.  The first blossoms to be honored were plum blossoms, but soon cherry blossoms took center stage and the Hanami festival became synonymous with cherry blossoms. 

In the early days it was believed that spirits, called Kami, lived in the cherry trees, and during the Hanami festivals offerings were made to the trees and spirits.  In addition, the blossoms were used to predict the success or failure of the upcoming rice planting season.  The offerings were followed by food and sake, a rice wine that was served with great ceremony.

Emperor Saga (reigning from 809 to 823) gave the festival a more artistic flair, encouraging writing poems in tribute to the blossoms' beauty, a tradition that still continues today. An artistic kind of guy, he was also a calligrapher and a poet and is said to be the first Japanese Emperor to drink tea!

by Chiyoda Ooku Hanami - 1894

Hanami Festival in 1894

The first Hanami celebrations were only for the aristocrats, but within a few generations it became a festival for the people.  Today it is celebrated with food, sake, music and poetry writing.  Think of it as an outdoor music festival - with flowers!

Hanami Festival

Modern Hanami Festival

Japan is a long and narrow group of islands, with very different climates in the north versus the south. The cherry blossoms of Japan don't all bloom simultaneously, earlier in spring in the south, and later in the north.  So how does one keep track of the budding trees?  Weather reports on TV and in newspapers include the "Cherry Blossom Front" reporting on where the blossoms are blooming and predicting when they will blossom in your neighborhood.  The Cherry Blossom Front is serious business, with 59 specific sample trees selected across the country (and "junior trees" on call ready to be promoted to "sample tree" if a tree unexpectedly dies or becomes damaged).  The Day of Opening is announced when the sample tree has five or six opened flowers, and the Day of Full Bloom is when 80% of the sample tree's flowers have opened.

When the Day of Full Bloom arrives there is a rush to find the perfect spot under the cherry blossoms.  In crowded modern cities some people arrive at public parks hours or even days ahead to stake out the ideal location.

If you can't make it to Japan this spring you can enjoy the cherry blossoms in Washington DC.  In 1912 Japan gave 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the U.S. to celebrate the friendship between the two countries.  They were planted in Washington DC, and in 1965 another 3,800 were gifted to the U.S. Washington DC celebrates annually with the four-week National Cherry Blossom Festival

The best way to celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossoms is by wearing your Spring in Japan socks ... the first sock in our new World Traveler Sock of the Month series!  These delightful toe up socks feature an exquisite blossom lace pattern that runs up the front of the sock, with a smaller blossom running up the back.  And you don't need to follow the Cherry Blossom Front report - you can wear them every day!

Happy Knitting! ... Scout