Friday, November 06, 2009

Waulking Song Mittens

This month's Project of the Month is the Waulking Song Mittens designed by our own Johanna Marshall! The name of the mittens comes from the Scottish folk songs, traditionally sung by women while waulking.

Waulking, the Scottish name for fulling, is a step in woolen cloth-making which involves the cleansing of cloth (particularly wool) to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and making it thicker. This involved a group of people beating newly woven tweed rhythmically against a table or similar surface to soften it. Simple, beat-driven songs were used to accompany the work. A waulking session often begins with slow-paced songs, with the tempo increasing as the cloth becomes softer. As the singers work the cloth, they gradually shift it to the left so as to work it thoroughly.

Here's how these mittens came to be. It all began when Jenna, Johanna and I (lots of J's here) had originally planned to each take a wheel of Cestari Pencil Roving and see what resulted for each of us. We often used Cestari when teaching people how to use a drop spindle, but didn't know what else could be knit, having a certain level of substantiation. There are patterns that call for unspun icelandic wool that would probably suit this yarn just fine, but there had to be something else.

Jenna's project was a bust, as was mine, but Johanna was quite successful in coming up with something. She decided to take two of her favorite things & put them together by knitting mittens at a larger gauge than needed, and fulling them. The result is one of the warmest pair of mittens I've stuck my hands into.

You can knit & full them and leave them plain or you can embroider/embellish them as you please. An awesome blog to find free patterns daily is Hand Embroidery Network.  Sublime Stitching also has some great patterns for sale on their website that made me a bit weak in the knees, too.

The pattern is available for download on the Rosie Knits page and the Cestari roving is sold at about $2/oz. Most of the wheels are 3-5oz, making this a super-affordable project! Cestari might not get an encore performance in the shop, so snag a wheel or two while the getting's good!

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