Sunday, May 20, 2012

2012 Update: Falling Star booklet from de Pamiri Handicrafts

In July/September of 2010, I blogged about a booklet produced by de Pamiri handicrafts in Tajikistan.  The booklet is called "Falling Star" and contains a collection of images of traditional motifs used in the making of crotcheted colourwork socks made in the Pamirs.  The booklet contains some charts, but they are photos of hand-drawn charts rather than the polished charts that western crafters are used to seeing in their glossy magazines and reference books.  The booklet is also written entirely in Russian.

I have two friends on Ravelry (one from Germany and one from Russia) who have also gone through the process of trying to purchase this booklet online, and both of them experienced serious difficulties with making payments.  In addition, my friend from Russia has now been waiting months to receive the booklet she paid for.  This causes me a great deal of anguish as I was the one who blogged about the booklet in the first place.

From what I am hearing, it also transpires that the price of the booklet has now been jacked up to the equivalent of about $US35, when it was originally about $US15 when I bought it in 2010.  It is, of course a freemarket world these days, and de Pamiri is fully entitled to charge whatever the hell they please for this booklet, but crafters in the west can take it or leave it.  In my opinion, this booklet is not worth $US35.  Yes, it contains photos of motifs that people in the west have probably never seen, but it is too poorly produced and laid out to warrent a $35 pricetag.  For $35, I as a consumer, would expect a book (not a booklet) of at least 100 pages with computer-generated charts, and detailed text in English, including instructions on how Pamiri socks are traditionally made.

It pains me to have to write this post, but I am going to say that I would now discourage people from trying to get hold of this booklet via mail order online. 

Unless you go to Tajikistan for a holiday, and can walk into de Pamiri's shop to hand your money over the counter to buy the booklet, think twice about going to the trouble of buying it.  The online buying process is not a simple PayPal transaction with someone in the USA or the UK where you are relatively assured of getting your parcel in the post within a couple of weeks.

Personally, it took me 8 weeks of emailing with de Pamiri to get what I wanted, and 4 weeks to get the parcel (and I was fully prepared to wait for that to be longer since I had heard that mail going out of Tajikistan into Europe can be hit and miss).  My local bank here in The Swamp freaked out about de Pamiri's bank payment/routing process, so in the end I paid them with Western Union, and that (luckily) worked out for me.  But I didn't have to pay $35 plus postage, so I had less to lose.  My friends also had difficulties with the payment process.  In one case, de Pamiri insinuated that one of my Ravelry friends was lying about having paid for the book, when in actuality they had failed to properly read my friend's email bank payment slip.

Overall, the mail order process for purchasing this little booklet is very antiquated and can get quite stressful, so if you are not prepared to be overcharged, and to go through hellish uncertainty about receiving this booklet by mail, don't even attempt the transaction.

You have all been forewarned.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bosnian Crochet and Shepherd's Knitting Videos

There's no sound for these videos, but I was asked how I do it by a couple of people, so hopefully these go some way to showing that.

Single colour bosnian crochet is just a slip stitch through the back of each loop.

Single Colour Bosnian Crochet:

Single colour shepherd's knitting is just a slip stitch through the front of each loop.

Single Colour Shepherd's Knitting

The next video is for bosnian crochet with two colours, for Ross who asked a few days ago. This is just one way to do it. I have also tried doing it purlwise, where I crochet from the back of the work in the old eastern style and "float" the colours at the back rather than "carrying" them (which is like extreme trapping in knitting) as I do in this video. I had a bit of trouble keeping the video centred, but hopefully it's viewable.

Basically I just pick up whichever colour I need from the front or back of the other colour so that it traps the colour that needs to be carried behind the work.

Bosnian Crochet in Two Colours:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hooks, shepherd's knitting, and a wonderful package from Tajkistan

On August 7, I started this post and then put it on hold until today (September 6 - don't let the blogger date above mislead you). :-P

At the time I was busy spinning and dyeing one of my Mergelland fleeces, and making a hook for my long-planned Tajik socks.

First the hook which I made according to Flosiepoo's Pen Tutorial:The wood for my hook is from the dead branch of a purple beech tree which I found whilst out walking one afternoon.

To make the hook, I first printed out Flosiepoo's "slim" template to scale and then cut it out. Then on a sunny June morning I sat outside with a small hacksaw, stanley knife and two different grades of sandpaper, plus a nail file. I hacksawed the branch to about 12.5cm as instructed in the tutorial. Then I whittled the hook end roughly into shape, and then the handle. As I whittled, I would keep putting Flosiepoo's cut-out template over my shape to check how close I was to the template. I'd say the whole process took 4-5 hours. But if you undertake something like this on a fine day, it's a very relaxing process.

Later, over the course of a week, I did a lot of swatches to test the hook. What I discovered was that my actual hook was way too sharp, so I had to constantly modify it as I swatched. In the end it looked a lot more like Flosiepoos hook, and a lot less like the commercial Swedish smygmaskvirkning hooks that I see all over the net. These, for example, are useless:

Anyone who has one of these hooks and disagrees should post me a youtube video of themselves actually using such a hook in a project before I will believe that these sorts of hooks are of any use.

If the hook is too sharp, it will constantly snag the plies of your yarn, which is very annoying. Also the heads of those commercial Swedish hooks are way too wide. The aim of the head shape is to allow you to enter the flattened slip stitch relatively gently, without snagging or splitting the plies of your yarn. The shaft of the hook is what does the work to stretch the stitch open for the subsequent pullthrough, so there is no need for such a wide head at all.

Anyway, for those who like the hook but not the thought of making one, Flosiepoos may soon be selling some of her mother's handmade hooks on Etsy, so keep an eye out for that!

Shepherd's Knitting
I've also been washing Mergalland fleece, and spinning, and dying, all for the purposes of making a Tajik-style proto-sock. Tajik socks are unique among Central Asian socks in that they utilize crochet, and/or a combination of crochet and knitting. Tajik socks are created with the use of shepherd's knitting/shepherd's stitch or "schaapherderssteek" as it is known to oldtimers here in The Swamp (that's "The Netherlands" for the benefit of non-Aussies).
Here is my proto-sock when I began:

And here it is as I progressed a little further and began knitting:

The sock is a bit further now and I'll post pictures when I finally get it done (I have no idea when that will be since I have 3 other more urgent projects on the go at the moment).

OK, so what is this "shepherd's knitting"/shepherd's stitch? Well, basically it's slip stitch crochet through the front of the loop, as opposed to "Bosnian Crochet" which is slip stitch crochet through the back of the loop. It's one of the simplest stitches there is but you can do it in spirals and in colour in order to make socks - which is what the women of the Pamirs (in what is today "Tajikistan") do with great skill. From what I have read, the technique became known as "shepherd's knitting" in ye olde days because the fabric produced looks a little like it is knitted rather than crocheted. I can sort of see this when you do it in one colour, but if you start doing it with colour motifs, the motifs have a definite slant to them, so it's more recognizeable as crochet.

So anyway, today I decided to finally finish this post because I received a long-awaited package from Tajikistan, which contained two precious items. The first of these, is a booklet/brochure called “Falling Star” by Parpisho Qimatshoyev, and the second is a Pamiri hook (I have been told that these are best referred to as Pamiri since the people of the pamirs consider themselves to have been assimilated by the Tajiks).

Falling Star
This is probably the only publication in existance at the moment which contains images and a few graphs of the Pamiri motifs which appear on their socks. It is not exactly a "book", but instead a 29 page brochure, but it's absolute gold - at least to someone like me who is always on the lookout for beautiful previously unknown Central Asian motifs to incorporate into my crafting. The brochure is written entirely in Russian as well, so unless you are Russian, or curious enough to try google-translating it (yeah, I'm mad enough), it's not the sort of thing you'll be able to sit down with and read with a nice cuppa and some bickies. But my reaction upon looking at all of the pretty photos was "OMG - so beautiful... Wow" followed by drooling and wishing that I could speak Russian. :-D

So without further ado, here is what the cover looks like:

Also in the pic above, you will notice the unique Pamiri hook, which is used to crochet socks. This doesn't come with the book. And here's a cloesup of the hook itself for those curious about how it compares to smygmaskvirkning hooks or Dutch hooks:

Also a sneek peek at one page inside the book - one with pictures of the Pamiri hook used for shepherd's knitting:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Started prepping and spinning a Mergelland fleece

Today I finished my first skein of yarn from the first of my six Mergelland fleeces. I couldn't find any info on the internet about how people prep this wool for spinning, and this fleece (like the Drents fleece I started with 2 years ago), seems to be regarded by the Dutch as "rough" and fit only for felting amd carpet and weaving. Many of the Mergelland fan sites however, claim that the wool is "easy to spin". That's true, but the actual prepping takes a bit of extra time (as with the wool from most of these heath sheep breeds).

To prep the wool I used combs because this fleece has a long staple length. The basic problem with this wool is that the locks are composed of both hair and a fine underdown. Unlike the locks on a Drents fleece though, it's rather difficult to pull out the course hairs. I started cutting off the course hairs at first, but that was a bit too time consuming. In the end I just combed the locks, planked them, and then spun the resulting top. This stuff wants to be spun really fine too because it's quite longwool-like.

For the next skein, when I plank a sliver I am going to leave off the last bit of the planked sliver before I lash it back on for another combing. I am hoping that this will get rid of much of the hairs.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mergelland Fleeces

Last Friday I received not 2, but 6 (!!!) Mergelland fleeces in return for my sock knitting. These fleeces are enormous, and I am not sure how they are classified. As a heath sheep, the Mergellanders seem to have a "mixed coat", but not like the Drents Heath sheep that I first learned to spin with. There is less hair on each lock. The wool is also quite lusterous.

Today I started washing one fleece. Here are the fluffy white clouds of joy drying and ready for combing:

In the meantime, I have started to knit a thick Jacob wool hat for my husband so that he will have a new warm hat for the winter:

I spun some of my separated Jacob wool from last week on my Louet, and this time I tried to spin as thickly as I could.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jacob Fleece

I finally got around to starting to wash a Jacob fleece that's been in my shed since the end of last summer. I have been feeling very guilty about it, so it's a relief to finally be getting into it. The fleece is a two colour fleece, so I began by separating the brown wool from the white wool. Here's a picture of the fleece after I got most of the brown out:Bear in mind that this is a fleece from a Dutch farmer, and around these parts there are no such things as "coated fleeces", or "best-in-show fleeces". The wool comes off the sheep - grass and all, and that's what you get. Check out the lovely crimp though:

And here is the lovely chocolate-coloured wool with sun-bleached tips drying (yes, I have no racks so it just gets hung up):

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fries melkschaap socks completed

The second pair of socks are now complete, so I can get back to writing my pattern for the goat's head socks at last.