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:


Anonymous said...

That's really exciting stuff! I'm very impressed by your first results using your new hook. can't wait to see more soon!

The swamp knitter said...

Thanks Flosiepoos! The hook I made from your tutorial rocks, and now that I have finished a couple of other projects that I promised people, I might be able to get back to my Tajik-style socks again. :-P

Anonymous said...

Hi i am Russian i can knit jurabs like yours Turkmeni and if you want i can help with translation of the book about Pamiti patterns
Write me to

Donna Druchunas said...

I'd love to find a copy of this book. Do you know if it's for sale anywhere?

Patty said...