A Knitter on the Road

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been in Maine this summer. It's our annual trek to see the mother-in-law and avoid the Texas heat. The kids go to summer camp while the husband and I work as much or as little as we can get away with and eat and drink too much like we're on vacation. 

Antique store find - a vintage yarn swift not too different from today's swifts.

Antique store find - a vintage yarn swift not too different from today's swifts.

It rained on Tuesday so we took a trip to the town over to do some shopping. We stopped at my favorite antique shop, The Big Chicken Barn. It's full of real antiques - not junk left over from the '80s that people call antiques. There's some of that too, but being in the area where the first Europeans are said to have settled, there are some truly antique-antiques. The top floor of the Chicken Barn is full of books and old advertisements ranging from current bestsellers to first editions. 

I had my knitter eyes out and hoped to find something interesting. The knitting book section was pretty picked over, I assume because of the high number of knitters in the area. I wandered into the homewares and found a corner that looked like a house from the 1800s. Copper pots hung from the ceiling, washboards and mason jars were scattered throughout, and vintage lace hung from the antique furniture. I was excited to find what they called a "primitive" yarn swift. There wasn't a date on it, but I was surprised to find the design is not that different from the swift I have at home, save the base which doesn't clamp on to a table. 

Notice the hand-carved base of this "primitive" yarn swift. 

Notice the hand-carved base of this "primitive" yarn swift. 

This first one was impressive, but I kept looking and found another that was truly unique. The base appears to be hand-carved from a piece of wood probably found in the woods. The design is not the accordion-fold style like most current swifts, but with a square design using twine instead of wood on the outside spires. The twine itself is aged so much I was afraid if I touched it, it would dissolve. I imagined a craftsman making this swift for his wife, or maybe the knitter made it herself, to make her winding easier. I could picture them sitting together by the fire in the evenings with children winding hanks of yarn into balls. I wished I had a house or a yarn store to display something like this. (My modern-ish house is low on display items and with two boys... forget it.) 

A spinning wheel in a house from the early 1800s. 

A spinning wheel in a house from the early 1800s. 

The next day we spent some time at the Wilson Museum in town. Because people settled and fought over the lands since the 1600s, there's a bit of history to share! The local museum is small, but does a nice job of bringing in exhibits from all over the world. The highlight for my son was the live demonstrations by the blacksmith and wood carver. Kids get to pump the air into the fire while the blacksmith heats up the iron and go home with their own hand-crafted item. The wood carver creates magic wands, bats and other items by request as well. I was more impressed by the inside of the museum that featured a visiting exhibit of prehistoric artifacts from around the globe - weapons and food preparation items used by humans centuries ago. 

Yarn drying by the fire. 

Yarn drying by the fire. 

Downstairs we discovered a reproduction of a home from the 1805. (If you saw this on Instagram, I said 1700s, but since learned it was later.) The museum docent told me it was from a home found across the bay that was going to be torn down, but the owners saved it for the museum for conservation. The museum staff was able to rebuild it in the exact design as it was found. I need to go back for a better set of photos, but I wanted to share how the yarn figured prominently in this life. In the front room is what appears to be a carder machine, used to separate the fibers. Then, we see the spinning wheel and dyed yarn hanging dry by the fire, just the scene I imagined where they'd also use the yarn swift I found.

Someone on Instagram commented, "You find the best stuff!" I don't take a lot credit for finding these things, but looking for them with a knitter's eye.

If you start looking around, you'll also notice how knitting and craft play a role in our lives and have for centuries.  

 

Between these two visits, we went browsing at the closeout shop selling just normal stuff. The yarn was big name brand yarn you could find at a craft store. While I was looking to see if they had the needle size I needed, another woman stopped in the aisle, obviously just killing time with her daughter. Before she walked on, she reached out to give the yarn a little rub like knitters do. Recognized another in the wild.