Episode 12 | Colonial Knitting

The next Socks-for-Mum podcast has been uploaded.

In this episode I show my newly finished Diamond Fizz Shawl and I chatter about the Fern and Feather sweater.  There is a prize draw.  I share a little bit about knitting in Colonial times – yep, I have finally started my research on for the dreaded History of Knitting paper I must write for Master Knitting Level 2.


I bought a nøstepinne last night at spinning group.  Nøstepinne.  I love that word.  noh-ste-pin.

Up until last night I knew they existed but I didn’t really know what they were used for.  I actually thought it was some kind of spindle, perhaps a type of Russian supported spindle.  Last night my friend and I were admiring the wooden beauty of several nøstepinnes in our LYS as we waited for all the spinners to arrive.  We asked the shop owner what a nøstepinne was and she told me it was the traditional way to wind center-pull balls before there were the current day center-pull ball winders.  “Nøstepinne” or “nøstepinde” is the Scandinavian term for a special yarn-winding tool.


Nøstepinnes are basically a shaped stick of wood.  They can be anything from an elaborate, turned wood piece to the end of a spindle or wooden spoon. When I got home I read that you can use the body of your niddy noddy if one of the heads comes off.  This one is about 12 inches long with a shaped handle to hold (on the right) narrowing down to a neck (on left) where the yarn can be tied on.

I asked why I should use a nøstepinne instead of the ball winder and swift I had at home.  The spinners in the group made a case for the nøstepinne that sold me within minutes.  First of all, they are portable.  Second, they are relatively cheap and fun to collect.  Thirdly, it is part of the history of spinning. Forthly, they can double as a spinning bobbin in a pinch to wind off yarn from a spindle.  Really?  That last idea had me brainstorming all the way home last night.

My two Jenkins turkish spindles, by the very nature of their design and the mechanics of winding on, will produce a center pull ball when the cross arms are removed and will be all ready for plying.


But as I spin on my Cascade Mt. St. Helens the fiber is wrapped around the shaft and will need to be removed after the shaft is full.  From there it is wound around a ball or wound with the ball winder to make a center-pull ball.  Why not use a nøstepinne for this?  Yes!  They make a perfect portable pair!  If fact, I am wondering if you had several nøstepinnes, as in “collecting” them, why could you not put them into a shoebox drilled with holes and plied directly from the shaft of the nøstepinne itself.


A perfect little match So together like a hand and glove…….. (that song has been in my head the whole time I have been writing this post)

Hand and Glove


And, they even fit in the Paris box together — at least for now.  I guess after I get more spun unto the St. Helens there might not be room for the nøstepinne.  But then, there will also be less fiber to spin in the box.


Anyone have any nøstepinne experiences they want to share?  I will have to spin a little more until I can try this “gadget” of olden times out!  Hopefully, with a little practice, I will be able to quickly and easily wind a beautiful center-pull ball of yarn using no more than this simple, but beautiful, tool.  I know it will take some practice to wind neatly and evenly but it seems like a pleasant enough pastime


Italian Knitting

I visited Italy on my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and I think it will be forever in my heart.

As a lifelong historian, I’ve long been fascinated with the history of Italy. The month of April draws me back to Tuscany because that was the month we walked through the streets of Florence and Rome. My brother has a heart much like mine, loving Italian history and art. He is an archaeologist and lives in Rome so maybe someday I will return. But for now, I will appease the restless traveler within me by taking a look at Italian knitting.

Did you know that Spanish nobles introduced knitting to Italy during the Renaissance? Of course, their brilliance in all things artistic took knitting to a much higher plane. The knitting designs in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were very elaborate and complex. They were knit with a very teensy gauge (17 stitches per inch) and involved floral patterns almost making them look like brocade.

Aren’t these splendid jackets? I can’t even comprehend the skill involved in making these but, you know those Italian artisans! They were extremely talented in all areas of art, weren’t they?

Today Italy is an important producer of yarn. Some favorite Italian yarns I have knit with are Debbie Bliss Cashmerino and Sublime Cashmere Merino. I’m knitting my granddaughter a sweet little baby sweater with Sublime Baby Cashmere and it has a luxuriant feel to it. I have knit several pairs of socks using the Regia Kaffe Fasett line and the colors are splendid.


Have you ever been to Italy?  Care to share a memory?  Do you have a favorite yarn made in Italy?