The Myth–or is it?–of Arachne

July 27th, 2014

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Myths are having a moment.

First we learn the news that the new Thor is a WOMAN. Which is rad. Extra rad as I’ve been addicted to the show Vikings for the last couple of months. If you haven’t seen it yet, all I need to say is set your DVR to BINGE. And for those that have seen it…BLOOD EAGLE.

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And the news of Thor led me to other myths, more crafty myths. No, not the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater. The myth of the ultimate crafter…Arachne.

Once upon a time, back in Greek mythological days, there was a young lady named Arachne who was a bad-ass spinner and weaver, and she knew it. She was so sure of her superior skillz that she started boasting to the people her village. “I’m a FIERCE weaver, y’all. In fact, I’m better than Athena herself, the goddess of wisdom and crafts!”

This got back to Athena herself, who was all like “What?! That bitch is MORTAL. Oh, it’s ON.”

So Athena gets herself into costume and comes to Arachne as an old woman. She says she heard that Arachne thinks she’s better than Athena, and Arachne replies “No doubt.”

Now Athena whips off her old-woman costume, reveals herself, and challenges Arachne to a weave-off. Whoever loses, has to give up her craft and can never weave or spin again. Not she, nor none of her family, for all generations to come. And the winner? The winner gets bragging rights.

So now it’s like a rap battle. Except with yarn. Arachne weaves a beautiful tapestry that tells a tale of even older mythology and it’s stunning. And Athena weaves a tapestry that harnesses the blue of the sky, the yellow of sunbeams, and the green of leaves in spring.

And here’s where the tale diverges. Sometimes Athena wins, and sometimes Arachne wins. But in the ending I like best, it’s sort of a win-win situation. Sort of. It turns out that Athena wins, because she’s a goddess and all, and makes goddess-like weaving. Arachne, horrified that she’s lost, and realizing that she can’t live without craft (sort of like we all can’t live without knitting or crochet), hangs herself. Oy. The tragedy. Athena is like “Dayamn. I didn’t think she’d take it so hard. She didn’t have to go and KILL herself.” So she decides to bring Arachne back to life. Howesomever, lessons must be learned. (She was also a little jealous that Arachne was kind of a babe, and Athena’s husband had taken notice). So she brings back Arachne back from death…as a spider. Now she, and all her millions and millions of spider babies, can weave forever and ever, to their hearts content. And eat flies. And star in “Charlotte’s Web.”

Want to knit with the spirit of Arachne? Try these incredible Spider Socks, knitting in the spirit of the unfortunate weaver with every stitch.

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What are your favorite mythical knits? Share them in the comments.

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Knitting for the Ages

July 13th, 2014

We, the staff at Princess Animal, have recently been talking about heirloom knitting. That knitting where each stitch is made with someone in mind, and that hopefully gets luvved to pieces or maybe even passed down to a daughter or son, and therein to the annals of history. Here are some of our stories.

Kathy:

My recent trip to Squam involved several stopovers along the way, one of which was my brother’s house. He had saved a bag of yarn for me from our mom–who died 29 years ago. The yarn itself is all in relatively good shape. It’s nothing special, but I want to make something special out of it. Something that would honor the memory of my mom. Howsomever…it’s all in a very particular 80′s color of dusty pink. I…don’t like it. Honestly, it’s kinda fugly. There’s not quite enough to make a sweater, some of it is pink mohair. Some is cotton/acrylic. Some is a silk/wool mix that’s rather nice. But I’m stumped on what to make from it. Could it all be together has one big pink hairy blanket of some type? It’s literally heirloom yarn, and I feel like I need to make an heirloom from it. Suggestion? Help? What do y’all think?
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Sarah:

When I was little I had a security blanket I carried with me everywhere. I’d had it since I was born since it was a shower gift from one of my mom’s friends, but I didn’t start fixating on it until I was around a year old. I’d had a very bad ear infection, and my parents took me to the hospital, where the staff wanted to give me a spinal tap. They wouldn’t let my parents stay with me for the procedure, but they did let me keep my blanket, and from that day on, I always had that blanket with me, till it literally fell apart.

Having this simple little quilt as a toddler made a huge impact on my life, which is something I think about whenever a friend is having a baby. I love to craft unique toys, clothing, and blankets that will be a part of that baby’s life from day one (even if it gets a fair amount of drool on it). One of my favorite recent projects is a blanket I crocheted for a friend’s little one last year, using bright, squooshy yarn from Madelinetosh. While I have no idea if it will have as much an impact on his life as mine did, you never know! Either way it looked great in the baby photos.

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Kathryn:

Last Summer, I knit a chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) for a woman who had been my best friend for fourteen years. I offered to knit a wedding gift, and she showed me some ideas, including one on Etsy that seemed like a perfect fit. I decided to search Ravelry for a similar pattern, and eventually found exactly the same pattern as the one the bride really loved. I knew I wanted to use a similar yarn: cream-colored (or undyed) merino-silk laceweight. The yarn I bought ended up being far too thin, so I held it double to achieve a good weight.

The knitting went smoothly, though it took me a couple of repeats to get the hang of the Frost Flowers motif, which has such visual substance and beautiful lines that I was glad my friend chose it. In the end, I replaced the called-for knitted on edging with an open crochet border, and blocked that sucker to 70″ square.

When the couple picked up their gift, the groom was blown away, and the first thing the bride said was, “This is going to be our first heirloom.”

They may use it as a shawl, a baby blanket, a table cloth, or they might save it for a family member’s wedding. No matter what happens to it, or how rarely or often it’s used, it’s their new heirloom.

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Kristina:

When I first taught myself to knit as a girl in middle school, I really wished I had someone with more skill than me to help me muddle through it! I ended up checking out piles of books from the library and just giving it my best shot. My grandmother was a knitter, but I didn’t see her for several years until I was already knitting.

At that point she was becoming very arthritic in her hands and was struggling to maintain any of her favorite past times such as knitting or sewing. She did have a little treasure trove of amazing needles, yarms and patterns that she no longer was able to do anything with and wanted to pass on to me.

I still have those knitting needles and use them from time to time, but I used the yarn years ago to make a scarf I used to wear in high school.

I remember my grandmother knitting the most amazing and elaborate Christmas stockings, and all 14 of the cousins got a special unique hand made Christmas stocking that got filled up with toys and goodies each year! Sometimes our old stockings now make appearances at the holidays for the great-grand kids!

So what are you planning to make as an heirloom? Or what was passed down to you? More proof that our craft is a tie to our past, knit into our present, and winds through our future…Share your stories in the comments.

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Easy love.

April 6th, 2014

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Being Princess Animal is complicated. We must arm our populace for the upcoming Craftolypse with an ever-changing and best-of, and coolest collection of yarnz and bookz–while ruling with a furry fist. We must conquer distant lands (this means going out anywhere but the Mission, which We do not seem to do), because we’ve been watching the Vikings, and the Princess is getting all Ragnar about it. She is thinking about building a better yarn boat, perhaps to sail across the uncharted waters of Golden Gate Park’s Lily Pond, which We hear has been fighting an invasion by the evil African clawed frog. All this while swinging to and fro between bouts of unquenchable rage, unquestionable joy, and pure mischief.

How do We, the staff, bring calm to the uncontrollable Princess? Simple. Easy knitting. Beautiful, lovely, brain-resetting, center-restoring stockinette, the stuff knit and purl dreams are made of. Soooo…easy. Look at her go. Sitting still, smiling, zen-like, fingers humming along while witnessing the human sacrifice rituals of the ancient Vikings. Ah, so delightful.

Simple knitting has been the Princess’ manna of late these days. Sure, there was complicated, challenging knitting in the past, but the sun is out again, and oh, to let the fingers fly without fear of mistake. Actually finishing projects. It is all. It is everything.

Here is what the Princess is working on, from what is quickly becoming Our new favorite tome, Very Easy Sweaters from Vogue Knitting. Give us stockinette, or give us…something else. Death’s a bit too extreme, ain’t it?

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Tell us, won’t you? What’s your easy crafting love?

Oh, hey, and while we’re at it…we’re looking for a talented new staff member come June! Want to join the Princess’ Not-So-Secret Service? Drop Us a line at kathy@princessanimal.com. More details on this soon.

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