Thursday, February 15, 2007

Minorcan Knitting

Since this past June, I have been taking up the craft of knitting. Yes, yes, I know, this is usually a woman's pasttime, but you men our there don't have to worry about me being a little "sweet." I am here to officially declare: "MEN CAN KNIT, TOO!"

My knitting consists of home-made "needles," straight, uniform whittled sticks, and monofilament fishing line. I know you may be asking Who the heck's gonna wear a pair of socks made out of fishing line?! Well, you know, it's the latest fashion trend in Hollywood, and....

But seriously, folks, men in my family have been doing this kind of knitting for centuries, and their life practically depended on the produce this art during bad times...which were all too common for them.

Yes, I am speaking of that old tool, the castnet. People across the world use castnets to catch baitfish for their fishing excursions, but my family has always used it to obtain food directly. Why the heck catch fish to use as bait and then have to go catch other fish, when you can just catch fish and eat THEM? Castnets were made by master netcrafters for thousands of years until machine-made nets became common in the past century. You can find castnets in any Wal-Mart or megamart or any marine supply store.

So, wait, HT, why waste your time MAKING the castnets when you can buy them in the store? Well, Phantom Reader, to put it lightly, the castnets you buy in the store are steaming piles of alligator dung compared to a well-crafted handmade net. Yes, Alligator dung. Anybody who has cast both kinds of nets and stepped in a pile of Alligator dung (many native Floridians) will tell you that, yes indeed, the machine-made nets aren't worth the water they are cast into.

NOT TO FEAR CASTNETTERS! There are still a few netmakers out there who can sell you a real castnet, a castnet you will use for the rest of your life with minimal repairs. And the net won't have that little pucker at the top of machine-made nets that just refuses to flatten out.

I am learning the art from a man who is considered to be the master castnet knitter in Northeast Florida (quite possibly all of Florida.) He's an old Minorcan Cracker and one of my cousins, Mr. Stuart Pacetti. Yes, you've heard of him before...I've only mentioned him about 3 or 4 times on this blog already. As a restless retired man, this is one of the ways he keeps himself busy, in addition to his involvement in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and his beautiful Florida Folk guitar picking. Coastal Living did an article on him this past June, and you can read it online here. Be sure to listen to the songs at the bottom of the page, too, especially This Land I Love.

Mr. Pacetti giving me yet another castnet knitting lesson at his house last the Friday before last. He is working on my 6-foot mullet net here, using tools that I carved by hand (very badly, I might add) this past summer.

Currently I am making a 6-foot Mullet net with 1-inch mesh to catch those delicious fish that my family has enjoyed for so long. I will post later with pictures of me working this net down, and with a better description of how and why I do it.



SophieMae said...

Gosh, I'm really proud of you, HurTeen! I wish my parents and grandparents had taught me to do all those things. It's a beautiful thing to watch someone throw out those nets.

I'm running late right now, but I'll definitely check out the interview this evening.

I'll be whistling Dixie all day now. 8-]

Aikäne said...

I love Mr Pacetti's statement in the article: "I tell everybody I spent the first half of my life young, handsome, and debonair. I'm spending the second half old, ugly, and cantankerous."

He reminds me of a comment attributed to my great-grandpa (he died at 82, before I was born, and was also a son of the Confederacy): "People say we get old and childish. They're wrong: we get old and hellish."

You're lucky to have people like Mr. Pacetti in your life. You will cherish their wisdom for a lifetime.

pissed off patricia said...

Well, you have my complete attention now. This is fascinating. Please tell me more. Almost always the old way of doing something produces the best product.

Hurricane Teen said...

sophie - I wish my parents had taught me, too. I find myself desperately trying to learn the Cracker way of life from other people before it completely disappears. My parents just don't value that kind of stuff as much, I suppose. I actually started singing Dixie quietly to myself during a lull in the action of my Chemistry class today, and the guy who sits next to me said "WHAT is that SONG?!" Keep in mind that some parts of my county are becoming VERY yankee. I laughed at that and told them to look it up :-D

aikane - Thank you so much for leaving a comment, and I hope you enjoy The Minorcan Factor! I have only seen Mr. Pacetti about 5 or 6 times in my life, but I can easily say he is one of my favorite people in the world. His wisdom seems endless.

POP - I'll post more as soon as I get the other pictures.

threecollie said...

That is so cool! I am impressed that you are learning such a useful craft.
I love the song, Dixie, learned to sing it in school, but now it is not PC up here and my kids have probably never even heard it.
You do a great job with this blog; thanks for sharing your heritage with us.

Aikäne said...

I've been enjoying your blog for weeks after seeing your link on Pure Fla. Are you still planning to attend the Olustee Festival this weekend? Looks like tomorrow will be cold as a well-digger's ... toes - but the weather should be sunny Saturday.

I've never attended, either Feb or Sept, but I have a friend who does the reenactments and has a blast (literally). Maybe one of these years I'll mosey on up there and see y'all in action.

Hurricane Teen said...

threecollie - With all the yankee influence here now, it is not considered "PC" here, either. But that doesn't stop us: The Few, The Proud, The True Floridians. Thanks for the kind words.

aikane - Ah, so you are one of my phantom readers! Thanks for revealing yourself :-D. My dad and I will be camping at Olustee tomorrow night through Monday morning. It gets SO MUCH COLDER in the middle of the woods than it does anywhere else, and I often do find myself getting chilly at night. Fortunately, all those wool clothes really keep me warm in the's the years when it rains that it is truly miserable.
If you make it up there this September or next February, I will be doing a presentation on Captain J.J. Dickison and the movements of my ancestors in his company. So if you want to meet HT in person, that would be the time :-D.

Cathy S. said...

We're not going to make it to Olustee this year. If I had known you were going to be there, I might have made more of an effort. Have a great time! I will enjoy following the progress of your cast net. There's nothing better than using something you made yourself.

Hurricane Teen said...

cathy - Be sure to come next year and watch the good-old-teenager-boy reel on about his ancestors!! I will definitely keep you up to date on the progress of my castnet.

Aikäne said...

Cool, I'd love to see your presentation.
I may try to make it in Sept., since I've never attended a reenactment. My ancestors were not at Olustee and probably didn't serve with yours, since J. J. Dickinson was in the Florida 2nd, right? Are other Florida units represented at Olustee?

One of my gg-grandfathers (James S. Dawsey) and his brother were in the Florida 6th Reg
(see their grandfather's 1828 cabin in Gadsden County).

Another gg-grandpa on my mother's side was in the Florida 1st, but most of my other ancestors were in SE Alabama units (mostly 33rd Inf and 53rd, Partisan Rangers).

James Dawsey never returned from the war. We know he was in prison at one time, but the family never learned anything about his disappearance - when, where or how. It saddens me to know how many of our ancestors and relatives were lost to a senseless war.

Hurricane Teen said...

You can research online and in many books exactly who was at the battle. There were many units from Florida and Georgia, and a couple from Alabama at Olustee. You should research that, you may find something. It is very sad you do not know what happened to your ancestor. There were so many travesties committed in that war that I would hate to think what could have happened to him. Goodnight!