29 October 2011

at first, it was just an ugly rumor...

 ...but now, it's an inarguable fact.  Local meteorologists have threatened that at least four inches of snow will fall by tomorrow morning.  It's not all that much, but still, it is only October and this doesn't seem quite right.  What to do?

 One could sit around playing one's recently rediscovered Game of Authors found lurking in a box amidst a small collection of letters and an abacus.  Game of Authors was first produced in 1861 by GM Whipple and AA Smith of Salem, Massachusetts.  Parker Brothers produced a later version in 1897.  I've seen many different and more imaginative covers for this game including another Milton Bradley version picturing Shakespeare, (or, if you prefer, Edward de Vere).

Alternatively, one could catch up on some knitting. 

One sock is lovely, but having two is the goal, apparently...

...and they don't knit themselves.

Perhaps one might try to finish that book?

25 October 2011

swooning, and how to do it...

In an issue of the English periodical The Ladies' Magazine, dated 1764, one happily notes this intriguing advertisement:

FITS just imported from Italy; being a speedy
and efficacious method of procuring the most 
captivating and natural fainting, and will be
found particularly useful in this riotous season, 
when all ladies would be ambitious to appear
in public with a proper delicacy of nerves, which
some, from a too good constitution, have the 
misfortune to want. These Fits are sold sealed up,
in small boxes, five in each, in color and appearance
like a barley-drop, so innocent that a child of two
years old may take them with safety; each drop is 
a sure Fit of ten minutes,at the expiration of which
you are as well, if not better than before taking them;
the operation is immediate. 
To be sold at all perfumers, with printed directions. 
Price 4/- the box or 1/- a single Fit.

Or, perhaps you could just purchase one of these, a Jamieson's of Shetland Color Card, revealing, in its entirety,  the whole rich and exhilarating spectrum of Jamieson's Spindrift ...

 A 2 ply jumper weight yarn, equivalent
to 4 ply.  This yarn is traditionally
used for Fair Isle knitting.
Available in over 220 colours including
21 natural shades.  The range allows
immense design potential.

As well as a case of the vapors,  if you are like me and blessed with an innate tendency to become helplessly spellbound by irresistible color.   Having one of these to gaze at longingly is possibly as exciting as sorting through the many dozens of colors in that colossal box of Crayolas I owned as a child and which was exclusively responsible for introducing into my vocabulary words like, "sepia", "cornflower", "magenta" and "mulberry". 

Do bear in mind that the colors reproduced here bear only the slightest resemblance to  the colors on the chart.  In order to properly appreciate their beauty you need to have the chart or the yarn in hand.  I learned how unreliable internet color reproduction is after receiving my quartet of Spindrift in preparation for my first stranded colorwork project in quite a few years, Kate Davies' superb turnip-inspired Neep Heid tam.  Neep Heid is a thoughtfully designed pattern knit in a beautiful soft grey, heathered green, and exuberant purple colorway.  These are not quite the colors that set my heart aflutter, however,  and since deciding to recreate this tam I have been obsessively trying to work out which of the lovely Jamieson skeins I can be happiest with.  Yes, I did spend many hours staring at the color charts reproduced on three websites and eventually chose colors that surprised me when they arrived.  I decided to order the chart to eliminate any future mistakes, (this is badly put - all the colors are splendid, just not what I envisioned), and now I am completely absorbed by it, not overcome by single or multiple fits but solemnly mesmerized.

My Neep Heid is going to be a Radish Heid or Meacan-Ruadh (red root) Heid.  The colors are as follows: Mooskit, Plum, Granny Smith, Tundra.  They are only adequately reproduced here.

That Plum really is the Magenta from the Crayola box and rather more spicy than I had imagined.  It is, when one compares it with a proper radish, similar but perhaps too exciting.  Granny Smith is a shade of green one would like to call verdant, but that would be silly.  I had originally ordered Chartreuse, but the Granny Smith is more...verdant.  Tundra is a bit too rusty and will probably be replaced with Mocha.  Or Birch.  Or Grouse.

03 October 2011

in praise of something real...

In those instances when I have pushed my mind out of the way and acted on an impulse, lonely, delightful or otherwise, I have been happiest.  Many enthusiasms have taken me over and when I gave way to them I learned something invaluable.  Lately, important psychic real estate has been occupied by a single insistent idea: hand-spinning the lofty fleece of sheep.  Naturally, when I learned that a spinning workshop was taking place this past weekend at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival I had but one thought: Carpe Diem.

I drove to Tunbridge, Vermont to take a class with Patty Blomgren, a spinner from East Dummerston.  The class was designed for beginners - no experience necessary, nor do you need to own sheep! - which was good, as I have neither.  It was my first encounter with a spinning wheel, apart from Walter Crane's illustrations for the tale of the forlorn miller's daughter and that capitalist imp, Rumpelstiltskin.  Patty urged us to "start treadling and don't stop", which meant removing our shoes and continually pumping the treadle - the thing that makes the wheel spin - and it's not as easy as you might imagine. 

Trial and error time. Eventually, I got it, I could make the thing spin.  I challenged myself to keep the movement consistent, to create smooth, unhesitating revolutions of the wheel.  Eight workshop participants made eight wheels twirl in fluid rotation while Patty laid out an immense Shetland fleece and explained how, when shopping for shorn wool, one ought to be on the qui vive for stray tags of sheep poo and undesirable accumulations of  "vegetable matter".   The class was only three hours long, so the business of cleaning the fleece was covered fairly quickly, but I will say that having read a bit about this painstaking process which rids the fleece of dirt, dye, manure, sheep dip, grease, vegetation and sheep sweat,  I know it requires an elegant and  respectful solemnity and for me, there is something irresistibly counter-culture about that.  Unfashionable as I may be,  I despair of the carelessness that is the byproduct of our moment's manic hyper-acceleration.  The meticulous nature of this process necessarily resists that warp speed imperative.

By the end of the day you will be putting yarn onto the bobbin, admiring your first skein of yarn and leaving with the confidence to continue spinning on your own!  Whatever you say, Patty.  The end of the day was beginning to loom so we were provided with prepared fleece and given general instruction on how to turn it into yarn.  Like every other thing worth doing, it is only learned by doing it badly then doing it slightly less badly until you finally do it a little less badly than that.  Someone new entered the room, a tall man.  He sat down next to me.  If you yearn to experience the kind of compressed focus that reduces every exterior detail to muddy imprecision, or a form of concentrated energy so powerful that you should really be able to  forge diamonds with it,  hand-spinning is the thing.  I think he said something about the yarn I was spinning, how it looked like ... yarn.  This much I remember: I was in a trance and I said, "I'm in a trance, I don't know what I'm doing, I'm just doing it".  I don't know what I'm doing, I'm just doing it.  Right now, having produced, in a trance, nearly 61 yards of perfectly knittable, albeit occasionally slubby yarn from the lofty wool of a Romney sheep, I can think of no better counsel than that.  There is an unmatched pleasure in not knowing what you are doing, but pressing on anyway.