Monday, February 28, 2005


Actually, it was my car insurance, and that seems to be because of a mutual misunderstanding. I didn't know they wanted me to fill out everything again. This doesn't really make me feel more comptetent, as I think I am actually more likely to need the car insurance than the house insurance, please God, well neither if You don't mind, and I gather I must feel quite guilty about the railings, and I hate self-panickers and now look at me. On the plus side, it's much easier to fix. So a little trip to the insurance company is in line with the trip to Concord today to make appointments at H&R Block and for the car's oil change and checkup. (And buy supplies for the snowstorm. Kitty litter, mostly.)

There are a lot of reasons living in the centuries before the industrial revolution look good, despite the risks of dying practically weekly of plague, famine, and war. And the lack of chemical dyes,the Internet, and digital cameras.

On a happier note, I got the book on the Norse Greenlanders and it is superb. The binding is good, the paper is good, the editing appears to be good, the content is way coool. The pictures (printed on a very fine semi-matte paper) are very clear; there are diagrams of almost every weave discussed, and clear discussions of all the weaving tools found in Greenland and some other Norse sites. Two garments are diagrammed on graph paper (a hood and a dress). The writing is clear and interesting and accessible, and the writers clearly care about the people who were behind the artifacts they are examining. If you are a costumer or a scholar or a fan of weaving in different circumstances from the ones we enjoy now, this is a delicious book. Now I need to figure out why I should make a ten-gore dress.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Possibly TMI

You are loose tea!

Congratulations, you are proper tea. You sneer at
teabags and blanch when someone suggests
microwaving water to steep your succulent
leaves in. Tea like you deserves respect. You
probably have a British accent on certain words
and use words like "sort" and

What sort of tea are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday was the worst day in recent memory. First I had the kind of pointless e-mail chat that reaffirms one's despair at one's persistent heterosexuality (my family and and friend accept it, just deal), then the insurance company cancelled my policy because I haven't put a railing on the end of the porch where the aboveground pool was, now removed. It is WINTER and no one goes to that end of the porch, or indeed any part of the porch. I hate insurance companies and I feel I am doing a worse job of being a grownup every year.

Then I drove to Northampton to visit the daughter, who was not feeling much better than I was. I hoped to visit Helen, once again, but before I left I had to eat (a really good idea) and I had to make the fish tank power filter work again so as not to come home to braised catfish (and a fat happy betta). My companion on the road, NPR, discussed end-of-life proxy decisions (be very specific when you tell your daughter what you want), interviewed a man with the early stages of Lou Gehrig's disease, discussed Terry Schiavo _again_.

Is it too much to ask that they not headline their stories by saying "Another dramatic day in the life of a paralyzed Florida woman"? In her family's life, sure, but the whole point is that Ms. Schiavo does not have, as far as we know _she_ knows ANY kind of days, let alone dramatic ones.

After that Robin Young discussed the approaching demise (assisted, probably) of her 19-year-old Chihuahua, and a Boston Globe reporter read a column about the approaching demise (probably assisted) of his Golden Retriever, who sounded like Sarah's dog Haylie. By this time I wanted some assistance in demise myself, but the Science Friday was good until I drove out of the broadcast area and listened to The River, where idiot youth sang about cheerful sex, which I will probably never have again, and frankly if nothing else it would sort out the kink in my back.

Then I got lost in Hadley and stymied by the traffic and threw in the towel visiting Helen for the second time and I hope she still likes me.

Life got better as soon as I got to Smith, where Eleanor welcomed me and she and a bunch of people were ruining their expensively educated brains watching mindless rot -- not even anime or reality TV, which teaches us how others react under stress, but a _foreign_ production of some chick lit called Pride and Prejudice. Shocking. Because I had left my father's socks in NH, I had to get a small project, so I sneaked off to WEBS. I behaved fairly well, I think.

There I taught a nice person to spin, with a bit of luck ruining/enhancing her life. I got some discounted Wensleydale (I wish it were not being closed-out) and started a Twined Knitting sock. Since I have no pattern it will be an experiment. So far all I can tell you is it needs a huge number of stitches and I do love Wensleydale yarn.

(This is not accurate: I can tell you that you should cast on more than the canonical eight figure-8 stitches, since although TwinedKnit is lovably elastic, it is not stretchy the same way as a regular sock toe and you need to start out with about fifteen stitches or your toe will look cleverly like a stave church.)

Smith was full of friendly young women who thought I was cool because I know about comic books and offered to drive several of them to WEBS to feed their habits. Ellie and I did a little essential shopping and had an underspiced Mexican dinner, with (for me) a Margarita made of higher-shelf Tequila and Cointreau, noticeably better than the lower-priced spread. Then I slept on the spare mattress on her floor.

In the morning we took three people to WEBS -- Eleanor came for the ride, as she is well-fixed for wool, though she mentioned that she would like it if I knit her some gloves. I would love to make her some gloves, which might be finished as soon as April, but I am concerned that, in the meantime, wearing only the fingerless ones I made her for Christmas will result in frostbite that may adversely affect her typing.

Fortunately I have started one already.

Later we participated in a rather poorly designed psychological experiment, went shopping and lazed around, knitting or reading or playing the Sims. And had a tasty but not over-spiced Tibetan dinner, after which I went back to NH.

Now I am back home and Sarah

is cleaning my room because she gets upset when I am sad about insurance. She is kinder than I deserve, which is the whole thing about kindness. And we are eating the Easter candy.

At least it is sunny, though with a wind that will take your hair off.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Matt,dammit, now I have to make a backstrap loom and I had to get this children's book called _Angela Weaves a Dream_ and how the hell am I supposed to go on with my journey into Scandinavian mittens (and how did I end up there? I hate Scandinavia. Only I don't. I just hate some of the weaving, for ghodsakes who makes dishtowels with twee little designs on them? Lutherans?)?

I suppose it would be a nice change for the summer, given that mittens lose some of their immediacy when it stops snowing. Assuming it ever does.

I spent Tuesday with Sarah' sister's dog Haylie, a 10-year old saintly Golden Retriever. She started having seizures last week. Her vet believes these are related to a tumor in her spleen or brain sending clots to to her brain -- such tumors are common in aging Goldens. I feel bad about this and I hardly know her. Sarah and her sister have grown up with her (and their mom has known Haylie longer than her current husband and she's had enough loss this year already). Fortunately the phenobarbital eems to be making Haylie feel much, much better. But they wanted her to have some company while it took hold, so I dog-sat Tuesday and Sarah went Wednesday.

So Wednesday, we had lab. After spending time with Haylie (a charming dog, but low in conversation ) and Sarah's being away there for Tuesday night, I was looking forward to lab and people and rocks. Dick, however, wanted me to scan about forty slides. This takes several minutes apiece, in a separate room. I did get the first three inches of my father's second sock done while the computer worked. (I am not sure how big the second half of the first one should be.) Doug brought me tea, which was kind, even though the computer room was about 85 degrees and the scanner kept overheating and crashing. Far away, I could hear merriment and laughter coming from the happy slave quarters as they washed and catalogued some rocks and tidied down to strata of flat surface I have never seen before.

Then Matt came in and asked how a loom works, anyway? He was reading about Aztecs. I knew they would be backstraps, and then I went Googling... I found some lovely sites:
and printed out the second one for him.
Because Matt likes to live dangerously he said, "But LAURA, I was asking about AZTEC weaving, and this is MAYAN..."
"Matt, would you like me to cut your heart out with an obsidian dagger?" I asked. Dick voice echoing from the next room offered, "I have one you can use."

Today I am going to have my tattoo tarted up and going to see my parents and measure my father's foot again. I am afraid the socks are going to be too big, and since I think I am ready to turn the heel on one of them...

[Later] I did have my tattoo tarted up, and I will have pictures soon as it has finished healing. Since it is not nearly so much area as the one on my other arm it is not as painful or so far itchy. My tattoo artist, Mulysa is fun to be with and I cannot think of anyone I would prefer to have hurt me (sorry, guys). Being tattooed on the shoulders hurts rather like the moment before you (or at least I) tell the cat to use velvet claws, dammit! only it goes on longer. But without getting any worse. The one just over my ankle hurt more. I got far enough on the second sock that I could turn the heel and find it needed another centimeter when I applied it to my father's foot. He made me lamb and served me fresh raspberries, and I got to see my mom's pictures of the Central Park Gates.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A fox went out on a snowy day

The fox who has been leaving tracks around here finally crossed a field of view when one of us was watching. It was a small, dainty, healthy-looking red fox who looked up at us--on the deck outide the bedroom--appeared to note the make of our binoculars, and then go on. Congratulations to it and its English relatives; I am sure something can be said on both sides (Rita Mae Brown is no fool), but I imagine it's a better day when you are not pursued by hounds.

Meanwhile, I do NOT have the February doldrums, I just want to be able to weave like Sara Lamb and use colors so I feel amazed. I gather the way to get better at something is to do it, rather than stare dully at the loom in the bedroom (Kromski harp), the loom in the living room (homemade with rollers), the loom with the stuck warp-weighted loom-warp on it (Dickinson inkle), or the disassembled Leclerc waiting for the loom room on the front porch. Or the Little Inkle from TornadoWoods, or the article in Spin-Off about silk ribbons.

I spun some essentially camo-colored Romney and I just love that wool. It is a whole different way for life from yak, even if it isn't as seductive to the fingertips. Now I am making a silly and un-delicate scarf with the camo-colored yarn and some nylon camo colored flash. It feels nice, anyway. Sort of the polar opposite to Sarah's beautiful lace.

Friday, February 18, 2005

I went snowshoeing again. If it's in the 20's, I seem to need a nice warm sweater and maybe a hat. No gloves unless I am dumb enough to get my hand in the snow. This seems to be true when there's no wind; I haven't been out on a windy day. I can't quite make out what is so very beautiful: sometimes, I like the look of a crazed window-dresser going mad with the canned flock-snow. It looks too good to be true. Other times I think it's the slimming down of color and texture: white, black, brown, gray, and green, with occasional accents of pale beige from the beech leaves. It made me want to knit Scandinavian mittens. The contrast accents the lines: upright trunks and horizontal branches, and the horizontals are outlined in white against the background. And the light is very clean, because there is so little moisture in the air (and no bugs).

One of the neatest moments the other day: Sarah and I were trying to locate the woodpecker we could hear tapping away, and we found you could feel it (and hear it) all the way down the tree. I had never felt a woodpecker before. I wondered if he (I think it was a female Hairy) could feel us damping the vibration when we had our hand and ears on the trunk, about 50 feet below.

Meanwhile, I finished Sarah's Noro socks and continued to z-spin yak. I think it's z-spin, it's the the Other one, the counterclockwise direction, so I can s-ply it and see whether that makes twined knitting any more amenable. Yak feels wonderful and looks kind of yuck spun up. And it isn't stretchy so it looks dead as yarn. I think it will make a nice mitten, though. Now for some Wensleydale, also in the Other Direction. I gather some cultures saved their spun-the-Wrong-Way yarn for witchcraft, but as usual there were no details, like how one defined witchcraft that day and what the 'witch' had in mind. Maybe it was just a desire to make a mindfully different 'field' around that yarn, just leaving a place for something other than the unvarnished everyday. Or to trap the particular, like the light in the snowy forest.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Bad Girl (sneak a biscuit)

I blame the Web. I was wandering around in SCA costuming sites, wondering if the fiber fellowship there would be worth having to develop a persona (and be polite about those of others)and read about the 10-gore dress from Herjolfnes. From that site I found a link to Poison Pen Press, which despite the name is a very respectable organization run by a charming woman to whom I used to give all my money at Darkovercon and similar places. I haven't been to any science fiction conventions in awhile, so I have saved a lot of money on hotels,admission, tranportation, jewelry... so it was a very reasonable thing to order the book on the burials and archaeology and clothing from the doomed colony on Greenland. Yes, you can get it from Amazon, but even 'used' would only have saved $2 and Devra is a sweetie, as well as having way too many books about mediaeval and ancient clothing and cooking and brewing and life in general, as well as the fiction of Diana Wynn Jones and Caroline Stevermer. She provides a valuable service just finding these things, and I have never purchased a dud from her.(I also ordered the book on life along the Silk Road.)Can't wait till it gets here. The Hrjolfness book is practically a professional expense.

Sarah's socks are nearly done. They would have been if one ball, the second, had not had about 3" of sock cuff worth more yarn than the other. I used some of the excess to make a swatch, which I washed and dried and all that happened was a very slight fulling and a delirium-inducing increase in softness. So I am unravelling the swatch and undoing the cast-off and making both socks a little taller. Picture to follow as soon as I find the card reader.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

If I have a cold, I will not be pleased. There must be some other reason for sitting here and sneezing and snuffling.

Note My Heroism: There is perhaps 3/8 of a cup of milk left in the house. Rather than having, as I would usually, my fifth and sixth cup of tea (with milk) I am saving it for when my daughter gets up, since she is nearly as addicted as I am.

I think I just saw TWO Red-Breasted Nuthatches on my feeder. They are one of my favorite birds(I say that about almost all my birds, but I get the RBN rarely, and they are shy).

Something bent the birdfeeder post (maybe 1/2' thick cast iron hammered about 8" into the ground) about 45 degrees. I would have thought it was a bear, but the feeder itelf is untouched. Sarah suggested a turkey might have flown onto the top of it[ZZZPPROOingOingOing]. At any rate, the turkeys now eat very daintily out of the birdfeeder, which is weird.

Because We Have No Life

Too Much Wool, whom I don't even know, took over my body the other day and made me buy Beth Brown-Meisel's Making Ganseys and I decided to make the sampler. My housemate decided we should have a knitalong, and promptly stayed up late getting two inches ahead. This could get ugly.

Despite this, I am almost done with her Noro socks. I visited my parents and measured my father's foot. He has a long, slender foot, so although the sock will be seventeen meters long, it is only 48 stitches around, barely wider than my mother's or my own socks. I wish I could try it on again before I start to make the heel. And I am not sure whether to do the Simple Socks heel as written or try to find the directions for short-row heels that were not written by PGR ("wrapped stitches") and worked fine the last time back when I knew where the directions were. K3tog makes a lump.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The weather has been beautiful and warm the past three days. Sitting on the porch, wearing a T-shirt, knitting outside warm. Apart from spilling about a pint of off-white paint on a wall-to-wall carpeted floor, my days have been good. The first twined mitten is as finished as it is likely to get until I take it, and ideally its still 3/4 unfinished mate, to go see Donna the teacher and ask her WHAT is UP with the decrease. I pulled the end out four times, which is eleven rows each time of twined knitting, which take about twice as long a single-end knitting (decreasing from 56 to 12 stitches). It corkscrewed. It just looked bad.

Despite this, and depite the anxious pleas from its unfinished mate, I am starting another pair, intended for a Christmas present. With a Latvian braid and a three-color cast-on I doubt that I am the first to unvent, but I hope not the last. By the time I get to the tip of those, I imagine I will have finished the green ones. It is Wendy Merino, from The Wool Room in Antrim, where the very sweet Mrs. Hennesey had ordered me the book on spinning dog hair and when I went to pick that up, I had to get the Wendy because I had never seen it anywhere else and the colors ravished me... and just a few ounces of Wensleydale (wool, not cheese). So I spun up some of the Wensleydale Friday night.

I had been reading another book on natural dyes, which I like very much since it has so many very mundane and local plants to try. The author mentioned, in passing, that you could get interesting reults adding ammonia to the end of an onionskin dye bath. This was too much to resist, since we DO have onion skins. We save them for Sarah's fiber and dyeing demonstrations and almost everything either of us cooks involves an onion (except, so far, dessert). I presoaked some onion skins and yesterday, as the fun part of the day (after Doug and I finished painting the walls of the to-be-rental apartment and I poured the paint on the carpet, not that I am dwelling on it), we dyed three miniskeins and some of Doug's silk hankies.

The skeins go "onion skins in aluminum pot" (as they all were): slightly bolder onionskins with a splash of ammonia added to the end (it turned the liquor a lovely burgundy); and onionskins with a dash of tin salts added at the end. The hankies look even more like dead leaves than the yarn, and I look forward to seeing what Doug does with them. I am thinking trim on a white sock for my yarn.