Wednesday, March 02, 2005

an innocent comment provokes more response than she probably wanted

Sara Lamb, who bears my near-drooling admiration with characteristic grace, writes:

> Is your new book Woven Into The Earth? It's a little deep for me (I glaze over) and the pictures are all *brown* things (duh, they've been in the *earth*), but it is a great read.

That's the one. I used to feel that way reading about archaeology and fiber, but I can finally cope. Not that I really want to be on a dig with surviving cloth (in this country it would probably mean Colonial or later, ewwwww) but I get a warm feeling seeing that some of the dead get credit for the _immense_ amount of work they did to stay alive: all of that cloth from spindle-spun and they still had the energy to make decorative edges.
I am working with some garish handspun that struck me as not _quite_ the right gauge, so I added some nice Frog Tree alpaca to change the texture about one needle size up. In a matching purple, and I could just go take it off the shelf. No raising alpacas, harvesting fleece, cleaning, preparing, spinning, and dyeing (though all of these things are fun if you have the choice not to do them). I suppose if you add in the drive to Concord, the cost of the car and the roadways in personal and global terms (although, to be fair, I hope producing the Frog Tree is helping out some Peruvians)... not quite so cheap. But imagine the luxury we have in being able to get any color, _amazing_ , unnatural variety in kinds of fiber... a certain amount of choice in whether to wear a sweater in the first place, and in this context particularly
You can carry it everywhere. You can do it in bed (with blankets and a warm beverage). It doesn't have to cost too much to get started. You can make, at least in theory, any width of fabric. It's stretchy. It can be economical of spun yarn, no thrums, no need for clever cutting. Those poor Norse had to weave everything. Their loom was relatively portable (compared to a floor loom) but not something one could use on the subway or in the fields. But none of the un-citified peoples seem to have had knitting, it developed so late.
One of the reasons I do archaeology is that both the activity and the science enhance my pleasure in simple things. Digging means you get tired and dirty and your muscles hurt. The value of un-humid weather, very light breezes, sunlight or shade goes up exponentially, along with appreciation for effective bug repellant, waterproof boots, sharp pruning shears, and one's hat. Unlike the people I am digging (even when they were alive), I can go somewhere to a warm, soft bed, a laundramat, a restaurant, a yarn shop, and the Internet so I am not doing anything of these things without a fairly specialized, moderately interested community.

Even with all the nagging discontents, organic depression, political despair, need for a root canal and real and present CATS ALL OVER MY KEYBOARD (you know who you are, Abbey) I still wonder at how rich I am.

Meanwhile, it snowed again yesterday, about 8". This meant Sarah Housemate stayed home from work (she is running a week-long fiber-based daycamp; today they weave) and the peer pressure meant I had to spend the day knitting. First I turned the heel on Sock One of my father's Mountain goat socks, and gave it a nice start on a cuff: P2, K2 (twisted), P2, C1 back. The 'back' was foolish and the other on will be C 1 front. Most of two inches up. (Now it's Friday. My mother spoke to me firmly about the need to work on my father's socks before it gets too warm for him to wear them. As if. Though he does run warmer than either she or I do. Five inches up, mostly done at H&RBlock.)

This was a day of unravelling: first the sparkly camo-colored scarf I had lost affection for after about 18" (sometime I will make Cool Mittlets for myself) and a doomed hat. Last fall I bought a 2 oz bump of variegated purple-pink roving and a bag of Foxfire sparkly purple at the Canterbury Shaker Village Wool day. I pleased myself no end by actually spinning it all up the next day and started a hat for the purple-tinted daughter. It became obvious that there was not really enough yarn for a hat, even with the added Frog Tree, and it languished. RIP.

I went to cast on a quick and dirty thrummed mitten. But my copy of the OOP Twined Knitting book had arrived, thanks to, and I was forced to peruse it while knitting, which meant that I found I was making a twined mitten. Not quick, even though it was worsted on size 6 needles instead of sport-weight on size 2's. Possibly uniquely hideous. But it feels wonderful (30 grams of alpaca will do that). I am making it from the tip down, because I make my socks that way by preference, and I got to make the thumb separately and stick it on. This was fun. Since I was technically without pattern, the first attempt at thumb was an interesting failure: think reservoir-tipped psychedelic mushroom. The second try went much better, and the attachment was quite exciting until I realized I had carefully attached it upside down.

I can start the second mitten, I figure, after I cast off my father's sock. The second one of those is done up to the heel.


Cassie said...

You got Twined Knitting?! I hope you didn't pay a fortune for it. We have lots and lots (even more than usual) to talk about.

I had a bad time with Mountain Goat. It got ripped 3 times. I never encountered a yarn I had that much trouble knitting before. Yours looks beautiful, though.

Liz said...

Sometimes I can be so dense. Right. You and Sarah are housemates. That's so cool (for me): two blogs from the same place.

We do have it so easy these days, don't we? Not that I want to live in the past, but I do get some measure of satisfaction when we can meet more of our basic needs than the average American. Of course, long ago, they didn't feel satisfaction, just exhaustion.

LauraJ said...

Ah, but when we begin to describe entirely different weather from our windows.... totally other cats under our beds...

Well, we haven't either of us started to lose it that badly, even if I do occasionally claim I live in an orange grove. Sarah and I met doing archaeology in 1999. I had just divorced from my kids' father and her mother was just about to remarry, and eventually I decided I wanted to move to NH and she decided she wanted to move out before she decided her stepfather was really from Mars. She likes him much better under some other roof. She stayed at my house outside Boston quite a bit last winter and helped a lot with the packing. I am happy we get along as housemates. I figure one day one of us will get married and she and I will have to quarrel over who gets the copies of "Spin-Off." In the meantime we are a really bad influence on each other. Mostly fleece.

We are both happy you like our blogs.

LauraJ said...

Oh, and I hope they did feel satisfaction, as well as exhaustion. I am sure they some of the time, or they would indeed not have bothered with the little decorations. People are tough creatures. I think feeling satisfaction and pride and pleasure are really important to surviving bad times--Another good reason to do almost any kind of craft.