Going to have to turn in my knit/shop/love card.

I went to Webs yesterday. I had the whole day off with the baby and was dying for an outing, but had reason to be concerned that he wouldn’t behave well enough to make us welcome at the MFA. Plus, I’d heard that Webs was the absolute ultimate knitshop experience, not to be missed, and I live somewhere between 60 and 80 miles away. I love the website. I couldn’t…not…go. Right?

Well. In my defense, the baby hasn’t slept a solid night since the weekend, which means that I haven’t either. And I had to tote him along, which makes it kind of hard to get a train of thought going (or move about freely, since people in American shops tend to frown on things like ditching the baby at the end of the aisle to deliberate over which yarn color you’d like to wear next to your face several times a winter for the rest of your life. Not that the baby, owing to terminal fractiousness, would have allowed it without a great big noisy fuss anyhow). But I was completely, utterly overwhelmed by it. And I’d come so far that I felt like I had to buy something or I’d wasted three hours of my life.

So I ended up looking for yarn for a Lia sweater. They had a helpful shop model, and it was as gorgeous as I thought it’d be, and reinforced my interest in knitting it. Sadly, their stock of Malabrigo Chunky was utterly depleted…and the Malabrigo was much nicer than anything else that was right to make that sweater, and also remotely affordable in the necessary quantity. I eventually left with ten balls of Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky, which is their house brand and a wool/alpaca blend. It felt okay against my neck, but I suspect I’ll have to wear a shirt under it, and that isn’t what I envisioned. Pout. I thought that in some Ravelry pictures, it looked a little chintzy knitted up in that pattern. Perhaps it was just unfortunate lighting. It seemed nice enough in the ball.

Your mileage may vary, of course, and especially if you don’t have to drive through some of Massachusetts’s more remote hamlets to get there. But my takeaway is that the bigger and more awesome the yarn store, the better off I’ll be if I go in with a plan, order from the website, and save my browsing for my smaller, much more digestible shops near home.

Sidebar: a stuffed Sheldon without limbs or shell yet is a distinctly phallic object. Don’t tell the kids.

Caesura

I’m at loose ends. I have Matt’s sock going still, but that’s my boring project, and I’m finding it…boring. Turned the heel yesterday, and stupidly decided to keep the ribs going down the top of the instep, but now it’s nothing but going around until I get to the toe. Then I have to do the other one. Oy. I need something else, but what? Ravelry is like trying to get a refreshing sip from a firehose. Do I want a sweater? A hat? Scarves? Mitts? Cuffs? Clothing for the boys? Clothing for the cat? Felted entrelac key fob? No problem! Have eleventy!

While I’m at it, I have a hat problem. Not on days like today, because it was gorgeous out and I reveled in not wearing a coat. But the other morning when it was hideously windy and about minus forty out and I was heading over to my office from teaching, and thinking, if only I had a hat that didn’t make me look really stupid. When I lived in Minnesota a few years back, it was like that pretty much all winter, and I gave up on not looking really stupid and bought this enormous black parka with a hood because the wind whipped off the buildings and froze even my hardy New England-raised scalp in half a second. But here, it’s rarely that cold and I tend to choose looking…shall we say…motivated, rather than stupid in a hat.

I’m choosing to believe it’s the hat, not me. Don’t start. Maybe some kind of hood would be better. I was eyeing this one.

Maybe I’ll go ahead with Sheldon. I was feeling too lazy to go get the yarn out of the attic, but maybe now I’m feeling too much like knitting to be lazy. I don’t know why I should. My life has been wall-to-wall things for months. Resting could do me good. I just can’t seem to let it happen.

Wool Day at Wayland Winter Market

Oh, winter market. I’m in love. Not necessarily with this iteration of it, for reasons that will be apparent when I tell how the day went, but in theory? Winter farmer’s markets for everyone. Everywhere. I’d way rather buy from local farmers and food producers than even Whole Foods, and I’m glad my mainstream supermarket carries a good stock of local products. We’re here in the middle of farm country, but access is still an issue even in summer because we have no centralized market, and the disparate market days are tiny and all over the place. Make it easier and even more people will come!

Ahem. Well. I went last Saturday to the Winter Farmer’s Market in Wayland at Russell’s, toting both boys because my husband had to be somewhere. Also, it was Wool Day and there were several area wool/yarn producers there, and I love me some local yarn. I looked forward to this for weeks, and in that respect, I was not disappointed. Looky:

Skeins from Fox Hill Farm in Lee, MA


My older son loved the Angora rabbits one farm brought, and he had a great time looking at all the different kinds of plants and the koi pond.

We also had a long conversation about jellyfish on the way there. I told him they don't wear clothes because they don't have shoulders and everything just slides off.

He chose himself a skein from Bally Duff Farm of Harmony, RI:

When you let the kid choose the yarn, you get...

I was chatting with the proprietor of Foxhill about how I was having trouble getting any variety in my yarn stash because I always gravitate toward the same colors, and she said everyone does that. They dither forever about what color to buy, and always end up leaving with something that matches what they’re already wearing. She said this to me while I was holding a skein of green/blue/purple that went exactly with my green winter coat.

I bought it.

Now, about this venue. The market itself was an excellent idea. The execution of the thing could scarcely have been worse. It was bad enough that it was 45 minutes away, on back roads, from my house. But I could have forgiven them that–not everything can be here in the center of the universe, of course–if the parking hadn’t been a nightmare of epic proportions, partly though not totally abetted by the metric ton of snow we’ve had this winter. And then when you get inside, it’s wall-to-wall people in narrow aisles, and incredibly stroller-unfriendly. This is not the environment in which you want to serve families seeking farm goods. It needn’t be a perfect monument to convenience. It would need only to be about 50% less of a hairball and I’d look forward to going every week.

Gloves are love!

I had that title in mind for ages, and what luck that I should then finish them on Valentine’s Day!

Finished at last--just in time for a 25-degree drop in temperature!

They fit very well, though the fingers are a touch long. I could have tinkered with the finger pattern to make them perfect, but if they’re going to tighten up on blocking, they’ll get shorter more than narrower. I’m okay with how they are. Too short would have annoyed me more. I used to have a pair of commercially-made gloves where the fingers were too short and they always rode up on my hand. Who knew such a thing could be so irritating!

Look at that meaty paw.

Before this, I had been reviewing how to weave in ends, which was an area where I was always weak, and I got a lot of practice on these! There is an end for each finger and the thumb, two in the cuff, one at the side of the hand where the first finger was knit, and one more that I don’t remember. I am a duplicate stitch rockstar now.

I’ve figured something out while making these. I need challenging patterns to keep my brain awake while I knit. I’ve started and abandoned so many things that were plain and serviceable, just because they were so boring. I see now it was because I was afraid to knit fancy things for fear that I wouldn’t finish them or be able to do them. I was scared of these from the minute I saw the pattern, and it was so silly of me. Look at them–they’re amazing! I’m going to tackle some awesome socks soon and see if that’s been the root of my second-sock syndrome all this time.

Not dead/feel happy!

I wanted to be posting, but when it came down to knitting or posting, I chose knitting, and when it came down to knitting or sleeping, I chose sleeping, and when it came down to sleeping or working on my thesis, an upcoming conference call forced me to choose thesis. Rest assured, I’m making steady progress on the left glove–a huge thing for me, since I usually suffer terribly with second sock/mitten/glove/sleeve syndrome, and I’d planned a nice big picture post from the Wayland Winter Market wool day on Saturday.

It’s getting really cold again. Winter is so cozy for curling up with knitting. I only wish I had more than 168 hours per week!

Toward autonomy

As I am prone to do, I lost an issue of Piecework I wanted to re-read, so I ordered a new one from the publisher. It was last March’s, with the story about the Weavette looms, and it started me on my little side trip into the world of the pin loom. I now have two, though I haven’t found time to work with the smaller one (the one that is closest to the original Weavette). If you haven’t tried this craft, I recommend it. It’s a great stash-buster, and easier than breathing once you get going on it. Mine come from Hazel Rose Looms. More on that another time.

Anyhow, my replacement issue came today, and in addition to the article about the Weavettes, there was also an article I remembered about a woman who managed to get herself, her family, and her knitting machine out of Latvia during the Russian Revolution, and then out of Bavaria before WWII. The family eventually settled in Canada and endured hardships most of us will never have the misfortune to know. I admire the hell out of that–her whole story, really. Her husband admitted that she was the one with the head for business, she was the one who made money knitting custom-order sweaters and other items, between doing menial jobs. Isn’t that amazing? That’s what knitting can do. She even had enough saved in her old age to take herself to Hawaii (she’d wanted to go back to Latvia, but her daughter talked her out of it, saying that there was nothing left of the old country). It really makes you think about what you need to be satisfied and comfortable in life. Even now, when many of us have been pinched for a long time, we can still make do with less, and less, and less.

I don’t fool myself that I’m self-reliant. I’d like to be, but like most people, I’m dependent to one degree or another. But stories like this woman’s remind me that we never really know what’s coming along. They were prosperous in Latvia. Forces beyond their control uprooted them twice, and they were lucky to escape with their lives. I read that and I ask myself, could I do it? It’s cold here. Could I provide for my family? Could I keep us warm? And I think…yeah, maybe I could do that much. Until yarn supplies ran out, anyhow. This is why (she says defensively) one keeps a huge stash. When the apocalypse is nigh, we will have warm socks!

I hope I never have to know, though. Only a fool would want to know firsthand whether s/he could survive in a desperate situation. Plenty of people didn’t. And plenty of those people could knit. Still, it’s something to hang on to. I can do something–something useful and beautiful–with my hands. I’m not an island, but neither am I useless. Of course, it depends on the nature of the disaster. Knitting skills are virtually useless for the zombie apocalypse. Unless I can make nets to catch them so that the gun-toting can shoot them. Hmm.