This place is missing something, and that something is wool.

I’ve spent my morning absorbed in the first Mason-Dixon Knitting book, and this is how you know I am perpetually late to the party. Yes, I know it’s not new, and no, I haven’t been reading the blog all these years to make up for it. I finally listened to enough Knit Picks podcasts (yes, from 2009! Leave me alone! I’ve been busy!) to get curious about all the Modern(e) Baby Blankets Kelley was always making, and I heard an interview with the MDK authors at one point, and when some Christmas funds came my way, I bought it.

Gushing follows: this book is full of the things I’m dreaming of making right now. I love sweaters like anything, but these delicious, soft, bouncy-looking home goods in the pictures are making me look with new dismay at my house, which is primarily decorated in cat hair and clutter. It’s always been kind of an issue, but our tenure in this house is approaching the seven-year mark, and that means that whatever charms it had when we bought it are becoming obscured by the need to repaint and gussy and renovate, little of which we have time or money to do right now. Plus, with this odd, late, balmy winter, it is finally getting cold enough that I’m chilly at night and worrying about the warmth and comfort of my one-year-old, whose distaste for sleeping is matched only by his propensity to remove his socks and, if possible, his pajamas, during his crib safaris. So much of mothering is based on the “I would just feel better if…” model, and right now, I would just feel better if I had a wooly blanket to tuck around those little bare feet when he finally lets go and sleeps.*

There are also patterns for rugs, which I love, especially since I have long since gone from the rubberized-acrylic bath rugs to the machine-wash-cotton-towel style. I never have enough of those; they always seem to go straight from the clean-laundry basket to the shower rod, to await the next contestant. For a while, I was looking for a crochet rug pattern, but I never found one that satisfied me, and a few purchases from Kohl’s let me put off the project for a while. But now…! I have a lot of cotton leftovers to use up this year, and cotton is nice to work with when it’s too hot to have wool on your lap in the summer months. The commitment level of rugs and towels is about right for me now, too.

But it’s winter now, and that means wool. Wool is so marvelous. I’m grateful that none of us are allergic. As I grow older, I feel this continuing and inexplicable urge to put wool on myself and my house and my boys. The Wisconsin relatives sent my mother-in-law some wool hooked chair pads to use at their beach place, but she put them on the kitchen chairs right away, and it was amazing how, in that chilly house, the wool chair pads made you feel warmer just by parking your butt on them. Of course, that’s true of most things this side of an actual ice floe, but still. I am chilly; I have wool. The course of action seems obvious from here.

It’s a good book. Leaves you feeling mossy. I recommend.


New year, slightly altered me.

I’ve been having trouble with this blog, and the trouble is this: it doesn’t sound like me at all. It’s a highly sanitized, heavily edited version of me. I didn’t want this to be the place where I pour out my troubles or bitch about that which cannot be changed; I wanted it to be a place where I talked about my knitting. That hasn’t been a problem. But I’ve tried so hard to be upbeat and non-controversial that I don’t sound like anyone in particular, and that’s making it very hard to write.

So let this be an entry where I tell some things about me, and then complain about something.

(Sidebar: I brought some socks to knit when we visited family over Christmas, and I took them out on Monday. Everyone who saw me said something along the lines of, “Are you still knitting? Christmas is over!” These folks have known me for fifteen years and have seen me knitting or stitching through all of them. I am baffled by their inquiries.)

I am Nicole. I’m married and have two small boys, 5 and 1, and I work as a part-time English teacher at a local college, and a part-time interpreter at two local historic house museums. I have a master’s in English and a master’s in museum studies (on which the ink is barely dry). I am a committed and unabashed New Englander, having grown up in New Hampshire and lived in Massachusetts for the last ten years. Eventually, my husband and I would like to have a little maple and Christmas tree farm somewhere. But for the moment, we are trying to become more involved with the community where we live.

I like reading and writing and movies and knitting and embroidery. As an amateur historian, I like reading about knitting and textile history (among other things), but I don’t do a lot of historical knitting. I don’t design much, mostly because I don’t know how, but I’m a good enough knitter to make anything I want. I like wool. I don’t gravitate to any particular thing; I make what I want or need. That means socks, mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, shawls, sweaters, toys, baby things, you name it. I have second-everything syndrome. I finished sixteen projects this year, and that is a banner year for me. Wonder what I can do without a master’s thesis hanging over my head.

Now, complaining: I’m annoyed prices for wool keep going up, since our fortunes are not good at the moment. Want to support the people who supply my hobby, but the timing stinks. Plus, this decision by Knit Picks to at once a) raise prices; b) discontinue two legacy wool lines; and c) introduce acrylics is leaving me pretty o_O. They protest too much that their acrylic is not squeaky and not plasticky and not like acrylics I can pick up from the local acrylic purveyors. Not that I do that a whole lot. The phrase “cheapening their brand” comes to mind. It’s all been sufficiently hashed out on the Rav board, so no need to regale me with explanations and defenses. Logically, I understand that they have their economic concerns. But I have mine also, and emotionally, I’m stuck at o_O. We’ll see what happens this coming year…with so many things.

I think I’ll save the knitting goals for another post–I’ve already gone on long enough!

But were they knitting in the audience?

Christmas is bearing down on me like a freight train. I have five gifts in various states of unfinish, two not yet cast on, and one finished. Not a good ratio at six days to zero hour. I know I’m going to be weaving in ends on Christmas Eve, but I’m pretty okay with that. After the boys are put to bed and my MIL brings out the eggnog and cookies, it’s a pretty pleasant way to spend an evening. I was doing it last year, too; I finished an embroidered book cover for my sister in record time. The odious parts of finishing embroidery (or knitting), which is to say all of them, are less of an issue when I’m too rushed to be the perfectionist I normally am.

Last weekend, I went to concerts: the Mount Holyoke Christmas Vespers at the Old South Church in Boston with my sisters, and to hear my mother sing with Concord Chorale winter concert in New Hampshire, with one sister and my dad and grandfather. Brought my knitting to the Chorale; I owed my mother one. When I was about twelve, I sang in a school concert and chanced to see her knitting in the audience. I was mortified, sure that all my friends had seen her and were going to tax me with that information when we got back to school after. Everything your mother does when you’re twelve is mortifying. I knew how to knit, but I wasn’t really doing it in public, that being the mid-eighties and all. It was long after the handwork revolution of the seventies, and long before the handwork revolution of the late nineties. And there she was, mitten on the needles, in front of God and everybody. I still remember whining at her about it after, telling her it made her look like she wasn’t paying attention, and how could she do this to me. I have to give my parents credit for not sending me to the Home for Little Wanderers, honestly.

Anyhow, I asked my mother if she minded, and she didn’t, so I knitted happily through the whole thing and made some real headway on the one gift I’ve finished. It occurs to me that we don’t see live music enough anymore, especially after the age when you go to shows all the time. I hadn’t been to a concert in ages. It isn’t just the tired metaphor of how knitting is like music-making because they both involve a laborious manual process for doing something we now can do by machine, but also that hearing live music, particularly live classical music with a vocal ensemble, is a kind of time travel. I’ve read, and agreed, that history museums are one of the closest things we have to real time travel, but particularly when I was at the vespers concert, I had this very unsettling sense that I could have been in almost any era in Boston history since 1870, when the Old South Church was built, doing the same things people had done, in the same place, even to hearing the same music in the same way. It was the first time in years that I remember feeling absorbed by the collective echoes of a place, doing something other than knitting or embroidery. Add knitting, and it’s an aggressively analog experience, a very good thing.

I miss my city life sometimes. The only thing missing that night was a little frosting of snow.

Remember when 21 days was a long time to wait?

I have gotten more done this week than I would have thought possible, and yet Christmas still bears down on me like a Mack truck. Three weeks from tomorrow, I have to have a whole bunch of gifts squared away, and frankly, I don’t see it happening.

Am I ever glad all of those tentacles are done. Why couldn't my son have fallen in love with the earthworm?

Plus, a dear friend is having twins soon–as long from now as possible, here’s hoping–and that means two babies and two gifts. Four if I’m feeling ambitious and make hats too, which is in the plan. But hats are a blowoff. For the rest, I’m making BSJs, my first and second, and in a burst of dedication, I have done half of one in three days, most of that today. I’m really liking the yarn for this. It’s Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport in a now-discontinued green that I bought four skeins of and then promptly forgot what I intended to do with it. I suspect I won’t have enough for hats, and so ordered a complementary shade from WEBS, only to have them email me that it’s backordered. Might have to call it and take a different approach. Maybe Junie Caps with the remaining green as trim. Waste not, etc., as long as it’s okay I kept the yarn in my attic for five years first.

It’s a lovely evening, though. Finally cold enough to really enjoy the warmth of wool, it’s quiet at my house, and I’ve broken out the gingerbread candle in a gesture of wild abandon. Yankee Candle kept sending me buy-2-get-2 deals for the large jars, and I gave in because that’s a good price, but it did make me pause and think, holy cats, man, what’s your profit margin on these things?! At any rate, I snapped up a Gingerbread before they sold out, and it is currently making my room smell delicious. I really do love Christmas. We’ll get a tree in a week or ten days. My husband has rules about that kind of thing, and I’d protest, but the less time I have to spend keeping the baby from toppling and/or eating it, the better.

Two good hours until I really must go to bed. I’ve knitted since I got home from work, but I can still do some more. Perhaps that one sock could use a little love.