Archive for the 'Thoughts' Category

Comfort Knitting

Please excuse me, dear readers. I’ve been away from serious blogging for much longer than I had imagined. I got the unexpected news a few weeks ago that a good friend had been in a tragic accident and was in the hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, with a long road to recovery. Meghan and I have known her since childhood and were deeply saddened by the news of her injuries. We decided put aside our feelings of helplessness by doing what we could: we began to knit our friend a blanket that would brighten up her days in the ICU. Tragically, she passed away in the hospital on Memorial Day 2010, just over 8 weeks since her accident and 1 week after we had started the project. She was barely 26 yrs old and had a bright future ahead.

Once we recovered from our initial shock at her passing, we resumed knitting with the goal of finishing the blanket in time to give to our friend’s Mother at her memorial service later in June (near my farm).

Our portions of the blanket are raveled here (Meghan) and here (me). Meghan chose the lovely colors we used and assigned them to each hex; she gives more details about the project and perspective on our friend’s passing in this blog post.

I just finished my half of the blanket this morning (unblocked):

Note that my Ravelry listing includes a short synopsis of our modifications to the original pattern. Once I receive Meghan’s half from London (no pressure, Meghan. really!), I will assemble the two portions here in Virginia and attach a label that we designed.

Meghan and I agree that the simple act of knitting has done more to help us deal with our grief than we could have imagined. We started this project to bring comfort to our friend and finished it to bring comfort to ourselves and to the family she left behind.

MS&W, Norway & Stash Busting

I was in Annapolis, MD last weekend for a wedding and decided to go to the nearby Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival before the ceremony on Saturday. I left Annapolis with a friend at around 10am – by 12:30p we were 1 mile away from the venue in HORRENDOUS traffic. It was moving maybe 2 miles / hr. We did some mental math and ultimately decided that if we got into a major traffic jam leaving the festival we would almost certainly miss the wedding – Not cool. So we turned around and went out for a nice lunch. I was SUPER bummed, but it was a good lesson. LEAVE EARLY!

One good thing to come out of MS&W (however indirectly) was the 40% off sale at my LYS in anticipation of the festival. I scooped up 7 skeins of lovely Malabrigo Merino Worsted, which I have always wanted to knit with, in a pretty sea-foam green.

Definitely going to knit sweater. The wheels are turning on pattern selection…

Now to completely switch topics: I got a fun piece of news a few weeks ago. I’ll be going to Norway for 5 months this year (August – December) to do research for my PhD. I’m going to be in a town called Trondheim, which is about half way up the country’s western coast. It’s going to be SUPER cold, but the photos I have seen are gorgeous and there appear to be loads of museums and galleries. However, I need to finish LOADS of projects between now and August.  To keep my wandering eyes from getting off-track (see Malabrigo above!), I’m placing myself on a craft spending freeze. NO new yarn or craft materials, except for those required to finish existing projects or those on the Resolution list. Hold me to this, dear readers!

PS – Please excuse the infrequent posting these days. I have lots of irons in the fire, but no finished objects – yet. Stay tuned!

1 yr old and still an April fool

March 30 was the 1 yr anniversary of this blog – I can’t believe it’s already been a year! And incidentally, one of my first posts was about April Fools Day and how I always get fooled. This year I was legitimately “had” by Franklin Habit of The Panopticon, who is one of my very favorite knitting bloggers. He posts once every two weeks or so, less frequently than most craft bloggers – I literally squeal every time my Google Reader registers a new item from him. Anyhow, he tricked me with this post yesterday. I was SO excited for a Scorsese flick about Elizabeth Zimmerman. Totally believable, right???

Second, did anyone notice the red button that showed up in the bottom left corner of Ravelry yesterday???

It was just asking to be pushed – so naturally, I did. And then it jumped to the top of the page and appeared with a kitten?!:

And then I pushed it again to see what would happen (clearly) – and everything from the page began to fold up and disappear:

And I was left with a tiled screen full of angry bunnies!!!! What on earth?!

Oh, Ravelry, you’re so silly! Hope you all had a nice (dupe-free) April Fools Day!

New yarn is good for the soul

…especially when there’s a 40% off sale! Today a good buddy and I stopped by The Needle Lady to browse their sale yarns – Mimi, the proprietor is turning 50 this weekend, and decided to celebrate by discounting MANY of their nice yarns. I picked up a couple skeins of Tonalita by Trendsetter Yarns the colorway is called “Country Garden” and it’s a wool / acrylic blend. Feels nice and soft and I love the range of colors (the two balls below are the same dye lot!):

I’ve been wanting to make a drop-stitch scarf (raveled here) for a while now, so I think that’s just what I’ll do. Maybe I could reward myself with a few rows for every paragraph of my masters thesis I write?

Also on the needles are the Naive Socks (raveled here) for my Aunt. I’ve been working on them exclusively during my Tuesday night knitting group. Needless to say, progress is slow…but I’ve turned the heel on the second sock and will certainly have them finished in time for her birthday in March.

Now back to work!

Library Find: Vintage ‘How To’

Yesterday when searching through my university’s library stacks, I came across this wonderful little book called The Expert Cleaner: A Handbook of Practical Information for All Who Like Clean Homes, Tidy Apparel, Wholesome Food, and Healthful Surroundings by Hervey J. Seaman, which was published in 1899. I couldn’t resist checking it out.

CoverI should have put a coin in the photo for a size reference, but it’s just 6″ x 4″ – a handy little guide.

Title Page

Its pages are full of practical advice about how to keep a tidy home, everything from choosing furniture, to storing food, removing all manner of stains, dying fabric, exterminating pests, and cleaning/polishing just about anything.

When I began to delve into this book, I prepared myself for an onslaught of sexist, patriarchal rhetoric, and while it is written on the premise that women manage the household (a fair assumption), I felt the tone of the book was more about empowerment. The author recognizes the challenges associated with running a household, rather than marginalizing the reader (housewife).  An excerpt:

“If the expert cook has cause to be proud, the expert housekeeper has even more reason, for she must not only possess an intimate knowledge of cooking, but of all other arts included in the domestic economy. In addition, she must be something of a chemist, a physician, an accountant, and a disciplinarian, as well as a sanitarian.”

And truly – in the 110 years since this was written, with all of our advances in technology – nothing much has changed. Men are increasingly undertaking portions of this role, but the tasks remain the same regardless of who accomplishes them.

As for the remedies, I was struck by the causal use of very harmful chemicals. For example, mercury (quicksilver) as a pesticide:

“QUICKSILVER – Quicksilver, mixed with the white of an egg, and applied to the ends of the slats and cracks of the bedstead with a feather, will kill bed-bugs.”


“TO DESTROY FLIES – Take two tablespoonfuls of water and sweeten. Then add one teaspoonful of laudanum and mix well. Put the mixture in a saucer, or several saucers, as you choose, and leave where flies can get it, and at the same time where children can not get it, as it is a narcotic.”


TO REMOVE GREASE FROM SILK – Removing grease from silk may be found easy and satisfactory, if done in the following way: Moisten the grease spot with chloroform, and then rub it with a cloth until perfectly dry. This will not injure the most delicate color.”

There’s all kinds of references to chemicals and substances that an average household no longer possesses (at least in its pure form), many of which are petrochemicals – turpentine, kerosine oil, benzine (not to be confused with benzene, fortunately), glycerin, camphor, peraffin – and many that are plant derived, such as pennyroyal, tobacco, gum arabic, quassia, lavender, and sweet clover. I wonder if, in another 110 years, people will look upon our current cleaning methods and products, and cringe at our use of triclosan (antibacterial agent) or some other “modern” cleaner that hasn’t been well tested for long-term health effects.

This reference also seems to have useful (if odd) remedies for common situations that we still encounter. For example,

INK ON WHITE LINEN – “When ink stains get on the white table-cloth, and you have nothing else convenient to apply, use a ripe tomato. Squeeze the juice from the tomato on the spot of ink, and work the juice into the spot, applying the tomato liberally. Pour clear water through the stain. Apply the juice again, and continue until the stain disappears. This will remove other stains as well as those of ink.”

A tomato? Really? I almost want to deliberately stain some white linen to try it out – I’m not quite sure how the stain-removal chemistry works here.

After browsing this guide, I was impressed at its thoroughness and detail – I imagine it must have been very helpful for several decades. I also realized that I don’t have a modern how-to guide in my own home, even though I/we could certainly use one. Do you have a housekeeping / home-remedy book you regularly refer to?

A Page

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Today is my maternal grandmother’s 84th birthday. She (and my late grandfather) were very involved in raising me as a small child and I’ve always loved her very dearly. When I was young, she would knit the most amazing dolls complete with petticoats and rosy cheeks. She taught me to knit when I was 6 or 7 and eventually passed on her needles, patterns, and notions to me when her hands became too arthritic and her sight too poor.

I have several vivid memories as a child that involved her taking care of me when I was sick. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with a persistent cough and she’d come in my room, grab a sock out of my drawer and safety-pin it around my neck. In a few minutes, my cough would be gone and I’d be fast asleep again. I’ve used this sock trick MANY times throughout my adult life. It’s not exactly pretty, but it works well.

In these later years, my grandma has had an intermittent cough, which has kept a sock around her neck frequently. So for her birthday, I thought I’d knit her a neckwarmer as an alternative that’s stylish, but still not as bulky as a scarf – maybe something she would wear to church.  I used the simple, yet pretty Cashmere Cuff pattern by Jessica Vaughan with Berroco Inca Gold (an 80% merino wool / 20% silk blend) to give warmth and softness.

Grandma's Cowl

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rambleonrosemary [at] gmail [dot] com

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