Thursday, January 15, 2009

Knitting on

Well, actually, to be honest…my knitting time has been badly impacted these last couple weeks by This and That. There’s been so much going on and going down and spinning around. Literally spinning around, since I lost my mind and told Danger Mouse’s teacher that SURE! I could totally bring my spinning wheel and some wool in to the classroom and do a demonstration for Prairie Days, coming up in March!

…and then it occurs to me that my spinning skills are not exactly what could be termed mad skilz and that while I can produce (somewhat) useable yarn, I do so like this: “Whirr, whirr, whirr DAMN! {fiddle, fiddle, splice, smooth, smooth, fiddle} whirr whirr whirr DAMN! {fiddle, fiddle, splice, smooth, smooth, fiddle} whirr whirr…@*^&@ it, I need a drink…”

At the very least, I need to practice not yelling “DAMN!” every time the thread breaks. Because, you know, not every parent appreciates having their child come home with excited stories about how when you spin? It goes whirr whirr whirr DAMN!

But I do have The Most Awesome! Fleece to bring in for the demonstration. It comes from Meridian Jacobs, and is just…a rainbow. OK, not a rainbow-rainbow…but it has all these patches of black, white, red, brown. It’s gorgeous. I haven’t dared touch it yet (despite all kinds of dreams about how cool a sweater I could make from it) (eventually) because my spinning is so “eh”…but it’s a whole fleece and a great thing to show kids who have probably never seen such a thing.

I also have sliver for the actual spinning demonstration, and a whack of ‘eh’ raw fiber to ruin use to show how you wash, card and spin from raw fleece. I’m bringing a ton of drop spindles and of course will let the kids try their hand at the wheel.

I did a similar thing a few years ago at a preschool, and one of the teachers was extremely nervous about the kids touching the wheel and the skein-winder and so forth. “Aren’t they antiques? What if they get broken?”

Well, my wheel is not an antique. It’s a modern Ashford. The skein-winder I had brought was an antique, but it’s not that kind of antique. Abraham Lincoln didn’t use it as a foot-rest or anything…it’s a working tool made about a hundred years ago to do a job that darn it – it’s still good for today. It’s fairly indestructible, and anything they did break, my husband can fix. Since it’s not a “for show” antique but a working tool in my collection of tool, I don’t mind if it has been glued here or there, or if an old hand-carved wooden peg has been replaced with a new hand-carved wooden peg.

That’s just how I roll, people.

Nothing I own is so precious that children aren’t allowed to lay their grimy little hands on it…not even my harp, which is very unusual in the “harping” world. I once had another harpist literally recoil in horror when she saw children pressing around me on my break at a restaurant Touching! The! Harp! She thought I was crazy, and didn’t hesitate to tell me so.

How often do children get to touch a harp? They read about them, some of them even dream about them, but they don’t get to touch. Sure, I have to really monitor and make sure they don’t get too hyper-crazy with the glissandos (that’s the thing where you just “whoosh!” your hands up and down all the strings), I know the grime on their little unwashed fingers makes the strings break sooner, and yeah, I’d better be sure to give the old girl a good rub-down with polish afterward to keep the inevitable dirt, grease and whatnot kids have on their little bodies from damaging the wood…but heck, keep some Handi-Wipes in your gig bag to get the worst of the ketchup and French fry grease off and then let ‘em have at it, sez I.

Just don’t forget to turn the mike off before they start. Trust me on that one.

Who knows what beautiful dreams you might plant, in that ten minutes between sets…who knows what magnificent trees those children might grow in their souls.

…who knows how many parents may take out contracts on your life after listening to “PUH-LEEEEEEZE, can I have a harp, daddy? Please? PLEASE? PRETTY PLEASE? Harp harp harp me me me want want want…” for a few months…

ANYWAY. Undaunted by mere lack of time, I am wedging some time into my day to work on some knitting-things. Right now, I’m a couple fins short of finishing yet another Fish Hat…what? You don’t know about the Fish Hat?

Where. Have. You. BEEN?!

It comes from the latest issue of Knitty, right here. And I am going to humbly submit a couple of my “learnings” on the pattern: It tells you to break the yarn after the ‘mouth’ to begin the short rows that form the mouth. I found that doing one round in the new color before beginning the short rows makes the turning points much less obvious, but doesn’t seem to impact the overall look at all.

Also, when doing the stripes, I moved the starting part of the color to the point under the belly (where it hangs down over the wearer’s head, instead of being on the side in plain sight). Even using Meg’s Jogless Jog, the hiccup between colors was just a bit obvious to be sitting there on the side – especially when I started doing smaller bands of color.

Other than those nit-picking points, it’s an easy pattern that works up pretty quickly. The short rows aren’t nearly as intimidating as they might sound to someone who has never done them – this is a great project to get your feet wet on that whole ‘wrap and turn’ groove. I made this one to give as a gift to a sixteen year old boy man:

dead fish

That’s not the sixteen year old. That’s Boo Bug. And this is Danger Mouse.

aaaah it ate her

OH NO!!!!! IT ATE HER WHOLE HEAD!!!! (OK, yes, we’re easily amused around here…your point being…?)

The hat was actually a gag gift – we taped an iTunes card in its belly, attached the card to a fishing line and makeshift pole (big branch from outside), stuck the fish into a gift bag and made said sixteen year old boy man go fishing.

You should have seen his face when he pulled that dead knitted fish out of the bag. And then we told him it was a hat, and the look was even more precious.

He was way not sure how he felt about a dead fish hat. (He warmed up to it a bit before the end of the party. A bit. I don’t expect he will actually wear it, but he has a small sister who will probably lurve it.)

Be warned: if you make even one of these and a child between the ages of 2 and about 14 sees it, you will be making one for not only that child, but every child s/he knows because these things? They tickle their little funny bones something fierce.

Boo Bug wore the “practice” one I made out of the Ugliest Yarn Imaginable from my stash, the yarn that I kept almost throwing away due to sheer hideousness, but then I’d say, “Who knows? Someday, I might stumble across a contest where whoever makes the ugliest afghan with vintage 70s acrylic wins $10,000! It could happen! And if I’ve thrown away that ugly vintage 70s acrylic, WELL! Where will I be, huh?

(This right here is the one real downside I’ve found to this whole Yankee-thrift thing of mine: I tend to packrat an awful lot of stuff I probably will not ever actually use, but YOU JUST NEVER KNOW. It takes serious concentration and willpower for me to throw away anything, even tiny balls of leftover sock yarn that I swear you couldn’t even make a 2x2” square from…you never know, I might someday want to make an afghan out of 1x1” squares of sock yarn IT COULD HAPPEN!!!)

(And then, of course, when I do go through the forty hours of meditation-confirmation thing and the repeated mantra of less is more, less is more and I weed out the special pans I haven’t used in fifteen years and the strange kitchen utensils whose purpose I can’t even remember and the sheets we haven’t used since Noah was a pup…I promptly have a pressing need for them again, thereby reaffirming my unfortunate belief that I need to keep everything I ever get, “in case.”)

ANYWAY. Where the heck was I? Oh yeah. So Boo Bug wore the UGLY! (which actually increases the hilarity) dead fish on her head to school one (1) day.

I have about forty kids sucking up to my kids now in the hopes of getting their very own dead fish for their heads. Because who doesn’t want to walk around school all day with a dead fish on their head?! Especially when you can pull it down like that and it looks like the fish ate your head?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

The other gift I made for that same party was this blue scarf, made from really soft hand-dyed alpaca from Brentwood, California:

alpaca scarf

I almost didn’t give it away. I almost gave her some little bracelets I unexpectedly won at an auction. Y’all know that “thing” I have for alpaca anyway…this was so soft, and so sweet on my hands, and it just flew into shape on the needle…when I was checking it for length I started loving it and then it blocked so nicely and I was saying, “Wellllllllll…after all, it’s not like she’s going to know I stole her present…”

But then I had a stern word with myself about the value of friendship and I put it in the box, handed the box to my husband and said, “Wrap it quick, and put it away somewhere so that I don’t have to look at it!”

And then I went upstairs and consoled myself by embracing some Atacama hand dyed (variegated brown alpaca, which was going to become a hat for my shivering little pointed head until I suddenly developed a love for lace scarves) and rubbed a skein of Schaefer Andrea (100% cultivated silk) on my face until I felt better. (Reason #152 why makeup and I do not get along: you can’t rub hand-painted silk on your face if you’re wearing makeup. And if you can’t rub hand-painted silk on your face when you’re feeling a little bereft, what is the point of living?!)

I’ve got another fish hat on the needles (because World War III has broken out around here over who “owns” the Ugly Fish hat), and then I need to move on to the The Viking Hat for The Boy Who Is Staying With Us, because I promised (and forgot) (whoops).

Oh well. At least I can honestly say, I am never, but never, bored.


Dysd Housewife said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dysd Housewife said...

Okay so..On the pioneer-spinning thing. WHAT were you thinkin'??

And on this: "Who knows what beautiful dreams you might plant. Who knows what magnificent trees those children might grow in their souls."

You disgust me. DANG I want to write like you. ::sob::

And last but not least. HOW MUCH for a Fish Hat? Seriously. I have to have one. YES. For me. Cuz I am a total freak, and I WOULD wear it. LOL

natasha the exile on Mom Street said...

My son would go nuts for a fish hat.

You know your demographic well on that one!

MadMad said...

OK. You are way too nice. I don't know if I'd let little kids touch my YARN, let alone my wheel or my harp, but you, on top of being such a great writer, are just a better person, plain and simple. And then you gave away that scarf! GASP!

Science PhD Mom said...

Yeah, you can count me in with the harpists who won't let their kids touch their harp. The little lap harp, sure. Go for it! The pedal harp? Oh h3ck no. Nope, no way, no how. I just remember how much my harp teacher had to pay to get her soundboard fixed when her HUSBAND dropped something on it. Yeah. Not going there if I can help it!

I would so wear a fish hat, btw. But then I have an odd sense of humor. LOL.

Mizzle said...

I want to visit you just so I can touch the harp... very carefully... but it would be awesome!

Kudos to you for being so generous!

P.S. I'm on a different continent... :(