Friday, October 24, 2008


Well, I've gone and done it again. Books are my ultimate downfall. The girls know this well; they almost never ask for toys or the like when we're out places (although I do occasionally get, "I know we can't have anything, but if we could have something, I'd like one of these...", to which my response is generally something alone the lines of, "yup, that'd be cool, wouldn't it?"; I understand the joys of vicarious shopping). But if we're in a bookstore, they go instantly for the jugular, because they know that if there's one place where I am weak, it is in the face of books. If some books is a good thing, then how can more books be a bad thing? (I keep wondering when they'll figure out that I seem to have the same weakness in the face of fiber and get serious about knitting and spinning; thus far they haven't noticed that I also don't usually say no in yarn stores, though, and I'm counting my blessings.)

In this case, however, I contend that the books I've acquired are necessities, rather than luxuries. I found this contention so convincing myself that I feel almost no guilt whatsoever (go, me!). Let me know what you think when I'm done presenting and explaining. The first of the books that I got is Susan Strawn's book Knitting America: A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to Fine Art, and the second is Anne Macdonald's No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting. Even better, I managed to get them in one of those "if you buy both of these, you get them cheaper" deals at Amazon. The first one arrived yesterday, and it's gorgeous. I mean, seriously gorgeous. It's a hardback with lovely pictures throughout, all glossy and colorful, and her writing is wonderful. It's incredibly well-researched; I can only imagine how much work Strawn went to in order to dig up some of these references and photos and patterns. I've read as far as the Civil War (I'm right in the middle of that chapter now), and I absolutely agree with Falick's contention in the introduction that it would be possible for someone to lay a finger down on almost every page and find an interesting point worthy of further research. It's inspirational. The second book arrived today, and I haven't had a chance to do more than glance through it, but I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Because here's the thing. It's been occurring to me more and more lately, in the wee hours of the night when academics think odd, academical, research-oriented thoughts, that I am developing a burning desire to spend more time thinking, from the perspective of linguistic anthropology, about the worlds of knitting and spinning that inspire my thinking so much of the rest of the time (might this mean, if I plan it right, that visits to my LYS would be tax-deductible because they count as fieldwork? one can only hope...). I'm not entirely sure yet what that might mean, although I am fascinated by all of the interesting ways that we are socialized into the world of knitting and into becoming competent members of the community of knitters. I also find the cottage-industry of knitting and spinning and dyeing inspirational as a balancing response to a work world which seems to demand more and more of our time and energy and selves. Surely there's something to be said about all this in the world of academia? It is my hope right now that reading some of these books will give me an idea of what people have researched before and how, and whether there might be something there for someone with my theoretical leanings. I'll keep you posted. (And I'd love to hear what you all think of the idea, if you have any thoughts to share.)

Meanwhile, I did visit my LYS today with more mundane purposes in mind. Rick's cousin, whom I adore, is having her first baby in December (she's due on Christmas eve, in fact), and her baby shower is coming up fast (I just got the invitation, so it's not my fault that I didn't realize quite how fast until just now). I won't be able to get to the shower, as it's in the Bay Area and I can't get up there on that weekend, but I thought that if I could knit something in time, I could maybe get it sent to her to open at the party. And if I don't get it done quickly enough, then maybe I'll have started it in time to get it to her before the baby is born (I can only hope...). I'm planning to knit the Pinwheel Baby Blanket, which I've seen around several times lately, and have loved. I got some Lorna's Laces worsted weight in three colors, and I'll knit it with the brown in the middle, then the blue, and then the cream. The picture isn't good, but this'll give you an idea.
The blue is more robin's egg than that. So, I'll probably cast on for that as soon as I'm done with this post and get started.

I also got a wonderful email from Cheryl about the socks. She got them, and they fit!! (Please don't cite me for Excessive Use of Exclamation Points there; I was worried, and now I'm relieved.) Her husband took a picture which she sent to me and said I could share here on the blog. What do you think?

Meanwhile, the hot is back. So is the cold. The joy of 10% (or less) humidity is the wide range of temperature possibilities on any given day, depending on whether the sun is up or not. When I took Tilly for a walk this morning on a local trail (she is becoming quite the nice companion on these trail walks), it was in the low fifties in the shade. In the sun, it was probably up in the seventies. And by this afternoon, I'd guess it was in the high eighties. Nice variability. If you like weather that is schizophrenic, that is. So, I need to go drink some water (and, thanks to Samantha, I now have a lovely word for what I'm feeling here: drouth; I will be using it often), and, now that Rick is home, ask him nicely to make me a mojito. The consensus of those who weighed in on this issue seems to be that a mojito, chased appropriately by water, is in fact hydrating, and I'd hate to go against the Will of the Blog.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know I wore my BEAUTIFUL socks to the bakery today. They are wearing nice and getting quite a fuzzy halo. I still like them best at home where I can put my feet up infront of the fire and just admire them! Thanks again for knitting me up such purrrrfect socks! They couldn't have fit better if they were knit on my feet!

Cheryl <^..^>

Anonymous said...

The socks are really lovely. Somehow being on their rightful feet takes them to a new level.

And I'd think that there might be something in the language of knitting that is at least worth an article or two.

Anne said...

Sure, why not? Look at everything those folks at Pop Culture are writing about .... also, I think there's a lot more to be said about the Ravelry phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

I love "No Idle Hands." I used to take my wheel to the local elementary schools on their Colonial Days festival, pass around my hand cards and some wool for the fifth graders to try out, and give stories from that book. Valley Forge is a lot more interesting when you throw Old Ma Rinker in, or, as my husband likes to tweak me, "How knitters saved the American Revolution."

I think she threw in the part about the minister and the skunk, though, which had nothing to do with knitting, simply because she found this tidbit in a journal and couldn't resist. It's too priceless (and potentially useful.)

Bea said...

Love this idea for reasearch! I can't wait to see how that goes.

Your socks are awesome. I'm glad they fit her. I know that can be a real relief.

Can't wait to see what you make with the baby yarn.

Lynne said...

Research on knitting - sounds good to me.

The pinwheel blanket sounds like a good project as your winter is setting in - not that those temerpatures would show it! The weather's schizophrenic here too: it was 30*+ last weekend and down to just 17* on Wednesday!! Brr! Spring is sprung [and all that].

Jane said...

The socks look really cosy. I love reading books like those, fqscinating

Marianne said...

It's early morning, 42F outdoors, 64F indoors, wool socks on, felted wool clogs on, wool sweater on and it feels heavenly. (just so you know, the sweat pants are on also :^)
(humidity at 84% and the neighbor's sprinklers just came on, hah)

Fabulous socks...and for the rest? Ellen took the words right out of my mouth.

'Drouth' works for me.

Yep, books and fibre, my 'downfalls'.

Marianne said...

PS love the colours for the Pinwheel blankie.

EGunn said...

Who can resist books? And why would you, anyway? The more knowledge the better, I say! (This is, of course, until it comes time to move and we realize just how many books we have...)

The new research sounds interesting. I don't know what you'd study, but I'm sure there's something out there. I've heard several people compare knitting/crafts to a method of communication for those who had no other creative outlet or mode of expression. It's not so much a language, though, as perhaps a symbol. I'll let you know if my academic brain comes up with anything good!


I read No Idle Hands a number of years ago and enjoyed it. May be time for a re-read. And now you tempt me with Knitting America.

Have you read The Prospect Before Her - A History of Women in Western Europe? Olwen Hufton is the author, Knopf is the publisher. Lots of knitting and sewing.

I think you are onto something with your essay/book idea. I would say that if you write about it, then trips to the book store and LYS would be tax deductible.

Anonymous said...

I am so psyched about your new research direction. I predict great joy will ensue!

M-H said...

There is some work being done here in Aus about knitting and social networking, mostly at QUT in Brisbane. I don't know about anything more historical - do you reading Knitting History? I think she's interested in the social history of knitting in the US.

Love the colours of that blanket. Not too pastelly.

Stell said...

ooo books, I to am re-reading Idle hands, and have been wondering how to justify the other one - so you are not helping at all with rave reviews, not at all, no siree. Those socks went to a purfect home - well done.

Nana Sadie said...

You know, if folks can spend as much time researching and writing about quilting as they did in the 80s why not knitting, now? I think you might have something...and do you mean it's my bent toward academia that makes me wake up with these odd ideas in the middle of the night?

Anonymous said...

I am afflicted with the same non-problem in bookstores. We always leave with at least one for the kiddo. And probably one for me. As long as the bills get paid and food is on the table!

Anonymous said...

No Idle Hands was quite good.

Clever and fascinating research idea!

The baby blanket colors look cute. Nice gift socks too!

No such thing as too many books.

Anonymous said...

You are doomed! The minute they will start being interested in yarny stuff they will identify your weakness, believe me I went through the same route: books, yarn,,, with Sam :)

Anonymous said...

I am noticing that every time I leave a comment on someone else's blog, the person right in front of me is one Jocelyn! Cracks me up!