Sunday, August 30, 2009

It Was the Best of Times...

Photo above: Jo Ann Bartholomew, Head Knit Wit; Photo below: Two members of the Langworthy Knitters calmly surveying the Table of Treasures.

Those of us whose childhood traumas include the communal dressing room at Loehmann's are not merely survivors, we are Shoppers. And we became Shoppers by learning how to maken vertue of necessitie, as Chaucer so neatly put it. Keen observation of Highly Determined Women (aka our mothers) behaving like predatory beasts--the prey being deeply discounted designer duds--and of monstrous saleswomen loudly offering unsolicited opinions-- ("Honey, that Chanel is gapping at the bust--you need a 16, at least.")--taught us how to move into and out of the fray before anyone actually realized we were there and gone. Stealth is the key to all successful shopping, (as well as to the procurement of limited seating on public transit).

My long-dormant shopping instincts--veritably comatose since I'd left the Big Apple in the 1970s--were awakened on Saturday morning, when I hit the Summer Sale at Knit Wits in Westerly. Several members of the Langworthy Library Knitting Association arrived shortly after I did, but I could tell, from their refined perusal of the Bargain Table, that they had been raised in civilized society. Here was the deal: you grabbed a bag, and as much as you could stuff into it could be had for $25. Adrenalin pulsing, I immediately set about amassing the most beauteous yarns I could lay hands on. About 10 minutes later I was done. It was a superb haul--by the most conservative estimate, around $300 worth of stuff, including 13 skeins of bamboo yarn (celadon, butter, black, slate blue), 5 skeins of oatmeal-tweedy Khatmandu DK (85% merino, 10% silk, 5% cashmere), 5 skeins of Classic Elite mohair in raspberry ombre, and so on and so forth (to spare you my insufferable gloating I shall cease forthwith). But what joy and, indeed, rapture!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer of Love: the photos

Check out Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie on the jumbotrons to the right of the stage. And, apropos of nothing, here's a link to a fabulous knitting calculator:

Summer of Love

Every marriage has its give and take; ours has mostly to do with music. H favors that of the guitar-banjo-vacuumcleaner-truck-tires-on-gravel voice type; mine is mainly keyboard, orchestral, and operatic. When I play my instruments, the house fills with celestial sounds; when H listens to his, um, stuff he diplomatically wears headphones. It's not folk music I object to; that is, obviously, the basis for much of beauty in the classical repertoire. It's the ersatz folk music that H favors--the excruciating voices, the banal lyrics, the impoverished melodies and harmonizations.

(A typical conversation:

H (listening to NPR's "The Folk Heritage" on the car radio): Wow, isn't that a great song?
S (car passenger hostage): Do you realize that song has only three notes and two chords?)

But, as I began saying, give and take is a key to marital harmony. And so, when I learned that ninety-year-old Pete Seeger would perform at the Newport Folk Festival, along with other luminaries of the folk music world--Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie--I decided we should go, and bought tix as soon as they went on sale in May. (Therefore I didn't feel too overweening as I dragged H to a performance of Purcell's chamber opera "Diocletian," replete with period instruments and baroque dancers, along with the inevitable countertenors in chitons and laurel crowns.)

I was actually looking forward to the event, and planned my attire carefully--an ankle-length granny dress, a large floppy cotton sunhat, love beads, big earrings, patchouli perfume, and (of course) sandals. Alas, the forecast promised rain in the evening, and I couldn't deal with the thought of a long, wet cylinder of cotton jersey sticking to my legs, so I substituted a top and slacks for the gown. This was something of a disappointment, but hey, I lived. And it did actually rain, so I wasn't annoyed at having to ditch my ensemble for no good reason. H, too, was busy with preparations--he insisted we buy sand chairs with carry straps (wise decision) and wore his most sunburn-preventing clothing (special SPF shirt and slacks, as well as a wide straw hat).

You are wondering, perhaps, what my narrative has to do with the avowed purpose of this blog, i.e. knitting in New England. Well, obviously I wasn't just going to sit through this concert and do nothing. So I brought along the pattern for Jamieson's "Rosalie" scarf, two pairs of #6 needles, one pair of #7 needles, and three different kinds of worsted: Noro Kureyon, Classic Elite "Wings," an alpaca/silk/wool blend, and a lovely wool-and-cotton yarn, "Bergerine" by Bergere de France, that I recently found in the sale bin at Fresh Purls on Hope Street in Providence.

The reason for all this equipment was uncertainty. I had no sense of how the yarns would knit up into the pattern, and if the indicated needle size (six) would harmonize with the yarn. I began with the Noro and soon realized that its texture mandated a larger needle, so I began again with sevens. Another question mark was the recipient. I had thought to knit a scarf for J, but as I began with the Noro it just didn't seem like her, who, I'm pretty sure, is more of an alpaca person.

After a while another knitter found me and inquired about my project. We had an interesting discussion. She's a physician but believes that the huge yarn stash in her basement is telling her that she needs to be a fiber person. (Apparently in a former life she was a weaver.) She showed me a lovely scarf she's making (or was it a shawl?) for a friend. She said these weren't her personal colors (lilacs, blues) and she allowed the project to suggest to her the intended recipient. A little while later, I realized I was making the Noro scarf for M, as these were indeed her colors (blues, greens, purples). Someone (KM, are you reading this?) has often said to me, "You put out your call to the universe, and you get what you want." I believe that is what happened yesterday, the answer having come in the form of this serendipitous conversation.

Oh yes, the music. Well it was pleasant at its best and boring at its worst. Sad to report--Joan Baez's voice has lost its luster. Pete Seeger is still the eminence grise of the folk music world, and I love his socialistic idealism. Judy Collins, who trained as a classical pianist, accompanied herself beautifully on both a Steinway and guitar. Arlo Guthrie was an amusing raconteur, whose backstory made lyrics as inane as "I don't want a pickle,/ Just want to ride on my motor-sickle," fairly enjoyable. All in all a pretty nice day, even with the rain. H had a great time and appreciated my gesture. He bought me a rainbow flag with the word "Peace" written across it. We'll hang it from our deck.