Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai...

Today I found myself wandering around a big-box fabric store on Route 2, a.k.a the Strip Mall and Shopping Center Capital of Rhode Island. My ostensible reason for heading out this way was to compare prices of various lighting fixtures, appliances, countertop materials, medicine chests, etc. at Lowe's and Home Depot.  (We are rehabbing a rental apartment we own.) However, I also had to buy some buttons for a baby sweater I recently knitted for a little girl who's going to enter this world next month. (Isn't it amazing how much we can know in advance? That's why I did the sweater in pink-lavender heathered Shetland wool.)

After finding some acceptable buttons, I wondered, does this fabric store have a yarn department? The answer was yes, if you define yarn as acrylic (mostly) and sold in supersize skeins (one pound seemed to be the measurement du jour).

It was, truly, like the McDonald's of yarn.  Do you want fries with that?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Yarn migration

A very kind friend who lives in Millis, Massachusetts and doesn't knit, happened upon a thirteen-gallon plastic bag filled with yarn at a yard sale.  The price was fifty cents, but he paid a dollar.  Then he drove down to Rhode Island and gave it to me.

As you can see, the colors are lovely.  As you perhaps cannot tell, it's rug yarn.  The processing is fairly minimal, and the dyes appear to be from natural vegetable substances.  The texture is rough.

If you can use some of it, please let me know and it's yours.  First come, first served.

And oh yes, it's bloody hot out, and the raspberries are in.  Summer has definitely arrived.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Widening circles

A slight digression today from knitting, but an amplification of the previous post.

The center of a thimbleberry is wider than that of a raspberry. Upturned, thimbleberries are thimble-shaped. I've found them in forests in the Pacific Northwest, but didn't know they're also native to the east coast--that is, I didn't know until I started to research the Thimble Islands.  IMHO, raspberries have more flavor than thimbleberries.

Check out my piece on the Thimble Islands in today's online Providence Journal:

The house in the photograph is where General Tom Thumb unsuccessfully courted Miss Emily.

This famous stereopticon photo from the studio of Matthew Brady, is of the General and the woman he ultimately married, Lavinia Warren. They seem to have been well-suited to one another. For more images of the wedding, click here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day Tripper

There's too much stuff in our lives, so we celebrate events and holidays with experiences. For our wedding anniversary we went on a boat tour of the Thimble Islands, off the coast of Branford, Connecticut.

The archipelago consists of about thirty-five (depending on whose accounting you buy) very tiny islands, quite a number of which support only one house.

I find this part of New England an interesting confluence of fantasy and reality. All you need is a lot of money and you, too, can own an adorably tiny island with a beautiful house. If the fantasy exceeds your means, the boat tour from Branford Harbor leaves several times daily and costs $10.

On the way home H dropped me at the Connecticut Yarn and Wool outlet in Madison, just off I-95, and left in search of a cold drink. It's a diminutive shop and took me little time to find beautiful yarns at seductively low prices. Once again, the man on duty was Bill, who had shown us around the Mother Shop in Haddam (for more on this, see my post of 3/7/10).

Here's Bill, ensconced in this bright jewel-box of a boutique. One of its features is an all-you-can-stuff-into-a-bag deal. If you're looking for extremely interesting hand-dyed yarns, you really can't go wrong this way. But if you don't want that many (I managed to stuff twelve 200-yard skeins into a fairly small bag), the discounts are deep nonetheless--usually about 40% off retail, sometimes more.  By the time H had slaked his thirst with a grotesquely huge Coke, I'd temporarily satisfied my desire for ever more yarn, and we hit the road.

It was a really, really nice day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In the mood...

Remember mood rings?  They were all the rage in the 1970s.  The mood "jewels" are heat-sensitive--thermochromic--like the thermometer tapes for taking someone's temperature.  They react to the wearer's body temperature with a display of color. According to mood ring lore, the jewel's colors have specific meanings:
















(For more on this, see

When I was getting divorced from husband #1, I thought of my wedding ring as a mood ring.  It didn't turn colors, but it sent a message nonetheless. When I was in an angry mood (often), I removed it.  But I digress....

Or maybe not.  It occurred to me that sweaters I've knitted for myself over the years are like mood rings, but more powerful. For me they express, enhance, or even change moods. At the moment I'm making myself a very simple sweater, the "Chic Bolero" from Classic Elite's Classic Elite Knits:  100 Gorgeous Designs for Every Occasion (Taunton Press, 2008). I'm doing it, as is my habit, in a mélange of stash wools organized around orange and pink.

So there you have it, or at least a peek at the sleeve.  Pray tell, have you ever knitted yourself a mood-enhancing or mood-altering or mood-creating garment?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Third Annual World-Wide Knit in Public Day

Fortified by gingersnaps and lemon seltzer, six of us met at the Langworthy Library yesterday to celebrate WWKIP.  As it turned out, all of us were making socks (Denise's are on the table in the foreground) except for Linda (above with arm raised) who was knitting the most interesting lariats (photo below) that can be worn as belts or necklaces. They are worked in metallic yarns with beads.

The sponsors of WWKIP have officially designated June 12-20th as WWKIP WEEK!  Knitters, please make time in your busy schedules during these days to sit and knit on a park bench, in an outdoor café, at a library, on the bleachers at a sporting event, or any other venue where you'll be visible to the general public as a bona fide knitter and inciter of ravelry.

In honor of WWKIP, a generous soul donated a huge box of knitting needles to the Langworthy Library Knitting Association!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

On the Street Where I Live, Part 2

Why do people raise alpacas?  That is the question.  I put it to Jan Hannah, who said that she and her husband had always had a few farm animals on their property, but as retirement neared she looked for a project they could both undertake as they shifted into a new phase of life.  She found an article about raising alpacas and thought the animals sounded wonderful.  "They live twenty-five to thirty years, their care is manageable, you don't slaughter them for food, and once a year they're sheared and their fleece makes gorgeous yarn."

Suffice it to say that six years ago Jan and Jay started with three, and as of this posting have seventeen.  Some of their alpacas, like Bellagio, are prize-winning champions.

(photo courtesy of Jan and Jay Hannah)

Others are just good old alpacas. The fleece, as is obvious from the photos, runs from white to black with all sorts of browns in between. White is the most prized, as it can be dyed any color. But have a look at all the natural shades, skeined and waiting to be purchased at Jan's lovely little shop, on the farm's premises:

Apart from being the go-to gal in the neighborhood for anything you ever wanted to know about alpacas, Jan's also a weaver, and many of her creations are for sale in the shop. She hopes to expand the  weaving business to an online store in the future, but right now she's still working a day job, as well as doing everything else that alpaca-raising and merchandising involves, so she's waiting until retirement to start on that.

(Here's Jan in her shop. To her left is one of her beautiful woven shawls. She also sells some alpaca-related imports from South America--hats, teddy bears of cria pelts [don't ask, just feel how soft], knitted caps, etc.)

The Hannahs welcome visitors; appointments are necessary as they're often with the alpacas at local farmers' markets (Friday: Charlestown, Saturday: Richmond) or on the road to agri fairs for exhibitions and competitions.  You can reach them at 401-377-8771. Here's the link, once again, to their website-- They don't check email often, so calling is your best bet.

On my return visit to the farm, May 20th, I arrived a half hour too late to see the shearing that started at seven a.m. and was over by nine. This was accomplished by a band of roving shearers from Ohio who pass through annually.  Instead  I saw the newly-shorn alpacas and the many bags of their fleece.

(Obviously there are more than three bags full here, waiting for processing and spinning.  Can you imagine shearing all of this in less than two hours?)

I leave you with several images of the alpacas in their summertime outfits. Notice how social they are, almost always clumping together, and how amiable. It's hard to choose a favorite, but I must say that there's something about that little black-and-white striped guy....


Saturday, June 5, 2010

On the Street Where I Live, Part 1

I have often walked
Down this street before,
But the pavement always stayed beneath 
My feet before,
All at once am I,
Several stories high
Knowing I'm on the street where you live.

People stop and stare,
They don't bother me,
There is nowhere else on earth
That I would rather be,
Let the time go by
I won't care if I,
Can be here 
On the street where you live.

Apologies to Lerner and Loewe, but am I lucky or what?  I live down the street from Hannahs' Farm Alpacas, an edenic enclave of seventeen champion alpacas and their guardians, Jan and Jay Hannah.  During the past few weeks I've made two visits to Hannahs' Alpacas.  The first, in April, was to meet the entire family.  I've known a few alpacas in my time, and truly, these are the friendliest ever.  Jan calls them and they race over to snuffle, nuzzle, be petted, and feel the love.

Look at these sweetie faces!! Don't they remind you of something from Dr. Seuss, except ever so much cuter?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Feeding the habit

For your delectation I have photographed my recent yarn purchases (see previous post) posed alluringly in and around my yard.  The green yarn reclining next to the tomato plants is a hue aptly named "basil," a 50% wool-and-silk blend worsted which is, I believe, the Webs house brand, Valley Yarns. I bought twelve 109- yard skeins, more than enough for a sweater. As you can doubtless tell, I seem to be trending towards variegation.