Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ruminations...., recovering from a brief bout with some kind of stomach ailment, I ran across this wonderful photograph of Ellen Minand, the immensely skilled proprietor of Ellen's Half-Pint Farm in Vermont, standing in front of her hanks of hand-dyed yarn. We have many, many big balls of that yarn, each skein gorgeously priced and enough for a woman's large sweater. SHE DYES IT IN HER KITCHEN!!!!!
....and of course as I thought about her, I remembered her sister Carol Buskey. Carol stood at Ellen's side for years and years; she accompanied Ellen to our old studio location some years ago when Ellen taught a great, great dyeing class (Carol showed people how to make polymer buttons to match their yarn). Carol died this past year of incurable cancer -- I still see the pain in Ellen's eyes, hear the mixture of anger and grief in her voice. Today, my dear, dear friend Elaine told me that one of her colleagues, Sid, is now in hospice. I knew him slightly, but not well enough to feel the kind of pain and exhibit the kind of helplessness I saw today in Elaine's eyes, in her deportment. It reminded me, of course, of Ellen. It reminded me of myself when I lost that lovely man, Edward, in 2000, and when I lost my truly beloved Mother. In the end, it reminds me of all of us at that moment of exquisite confrontation with the contingent place we occupy on this earth. Sometime, find a copy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's "The Solitude of Self," which is one of the most eloquent and true statements ever written about all of this, which makes moee and more sense, the older I get. What are we to do with these reminders, these evidences, of frailty and mortality? We could collapse. We could knit or crochet or sew or tat ourselves into oblivion, never coming up for air. We could buy a mountain and carve some kind of updated Mount Rushmore. I could finish the book I'm trying to finish once and for all so that something of substance could survive me, beyond the stuff already on the shelf (I like this one the best of all). We could all vow, as I did six months ago, to try to do something unexpected for someone else every day -- a kind of homage to my mother who actually practiced this old-fashioned thing until the day she gave up on life (that resourceful, proud woman never got over the humiliation of wearing a diaper). I don't know what will come of these sensations, this contemplative mood. Maybe nothing. I hope not. We should all have days that stop us in our tracks. svb

Friday, January 18, 2013

Photo of Kim Leach

For those of you who are interested, I just found and finally inserted a photograph of Kim Leach (see two posts ago). svb

Monday, January 7, 2013

...and speaking of Jocelynn and crochet...

...and speaking of Jocelynn's craft blog in the Detroit News -- let me put in a plug for her column this coming Friday, the 11th, which will feature some talk about crochet (I really do think that crocheters get short shrift in a very large number of  yarn shops nationwide -- some shops that I know of have actually told crochters that they couldn't help them at of which shops has closed mercifully).  But it will also have a slouchy beret pattern that I did up in "Taiyo" by Noro, an interesting blend of cotton, silk, and wool in Noro's famous long color runs.  So look for it.  There's another hat in the s hop -- a rather more classic stocking-type hat with cute chain loop-ys on the top -- very easy to make.  Larry has patterns for both with yarn purchase.

As to crochet:  I started out as a crocheter (and wool tailor).  In my experience and that of many of my friends, crochet got a kind of second-class reputation because of its long association with domestic items -- doilies, cozies, afghans, pillow-case trim, tablecloths, etc.  It was a craft that was passed from grandmother to mother to daughter, often without any reference to patterns.  I vividly recall sitting with my otherwise-not-nice gramdmother working on curtains in her living room -- thread crochet, the kind you do with steel hooks.  

Those days probably have passed for the most part:  Curtains are now very inexpensive.  But I do think that the long association with working-class families, and especially the idea that crochet was something you did to pretty up cheap goods or cheap furnishings (poverty means you don't buy expensive ANYTHING) has marked crochet as de classe.   Those cheap pillowcases from Woolworths!  What you did, of course, was to try to pretty up the things in your house with lace crochet or tatting of some kind. 

Crochet has changed.  It's now possible to make incredibly beautiful garments from crochet in really spectacular yarns.  All you need to do is to look through one issue of Interweave Crochet to get the drift. The idea that only knitting makes nice fabric, that crochet doesn't drape, etc. etc., is simply not true -- often, crochet is done too tightly, or in unflattering stitches, or in cheap, plastic-y yarns.  It's hard to create drape when you're working basically with colored fishing line.  But that age-old association, which I do think is rooted in class differences, persists.   Some of us are tired of it.

I keep repeating the story behind my cardigan (now retired -- too shopworn).  I was in a workshop  at Stitches Midwest a couple of years ago innocently working on some knitting when a dreadful woman across the table loudly announced that crochet might be good for SOMETHING, though she couldn't think what -- maybe only TRIM on knitted things.   I was furious.  When I came home I made a cardigan with a crocheted body and knitted trim.  It won second prize in garments at the Crochet Guild of America annual convention.  Enough said.  


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Kim Leach and Happy Hands

This past week, the wonderful Jocelyn Brown of the Detroit News craft blog (Friday's edition) ran a truly nifty column featuring a crocheted cowl done up in fingering-weight, hand-painted wool yarn by Kim Leach (Wisconsin), a yarn she called Toe Jams.  The line is Happy Hands Yarn.  Jocelyn got it some months ago at Artisan Knitworks -- indeed, I think we're the sole source of Happy Hands Yarn in Michigan.  Jocelyn chose a fabulous green mix with a dash of purple.  We also stock some of Kim's worsted-weight hand-painted wool in great big balls.

I have known for some time that the amazing Kim -- a self-taught dyer with an astonishingly interesting sense of color, a witty dyer who tossed a bit of purple into almost everything she did -- had life-threatening, congenital liver disease.  When last I saw her at a fiber festival, Kim's husband confided that he was not at all sure she would be all right, and very sure she could eventually require a liver transplant.  Now, I learn she has died.

Kim was young -- in her 50s, a bouncing little bundle of joy.  That description only sounds trite if you didn't know her.  She bounced.  She was always, always full of joy.  And I will miss her.  We have assembled a large basket of her yarn near the seating area -- obviously, when it's gone, we're done.  So come look.  There is more in the fingering district.   This has not been a good day.  Tomorrow will be better.    Love to all.    Here's Kim.      svb