Now that the socks are finally finished, I'm at a knitting crossroad. Time to decide whether the next challenge will be a laceweight shawl or latvian mittens, two projects I've been champing at the bit to start. Each will require some degree of concentration, though, and I don't seem to have much of that in large supply this week.
Last night I was darting around, trying to find something mindnumbingly easy to work on while watching the season finale of '24'. My Dulaan promise came to mind...still a month left. I went to the Kureyon closet (...and just what was I thinking when I accumulated this stuff? That I'd knit up a bunch of outfits and head out on tour promoting Fruitstripe gum?) pulled out a few skeins and some simple patterns and got started.
I've decided to knit for Dulaan until next week, through a long road trip and two nights of American Idol. (Melody...Bo or Carrie?) I know, pathetic, but how much Chris Matthews (HA!!) can one take!?
There's been a lot of buzz recently about Japanese craft books. While the books are very appealing (and I do own my share of those), I think that Japanese quilting magazines are a much better value for the money and are being overlooked. But not here!
I've been collecting issues of two magazines, Quilts Japan and Patchwork Quilts Tsushin, off and on for years. Although my favorite is Quilts Japan, they're really pretty similar publications which not only feature quilts, but also include home dec (kitchen items, curtains, pillows, holiday) and accessory (purses, small pouches, aprons) patterns. As if that's not enough, Quilts Japan now has a regular feature where the prince (as mentioned recently by Pinku) interviews an up-and-coming Japanese quilter in each issue.
I'd guess that people's hesitation is due to language and price. The texts are in Japanese, but the patterns are so clearly illustrated that it isn't a problem. (Some projects are illustrated with step by step photos.) The price, around $17 in the U.S., sounds high, but they sell in Japan for 1200 yen, currently $11. They're thick, packed with color photos and enough visual inspiration to make you dizzy. Several times I've tried to whittle down my stacks, without success. International Fabrics and eQuilter carry them, and often you can find back issues on ebay. Check them out!!
And no, you're not seeing double. I actually finished two pairs of socks this weekend!
The turquoise pair are the basic socks from the Ann Budd book, as suggested by Emily, whose wonderful Koigu socks prompted me to try socks one more time. (She's also a quilter extraodinaire!) The striped pair, one of which was my first sock ever, is from the Ann Norling Play on Ribs pattern. What a relief to finish these up. Just in time for sandal season.
In my previous life in Ohio, I was a longtime member of the Textile Art Alliance, an affiliate group of the Cleveland Museum of Art. (Still am, actually.) Comprised mostly of textile artists, the group does some fundraising and community outreach programs, and also brings in textile artists and specialists (Kaffe Fassett, Jane Sassaman, Jane Dunnewold, to name a recent few) for lectures and workshops. I had just finished up 6 very active years on the TAA board, several as program chair, when we found out we'd be moving last summer. One afternoon, busy getting the house ready to sell, I received a phone call from the museum inviting me to a special event as a thank you for my TAA work. "Dress casual, see you Saturday!"
So on a sunny, breezy day late last June, several TAA friends and I had a memorable lunch and cruise on Lake Erie with the quilters of Gee's Bend. Expecting a typical museum function crowded with patrons and museum people, we were surprised to find the invitees were pretty much just 'us'.
Front, seated: Mary Bennett, Annie May Young, Arlonzia Pettway, Nettie Young Second row, standing: Mary Lee Bendolph, Essie Pettway, China Pettway (far right) Third row: Bill Arnett, Candace Gee (far left)
We assembled at the dock, the quilters, their 'handlers', several museum staffers and the TAA group each congregating in small conversation groups. When we boarded and entered the dining area, the seven Gee's Bend quilters sat at one end of a table and my friend and I were surprised to see everyone else heading in their small groups to separate tables. We paused, exchanged a look and promptly sat down with the quilters. I could write a small book about the next 3 hours.
We sat across from Mary Lee Bendolph and Annie May Young, the quilter who made the famous blue/red cover quilt for the popular book, The Quilts of Gee's Bend. After a little polite small talk, everyone warmed up and conversations were crisscrossing the table. Arlonzia Pettway told us of her grandmother, who arrived here on the last slave ship. A young woman sitting to my left turned out to be Candace Gee, a decendant of the original slaveowner. She told me of her ignorance of her family's history and how she was alerted to it after a friend called to tell her of the L.A. Times' Pulitzer Prize winning series (1999) on Mary Lee and Gee's Bend. In Cleveland to see the show for the first time, Candace's story of her subsequent trip to Gee's Bend could be a book itself.
As we headed to an upper deck for the cruise, my friend and I were incredulous over our lunch experience. Little did we expect that when we got upstairs, Mary Lee would be waving us over, having saved us seats. She wanted to hear all about us, our families, our quilting. She regaled us with story after story of her life...some hysterically funny, some heartbreaking, some poignant. She told us of accompanying Martin Luther King Jr. to drink from a 'whites only' water fountain in Selma, Alabama. Living history, sitting and laughing with us on that beautiful, sunny afternoon.
Midway through the cruise, Mary Lee's daughter, Essie Pettway, also a quilter, joined us. More our contemporary in age, she had her mother's easy conversational way and we all chatted until the boat finally moored. They invited us to Gee's Bend in August for the opening of their new church and it still kills me that with everything I had on my plate that month, I just couldn't go. It was hard to end such a wonderful day.
On Sunday, the museum hosted a roundtable discussion featuring the Gee's Bend ladies recounting the stories of their hard lives, their 'discovery' (a funny, funny story as told by Annie May Young) and the phenomena of their quilts 'as art'. It ended with the quilters singing their gospel music. Being such a busy time, I hadn't planned to attend. But after the cruise, I knew I couldn't miss it and even persuaded my favorite knitblogger to join me. She was greeted and hugged like a long lost child.
Mary Lee Bendolph, Molly, Essie Pettway
I have never been among a group of people who were so genuinely happy and spiritual. They have lived the hardest lives and yet will take every opportunity to express how grateful they are for their many blessings. The whole weekend was a gift. If you are a fan of the Gee's Bend quilts, hunt down thebooks and actually read the stories of these remarkable women. You'll be inspired and find the quilts even more compelling once you know their history.
Once there was a fair haired girl who grew up on the scenic coast of Maine. She spent an idyllic childhood out in the sun all summer, often frolicking at Goose Rocks Beach with friends whose mothers gathered their chairs in a circle to sunbathe and chat. Through her high school and college years, she worked as the summer arts & crafts counselor for the city parks department, getting paid to make things with kids while maintaining her tan.
When not at work or the beach, she could often be found reclining in the backyard, slathered in baby oil, holding the then popular, tri-fold cardboard tanning reflector up to her chin. (Are these in museums now?)
Fast forward 30 years. Sun damaged skin, premature age wrinkling around eyes, basal cell carcinoma surgically removed above lip line and a lifetime of frequent, required, dermatological checkups. I'm not yet in the habit of using a sunscreen regularly and admit that especially at this time of year, when I'm pulling out the summer clothes, I still have to resist the urge to go out and get *a little color*.
Am I sharing this so it might give some of you pause the next time you head out in the sun or, God forbid, to the tanning salon? Sure. But honestly, it's because in my next post I'll be telling you about a most wonderful weekend I had last summer and I don't want you wondering about my big hat. ;-)
Remember that blank wall from several weeks ago? The quilt I was going to start *tomorrow*? Yeah...mmhmm. Even though I'm having more guests this weekend, when the day dawned all dark and rainy, I took that as some cosmic sign that I should stay home and sew.
This is just a sample block, made with scraps to test the directions. I know I won't get back to it till next week, but I had to get it out of my system.
The new Hancock's of Paducah fabric catalog just arrived and as I quickly thumbed through it, I was surprised to some of the funky prints that I brought home from Japan last month. Apparently, Robert Kaufman has teamed up with Quilt Gate of Japan to distribute their fabrics. You can find them here.
The sun is shining now. A different cosmic sign? I'd better go get something done around here.
Ok, all of you sock knitters out there, I have a question. When I got to the heel flap on my second sock (of my recently featured, in-progress pair), I glanced at the instructions and did a double take. Hmmm, that's not what I did on the first sock. I continued knitting and could see that the correct heel flap was similar to previous socks I've made. (You remember...those random, single socks that never met their match?)
So here's a photo of the heels, side by side.
Correct, left; mistake, right. Click for closer view.
The thing is, I kind of like the mistake* heel, which is flat, smooth and strong, unlike the correct heel, which has that corrugated look. I know I'm the boss of my knitting, but I wonder if anyone has knitted and worn a heel like this. Any reason it wouldn't be advised?
*The pattern: Row 1: *Sl 1 purlwise, with yarn in back, k1; rep from * Row 2: Sl 1 purlwise, with yarn in front, purl to end. My mistake: Row 2: *Sl 1 purlwise, with yarn in front, p1; rep from *
Whatever the verdict, I'll be ripping out the first sock tonight and reknitting it with the correct heel. Why? A small confession. It fit, but was a little on the loose side and since I knew I wanted to use this pattern again, I made the second sock the next size down. It's a perfect fit.
Several natural wool sample cards (hope springs eternal)
Don't get me wrong. I love my purchases. I don't regret any of them, but there are several moments I recall that are still puzzling to me. Like standing in a huge display of the most gorgeously dyed mohair yarns and saying to my sister, "These are beautiful, but I don't really want any mohair." DUH...it's on the list!! Or returning to Morehouse Merino's display three times, despite my clear intention not to purchase any more variegated yarns. (But their lace weight yarns...how can something so soft and lightweight have such an appealing crinkly-crispy look when knitted up? Soft but crisp...must ponder.) *sigh*
And all of you who would like to have gone but couldn't afford the trip? A tip. Buy piles of these baskets and get a vendor's booth next year. We each bought one and were continually stopped (dozens of times) for directions to the seller, who sold out by noon.
I am here to testify that all of your imaginary online friends do, indeed, exist. I know, because I met many of them Saturday in Maryland. And recognized many more. To be in a crowd of *strangers* about whom you know so many details was a little surreal. I know that word is overused, but it definitely fit Saturday.
My first close encounter of the blog kind occurred when I arrived with my sister at the meetup spot at the appointed time of 12:30. By then the festival grounds were mobbed and there were throngs of people in the immediate area. A quick visual scan...are we in the right place?...ahh, a familiar face. I tentatively approach...a few words of small talk with her companion. I awkwardly introduce myself. I'm Jan, from Bemused....? (Running through my head...have you ever read it heard of it seen it on a link list vaguely recall some reference to it somewhere what am I doing here????) A shriek, a hug! "Jan!! I'm Carolyn!!" How funny!!
I was then whisked away with them to lunch (how can one resist this invitation..."You have to come and meet Norma!!") and spent the next hour meeting and greeting somany of my longtimereads as well as many friendly bloggers whose names escape me now. What a wonderful community! I brought the camera so here are a few glimpses of the day. (Sorry, no sheep.)
Since Kelly asked, here's another of my molas. The attached band along the bottom is part of the original blouse that hasn't been removed.
Isn't it fun? It's so graphic and definitely another of my favorites. As usual, you can click for a closer view. Kelly has provided some information on several Japanese books about molas. If anyone's interested, I'll mention some favorite mola books of my own next week.