Tag Archives: knitting

SOLVE THE MYSTERY!

OK team – a new contest. This picture gets posted to my timeline weekly. After two years of this, I decided to trace its story via GoogleImage. No info. Can’t find anything other than first circulation date and that it appears to be Dutch.
So, the first person to bring the correct full story (who are they; who made the stuff; was this a dare, a charity, for fun, etc.) wins a free Spay and Neuter afghan, colors of your choosing (you pay postage only). Let’s get to the bottom of this. It’s kinda making me crazy.
crochet guys

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, crafting, Downton Abbey, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Sweetest Mysteries of Generosity

stuffTwo large parcels arrived yesterday evening just as my friend Elizabeth and I were headed to Needlework Night. I wished afterward I’d opened them before we left.

They were from John, a nice man who has a soft spot for cats. He sent me his wife’s crafting collection, as Alzheimer’s had ended her use for it, and he wanted the cats to have its benefits.

john box(Thank you, John!)

Among the oodles of lovely yarn and really nice cross stitches and books were a few items I’d never encountered before. Some looked like they were for knitting, which is great, because my friend Isabel and I have an arrangement; she takes the knitting stuff and brings me lovely character knit dishcloths to sell for the cats.

But amid the stitch counters and holding pins and needle tippers were some items that looked…. diabolical. In his sweet note John had said quite pointedly (ha ha, get it, pointed?) that he didn’t have a clue what some of the items were.

Neither did I.

Enter the fine folk of CROCHET ADDICT, a list of some 70,000 participants on Facebook. I photographed the seven mystery items and put up the photo.

Oh dear…… Who knew there could be such debate about some items?Thankfully, there were no fistfights – and if you’re on a large crafting forum on Facebook, you know exactly what those cyberfights look like. If you’re not, well, think political debate, with yarn, add menopause and PMS, and then factor in that the discussion is exponentially more important to those participating than any rhetoric of politics.

Then run for your life.

thingsHave a look, from top left being number 1 to bottom right being number 7, and see how many you can name. And then scroll down to see what the list came up with. The little photo is a close-up of number four in the picture, because the first time I posted, someone said the black bit was velcro. I’m no great shakes as a photographer.

 

 

DONT PEEK

DON’T PEEK

ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE TIRED OF GUESSING?

 

OKAY – here we go

1 is either a bobbin or a pompom maker, and quite possibly useful as both

2 is a cable knitting needle (think Fair Isle sweaters, because I am!)

3 is bobbins for a graphgan (and I have one in mind so am excited to have these)

4 is something to put over knitting needles to keep them from sliding off a project – except it might be a threader instead, depending on which faction you follow on Crochet Addict.

5 is a very old thread waxer – not even sure they make these anymore. You thread your thread (yes, I know, bad Wendy, verb and noun same word) through it and the beeswax keeps it from tangling and makes it stiffer for getting into the needle and working with on finer projects, like delicate quilting. (WHEE! I’m so happy to have this!!!!!)

6 is another kind of cable knitting needle – yo, Isabel!

7 is a (pick one) darning needle, amigurami needle, setting buttons into upholstery needle, surgical suturing needle. I’m cool with any of these.

December folder 047I’m also grateful to John for sending these and the rest of that big stash for the benefit of the Wise County Cats. Hadley and her friends say “THANKS MR. JOHN!”

And Jack and I continue to hold you and your wife in the light. Thanks!

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, Downton Abbey, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Of Hookers, Husbands, and Wives

I like to crochet while minding the bookstore, and joined an online crochet forum a couple of months ago. It turned out not to be much fun. A few days in, people were fussing about announcements of imminent grandchildren “disguised as crochet posts with plans to make a stupid hat or something.”

jack hat afghanWhen I posted a pic of Jack wearing a needleworker’s bag on his head after a crochet-and-knit meeting at the bookstore, the message came from a list administrator that the pic had been removed and I should review the rules.

Everybody knows it’s hard to work with wool that’s too tightly wound—stuff stretches out of shape—so I got off the list. But a few days later someone (I don’t know who or how) joined me to a much bigger group, and over time they seem to be less apt to felt their fibers into itchy knicker twists.

What’s really fun about the list I’m on is how much husband-wife adorability comes up. A few weeks ago a woman went into false labor and was sent home from the hospital to “absolute and complete” bedrest. At seven months, she figured she’d be bored out of her mind, but when she reached the bed, her hubby had stacked on it several skeins of yarn, a five-pack of assorted hooks, and a boxed set of DVDs of her favorite TV show, seasons 1-5.

Now that’ s manning up, ladies and gentlemen.

Another lady’s husband got hurt on the job and has a six months recovery to endure. Depression set in and she despaired. His second week at home, he picked up one of her hooks and some yarn (which she needed for a work in progress). She kept her mouth shut and watched him produce the world’s most lopsided dishcloth, which she told him was perfect; she then photographed it and slammed the thing up on the list with a brief backstory. List members cheered his bad edgings and suggested projects, and several posted pictures of manly men crocheting. He’s about halfway through a very nice granny square afghan, after asking his wife a few days ago, “Hey, how do you change colors?”

A woman’s husband woke her Saturday past with a “get your crap out of the living room today; I’m tired of looking at it.” She gave him a baleful stare and went to see what on earth he was talking about, since she considered the living room “his mancave”—and found he’d paid $230 at an estate sale for about a ton of yarn and several boxes of hooks.

Husbands can be very sweet. So can crochet lists, if you find one where a little humanity keeps the edges in line.chickens

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, crafting, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Why Writing is Like Crocheting (or Knitting) II

Today’s blog is dedicated to all the needleworkers out there, keeping the world warm and held together.

yarnStarting is the hardest part, isn’t it? The blank page {shudder} – nothing is scarier. And part of it is knowing that the foundation row has to be right. How often have we made an afghan that’s gorgeous, except down at the bottom it’s too tight and curls and won’t lie flat. Or worse, worked our way up and found on row 20 that the reason for this ever-increasing mistake is a tiny error back on row 2–and you have to go back and fix it, or nothing will turn out right.

Which is debilitating, as you stare at that massive tangle of ideas that might or might not be one single and whole thread, the piece of yarn that’s all gnarled up together so you can’t even see the beginning and ending of it. Your heart sinks as you take up the mass of loops and knots all stuck together, and yet, there’s this tiny piece of you that wants to get in there and tackle the thing, rise to the challenge, subdue it, turn order into chaos… and that’s pretty much the opening process, isn’t it? Every story has a beginning, the entry point A, and an ending, the exit point Z, so you try to find yours in all those crazy ideas tied together in your head, and they wind so tightly together that they seem like one thing.

But then you find either point–the beginning or the end–and start moving, forward or backward, patiently, one hand on the thread and one pushing through the tangle, moving, sifting, unwinding, over and under and back up again with gentle movements–although every once in awhile you just give the whole thing a good hard yank accompanied by a correctly-conjugated F word, and go get yourself a glass of something. Then you come back and sit down and think some more, slow, patient, finding the thread that runs through the middle of all those knotted bits.

And before you know it, you have a plan: a ball of thread to work with, a pattern to follow, and some time to get going. And time makes time, which people who do yarn work understand: it doesn’t take away your time, it gives it back. You write and write, and then you hit a mistake, a bit where the pattern doesn’t seem to read right, a character who dances sideways with a big raspberry, and you get frustrated and put it down and go away.

It’s amazing how a night off provides clarity, because when you make yourself take it up again yarn bombthe next day, well of course, here it is, a mistake in the pattern, or a doubled stitch, a word out of season, an idea in the wrong place, easily fixed, what were all the hysterics for? And on you go.

And on, and on, and then suddenly you look down and the thing that was a tangled mess that became a pattern and a plan has become under your steadily moving fingers a cohesive whole, a recognizable garment, a story to be reckoned with. You didn’t think you were getting anywhere and then BAM you’re putting on the edging, binding the whole ending back to the beginning. It’s colorful, and vibrant, and right.

rainbow-crochet-coatAnd satisfying. So very, very satisfying.

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♪ Ponies in Sweaters ♪ and Sheep with bright Fleeces ♪

Jack’s weekly guest blog (the ponies below are Shetlands in Fair Isle sweaters, promoting Scottish tourism. Jack suggests we all go there now, because it’s warmer.)

shetlands in sweatersAs I write this, the temperature outside is zero degrees F. That’s thirty two degrees below freezing for us Europeans! Our heat pump is going flat out and just managing to hold 68 degrees in the bookstore. On days like this we don’t expect many customers. Everyone is huddled inside, the local schools and colleges closed because of the ice rinks that used to be roads.

Wendy and I have moved our center of today’s operations upstairs to the Second Story Cafe where it’s just a bit warmer (two degrees, to be precise). She is writing in the guest room and I am running the bookstore from a cafe table.

Locals tell us that the last few weeks are the coldest they can remember for a long time and I believe it. Even for a weathered Scotsman like me, this is freakishly cold.

Winters in Scotland…. ah, I thought I’d left them behind. I often tell folk that summers here are considerably warmer, but winters are much the same. This is not what I’m used to. Also, these really cold spells seem worse because the summers are so hot to me, creating more of a contrast. Then, too, the bookstore is in a big old house with drafty windows and doors. In Scotland, I believe the houses were better equipped to handle cold weather.

On the other hand, I may have just worn more appropriate clothing! Americans don’t work so much with wool as we do back on the Isles. And of course, your sheep aren’t as cute, either.sheep

Amidst the polar vortex onslaught, this place still manages to be an oasis (or perhaps an arctic camp) for some of our hardier customers. Our excellent chef Kelley has slept in the guest room these past two nights, to be sure of opening for hot breakfasts, and people are showing up, cold, wet and hungry for these and her bowls of warming lunch soups. Even our defiantly outdoor cat Beulah has given in and taken up residence (also in the guest room, fighting for bed space with Kelley) until things improve.

So we wait, hopefully and patiently, for the promised return more normal temperatures by the end of the weekend, and–less hopefully–for our January power bill. But I do think about grabbing Wendy and making a trip to Scotland soon, just to warm up. It might prove cheaper than heating the bookstore.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

What Yarn has Taught Me about Writing

Wendy yarnMy name is Wendy, and I’m a yarn hoarder [pauses for hellos from the assembly].

Not that this is a problem, mind. I enjoy my addiction. In fact, yarn has taught me many good things over the years, particularly about writing. The processes are similar: sit down, follow a thread, create a whole piece.

So here are a few pieces of wisdom that have found me during yarn meditations:

1) Every tangle – be it plot, wool, or life – has two entry points: the beginning, and the end. Find  either one, and it will eventually lead you to the other. And help you untie your knots. And leave you with a nice little ball to play with.

2) While tension is required to hold a project together, knowing when to finesse with gentle fingers (or words) versus when to give a good hard yank, is important. Too much tension creates an impossible situation–remember that television series known as 24?–while too little leaves a shapeless messy mass. Enough tension to keep the needle (or pen) moving with surety, not so much that the project fights its own creation: that’s the way to do it.

yarn kitten3) Cats do not help with the actual physical goal, but they sure are fun to have around during the work. Kids, too. Cuteness never hurts, and it lowers the blood pressure. Even if maybe you ought not let the cat or child actually write on any of the manuscript…. or play with the yarn.

yarn tangle 14) When dealing with a particularly large or vicious muddle, the first thing to do is separate out that which does not belong. Not everything in life is tied to everything else, even in Buddhism. Get rid of the bits that don’t contribute, and what you have left is a thread you can follow. Of course some projects are made of multiple colors and threads, but the time to weave them together is after they’ve been disentangled from each other and understood as themselves.

5) Don’t underestimate how much you’ve got to work with–or how fast words can pile up. Sure, kids, meals, day jobs, and the other stuff get in the way, but when you pick up your project–be it knitting needles, or nouns and verbs–just give it a few rows and don’t worry about speed. When you look back from the far end, you’ll be surprised at what those little bits and pieces of time and effort added up to, over the long haul.

birds in the nest6) Have fun. Joyless crocheting is like joyless writing: dull, misshapen and lumpy. You’re doing something cool. Disappear into it. Dive deep. Tangle and disentangle, sing the colors, swing those needles, and drink wine–or diet coke. It’s your project. Do what you want!

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Filed under crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, Uncategorized, writing

Who, Us?

     Tuesday past at Needlework Night was the annual post-holiday Leftovers Party. We hold two of these each year, one the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the other the Tuesday after New Year.  Each needleworker brings some leftover food—the rules are very specific: no cooking; no prettying up; just haul out the plate with the cling film cover and bring it along—and drink.
     After New Year, each attendee also brings a leftover present for the Rude Santa gift exchange (the one where you can steal each other’s presents).
     So no one, least of all Jack (who had to fly solo that night because I was out of town) thought anything about the brown paper-wrapped package sitting on the end table alongside one of the shelves. The Needleworkers pulled leftover Christmas crackers, ate cheese ball and fruitcake, and traded stories of in-law hells, house guests from hell, and drunken office party hellraisers as they swapped crockery, sweaters, cookie tins and other “I don’t want this” presents accumulated during the 2012 holiday run.
     But as the party ended and everyone began putting on coats, pulling off their paper crowns, and tucking their new gifts for old into their needlework baskets, the package still sat there. Jack picked it up. It definitely contained books.
     “Anybody forget this?” he asked. All demurred. Jack shrugged and tore open the paper.
     You guessed it: Fifty Shades of Grey, the trilogy.
     “All right, ‘fess up. Who left these?” Jack said with a laugh, waving them above his head amid the women who form Big Stone Gap’s library board, hospital auxiliary, and church vestry committees for every conceivable denomination.
     They all looked shocked. As if, said their lightly mascaraed eyes beneath the sensible pageboy haircut variations.
     So, we have another set of Those Books in the bookstore—or had. Someone bought them Friday afternoon, half off retail since they were used. There were some yarn strands left as bookmarks in a couple of passages, but in a small town, it doesn’t do to pay close attention to who’s working with which fibers. Live and let knit.

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