rag dolls and woollies

rag dolls and woollies

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You're Knitting What??

My daughter is a doula -- the birth coach/assistant -- you know.  And she is rather GOOD at it, and the fact that I'm her mother has nothing to do with my opinion.  She just is darn good.

 If you're having a baby and want to have a good time -- call Rachel.

So this fall, she decided to add to her already rather impressive list of skills and become a Lamaze instructor.  I used the Lamaze approach when I was having babies.  Apparently they stopped teaching the heavy breathing techniques and I think that is good because I definitely could have done without that heavy breathing part those-oh-so-many-years-ago. 

Her class is composed of an instructor, originally from Zimbabwe,  and seven or eight students, all of varying backgrounds.  Some of them are doulas like Rachel, others have a background in massage, lifeguarding, or La Leche League leadership. They meet once a week for seven hours and will end up with college credit.

Not bad.

Sometimes I even get the grandchildren while she's in class.  A pretty nice deal for me.  I took number two granddaughter to a cute kiddie place full of toys -- ROOMS of toys -- and she was the only kid there. So she burbled around happily while I knit my latest project.

And now the plot thickens. What am I knitting??

You knitters are all familiar with this, of course.  You're out in public and mostly get ignored, but some people will smile at you, and then there is the exceptional individual who will ask --

"What are you making?"

The ones who used to knit tell all about how they used to do it, but their hands got arthritic (this gives me unpleasant shivers), and then there are those that "tried but never could get it," or "made a scarf once."  I like these people.

There are those who say they could "never do it!" and so I reassure them (and I'm sure you do too) that they most certainly can....every woman could do this once...it just takes practice....

But here's the deal.  Remember the Lamaze class? This post began with Rachel's Lamaze class. 

Okay, so they need audio/visual aids to teach all about gestation, labor, birth, post-partum -- and even about complications.  So they use videos, diagrams, pictures, life-sized infant dolls...

And they need uteruses.

The best uteruses are knitted. They have a snap-on birth canal and a ribbed cervix. The body of the uterus is in stocking stitch and the top is closed off in a decreasing swirl like the top of a hat.  They need to have placentas and umbilical cords to "expel" with the baby and it's best if those are knitted, too.

Now there are several styles online.  Some have a drawstring top (to make it easier to jam the baby inside in the first place) and others have a button or zipper opening for C-sections.  Ravelry has a few patterns and there is a Mothering website from Canada that has one too.  That pattern does need to be redone though, because it has a lot of mistakes in it.

So picture yourself, sitting in a hallway, bus station, doctor's office, or lobby, knitting away, and along comes that sweet, unsuspecting person who innocently asks "what are you knitting"?

There is surprise.  "You've got to be kidding me." Shock.  Giggles. "Look," I show them, "You can see the head crowning this way," I say, punching my fist through the "cervix" to show how it works.

To be honest, I especially like punching my fist through the "cervix."  The effect is always a certain......well....je ne sais quoi....

 Listen, there's money in this, too.  These things can sell for as much as $80.00 a pop (sorry), including the placenta.  And if you buy that self-striping baby yarn, they come out real pretty.  My latest is a lovely light lavender with a deeper purple stripe, and little dots all dispersed throughout.  A real work of art....

So those in the knitting business need to consider those doulas, birth instructors and midwives who are out there trying to help the new to-be parents figure out what is what ....


Monday, February 4, 2013

The Uneventful Warp

I like the title of this post -- the Uneventful Warp.  Doesn't it sound nice?  Well, it has never happened for me.  All my warps have been Major Events, Tangled Webs -- a sort of theater in the round. Could have been a TV show entitled, "The Three Stooges Warp the Loom."

I am a self taught weaver, plugging away at it now for about four years.  First I bought Estee's old table loom, a real beauty. I packaged it up carefully to bring it back with me to Israel as one of my two allowable suitcases (remember those days?).  At the El Al counter in New York, they ran it through the X-ray machine.

"What is this?" a nice clerk asked me.

"A loom."

"A what?"

My attempts to explain what it was all failed. It is for making fabric. It weaves threads. It is an old fashioned way to make clothes. It is how people did it before machines. We tried hand gestures, body language....

So they began opening the box, trying to peek at it. They peeked. More confusion. They opened it a bit more. More confusion.  Opened more.  More -- well they opened it all the way, never figured out what it was, decided it wasn't a weapon, and put it on the plane. 

These guys are great in my opinion.  I loved every minute of it.  LOL.  ROFL.  You know.

So I read Debbie Chandler's book on the plane, even underlining important parts, and got home ready to weave. I didn't have a warping board. Ok. No problem. I'll make my own.

With chairs. Door knobs. A coat rack.  Looped around the desk. Warp running the length of the hallway.  Up the stairs. And I could chain my warp just fine, but I never understood THE CROSS.

So I had LONG warps hanging off the back of the loom which I patiently untangled.  And I untangled them as I wove also. Some warp just got cut off.  I wove anyway, and made a tallit for my nephew, some weird towels, a couple of short (really short) scarves (hubby doggedly wears them) and put the loom away for the next year.

In the years that have followed, I still never got THE CROSS. But then I lucked onto a great find. A cherry wood 40" wide Norwood 8-shaft floor loom with a sectional beam. People in Israel don't really value this kind of equipment -- and have no one to sell it to. So I got $5,000 worth of stuff for $700.  A-ma-zing!

I have the loom, a bobbin winder, a spool holder, tension box, sectional beam, extra reeds, every kind of shuttle, extra heddles, fancy tex-solve snap ins, bags and bags of unwanted yarn, a warping board (ALAS!! It was broken!!) -- the list goes on and on.

For several weeks, I just nervously sat in the living room and watched it.

Then Dina came over and with her reassuring presence, we poured through books on how to do it and we warped the beam (ok, she did most of it). Then she went home.

There were tension problems. Threads were tangled coming from the sections to get to the heddles. I called Dina. She suggested advancing the warp completely, then rewinding it.  Good idea.

OMG. Threads were snapping all over the place! I advanced that warp at the rate of about three inches at a time, climbing all around the loom, on the floor searching for broken warp threads -- and after 8 hours of this, I fell in love with the loom -- and still can't figure out why -- and then rewound the warp with more threads snapping....

The next warp was handspun silk which was not spun firmly enough...as it turned out.  And I have studied pictures and watched youtube videos and can't get the hang of that weavers' knot. Maybe because I'm left handed? I'd lose warp threads completely and try to figure how to add new threads. Everybody tells you to hang them using film cans with a few pennies in them for weight.

What's with the film cans?? Who has film cans anymore?? I certainly don't! I had nothing I could figure out to use for tensioning new warp threads. So I tied them on and sort of wound them around the pegs on the sectional beam. Well, everytime you advance a warp like that, you have to retie all of them...

But I did weave two more tallits -- and sold one of them! -- and then another!

It's winter and weaving time again. Just wound on a new warp. I put 24 spools on the spool rack and wound on my nice new warp.  As I went to thread the heddles, I find that I've only wound on 23 threads. HOW CAN THAT BE???? I rechecked all the spools and they were all empty and even counted them individually although it is kind of obvious if you have an even number on the spool rack or not.... 

I love weaving. I really do. And now I am even starting to have ideas of what I'd like to make.  I'm spinning yarn just for weaving projects. But an UnEventful Warp?? Don't make me LOL.  Don't make me ROFL.  Don't even think about it!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Inner Piggy

There can be a lot of fads in psychology and many of them are "popular" fads. Maybe you're old enough to remember Games People Play, which came out in 1964 and was a big hit. Or how about I'm OK, You're OK?  That one hit the New York Times best seller list in '72 and stayed there for two years. Many people found they could identify with the 12 step program of AA and soon we understood ourselves to be addicted to all sorts of things -- sex, food, each other.

Even in theoretical -- serious -- academic psychology, there have been "fads." Lobotomies were popular in the 1940s and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a sort of expose about that. There was a time when psychologists chocked an awful lot of problems up to having a "dominant mother and a passive father." Fortunately we seem to be over that one.

We knitting and fiber people -- and you all know who you are -- have long admitted our problems. I'd say we've been in the vanguard of honesty when it comes to ourselves, don't you agree? We've all known about fiberholics and yarnaholics for ages. We talk openly and freely about our addiction to fiber and how we just can't control the urge for yarn.

All this has been out of the closet for years.

But who has been truly willing to name and confront their "inner piggy"?  That grabbing, grasping, insatiable little core of nasty naked greed? The plotting and scheming. The selfish urges. Yes even embezzling money from the food budget! or thinking of doing it! to buy more yarn, more fleece, more roving. More! More! More!

Do you surf the net late at night? Read knitting books in the bathroom? How about daydream about the latest Noro or sari silk while you're driving? Do you use that credit card when you know you shouldn't?? And accidently on purpose forget to remember to mention it to your husband? If a friend asks if you have any extra yarn of a certain color, have you ever lied about it? Did you really donate freely to that kindergarten project??

This is the inner piggy. And I'll be the first to admit it, ok? I'm not blaming anybody else or trying to pass the buck. I saw a merino silk blend on Wingham Wool Works' site (they're in Yorkshire, England) and with trembling hands, reached for the credit card. Cotton Clouds have some lovely warp yarn cones on sale....but I resisted. I stuck to the budget at Camilla Valley Farm (outside Toronto) -- but even after buying 15 pounds of yarn, I woke in the middle of the night wishing I'd just slipped in another copy of the weaving magazine they had. After all, who would have noticed? My husband is just flat befuddled by my stash (muah ha ha ha).

But come on now.  After buying 15 pounds of yarn, it was just flat ungrateful to want weaving magazines too. But that is the inner piggy at work.  Unconscious, but ever lurking, wanting more and more and more and more!

In our family we try to have an accepting attitude about these things. We remind each other that "pig happens," so try not to feel too bad about it. But be honest. Don't just go around thinking your inner piggy is completely innocent --
When I try to deny her true nature, she (quite naturally) gets irritable, angry and more greedy. Suddenly I wake up to find I've gone into another one of those fugue states and -- as if in a dream -- filled my "cart" online and pushed "pay now."

And after I've made that purchase, I'll try to convince myself it won't happen again; that she's happy now and will remain that way....
But I know it's a lie. She'll start wheedling me, wanting more. Looking out for Numero Uno.

So try to journal about this. See if you can identify the piggy early in the game; before she's become angry at being suppressed. Work with her, try to incorporate her into your life more. I truly believe you'll find she can be a good, thoughtful and friendly part of your personality.
And much less expensive.