Monday, January 29, 2018

Sock it to Me

The weathermen were just messing with us. 
It did warm up for a while and rained and rained and rained, but tonight we'll be back in the thirties(F)brrrr. 
So we're still doing winter knitting.

I learned to knit with Sr. Bridget in first grade. Yellow wool, tiny needles. Every stitch a tongue biting struggle. They were so tight they might as well have been glued to the needles. And when, mysteriously, my ten tight stitches took off on their own and grew to thirteen, and fifteen and nineteen tight stitches, I was sure I'd be in trouble.
Until I hit on a cunning plan.
If I knit two tight stitches together, almost biting my tongue off in the process, at each end of the needle for a few rows, I could get back to the legal limit and hope that Sr. Bridget wouldn't notice the bulging edges in the illegal part.
It made a very nice bonnet for my doll.

New adventures in the needle arts awaited in third grade. Knitting on four needles - 
But heartscald lay ahead. Getting the hang of stitches in the round wasn't bad, the problem lay in turning the heel. The rest of third grade is a blur.
Such childhood trauma sends you to the therapist's couch in adulthood so I obliterated it from my brain.

 But there was no getting away from knitting. It was all around me - my mother, my granny, my aunts, the neighbour ladies - were all avid knitters.  Every baby ever born got a hand knitted matinee jacket with matching booties and hat. My mum knit my navy cardigan for school and every other jumper I wore.  Woe betide the hapless child (me) who happened by as she embarked on a new project. Wool came in skeins which had to be wound into balls. I'd have to stand in front of mother's chair with both arms extended.  She'd drape a skein over my wrists and tell me to hold it taut while she wound it into a ball. But never fast enough for me, convinced as I was that one more minute of such torture and my arms would fall off. I'd eye the skeins still to be wound and groan. Begging for mercy didn't work. I was young and healthy and she assured me that this would build character.

Auntie Ita, on the other hand, made knitting fun. Not really our aunt but a friend of the family, I spent many afternoons at her house. She showed me how to knit fancy tea cozies and hot water bottle covers, perfect gifts for mums and grannies and aunts at Christmas. She also let me help her to knit teddy bears and other stuffed animals for childrens' charities. 

Little by little I came to love knitting especially when I could choose my own patterns and yarn.

The big breakthrough came when I decided to knit myself an Aran sweater.  Here's a close up of the pattern.

I think I was 18 when I knit it and I still have it all these years later. It is without a doubt the oldest piece of clothing I own.
All those honeycombs, cables and diamonds make Aran knitting much more interesting than just simple plain and purl. Because you can see the pattern forming, it also seems to go faster, and of course everyone thinks you are so clever for being able to do it! What they don't realise is that anyone who can knit plain and purl can make any of those complicated looking designs.

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So, winter weather. 
A friend comes over one day and wants me to teach her how to knit. It's one thing to do it, quite another to teach it, but, with a little refresher course from Google, we're off to the races.
Scones and cups of tea are consumed, the problems of the world are, if not exactly solved, thoroughly discussed, and before we know it she has the basics down and is knitting up a storm. Would that I'd caught on that fast in first grade!

She comes another day to knit and, so that I'm not sitting idle while her needles fly, I go digging among the artifacts, knowing that if I dig deep enough, there's a sock project I abandoned several years ago that could be excavated and finished. And wouldn't I feel like the clever girl then!

And so it came to pass. I finished the sock. It's a little on the ginormous side since I'm a lazy knitter, and a loose one, never bothering to check my guage. It would be a better fit on Finn McCool but nothing daunted, I'm calling it a slouchy sock - you know, the ones that puddle around your ankles when you're wearing leggings? Yeah, those ones. The yarn is a heathery blend of greens and purples and it knit up quickly and I did feel like a very clever girl. I'll feel even more like one if I finish its partner, hopefully in a lot less time than the first. Because what use is one sock to anyone, with the possible exception of Long John Silver?

I'd better hurry though. The window for doing wintery things, like knitting, is closing fast.
Meanwhile Finn McCool is waiting for his second sock.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Cold Bare Boughs of Winter

It's Winter in Florida, something that hasn't happened in quite a few years. So many in fact that there are those among us who, in that string of mild winters where we never put our shorts and sandals away, foolishly donated much of our lingering winter clothing. 

Bare boughs of winter
This year such coats and jackets as escaped the purge are all out of mothballs. Sandals have been replaced by real shoes, sweaters are back in use, our necks are wrapped in scarves, out heads in woollen caps,our hands in gloves, and thank God for woollen leggings!

By the time I don enough layers to brave the outdoors I look like Johnny Forty Coats - tights and top, trousers, sweater, zip up fleece, mittens and scarf, all bundled up inside a lined winter jacket (dug out from the furthest reaches of the closet) and can hardly squeeze myself through the door.  Okay, I'm exaggerating, but only a little.

There's no sympathy from our north dwelling children. They laugh, they snort, they harden their hearts. 

We used to be tougher than this but years in the sun have diluted our blood and turned us into wimps. The house is warm but still at night I pile on the blankets, the wooly socks and my precious - the hot water bottle. In spite of all this, as long as I can keep my toes from freezing, we're happy to be getting a winter. It does break the monotony of endless sunshine (this is where the children stop snorting and start growling). It also probably bodes well for our blueberry patch which has not produced more than a handful of berries these last few years for want of at least a month of cold weather. 

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Before winter set in
December flew by with its pants on fire. It always does that, just to spite me 'cause it knows I'm never ready for the holidays but this year it was something different. Unscheduled adventures of the driving/automotive variety. Early in the month the OC was driving, not far from our house, when someone, who we can only surmise was blind in one eye and couldn't see out of the other, turned left into a side road right in front of him, completely failing to yield the right of way, crashing into the side of his car and sending him and themselves to the hospital. He was hurt but managed to climb out on the passenger side. His car was wrecked but he, by some miracle, when I reached the scene, was walking around, spitting nails and refusing to climb on a stretcher until I was there to transfer everything from the remains of his car into mine. An automated system built into his car had called the fire and rescue service and he had called me. That was a nerve wracking five minute trip.

  No bones were broken and he got out alive but, instead of the usual holiday preparations, we embarked on a dizzying round of two nights in the hospital with hourly pokings for blood, tests, scans, MRIs,  visits to doctors, chiropractor appointments, phone tag with insurance companies and sadness at losing his all-time favourite car. 

 But we're so glad he's alive to suffer through all that. How close he came to not being was scary.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How was your Christmas? Ours was quiet. No crowds of returning swallows and chicks, just a quiet day, dinner with our friendly neighbours and phone calls with those far flung chicks. Are we really half way through the first month of the year already?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Breaking news: Winter, when she comes at all to Florida, does not linger long. Usually just until we re-accustom ourselves to real shoes, layers of warm clothes and piles of blankets. Now that we've got it down
the weathermen say it's about to warm up! Go figure. There'll be no complaints from here about the heat for a long while, no matter how hot it gets!