A Tummy-bug Sabotaged my Day Off

Thursday is supposed to be my "day off". I think it's more correctly defined as my "child-free 5 hours" during which time I rush around the city and the house, madly doing all, most, some, as many as possible of the thousands of things I can't do when I have 3 little girls around. And I am amazed at how quickly those 5 hours fly by, and how little I actually get done out of my long to-do list, which I compile throughout the week in anticipation of my free time.

So I wasn't impressed when I found out (at 2 o'clock yesterday morning!) that I would not be having my "child-free 5 hours." All three youngest girls had caught a tummy-bug, so none of them could go to pre-school. And all of them were very sick, as in making-messes-for-mummy-to-clean-up type of sick.

I left three unwell little girls in front of "Play School" while I washed out cleaning rags and mops in the laundry, and when I checked in on them Mousie was asleep. (With Yellow Mouse.)

I left two ill little girls in the rumpus room listlessly playing with their dolls while I stripped Mousie's bed and hung out the first load of washing, and when I came back inside I discovered that Teddy had put herself to bed. (With Baby Jo.)
I left one sick little girl unenthusiastically building castles with duplo blocks while I made up Mousie's bed with clean sheets and hung out the second load of washing, and when I returned I found Kitcat fast asleep on the sofa. (With her new toy cat Yawny.)
So while I didn't get my 'child-free' time, I still ended up having some peace and quiet after all.

Race and War

I'm never going to get around to editing these photos that have been waiting patiently for weeks, so I'm going to forget about waiting to post till I've prettied up my pics.

A couple weeks ago, Neil and I went to the International Gold Cup steeplechase races and the next day we went to a Civil War re-enactment. You know how I love horsies, so it was a dream come true.

The race was sponsored by Porsche. I'm all for discretion, but I wanted a glamorous picture posing among the cars on display and Neil would have none of it. Come on! I guess it would've been a bit tacky. It was also fun to see all the people on display.

The winner of the $50,000 prize in the main race (there were seven or so races total) was a horse named Bubble Economy, sort of in the middle in the next two pictures below, ridden by the jockey in white and light gray. This was right after they passed the finish line.

The last race of the day.
Neil and I went to a Civil War re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek, 144 years to the day after the actual battle took place. Neil has wanted to go to a re-enactment all summer, so he finally got to live his dream.

Being a native Virginian, I was a little leery about what the whole re-enactment thing was going to be about, but now I would highly recommend attending. The Cedar Creek re-enactment was really awesome -- full uniforms, cavalry, rifles, casualties, etc. It didn't hurt that the battle was a huge Union victory and a major turning point in the war.

As soon as we got there, we heard and felt the reverberations of real cannons going off -- they are incredibly loud, and from 1/2 mile away, you could still feel them shaking your bones. I'm not sure how many people were out on the field, but there could easily have been 1,000. I was really impressed. See for yourself:

My kind of (US) political commentary

Jean, thank you - this site IS delicious.

Edit: And I can't listen to this without squirming. Oh those naughty Canadians.

Jenny's website

A website has been set up for my knitter friend Jenny. Updates on her progress will be posted there.

Please stop by the site and leave her your best wishes - she could use some good energy now, and when she wakes up.

A note on donation: read Karen's comment of October 31 - there is some question as to the accountability of those collecting for Jenny. Prudence demands that you refrain from donation at least until the uncertainty is cleared up.

Basket of Bobbles, Finished

Ruby's Christmas sweater is finished, blocked, sewn, woven, pressed, bezippered, betasselled and reblocked.

Pattern: from Better Homes & Gardens' Knitting Year Round
Yarn: Naturally's Loyal DK (pewter) and Sandnesgarn Smart DK (melon & lime)
Needle: 4.00 mm bamboo circular
Tension: not sure
Finished size: 3X

I bribed my daughter with a cookie again (sugar - the key to effective parenting) and got some FO pictures of this, my second commissioned garment (and third). She is four and a half, so the sweater is a bit too small for her - it pulls on the zipper a little. Shouldn't be a problem on a 2 year old.

I thought about captioning these, but they tell a perfect story on their own. Enjoy...

And Some More Sunsets, because I just can't resist!

When I was looking through my photo folder I discovered this one from 7th September, which I had forgotten about. I had a few different shots of this sunset, but I think this close up of my favourite tree was the best.
On 29th September we had a really pretty sunset, but the colours and the glow only lasted a couple minutes so I had to be quick. I think the nieghbours must wonder about HB and me when we get out on the driveway and start snapping away at the ridge. Between us we must have taken about 40 photos in 2 minutes! But look at that gorgeous glow - who cares if people think we're crazy.
And this was taken the same day, just a minute or less after the one above. It was the sun's last gift to us that day, and I think it looks like the tree has a glowing arch over it.

I must have taken about a dozen photos of this sunset, watching and snapping away as the glow turned golden and then through to this rosy pink. (5th October 08)
On 7th October the skies were mostly cloudless, except this little wispy bit of cloud right on the horizon. As the setting sun lit it up it looked like flames were coming up the other side of the ridge!

And one last photo, this one from 11th October. Nothing really special about this - just those beautiful rosy rays colouring the clouds.

Imperfect, Inimitable

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 6 Number 3
by Kathryn Berenson

I've been meaning to tell you about this book for a long time. I got it a year or two ago and I've been reading it off and on ever since, trying to work up the courage to try this beautiful incarnation of the textile arts.

Broderie de Marseilles is a method of quiltmaking in which two layers of fabric are densely quilted, by hand, with no batt in between. There are often several parallel rows of stitching on the edges of the piece, with the centres featuring designs of flowers, suns, and plants. There are extant pieces featuring more abstract designs, too - usually in a very romantic style. Lots of swirls and curlicues.

Once the entire piece has been quilted, the finished item is corded and stuffed - that is, each individual channel between quilted rows, or each quilted pocket, is stuffed with cotton. To do this, the quilter uses a needle to carefully open a space between the threads of the fabric until it is wide enough to admit a darning needle. She threads a piece of cotton cording into the eye and runs the needle through the channel until the entire channel is corded. She cuts the cord, manipulates the end in through the hole in the fabric, then wiggles that hole closed with her needle. If it is a pocket that needs stuffing, she opens a hole as before, then uses a needle to curl the cording tightly into the pocket, bit by painstaking bit. The holes are all closed up afterwards, and the entire piece is washed.

It takes an unbelievable amount of time, and careful work. When I first saw the book, I was drawn to the gorgeous finished pieces and declared to all, "I am going to learn this technique and make a bed-cover!" Then I read on a little bit and decided, "I'd better make a table runner instead." Then I got to the part with the templates and the instructions for cording and stuffing, and thought to myself "I could really use a coaster."

This book is a sumptuously presented, intelligently arranged blend of history, instruction, and eye candy. Stunning photographs depict gorgeous, brilliantly-coloured textiles, dated from as early as the 18th century. There are closets full of antique quilts, sofas covered in folded florals, and dress forms garbed in authentic Proven├žal regional costume. There are instructions and templates for 11 projects ranging in difficulty from an easy placemat (in imitation broderie de Marseilles) to an advanced single-piece, corded and stuffed wedding quilt in ivory silk.

What impresses me most about this beautiful book is not the inspiration to try the technique - although I am dying to, one of these days - or the respect I feel for these women who clothed their families in this incredible art. What I think about most is the concept of regional dress: the idea that at one time, any given People expressed their identity, their history, their place in the world, and their sense of community through clothing and textiles.

I thought of this book when I was at the Fleece and Fibre Fair, walking around the venue and taking in the knitters, crocheters, felters, and spinners all around me. There isn't one unified dress sense, at all, but there is a unified pride in our accomplishments. Some people are visibly....well I must say tickled pink to be wearing their first botchy, lopsided hat, while buying more yarn to make coordinating chunky mittens. Others are standing watching the spinners, their backs straight and their heads carried with quiet pride above dreamily soft, perfectly-executed lace shawls in baby alpaca.

It was, really, the incarnation of what people refer to as "the fibre arts community". We aren't neighbours, we share neither a place nor a history. We are united not by a common tradition, but by our love for the craft. Maybe there isn't a region, strictly speaking, but there is a regional dress: there was so much Handmade in that hall, it was exhilirating just to breathe such a creatively-charged atmosphere.

I don't imagine the Marseilles needlewomen felt quite the same way about their handwork as we do. In the days before widespread mechanisation, it was nothing extraordinary to clothe one's family entirely in garments made by one's own hands. The extraordinary thing, in fact, would have been to spend the family's money purchasing clothing and linens when you could make them yourself.

Then, as now, the beauty of these items is in their uniqueness: no two pieces are exactly alike. It's a little depressing to look around me, sometimes, and realise just how many things in my house are mass-produced, and therefore also in the homes of hundreds and thousands of other people. I like to think of myself as an individual, a non-conformist, but the reality is I buy the same Rubbermaid bins and Levis jeans as everyone else does.

Times have changed. Making your own clothes isn't unheard of, but wearing them is much less usual. I like to see people taking pride in the works of their hands. I like the feeling of wearing something I've made, and I don't mind when people ask me, "Did you knit that yourself?" As some never tire of pointing out, you can buy a sweater for $40 at the Bay. But nobody can buy MY sweater. I made it myself, and there'll never be another like it.

One of these busy, full days, I'll try some broderie de Marseilles. I have some fabric that I bought specially to try it, and I have even sketched out a template for a stylised sun, very much in the Proven├žal style. It's a little intimidating, but I think if I'm patient and careful I can do it. I'd like to have something that no one else has - even if it's just a coaster.