Noro Silk Garden Solo is available at Webs and Jimmy Beans Wool, and at your local purveyor of Noro.

Labour and Wait

labourandwait.jpg
Dear Ann,
The comments to my Virginia Vacation post are a testimonial to the Power of Blogging. We heard from people who live in Charlottesville, drive by Mount Vernon every day, garden at Monticello, work in the Needle Lady Yarn shop, work across the street from the Needle Lady yarn shop, somebody who was leading a group of 50 third-graders through Williamsburg the day I was there, and somebody who went to high school with the portrait artist who painted Carrie. There was a real live Williamsburg historical reenactor, and a person whose job is figuring out what color the original paint was in Houses of Historical Importance. We also heard from somebody who proposed to her husband at Manassas National Battlefield. (“There is Jackson standing like a stone wall—and a couple of crazy kids smooching.”) The comments gave me such a sense that wherever we go, we are walking through all these unseen connections with each other. The knitters are thick on the ground. We really do need a secret handshake, or a scarlet K or something.
Weirdness and the Eye of the Beholder
I don’t have much to contribute today, because, like you, I have been wrassling with this behemoth:
thirdpass.jpg
The Last Pass of our beloved second book. Usually when I get to the last of anything, I am a bit nostalgic and sad. This is not like that. This is like GET OUT OF MY HOUSE YOU ARE THE SCOURGE OF MY EXISTENCE AND COME BACK WHEN YOU ARE A REAL BOOK OK? So glad to have you to tag-team this thing with me.
thisseemsweird.jpg
This was my favorite query. Is it a compliment? Is the implication that we should make it less weird? Can we get more specificity on the nature of the weird-seemingness? Can we get a do-over?
The Puzzler
I can never, ever in a million years solve the Weekly Puzzler on Car Talk. If there were a Puzzler for knitting, I might have a chance. This is a Textile Puzzler.
Belinda is visiting. She brought me this item from an East London shop called Labour and Wait:
labourandwaitdetail.jpg
Clues: I am heavyweight linen, pressed and quite possibly starched.
labourandwaititem.jpg
I am about 8 feet long and about 2 feet wide with a single seam, creating a very large loop of very wide fabric. I have selvedges on both edges.
What am I?
(Note: Labour and Wait sells some vintage items. I don’t know if this is one of them.)
(Belinda reports that her shopping companion wondered why she was buying such a thing. Belinda responded, “Kay will LOVE this!” Which was correct. I love it. Whatever it is.)
I’m sure I’ll have some knitting to show soon. I feel it coming on.
Love,
Kay

Tags:

99 Comments

99 Comments

  1. um, is that the towel from one of those old-fashioned washroom towel drier thingies?
    you were in my neck of the woods too! (yes, knitters are everywhere…)

  2. Hmm…. your mystery item sounds like one of the towels in an old towel holder in a restaurant or other public place – you’d pull on it and clean towelling would emerge until it was all used up; the attendant would then change out the towel. Sound plausible?

  3. I think it looks like a roller towel, even Laura Ingalls used one on their railroad trip to the West while waiting for Pa to pick them up at the boarding house in On the Shores of Silver Lake. Could you please explain the April 1 post, I never did “get” it. Thanks,
    Beth

  4. yes, I am piping in to say that this is most likely one of the automatic cloth towel thing-ys.
    …and you were right down the road from me at Mt Vernon! I am halfway between there and Old Town Alexandria, right off of the river!
    I hope you enjoyed our little part of the world.

  5. I also think it’s a washroom rotating towel. You can tell us we’re all wrong in the blog, no need to email individually!

  6. Remember those hand drying thingies in public restrooms with the one continuous roll of fabric? Back in the pre-paper towel days? Is this a roll for one of those? Did they actually change the rolls out of those things or was there some sort of magic process that happened when the soiled part of the roll got sucked back up in the dispenser – I’ve always wondered.

  7. Yup – definitely a roller towel.

  8. A roller towel is the first thing that popped into my mind!

  9. The post on the first day of the fourth month was writ all in words with just one beat per word. It is hard to do this and not sound weird. We use a lot of long words it seems.
    (Ann had to ‘splain it to me, too.) I was all, “Why you write so strange?”)
    xo Kay

  10. Definitely a roller towel. We had them at my elementary school (not that I’m old or anything).

  11. Yep, I’m with the old-time roller towel folks. That’s gotta be it. Now, what are *you* going to do w/ it?

  12. Oh, Kay, you book-tease you! Just giving us those tiny peeks at the book-in-progress.

  13. I agree with the towel roll thing. Things my kids will never see.

  14. Totally a roller towel. Still in use many places in the UK; probably better for the environment than paper towels but more likely to give you skin borne diseases.

  15. Well, you were nowhere near me in Berkeley, but I’ve been to those places! Long ago we took a trip that I refer to as “battlefields and war memorials” – took in most of Virginia, Gettysburg and ended with the holocaust memorial in D.C.

  16. I vote for roller towel as well — and not so old fasioned at that.

  17. pitching in with the roller-towel group. One time and so far only one time has the Car Talk puzzler been about knitting. The question involved being able to estimate how many feet more you could knit a scarf. The answer was by weighing the remains of skein… and it was a repeat question – the one time I could answer, and it was a repeat (sigh.)

  18. Gee, I thought it might be some sort of strait-jacket accessory, but I seem to be outvoted.
    And I’d like to say that I’ve never been to any of those places you went, but (ahem) you’re welcome to come to Toronto on your second book tour! Or any ol’ time!

  19. Yeah, looks like a roller towel. If you feel up to it, cut it into fitting lengths and seam for individual handtowels.

  20. This could be the guts of an old roller towel, as others have guessed, though at two feet it seems too wide. But I really think it’s some kind of industrial belt that carried items along on its linen top and moved them somewhere else. Think of Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory.
    As West Coasters we didn’t drag our kids on trips to the Historic Sites of Our Country’s Birth but we WERE those embarrassing people who marched them through the California Missions. The horror!

  21. Add me to the roller towel camp. Cool fabric, tho.

  22. I thought about it. Figured out what it is, opened up the comments, and it looks like everyone else figured out the same thing. Restroom roller towel.
    Dang! cause I cannot figure out those word puzzles to save my life. Ann! just tell us already.

  23. Ok, I thought I was all smart when I thought of the funny continuous towel machine and figured out that’s what you might have. Clearly others are smarter, and quicker than I. I always figure out the puzzler too, right after they give the answer!

  24. it HAS to be a towel roller towel.
    I always wanted to know if the roller pressed the towel again, because it came sout of the thing so nice and tidy, and then went back in. Did it collect yards and yards of the stuff, waiting to be changed and laundered, or did it recycle it, so you were wiping your hands on someone else’s dried hand prints? I always wondered, and hoped the answer was the first, but knew in my heart it was the second.

  25. Oh, well done Belinda – great present from a great place.

  26. Definitely the towel from a vintage rest room towel-thingy.

  27. I must also weigh in and say: Rotary/roller towel. Bet you could un-pick the seam, paint or embroider something purty on it, and use it as a table runner.
    Is there a twelve-step program for crafting?

  28. I agree with everyone on the hand-towel. I’m still bothered by the “weird” comment. I agree that it is not a really helpful comment–weird just doesn’t cut it. Surely an editor can come up with something better than that?

  29. I’m betting on roller hand towel.
    And how could the editors be sure that “weird” was not what y’all were going for???
    ;-)

  30. I think Kathy DiGi might be on to something. Is two feet too wide for a roller hand towel? I’m liking the conveyor belt idea.
    Regardless, what a most excellent find.

  31. Looks like one of those continuous loop towels that you used to find in restrooms.

  32. Hmm, the East Lancashire Towel Company sells roller towels that are 41 cm (about 16 inches) wide . . .

  33. Here’s a link to the Car Talk knitter puzzler. I agree, it was the only one I’ve ever been able to figure out: http://www.cartalk.com/content/puzzler/transcripts/200723/index.html

  34. Okay, now Google yields a poem, “The Old Roller Towel,” on this page about Kansas poetry:
    http://skyways.lib.ks.us/poetry/siftings/towel.html
    I’d paste the whole poem here but I don’t know if I’m allowed to do that.

  35. I will stop soon, I promise.
    Wikipedia has an entry on the manuturge, which is a roller towel used by priests. I’m guessing it’s a bit shorter than what you have. :-)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuterge

  36. Well it does seems almost certain that all the other commenters are correct, and it’s a big hand towel thing. But what came to mind when I saw it was one of those german ironing machines. (They have a great name, I just can’t think of it. Can anyone help me out?) I actually used one when I was an au-pair in Switzerland. I thought maybe your item could be the covering for the rollers on this machine I can’t think of the name of … sigh

  37. The closest thing I have found to a knitter’s secret handshake is Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket. The WoolyBabe was lucky enough to receive two as gifts, and whenever she has it on a knitter pops out of the woodwork to admire it.
    We score double knitter-cred points for the one that was made with handspun.

  38. I’ll bet it’s a towel from a public restroom – I remember reading about something like that once upon a time. It was long enough that a lot of people could dry their hands with fresh towel. I’d assume they were washed at a certain point. :)

  39. They did have a knitting themed puzzle on Car Talk one time. It had something to do with a woman who was working on a scarf and she was, as one is wont to do in her situation, wondering if she had enough yarn. Her husband took the scarf (needles, yarn and all) into the kitchen and then returned to assure her that yes, she had enough. The question was how did he know and the answer was that he weighed it on their little food scale. I figured I was missing something because the answer seemed so obvious. I guess that something like weighing a scarf on a food scale may not be considered normal behavior.
    I second the need for a secret handshake.

  40. Mrs. Jolly Green Giant’s first attempt (thus the forgotten half twist) of a woven mobious scarf for the Mr.?

  41. well its either a towel or one of those things that go on the exercise machine that shakes you…

  42. Whatever it is we need to get it into the vat…stat.

  43. I would totally wear a scarlet K. I’m picturing something along the lines of Laverne’s big L. :)
    Looking forward to the book, even if #023 is still weird!

  44. I immediately thought it was a towel from a fixture for public restrooms (in a far, far away time). Now , of course we are much too germ-aware (phobic?) for such a thing.

  45. ewwww….I hope it is not a used towel thingy….I remember them….

  46. Definately a roller towel. These towels were also used in the homes prior to paper towels. My godmother’s mother had one in her kitchen in Maine. When it became dirty, she would put a clean towel on the roller. The soiled towel was re-washed and dried just like any other towel.

  47. i am on a bread kick (and it is all cristina’s fault) so i am seeing linen proofing cloth in the photo.

  48. I agree with the towel roller.
    And, Beth F, I just finished rereading By The Shores of Silver Lake last night! :)

  49. I agree with the towel roller.
    And, Beth F, I just finished rereading By The Shores of Silver Lake last night! :)

  50. Actually, there was once a knitting Puzzler on Car Talk – the answer was weighing the yarn on the kitchen scale to see if there would be enough for something (second sock? more scarf?). However, in the set-up, I think the knitter asked her husband to figure it out, not vice versa.

  51. I throw my bets in with the bathroom towel loop. I love those things. he better question is, what will you do with it???

  52. Roller towel again. They were very sturdy linens.

  53. I don’t have a guess but I say it’s definitely not a restroom towel. If you’ve never seen the inside of the dispenser it’s actually two ends of one long piece rolled up so the clean roll is pulled down and the dirty roll winds up the intake. It’s not one long continuous loop that gets reused, that would be really unsanitary.

  54. Aaaah, the ignorance of youth! Of course, it is a roller towel. Do you not use this linen dispenser in your WC? Please, give us a challenge next go round.

  55. I think it looks like a restroom towel. The weave, the size, it’s just missing a stripe down the center. I love your blog!

  56. Yep, roller towel. My great-grandmas both had one in their kitchens when I was a tiny kid. I remember because I wasn’t tall enough to reach them.

  57. Kathy in Juneau, I think you mean a mangle. My husband’s aunt had one in her basement to “sterilize” the clothes. Glad I wasn’t her kid.

  58. Yes, YES, thank you Barbara, now I don’t have to spend the day trying to think up that word!! ;-)

  59. Speaking of the power of blogging, coincidences, people being near where you are on a certain day etc….. I work just down the road from Labour and Wait. Mad.

  60. Oh makes me think of my grandmother’s kitchen 60 + years ago. The towel holder hung on the door to the basement so darn smart it was. I would love one in my kitchen I think. Thanks for the memory. Nice that your readers all knew it was a roller towel. Now in another 60 years no one will have a clue.

  61. Looks like a towel from an old gas station restroom

  62. Gosh Car Talk is great. I used to transcribe their weekly puzzler, which was a lot of fun even if I couldn’t always quite tell them apart.
    Of course, I don’t know what your linen item is, but I just had the horrible image of the shaking belts (I think they were called exercise belts). It can’t be correct, but it is a funny idea!

  63. I agree with Tabitha. But given the possibility that this might, in fact, be a towel from a gas station restroom- do you really want to be handling it? EUWWW!!!

  64. Roller towel! Do I win something? :-)

  65. Oh, it’s one of those old roller towels! I always wondered how long they were! I think they were taken away almost everywhere by the time I was 10, but I vaguely remember them. And I always wondered how if they were just a loop as long as they look, why weren’t they always wet?

  66. looks like a roller towel to me. the last place I saw one was in the kitchen of a Nebraska farmhouse.

  67. Re: the April 1 post–my poetry teacher told us that we naturally speak in iambic pentameter, which would explain why it is hard to speak/write in a different way.

  68. I was in the car with my husband for the knitting puzzler and couldn’t wait to get to a computer to answer. I got it right, but didn’t win. Guessing on the mystery item, my grandfather had one of those silly machines where you wrapped the cloth belt around your hips and it vibrated ( like a sideways washroom roll) scary!

  69. I think it’s too wide to be a roller towel, although that was my first thought. I was also very happy to hear that the towels were not one continuous loop (Thank you, jen).
    For the nostalgic, something called the East Lancashire Towel Company still sells the towels AND the holders. (I Googled “roller towel.”)

  70. But have you ever, in all your handwashing days, seen a roller towel that’s two feet wide? That’s a whole lot of roller towel. Maybe it’s a roller towel from Hagrid’s hut. Maybe Madame Maxime made it for him because she understood the trials of living in a world where the roller towels are always too small. But I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a roller towel that was more than about a foot across.
    I think we need some other ideas here. How about a rotating table runner? Put it on a smallish table and just spin it around when somebody knocks over the spaghetti sauce.
    How about one leg of a pair of mummy pants? Loop it around and around from foot to thigh and then pin it to your underwear. Pick up a few more of them to cover your remaining limbs, and you’d have yourself quite the memorable Halloween costume.
    Maybe it was designed as a piece of rhythmic gymnastics equipment — you know, dress up in a leotard and do backflips through it.
    Other ideas? Anybody else puzzled by the idea of a hand towel that’s two feet wide?

  71. OK, CJ, how about a wrap, for a wedding, or something, with a dramatic “mobius-turn”?

  72. My first thought was a roll-up windowshade, unrolled. But I can’t think why that would be an endless loop.

  73. I think it is one of those linen towels from the towel roll machines from the 1950’s back when you could really dry your hands on a real piece of cloth. When it got used up though, you would get a wet part as it “went around again”. Thats probably a very nice woven linen. (I am a weaver as well as a knitter) and I LOVE antique textiles. I like to guess what they were/are, and wonder who made them. Probably machine woven though….
    Nancy

  74. Everyone seems to think it is a roller towel, but I believe it is a headband for the Stalking Giant of Fezzimore, also known as the Dark Creature Who is Really Big Who Walks the Hills. He wasn’t spotted often, but most tales seem to feature him wearing a crisp linen headband, sometimes with a tree branch tucked in jauntily, as a feather-ish motif.

  75. Cripes. Why’s everybody so much smarter than me? Of COURSE they are right, but I never would have figured it out.

  76. You totally have to put it in your bathroom.

  77. Are there points for knowing what the weird number 23 really is. Can’t wait for the book.

  78. Are there points for knowing what the weird number 23 really is. Can’t wait for the book.

  79. I also think it is a roller towel. The Laura Ingalls Wilder reference is probably correct. This kind was used in homes and perhaps also on trains in her day. The ones in public restrooms in the 1950s actually had a huge roll of fabric inside the metal cabinet–I have one of the rolls and have been cutting off and hemming handtowels for years and years.

  80. I also think it is a roller towel. The Laura Ingalls Wilder reference is probably correct. This kind was used in homes and perhaps also on trains in her day. The ones in public restrooms in the 1950s actually had a huge roll of fabric inside the metal cabinet–I have one of the rolls and have been cutting off and hemming handtowels for years and years.

  81. Voting for roller towel as well, the at-home version, not the public one. I recall someone in my childhood who had a towel bar with a removable crosspiece that a looped towel (probably shorter than this one) was slipped over and the family just kept turning it around until it was wash day.
    BUT what is with all the references to the public roller towels being from long ago? We in Canada still see them in some places. Are they outlawed in the USA? Or in some states? I need an answer, people!

  82. I too remember getting the dirty/wet part of the roller towel coming out again, but two feet seems awfully wide.

  83. My daughter (16) had a hockey tournament in Idaho last weekend (and we got stranded in Wyoming on the way home for 2 days but that’s another story). We were travelling with my daughter’s teammate (also 16), her mom and my 7yo daughter when we encountered the blue roller towel in a gas station/convenience store bathroom in either Utah or Idaho. The girls all said “ewww…what the heck is that” and looked at me aghast and said “I’m not touching it” when I explained. I don’t think it had been washed in years (if ever). Luckily the c-store had a nice warm blower-heater that we were able to dry our hands over under the watchful eyes of several deer and antelope heads mounted on the walls. They could have stood a little teeny-tiny project runway-ing up. And perhaps a good Dyson-ing!

  84. The scale is wrong, otherwise it looks like the hand-towel in my grandmother’s farm kitchen. It was easily replaced for laundering because the towel bar lifted out of the holder. It was probably the size of 3 or 4 hand towels sewn end to end. One great advantage was that it didn’t wander off to places unknown when user was distracted, and it didn’t fall on the floor!

  85. Did anyone notice that the Labour and Wait website has hand-knitted dish cloths for sale? Plain white garter stitch squares–the Ballband Dishcloths would blow their minds!
    With all the comments above regarding the old roller towel holders, I’ve had one on my kitchen wall for years. Woodcarving and woodworking were my father-in-law’s hobbies, and he made a pretty one for me years ago. Like Mary Kay commented about her grandmother’s towel holder, mine has a carved dowel that holds the circular towel in place, but lifts out to remove the towel for laundering. My mother-in-law made several fancy embroidered roller towels to go with the holder, and I have subsequently bought pairs of beautiful hand towels and sewn them end-to-end in a circle to use with the holder. New visitors to my home always comment on the towel holder!
    Mary G.

  86. It’s wither a roller towel or a really big lampshade …….

  87. Oh, towel shmowel! WHEN DOES THE BOOK COME OUT? That’s what I am dying for!

  88. Do you think its from one of those old deck chairs?

  89. Yep, a rolling towel. Our son is at UVA – the Needle Lady Yarn shop is nice!

  90. Is it something that was used in a labor and delivery room? Sort of a bed-sized roller sheet? Don’t really know, am just guessing. Hello from Omaha, where we still have weathermen predicting snow this week! AAAAAaaaauuuggghhh!

  91. I have to ask–while you were gone, did you hit Knitting Sisters (Williamsburg) or Colonial Fiber Arts (Yorktown)? And if so–what did you get?

  92. Another vote for roller-towel!

  93. We have one of those roller handtowel thingies in the kitchen of the old farmhouse we use for a summer house on an island here in Maine. It’s been up since Uncle Otis bought the place in 1923, but the linen has been replaced since then, thank you very much. This one gives me an idea, though — since the linen ones we have are starting to get thin from multiple washings, and nice linen dishtowels (to sew together) are getting hard to find — why not knit a couple ala the famous warshcloths? The house already has a basket of cloths, a couple of knitted log cabin bath rugs ….. we could start a new trend!

  94. We have one of those roller handtowel thingies in the kitchen of the old farmhouse we use for a summer house on an island here in Maine. It’s been up since Uncle Otis bought the place in 1923, but the linen has been replaced since then, thank you very much. This one gives me an idea, though — since the linen ones we have are starting to get thin from multiple washings, and nice linen dishtowels (to sew together) are getting hard to find — why not knit a couple ala the famous warshcloths? The house already has a basket of cloths, a couple of knitted log cabin bath rugs ….. we could start a new trend!

  95. sorry for the double post. that’s so annoying …

  96. “The comments gave me such a sense that wherever we go, we are walking through all these unseen connections with each other.”
    This sentiment made me warm inside. I often walk through the world thinking that the thing I am looking, and not really paying attention to, certainly have some deep meaning to someone out there. Probably in the same way that someone else sees a scarf or sweater and doesn’t really notice it outside of it’s practical purpose, while I see it and think of all the time and love put into that object.

  97. I see you have no comments from weavers-
    I know that ’18 inches plus selvedges’ was a standard width for weaving linen in the way-back-when it was all woven by hand. I know that lengths of material were commonly seamed into a loop when they came off the loom, so that nothing would ravel while the material was washed or fulled. Linen was boiled to bleach and set it. I know that 3 yards is a common length, because women’s linen chemises took that much and could be cut and pieced from such a piece (3 yd x 18 inches) with very little waste. I think it’s yardage, with potential to be somebody’s accurate historical garment. Of course, the person who thought about making a table runner has a great idea, too.

  98. I do think we knitters need a recognizable badge of some sort. What popped into my mind instantly, and almost simultaneously, were (1) a crossed knitting needle brooch, somewhat like the crossed knife and fork brooch worn by waitresses at the famous Melrose Diner in Philadelphia (sing along with me now, “everyone who knows, goes, to Melrose, everyone who knows, goes, to Melrose!”); OR (2) one of those very small, very elegant, pleated grosgrain buttons that men of a certain age wear in the lapels of their suits. Quite by accident I found out some years ago that they are made by an ancient firm in France, which makes sense to me as I believe they started out as a replica for recognition purposes of a military medal or legion of honor or some such. And so I think we might have some of these buttons for we knitters. Who has not struggled mightily through a lengthy campaign to untangle a particularly troublesome skein of cotton yarn? Frogged and re-knitted and frogged again? As someone hear has been know to write …. I’m just saying.
    Elizabeth

  99. I do think we knitters need a recognizable badge of some sort. What popped into my mind instantly, and almost simultaneously, were (1) a crossed knitting needle brooch, somewhat like the crossed knife and fork brooch worn by waitresses at the famous Melrose Diner in Philadelphia (sing along with me now, “everyone who knows, goes, to Melrose, everyone who knows, goes, to Melrose!”); OR (2) one of those very small, very elegant, pleated grosgrain buttons that men of a certain age wear in the lapels of their suits. Quite by accident I found out some years ago that they are made by an ancient firm in France, which makes sense to me as I believe they started out as a replica for recognition purposes of a military medal or legion of honor or some such. And so I think we might have some of these buttons for we knitters. Who has not struggled mightily through a lengthy campaign to untangle a particularly troublesome skein of cotton yarn? Frogged and re-knitted and frogged again? As someone here has been know to write …. I’m just saying.
    Elizabeth