Aw look! One pattern, 364 versions of the MDK New Ancestral Christmas Stocking.

Stamina

Dear Ann,
I went to the museum with the 4th graders the other day. This was a coveted field trip to chaperone. I had to arm-wrassle a couple of dinkier moms to get the gig. The 4th grade is studing the ancient Egyptians, all year long or at least until rehearsals start for The Fourth Grade Play. (Ancient Egypt is okay, but playing one of the 8 Charlottes or 10 Wilburs in Charlotte’s Web is awesome.) At this point, these 9-year-olds know more about ancient Egypt than most PhD Egyptologists have forgotten. This was their second of FOUR trips to the Met’s Egyptian collections.
Why the coveting of the chaperone slots? This particular tour was guided by the woman who curated the Hatshepsut exhibit. City kids may have a lot to put up with, in terms of not living in sweet-smelling places like Mayberry RFD and having backyards and such, but when they are studying Egypt, by cracky they are STUDYING EGYPT.
I left my charges unchaperoned for at least 10 minutes when I came across this:
egyptflaxtools.jpg
On the left, we have two balls of fine linen yarn, handspun from flax at least 3500 years ago. On the right, we have various flax-working instruments, including a set of KnitPicks Options needles. (Oh just kidding! Everybody knows that 3500 years ago, all they had were Addis.)
This is why we want people to knit their prissy guest towels out of linen. It wears real well. You can’t beat it.
Most of the Met’s Egyptian artifacts relate to the rituals of death. But in this small, dark room related to the implements of daily life, they had all kinds of stuff to do with making flax into cloth. Making flax into cloth was a big deal.
egyptspindles.jpg
Spindles. The state of the art has not changed so much.
Now, we’ve all heard of the affliction known as Stable: Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy.
egypteuroflaxtools.jpg
If you’ve got a ball of Euroflax, you have Stamina: Stash Acquisition Millennia In Advance. Honest to Pete, that’s my own ball of Euroflax Originals Sportweight, in the color ‘natural’. Which, it turns out, really is natural. Same color it was 3500 years ago. Don’t mess with a good, reliable neutral. It looked good on the Egyptians, and it looks great on us today.
egyptkids.jpg
To illustrate my point about the kids today: When I was a kid, on our rare trips to the museum they didn’t let us draw pictures of what we saw. (All I can remember is marble halls and Conestoga wagons.) Needless to say, they didn’t let us lie down on the floor. These kids found a quiet corner, didn’t bug a soul, and studied and drew for a blessed half hour while the chaperones took a load off. I had a little pang when I came upon this scene. When I was 9, I would have loved to lie down in the museum and draw a picture.
HARK! A HOLIDAY THING!
We’ve gotten a few emails from people wanting to mail us books to sign and mail back, for themselves or for presents for people who like to get signed books for presents. It occurred to us that this would not be too efficient, given the lines at the Post Office this time of year. So, anybody who would like an ultra-cute signed bookplate, email me or Ann and we’ll mail you one and you can stick it in the book. (We don’t know what this bookplate looks like yet, but we are sure that it will be ultra-cute. ‘Cause if a thing is not ultra-cute, it is not worth doing. )
Happy Monday!
Love, Kay

Tags:

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. When I was in middle/jr. high school, the local science museum had classes on Saturdays where we got do all sorts of fun things like this up close & personal with the collections. Glad to see some schools understand the value of seeing stuff in person and not just reading about it. (Yes, the reading is important but the seeing is also!)

  2. My mom is a knitter and even volunteered at the Egypt exhibit when they brought Rameses the Great’s Colossus statue to the Boston Museum of Science in 3 giganto pieces back in the 1980s and stood him up in Boston.
    But she never mentioned 3500yr. old handspun balls of flax.
    [It is possible that she did and my nine-year old self chose to ignore it.]
    Now, Rameses the Great is back in Egypt, prone rather than standing, and Boston has The Tomb live action game instead.
    And in Cairo I saw applique quilts on the Street of the Tentmakers, and some woven and knotted carpets, but no handspun flax or knitting…

  3. Kay, I don’t remember any field trips at all in early 1960s grade school, although I do recall cowering under my desk while the civil defense siren screamed at us from the roof of the building across the street–at our window level. I didn’t grasp what a nuclear attack might be, but I was sure it couldn’t be worse than that ear-splitting sound. Just make it stop, Sister Mary Knuckleruler!
    When my kids were in 4th grade and went to the state capitol building in Lincoln, NE, the tour guide had them all sit down, then lie down, feet toward the middle, around a marble design in the floor to look up and scrutinize the ceiling of the rotunda. They even gave the parents a heads-up so that we could snap a photo. Pretty darn cute and not unlike the June Taylor dancers.
    And, sigh, so long ago. Loved reliving the moment through your account.

  4. kay, reading this made me think how you could get friendly with a curator, suggest they do a tour spin and knit related. i have these very old (ancient the seller said) drop spindles that could be thrown into the mix.
    i always want to morp the big apple into a place closer to a small town. why is this? -naomi

  5. ML–Fun fact: My grandpa Frank Gardiner, a marble setter, worked on the floors and stairs of the Nebraska State Capitol Building for 30 years. I haven’t seen them myself since I was in high school! (Girls State!) xox Kay

  6. The King tut exhibit is coming to the Franklin Institute in Phila…wonder if the 3,000 year old balls of spun flax are coming too?? I’ll keep you posted. My field trip memories are to the Smithsonian and looking at that honkin big mastodon in the rotunda. It’s still ginormous even though I an much much older! That and the First Ladies gowns, loved em.

  7. okay. why hasn’t anyone commented on this big thing called the MDK SIGNED BOOKPLATE?!
    okay. this is a BIG deal. BIG i say.
    I am definitely going to need one. In the spirit of the holiday season, i will not be greedy and say i want all of them, send them all to me. i will just request one. i’ll send an email now. :o)
    p.s. those Egyptians–so clever with the linen!

  8. Hey, my grandpa set mosaic tiles in the floors at at The Cloisters ( a WPA Project). I knew we had more in common than Camp Fire Girls and this knitting stuff.
    Love the fibercentric Met report.

  9. Do you think they knit their own mummy strips?

  10. My brother and his wife used to both work at Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in DC, I loved walking into those “authorized personnel only” rooms to see all the cool stuff not on display–how cool to have done that with a kid….

  11. Very cool. Almost makes me wish I lived in a big city..wait, never mind, it passed. Ha, j/k, but it does make me eager for when I’ve got my own class of 4th graders to take to a museum…

  12. any chance that linen is dyelot-00498? i seem to need half a skein ;)
    nyc museums are the best.

  13. Can we be a wee bit greedy and ask for a bookplate for our own books? I have been a good girl this year… My field trip chaperone experiences are never so good… Reminds me of the trip to the museum when I got stuck with child-who-knows-no-rules and spent the day losing and finding him and asking the other (well behaved) children in my group to help me keep track of him while the teacher blissfully wandered around with no children in her charge. And I didn’t even have spun flax to distract me! Makes me want to go start on that Euroflax sweater I have in my stash.

  14. dear Kay – I went to the Gee’s bend quilt exhibit at the DeYoung yesterday. It was a moving experience and I was greatly touched by your tribute in the book to “bricklayer.”
    big fan of your museum experiences,
    Juls

  15. Kay my dear, I greatly fear,
    that soon you will be shook,
    by the mass of demands from your loyal fans,
    who want a sticker for their book!
    Without shame, I’ll add my name,
    as requests pile to the moon.
    My humble plea: “send one to ME!”
    will reach your in-box soon!

  16. Dear Kay,
    I’m afraid I don’t have as good of rhyming as Betsy’s wonderful ditty, however I would like to add my name to the list of people requesting a book plate. I think it’s a wonderful idea.
    Thank you!

  17. becky C, that be some wicked rhyming. love it!

  18. You’re going to be inundated with requests. Dontcha want to tell us where we can send our SASEs? It’s the least we can do for an ultra-cute bookplate.

  19. Fantastic pics – thanks so much! Now I’m really jonesing to knit with linen …. but in light of the durability issue, I’m thinking it’s going to have to be really spectacular! I’m wondering why the ball lasted so long and the clothing didn’t – acids from skin perhaps?

  20. I like my KnitPicks exchangeable needle set too. Mine have the slightly annoying habit of unscrewing gently as I knit, but not quickly enough to deter my use of them. FYI, I just called KnitPicks thinking they might have solved this issue and hence the “recall,” but the Customer Service person informed me that there is in fact no recall. Just thought you’d like to know.
    I’ve seen similar spindle and fiber exhibits in Israel as well and they always leave me fascinated.

  21. I just think it’s so cool that you saw 3500 year old versions of yarn. 3500 years old!

  22. Okay, I already commented once, but I need to add to Juls comment- I recently saw the Gees Bend quilt exhibit, too. Very inspiring. My Mason-
    Dixon log cabin with leftover sock yarn is looking even better!

  23. regarding the bookplates:
    you and ann are two of the nicest bloggers out there.
    rilly.
    email coming soon!

  24. Oooo! A signed bookplate! I have a signature (on a scrap of paper to paste in my book) from Kay, but I don’t have one from Ann. Could I get Ann’s autograph to add to Kay’s? Please!?!? Thanks!!!

  25. what is a SASE? I love the idea of the bookplate -I just finished reading all of the archives and my copy of the book is in the mail right now! ya!

  26. When you are with the nine year olds you are allowed to get down on the floor and color with them. It’s a Chaperone Law.
    I’m jealous… I love the Egyptians… Walk Like an Egyptian…..SSSSS

  27. Catie,
    SASE: Self Addressed Stamped Envelope
    But never mind. Kay says it would take the fun out of it. Doesn’t get more wonderful (generous, kind, holiday-ish) than that!

  28. Wait, what? Who’s writing this? The one obsessed with the drab neutral natural yarns? The city girl? The one who lays down in museums? Kay, you saying Ann’s an African? Ann, have you brought your children to the city? They’ll let anyone lie down and draw at the Met, even if you’re over 4′ tall.
    I hear that the egyptian bookplate paste held up very well, also – perhaps worth looking into?

  29. Someone asks why the garments are so fragile, while the spun and wound linen looks as though you could pick it up and knit with it. The garments may have been dyed, with natural dyes, of course, but with corrosive mordants, and also washed harshly and hung in sunlight to dry. All of these attack fibers, which is why some ballbands tell you, to this day, to wash by hand, rinse thoroughly, and dry flat, out of direct sunlight.
    And I’d guess that if you picked up that ancient, wonderful ball of linen to work with it, it would be so dry and brittle that it would fall apart in your hands. Though it has undoubtly been protected from harmful light all these thousands of years.
    It does make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, doesn’t it, to see these remaining artifacts of our fellow-knitters?
    And to wonder if they’ll bury us with our stashes?
    No. No room.

  30. I got to chaperone my high school senior son’s creative writing class at the Denver Art Museum last week. I must say, it was way better than my last experience chaperoning, which was of too many 7th graders at the gemstone exhibition. The horror!
    Have you seen the Gee’s Bend quilts postage stamps? I just received one on a piece of mail today. Very cool!

  31. Nice to know knitting never really goes out of style.

  32. When we were in Williamsburg recently, I was allowed to examine an 18th Century baby sweater (called a little waistcoat), one of the few sorts of upperbody garments made in the period. And I got to bring my teenaged dd to help me…I took a photo of her, in the white gloves, bending over the artifact, looking so competent (and scholarly!)that I will treasure forever! I LOVE going behind the scenes at musuems…especially when they bring out knitting to let me look at!