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Tell That Old Lady about eBay

Dear Kay,
Well, it’s about time. As you know, my brother Clif the art prof and his family are spending a few months in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. It’s, like, where there are really great oriental rugs and enough alcohol to stun a yak. Our Senior Fiber Arts Correspondent in Tbilisi, Mary Neal (aka Mrs. Clif), has finally surfaced with a report on her field research. She has already blown her allowance on acquisitions for the Mason-Dixon Knitting Fiber Arts Museum, but I’ll let her tell you the gory details.
Love,
Ann
PS Keep up with the Meadors’ adventures at Living with Caucasians.
Mary Neal writes:
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Attached are pictures of the knitted goods I have acquired in Georgia. The socks are modeled by Wilson (L) and me (R). These were snapped up on the Georgia Military Highway for a cool $7 a pair. They are not really, you know, wearable, but they are fine fine folk art. I just recently started seeing a variation in which a thick sole is actually knitted on. This is a great idea except that they are frighteningly slippery, and you would break your neck.
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The shawls (and I must apologize for the bad photos) were $3.50 for the two. (!) The wool is hand spun, and they are really scratchy. When we were in Scotland, we had a lot of opportunity to learn about sheep. This was perhaps as interesting as it sounds. But anyway, the sheep in Scotland are bad-weather sheep, and the wool has a certain percentage of fibers that are hollow to provide more insulation in the cold and wet. These fibers also have an impervious outside structure, so they don’t take dye. If you take a look at some of the less-processed wools (Candide comes to mind, if I remember right) you can see these fibers easily. Merino sheep have none of this.
Evidently the terrorist sheep in the Pankisi Valley live a tough life, because these shawls are full of these rough fibers. But they are, again, great folk art. And I made an old lady’s day! I hope she will raise her prices based on my enthusiasm.
I need to learn how to say, “I love to knit” in Kartuli. I’ll keep you posted on new fiber art developments.
Love,
MN

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. WOW! I would love to see more pictures of those socks. They look amazing.

  2. Bl***y h**l !!!
    The incredible craftsmanship in those shawls and socks.
    Can we send balls of KSH and make s-i-l find little old lady.Just think what she could make.
    I would have found it impossible to give her so little money.I’m not being pious…just look at the work in those shawls.

  3. I bought gloves with rather similar designs to the socks in Turkey, for peanuts, but they were done in rather lurid acrylic!

  4. Gripping travelblogue,thank you Mary. And that knitting is stunning.

  5. Have you read Galina Khmeleva’s (? just spelling off the top of my head) book about Orenburg Lace Knitting?
    Very, very interesting information about how the wool is processed and the shawls are made.

  6. Emma–Re $3.50 for two shawls, I do think that the average monthly income in Tbilisi is around $25. The cost of living is so wildly different from the West that I can’t imagine it–I’ve never traveled anywhere that didn’t require a Eurail pass. Part of me would want to pay her $300 for her shawls, but on the other hand, she was happy to get $3.50.
    I’d be curious to know what Rowan pays its professional knitters. Even at Western rates, knitting doesn’t pay well if you calculate it by the hours spent!
    x0x0x0x0x0x Ann who would starve if she had to live off her knitting

  7. Art professors who work in the state institutions here make from 8 to 40 laris a month. A lari is about 40 cents. A state pension is 7 laris a month. Workers in the outlying districts make 30 tetris (100 to the lari) a day.
    It’s really hard to figure out how these people do it. But the cost of living is incredibly low. Our electric bill for a month was 41 laris, and we are profligate Americans (plus we pay the bill!). Food is incredibly cheap, the homegrown variety anyway, and many people grow their own or have relatives in the country who do. Everyone is putting up fruits and vegetables like crazy now. Public transportation (metro) costs 20 tetris (8 cents). Unemployment is 90%. Clif has students who don’t even know anyone who has a regular job.
    Our theory is that NGO money plus foreign aid is keeping this entire country afloat. Imagine how many people could be supported by one salary of $500 a month! So we overpay for some things, like the apartment, and the translator, and we are glad to do it. It is amazing living here.

  8. Mary Neal–hope you are getting in on some of the home-canned fruits and veggies. Thanks for your reports to us (keep ‘em coming!), and on your blog. Eye-opening reading. Love, Kay

  9. Spent some time today becoming acquainted with your “blog” (assuming I’m using the correct terminology.) Am curious to know, Kay, what is the status of your “Courthouse Steps” blanket. Would love to see an updated picture of your progress. -Laurie Ann

  10. Laurie Ann????? MY Laurie Ann???????
    Don’t tease me about my precious Courthouse Steps blanket!!! It’s almost twin-bed-sized now, but it takes me hours to put in each step at this size. (They get longer as you go. It’s a knitting thang; you wouldn’t understand.) And it’s taking me forever even though I’ve shaken loose whole new BLOCKS of knitting time by buying a climber’s flashlight that attaches to my head, so I can knit in the dark in the car. (You will LOVE it when you see it! It’s weirder than some of the things you did in high school!!) I promise, even if you are kidding, and even if you’re not, that a full report on Courthouse Steps/Bricklayer will appear here when it is a finished work. I will also post a pic of the original quilt that I’m homaging-to.
    And if you’re not MY Laurie Ann, I apologize. I’m sure you never did anything weird in high school. Love, Kay
    P.S. Dear Ann and Friends: I have known Laurie Ann since 2nd Grade, but we only really bonded (no pun intended—pun coming up just ahead) in 4th Grade, when we used to cover the palms of our hands in Elmer’s Glue, let it dry, peel it off, and eat it. We got in trouble for that, eventually. We were legally separated from each other for 5th Grade, which was tragic.
    They say Elmer’s Glue is non-toxic, but I’m not sure it does a person any good, either.
    It was all sorta downhill from there. We had some further strange experiences throughout childhood, adolescence, college, and pretty much up to the present time. She’s a doll, my Laurie Ann, but she does not knit AT ALL. It’s a shame because her mother is an expert seamstress, so clearly Laurie has the fine-motor DNA. Laurie’s mom has sewn everything from complete outfits for our corn-husk dolls (it was Nebraska’s centennial year–of course Laurie’s ‘pioneer’ outfit, complete with calico sunbonnet, was the envy of the rest of us Laura Ingalls wannabes) to hula skirts, to the dresses with matching pinafores that Laurie Ann was forced to wear well into junior high. Needless to say, Mrs. Laurie’s mom ghost-stitched all of Laurie’s and my Home Economics projects such as half-slips, whole slips, skirts with zippers, etc. We were such goody-two-shoes that the teacher actually seemed to believe us, or just plain didn’t care, when we said we would like to take our projects home to our own, more familiar, sewing machines. So, that’s Laurie Ann 101. I hope she comes back to visit often.