Where ya been? I’ve had a few days of travel, featuring the likes of Fiona Ellis, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, Robert Todd LIncoln, Robert Frost, and no less than the one, the only, the inimitable—-STITCHY McYARNPANTS. Could you plotz? Could you scream? Could you die? Let’s take them one at a time or in pairs or however it comes out, shall we?
Bruce and Neil
Cara has written lovingly of our drive to Baltimore last Friday for Stitches East. Enthroned in baseball-glove leather, sipping a Dunkin Donuts coffee, flying down the Jersey Turnpike with a 1978 Bruce bootleg on the G Love Sound Surround SystemTM—it was Road Trip Heaven. Unlike Cara, I was actually a grown up girl in 1978, so it’s not quite so weird for me to SWOON DEAD AWAY at the opening a cappella –almost spoken– words of Because the Night. ‘Take me now baby/here as I am’. Cara was SEVEN in 1978; I wanted to cover her ears.
Other Ann called mid morning to scream ‘Do you have a Springsteen Headache yet?!’ But no, I didn’t. I was fine. There as I was.
Breaking up the unremitting intensity of 1978 Bruce, we had the Neil Diamond Compleat Works. Which while comical—really, Barry Manilow should be mad because Neil Diamond’s lyrics are SO MUCH more unintentionally funny than his–touch me very much because Neil Diamond was on one of the 8-tracks I used to listen to while ironing in the basement when I was a teenager. (The 8-track player was housed in a piece of Early American FURNITURE. Good times!) Nobody–and I mean NOBODY–can get quite as worked up over a key change as my boy Neil. Ah, if only ye could have been with us girl. You could have wailed right along with
“I am,” I said!
To no one there
And no one heard at all
Not even the chair.
Of course ‘not even the chair’. Chairs don’t hear! Bless his heart, the man needed assistance with his lyric-writing.
Indulge me in one more: “Forever in Blue Jeans”. When I used to sing along to this one in the basement, I thought it was ‘Reverend Bluejeans’. No doubt I was connecting the good Reverend to Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, and perhaps to Mr. Green Jeans. But still, what a song. “Money talks/But it don’t sing and dance and it don’t walk.” Truly it don’t! Whatever! Let’s pack up the babies and grab the old ladies and proceed to Baltimore, and our 3 hours at Stitches East.
FIrst Stop: Fiona in Ladies Room
I knew the yarn-shopping gods were with us when we ran into Fiona Ellis right at the git-go, in the Ladies Room.
Doesn’t Cara look refreshed and relieved? She was totally star struck and kept blathering on about Short Rows, which Fiona probably doesn’t even remember designing. Fiona has News! She’s finishing up her second book, in which she does for Fair Isle knitting what she did for cable knitting in her first book, i.e., make it fresh and cool and full of surprises. Can’t wait!
Dot, or, A Confession
This is Dot, a lovely lady from Mississippi. I would like to say I ran into Dot at The Mannings booth, but in fact what happened was this: Dot was minding her own business, immersed in the wonderful book selection in this booth. Cara elbowed me and said, ‘Dude, that lady is totally looking at your book.’ Whereupon I suffered a lapse of decorum and good manners and accosted this kind lady, blathering on about how I had participated in a major way in the writing of the very book she was looking at. and how, actually, that was me in the cowboy hat on the cover.
Dot has obviously had some experience with lunatics. She knew it would be useless to resist. She was so sweet about it. I don’t think she will ever look at another book again without glancing nervously over her shoulder to see if the author is about to pounce on her.
I’m sorry Dot! Truly I am.
Log Cabins That Rock
Cara dropped off her log cabin blanket at the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth. It’s hard to get a picture of this beautiful thing that does any justice to its nuanced greens. The yarn, Socks That Rock heavyweight, is stunning, and Cara’s design makes the most of it. I don’t know how she gave it up, even as a loaner.
Stitchy was there! Signing her hilarious book. I didn’t get a picture (having already violated the photo prohibition with Dot and with Cara’s Log Cabin), but you can always pick out Stitchy in a crowd. (She’s the one with the name badge that says STITCHY. It really made me want to have a fake name.) Stitchy signed Cara’s book with Hilarious Inscription Number 2 and mine with Number 3. I won’t tell you what it says, in case you get Number 3 inscribed in your book at some point. Trust me: Number 3 is good.
Let’s recap. Friday was 3 hours driving to Baltimore, 3 hours in Baltimore, 3 hours back. 10 minutes of throwing cold-weather gear in bags, and then 3 hours to Albany. Saturday morning, 90 minutes to Manchester, Vermont. Hubby had to go there to talk about something Deadly Dull of a Professional Nature. (Afterwards he said, ‘I rocked the house,’ but I think he meant ‘anesthesized the house’–he was talking about Medicaid regulation in New York State ZZZZZZzzzzz). The kids and I decided to tag along and see the sights of Manchester, Vermont. We had no clue what the sights of Manchester, Vermont might be. We were in for a surprise.
Manchester is the home of Hildene, the house that Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln who survived to adulthood, built for his family in 1905.
I did not know one thing about Robert Todd Lincoln before stumbling into his house. It stayed in the family until 1975, when his grandaughter Peggy Beckwith died, at which point it was taken over by a preservation group. What this means is that Hildene is that rare thing: a period house that looks just as the family left it. All their furniture in its eclectic, late-Victorian glory. Their books and toys. Their kitchen stove. They could come around the corner at any minute.
On the second floor there is a small room with a few items of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia. Most notably one of three of his stove-pipe hats still in existence. (Fun fact: it is covered in beaver fur. Surprisingly un-nasty-looking.) Carrie, Joseph and I just LIVE for this sort of thing. Bring it on! The olde gifte shoppe was selling giant Lincoln pennies with the Gettysburg Address embossed on the back. Can you stand it?
On Sunday Hubby dragged us to Robert Frost’s house in Shaftsbury, Vermont. This is a house the poet lived in for many years, in a beautiful rural setting. Sadly it’s not furnished, so it’s basically a lot of his poetry and his biography framed on the walls. A little chapel to Robert Frost, with a lady guardian at the door who is reading her well-used copy of his poems while you meander. If only it had had one of his hats! In the gift shop (a shelf, actually), we managed to score a new edition of You ComeToo. (Hubby’s childhood copy is in tatters and needs to be preserved for future visitors to the Museum of Hubby. I’d advise you to skip the Speeches of Hubby section.)
In conclusion, Vermont scores high in our fambly weekend rating system. It has (a) mountains, (b) wind-y roads and (c) creaky small museums in which one’s party is likely to be outnumbered by the volunteer guides. Really great.
In my knitting life, I have been in a strange place, for me. I have been suffering from Uncertainty. I cannot remember a time in the last five years or more, when I have not known exactly what I wanted to knit, with great (albeit often wrongheaded) clarity. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been dithering between two projects, both using up a limited quantity of the same yarn:
At the bottom is more than a week’s worth of knitting on the fabulous linen kilt from Knit 2 Together. The very skirt that Tracey Ullman was wearing when I saw her at the booksigning. I loved knitting the ruffle, which is knit in a long strip with short rows. I worried a little bit about the fact that the pattern does not tell you to wrap the next stitch before you turn on a short row. So after a few repeats I started over, wrapping and turning, and liked it just fine.
When I picked up the stitches to knit the skirt up from the ruffle, I started to experience Existential Kilt Doubts. Do I want a kilt? Am I a Kilt Person? Do I not already own 2 knitted skirts that I wear only rarely? Do my stitch pick-ups look wonky? Acceptably wonky? Unacceptably? I pulled them out and picked them up again. I soldiered on.
But I kept thinking about Raspy. How stone cold easy it would be to knit Raspy top down in one piece. How cool it would look in a plain linen version, without the dropped stitches that leddeth me into Temptation (to Bleach)—kind of a Lady Raspy. Raspy all grown up and gone to town. So I cast on, knowing full well that if I am going to finish Lady Raspy, I am going to have to rip out the kilt for that second cone of Euroflax.
What I really need is something entirely different. Something major and consuming. Something cably and requiring concentration and devotion.
I think I know what it is. But I’m not telling yet.
P.S. At Stitches, I bought a new iron. If you were at Stitches, you know the iron of which I speak. I was weak. Carrying it around the market afterwards, I was stopped by people who needed to talk about this iron. It’s that kind of iron. Iron people: you know what I’m talking about.