One of the side effects of having your avocation become your vocation is that you have to find another avocation. I love knitting as much as I ever did–more, if possible–but most of my projects now come with contracts and deadlines attached to them. This will, on occasion, tend to harsh one's mellow.
My alternative mellow for quite some time has been working out. It clears my head, it calms me down. If I don't get to do it for an entire day, I turn crabby and starting hitting people. Since it also makes my jeans fit better, it's productive fidgeting–which happens also to be my friend Joe's incredibly apt description of knitting.
Unfortunately, the weight room at the gym can't be kept in a pretty basket on an end table or stuffed into hand luggage. It cannot be employed to pass the time while waiting for a flight, or casually picked up when the after-dinner conversation lulls.
But a guy has to have something to do in those restless moments when after six hours of knitting I really, truly cannot stand to look at yarn one single minute more. I was at a loss until, while sorting through files, I found my notes from a PieceWork article about my grandmother's childhood...and her quilts.
Then there was a hazy patch, and a flurry of e-mails with a friend who plays with fabric for a living, and a surprise from another friend across the sea who sent me this.
Then another hazy patch, and last night I came to while standing at the ironing board. It seems I was pressing my first quilt block.
It's made from men's shirts I picked up for a buck apiece at the thrift store down the block. There will be six fabrics in the finished piece, and when I looked at my pattern after laying it out, I realized I've moved progressively through all the colors in the same way I'd put together a swatch of Fair Isle.
Once a knitter, always a knitter.
Gimme Gimme Gimme
I'm piecing the quilt top by hand–it's incredibly soothing–using needles I bought at Stitches Midwest. They were imported by Bag Smith from a French needlework company called Sajou.
I had never heard of Sajou before I walked up to the Bag Smith booth. They were founded in the nineteenth century; and though the company folded in the mid-twentieth century, it has now been revived by the descendants and is producing all the old lines in their original styles.
I opened the Sajou catalogue and wanted to climb inside and stay there.
I didn't know you could still buy things like this. Embroidered cotton labels for marking household linen, or adding little tags to your work that say ATELIER or FAIT MAIN in dignified red letters. A positive fleet of albums (including the gorgeous old DMC books) stuffed with elegant, playful alphabets, borders, friezes and motifs to embroider–none of which include Sunbonnet Sue or Kountry Kitchen geese in bandannas. I want them all. Wooden mercery drawers and pin boxes, porcelain bridal thimbles, and the scissors...oh, the scissors.
Even the packaging is glorious. This is the packet of needles I bought.
I spent fifteen minutes dithering, because there were half-a-dozen designs in the booth and they were all glorious. You should see the three or four that include spinning wheels. When the needles are used up, I'm putting it into a frame.
Now, honestly–isn't that easier on the eyes than this?
Who the hell thought that was a good idea? When was it decided that the utilitarian need not be a pleasure to look at?
On a practical note, the needles are so well made they leap through fabric like dolphins playing in gentle surf.
Personal to the people in my family who always want my wish list at Christmastime: here it is. The whole site. Just pick something.