Wednesday, October 03, 2007


One of the side effects of startitis is that eventually, I do have an attack of finishitis. In between, I may not have a whole lot of knitting to report, except maybe for the occasional pair of socks or a hat. But then all of a sudden a whole bunch of things start lining themselves up to be finished and present themselves for admiration, more or less at once.
Still, I don't seem to make a lot of progress in the middle, and overcoming inertia is particularly problematic in the late summer, because even if I set myself up directly beneath the air conditioner and venture outside only to earn money for cat food, yarn, tea and peanut butter (note my priorities), it is just too damn hot to work up my best effort for major knitting projects.
But when the first hint of anything remotely autumn-like begins to happen -- and that can be something as simple as the the first suicidal leaf, the merest hint of a breeze and a ten-percent drop in the humidity, even if the actual daytime temperature barely drops into the eighties -- the motivation finally kicks in to finish up some big things, so they can actually be worn this fall or winter.
This fine October morning dawned mild, dry and breezy, and the light was good, so I thought ahead for lunchtime today, and visited one of my favorite local haunts for a quick photo shoot.
This autumn, the first object to fall off my needles in a finished state is:

...the final version of my Voodoo Shawl pattern done in Koigu KPPPM. I have knitted this shawl four times, in four other yarns, while developing the pattern, three of which were gifts for friends, and one which will soon be auctioned off for a fundraiser (watch this blog for details!).

Of course, it does not really swoop up at the center back like that. I just used the convenient points on the cast-iron fence for display. The photo below shows the way the neckline truly sits. This shawl, finally, is for me. Me, me, me, me, me:

Here it is, draped on the headstone of a lady who died almost two hundred years ago. I bet she hasn't been close to a pretty piece of lace in a long, long time, so I didn't think she'd mind a visit from the shawl.

My venue for today's photo shoot was Highland Cemtery, the oldest registered cemetery in Baton Rouge. I couldn't think of a better place to display the Voodoo Shawl than a genuine Louisiana graveyard, with the dead of 1812 resting peacefully beneath the oak and crepe myrtle trees. Highland Cemetery is a tiny and well-tended burial ground, just half a block outside the south gate of the LSU campus. Long ago, I lived in some student apartments across the street, and in nice weather, I spent a lot of time studying in this peaceful spot. Today, condos have been built right up to the edge of the ancient cast iron fence:

I love old cemeteries, and I'm so glad this one is so well maintained by the historical society.

I'm pleased with the final version of the shawl, and soon Lisa Louie will test-knit one from the beta pattern. After that, and perhaps after a bit of editing, the pattern will be offered for sale.
Stay tuned.

Of course, the moment I had this shawl blocked, I immediately cast on another one in the laceweight Carina Nebula colorway from Knitivity. It's a Christmas gift for my Mom:

All together now ... "aaaaaaawww, ain't it so cute and little?"

Do not laugh. I know Christmas is only 82 days away.

But I am a Saints fan. And also a Cubs fan.

I believe anything is possible.

Besides hanging around in graveyards and taking pictures of knitting, the first hint of fall also spurs me each year to go on a frenzy of housecleaning. Most other people do their big, annual cleaning in the spring, but I consider autumn cleaning as a means to shake the debris of the opressive summer out of my life and welcome the new year with a super-clean and de-cluttered house.

Yes, I said "new year. " It's in my DNA. I observe and respect the old Celtic tradition of all Hallow's Eve marking the beginning of the New Year, and, in fact, that's where you'll find the roots of our modern Halloween festivities.

The ancient Celts believed the dead could cross over to the other side only on the last day of the year. Throughout each year, the souls of the departed remained in this realm, wandering from place to place, looking in on those they'd known in this life, awaiting their time to move on. But on the last night of the year, all of the dead were believed to take to the road in one mass-migration to the other side.

Naturally, the prospect of parading spirits generated fear among the citizenry, who left cakes and ale on their doorsteps to sustain the dead on their journey, much in the same way that footrace fans today hand out Gatorade to runners in the Boston Marathon -- "here, have a gulp and run along, quick!" The offering was, in effect, a bribe for the departed to have a sip and a bite, and hurry on their way.

No one wanted the migrating dead to linger too long in any one place, lest they wander indoors to be trapped for another year, and most people believed that folks who were foolish enough to neglect to leave an offering would be visited with some form of otherworldly retribution. So the doors were shut tight, and candles were placed outside along with the food, to help light the spirits along their journey.

It didn't take too many generations for young people to figure out that those who were brave enough to venture outside on that night would be rewarded with all the ale and sweetcakes they could consume -- and that it wasn't too hard to carry on, and to fake supernatural outrage at the homes of those who failed to set out some sustenance.

And thus we have the early origins of "trick or treat."

Autumn is a good time to mark a new year, because it gives us a clean slate: the big work of the year has been accomplished, the harvest is done, the fields are clear, and now we have the business of settling down by the hearth to prepare for the winter months, a time in which to repair tools, make garments, preserve meats, spin yarn, make babies to be born in the bounty of the upcoming summer, and tell the stories and legends that help create cultural continuity. Thus the origins of "to tell a yarn," because the spinner was often the family historian as well as the keeper and teller of ancient legends.

Winter was also the premium time for travelling bards to earn their bread and board reciting the current news and events, and recounting heroic tales, while members of the household gathered round the hearth to spin yarn, knit socks and sharpen their farming implements.

Either way, stories were told while yarn was spun, and a particularly good story no doubt took enough time for the spinner to fill an entire spindle, and then wind off a hank of yarn. And thus today, we "tell a yarn," particularly if the story is prolonged, exciting and perhaps more than a bit exaggerated.

So I guess it's the Irish in me that spurs me to fling open our closets every autumn and purge those things no longer worn or used, to make the house fit for the refreshment of winter, visiting guests, and the news they bring.

And so, in the ancient and venerable tradition of the American South, we are having a garage sale this weekend.

It amazes me, the crap we accumulate over a period of less than a decade.

Particularly amazing are the clothes we hang onto in the vain hope that their eventual reappearance as retro fashion items will coincide with the mystical reappearance of our college physiques. And since my 1978 body most definitely did not come back into style like my 70s clothes ... out go the clothes, and we'll take care of the '80s while we are at it as well.

Best forgotten, the '80s, methinks.

Don't panic -- I am saving a few very sentimental things. My blue suede poncho, a paisley shirt, the disco-days prom dress which caused my mother to swoon before she even saw the actual garment, when she saw how small the bag was when I brought it home -- the poor lady no doubt had visions of me swathed in a grand, femme and fluffy creation like her own prom gown, the amazing sort of garment which somehow manages to present you as identifiably female, while completely diguising, padding and blocking any view of, or access to, all the important parts.

Instead, she got a daughter wrapped in a yard of shimmery, stretch Qiana.

And yes, my date had a powder-blue tuxedo, a ruffled shirt and John Travolta hair. We had a good time at the prom, pointing at the ceiling while we danced and drank spiked punch. He is now in law enforcement, and I have every intention of using that photo as my get-out-of-jail pass, should I ever Martha-Stewart myself into any sort of trouble involving insider trading on Koigu and Noro futures.

But I digress.

Onward through the strata of junk.

There will be unwanted books, and strange kitchen oddments, unidentifable tools and random pieces of mismatched furniture. There will be surplus office junk and some random computer components. There will be surplus cages, aquariums, shoes and clothes. You'll find Christmas things, and art supplies, and music that we have grown tired of. Also, I am a costume junkie, so I decided to part with a few costumes in time for someone who is still a size 6 to enjoy them at Halloween. I have to be realistic. If I lose about 15 pounds, I could easily be back in a size 8. But I haven't seen size six since Ronald Reagan was in office, and I need room in my closet.

Note to area knitters: y'all are welcome to come by and sit and knit, but I am not destashing.

Some of the clearing out involves throwing away things that are too shabby to offer for sale or for donation. Among the things I'll be needing to toss out are my summer PJs, which are ratty beyond belief. So I need to buy new ones.

And with this being the end of summer (according to the calendar, if not the temperature), you would think that the retailers would have some summer PJs on deep discount, for me to buy now, save money and squirrel them away for next year.

But apparently, I am asking too much. All I want are some simple, cotton pajamas. Pajamas exactly like the ones I had in college, please: boxer-type drawstring bottoms without the boy's fly, and a collarless short-sleeved top cut like an old-fashioned baseball shirt in a simple, woven cotton fabric. Not a solid, wan pastel, please ... just a cheerful print or maybe some cute stripes.

Is it just me? Because I cannot find women's summer pajamas to suit me, on sale or otherwise.

I can find lacy things, frilly things, leopard-print things with black feathers around the breastal area, nylon lace spiderwebs, and stretchy things that glow in the dark. I can also find granny gowns and ruffle-edged short sets in a pastel pink cotton-poly blend. And this time of year in our student-saturated neck of the city, I can also find untold numbers of knee-length dorm shirts bearing the local universities' logos.

But I cannot find pajamas.

I do not want a nightgown, a sleep shirt, a teddy or a negligee. I do not want a camisole top paired with stretchy micro-shorts or capri pants. Nor do I want a handful of ribbon and lace to deploy strategically upon my nether regions. I want pajamas that were intended to be slept in, and not some tiny scrap of frill intended to remain upon my person during my most private moments. If I want to be that private, the PJs come off. I'm pretty straightforward about most things in life, including private moments. PJs are for sleeping in, and non-sleeping activities do not require gift wrap.

My college warm-weather PJs were the best pajamas ever. I wish I'd had the budget and the foresight to fill a bunker with them, and I also wish I'd had the foresight to stockpile them in a variety of sizes while I was at it. One turquoise-colored set sported a Hawaiian print with tiny surfboards, palm trees and hibiscus flowers. The other set had super-thin stripes in white, hot pink and indigo. I could hang around the dorm in those PJs and not be embarrassed in the least if I was stretched out with a textbook, catching the breeze on the big, wide windowsill in the common room and the maintenance man happened to walk by with his toolbox, or some giggling girl dashed past me, towing the boyfriend she was sneaking into her room (in which case I was soon joined in the common room by a grumpy and temporarily evicted roommate).

Before I got married I made it clear to my husband that I was not a Victoria's Secret kind of gal (to this day, I adamantly maintain that the real secret is that Victoria herself wears nothing but holey grey sweats, eats Cherry Garcia ice cream all day long, and never leaves her apartment except to dump off sketches of the new torture-bra designs that pay her tabs at Starbucks and Takee Outee)....

Huh? Sorry, I got temporarily derailed in a recurring fantasy which involves living in New York City and subsisting entriely on coffee, ice cream and Chinese delivery...

...anyway, I most deifnitely do not sleep in anything scratchy, ruffly, or with wings attached.

I just want some pajamas, and I have learned a cold, hard fact

Nobody seems to make simple, presentable, warm-weather pajamas for grown-up women anymore.

Looking online and in the stores today, if I was ten years old, I could have summer pajamas with poison dart frogs, fish, planets, turtles, bluebirds, or retro-hippie daisies. And if I were a grown-up guy, I could have boxer shorts with sharks.

Sharks! Cool!

Me? I would snatch up some guy-jammies with sharks on them in a second, but apparently the Fashion Facists have decided that guys no longer need pajama tops. I think the idea is to sell the pajama bottoms for the same price as a whole set of pajamas -- great for the ol' profit margin --but this presumes that either the guy is either so smokin' hot that he doesn't need a top, or that a less pumped-up dude will provide his own ratty t-shirt to somplete the ensemble. This fashion industry decision was made sometime around 1988. Guys can even get long flannel bottoms for winter. But just try finding a top. I dare you.


Pajamas. Plain, simple, loose, cotton, US size 10. Also, not pastel. Any leads?

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At 9:12 PM, Blogger southern gal said...

i love men's boxer shorts and pants. try Lands End and LLBEAN - LE even has women's pants that arent bad - solids, etc...

i remember that feeling of FALL in BR and grabbing a sweater cause you were DYING to wear it and it was of course 80 by noon. sigh

here we are having very BR like weather - its gonna be 80 the next two days after two of the same last week and humid too. at least we had a few cool dry days in between - please G*D this is the end of the heat ...

back to my HEMLOCK RING Blanket (yeah, me and everyone else on ravelry)

At 3:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dez, Sounds like what you could use are cotton scrubs. They come in all kinds of nice, bright prints & are most comfy.
Catalogs are available.
Lee M.

At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Ruth in PA said...

I have the kind you are talking about. They are so thin now you can read the morning paper through them! Kohl's has something similar, but not the same. Sigh.

At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Danielle from Mo said...

Wal-Mart here in Mo and AR has some organic cotton and regular cotton jammies. they dont have shorts but come with either stretch cotton pants or flannel like cotton pants. The colors are pretty, not pastel, they are mostly earth tone with some brights or white. Other than W~M I havent seen anything lately.

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Suna said...

My stepmother sent me perfect summer PJs for my birthday. I will have to find out where.

Thanks for the nod to Samhain. We celebrate it, as well (heck, my kids' dad is from Dublin!) due to my endless fascination with Celtic spirituality and Brighid (best goddess Ireland ever begat). We have a tradition of drawing 12 tarot cards at that time, and havine one card be for each month. Through the year, we see if the card and life have anything to do with each other. It's fun.

The shawls are both lovely. And so is the cemetary, which I remember visiting when I used to hang out in BR.

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous elizabeth said...

These aren't terribly exciting, but what I could find from a quick search:|40388|40469

If that doesn't work, the link's from JCPenney, under their "pajama" section.

My husband refuses to admit that he wears pajamas. If he wears pajama bottoms, he calls them "comfy pants." He says they're not pjs unless you have a matching top, too. Maybe other guys feel the same way and that's why they don't sell the tops!

At 7:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Also on ebay I found cute Hello Kitty shorts & tank top jammies, which I appreciate for the kitsch factor, but might not be your cup of tea.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Lori said...

Have to admit, I just broke down and got men's bottoms at Target. Not too pricey if you go through the sale rack. I have accumulated a ton of XL t-shirts over the years that I use to sleep in. Of course they are all freebies and have a construction or bookstore/literary related theme.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Erica said...

Your shawl is beautiful!!! I laughed while I was reading your post, especially the part regarding pj's. I've heard a lot of people hail the cotton scrubs. I work in scrubs. I don't know that I would ever wear them to bed. I'm more of a flannel girl and there really is nothing better than curling up in a pair of flannel pants and a flannel shirt (which usually doesn't match, but who cares?). Just a thought :)

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Mary Lou said...

And did you have an All Saints Day pageant a school, too? the Catholicization of Samhain? We did and my favorite memory is of the girl who played St. Lucy and carried a dish with two blue marbles in it to represent the eyes that had been gouged out.....

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous oneken said...

ah shux dez, clue a soul who doesn't read the newspaper.....i so love kitchen oddments

At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Katie's Granny said...

Dez, I share your love of old cemeteries, but my friends and family find my fascination with them a bit strange. I'll have to run over to LA from TX and we could go on an "old cemetery crawl"!

I've also got some Carina from Knitivity (beautiful colorway), just waiting for the right shawl pattern to strike my fancy. Hurry up with the production and sale of the Voodoo shawl pattern; that might just be the right one!

Mary G.

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Red said...

Pj's are super simple sewing though!
While the ready-made fashions may not have good stripes or cute non-pastel prints, I can assure you any fabric store worth it's name has tons (and I know of at least one that carries a variety of man-candy prints in flavors like construction worker, fireman, and cowboy) of cotton and cotton blend fun.
PJ pants are geometric - you don't even need a pattern. If you have a comfy shirt you like, especially one worn down to rattiness (so you won't regret taking it apart to make the Best Pattern Ever) you can easily draft a pattern from it - or you can snap up a super-cheap boxy shirt pattern and ignore the collar bits.
Whatever you choose, good luck! Good Pjs are an absolute necessity to civilized living!

At 4:22 PM, Blogger Edna said...

Lemme know when you find those pj's. I want some too!

At 5:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said... - mix n match jammie pants and t-shirts. Not sure of the sizes. Good luck! Thanks for the great post.

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