Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Knit Happens.

And this is what happens for Covenant House in New Orleans when it does.  Here, deployed on the floor of my shop, are the dozens of hats, scarves and gloves donated for Covenant House in memory of Gail McHugh.  Sincere and heartfelt thanks go out to the many knitters who made this possible, and please give yourselves a round of applause:

I didn't have enough unoccupied space on the floor of my little shop to spread everything out so the items could be viewed individually, but do know that each and every item was deeply appreciated by Covenant House and that dozens of homeless teens will be warmed and cheered during our erratic winter months.  The Asylum plans to do this Christmas garment drive again next year, but remember that I accept donations for Covenant House year-round.  

I am so amazed and humbled by the exquisite detail that went into so many hats -- so many were true works of art -- and I am overwhelmed at the generosity of certain individuals who made about two dozen hats each.  Again, thank you.

Remember, every time you bring in a handknit garment for community knitting, you get 20% off that day's purchase (except for spinning wheels and looms, as the manufacturers won't let me do that).

Here's a peek at a few things around the shop.  In the entry room, we have hand-dyed sock yarns from Morandia, Wool In the Woods, and St. Paul's Catholic School, as well as Sockotta, needle sets, feathery "Birdman" yarn on closeout and consignment items, including Christmas stockings from Knitivity, and a shrug from Jules LeBlanc:

The shop is tiny, so I'm taking advantage of doors for needle display and I am hanging hanks of hemp yarn from chain suspended from the ceiling:

In the main wool room, we have yarn and patterns from Lily Chin, Mission Falls 1824 wool and cotton, and more needles on that door, as well as some miscelaneous designer closeouts in baskets...

Also featured are hand-dyed mohair yarn from the Knitting Asylum, smashing rovings from Creatively Dyed Yarns, and bin after bin of rovings, locks and batts, both in natural sheep colors and in a spectrum of distinctly non-sheepish colors, some hand-dyed right here at the Knitting Asylum and some dyed by other artists:

In between the yarns and rovings are spinning wheels and small looms, of course. That's an Ashford Tabby Loom and an Ashford Traveler tucked among the bins and shelves (I am still working on the Louet dealership process).  There are alpaca yarns and rovings directly from the source in South America, and a selection of knitting and spinning tools and accessories, from dye and niddy-noddies to ball winders and drop spindles:

Space is tight, so even the floor earns its keep holding baskets of ready-to-spin English Leicester, Corriedale, merino, Romney and alpaca roving...

That's an Ashford Joy in the center of the photo ... I do love that wheel.

The day I took these photos, it was dark and relentlessly rainy, so the lighting wasn't good enough to show off  my fantastic yarns from Knitivity, and stitch markers and sock yarns from local artists, but tomorrow promises to be sunny, clear and cold, so we'll have another photo shoot for a close-up look at the wonderful yarns from Knitivity, Darn Pretty Needles, and some other special items around the shop.  

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009


... that we really can (and do) use wool in South Louisiana.  Granted, most of the time we only make it to "near snow" conditions, meaning temperatures above freezing accompanied by rain, sometimes sleet, and snow flurries on occasion, which is still good enough reason to dig out the woolies.   If we do get any accumulation, it is usually less than an inch,  falls during the night, and melts as the day goes by and the temperature rises into the high 30s or 40s.

But a couple of weeks before  Christmas, we got four inches of clean, wet snow, and by nightfall there was still plenty of unmelted snow on the north side of many rooftops and in the north corners of many yards and alleys.

Records were set everywhere in this part of Louisiana for measurable snow early in December, and New Orleans got an inch.  Amite, in Tangipahoa Parish, whose most famous daughter is Britney Speirs, got a whole eight inches of snow, and that is more inches of snow than the length of Ms. Speirs longest skirt, so I hope she wasn't home yet to visit her mama for Christmas, because she would have frozen her tookas off. 

Anyway, any accumulation of snow is uncommon enough here that it warrants photography, and the construction of snowmen, and the kids get a snow day off from school because ... well, because it's likely to be the only snow day this year, and also because snow is sufficiently unusual that the city doesn't even have any sort of road salt trucks -- I don't think we even have any road salt at all -- so keeping the kids home from school helps reduce weather-related traffic problems to some extent. 

Hurricane debris was beautified by the white stuff (that's the trunk and root ball of a massive, fallen water oak in the background in this photo of our back yard):

Here, a mom and her kiddo build a little snowman at the apartments near the Knitting Asylum.  It was starting to snow pretty hard when I took this shot. I love the umbrella:

And, thanks to the college kids who rent the house next door to ours, this big boy showed up in the field across the street from our house.  At over six feet tall, he represents the accumulated work of several snowman engineers (I understand that beer was involved in the construction process):

The snow doubly surprised me, because Dave and I had just driven home from Memphis the night before, working our way through a cold front featuring hammering rain, spectacular lightning, and tornado-spawning conditions serious enough to cause me to abort my plan to drive straight through from Memphis to Baton Rouge. Ordinarily that's a manageable drive in one day, and it takes a lot for me to get off the road.  Just ask my family: I have been known to drive in hail, thick fog and tropical storms. Oh, and also snow and ice. But I draw the line at driving in a tornado.    

So, when I contacted the friends who were feeding our cats while we were away and asked them to take care of the kitties for an extra night, I could relax enough to get off the road to seek shelter, and that's what we did.  We found a Super 8 motel in Grenada, Mississippi, dried off, and fell into bed.

It rained hard and thundered all night, and the following morning it was grey and much colder. After a hot shower and a waffle breakfast at the motel, we resumed our trip home.  And if any of you are ever unexpectedly stuck overnight in Grenada, Mississippi for any reason whatsoever?  Stay at the Super 8.  It's very reasonable and super clean, the night manager is ridiculously nice, and they have a killer waffle breakfast, which is helpful on a frosty morning.  

The state of Mississippi is obviously named for the mighty river that runs along most of its western border. "Mississippi" comes from (if I remember correctly) either the Choctaw or Tunica Indian word "meseschabe"  (pronounced "mess - uh - sha - bee) and minor variations on that set of syllables, depending on which tribe you hail from at what point along the river's entire length, but all of them mean "Father of Waters," "Great Water" or "Big Water" in many American Indian languages.
Also, "Interstate 55" is Choctaw (or maybe Chickasaw) for "The white man's endless path through the pine trees." I am absolutely certain of that.

The Interstate highway through Mississippi is hundreds of miles long, and passing through the city of Jackson is a major milestone for the traveller.  Jackson is roughly the halfway point in the state, and Jackson is a good-sized city.   You can see buildings, traffic signals, and a large number of cars as actual proof that you have arrived in a new location, and that you are not simply driving on a treadmill set between two rows of pines where someone occasionally changes the signs when you aren't paying attention .

Aside from Jackson, nearly all of the rest of Mississippi is a long, Zen drive through rolling hills and millions upon millions of pine trees.  You see signs urging you to turn left or right toward Duck Hill, Enid, Yazoo City, Itta Bena, Pearl, Calling Panther, Love, Sweatman, or Coffeeville (and coffee would not be a bad idea at all by the time you get that far), but you see no actual proof that there really is such a town nearby. There is only a green sign, and a swath of black asphalt curving off into the trees.  

You pass exits for the birthplaces of Eudora Welty and Elvis Presley, and eventually, as you get closer to Memphis, you cross the Tallahatchie River that Billy Joe McAllister jumped off a bridge into, except I don't think it was the Interstate he jumped off ... because first, it's not all that high above the river at that point and second, I'm not sure that particular stretch of interstate highway was actually finished when Bobbie Gentry wrote the song.  Likely he dove off a bridge closer to the Alabama border.

Once in a while, you pass a roadside rest station.  On this point, I have to chalk up a few points for the people in charge of Mississippi: they have charming, hotel-like welcome stations offering free coffee when you cross the state line.  The other rest station bathrooms along the way are super-clean. Considering how long Mississippi is, and how much coffee is involved in getting through it, that is a critical detail.  

Everything in Mississippi seems to be named after an Indian tribe, a long-dead President, or something (or someone) in the Bible.  You simply cannot drive the entire length of Mississippi without the Bible sneaking into your conversation at some point, even if you aren't particularly religious.  There are so many Biblical place names on the road signs -- Mount Zion, etc. -- that you end up playing Bible Trivia with your road companion, even if you had no intention of doing such a thing.

This was the conversation Dave and I had as we passed the exit for the town of Ebenezer:

"Besides Scrooge ... Ebenezer is a Biblical name, right?"


"Who was Ebenezer, anyway?  A priest ... a judge?"

"Um ... I think it's a whole book in the Bible."

"You're thinking of Ezekiel.  Or maybe Ezra."

"Well ... there's Better than Ezra, and Ezra Pound."

"Ezra Pound wasn't even from Mississippi."

"Eudora Welty was.  There's an exit for her house."

"Oh, wait ... wasn't Ebenezer a Philistine ... or a Hittite?  Or maybe he smote somebody, or begat somebody?"

We looked it up when we got home.  

Just so you know:  Ebenezer is a rock.

The drive through Mississippi generated a lot of similar conversations, and they served as a welcome distraction.   We were making a road trip to Memphis so Dave could visit an oncologist specializing in cancers of the eye.  Dave was recently diagnosed with squamous cell sarcoma, and that's what has kept me away from the blog.  

Our road trip the day before it snowed was followed by a plane hop to Memphis for surgery on December 30th, and we must make yet another trip later this month for a final surgery.  David, most unfortunately, will lose an eye, but that will provide a near guarantee that the cancer will not spread into his brain.  I am still at the point where I am angry at the Universe that my husband has had to suffer so much with his health when so many hateful, evil and criminal people strut around in peak health, but at the same time I am also deeply grateful for everyone who is sending their prayers and good wishes Dave's way.

Next post: Tomorrow, hopefully -- photos from the shop.

Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: