I had tried to remember what it was like, my life before knitting. I've been working with fiber one way or another for nearly my entire life. I had learned to weave on an inkle loom at Camp Fire Girls Camp when I was 12--here is the letter I wrote to my great-grandmother Agnes,* in which I casually report on what turned out to be a pivotal event in my life:
("Dear Nani, I've been having fun and I've made many friends at camp. I learned to paddle a canoe and to weave...." Fateful words!)
Until three days ago.
I injured my right thumb somehow. I know that knitting sleeves from the shoulder downwards puts strain on my hands, as does knitting with small-circumference needles. I spent too much time cutting back the lavendar in the back yard and pulling recalcitrant weeds. I grabbed a heavy container with the weight on my thumb. I played, I will admit, too many games of Spider Solitaire while talking on the phone. My purse caught on something while the strap was over my thumb and gave it a nasty pull.
This all adds up, and suddenly I understood that I simply needed to rest my hands.
But it is amazing what I've gotten done now that I can't fill my hours with knitting. I've spun another bobbin of lovely deep brown Shetland. I've potted those plants that have been waiting so patiently. I painted the threshold of the new back door. I even damp-mopped the floors.
I had a little Learn to Knit Party today. I was so pleased when Lori showed up--I had taught her 6 months ago and she took to it like, well, like most of us: she became obsessed. Today she brought her poncho (from Sally Melville's The Knit Stitch, my favorite beginner's book) to seam up!!! I'm so proud.
And while cleaning out my office I happily sorted through years of Spin-Off Magazine, reveling in the breadth and depth of fiber knowledge encompassed by the issues, some dating back to 1992. And I started a new project inspired by Nest Rubio's article "Cool Dyeing" in the Spring 1993 issue (the contents of this article are summarized on this site). Nest argues that early dyers would not have used the fuel- and water-intensive dyeing techniques we are used to; her interest piqued by hints of room-temperature dye techniques, she tested the results of mordanting over a 28-day period and then dyeing with madder at room temperature for up to 30 days. Her results were fantastic--the colors were lovely and clear and deep, and without the brown tinge that overheating can give. Because I am such a forgetful person, regular dyeing has always been a problem--if I walk away for a minute or start reading a book while standing at the stove, suddenly the pot is boiling over and the wool is history. Nest's method looked perfect for me; in fact, it's set off a read brainstorm and I can't wait to try other dyes as well.
I've wound 8 ounces of Harrisville white Shetland (also found while mucking out the office) from the cone into 75-yard hanks. Yarn packaged on a cone like this usually still has the spinning oil on it (it's meant for weavers, who prefer to leave the oil there until the fabric is ready to be washed as part of the finishing process), so I washed the hanks in hot water with Dawn detergent. Then I filled a large pot with hot water from the tap at the 100 degrees F I wanted; I stirred in 2 ounces of alum and then submerged the wet hanks. I set a plate on top of this to keep the wool underwater, and now it sits on the dryer. I'm going to keep it at room temperature, about 65 degrees F this time of year in the laundry room for the full 28 days before starting the dye process. This is fun! (Shhh! I hope it's more successful than my lichen dyeing experiment.... or my avocado dyeing experiment....)
Oh, and the hand? Well, I'm signing up for Carson Demers' class "Knitting Happily Ever After" at Madrona Fiber Arts so I can develop better knitting habits AND I'm asking for a knitting belt and pins for Christmas. It's never a bad idea to learn several ways to do something!
* Those were the days--please note the full address: Agnes Hultman, La Conner, Wash.