...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:
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:
All together now ... "aaaaaaawww, ain't it so cute and little?"
Do not laugh. I know Christmas is only 82 days away.
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.
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?