Sunday, January 31, 2010


The following arrived in my inbox today as one of those "forwards" that get passed around.  In keeping with current events, the motivation was to engender compassion for Haitians who are suffering so much from the earthquake of almost 3 weeks ago now.  But for me it has a deeper resonance:

The eminent anthropologist Margaret Mead was once asked
what she regarded as the earliest sign of civilization.  Was it
an axe-blade, an arrowhead, a fishhook, or something more
sophisticated, such as a musical instrument or a ceramic

Her answer surprised her questioner:  "A healed human

Not something made by a human, but something human;
not an artifact, but a part of someone who once lived and
walked the earth, who was hurt but healed.
Doctor Mead explained that where the law of the survival of
the fittest reigns, a broken leg means certain death - when
you cannot make it on your own, you're doomed.  But a
healed leg-bone is physical evidence that someone cared.
Someone gathered food for that injured person  until their
leg was healed; someone cared for them until they could
once again care for themselves.

The first sign of civilization was COMPASSION.

The meaning to me:

When I was in second grade, we moved to a neighborhood where there was a boy about 2 years younger than me who lost both of his legs below the knee because of a fire.  I discovered this when we were playing in playground sandbox and I happened to bump into his calf and it made a resounding 'thunk'.  When I looked at what I earlier thought was flesh, there was a distinct mesh pattern in what appeared to be plastic.  They were Mark's prostheses.

Then in 6th grade I was hospitalized to have my tonsils out.  My room was a four bed ward with only two beds occupied.  Me and the other occupant, another  boy named Mark who had cerebral palsy and was hospitalized for orthopedic surgery on his leg.  I watched another Mark face the challenges of limited mobility, donning his brace and crutches to get where he wanted to go.

From that point I decided that I wanted to be a physical therapist.  It seemed to me that learning how to help people with movement difficulties was a reasonable way to make a difference in the world.  It also happened that there was a woman from my home town who was a prominent physical therapist and her niece was one of my good friends.  So now there was a goal and a role model.

Through junior high, high school, and college admissions there was only one thing I wanted to be:  a physical therapist who focused on physical rehabilitation. That goal was achieved, and for 22 years, that's what I did.  Mostly in pediatric settings and mostly with individuals who had suffered some sort of neurologic injury. 

In 1996 I had a patient with a spinal cord injury who needed a pressure relief cushion to keep from getting a bedsore on his bottom.  Decubitus ulcers (aka bedsores) are a leading cause of death in individuals who have suffered complete spinal cord injury.  It was the demise of Christopher Reeves after his valiant struggle.  In the course of that week in 1996, I had many telephone conversations with an insurance case manager 1,500 miles away who repeatedly denied coverage for that $400 cushion.  I did everything within my power to provide: documentation, photographs, physician reports, review of the literature and research.

This case manager, with no background in medicine, denied the cushion because it was her job to keep down durable medical expenses.  If what she did resulted in a major hospitalization and ultimately death for the patient, that wasn't her job.  Someone else was charged with managing hospital expenses.  I didn't ask who was ultimately responsible for mortality issues.

It was that week, after 22 years, that I decided I was done.  Done with working in organized health care in the United States.  The system was broken, I had a family to care for at home and we could live on my husband's salary.  That was 14 years ago and the health care system in this country has only gotten worse.

So yes, the message from Margaret Mead should inspire us to compassion.  Not only to those in Haiti, but in our own country as well.  Shame on anyone who would deny the most basic care to their fellow citizens and portray it as a "redistribution of wealth" or distort critical decision making as "death panels".  

It's time to get back to understanding what makes us truly human and made us a great country in the past.

I'd like to order up a big helping of Compassion.  Hold the partisan politics please.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

All that remains.....

This is what's left of the Kroy FX after finishing my socks:

It's one of the reasons that I prefer to knit my socks from the toe up.  The length of the sock cuff is not as critical as the length of the foot.  And who wants to rip out a turned heel in order to garner a little more yarn  to make it to the toe?!

See, there they are...two of them....finished!

And here's the shaping of the sole.

Project details are here. (Ravelry link)

Sunday, January 17, 2010


On January first I woke up with a sty in my left eye.  Took a week to get the darn thing healed up.

Last Tuesday I woke to find 1/4" long crack in the right lens of the glasses which were new in October.

Now today, the stuffiness in my ears over the past two weeks has become a full blown ear ache on one side and a throb on the other side.  Drat!!

Looks like a trip to the dr. tomorrow.  I guess it's good that I can easily rearrange my schedule to get these things taken care of, but geez...not a good start to the new year.

Today I am drinking tea in the lounge chair, napping between rounds of the latest pair of socks, and wondering if these two balls of Kroy sock yarn are really from the same dye lot:

They look rather fraternal to me.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Responding to comment...

Nestra asked about The Primary Structure of Fabrics (textile museum link) and the Bertha Gray Hayes (Weavezine link) books.

The Primary Structure of Fabrics is a bit like an encyclopedia of the various ways of making cloth by hand and simple machine.  I would suggest finding a copy on interlibrary loan to browse over before making the leap on a purchase.  It won't be very helpful in teaching one to weave, but it will certainly whet the appetite of the textile junkie to play with fibers in different ways.

The Bertha Gray Hayes Design book has a wealth of 4 harness overshot drafts which are fascinating to browse through and takes the "colonial hearth and home" edge off traditional overshot weaves.  I think it would be a great book for any weaver to have in their library.  One limitation of the book is that the threadings are shown with only one tie-up and treadling.  So it's not like Marguerite Davison's or Anne Dixon's books, both of which I would suggest before the Bertha Gray Hayes book if you are just starting out your weaving library.

Hope that helps.

BTW...I've had to go to comment moderation because my old posts were being used in what appeared to be an illicit way.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

Happy weekend!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Slow Cloth

It wasn't my intent to adopt even slower methods of producing cloth, but it seems that's where I am right now.  Here's my everyday tapestry so far, with Jan. 15 still in progress:

The overall effect is kind of random and wonky, but I'm showing up each day and weaving just what speaks to me for the day.  Sorry about the muddy picture, but I'm weaving it in a room without windows.

And here we have a bit of Old Shale lace knitted with spindle spun yarn:

Back in October I ordered a Turkish Delight spindle from Jenkins Woodworking. Wanda tucked a sample of Optim fiber in the package with the spindle.  Here you see it spun up as 2 ply lace weight yarn and knitted into an 8" x 12" swatch.  It's an interesting fiber to work with, but I think prefer natural fibers that haven't been messed with.

So, tapestry weaving with butterflies and handpicked sheds and spindle spinning lace weight much slower can you get?

Well.....spending all your time leafing through reference books will tend to slow one down as well.  These are part of my Christmas and birthday haul of books.  Each one is a "Books fall open, you fall in" kind of experience.

The thing that blows my mind about these marvelous reference books is this:  
Bertha Gray Hayes and Irene Emery compiled the information in their books in the days before personal computers.  And Helen Bress had access to computers, but she started this book ~27 years ago, so not computers as we know them in the 21st century. 
Now that is truly the weaving equivalent of "in my day we walked to school which was 5 miles away, in the snow, up hill both ways."  These women are amazing and I am awed by their work.

Helene Bress' Coverlet Book(s) is well reviewed on Weavezine .  If you'd like me to review any of the others you see here, let me know.

Just one more book recommendation as we contemplate the earthquake disaster in Haiti.  If you want to know more about the complexities of delivering health care in Haiti read  Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. 

Monday, January 04, 2010

Monkey see......

One of my resolutions for the New Year involved limiting my "web monkey" activity.  For me, web monkey behavior consists of surfing various fiber blogs (and ravelry), seeing something that someone else is doing, then jumping in and blindly imitating what they are making without thinking it through.

The result of such behavior is  a backlog of unfinished items to which I'm not really committed and in some cases very  little memory of why I started some of these things to begin with.

I'm sure, dear reader, that this never happens to you. 

So that's it.  As of Jan. 1, 2010....I quit.  Nothing you can put up on your blog or ravelry project page can tempt me into casting on, buying yarn and/or patterns, winding a warp, or buying the book.  I will only work on things that are self generated.  Things I really want to do because they fit in with a larger plan.  Don't ask me what the larger plan is.  I'll know it when I see it.  (Perhaps one of you could blog about it?)

Here it is, Jan. 4 and let me show you how well I've done:
Specimen Number 1:

Here we have the first finished item of 2010.  A neck warmer that was posted on A Friend to Knit With last Wed. the 30th.  I looked at it and thought, "gee, that might be something ds would like for his birthday in two weeks."  Friday night (yep, Jan. 1) as we settled down to watch a movie, I cast on with some brown Patons Classic Merino Wool.

Specimen Number 2:

During December Tommye's daily tapestry for 2009 caught my eye. I kept checking my feed reader to see how she was progressing and couldn't wait to see it cut off at the end of the year. There was a warp languishing on my pipe loom. Maybe something like a daily tapestry journal would be the thing to help me overcome my tapestry block.

Resolution notwithstanding, I jumped right in weaving my daily tapestry on Jan. 1.  And that's not the worst of it.   Not only did this monkey see and monkey do....this monkey also signed on to particpate in a joint blog about the daily practice called Tapestry Days.  (I'll give you a link once I know that it's intended to be a public blog.)

So...yeah...New Year's Resolutions....phhhht.

New Topic:  I've been promising a "blue post",  but haven't been able to get it together.   So here's a finished item from last year:

It's a handwoven scarf/stole made with Aunt Lydia's Bamboo Crochet Thread. I used a project from the Fall '09 issue of Handwoven Magazine as inspiration.  It was given as a Christmas gift and I've seen it worn a couple times, so I'd say it was a success.
Here's another image with better color:

Below is one of several dishcloths that I knitted over the past month.  I had a 40% off coupon at JoAnn's which went toward the purchase of a cone of kitchen cotton.  Most of them went into gift bags, but this one is mine.  The pattern is in Respect the Spindle. (There are a couple errors in the pattern graph, but they are pretty easy to figure out.)

So that's my story and I'm stuck with it.  Happy New Year!!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Wool therapy - knitting project attracts ex-cons

"Weaving, knitting and crochet are not what you would expect to attract ex-convicts, drug users and alcoholics."

Ah...if the BBC only knew.....