Impromptu

They say a watched pot never boils, and I’m here to testify that neither does it simmer, at least not when it’s a giant stock pot nearly brimful of clothing and fabric yardage in a soda ash stew that I’m trying to scour for indigo dyeing. The Modern Natural Dyer says to slowly bring it up to 180 degrees over half an hour… I tried for 45 minutes to nudge it even up to 130 degrees before dinner. It wouldn’t be rushed, so I’m having another go now that the kids are abed. And to pass the time I’m flipping through the results of a little photoshoot with the kiddos from this afternoon. I’m holding back the real goods for a few more days, but after I’d clicked away for awhile, my girl requested to have a try on the other side of the camera.

“I want Mama in the middle of the bed, and Jolly jumping all around her,” she dictated. And this is what she got.

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We’ll work on focal length next time. But she did capture the flavor of our summer days, up to nothing and everything of consequence. Just a four-year-old and a six-year-old putting down roots in a new home, happy to spend all morning climbing trees in the orchard or prattling away over a herd of plastic horses in their shared bedroom or practicing for the Olympics (in gymnastics and three-day-eventing) on the living room rug. Not that they don’t have big plans; Jolly is earnestly hauling in plums and apples by the shirtload “to can for the wintah.” Today we got a kitchen scale and a lot of jars and a library card and checked out three books on preserving fruit. I’ve never done much canning and I’m feeling just a wee bit skittish about it, but if a girl can teach herself to knit she can probably teach herself to make jam, right?

Ada is keen to work on a gardener doll we started making out of a worn out sock stuffed with raw wool from the spring clip. It’s rather a fragrant doll and she still has no arms or face. I’m helping too much and should just let my six-year-old have at her with a needle and thread and see what happens.

Temperature check: nearly 170! Getting somewhere. If I don’t break an ankle clambering up the patio furniture to hang the scoured goods on the clothesline I haphazardly strung between the wisteria and the dogwood back when it was light out, it will be a miracle. But the days are warm and sunny and with any luck I’ll be firing up an indigo vat on Friday. Plum jam and blue smocks for all! Don’t ever end, summer.

Reenactment

EnglishCamp

Visiting friends researched what’s going on in town and discovered the English Camp reenactment camp-out is on this weekend. We managed to stumble upon this educational four-day living history event a couple of years ago, too, and were happy to go back.

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My son was excited to have the opportunity to go inside the blockhouse, built for defense of the camp. We weren’t allowed up the ladder to the second floor, where naughty marines had to serve time-out, but he did plenty of imagining how it would be to poke a rifle through those little square holes to shoot at emenies all the same. (What is it with little boys and the shooting? I’ve begun to think our species got the idea to invent guns because wee lads were already running about pointing their index fingers at each other and shouting, “Pew, pew pew!”)

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The kiddos played croquet and learned a period gambling game in which you spin a four-sided top to take a coin, put in a coin, do nothing, or sweep up all the coins. (They’re 1800s pennies, which were much larger than the modern-day equivalent.) Don’t play against the one in the pink hat. She is already scheming about how we could carve our own top or modify a die to play this at home.

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We got to watch a blacksmith demonstrate his craft with his mobile forge, learning about how younger sons were apprenticed to learn a trade and then made their way as journeymen, eventually setting up shop elsewhere so as not to compete for business with their masters.

I didn’t get a photograph of the two Metis widows spinning (Romney, in the grease, from the lock), knitting, and handsewing, but I did learn some off-color Chinook Jargon from them. (Tenino, WA, I’m never driving through you without a snigger again. Please tell me whoever chose to make the high school Home of the Beavers did so in full knowledge of the town’s name origin.) Middle-school humor aside, I’m fascinated by the idea of a trading language with 660 words, whittled down to just what you’d need to communicate with strangers for mutual benefit. I wonder how many similar trading languages still exist around the world?

Thanks for the fun and learning, reenacters. My friend Linus predicts I’ll be joining you within four years… which is probably the length of time it would take me to sew an appropriate costume.

Birthday sweater

I should have had autumn or winter babies. The urge to encase them in new knitwear to mark another voyage around the sun is too powerful to resist, and here they’re born in June and July, in the northern hemisphere. I finished my boy’s sweater, a smallification of Stephen West’s Drangey pullover, and tucked it into his drawer. Luckily, summer on the island can still mean a breeze with teeth, especially at the beach. We island folk know not to pack away our down jackets and wool hats for the season.

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This sweater began as a single skein of Sincere Sheep’s Cormo Worsted (colorway Hester), bought especially for him because it’s his signature color and it’s Cormo and I couldn’t not. I thought I’d make a hat. But by then I knew last year’s pink sweater wouldn’t fit him long and I thought I’d just see how far I could stretch that one skein. Stash diving produced a bit of this and a bit of that: the precious remnant of my Clara Yarn CVM/Romeldale (that’s the white), a skein of De Rerum Natura Gilliatt (grey-brown). I had a partial ball of Sincere Sheep Shepherdess in the same colorway left from Ada’s Chicory cardigan of two years ago, and a handy thing that was for finishing the right sleeve and the cuffs. I knit the yoke about three times. I can’t tell you why, but top-down is not my favorite construction and my reasoning goes all to pot when I’m trying to work out the size of the sleeves. I knocked all the pattern numbers down by percentages, but the plain fact is that little boy shoulders and torsos are not proportionally much like man shoulders and torsos at all, so I fudged it with the seat of my pants. Or something like that. The sleeves are still a bit wide at the top, but this yields the benefit of making it much easier for him to dress and undress himself. Stephen didn’t put a tunnel pocket on his design, but I’ll bet he wishes he had.

My model was not very cooperative about holding still: “I’m too busy climbing!” And my battery died, so this is all the evidence of the sweater in pristine condition. Now it smells of campfire, having seen my boy through his very first toasted marshmallow, and I’ll probably be picking grass seeds and who knows what else out of it tomorrow. And that’s exactly as it should be.

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