A whistling girl and a flock of sheep
Are two good things for a farmer to keep.
I’m living an urban life in Portland, Oregon these days, but I dream of returning to my home island, where a girl who grew up with animals and thought she’d become a veterinarian might conceivably carry her wool fetish one big step further… For the time being, my trusty sheepdog guards two little children against irresponsible parents who might toss them in the air or tickle them until they shriek. The wool isn’t on the hoof, but lying about half-knit in every room of the house or squirreled away in closets I’ll have to cede to said children when they grow taller. I’m only a middling whistler and my daughter can’t whistle at all yet, although she’s got a mighty ferocious growl. So what about that name?
It turns out there’s a far more familiar version of the whistling girl rhyme that dates back to the 1700s, and it goes like this:
Whistling girls and crowing hens
Always come to some bad end.
(or … Are fit for neither God nor men.)
Whistling wasn’t ladylike, you see. And as a woman who thinks a hen has an inalienable right to make just as much noise as a rooster if she chooses, as a woman who intends to teach her daughter that her place is right up front, I’ll proudly call myself a whistling girl. And I’ll be in good company:
“Jo does use such slang words!” observed Amy, with a reproving look at the long figure stretched on the rug.
Jo immediately sat up, put her hands in her pockets, and began to whistle.
“Don’t, Jo. It’s so boyish!”
“That’s why I do it.”
–Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Chapter 1
(Let it be noted that Jo is knitting a blue sock for a soldier in the scene, although she would rather go and fight in the war.)
This log of my life and needlework used to be called Blue Garter, as it began when I was plunging off beyond the basics of knit and purl to attempt a lace stole for my wedding day. Blue Garter saw me into my vocation as a knitter and chronicled the first eight years of my marriage, a move across the country, the births and growth of my children… I never want to let go of it, and you can still find all the old entries here. But Whistling Girl Knits is a fresh start for the next decade. It’s intended to spur me on as a writer, as a photographer, as a knitting designer… to help me become my own best self. Welcome, and thanks for sharing this space with me.
Art by Tessa Shepard, grade K