Friday, January 21, 2011

Back in the Habit

I've been spending the last couple of days reworking one of my blog posts into a polished article.  I cannot believe how many mistakes, both in grammar and in the logical progression of ideas that I found in my blog post.  Anway, as an English teacher I don't have much patience with unedited, thrown-together stuff, unless my students are writing informal, journals--which, I guess, is what this blog post is.  So if you read my blog, please understand that it is written by a full-time working mother who has great editorial skills, but only when she has a quiet moment to use them. 

I'm almost through with my rewriting and then should be back to blogging.  Until then, here's a picture of some fingerless gloves I recently finished.  I just purchased a Guenevere scarf kit (by Knit One, Crochet Too Yarn), and am excited about getting started working on that, too.  I have never bought a knitting kit before, because I prefer to choose my own colors and yarns, but I couldn't resist this soft fuzzy scarf and its romantic name.  I bought the kit at Rainy Day Creations in Pineville.  (See link under Charlotte knitting stores on the right of this blog page) or go to YarnMarket to purchase online. 



Friday, January 14, 2011

Jane Austen and Knitting: The Distaff Side

Jane Austen’s last novel, Persuasion, is her most mature work.  From its onset, there is a sense of foreboding, as the downcast heroine, Anne Elliot seems to be poised on the brink of a miserable life of spinsterhood spent plagued by her irritating immediate family.  In one poignant scene, Anne defies the wishes of her pretentious father and sister and visits an old school friend, the widow Mrs. Smith, who is both infirm and poor.  Mrs. Smith informs Anne that she has been blessed with a devoted nurse, one whose contributions Smith describes, 
            "As soon as I could use my hands she taught me to knit, which has been a great amusement; and she put me in the way of making these little thread-cases, pincushions and card-racks, which you always find me so busy about, and which supply me with the means of doing a little good to one or two very poor families in this neighbourhood. She has a large acquaintance, of course professionally, among those who can afford to buy, and she disposes of my merchandise.”   
Not surprisingly, it is in this novel, written when Austen knew that no happily ever after was in her own future, that Austen describes the plight of ill, lonely, and poor widow Mrs. Smith.  Smith would be a very young woman by 21st century standards, roughly Anne’s age, around 27, but the modern reader senses that this character’s life, like Austen's, will be a short one, and that there is no Mr. Darcy or even a Colonel Brandon in her future.   Yet, Smith finds a way to charitably give to others and a to gain a small source of income by knitting.  In this novel, knitting is presented as a humble craft, performed by unassuming women, in solitude and peace, much like Austen’s writing done at a small table using a meager “two inches of ivory.” 
The marriage in the mind’s eye of knitting with a retreat from active life is still prevalent today, among many non-knitters.  My two sons think that knitting is an “old lady” activity—the younger one goes so far as to beg me to refrain from knitting in public.  Much like those who prompted Jane Austen to hide her manuscripts under cover when visitors appeared, he, like Austen’s contemporaries viewing a woman writing fiction, somehow finds knitting unseemly—not unwomanly as writing was presumed to be in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, more like unfashionable. To my son and others like him, knitting suggests women who like Anne Elliot have “lost their bloom,” who as adults, seem to lack futures of vigorous living and procreation. 
Yet that view of knitting and the characterization of both women, fictional and real, as somehow used up reflect, of course, stereotyped thinking and errors in judgment.  (Every contemporary knitter knows that there is a huge interest in knitting among very hip and vibrant young people.)  In the course of their humble activities and retiring lives both women make great contributions—Smith’s words prevent Anne from making a disastrous marital choice and Jane Austen has left a legacy of literary contribution—one which has spawned a huge industry of Austen films and spin-off books, not to mention legions of devoted Janites.    
For those of you Janites who appreciate both the vibrant contributions of Jane Austen and the art and craft of knitting, here is a pattern I found from the United Kingdom’s Jane Austen Center for a knitted shawl.  You might also enjoy this 18th century stocking chart, one which requires some pretty sophisticated math skills at a time when skill with numbers was not included in the qualities an accomplished woman was supposed to possess.  (See the definition of an accomplished woman presented in Pride and Prejudice.)  Finally, check out the Knitting History website, to see some images of knitted works, some of which date from Austen's lifetime. 














Thursday, January 13, 2011

Musings on Mommies, Mutants, and Knitting

I tried to sneak out of the house by myself yesterday—the roads were mostly clear of ice and snow and two full days ensconced inside with two boys, my husband, and the incessant noise of video games and action movies was really beginning to grate on my nerves.  I also needed to get cat food; we has used up the last morsels, and Streaky, our large Ginger cat, can get feisty when his bowl is empty, lashing out his claws at passersby when his initial attempts to rub affectionately against us are not rewarded with a fresh scoop.  Like some cat burglar myself, I quietly crept to the front door, and I almost made it, but my ten-year-old—who, like all the children in my household, has selective hearing—managed to catch up with me as I was headed out.  “Can I come?” he pleaded.  Plagued with working mother’s guilt, I relented and we were off. 
As I was craving a frozen yogurt, it made perfect sense to drive 12 miles over to SouthPark Mall with its Yoforia shop, a place where a row of self-serve gleaming nozzles  dispense supposedly low-fat, low-calorie frozen yogurt in an array of flavors, such as pomegranate and Ferrer Rocher.    After some brief browsing in the mall, including a stop at Sur la Table, where I was able to snag a spotted cow creamer on sale for less than $4.00 (for the country home/sheep farm I plan to buy when I stop making impulsive purchases and actually save some money) and a purple silicone basting brush (for those countless times such an item is required), my son and I stopped in the Apple Store.  (It was great fun to open all the browsers of all of the available IPads to my blog page and then watch people’s responses as they picked up the machines, looked confused, and then immediately switched to other sites.)  After much pleading and threatening in order to wrest my son away from whatever violent video game he was playing on a laptop, we then headed to Yoforia and then on to the food court, as my son in typical fashion wanted a cheeseburger rather than yogurt. 
The food court was teaming with small children and their mothers.  I was a bit surprised by this choice of venue on the part of the moms, as SouthPark is not a particularly child-friendly mall.  When the mall developers decided to extensively renovate the place at least five or so years ago to give it an exclusively upscale focus, the Disney Store that was located there closed, and places such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Neiman Marcus with little appeal for children moved in.  The mall has a distinctively snobby appeal and is frequented by many people who seem to subscribe to the credo, “style over substance.”
Unlike when I visit stores toward the eastern (rural) end of Union County, folks in SouthPark do not typically smile and say hello to strangers.  In fact, it struck me that striking up a conversation with some of the moms in the mall that day would be as mystifying and uncomfortable as attempting to make first contact with a saucer-eyed alien who had inadvertently landed his spaceship in my back yard.  By and large, the mothers were not young, as far as mothers go.  These were educated women, women who had had their first child in their late twenties or sometime in their thirties.  One after another, they struck me with their lackluster sameness—expensive baby strollers, high-tech (think ugly) running shoes, fleece vests or jackets with the names of outdoor companies popular to yuppies embroidered on the front, with not a fat thigh or oversized bosom among the lot.  In fact, they possessed a kind of athletic, sometimes bordering on the anorexic, slimness.  A woman at a table next to ours unpacked plastic plates, bags of fresh apples, and bottles of spring water for her three sons who seemed unfazed by the fact that they were being denied the delights of Chick Fila and Showmars that were in near proximity.   The boys contentedly chewed their apples and quietly listened to their very tall, very angular mom, with her blond bob and Northface vest, chat with the other mom at her table.  If my sons acted that way, I would have to immediately take them to the pediatrician’s office, as such outrageous behavior would only mean that they were gravely ill. 
I left the mall with a sense of my own shortcomings. Between teaching full-time, running a home, reading, and knitting, some of the details of healthy, yuppie living elude me.  I can’t seem to find time to work out, and while I do love to cook using fresh and healthy ingredients, the pace of working full-time and running to athletic practices and games and tutoring often means that my family grabs food on the run or eats dinners out of the many plastic containers of high-starch leftovers that do battle with me every time I try to extract a jar of peanut butter or mayonnaise from the refrigerator.  Many of those women at the mall seemed to be meeting friends—perhaps there was a mommy group getting together there that day.  I don’t know.  But I am certain that I feel envy for women who have relaxed time for such an activity.   During the school year, socializing with  other women takes weeks of prior emailing and telephone tag.  While these visits are well worth the effort, they are troublesome to arrange and usually mean that I have to muster up the skills of a general in order to rearrange my sons’ extracurricular travel arrangements with my husband.   Sometimes, such machinations are just not worth the effort. Real Simple editor Kristin van Ogtrop’s article “Can I Call You Back in 15 Years?” perfectly articulates this phenomenon.   
The lack of friendships and exercise routines and sometimes poor eating habits are not the only challenges of working mothers who do not have a large enough income to have help with cooking and cleaning or with chauffeuring children. These same women struggle to find time for hobbies and personal care—it takes time to knit or sew or to paint one’s nails or to wait while a facial mask dries.  If many of them are like me, we experience guilt about the lack of time spent ministering to our children while simultaneously lamenting the lack of time to take care of our own needs.  Days of laundry, cooking, running here and there, and working don’t leave much time for anything else.  I rise early each morning, around 5:00 a.m. and usually give myself a half an hour to an hour to read and/or knit.  I have only been able to take one knitting class in the last two-and-a-half years, and long for the cozy camaraderie of a social knitting group. 
After we left the mall, my son and I went to Barnes and Noble in the SouthPark area.  He took off to look for Batman DVDs and I, still pondering the emotions aroused by my experience in the mall, sought solace by perusing the knitting books in the crafts section.  There was a woman there, probably in her sixties, sitting perched on a stepstool, and she asked me about the merits of a book 101 Designer One Skein Wonders.  I told her that I had purchased the book for the teen knitting club at the school where I teach, but that I hadn’t tried any of the patterns in it yet.  We both admired a rainbow-hued ribbed hat in the book, and I proudly showed her the socks I was wearing--made out of a similarly vivid variegated Noro yarn.  She had a lively persona, bright eyes, and an engaging smile.  She told me that her name is Yvonne, that she teaches yoga to senior citizens, and that she belongs to a knitting group that meets at a Panera Bread not far from my house, and that I was welcome to join her group.  I sighed wistfully as she regaled me with tales of knitting-inspired road trips and shared projects.   
Unlike the species of moms at the mall, she made eye contact and seemed to have no qualms about interacting with a short woman wearing purple shoes.  Unfortunately, this woman’s knitting group meets on a night that conflicts with three of my children’s extra-curricular activities, where no one in my family even returns home until at least 8:00 p.m.  It’s looks as if the knitting group is a no go—for now.  From now on, though, on Thursday nights as I sit watching TaeKwondo, I’ll think about those women, sipping warm drinks, knitting by the gas logs in Panera, sharing wisdom and personal stories about their craft . . . and life.  I’ll also remember that, for right now, my responsibilities lie elsewhere.  When the mutant mommies are, perhaps, facing their own mid-life crises related to empty nesting or returning to the workplace, I hope to have time to sit by a fire, lulled by the click of needles, and the voices of my companions. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Knitting With Vampires



“She had reached the age of seventeen, without having seen ... one amiable youth who could call forth her sensibility; without having inspired one real passion, and without having excited even any admiration but what was very moderate and very transient. “
                                                                 –Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
The Carolinas are covered in a glistening layer of ice this morning.  Schools are closed for the third day running, and, once again, before sunrise, I am sitting up in bed, knitting and sipping coffee. I just cast on the beginnings of a set of fingerless gloves—mitts they used to be called in the 19th century.  The blood-red alpaca yarn I am using is infused with black, and the colors got me thinking about vampires and romantic obsession. 
The recent vampire craze seems unstoppable.  Grown women in their forties host Twilight parties—a friend of mine, a married woman close to fifty with two children, has a poster of Robert Pattinson (the British actor who plays Edward Cullen in the Twilight movies) hanging in her master bedroom and, when we get together, likes to present examples May-December relationships (ones where the woman naturally is in her winter years) as some type of positive proof that her hopes for a future with Pattinson  are not unfounded).  For some strange reason, while I’m a huge Harry Potter devotee, I haven’t been caught up in this craze. In fact, I sometimes get preachy with the teenaged girls in my English classes, cautioning them that Edward Cullen is a bad romantic model—an idealized distant male, one who mopes and broods and whose angular face and heart are as cold and artificial as a statue. For Bella, or any mortal girl, loving this man means giving up everything—her family and her previous life.  He represents an unreal romantic obsession, one that is so unhealthy, in fact, that Bella contemplates suicide when she and Edward are parted. 
Sometimes my lectures about Edward are more like tirades, ones which rouse deep emotions in me and passionate responses from girls who belong to “team Edward.”  At heart, I know the reason why my response to girls’ fascination with Edward is so visceral is because, were I sixteen now, Edward Cullen and the gothic romance series of books and movies in which he is featured would be instant favorites.  When I was a teenager I read Wuthering Heights and found old, ugly, untruthful, and  downright cruel-at-times Mr. Rochester to be an engaging romantic hero, a character who sparked all sorts of fantasies of English manor houses, candlelight, and long flowing gowns.  Rereading and teaching this book as an adult, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the girl I was, the hard lessons I learned about love along the way (including a badly ending romance with an older rich man), and how romantic preoccupations are a part of life for many young girls, but how such interests must be balanced by a set of realistic expectations for romantic relationships—coupled with some healthy self-esteem and hobbies and interests beyond gothic movies and novels.   (Jane Austen does a great job of showing the pitfalls of a diet of too much gothic romance in her satirical novel Northanger Abbey.) 
Nineteenth century girls were perhaps told to focus more on their needlework and less on romance to achieve a healthy balance, but today’s young women are lucky enough to have resources available that allow them to couple their interest in vampires and love with knitting, keeping them busy and perhaps out of the paths of potential Edward Cullens or Edward Rochesters.  Girls (or their moms) can check out the book Vampire Knits: Projects to Keep You Knitting from Twilight to Dawn or the many Twilight inspired knitting patterns, such as Bella’s Chunky Mittens.   Find a pattern for and picture of these mittens here:  http://subliminalrabbit.blogspot.com/2008/12/bellas-mittens-updated-pattern.html.  You can also do a search on Ravelry for lots of other Twilight inspired knits, or go to http://www.squidoo.com/gothknit to find gothic knitting resources, including the rather dark http://theanticraft.com/.  Proceed with caution. . . .
But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.
                            -Lord Byron, “The Giaour” (1813)







Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Life in France

                In an effort to save money, in the last couple of years I have curtailed my former lavish bookstore spending and buy most of what I read at Goodwill or a wonderful used book store, The Book Lady, located in a neighboring town.  Recently I picked up a copy of Julia Child’s My Life in France, which I read while sipping coffee this morning.  It is another  glorious snow day, schools closed, kids snoozing away, and Julia Child has taken me away to Paris, where she has recently enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu and, after an initial disappointing class,  is reveling in a new year-long culinary course given by a master chef.    As I contemplete this reading and write my blog, my very long and wide Ginger cat busies himself wrenching a ball of yarn out of a plastic bag at the end of the bed and madly attacks it before tossing it on the floor.  The dog lies on a folded up mattress pad—much in need of washing—that lies next to the bed, strewn with her collection of stuffed animals—including a filthy Captain Underpants, “Chicken Man” (a funny looking chicken with protruding yellow feet), Scooby Doo, a fuzzy Llama, and Curious George. The dog, a cocker spaniel named Stella, is a bit of a neurotic and has some odd habits, including collecting any toys—children’s or cat’s—which find themselves on the floor.  If an individual threatens to take one away, she grasps it in her mouth, aims a menacing glare at the potential thief, and burrows under the bed to add it to her secret stash.   I really do need to clean under there . . . someday. 
                My world is so far from that Julia's and so far removed from how I’d envisioned grown-up married life.  When I met my husband back in the early 90s, he was finishing up a Ph.D. in romance languages from Carolina. He is a quiet man, a skilled listener (probably a product of his many years in his former career as a minister), a person who, when he does speak, employs words that are wise and cut to the heart of an issue.  When we first married, we’d both expected that he’d soon be teaching at a university, and that we’d be living in a rich cultural milieu, attending and hosting cocktail parties where guests would debate the merits of particular authors and European wines.  Neither one of us intended to stay in Union County, North Carolina, teaching school, living just a stone’s throw from Wal-Mart. Yet, nineteen years later, here we are.  As a man in his forties during our early married years, the exhausting tasks of teaching school, renovating our previous house, and tending to a new baby sapped any energy he had for looking for university employment at the time.  Right now, he is downstairs in his robe saying morning devotions, and I sit in the bed, alternating between reading about Julia’s life and trying to finish a lacy mohair scarf I plan to give to a dear friend tomorrow. 
                Our life is not the intellectual, sophisticated one we’d envisioned.  We do not travel to Europe each year.  In fact, we’ve never been there together.  Our children are not the hybrids I was so assured that we’d produce—ones who would be musical prodigies and say, “Yum, we’re having sushi tonight.”  My son James receives the class clown award each year.  He is a drama king, a child whose crowning performance to date is when it took a total of seven doctors, nurses, and orderlies to manage stitching up his cut finger while he kicked and spat and screamed at the top of his lungs, “God in heaven, kill me now!”  He is also the child who stuffed homework in his desk at school last year, coming home each night saying he didn’t have any.  His older brother, my teenaged son is big and brawny and cute, a football player and wrestler who only seems to process about 30% of oral language that is addressed to him.  He stares numbly as we say, “There, pick up the large purple book, the one right in front of you on the table,” and goes on to look for it in the closet.  It is amazing how a child whose mother so furiously tried to stuff him with culture, taking him to plays, reading to him, enrolling him in academic camps, etc. has produced such a contented jock, one who is more than satisfied with Cs on his report card and who has not gone a day in weeks without watching a football game on TV. 
                Alas, what do all of these ramblings about Julia Child and a mundane existence have to do with a knitting blog? Both my knitting and Child’s book take me away for a while from dirty laundry, papers to grade, and the aesthetically unpleasing fast food restaurants and strip malls of my everyday life.  As I sit in bed, handling some wonderful mohair and reading a knitting magazine from a German company, my senses are fully engaged, and the romantic in me is taken to faraway places.  The mohair comes from Italy and I imagine its journey to my messy bedroom in Indian Trail, and the sleek images in Filati magazine reassure me that short, plump, schoolteacher me shares some part in the glamorous cashmere-clad, clutter-free existences of the women on the glossy pages.  Julia’s experience with oysters and sole and wonderful wines inspire me to later on today concoct something exotic in my tiny galley kitchen. 
My life gives me insight into why  women in previous eras in humble farmhouses or small log cabins, women whose lives were harsher than mine, lives which were plagued frequently with struggle and sickness and death, created fanciful quilt designs or lovingly canned food and smiled with satisfaction as they lined it up in a pleasing array on their shelves.  Such acts, like my knitting or reading or experimenting with recipes inspired by Julia, bring art and life and the world to even the humblest in the most provincial town.  Small substitute, perhaps, for travel and urbane banter, but small blessings nevertheless, ones without which life would be dismal indeed. 


Stella with her llama. 

Streaky loves this microfiber blanket. 

Detail from mohair scarf.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Peace of Yarn

            Christmas was in the air.  Holiday lights twinkled in the dark night, a chill merited coats and hats (not always required in December in the Carolinas), and at least half of my family was plagued with some sort of nasty wracking cough.  It was 2008, I was 44, and I had just finished my first semester of teaching at a new high school.  I had the typical end-of-semester bone-tired weariness—a product of weeks and weeks of intense grading, dealing with a variety of teen personalities on a daily basis, and tying up the hundreds of loose ends that are part of the end of an academic term. 
            My family and I had just exited our car and were headed to a faculty get-together at a bar/restaurant located in a quaint strip of shops in a neighboring town.  As I walked along the sidewalk, I noticed a lit-up storefront with knitted goods in the window. Completely intrigued, I peered in and saw a quiet hum of movement—there were still a few women in the shop, even though it was nearly closing time—and I longed to go in, but knew that my two sons would have been antsy and impatient and that their incessant whining and complaining would have ruined the experience.  I also didn’t want to be late for dinner, so I filed away the information that I needed to return to visit the shop and went in to join my colleagues.
            When I woke the next morning, thoughts of the yarn shop filled my brain.  I can recall a similar experience when I visited Las Vegas years ago and rose suddenly from deep sleep, sitting straight up in bed at around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m.  The knowledge that there was so much excitement and opportunity for both stimulation and riches located just a mere distance of several floors beneath my room was too much to bear.  I dressed in the dark and slipped quietly out of the room to go downstairs to the casino floor.  The siren call of Vegas twenty-one tables, however, have nothing over the pull of yarn in my life since my first glance at that plate glass of the yarn shop that fateful night. 
            Mall stores spend big bucks on creating environments that appeal to the senses of shoppers—a mixture of music, scent, color, and use of space that unleashes purse strings.  But the heady environment of the first floor of Nordstrom's or Neiman Marcus can’t compare to the sensory delights of a knitting store—delights that I first experienced that fateful Saturday morning.  I think I handled every piece of yarn in the shop and, ultimately, left with a paper-back booklet of knitting instructions, a couple of skeins of beautiful dappled gray-black-and-white wool, and a set of size-ten circular bamboo needles. The women who worked in the shop had offered helpful advice and suggestions, and they seemed to me like members of some secret society, one which had complicated manuals and initiation rites, but which promised a kind of graceful composure and peace for those worthy to accept the challenge.
            I bore the bag they handed me with its mysterious contents like some holy offering.  After I arrived home, with the help of the proffered advice, the booklet, and online videos, I was able to make a scarf and then a hat and a scarf and then another scarf and another hat and another scarf and then . . .  Pilgrimages to yarn shops became a part of every family vacation and knitting is now ensconced in my daily routine.  Fittingly, that first yarn shop, one which closed its doors not long after my first foray into the wonders of knitting, was called “A Peace of Yarn”—as knitting has served me as both a meditative exercise and an escape as a teacher from the increasing demands of the monolithic bureaucracy that is the North Carolina educational system.
            Ironically, despite the calm joy that knitting has brought to my life, my ten-year-old son likes to state periodically, “Knitting makes you mean.”   I am humbled and ashamed by his words, as I know they refer to the unfortunate but, ultimately, successful cabled sweater dress (replete with bobble upon bobble upon bobble) that I took on as a novice knitter—swearing and ripping and swearing and ripping along the way.  (The accompanying glasses of merlot didn’t help matters much.)  “It’s the eleventh row!!!!” I would shriek hysterically when he would open the door to the bedroom where I sat enthroned, propped up with a pile of pillows behind me on the bed.  I ripped and tore my way through that dress with its antagonistic eleventh bobble row—the one that I had to tear out every time for weeks upon end.   
            But now as I wear my cable dress to work during this unusually cold winter (and bask in the ego boosting that accompanies the words, “Why, yes.  I did make it myself”) and find bobbles to be little challenge at all, I like to think that it is appropriate that I was introduced to knitting during the season of promise and peace.  That first piece of yarn has led to more time spent at home before the fire, less focus on material possessions, and the sense that just because a person is middle-aged, it doesn’t mean that her life can’t change, can’t be infused with new possibilities and positive challenges, all due to one serendipitous moment.   




I felt like Sisyphus as I ripped and knit my way through this sweater dress, but the effort was worth it.  The pattern is available in a booklet from Paton's Classic Wool entitled "Fall in Love" (500864 CC).  I purchased the booklet after I searched online for sweater dresses and found it available through Mary Maxim. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fiber Fix at Highland Games

               Mist coming over the mountains, torches illuminating the darkness, accompanied by the booming voices of brave Scottish clan leaders, boasting of the valor associated with their families.  What romantic wouldn’t be inspired by this experience—his or her mind reveling in the sensory images and experiencing nostalgia for times never experienced individually, but, perhaps, still present as part of some collective cultural memory?   
               The opening night ceremonies of the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain kicked off three days of food, music, competition, shopping, and exhibits that celebrate Scottish culture.  My husband, two sons, and I made our first visit to the games this past July.  There we were able to learn some family history, listen to some rousing Celtic music—formal and traditional and also modern and eclectic (one Celtic rock group featured a didgeridoo), and enjoy the exhibits and shopping.  My ten-year-old was so enamored of the weaponry that he now possesses a stainless steel sword (taller than he is) that he proudly brandishes and strokes lovingly while watching Lord of the Rings DVDs. 
               While the festival offered much for my sons and other fans of Braveheart and those interested in observing brawny men in kilts (I'm ashamed to say I'm included in the latter group), it also provided fare for fiber enthusiasts.  There was not only an array of tartans and sashes for sale representing the different clans, there was also a demonstration of spinning and some vendors who sold yarn and jewelry related to fiber crafts.  At the time of the games, I had one hour of spinning instruction under my belt, so I was thrilled to watch a woman from the Thistle Studio demonstrate the craft.  She was even kind enough to let me step behind the table at her booth so that I could get some pointers about using a wheel.  She also sold hand-knitted socks, handspun fiber, and beautiful jewelry with Christian and Celtic symbolism.  I think the helpful spinner was Marjorie Warren, the owner of Thistle Studio, but it’s been some time since my visit and I wasn’t planning on blogging about this experience when I attended the games, so I’m not sure.  While looking for information about her, I found a link to an organization with which Thistle Studio is affiliated and with which I am unfamiliar—seems to be a great resource for Carolinians interested in fiber crafts:  http://www.sefiberforum.org/index.html.  Another lady was at the same booth, representing Celtic Women International http://www.celticwomen.org/tartan.htm.  She demonstrated hand weaving and had machine-made sashes that were created from an original design she had hand woven for her organization.  I longingly handled the sashes for sale, but after spending the bulk of my cash on weaponry and on innumerable trips to food vendors to purchase greasy sustenance for my two stocky boys, I put off the purchase for another day.  Maybe next year?
               Anyway, while the games aren’t geared for the fiber enthusiast, they did offer me a fiber fix and a respite from a rather testosterone-laden weekend. 

Go to http://www.gmhg.org/ for more information.