Monday, September 7, 2015

Vendanges



“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”
-William Blake

        Last week I finished knitting a shawl named “Vendanges,” a design by Zabeth Loisel-Weiner (available as a free Ravelry download).  Anyone who has taken a French class probably remembers learning about la vendange, or the “harvest of grapes,” but the plural of vendange, translated, means “harvest time” (according to Wikipedia anyway), the season when grapes are picked in France, typically anywhere from July to October, depending on the region.  It seems fitting that I chose this shawl pattern for my end-of-summer project, as, even though the temperatures have lingered in in the 90s for months (in my part of the US) and an occasional day in the 80s feels like the onset of winter, school is back in session, mums are for sale outside of every supermarket (so pumpkins can’t be far behind), and everyone seems ready to put this searing, dry summer behind them.

These are scuppernongs, a species of grape native to the southern United States.  This vine is on my ninety-year-old mother-in-law's property.  (Above:  my shawl hangs from the scuppernong arbor.)

        I, too, am primed for change.  Last year I was a new employee at a large public high school, one with an excellent reputation for a strong academic program.  I spent ten anxiety-ridden months jumping jump through every new hoop, dotting every new “I,” learning every new protocol and procedure, filling out new forms, and logging into interminable numbers of new websites, but all of that newness coupled with functioning under inevitable scrutiny as a stranger (albeit one who was then in my 23rd year of teaching) contributed to my feeling more than a bit uneasy inside.  Each day seemed an exercise in not making mistakes and in hoping that, when I did, no one would notice them.  And the past school year and summer were fraught with family troubles that I’d like to put behind me.    I'm excited about infusing some of my old creativity and passion into my classroom.  

Pomegranates are in season now in the South.  

       With the impending change in season, for the first time in a long time, I have dusted off my packets of graph paper and have played around with some original designs.  Typically the fall is when I am prolific, either in terms of learning new skills, concocting new projects for students, or making things, so I hope that with a routine established at school, I can squeeze in more time for personal creative endeavors.

This is a school-inspired original design (in school colors), a cowl, knit on circular needles with a provisional cast-on made with Berrocco Vintage.  The project ends will be grafted together when it is finished.  

       I also am exploring ways to help young people learn to knit.  At my previous school, I sponsored a fiber arts club and found teaching a hands-on skill a welcome respite from instructing students in the intricacies of grammar or literary analysis. I am not starting a knitting club per say at my high school because administrators are not sure whether its membership could be sustained, yet knitting clubs do abound at learning institutions, some of them quite prestigious.  Harvard has several knitting groups.  In an article in the Harvard Gazette entitled “Harvard in Stitches,” staff writer Corydon Ireland states, “It’s something (knitting) people do in surprisingly large numbers at Harvard, where at least 20 informal knitting circles meet once a week.”  And Columbia University has its “Gosh Yarn It” group that meets every Sunday night.  Check out the group's blog with articles by erudite writers on global knitting techniques:  https://cugoshyarnit.wordpress.com/   Even some of the nation’s top boarding schools such as St. Andrews (ranked number 18 of the MIT Harvard Yale Placement 2015 Ranking Top 30 USA Boarding Schools) offer knitting clubs (Boarding School Review).  And some schools have used knitting to help students with ADHD or to engage at-risk youth.  (See Stitchlinks for more information.)  So knitting does seem to have a place in education.   

My shawl was made using lace-weight mohair-and-wool yarn by Touch, a New Zealand company.  This photograph was taken outside of the old smokehouse on my mother-in-law's property in Wingate, North Carolina.

        As a new season of teaching and learning begins and as the thermometer dips, in addition to exploring my own creative endeavors, I will look into possible ways to help young people discover the pleasures of plying needles, even if they do so outside of the auspices of a formal school organization.  More to come later.  


Another change I'd like to usher in this season is weight loss.  I gained twenty pounds last school year.  I don't love this picture of me with the added poundage, but do like the sense of freedom my outstretched arms convey.    



Ireland, Corydon. "Harvard in Stitches." Harvard Gazette. N.p., 16 Sept. 2010. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.

"Knitting Club at Boarding Schools." Boarding Schools Offering Knitting Club. Boarding School Review, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.


2 comments:

  1. What a beautiful shawl! You are amazing to be able to knit something like this! I absolutely love the colour too - gorgeous! I really like the William Blake quotation you begin with - so true - in the seasons of life as well as the year. Sorry not to have been in touch over the last few weeks - we've had quite a difficult end of summer for various reasons. Thinking of you all and wishing you all the joys of la vendange! E xx

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  2. Your shawl is really beautiful. It's quite like a shawl I knit for myself a couple of years ago; in colour as well as design. I think it is a great idea to teach others to knit (or crochet) so, if you can possibly get something started, go for it. By the way, you call mothers 'moms' but we call them 'mums' so I was momentarily aghast at the idea of mums being for sale. I quickly realized that you meant chrysanthemums!

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