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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Roanoke, VA - 125 Years Young!

It wasn't the best of days (a bit chilly and showery) but today was Roanoke, VA (my hometown) 125th anniversary. I wanted to attend the festivities, as I was born here, and have lived here most of my 50 years. A parade of dignitaries arrived at the Roanoke Civic Center in a light rain shower. This horse-drawn carriage transported our Governor, Tim Kaine, to the event (and yes, I'm a bit slow, he's behind the carriage, so the photo is obviously not the best!). Today was also the grand opening of the new Exhibition Hall for the Roanoke Civic Center, and most of the photos here were taken there. The lighting left a lot to be desired, mainly because they were showing slides, and later a video, on the history of the city, so the lights were quite dim.

One of the main reasons I wanted to attend were the antique cars I knew would be there...

This is the hood ornament of the "Woody" in the photo above it. The photos of the Woody simply could not do the restored (and HIGHLY polished) wood trim justice - this car is just gorgeous...

(oh, did I mention my landlord owns these? I came home from work last night to discover several of them parked in front of my new home!)

Then there was a delightful display of handcrafted dolls wearing vintage costumes! I couldn't get all of them photographed, but I probably still went overboard in sharing them with you. I was quite taken with them...especially the period detail! Just exquisite...

Our History Museum had a display of photographs and period items from the day...I know I was born in the wrong time, as I'd feel so at home in this setting! (Ok...I'd have been a Suffragette, but I'd still have been happier living in Victorian times...)

Before I began making bags and knitting up a storm, I thought I wanted to be a Crazy Quilter. I've studied it and studied it, but discovered that, although I can quilt and embroider, both, I'm not cut out for this art form - I really need order, not random placement! Still I adore crazy quilts, and this vintage example took my breath away...look at that butterfly!

This is really not a good photo, but one of the guest speakers was none other than Earl Hamner, creator of The Waltons and Falcon Crest. Mr. Hamner is now 83 and reminisced about visiting Roanoke when he was growing up just down the road a bit in Schuyler, VA (okay, it's north, but around here we go "up" to go south and "down" to go north, so go figure!).

We realized the festivities were going to go on a lot longer than we'd expected, and we both had other things to get done today, so we left. As we returned to ground level at the Civic Center I realized we really do have a lovely view of downtown from can see how gray a day it was...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Getting Philosophical on Socks!

A little over a year ago, I started knitting socks for the first time. I didn’t think it would be a big deal, I’d just take a class, learn to knit them toe-up and then cuff-down, and be done with it. Something else accomplished. Marked off my list of “wish I knew how to...”


I’ve now knit 5 pair (only one was a gift). All toe-up, as it’s the method that fits my feet the best, so why bother with another way? My time is limited…

This is an amazing feat – no I did not intend the pun – as I have also churned out well over 200 Nana Sadie Rose bags in that time, plus assorted knitted items and even read a book or six, worked a full-time job, taken care of a part-time business client, maintained friendships and family ties, and also managed a major move under extreme pressure.

And the most frequently asked question I get when people see me knitting a pair of socks (ok...they only see me knitting one sock at a time!) is:

“Why would anyone pay $20-$25 for yarn and spend hours and hours to hand-knit ONE pair of socks when you can go to Walmart and buy 6 pair for $5?”

Actually, it’s really a fair question, in spite of the fact that I tend to look the questioners squarely in the eye as if they are from another planet.

I had the same question over a year ago (before I knit my first pair).

My standard answer is also pretty simple. “If you’ve never worn a pair of hand-knit merino socks, you cannot understand. Once you do, you’ll never again question it. And no, I will not knit you a pair, it takes me too long to knit my own, and I’m going to have a drawer full before I stop...but I’ll be happy to help you learn to knit your own...”

Why Socks?

1. Warmth. There is no way a pair of cheap cotton/acrylic socks from Walmart can keep my feet as warm as merino wool.
2. Quality. These socks FIT my feet. I have very small feet (size 5.5). The standard Walmart sock “fits women’s size 6-9” which means I have a LOT of sock stuffed in around my heels and toes that is not needed.
3. Sensuality. There. I’ve said it. If you’ve never worn silk underwear, if you’ve never felt velvet against your skin, then you can’t imagine the sensual quality of merino against the soles of your feet. Imagine a hot bath in steaming scented oil of your favorite flavor, the water slipping over your skin…imagine velvety rose petals strewn across slick satin sheets…fresh strawberries dipped in dark chocolate…
4. Peace of Mind. The process of knitting keeps me sane, and the small needles (usually size 1 bamboos) and fingering weight yarn combined with a portable project means that wherever I am, I can indulge in a bit of emotional release just about anytime.

There’s more of course. But a list is so ... cut and dried. I’m working for the soul (!) of knitted socks.

Once upon a time, I danced. My very highly-arched feet were stuffed into toe shoes that made it possible for me to bear the entirety of my weight upon my ONE BIG TOE. I spent hours and hours every day in those shoes, on first one and then the other of my big toes. I was…”A BALLERINA.”

I never made it to NYC, but I danced daily in preparation for it. At the end of every day, my toes were dented and bruised and very, very red. The end result has been misshapen feet, with an early propensity to bunions and corns in both traditional and non-traditional places. My arches ached and often got the worst “stitches” and cramps in them…charley horses? In my calves…all the time.

As beautiful as ballet is, it’s a hard, painful life. There’s a reason why ballerinas have to end their careers in their early 30s. Their bodies simply cannot handle the demands the art places on it beyond that time. (Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but usually ballerinas become dance teachers, and they spend their remaining lives in ballet shoes, not toe shoes, for a reason!)

The arthritis that has developed in my middle toes (I’m convinced from being scrunched between the big toe and the outer toes for years on end) is eased by the softness and warmth of hand-knit socks. Wearing hand-knit socks also means that I must wear shoes with a wider toe bed, which is certainly healthier for my feet. Clogs just fit the bill (they also help keep the heels of the socks from wearing out faster).

And may I offer a hint to those gentlemen who might be reading with whatever measure of interest in Nana? The fastest way for a man to make it into my life is to offer to give me a foot massage. Spend long periods of time, with warm oil, gently stroking my toes, the arch of my foot, the heel and back around again, and I’ll probably agree to do just about anything.
(But be careful, because tickling those same feet sends me in the opposite direction really, really fast!)

But this IS about socks, right? Well...what I learned with my first pair of merino wool socks is that those handcrafted, form-fitted, ideally-shaped-to-MY-foot toe-up socks, knitted in stockinette is a very close second to a foot massage in my book. My toes are enveloped in softness, comfort, and warmth that lasts all day. There is no bunching, no excess fabric, the socks fit like a glove, if you will…

Especially if the sock yarn is 100% merino. Sinful luxury. And the price of $20-$25 per pair? Peanuts.

All the colorful hand-dyed goodness is just eye candy. Pure fluff. Tons of fun. And I look for fun wherever I can find it now that I’m a Woman of a Certain Age.

So go ahead. Buy your Walmart mass-produced, low-quality cotton-acrylic blend socks. Keep your toes chilly.

But I’ll keep knitting my “expensive” socks. It’s a therapy unrivaled…a combination of process (knitting) and product (the socks) that cannot under any circumstance be surpassed. And actually, when you think about it, hour for hour, $25 for gorgeous sock yarn is a lot cheaper than either psychoanalysis or therapeutic massage would cost me.