Snazzy Socks, Spinning Salt, & Seventeenth-Century Saturdays

I don’t remember much from high-school science class thanks to my awesome ability to block out any information that a) I know I will never apply to daily life, and b) I don’t understand in the first place. But one thing I do remember is the trick for remembering all the colors in a spectrum by creating a person’s name out of the first letter of each color: Roy G. Biv. We all remember that little gem of information, right? Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Indigo-Violet.  Science class memories came flooding back to me this week as the colors formed on the Zauberball sock I’m knitting.  The colorway I’m using is made of all the colors of the rainbow. Also Skittles. I love the bright, cheerful colors, although I’m knitting the rainbow backwards here. The violet, which is very deep and really more of a black than violet, is first. So I’m knitting Vib. G. Yor. Hmm. Maybe Vib is Roy’s cousin from Russia, or some other faraway locale. It sounds like some mysterious, exotic name, doesn’t it?

I’ve worked on this sock for a little over a week now, in front of the tv, on my front porch, and in a hospital waiting room. I began this project for its portability due to some hospital appointments I needed to take my mom to. At the same time I bought the Zauberball, I picked up 4 skeins of Cascade Pima Cotton to start the Semele shawl as a nice lightweight summer project.  But the guilt from all the unfinished objects piling up is starting to weigh heavily on me.  Despite the addition of two more projects, the following are still languishing away in project bags and paper shopping bags, competing for my attention:

  1. Cloudsong Cowl  The main color and contrasting color change several times, but the box colors don’t change on the chart. This threw me off, so I put it down.
  2. Cambrian Cowl    From Coastal Knits. This is a thick, quick knit, but I reached a point where the pattern said to block before continuing. I didn’t feel like going through the trouble, so I put it down.
  3. Albers Cowl   I threw this over in favor of the Cloudsong, with its fancy schmancy colorwork. Go figure.
  4.   Jaywalker socks. I finished one sock, ran out of yarn, ordered another skein (it’s handdyed) and it’s not exactly the same. Eh, I’ll finish these eventually.
  5. Cardigan #4    From Noro’s Catwalk 2 pattern collection. I’m actually more than halfway done, with only the right front and two short sleeves to go. But I put it down because it got too hot to knit. Last July.

I know. I’m not proud of myself.

Sometimes, we spinners, however isolated we may feel from time to time, come across a cosmic gesture that lets us know we are definitely not alone. Sometimes we come across a little reminder that lets us know that someone has been on the same path, and we’re reminded that–and this is important–spinning is a thing.

I came across this salt and pepper shaker set yesterday in a downtown antique store.  It only cost $6 for the set. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy it. Despite the low price, I told myself I didn’t need another piece of junk cluttering up my house.  Yet I couldn’t shake the lure of the wheel, not even in tiny, salt-dispensing form.  It’s not the prettiest piece of ceramics I’ve ever seen, but I find its earthy utilitarianism somewhat comforting.

I love antiquing, and in every shop I visit, it’s obvious that salt and pepper shakers have been very popular down through time.  If it exists in real life, someone’s made salt and pepper shakers out of it.  There are many sets that were made as vacation souvenirs because they were popular items to take home, or to give as presents. I wondered who would make a salt and pepper set shaped like a spinning wheel and stool, and it occurred to me that whomever owned this set before me had to have been a spinner.  Who else would want a set shaped like a wheel? Maybe that person received this as a gift.

The store owner couldn’t tell me how old the set was or where it was made. There was no paper label so she ruled out Japan, and thinks it could have been made here in the US. I’ll try to do some research to shed some light on this mystery. She told me that a few years ago she purchased 250 sets of salt and pepper shakers from another dealer, and this set was the only one she had left.  She played around with the stool and laughed that she wasn’t sure if it went in front of the wheel or in the back behind the distaff.  As soon as she said that, I wasn’t sure, either, since I don’t use a wheel styled like the antique wheels. Fortunately, the answer to my question was already in my iPhone from the day before…

The stool goes on the side! You already knew that. Living in Salem, I’ve grown accustomed to coming across random witches and pirates.  Sometimes I even meet random Colonial citizens.  This summer, Saturdays have been dubbed Seventeenth-Century Saturdays, where we modern folk get to meet and greet our forefathers and foremothers. Last Saturday there was a group assembled in front of the Witch House. Many men in army uniforms were gathering for a muster, and sought recruits from the passersby.  Several ladies were present, demonstrating traditional crafts. There were also Colonial toys and games for children to try. I chatted for a few minutes with this lovely lady spinning flax for linen. The wheel is a 1970s reproduction of an antique wheel. She showed me flax that had been dyed with natural dyes such as marigold and logwood, in ranges from gray to natural to black, and light golden shades. The flax was beautiful and incredibly fine.  Some ladies behind her were sewing linen shirts by hand.

Eventually the men departed the camp to, I don’t know, march against the British or something.  The spinner also left. I don’t know if she went on a lunch break, or if the army needed her for some reason, but the other ladies were left to their own crafty devices under the saving grace of some shade trees on a 90-degree day.

These fine ladies fanned themselves against the heat:

These good ladies worked on their knitting and quilting:

It was a scene of productivity and ingenuity; things that we take for granted today. I vowed to appreciate these ideals more. Then I headed over to Rita’s, to take advantage of the Italian ice, and the air conditioning.


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