My VCFA co-workers feted me this afternoon, in anticipation of my upcoming retirement from my career in higher education administration. Lucky for me, I work at an arts college, and these colleagues appreciate visual images, writing, music, and design in all its various forms, including the art of cake making! They pulled out all the stops with this cake from Birchgrove Bakery (true pastry artists). Not only fabulous and fun to look at, it was also delicious!
Cotton may be the fabric or our lives, if you believe the catchy jingle in the TV ads, but wool holds a special place in our hearts. This was especially true for my grandfather, who raised sheep more than half his life. He started as a young boy, living on a farm with his parents and sister, caring for animals that provided the necessities of food, labor, and fleece. Later, as a young man, he built a house on the adjoining plot of land and with my grandmother raised a family and tended to his own animals and crops.
I barely remember the sheep; by the time I was a little girl the threat of foxes and other wild animals had taken their toll on the flock and my grandfather reluctantly gave them up. But my oldest sister remembers them well, recalling that he corralled the sheep with the help of my uncle, sheared them, and took bags full of wool to the Pendleton Woolen Mill in Milwaukie. She even recalls going on at least one of these trips.
Eventually, synthetic fabrics took over all or part of the function of keeping the elements out and body warmth in, and wool was often blended to blunt its scratch and make it more affordable. But now thanks to the “slow fashion” movement, wool may be making a comeback.
Every sewing machine has its own special song. It hums and whirs and if something goes amiss it rattles and growls.
This weekend at the Dog River Quilters’ fall quilt retreat I’ve enjoyed these sounds of sewing, interspersed with the conversation and laughter that are as important as the sewing itself. This is our second retreat at the Shaker Museum in Enfield, NH, where we have a large room to share for sewing (the dining hall), use of a kitchen, space to display our finished products or works in progress, a large table for snacks to continually replenish our energy, and large rooms upstairs with comfortable beds and large windows with great morning light.
The plan is to gather again in spring 2013, so stay tuned for details if you’d like to join us!
The small Vermont town where I live is famous for a few things. It is home to Norwich University, the first private military college in the U.S. and the birthplace of ROTC. Northfield holds the largest Labor Day festival and parade in the state. There are three covered bridges in a row in the Falls, and the geographic center of Vermont lies within the town boundaries. And just about a mile from town is the famous Cabot Hosiery Mill.
Now before you wonder how a sock factory can be a source of fame, let me fill you in on the annual pilgrimage to this site made by thousands each year. For two weekends in November, which the company has strategically chosen to coincide with the opening of hunting season, it holds its annual sale. These are not ordinary socks. This business turns out high-quality socks for several high-end labels, as well as their own brand, Darn Tough, promoted as being indestructible.
When the doors open on these November weekends, the lines of people and cars are already extensive. The first time I ventured to this event I made the mistake of going mid-day on a Saturday. With the parking lot full, cars were lined up on both sides of the road for quite a distance leading up to the entrance. I managed to find a place to squeeze into. Once inside I made my way to the start, as marked by large signs. I became a bit discouraged when the pleasant woman handing out grocery bags informed me that the long line to get to the actual start of the socks (typically displayed in large bins and a series of extensive shelving) was about a 1/2 hour wait. I asked about the check-out line, and was told that line was about another 1/2 wait! As much as I wanted socks, the time involved was more than I was willing to invest.
I returned the next day, near closing time, and the traffic and lines were considerably less. I filled my bags with my purchases; you would be surprised at how much you can spend on socks when you are faced with a factory floor full of top-notch products and bargain basement prices! I have heard friends and family say this same thing, “How could I have bought $98.00 worth of socks at one time?!” Typically this kind of purchase means that out-of-town family and friends receive socks for Christmas.
So what does this sock sale have to do with my sewing? Not much, really, but it is one of the things I especially like about the town in which I live. And sometimes I wonder what I could make from high-quality, low-cost socks. Suggestions aside from the typical things such as puppets, mittens and leg-warmers for babies are welcome!