Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Let's Pretend Flowers are Almost the Same as Knitting

This Part Doesn't Really Have Much In It About Knitting

So I went out to Guthrie, Oklahoma for the annual Sealed with a Kiss Knit Out. It was the first time I'd done anything in Oklahoma other than spend a night in a hotel during a drive to Santa Fe, and it's not fair to make a decision about any place based on the quality of your stay at a Hilton Garden Inn.

I had a blast. In writing about Oklahoma, Mr. Hammerstein got it surprisingly right for a New Yorker–there was indeed a bright golden haze on the meadow every morning; and I saw a hawk making lazy circles in the sky. I awoke to the cry of a lonesome train whistle, and that would have been extremely Johnny Cash except I was sleeping in a canopy bed covered with blue roses.

The knitters were good-hearted in the extreme (a future post will be devoted to a piece of stunning generosity–I haven't yet been able to photograph the gift properly). The event itself is so awash in charm, I didn't wonder that students had come from far afield (and my fellow teachers, the redoubtable Fiona Ellis and Jane Thornley, had come all the way from flippin' Canada).

Guthrie, which you should visit, is about the size of the frozen foods section of our Costco. It consists in the main of gloriously untouched High Victorian buildings standing cheek-by-jowl, with occasional outcroppings of Art Deco. There's a historic theater (the kind with live actors and footlights), a truly splendid yarn shop (see Sealed with a Kiss, above), art galleries, good restaurants and so many, many, many antique shops.

We have antique shops in Chicago, but I usually can't afford to look in the windows. For example, once I noticed in passing by a store in Ravenswood that they had a bag of old wooden clothespins for sale. They were the kind with no spring that I remember my grandmother keeping in a big old chip basket, handy to the washing machine. They were nicely weathered, and I thought they'd be useful for photographs, so I went inside and asked the price.

It was $35.00 per dozen. That's $2.1966666 per pin. The saleswoman explained that they were eco-friendly and upcycled, and that hanging out your wash is the new In Thing for the local yuppified supermoms–apparently it offsets the carbon they generate while driving their kids three blocks to school in a Range Rover. Rustic "vintage" clothespins are sine qua non for the fashionable wash line.

Guthrie is far more reasonably priced, not to mention blessedly free of yuppified supermoms; and on one afternoon plus two lunch breaks plus a quick dash in early evening I...um...well, I bought some stuff.

Including thimbles. It seems I have kind of a problem with buying thimbles. Well, no. I have no problem with buying thimbles, I have a problem with not buying thimbles, at least when they're as cheap as they are in Guthrie.

I'm not gaga for all thimbles, mind you. I don't care a fig for the twee pewter souvenir variety that could never be used to sew because they were designed to sit on a rack and remind you of your crazy party weekend in Yucca Flats.

The thimbles I like could be used for sewing, if you (okay, me) could fit your stubby manfingers (okay, my stubby manfingers) into them. They're old, and slightly battered, and often offer charming suggestions like "Make It Yourself with Wool."

Thimbles

And yes, fine, along with that one and the bridal thimble from Royal Worcester, and the advertising thimbles from Newsom's Flowers of Marion, Kansas and Glass Portrait Studio, there is a souvenir thimble from Mesa Verde. I'm hoping it will give visitors the impression that I once had a crazy party weekend in Mesa Verde, because my reputation could use a dash of daring.

The only thing difficult about shopping in Guthrie was that I was making the rounds on the eve of the Rapture, and the little old ladies at the cash desks kept wishing me "a blessed day." I'd stand there holding my two dollars and wondering, "Are you saved? Because if you are, I'm just going to come back the day after tomorrow and pick this out of the rubble."

This Part Has Even Less in It About Knitting

I wish I could show you what I'm knitting right now, but everything is either for a client and therefore top secret, or it's my niece's not-a-pink-poncho and still bunched up on a circular needle and therefore unphotographable. However, I fully expect the pink thing to be unfurled in a week or so–we're nearing the end of the third version of the cape. There's also a new design for Skacel, of which I am immensely proud. Pictures forthcoming.

In the meantime, I have flowers. If you don't care for flowers, you can go back to planning your Disney vacation or reading Justin Bieber slash fiction or whatever.

I took a head count a week ago and realized that in the two main flower beds I have to play with, which together measure a whopping sixteen square feet, I have 14 herbaceous perennial species represented in a total of something like 34 specimens. This is the antithesis of the American suburban gardens of my childhood, which considered three gaudy Burpee marigolds in a line near the front door to be overdoing it.

Among the plants currently doing their thing, and doing it well, we have Dicentra spectabilis "Alba," a white clone of one of my favorite plants, commonly known as Bleeding Heart.

dspectabilis

And there's also an Aquilegia, or Columbine–new for this year–which is obliging me with a second round of blooms. It's my first Columbine, and what the gardening books don't warn you about is that once you have one, you'll find yourself wanting more. They're like thimbles that way. I will for the present confine myself to hoping it sets seed .

columbine

And not yet in bloom, but getting there, is another new acquisition: Alchemilla mollis, or Lady's Mantle. The leaves are shaped like inverted umbrellas (which I, as a Chicagoan, know all too well) and are covered in tiny hairs. The hairs catch the dew in the morning and the entire plant sparkles like a dress covered in crystal beads.*

The first spikes, which will be covered in chartreuse flowers, are just emerging.

amollis

Yes, I know it's not knitting. But aren't they pretty?

* Hence the name, or so I've read. Alchemists believed the water collected by the leaves was purified, and therefore suitable for alchemical experiments.

81 comments:

janna said...

Isn't Oklahoma great? I know they've got all sorts of crazy politicians, but all the people I personally know from there are wonderful! And I've never been to Guthrie, but Tulsa has some amazing art deco architecture.

rams said...

Never fear, the columbine will set seeds like a sumbitch. Then you simply have to decide whether to leave them be , allowing the mothership to be the center of a nursery, or cut the stalks when the seedpods are dry and wave them over all the beds like the Fairy Prodigalia. The pleasure of columbine seedings is that the very first seeds look exactly like columbine leaves, saving them from untimely weeding. (And they crossbreed like crazy, so two different columbines produce fifty different columbines.)

danielle said...

My columbine came back beautifully this year - after I thought it was dead for sure over the winter! But this weekend I saw some other beautiful colors of it in Yosemite that I drooled over....and can I just say I was also drooling over your Make It With Wool thimble!!!
I was jsut thrilled with pieces at 2 of my w/e buys up in the hills - a white shawl, NEVER WORN, for $3 and 6 hankies for a dime each (in antique stores they are $2 - $5 each!!)!!! So you were preaching to the choir about prices!

joni said...

gorgeous non-knitting!

Miranda Gabrielle said...

Franklin, thanks for coming all the way out to Oklahoma! I'm from the slightly bigger city of Tulsa, and it was my first time to Guthrie as well. But, definately worth the drive to come to the welcome dinner. Great presentation. Funny and informative. Thanks again! Miranda

Tikabelle said...

Your comment about being saved made me laugh so suddenly that my cat ran out of the room. Nicely done. Also I am jealous of your thimbles. Have you ever gone antiquing in Wilmington, IL? It's about an hour from Chicago, and is a rather charming - if ramshackle - place to visit. They also have loads of antique thimbles.

Lori said...

What the horticulturists also don't tell you about columbine is that they are promiscuous and fertile little devils and you will soon have LOTS of them.

$35 a dozen for clothespins...Crap I must have several hundred dollars out on the line every weekend then. Forget trendy yuppie guilt, it's too cheap/poor to pay the electric bill for the dryer in the summer. Need to save my pennies to pay the AC bill instead.

Margaret said...

My parents are amazing gardeners, and when I was younger a spring tradition was a visit to the Herb Farm (amazing nursery) and I always got to pick out some small annual ... usually a Columbine. They were my first introduction to the mysteries of plant genetics. I was somewhat disappointed by the way in which different varieties cross-bred to return to a more wild pattern after a couple of years (dominant genes, apparently!) but they're still fascinating. Now I'm obsessed with dahlias -- dangerous. Very dangerous.

Knitting the Camino said...

We had Lady's Mantle in our garden in Calgary - it was so wonderful on a dewy day. Now we have to drive to visit a friend in Kamloops four hours away to enjoy hers. Great photgraph of yours.

(My word verification is femen - sounds like someone has been reading about the genderless child and working to resolve some of the issues around talking about people like that.)

Jen said...

lovely flowers! Columbines are among my favorites too, and one of my favorite things about Colorado is when you unexpectedly find them wild in all sorts of unlikely spots.

Also, the rapture and the thimbles made me giggle!

Slip, Knit... Meditate said...

Yrs, they are very pretty.. and so are the thimbles...and so is this post..and so rediculous is the price they ask for the pins.

Sahara said...

I would've been mildly upset if you had let those thimbles go. And now I have to look out for those clothes pins!

Kristen said...

What other posters said about columbines. I remember my mother coming to rue the day she ever put them into her garden--so watch them closely!

Freyalyn said...

Lady's Mantle is one of the plants associated with the Virgin Mary - I believe there was once a medicinal usage for 'women's troubles' too.

Lene said...

Thank you for sharing your flower photos:) I love the Columbine, always trying new sorts. And the Bleeding heart is called Lieutenants Heart here in Norway - for some reason.Your heart bleed if you are one, or if you are married to one? Who knows...

Cynthea G said...

I love your flower photos. My fairly shady garden features bleeding hearts and an ever-growing number of columbines. The only problem w/the bleeding hearts is that they leave a huge hole in the garden when they go dormant. So far I have found a nearby hosta to be a good solution!

Nic said...

'unphotographable'

..and I was wondering why I've just started humming 'My Funny Valentine'

torhild said...

not a problem with a little reflection on flowers; nice pics. i adore Aquilegias, and yes they do spread :-). i've found small plants in the cracks in the tiles at the front door. in other flower pots; so much to look forward to ;-) i just realised that i'm missing my broken hart!! i will go right out an have look, and if it's gone it will be replaced. have a wonderful day. Cheers from the other side of the atlantic; the flatlands (the netherland that is...) ta ta

Marcia said...

Franklin: You are always a joy to read.

Sally said...

Those old plastic thimbles are the most comfortable. You've got to come down to Southern Illinois or Missouri where the farmer's wives have chubby man fingers and get a few that fit.
Love those white bleeding hearts!

anonymous fan said...

Please write more. Seeing a new post from the Panopticon in my greader always makes me überhappy!

tbird said...

I have all those same plants, but they seem to photograph better in your garden. And remember, the more plants you have, the less you have to weed or mulch. Flowers love company.

Anna said...

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Oklahoma. My SIL lives there, and I went to visit with all my snobby prejudices in place. It turns out that Tulsa seems like a great place to live. Shame on me!

Pretty Knitty said...

Stunning photography! And, as always, I love the way you write. . .I feel as if I had been there with you. . .thanks for a great trip to OK!

Bonnie said...

Lovely! Any time you wish to share flower pictures is fine by me. They're beautiful, and I'm really glad you have some space to play in.

Lynn said...

Guthrie is such a surprise and delight, like a little secret world. It was great to meet you and hear a little of your view of the place. Your garden is beautiful! Wishing you a summer of glorious blooms that just might inspire a lace pattern someday.

knitmaven said...

I knit my garden. Doesn't everyone?

Rachel said...

You will get columbine seeds, no worries!! Marigolds make a lovely color in a dyebath, and don't smell too bad if you have to dye yarn in your kitchen. 100% Weight of goods in fresh flower heads, alum mordant FYI.

Anonymous said...

You are a man who knits lace Chicago public transportation. Some would say that takes more than a dash of daring. Your reputation is just fine the way it is.

From:
a big fan

Riin said...

I find that columbines set seeds just the right amount. You'll end up with lots of little baby columbines around the garden, not enough to be invasive, but enough to be "ooh! free plants!"

Jill said...

I love the columbines, too, even more after I learned the name comes from the Latin word for dove, now I can see the little birds conversing with each other in the blossom. And thanks for the rapture laugh, I managed not to spew beverage this time.

Kate said...

I love the garden pictures. I see you haven't yet fallen for filling the garden with dye plants. Our guild started getting the seedlings into the ground for the dye garden last night and the coreopsis has already produced flower buds.

kathy b said...

Yes they are soooo pretty. I torture my family with singing songs from OKLAHOMA all the time. As Fireman and I drove to MN recently we went through a little town..and there it was...pinned to the softball field fence : OKLAHOMA AUdITIONS :TONIGHT.
I thought for sure he had really meant nowheresville for our destination .....I was going to try out for OK!
He just kept on driving...
and no we weren't in a tiny little surrey witha fringe on the top...boo hoo

Ariadne said...

Reading this post made Guthrie (my hometown) spring to life in my mind. I wish I was closer than Florida so I could've been there for your presentation. And also, your flowers are GORGEOUS! Now I wish I had a garden again...

Chris said...

OH, they'll seed alright!! Unless you want Columbine growing out of every available nook and cranny next year, make sure to dead-head them before they go to seed. Leave a couple of flowerheads intact if you choose to scatter the seeds yourself.

Eileen said...

Your OK visit sounds like a dream.

As for the garden-!-in the past couple of years I've become an addict; I'm (hand) digging a rose bed right now.

A word of warning about your columbines...don't, DON'T let your husband (or, say, Dolores) "help" with clearing out old dead plant matter in the fall, because if you do your columbines will go the way of the dodo...as will your violas, johnny-jump-ups, and pansies. Just saying. (He got everything except one columbine. ONE.)

Judi said...

You could try these - not antique, but fun anyway.

http://www.amazon.com/Honey-Can-Do-DRY-01377-Traditional-Clothespins-24-Pack/dp/B002CD6CHI

Anonymous said...

nice. pleasant travel and flowers. all good.
any plans to visit Calgary? - Wills and Kate will be here for Stampede (let Harry know). Big gay rodeo (i.e. circuit party in Wranglers and boots)the weekend before Stampede...argra.org. Plus lots of yarn, knitting, spinning, etc. I don't know about vintage thimbles.

cheers
jake

Liz said...

Best comment about the Rapture other than, you know, the Rapture itself. Glad you did the Right Thing with the thimbles.

Very good flowers; I am envious. Here in the UK, Columbine very often = Bindweed, which is like Morning Glory in the flowers, and like Kudzu in its habit. Yours is much prettier...

AgTigress said...

Thank you for those superb flower pictures (as well as your usual wit and wisdom!)
:)

Anonymous said...

Check out the Chelsea Flower Show if you want to see stuffed flower beds ....

Evelien said...

Yes The Chelsea flower show! Let us all knit a garden together for next year! They had a plasticine garden last year so why not? We only need a garden designer to be in charge of the design and the application.Could be a chance to meet Her Majesty who always comes to the show on the first day....

anne marie in philly said...

it doesn't matter whether there is knitting content or not. just looking at your photos make me smile.

smooches!

Karen Smith said...

Franklin, your Rapture comment made me laugh out loud and startle the dog! I'd be right there with you, picking through things to find all the little treasures! My think is reproductions of thimbles found at archaeological (sp) sites ~ I have one from Jamestown, VA that I love. Your flowers are beautiful.... I got a little overly ambitious with heritage varieties of flowers this year and ended up with at least three packets of seeds for "flowers" that will get over 6 feet tall! I should have read the fine print.... right now I have no idea where they will go.

Karen Smith said...

sigh.... and I should proofread before hitting enter. That would be "thing" not "think"...

Gerri in St Paul said...

I thought if I didn't buy the thimble, no one would know about my crazy party weekend in Yucca Flats!

Anonymous, too said...

Your reputation needs a dash of daring?!?!?

I thought you were going for sainthood or boddhisatva status or such. After all, you live with the sheep who has the most drunk-and-disorderly convictions of any living thing in the Midwest!

If you really need to do something more daring than that, I suggest you seek professional help.

Anonymous said...

Love columbines. Here in the UK they are also known as Granny's bonnets.

Aline said...

enjoyed a few LOLs this time with you...many thanks for your cool sense of humor. You can really tell a story. Knit like the wind and add to that, garden such pretty flowers topped by a great use of camera and the generosity to share it here. Sweet.

Jeanne said...

I have loads of vintage clothespins. I will gladly send some to you. I bought a bushel of them for $1 at a garage sale.
I'm Greyknitter on Rav

Anonymous said...

Love white flowers as one can focus on the forms. But I love lot all the other colors, too. I'm fortunate to work at a wondrous specialty nursery--you can easily drop by (10 minute detour)on a drive from your place, through you grandma's old home, on your way to bring the pink thing to Abigail. I'll be looking for you!

You don't need a lot of space to have a great garden.

obscure

lincannon said...

Love the quote at the end, I know I have read it somewhere other than your posting, naughty man.
It is so neat to go somewhere that is not at all like where we live. It makes life fun and interesting and we get to experience a different lifestyle. The rapture for instance. Our local paper had an editorial that said so this minister was apologetic that 6 million or so people did not die?
Love the plants especially the columbine.

Nytate said...

I too, LOVE Bleeding hearts and columbines. I planted more this year. I also like gladiolus too.

=Tamar said...

Columbines are tough. They survive on a wire fence in northern MD with no care whatsoever. Occasionally they get cut back.

melodie said...

I know that you mean about the columbine :) I started with one plant and I've got about 12 now. The great thing about them is that they usually DO set seed, and with minimal help - as long as you don't mind them springing up wherever they please. Just let the seed pods do their thing, and then they're dried out in the fall, give the stalks a little shake - the seeds will disperse over the garden bed, and you're sure to have 1 or 2 new little columbines next year :)

Your flowers are lovely! Good work :)

sally campbell said...

Dear Franklin, where can I find some Justin Bieber slash fiction? It sounds interesting.

sally said...

Dear Franklin, Where can I find some Justin Bieber slash fiction? It sounds interesting.

Martha0051 said...

I have a new respect for my old clothespins.

Anonymous said...

"I went shopping in Guthrie on the eve of the Rapture..." Sing it to the tune of Streets of Laredo for a little more Western flair!

Great post. Thanks.

Laura

JodyH said...

Oh, I love bleeding hearts! My mom has a couple, and even though she has always encouraged me to dig up everything she has in the yard, when I mentioned the bleeding heart she just said, "Yes, you really should get one of those."

Melody said...

Lovely photographs and words as usual, although the thought of Beiber slash fic is scary in the extreme. I imagine you've only seen it from Delores' stash.

KatyaR said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed your stay in Guthrie, that's my hometown! Luckily you got out before last week's tornadoes, bad stuff. I'm down the road in OKC but wasn't able to make it up there.

Those beautiful buildings downtown were covered with metal facades back in the early 70s to make it look more "modern." Fortunately they protected the buildings from the elements, and the town finally realized what a hidden treasure they had. I'm very proud of Guthrie for that.

Jo said...

Wow! You can see why that last one is called Lady's Mantle! I took one look at it and thought "I want to design a shawl that looks just like that, except, maybe in blue! Those beads of water look just like clear glass beads!"

I was just thinking about Arlo Guthrie. Now I'm wondering if the town was named after woody. I'm going to have to look that up.

LoriAngela said...

I'm from flippin' Canada, too, and those are the flowers I cherish in my own garden. I have done tons of hand sewing and have only used a thimble when I'm sewing leather.

Alex said...

Lovely flower pix. Here in UK Dicentra is sometimes called 'Lady in the Bath'. To find out why take one flower head, turn it upside down and hold the little protuberances at sides between finger and thumb of each hand and pull gently apart. Works with the pink variety I have in my garden and I expect does with white ones as flowers look very similar.

Alwen said...

I'm afflicted with Aquilegia love myself. I love them in all stages, from tiny unfurling green leaves in the chill of spring, to flowers! everywhere! right now.

chandra said...

I moved to Guthrie 7 years ago, from my hometown of Miami, Florida. I love it here! Glad you had a great time! I signed up for the post rapture looting party as well- there is an adorable antique armoire I have my eye on, but alas I will have to wait 5 more months....

Seanna Lea said...

Bleeding Hearts are among my favorite flowers, though I have a tendency to call them Bloody Hearts (especially when they are shaded to the deeper end of the pink spectrum). Their distinctive shape always makes me happy.

Diane in Chico said...

Franklin, are you ever going to finish your photo book of knitters? I'd buy it.

Birdernaturalist said...

Birds and flowers? My favorite blog of yours yet! See you on Ravelry.

knitmaven said...

Thimbles:
I have 2 for your collection, if you'd like them.
1. reads "Roosevelt's Little White House, Warm Springs, GA," with illustration of the house;
2. reads "Cayman Islands; Sir Turtle," with illustration of, you guessed it, Sir Turtle.

Ironwoodtree said...

Weird - you're in the city but you chose 3 plants that I grow up north in the suburbs because they're not eaten by deer.

And they're all beautiful. Good choices!

Anonymous said...

i can sewing but look no nice and the flower in pix look great. do you take it in Oklahoma.

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Anonymous said...

Franklin - I really enjoyed your class on lace at the knit-out in OK. That sounds so western-ey. Thanks for making the trip, hope to see you again. Stephenia

Ann said...

Nope, there won't be any rubble -- the earth & all works therein will be consumed by fire.
I saw the pins in the walmart craft dept just the other day, didn't price 'em but heck, it's walmart--how pricey could they be?
Last time I was in Oklahoma I couldn't leave fast enough.

Diane said...

I've been a bit busy lately, but plan on calling my LYS to see if they have both your shawl patterns; they are both just so elegant.

I think I've got a bag of the old non-spring clothespins around some where, let me know if you still want some.

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