I read—and loved—A Midwife's Tale. Like that book, this one delves into women's work and contributions to the economy of the times they lived in. UlriI read—and loved—A Midwife's Tale. Like that book, this one delves into women's work and contributions to the economy of the times they lived in. Ulrich does this by taking a dozen or so objects, all having to do with the production of textiles, and examining the history of that particular textile, tool, or implement against the contemporary setting when it was made and used.
For example, the spinning wheel. The author looks at two, one for wool and one for linen and cotton. Handspinning was a means of production, but also a stand against English tyranny and taxation on spun and woven goods exported to the colony. A chapter on a niddy-noddy (a hand tool for winding skeins of finished yarn) from 1769 discusses just how much the women and girls were spinning and reeling off. Women might gather to spin together in good-natured contests, but they also traded freely: skills, tools, and finished goods. One might warp another's loom in exchange for use of the loom, or trade spun yarn for woven cloth. Or cloth was sold to buy shoes or settle debts. Textile production, mostly done by women and their daughters, was an important part of the family and community economy.
The author also looks at finished textile goods that survive, sometimes with family stories of provenance attached. One article is a pocketbook made in 1785 by a Pigwacket Indian woman called Molly Ocket/Mollocket/Marie Agathe. She made it for a man whose family built a town at the site of an old Pigwacket village, the kind of European and colonial encroachment that happened throughout this country's early history. Ulrich discusses the structure of the pocketbook, woven and twined from moose hair in a design that combines elements of Abenaki technique and French Canadian embroidery tradition. In that one object, Ulrich unspools "a story about cultural exchange as well as conquest."
In a chapter about an exquisite cupboard for storing textiles, we learn that sons inherited land and houses, or "real property," while daughters inherited cabinets, textiles , and cattle, "moveable property" meant to travel with the daughter as she moved from one household (her father's) to another (her husband's). But this moveable property was considered valuable. The author shares many wills and probate notices where stockings and napkins, counted out, are part of the bequest. In most cases, the linens (produced by women) were valued at more than the fine wooden cupboard (produced by a man) that held them.
The subtitle—Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth—is a theme Ulrich carries throughout the book. The cover shows a detail of a "chimneypiece" worked in fine embroidery. It's a pastoral setting: maidens with gathering baskets, or fishing, or spinning, men on horseback or trying to woo the maidens, all kinds of trees and ponds and farm animals and wildlife. The work reflects ease and idealizes colonial life, but ignores the poverty and slavery lurking off the canvas. Another embroidered piece, from 1775, serves as a self-portrait for the maker, Prudence Punderson. Called "The First, Second, and Last Scenes of Mortality," it shows a woman with a cradle on one side of her and a casket, marked with her own initials, on the other. It also displays her wealth: curtains (rare at the time), a carved mirror, and bent over the cradle, her young black slave, as much a possession as the furnishings in the scene.
There is so much in this book, about colonial history, Native American lifeways, and cultural exchanges that went on between New England, New France, and the various native tribes. It's perhaps not for the general reader, but for anyone with an interest in colonial history, women's history, or anything to do with textiles, this is your book. ...more
Like the title says, this is a book especially for knitters to help them understand yarn. It's so easy to be enticed by a beautiful yarn and plunge inLike the title says, this is a book especially for knitters to help them understand yarn. It's so easy to be enticed by a beautiful yarn and plunge into a project, only to be disappointed with the results because the yarn wasn't a good choice for the project in mind. This book covers it all, from the raw materials (whether animal, vegetable, or man-made) to the structure (spinning, plying, or more intricate constructions) to dyeing (immersion, dyed in the wool, handpainted, or not dyed at all) to knitted projects matched to the many varied yarn types.
All of this information is presented very clearly and logically. Parkes's writing reminds me very much of that of Rita Buchanan, a spinner/knitter/weaver/dyer who used to write for Interweave Press publications. Both are experts who have a thorough understanding of fiber, and easily convey a wealth of information to the reader. Then Parkes brings it all together, offering lots of knitting and felting patterns (by her and more than a dozen other designers) nicely matched to a particular type of yarn of various plies and textures. The samples shown use yarn brands that may or may not still be available, but the larger point of the book is that you will be able to make thoughtful choices about appropriate substitutions. Very freeing!
As with any pattern book, you'll either like the designs or you won't. I was especially drawn to the Norwegian Snail Mittens and the Double Thick Mittens, and know I can pick a few skeins from my own yarn stash and get started.
Nineteen pregnancies: twelve births and seven miscarriages. A child dies young, another dies in adulthood. And then Liam - Liam the wayward, Liam theNineteen pregnancies: twelve births and seven miscarriages. A child dies young, another dies in adulthood. And then Liam - Liam the wayward, Liam the black sheep, Liam the black Irish charmer - dies. Veronica, his closest sibling, just eleven months younger (Irish twins, as they say), goes to claim his body and bring it home for the wake and funeral. All those siblings gather from around the country and around the world. They drink, or try to hide their drinking. There are fights and accusations and lies. And there are ghosts, both metaphorical skeletons in the closet and specters as vivid as the others. Yes, this is a very Irish story.
Told through the first person perspective of Veronica, it is a very interior story, too. The narrative is full of imagined scenarios: imagined meetings, imagined abuses, imagined lovers, and imagined pregnancies, although sometimes these are plausible, making you wonder what is real and what is a fiction of a character in fevered grief. She is the keeper of a long-held secret, and the book, if it is "about" anything, is about her coming to terms with that secret, and with all the varied family circumstances that led to it, and with the fallout when the dust never settles. It's also about the anger, or even rage, that accompanies grief, and that often accompanies love.
This isn't a book for someone who likes a more linear plot. It sways from past to present, and back, and back again, with plenty of tangents. Not quite a stream of consciousness, but almost. Just let yourself be led along by the author, on her own terms, and you are likely to be rewarded. ...more
Here is another entry to the canon of WWII fiction, this one taking place in France and experienced through the perspective of the women who dealt witHere is another entry to the canon of WWII fiction, this one taking place in France and experienced through the perspective of the women who dealt with the war at home. The third-person narrative comes through alternating chapters that focus on two sisters, not estranged, but not close, either (and an occasional first-person, modern-day interlude. This device starts the book, and you can tell right away that it will be used to close the book and wrap things up).
The characters represent types: the do-good, settled sister and the reckless, adventurous sister; the kind Nazi and the cruel Nazi; the father ruined by war and loss who abandons his daughters; the loving husband who scoops up and saves the one from loneliness; the brooding resistance fighter who bonds with the other.
And the plot covers an expected range of home front experiences, with steady Vianne forced to cope with one German soldier and then another billeted in her home, while restless Isabelle joins the French resistance and takes chance after chance to advance their cause. There are Jews (and others) sent to concentration camps, Jewish children torn from their parents, and Jews and Allied soldiers hidden away. There is a conveniently hidden room behind the armoire in the city apartment, and a conveniently hidden cellar under the car in the country barn. While the story isn't entirely predictable, but here aren't a lot of surprises, either. The prose style seems a little light and romantic, with lines like "Antoine took her in his arms. The scent of jasmine was intoxicating, and she knew suddenly, certainly, that from now on, whenever she smelled jasmine, she would remember this goodbye" making me wonder if I'd be able to sink into this book.
And yet...I did. I got swept along in the storytelling, caught up in the losses that pile up, the growing menace as the war advances, the poverty, the rigor of getting through a day and a week and years as the money and the food dwindles, where furniture is chopped for firewood and sweaters are lined with newspaper for warmth, when desperation determines every choice and ones values and beliefs are challenged to the root. Isabelle leads the bolder, more "cinematic" life, but I was taken with the daily drudgery Vianne had to contend with, especially while raising a young daughter, and the compromises she was forced to make. And yes, I was bawling—BAWLING—as I got through the last pages. If a story is that affecting, I have to bump it up a star. ...more