Before I left for work, I wound up the skein of handspun from Madelyn that I posted a photo of earlier, then knit me up a little test swatch, which you can see below. As one Miss LizardLipz would say, it's verra, verra nice. I passed it around here at work and everyone oooohed and aaaahed.
So, what this yarn decided it wants to be is a hat for the Dulaan Project. I decided I wanted a spirally pattern for it, so I'm going with something roughly based on Elizabeth Zimmermann's snail hat. This is alpaca knitting at roughly worsted gauge, not super bulky wool, so I don't expect it to look at all like EZ's hat, but I wanted a spiralling effect and that I shall have. It also won't be terribly thick, but it's alpaca and I'm gonna make it long enough to roll it up at the ears, so it should be quite warm. I've also been working a little on TSKP this evening, but my hands are acting up and being kind of crampy tonight, so I don't that I'm going to be making much progress tonight.
I also stopped off at my LYS on my way here tonight and bought two skeins - one white, one a brilliant fuchsia - of Plymouth Dreambaby DK (I was hoping for Baby Ull, but they don't carry it) to make into a hat for one of the techs here who just had The Baby Who Ate Portland. She tipped the scales at a whopping 11 pounds 13 ounces, and it took two doctors to get her out (planned c-section). At any rate, the yarn should make a nice hat. Even though it's an ACKrylic/nylon blend, it's got a decent hand and I don't expect it to be too distressing to have to touch. I got two colors with the thought of doing some traditional Fair Isle patterning, mostly because I really enjoy it and haven't done any lately.
A Little Family History
My interest in Shetland knitting, in particular, is primarily because of my ancestry from there. My great-great-grandfather, Charles Blance, was born somewhere around here in 1835. His family were crofters, which in the mid-19th century still meant living under a feudal (or more appropriately, a manorial) system. I don't know of any family history to confirm it, but it's a safe bet that his mother did production knitting to supplement the family income, and it's likely that he and his father also did so during the winter months.
Because it was not an easy existence, he followed the lead of a lot of young men at that time and went to sea as a teen, eventually ending up here in Maine. My grandmother has several letters from Charles's mother, Johannah, to my great-grandfather (Charles's son George, whom my grandmother calls Papa) in the very late 1800's (Johannah died in 1901) that make reference to money that my great-grandfather had sent her. He never met his grandmother and only knew her through their letters.
It appears that the letters were actually dictated to and written down by her minister, but it's not clear whether this might have been because she was illiterate or because her eyesight and/or general health were just too poor. She would have been around 80 or a little older at that time, so it's anybody's guess, though the letters give the impression that her final years weren't particularly golden ones.
All I know is that, in addition to the knitting gene, I really hope I also got the longevity gene. Charles Blance lived to be 88, and Papa lived to be 89. And in case you're wondering why there aren't another one or two generations in between Charles and myself, he married at age 30 - very late for that time. Papa married even later. He was 54 when he married my great-grandmother, who was 30 years his junior, and my grandmother was born a bit over a year later. He died an old man 12 years before I was born.
The longevity thing did nothing to perpetuate the surname, though. Unless my great-uncle, George Jr., decides to take a second wife and give it a go in his early 70's, the last hope for passing on the Blance name in this branch of the family tree rests with my cousin George (referred to amongst family as Little George, or more appropriately these days as Young George). And unless he or his partner Tom becomes the greatest miracle since the Virgin Mary or unless he decides to get in on the gayby boom (I wouldn't lay money on either), I'm thinking this particular patrilineal* history is pretty much over.
* Lest I be accused of being an instrument of the patriarchy, I do realize that western methods - indeed most methods - of passing down surnames are inherently unfair to the mothers. Even in countries like Spain, where a child gets one surname from each parent, the surname passed down from the mother is the one she gets from her father. But hey, at least moms get to pass on their mitochondrial DNA.