Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Garbage Can Stew

When was a kid, we lived out in the country, surrounded by fields and woods.  My dad played bass and sang lead in a country music band, and I knew every word to every song by the time I was four years old.  (Don't ask me about modern country music, but I know ALL the old stuff)

Sometimes on clear summer evenings my parents would have a party, and I remember cousins and uncles and aunts and dozens of other folks hanging around in our backyard, and the band set up in the open garage.  They would play, and people would laugh and talk and have a good time.

The key moment when I knew one of these events was going to occur was Dad bringing home a brand-spanking new galvanized garbage can.

It would get washed out and rinsed really well, perched up between 2 cinder blocks, then three-quarters filled with fresh water.  Dad would light a fire underneath it, and instantly - we had the biggest soup pot around.

Mom threw in whatever we had - I remember looking into the bubbling pot and watching the corn cobs and potato chunks and carrots swimming in the tan broth.

Guests would bring vegetables, meat, and whatever else they had that was fresh and in season.  Everything was welcome: cabbage, potatoes, venison, carrots, green beans...everything.  Each new addition was greeted with enthusiam, as the addition changed the mix a bit, made the soup new, and restocked the pot for the next wave of party-goers.

The pot never emptied.  There was always something in the bottom quarter the next morning when I would go to investigate.

It strikes me how the craft of knitting is a bit like that garbage can stew: an agglomeration of techniques, patterns, and ideas from various cultures around the world.  Each new addition is greeted with enthusiasm and cheer, and changes the mix a little bit, making the craft new again, and adding a bit more choice for the next wave of knitters. For example: my own sock pattern starts with a Turkish cast-on (ancient as far as knitting goes), a short-row heel (made-up to look like machine-made), and an "unvented" E-Z sewn bind-off.

A new book comes out every once in a while, that makes knitters wake up and pay attention.  (Sorry for the lack of link-age!  I'm remote blogging today!)
"Folk Socks"!
"Knitting in Estonia"!
"Victorian Lace Today"!
And so many more we just HAVE to have on our bookshelves.


Because it's another vegetable in the pot.

What other craft or art so freely and happily, joyfully, even, mixes up its history and techniques?  We study so we can permutate.  We want to make new things, new patterns, new ideas from a mishmash of historical techniques.  If it works, we take it and run.  Who cares if the techniques harken from disparate continents and centuries?  We don't!

Now granted, some of us do.  Some of us are sticklers for authenticity, and only want to make reproduction-quality knitting.  And there's nothing wrong with that, either.  I've certainly made my share of "authentic" knitting and sewing!  There's a challenge and pride in making something "as it used to be done".  I love it.

And I love Garbage Can Stew.

What's not to like?

1 comment:

Kate A. said...

Awesome post!

Also, it makes me want to make some stew. And knit while it simmers. :-)