Auto Prompt – Knowledge Challenge – Combermere

It all started so innocently, as most of them usually do, though this one was unusual, because it involved my often less-than-innocent Scottish ancestors.

Scottish Flag

I needed a four-letter crossword solution for ‘sea’, starting with M. Five minutes later, working sideways, I had ‘mere’? 😕 Quick Archon, to the dictionary. I soon found that the Scots, through a mouthful of oatmeal porridge, had turned the French word ‘mer’ into ‘mere.’

Through my Scottish heritage, I knew that there was a small Southern-Ontario town named Combermere, and one back in the UK. The word ‘comber’ has two pronunciations. There is the usual English Coe-mrr, which is a person or device which combs. Also, a large, long wave, which can strip (comb) things off a beach as it crashes ashore, is a comber. Then there is the Scottish Comm-Brrr, which is used for personal and place names. I once heard two women refer to a man, whose name of Comber they’d read but not heard, as Coe-mrr. As a Scot, I knew better. What did those old kilt-wearers mean when they put those two words together?

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I quickly learned that the mere was no vast sea. It was merely a wee mountain lake – a tarn. The ground around it was too rocky for agriculture, so sheep were raised. However pronounced, the word comber had the same meaning. Once the sheep were sheared, and before the wool was spun to thread and woven into bright Tartans, it was combed (carded), whether by hand, like the hand-carders above, from my Gadgets post, or with a hand-cranked, mechanical device.

The shearing of hundreds of sheep produces a lot of fleece. While the men were busy tending to the now-nude creatures, the women combed, and combed, and combed. Combermere became the name for a pastoral little village which grew up at the lower edge of a Scottish lake, renowned for its yarn and woven cloth.

Don’t look for it there now. Time, and society, and politics changed over the centuries. All that’s left is the Combermere Abbey, in England, near the northern border of Wales. It was named for an Earl of Combermere, which title was given to an Englishman, after James VI of Scotland became James I of England.

If you’re interested in some hand-carded fleece, or hand-spun yarn, or hand-knitted or crocheted apparel, join the daughter, Ladyryl, at her blog, or at http://www.facebook.com/frogpondcollective. She’ll show you how it was done in the Goode Olde Dayes.

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’18 A To Z Challenge – G

 

Challenge '18Letter G

For the letter G, I want to take you from Sheep to Socks, through

GADGETS

In my Rapunzel post, I told of my daughter, who is a spinster – literally a woman who spins yarns.  While she also does it with cotton, bamboo, milkweed silk, dog fur, angora, llama and other, more exotic fibers, she most often spins wool.  There’s a lot more to it than just spinning, so I thought I’d show you some of the gadgets necessary to get from a naked ewe, to a well-clad me.

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Most sheared fleece the daughter obtains, has already been washed.  If not, she has to soak it clean to remove dust, dirt, and the natural lanolin.  The above picture is of two hand carders.  Like giant, curved brushes, handfuls of the raw wool are placed on one of them, and then ‘combed,’ to align all the fibers.  Hand-carding is a long, tedious operation.  She also has a hand-cranked drum-carder, but needs the moved-away grandson, to run it.  Usually she just purchases ‘roving,’ which is a commercially produced, loose, fluffy rope of fiber, already for spinning.

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This is a drop-spindle.  Hung vertically, and brushed against the leg to rotate it, the yarn grows ‘up’ until it’s wound onto the spindle to hold it, and the process is repeated.  This one is fairly small, for producing delicate yarns.  Depending on the size, these can produce anything from the finest yarn, up to ships’ ropes.

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These are slightly larger drop-spindles for heavier yarns, one wound with thread the daughter has already produced.  These are all commercially made, but the daughter has several that she built herself from readily available household items.

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This is the smaller one of the daughter’s spinning wheels.  Her larger, better one has two foot treadles, to prevent a sore, tired leg from pumping with just one foot.  Through gear-ratio, the large wheel rotates the small spindle quite quickly, and the thread/yarn flows off as fast as the spinner can keep up.

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This little storage bobbin hangs off the side of the spinning wheel.  As the loose yarn accumulates, it can be temporarily wound on here, until the batch is finished.

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This is called a Knitty-Knotty.  The finished yarn is wound on from the bobbin, up-down, back and forth, then slipped off as a skein.  A loose skein of yarn is not handy to knit from.  The yarn can tangle, or it can fall to the floor.

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This gadget is known as a swift.  A skein can be held in the Vee of the center.  The shaft slides up and down to change its spread, and match the circumference of any skein.  You may notice that all these gadgets are made of wood.  Spinners and craftsmen developed and built their ancestors from wood, long before metal crafting became cheap and commonly possible, so there has been little reason to change what works in wood, into metal.  Steel/aluminum swifts are available, but they are not as inexpensive, tend to jam or tear yarn, and fall apart sooner.

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At this point, the daughter’s yarn reels off the wife’s swift, and goes onto her winder, to produce a small, firm, easy to find and control ball, that will sit on her lap, or drop into a knitting bag.  This is about the only gadget which has successfully been fabricated from plastic and metal.  Like a little sewing machine, the wire arm shuttles back and forth, to produce that round, even ball.

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The daughter knits a variety of things.  Her hand-spun yarns and knitted items can be viewed online at http://www.facebook.com/frogpondcollective .  In the past, the wife has also knitted a wide range of clothing items, but now concentrates on custom-fitted socks.  Non-elastic socks don’t ‘fit all.’  She makes them for the daughter, our son, the grandson and now his fiancée.  The above pair were lovingly crafted for me, when it became apparent that my aging body couldn’t pump enough blood to my feet at night to keep them warm enough so that I could sleep.

***

In last year’s A To Z Challenge – K I included information about Herbert, Lord Kitchener, for whom this city is now named.  While not a very nice man, he did accomplish one nice thing.  Hand-knit socks, the only kind available back then, were basically tubes.  The toes were sewn closed, leaving a protruding, rough ridge on the inside.

Kitchener found that, after marching his men for hundreds of miles, their toes were raw and bloody, and the men would refuse to march further, or be unable to manoeuvre when needed.  He went to some women who knitted socks, explained the problem, and asked if there was a solution.  At least one of them said that there was, and explained it to him (or his aide.)

Without being able to knit a stitch himself, he is given credit for “The Kitchener Stitch,” which is not really a stitch, but rather, a type of grafting, or weaving, which closes the ends of socks smoothly.  Of course, the wife knows all about it, and uses it on every pair she knits.

Th-th-that’s all folks – for this time.  I hope to see your electronic footprints back here soon.  They could even be in a special pair of socks if you play your cards right.  😀

Little Old Lady From Pasadena

WomanDrivingKnittingS

Two elderly women were out driving in a large car – both could barely see over the dashboard. As they were cruising along, they came to an intersection. The stoplight was red, but they just went on through.

The woman in the passenger seat thought to herself “I must be losing it. I could have sworn we just went through a red light.” After a few more minutes, they came to another intersection and the light was red again.

Again, they went right through. The woman in the passenger seat was almost sure that the light had been red but was really concerned that she was losing it. She was getting nervous. At the next intersection, sure enough, the light was red and they went on through. She turned to the other woman and said, “Mildred, did you know that we just ran through three red lights in a row? You could have killed us both!”

Mildred turned to her and said, “Oh, crap, am I driving?”

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A man called the hotel manager. He said “Come up quickly, I fought with my wife and now she wants to throw herself out the window!”
The manager replied “Sir this is a personal matter and we can’t get involved. I can call sec…”
The man interrupted “No! This is a maintenance issue. The window won’t open!”.

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People have to stop putting flyers on my car.  I don’t want to see a band called “Parking Violation” at the “Courthouse.”

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Society is just full of double standards.

For example, when Ariel from The Little Mermaid swims around half naked, singing with her underwater friends, people say that she is “sweet” and “beautiful”

But when I do it, people say that I’m “drunk” and “no longer welcome at the aquarium”.

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Yesterday I accidentally sent a naked picture of myself to everybody in my address book.  Not only was it embarrassing but it cost a fortune in stamps.

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I prefer not to call my toilet the John. I call it the Jim instead.  It sounds better to say I hit the Jim first thing in the morning.

***

A man is incomplete until he is married. After that, he is finished.

***

As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in public schools

***

A man rushes into his house and yells to his
wife, ‘Martha, pack up your things! I just won
the California lottery!’

Martha replies, ‘Shall I pack for warm weather
or cold?’

The man responds, ‘I don’t care. Just so long as
you’re out of the house by noon!’

***

Why did you leave your last job?
It was because of something my boss said.
What did he say?
You’re fired!

***

The Twenty And The One
A well-worn one-dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty-dollar bill arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation.

The twenty-dollar bill reminisced about its travels all over the country. “I’ve had a pretty good life,” the twenty proclaimed. “Why I’ve been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean.”

“Wow!” said the one-dollar bill. “You’ve really had an exciting life!” “So tell me,” says the twenty, “where have you been throughout your lifetime?” The one dollar bill replies, “Oh, I’ve been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church.”

The twenty-dollar bill interrupts, “What’s a church?”

***

 

A To Z Challenge – Y

april-challenge

M – I – C – K – E – Y….

Letter Y

are we all shouting Yay?? Because we’re almost finished with this Mickey Mouse challenge!

Mickey Mouse

It seems like just yesterday that I began this series, but it’s more like ‘days of yore.’  I’ve written about yummy food, and my long-past though perhaps not sufficiently-misspent, youth.  I can’t find any reference to all the wife’s knitting yarn, although I did include some in other posts.

I imagine that you are yearning for me to get back to publishing posts that are at least a little more serious.  I can’t think of what to do with ‘yardstick.’ You are free to imagine on your own, as long as you don’t make any inappropriate suggestions.

There’s only one more letter, and I’m done with this task. Then I’m giving it up for Lent.  😆

Getting The Cold Shoulder

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Once upon a long time ago, I overcame my failure to launch, got a job, and moved to a city a hundred miles from home. During the middle of February, a nasty cold snap moved in.  One Friday night, my friend and I went to an early movie.  The place was not crowded.

Afterwards, we went up the street to our favorite restaurant. Besides the proprietor, there were only four of us on that chilly night, the friend and I, and two young ladies.  At least that’s what they told us they were, when we went over to introduce ourselves.

After about an hour, they asked if we would walk them home. ‘Why shor!’ As we left the restaurant, I glanced at the big Coca-Cola thermometer, hanging on the outside wall.  It read -18° F, about -28 of these newfangled Metricated degrees.  The walk home involved only that, not even any hand-holding, although it’s hard to hold hands with snowmobile gloves on.  Snowmobiles might have been invented by then, but snowmobile gloves sure hadn’t.

After leaving the girls, we headed back to the restaurant to warm up again before going on home. I looked at the thermometer again as we stepped in.  It had fallen to -23° F, or -30° C, in the hour we’d been gone.  As we sat cuddling our hot chocolates, my pal said, “Do you know your ears are white?”  Like the joker I am, I said, “No, but if you’ll hum a few bars, I’ll try to sing along.”

“No, no! Your ears look frozen!”  I reached up and found something that felt like Michelangelo had carved from marble.  I wrapped my hands around the mug, and transferred warmth to my ears.  I couldn’t feel a thing.  Within 15 minutes I could feel them again, and was sorry I could.  They stung for hours.

The next day I went to a Men’s Wear store, explained what had happened, and asked if they had a solution. The salesman provided a bright-white as-the-snow, 100% wool, skiers’ ear band, which I wore faithfully.  I later found that, while I had not lost the ears to frostbite, the tiny blood vessels had been damaged.  Now if a cool September breeze stirs the leaves on the Maples, the ears don’t like it.

I left the job, moved back home for a summer, moved out again, went back to school for retraining, got a girlfriend, got a fiancé, got married, and wore that headband every winter. My WIFE looked at the now grey-brown abomination on my head, and said, “That thing’s gotta be washed!”

Most of the wife’s family is allergic to wool. Thank the Catholic God and Monsanto for Nylon, Rayon, Orlon, Banlon, Dacron, and Polyester.  She washed it in nice hot water, and dried it in a nice hot dryer, and I got back a nice, paper-white wrist band.  Oops!

We easily replaced it at K-Mart, before they went extinct, but she always felt badly about destroying the original. Some years later, when her knitting skills had improved to the point that she was arguing with knitting patterns and TV knitting show hostesses, she asked if I would like her to custom-design and make me a replacement, this time in a washable wool/polyester blend.  See above, “Why shor!”

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She started with a tube, a basic sock. Then she steadily increased stitches on one side, while adding a simple pattern.  After achieving a desired length, she stopped the pattern, and reduced stitches till both ends were equal.  Now she carefully sewed the ends together, and I have a double-thickness ear protector.  The protruding edge goes down the nape of the neck, to fend off cold breezes and falling snow.

After letting me be the guinea pig, the son decided that he’d like one also. A neighbor kid, watching me shovel snow with it on one day, asked how I got my hair to grow up through my hat.

I once sliced into an old tennis ball, and pushed it down over the ball of my trailer hitch, to protect it from rusting. This was the same kid who asked me how I got the ball to balance there.  I think he’s got all the way up to manager at his McDonalds location.   😯

Happy Birthday

A policeman was patrolling near midnight at a
local parking spot, overlooking a golf course.
He drove by a car and saw a couple inside with
the dome light on.

Inside there was a young man in the driver’s seat
reading a computer magazine and a young lady in
the back seat calmly knitting.

He stopped to investigate. He walked up to the
driver’s window and knocked. The young man looked
up, obligingly cranked the window down, and said,

‘Yes, Officer?’

‘What are you doing?’ the policeman asked.
‘What does it look like?’ answered the young man.
‘I’m reading this magazine.’

Pointing towards the young lady in the back seat,
the officer then asked, ‘And what is she doing?’

The young man looked over his shoulder and replied,

‘I think she’s knitting a sweater.’

Confused, the officer asked, ‘How old are you,
young man?’

‘I’m nineteen,’ he replied.

‘And how old is she?’ asked the officer.

The young man looked at his watch and said,
‘Well, in about twelve minutes she’ll be
eighteen.’

***

A Scotsman and an Englishman lived next door to
each other. The Scotsman owned a hen and each
morning would look in his garden and pick up one
of his hen’s eggs for breakfast. One day he
looked into his garden and saw that the hen had
laid an egg in the Englishman’s garden.

He was about to go next door when he saw the
Englishman pick up the egg. The Scotsman ran up
to the Englishman and told him that the egg
belonged to him because he owned the hen. The
Englishman disagreed because the egg was laid
on his property.

They argued for a while until finally the
Scotsman said, ‘In my family we normally solve
disputes by the following actions: I kick you in
the groin and time how long it takes you to get
back up, then you kick me in the groin and time
how long it takes for me to get up. Whoever gets
up quicker wins the egg.’

The Englishman agreed to this and so the Scotsman
found his heaviest pair of boots and put them on,
he took a few steps back, then ran toward the
Englishman and kicked as hard as he could in the
balls.

The Englishman fell to the floor clutching his
nuts, howling in agony for 30 minutes. Eventually
the Englishman stood up and said, ‘Now it’s my
turn to kick you.’

The Scotsman said, ‘Keep the damned egg.’

***

A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor’s
office for his checkup.

Afterwards, the doctor took his wife aside and
said, “Unless you do the following things, your
husband will surely die.” The doctor then went
on to say, “Here’s what you need to do. Every
morning make sure you serve him a good healthy
breakfast. Meet him at home each day for lunch
so that you can serve him a well balanced meal.

Make sure that you feed him a good hot meal each
evening and don’t overburden him with any
stressful conversation, nor ask him to perform
any household chores. Also, keep the house
spotless and clean so that he doesn’t get exposed
to any threatening germs.”

On the way home, the husband asked his wife what
the doctor said. She replied, “He said that
you’re going to die.”

Purls Of Wisdom

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A highway patrolman pulled alongside a speeding car on the freeway. Glancing at the car, he was astounded to see that the blonde behind the wheel was knitting!

Realizing that she was oblivious to his flashing lights and siren, the trooper cranked down his window, turned on his bullhorn and yelled, “PULL OVER!”

 

“NO,” the blonde yelled back, “IT’S A SCARF!”

 

****

Paul Mitchell, 29, was walking home from a friend’s Halloween party earlier this year when he found himself next to his neighbor’s pumpkin field.  He had always joked in his mind about how the inside of pumpkins are soft, mushy, and warm (in Texas). So he took out his knife, cut a hole in his choice pumpkin, and began fucking it.

An officer of the City Police Dept. saw Mitchell and stopped to see what was going on. “I expected Mitchell to be urinating in the field and possibly be intoxicated,” said the Officer. Mitchell didn’t hear or see the Officer as she approached, due to his newfound hobby. She shined her flashlight on Paul and said, “Sir, do you realize that you are screwing a pumpkin?”

Mitchell replied almost instantly, “Is it midnight already?”

****

The local vicar is having a bath, and he’s a little bored, so he decides to, ‘pleasure’ himself. He’s quite happily tugging away, reaches the old moment of bliss, and opens his eyes only to see, at the window, the window cleaner, jaw agape at what he’s just seen.

A couple of minutes later, the doorbell rings, it’s the window cleaner.  The vicar is understandably embarrassed, and asks the man how much he owes him.  “50 quid” comes the reply.  “50 quid ?!?” says the vicar, startled.  “Yep, fifty quid or I tell the whole parish about what I saw, you perv.”

So the vicar hands over the cash, and the cleaner gets on his way.

The following week, the bishop’s ’round for his supper and is having a wander ’round the vicar’s house, admiring his lovely home.  He says to the vicar, “Lovely clean windows you’ve got there vicar, who does them for you?”

“Oh, a guy from the village does them for me, he does a great job,” replies the vicar.

“Oh, yes. How much does he charge you, then?”

“Well,” replies the vicar, “fifty quid, actually”

“Fifty quid?!? Blimey!” says the bishop.  “He must have seen you coming!”

****

The history teacher announced that the students who could tell her the source of the following famous quotes would be allowed to go home early.

“The first quote is: ‘Four score and seven years ago…'”

Cathy raised her and answered “Abe Lincoln”.

“Very good Cathy, you may go home,” said the teacher. “The next quote is ‘Give me liberty or give me…”

Jane raised her hand and blurted out “Patrick Henry.”

“Very good Jane, you may also leave.”

Meanwhile a boy had his hand up in the back of the room the whole time and the teacher never acknowledged him, and she said that would be all for the day. She proceeded to write something on the board when the boy said “Stupid Bitches, if it weren’t for them none of this ever would’ve happened”

The teacher turned around and said, “Who said that?”

The boy blurted out “Bill Clinton, now can I go home!”

****

Did you hear about the accident at the army base?

A jeep ran over a box of popcorn & killed 2 kernels