Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bread Therapy

There are no pictures of bread in this post. It is very difficult to take a good picture of bread dough. But, inspired by my older daughter, I baked Oatmeal Raisin Bread from the second Vegetarian Epicure and a batch of Cook's Illustrated's Almost No-knead Bread (desperately needed more salt and a better beer than Corona) this week, and as I write, there is batch of wheat bread from Baking with Julia on its first rise on the radiator in the kitchen.

But making bread is very restorative. You get to knead the dough. And then watch it rise, like magic, in the bowl or the loaf pan. And the fragrance as it's baking? Why has no one invented a candle with the aroma of freshly-baked bread? Or freshly-ground coffee? Most importantly, there is no such thing as bad bread. It never disappoints. It always merits the time put in. Even if the final product is ungainly or undercooked, you can always turn it into a slice of toast that is better than any store-bought bread. Why can't all of life be like this?

In lieu of bread pictures, some photos of weaving. This is also very restorative. There's something lovely and meditative about throwing the shuttle back and forth, pressing down on the foot pedals in a rhythmic pattern, pulling the beater toward one and then pushing it away. It lacks the more immediate gratification of baking. And there are large craters of mistakes that one can fall into, such as an error in the threading that will haunt you until you give in and make a triage correction by replacing the incorrect warp end with one that is attached after the fact.

More often, I am dogged by having to remember where I stopped in the pattern the last time that I wove. It can be months between time spent weaving. The loom sits in the living room, a lovely piece of furniture. And then one day, I remember - this weaving thing makes me feel good. I like the process of it (and as we know, I am not a process person.) I like the end result of having something handmade that can be used on a daily basis. I like the feel of the thread and the look of the product and the connection with a very old craft. Knitting just doesn't make me feel this way. But it did finally give me a method for keeping track of my place as I weave. When I knit, I both mark off the section of the chart that is completed AND write myself a note that says "next row," where I jot down the next part to be knitted. Why can't I do the same thing when I weave?

Tada: the notepad, with a line for each block of the Summer-Winter pattern that I'm weaving and a pen kept close by so that I can make hash marks as I finish a section:
The index card, taped to the loom, with the pattern:
The loom on a sunny afternoon this week:
And a closeup of the fabric. The warp is a mercerized 10/2 cotton in dark blue and sky blue. The weft is an organic cotton, perhaps also a 10/2. These will probably be napkins in another year or two.
And the bane of my existence: trying to knit a grey hat with a little red, as requested by a yoga colleague. This is my third try at a grey hat. First I knit Cascade Pastazza into a watch cap. Too stiff and thick. Then I gave Ysolda Teague's Rose Red a try in Blue Sky sportweight alpaca. Even though I had gauge dead on, the hat came out much too small. (This is my second experience of nailing gauge and still having the fit wrong in a knitted item. I am beginning to doubt the payoff for getting gauge, or even swatching.) Effort Number 3 is below. I ripped out the size Small hat, went up a needle size, and knit the Large. The pattern is very well-written so the fault lies all with me. But this one: floppy. Flabby. And the little bit of red at the edge is distracting rather than inspiring.
I cast off the hat as I sat in the car, listening to a great recording of Laurie King's The Game, narrated by Jenny Sterlin. The hat is still there, lying on the floor of the front seat, after I abandoned it.




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