November 29, 2010

Knitting as a Memory Aid

The hats I showed you last week were knit at two conferences my husband and I attended.  I told my husband that knitting helps me pay attention to whoever is giving the presentation, paper, or plenary address and that I can hold the object later and remember what I heard when I made it.  We have a lively sense of the ridiculous and like to joke, so he held up the little blue hat and asked me to remember, down to the very row.  Well, okay, I can't.  But there were a lot of speakers.

About half a dozen people who saw me knitting and spinning talked to me about what I was doing.  A older couple saw my merino wool and told me about the merino sheep they'd seen in Australia.  I learned from someone who reads Hebrew that the passage describing the idealized virtuous woman–who is described among other things as a serious handspinner–in Proverbs 31 are written as an Abecedarius, that is, the first letter of each line taken in succession together form the alphabet.  I learned from an archaeologist that loom weights and spindle whorls in the Near East are typically excavated at domestic sites, inside houses.

I slipped away from the conference to go to the local fine art museum, where I saw a large coverlet made of handspun.  I also went to a university museum that had a number of antiquities, including a selection of pre-Columbian spindle whorls which were made of pottery, a Greek vase depicting Odysseus' escape from the Cyclops which involves sheep if you've forgotten, and a number of examples of ancient Egyptian linen burial cloths which were unfortunately still occupied.

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