American Girl and . . . . History Lessons?

We’re not just a doll company.  It’s the whole education element that appeals to our customers.  We call it the vitamins-and-chocolate-cake approach.”  So says Wade Opland, vice president of retail for American Girl, which just opened its only store (all 8,500 square feet of it) in Colorado.

I am sure all the prepubescent girls “pointing, pleading and screaming” over dolls and accessories at the opening of the Park Meadows store used the educational angle to convince their parents that $95 for a doll, $14 for doll ear piercing, and $10 to $20 for custom doll hair styling were all important components to their understanding of  “historical events and moral or social issues.”   Consider the liner notes for Kit Kittredge, a doll themed around growing up during the Great Depression (quoted in the Denver Post, “Girls gaga at doll shop,” 27 March, 2010):

Kit overhears terrible news just before Christmas — her family may lose their house.  Even with the rent from the boarders, the Kittredges don’t have enough money to pay the bank.”

Or this, at the end of the article:

Avital Rotbart, 13, of Denver, left American Girl smiling Friday after buying a Sabbath bread, candle and tea set — $68 — for her Rebecca doll, themed as a girl from 1914 growing up in a Russian-Jewish immigrant family.

How very ironic, or sad: that would have been a Russian-Jewish family living in New York City’s Lower East Side, where I am sure no immigrant parents would ever have contemplated pampering a daughter with the 1914 equivalent of $68 for something as frivolous as doll accessories.

Last night, The Kid came home from babysitting with a $50 bill.  Needless to say, no clue who Ulysses S. Grant was, which era, which war.  Not surprising, really.  So we finally told her it was the Civil War, and she said,”It was the Union against the communists!

Maybe if I had bought her an American Girl doll . . . .

Knitting at the End of Winter: Moire (Skirt) Dress

Moiré Dress

Pattern: Based on the Moiré Skirt, from Norah Gaughan’s Knitting Nature: 39 Designs Inspired by Patterns in Nature. When I first saw the skirt, I was unimpressed: I just could not see the moiré because of the busy yarn (Berroco Zen) Norah Gaughan had chosen.  Then I saw the skirt on Ravelry, done in a smooth yarn, and I could finally see the beautiful “interference” pattern.

Yarn: Woolen-spun, 2-ply, worsted weight cormo from Elsa Wool Company, in medium grey.  A lovely, rustic but soft yarn from an independent producer in Bayfield, Colorado.  Someday I am going to do a road trip to that corner of the state.

Modifications: It is part of my continuing obsession with knitted dresses . . . .  The skirt part is unmodified except that I knitted it in the round, did the waist in a 2 x 2 rib in a sage-colored yarn left over from another project, and winged the bodice and sleeves.  The sleeves were picked up from the top and knitted downwards, the caps shaped via short rows.  And because I did not calculate the sleeve shaping, they are roomier than they need to be.

Thoughts: Norah Gaughan’s interpretation of the moiré concept makes for a truly unique cable pattern.  Hurray for knitting geeks!

Spring, 2010

At our house, this is how we know it must be spring:

Specialized Carmel 700 5 Low Entry

With coffee cup and holder, bell, pink streamers, and panniers — what more does a girl need?  Well, maybe a pink saddle cover … 🙂


And perhaps a basket for the guinea pig:

Opie the Spring Guinea Pig

Toss the Book: 33 Bits

When I was much younger and could just about call myself a pianist, I was always surprised by the competitions my teacher chose for me, was always surprised when I won those competitions, and was always surprised by the judges’ comments and compliments.  Each time I touched the piano it was an adventure of sorts, because I could never hear myself play.

This past weekend I had to read Jane Bash’s 33 Bits (2009) because the author had submitted it for a literary competition (which apparently takes all comers, but then relies on volunteer readers, such as me, to cull the entries), and I had chosen to read it based on a blurb supplied by the writer.  Like the selective deafness of my younger self, Jane Bash cannot hear her words.  Or perhaps the problem is that her estimation of her writing  far out-strips the reality of her efforts.

I want to point out that “writing” is part of the title of this literary prize:

The barbeque grill was emitting swirls of sweet mesquite smoke and was anxious to meet up with the slabs of meat that were forthcoming.

He had been out of the military long enough now to have sampled the various women he might consider dating for more long-term aspirations.”

He couldn’t wait to return from Spain to his little filly.  She exhibited such promise.” [And no, the filly did not refer to a horse.]

While Etta took in the room, she didn’t notice Joseph taking her in.  He was enjoying watching her eyes.  She seldom moved her head, but her eyes were actively taking in the details of the room.  Gosh, she had beautiful eyes.  Joseph did not know how to engage her in conversation, so he just beheld her, entrapping the lovely vision of her in his mind’s eye.

It is a romance novel of many, many words — 360+ pages worth, in fact.  At some point the heroine started to cry — but she didn’t just cry, she had tears coming out of her eye sockets.  Me?  After the excruciating hours I spent with this book (hours, by the way, that  I will NEVER EVER be able to get back), I’m just glad I still have eyes IN my eye sockets . . . .

Knitting: Flyaway Farm

Quote of the Day: I love a man who speaks his mind — no matter how small it is.

I love supporting small businesses, especially small yarn producers … and it is even more wonderful if the yarn is spun and hand-dyed from the fleece of sheep “raised and grazed on the meadows” of the owner’s farm.  I found what I thought was such a product with Flyaway Farm’s sport-weight yarn in “rowan,” a lovely woodsy green with flickers of brown.

I enjoy the slight unevenness of rustic wool, the “farm” bits left behind on the fleece (makes me feel closer to the sheep), the color variations from the hand-dying process.  But …  there is color variation, and then there is (completely avoidable) poor quality control:

Yarn from Flyaway Farm (La Pointe, Wisconsin)

Behold my not-as-beautiful-as-I-thought Flyaway Farm yarn, marred by strips of beige where the dye did NOT take because the yarn had been tied off too tightly for the color to penetrate.  Two of the three skeins I bought have these ugly sections, four per skein …  and there is nothing I can do about it.

Yes, I know, hand crafted yarn, can’t expect perfection and even color saturation, blah blah blah …  Well, it is precisely because it’s hand-crafted that I expect more care on the part of the artisan — in this case, Cynthia Dalzell, shepherd. There is absolutely nothing charming about the undyed sections of my yarn, and Cynthia Dalzell should be embarrassed that these skeins made it to market.  Hand-crafted yarn, like dessert, should not disappoint.