Month of sacrifices

Published on Sunday November 11th, 2007

November is a month fraught with superstitions. According to the 7th-century scholar Bede (and you know how I love my moldy oldy scholars), my ancient Anglo-Saxon ancestors called it blotmonath, the month of blood sacrifices to the gods. I suspect they were combining practicality with worship, storing up the meat they’d need to get through the winter while they made the necessary supplications to ensure that the gods would eventually see fit to restore light and warmth to the land. We dig ancient traditions steeped in mystery at the little school where I work, so we observed the ritual of rolling the Samhain oatcake to kick off the month the Friday before last. The Seniors light a fire outdoors, and the whole school gathers around it to explain about the oatcake to the littlest kids and to sing songs. The oatcake, baked by the Intermediates (with extra oats for maximum density), is about twelve inches in diameter and is marked on one side with an X and on the other with an O. By the time of the bonfire, even the newest Primaries know to chant, “X! X! X!,” for if the oatcake rolls down the hill and lands X-side up, a severe winter with plenty of snow days is predicted.

As it happened, the oatcake made a convincing fake in the X direction, then flopped over to reveal the O. And now I have reason to hope it’s correct, because I imagine I’ll be spending an unusual amount of time outside in the cold and dark this season. As is only appropriate in the Month of Sacrifices, we’re going to be rearranging our lives and habits chez Garter. (No, it’s not a baby. We like to swim against the tide around here.) A seven-week-old puppy is arriving on an airplane from Texas a week from Tuesday, and it’s going to live with us.

Mr. G’s twin sister, as you know if you’ve been a long-time reader here, hangs her hat in the middle of nowhere with only her husband and five hundred sheep and a handful of ranch dogs for company. There’s a fairly steady flow of puppies out of these dogs, pups that are in demand to work cattle and sheep on other ranches and find homes right away. But this time there’s a mild little gal who’d rather snuggle up for a nice petting than give a recalcitrant cow what-for, and Mr. G’s sister knows all too well what happens to dogs who don’t earn their keep in that country. She’s soft on this pup and she’s talked us into making a city slicker out of her. We were wary, not having an opportunity to meet the dog beforehand, and knowing that a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix is going to need lots of exercise and responsible training to be happy and well-mannered in our sheepless lifestyle. We spent two days weighing the decision. Now we can’t wait to meet her. But I’m really going to have to tidy up the Fibordello before she comes. Needles! Lone socks! Skeins of yarn! So many tempting targets for pointy little teeth! Mingus the Cat may never forgive me. And oh, those pre-dawn walks in the biting cold…. At least I have these to wear:


Koolhaas Gauntlets, inspired by Jared’s beautiful hat in the Holiday Interweave Knits, knit with Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed. I’m not hugely impressed by the Debbie Bliss line in general (puny yardage and suspect fiber content and all that), but she really got it right with the Luxury Tweed. I was smitten by this luscious aubergine color with its flecks of pine, persimmon, and lilac as soon as it waltzed into the store, and since I’d like to fend off chilblains this winter, I knew it was only a matter of time until I bought some to make some long fingerless mitts. I actually finished them in October after the second Boston trip, so they’ve already seen two weeks of heavy use and they’re holding up beautifully.


If you’d like to copy them, obtain a copy of Jared’s chart for the travelling stitches, cast on forty sts on a #4 needle for the fingers-end rib, work six rounds, then switch up to a #7 and begin the chart. The thumb is pretty free form – mine came out a little different on each mitt because I wasn’t clever enough to take careful notes the first time – work it as you like it, decrease back to the 40 sts, and cruise on down until the gauntlets are as long as you want. Finish with a little more ribbing, pick up sts around the thumbhole and work a 1×1 rib to the desired length. Oh, and I went to a mirror-image stitch-crossing on the second glove for the sake of symmetry.

And now, for the love of Pete, tell me what dog-training books you recommend. I’m already running out for a copy of The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete, because that’s what we used with the dogs I had growing up, but further reading suggestions are more than welcome. And what would you name a scraggly wee grey mutt with black and white splotches and not much tail?

39 Comments to “Month of sacrifices”

  1. Lauren Comment Says:

    Those are some beautiful gloves; I’ve been looking for inspiration for a new pair of fingerless gloves… thank you!

    Congratulations and good luck with the new puppy!

  2. rebecca Comment Says:

    A puppy – how exciting! As for a name, you never can tell until you meet her. Our cat Monk was intended to be Thelonious, but he was such a big goof that Monk seemed more appropriate!

  3. britt Comment Says:

    ok. why couldn’t you post this sooner??? I don’t mean it in a bad way, but i just finished some fingerless mitts in a very boring pattern just to have some quickly. And I just went to the yarn shop yesterday. I don’t think I can explain another trip after just going. Bummer!
    But hey, great idea using his hat design. I think the mitts are gorgeous.

  4. gleek Comment Says:

    ooooh a puppy! well border collies are a lot of fun and very easy to train if they don’t have a stubborn streak. what out because they do tend to be chewers (mine would eat anything she could find!) but they grow out of that. my advice is to get her to an obedience training class once she’s past her first few months.

  5. carla Comment Says:

    I love those mitts! What a great idea, and beautiful yarn as well.

  6. Nancy Comment Says:

    “Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog” by Carol Lea Benjamin
    “Before and After Getting Your Puppy” by Ian Dunbar

    Actually anything by Ian Dunbar is fantastic. His video, Sirius Puppy Training is great.

    Get these and read them ASAP (preferably before said puppers arrives).

    If I could impart only one bit of advice for the mix you are getting from working bloodlines, it would be this:
    “Assign the puppy a job and make sure she works every single day”. Whether her job is training for agility or keeping the birds out of the garden, her working stock will tell out and she has too much brain power to veg next to the fire all day long. She may not have the herding drive her siblings have but she has the genetics.

    Oh, and don’t forget to sniff puppy smells. Gosh I miss puppy smells. Sniff a good one for me. πŸ™‚

  7. keri Comment Says:

    So cute – what a great idea!

  8. Kate Comment Says:

    Dog training for Dummies is a good book.
    Love your gloves πŸ™‚

  9. loribird Comment Says:

    Cool mitts!

    I don’t know any dog books, but I’d recommend finding a basic obedience course in your area (make sure to interview the instructor in person first, or get really great first-hand references.) I took my dog to one (he was a little over a year, and getting a bit wild) and it was amazing to watch this woman communicate with my pal, and then learn how to do so myself. It’s made all the difference in the world. Our “class” had only 5 dogs in it, and we met once a week for six weeks – so not too much of a time commitment, and it wasn’t expensive either. What’s funny is that there was less “obedience” and more “Ah, ha! So that’s what you mean!”

  10. Julie Comment Says:

    A puppy! That’s wonderful! And just think, you’re rescuing it, so that’s got to feel good. Your mitts are gorgeous, and let me say how impressed I am that your school is observing some of those ancient rituals- what a great way to keep them alive.

  11. Lisa Comment Says:

    Yay! A puppy! Name him Donnegal, after the lovely yarn used in your fingerless mits. Those are lovely!

  12. Katie Comment Says:

    Oh, puppy, puppy, puppy! I can’t wait to “meet” her! What fun, and rescuing a little waif, how sweet of you. This winter will be an adventure, I’m sure.

  13. Sarah Comment Says:

    Welcome to this newest member of your family! When will he/she arrive on the scene? Any ideas about a name?

  14. chrispy Comment Says:

    Love the gloves. I think I spotted a pic on Ravelry of them but did not look at who made them.

    Dog books. I had a few but they did not help that much. We did obedience puppy training with our first two and when we got our newest doxie pup in March, we just used what we had learned over the previous 2 years of training 2 dogs at once. I would recommend that you get books by the dog whisper Cesar Milan. He also has a DVD on your new dog: first day and beyond. Once we had covered all the basic training things, we still had issues. After listening to his first book on tape, our house is so much calmer and less dog crazy. Our friends don’t mind visiting any more.

  15. Eva Comment Says:

    Oh! Border Collie/Australian Shepherds are the absolute BEST!!! I’m so not a dog person, but my mum has a dog of this mix and he is the most awesome dog ever. Smart, loyal, gentle, adorable….etc. You have not chosen wrong with this puppy.

    Nice mitts, too! Is the Luxury Tweed the same as what used to be called Aran Donegal Tweed? Single-ply in a collection of rather nice (and un-Debbie) colors? If so, I quite like that yarn, but I always regret its singly-plied state, as the pilling would break my heart with something large. Mitts, however, seem perfect!

    (sorry for the excessive exclamation marks in my comment. I’m not normally like this…must be Monday)

  16. vered223 Comment Says:

    We have a border collie/ aussie mix (named Flannery, after O’Connor), and she is the love of our lives. Get her a good solid ball to herd– and let me know if you have any questions!

  17. Nonnahs Comment Says:

    Oh early congratulations on your soon to be puppy addition! How exciting! I don’t know of any books, but I like other people have already suggested, I would try to find a good trainer/class. Can’t wait to see the little one! PS: Oh, and your gauntlets – gorgeous!

  18. Nicole Comment Says:

    I love your school’s Samhain tradition. How fun. Did the kids eat the oatcake despite the rolling on the ground part? I ask because I love oatcakes, especially with a wedge of old cheddar and slices of apples.

    I wish I could come up with a cool name for your dog. But it’s fairly impossible without seeing the wee mutt’s cute mug. We’ve been thinking about getting a pup ourselves. I’ll be interested in seeing how things go with you.

    And thanks for the Koolhaas inspiration. I might just keep on knitting and make mittens instead of gauntlets. It’s way too cold here already for exposed finger tips.

  19. Karma Comment Says:

    Another lovely post from Ms. Blue Garter… I predict you’ll have loads of fun in your town with a sweet little friend to keep you company. I haven’t had a dog in ages, but my mother in law adores The Dog Whisperer. I can’t wait to see a picture of the new dog and I’ll bet you’ll come up with the perfect name.

  20. Sandy Comment Says:

    Bartholomew. That’s the coolest dog name ever! (I think there was a dog cartoon character when I was growing up named Bartholomew.)

    Love the mitts. Such a beautiful color!

  21. Alli Comment Says:

    Yay a puppy! I have a husky/australian shepherd mix who was too wild/independent for pulling sleds. I think working dogs (and really all dogs) benefit greatly from a routine. I try to stick pretty closely to a routine and it gives my spastic dog a little stability. For example now that he’s figured out that his morning walk is between 11:30 and 1:00 everyday he stays quiet and calm until then (he is 2 years old).
    The other suggestion is to agree with everyone else that you should try to find a good obedience class. Actually, even before obedience class it is good to find a puppy kindergarten. This is before they’re really old enough to get much out of obedience (my dog only learned Sit in kindergarten) but it’s really important that they learn to socialize and pay attention and all that as early as possible!
    Have fun!!! Can’t wait to see her!

  22. Anna Comment Says:

    “Katz on Dogs” is great. the Art of Raising a Puppy was my favorite as well as their other book, How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend. I also liked The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell We did really well with the local obedience classes as well!

  23. tiennie Comment Says:

    These are so beautiful! Enjoy your new puppy!

  24. Tish Comment Says:

    Hi Sarah – I stumbled across your site while searching for a picture of a Japanese anemone for a layout(I’m a garden designer)…which led me to one of your postings…anyway – I love the colors and pictures of your work – gorgeous, and I don’t even knit. Makes me want to though since I love woolies. Maybe on those rainy Pac NW days when I can’t get out in the garden.

    Posting a comment because we have an aussie (Owen) who is the love of our lives (and a little devil too). You won’t be sorry bringing an Aussie/Border into your home – they are such wonderful companions. Great sense of humor. I second The Other End of the Leash Γ’β‚¬β€œ itÒ€ℒs a good read.

    Beware…our little man loves to steal wooly socks.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful work.

  25. stacey Comment Says:

    Congrats! How fun!!! The puppy will have a lot of drive for sure – I have a 12 week old Australian Shepherd, as well as an adult Cattle dog and an adult Border Collie. We walk A LOT! They also have other jobs – they all do agility – a GREAT outlet for the herding breeds! I’d very very highly recommend taking a puppy kindergarten class for the socialization especially – Aussies are known and expected to be stand offish around strangers, and Border collies can be as well, so socialize! Puppies for Dummies (as corny as it sounds) is also a great basic book. Clicker training – another great form of mind exercise (which this pup will need just as much or more than body exercise!) Feel free to email me with any questions! πŸ™‚

  26. Jen Comment Says:

    Oooo! Oooo! Oooo! Oh, I have a skein of Hemp for Knitting that will be FAB for these. πŸ™‚

    I’m so glad you’re getting a PUPPY!

  27. Mia Comment Says:

    Oh, I’m jealous! I want those fingerless mitts, but MORE than that I want a puppy!!! RRR. I can’t wait to see pictures!!

  28. Veronique Comment Says:

    Oh, I’ve been drooling over the same exact yarn at the Point! I haven’t bought any because I didn’t know what to make with it… Thanks πŸ™‚

  29. lindar Comment Says:

    That’s the book ( Monks of New Skeet) we used with our four year 80# yellow dog and our three year old Shih Tzu’s. Works!!! Great dogs!

  30. lindar Comment Says:

    That’s the book ( Monks of New Skeet) we used with our four year old 80# yellow dog and our three year old Shih Tzu’s. Works!!! Great dogs!

  31. susan Comment Says:

    oh jeez. great. fine. now i have something else i want to knit!

    those mitts are extraordinary. i feel the lust in my heart blooming already! must. knit. mitts!

    beautiful mitts. really, really beautiful mitts.

    oh, and good luck with the puppers! who knows? the pup and the cat may become fast friends. it happened with ours; see?

  32. Lindsey Comment Says:

    Thanks for sharing about your school’s tradition. We celebrate Samhain around here, and it was interesting to read about the celebration there, especially in a school. πŸ™‚

    Best wishes for life with the pup! If we were ever to get a dog in our home, we’d get an Australian Cattle dog… So many great qualities in them. Looking forward to seeing pictures of the new addition to your family.

  33. minnie Comment Says:

    i’ve heard the dog whisperer books are good. maybe those will help.

  34. carrie m Comment Says:

    i have no dog advice — my brother and i were always allergic to pets.
    but your mitts are just darling! very classy and toasty.

  35. katie m. Comment Says:

    Oooh, such pretty mitts! What a good idea; they turned out great. Puppies, not so much advice. Just enjoy the cuteness.
    Thanks for the offer to help out with some Very Warm Hat details. I’ll let you know if I get lost.

  36. nubiancraftster Comment Says:

    Love them!! You took a wonderful idea and made it a little better. Congrats.

  37. Kristina Comment Says:

    Wow a new puppy, good luck! It will be great and the cat will forgive you. *Important keep yarn and new shoes away from the newest fur ball.

  38. Wendolene Comment Says:

    Those mitts are amazing! I HAVE to get that Knits.
    I don’t have any training tips, but here’s a suggestion for a name: Peggoty, like Davie’s nurse in David Copperfield

  39. Wanda Comment Says:

    Would you be willing to make a pair of mittens to sell that are like the ones on this post? πŸ™‚