Happy birthday, Jennie!
Sunday April 15th 2007, 4:03 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit

A Dancing Queen double amaryllis celebrating the day

and a package that should have arrived on time, with silk, cashmere, and lambswool, one of the two laceweight strands dyed by me to complement the other. This is in a pattern I’d admired but never gotten around to actually trying before; it seemed to me that having your first child hit a quarter century is a good time to learn something new.

In honeyed tones
Saturday April 14th 2007, 12:06 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

Heard at dinner last night: “So, which would you like on your” (acorn) “squash?”

“Not the bee barf, pass me the tree blood.”

Teenagers. Ya gotta love’em.

(No amaryllises were harmed in the staging of this picture.)

Edited to add: I have been corrected. It was the hubby who first called the syrup tree blood in the conversation.)

They’re staying!
Friday April 13th 2007, 12:18 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit

Thank you to everybody for the kind words on my book; much appreciated.

Now, to start off: I used fingering weight yarn for the most part in my shawls, trying to keep my patterns accessible to a larger number of knitters and to entice newbies into giving them a try; sometimes very fine yarns can be intimidating. But out of curiosity, I took this one pattern and used Fino, a baby alpaca/silk blend that is half the weight of the yarn in the shawl to the left, for the red shawl here, which I’ve just finished. I was afraid it would come out too tight around. It came out absolutely stunning. Yay!

Meantime, two days after Jim’s son fell off the ski lift, his wife’s mother had a stroke. It turned out not to be a bad one, and she’s doing okay, all things considered. Then yesterday Jim got word that the job he had applied for in another state had gone to someone else. …When it snows, it avalanches.

And so their neighbor Russ threw out an email to all their friends. Jim’s family isn’t moving! We get to keep them! Our corner of the world wins! Come CELEBRATE!!!

And celebrate we did. We poured into Russ’s house en masse, bringing food and company and getting a chance to tell that family how much they mean to us and how glad we are that they’re here. Saying hi to Nicholas without making a nuisance of a fuss over his injuries. After all that’s happened to them, we want to see their 7 and 8-year-old sons grow up, every step of the way. We want to buoy up their grandparents. They belong to us, all of them, and we are so fortunate to have them here. I am so grateful to Russ for giving us a chance to say that by simply coming and being there.

I did not shoot photos of the party. You’ll have to make do with the shawl shot. But believe me, a good time (and strawberries and chocolate sauce and cream puffs and tiny quiches and stuffed tiny tomatoes and–okay, I’ll stop now) was had by all.

Celebrate! Here, I’ve got some more Fino, I think I’ll go cast it on now.

“Wrapped In Comfort” cover
Wednesday April 11th 2007, 4:50 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort"

Amazon has had my book listed for pre-order for awhile, but with the wrong cover. Here is what it’s really going to look like come June 11. Being the author, and not having been there during the photography, I find I want to step into the picture and tug that bottom edge just a tad, you know, adjust it to hang just a little more loosely on the neck…

Enough of that. I think this one captures the spirit of the book much better. The model has a lovely smile, and I was so glad when I saw this shot. Well done, Martingale!

Ice cream puddle
Tuesday April 10th 2007, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Knit

Fifty-two inches long. Baby alpaca/silk calories? Let’s see, Pam, 33 repeats x four rows x 21 stitches + cast on and cast off rows = 2794 stitches/calories, plus cherries and melting chocolate. As the sign at Rick’s Rather Rich Ice Cream proclaims, “Life is uncertain; eat dessert first.”

Knit long and prosper.

Lady, your ice cream’s melting…
Monday April 09th 2007, 8:21 pm
Filed under: Knit

Kristine says she accidentally knocked on the wrong door first, and had some woman at house number such-and-such basically say, um, I’d love to have that ice cream, but I’m not Sam and I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Since I like to think things happen for a reason, and since I can’t deliver ice cream to Vermont from California (well, not in any condition you’d want to eat…) I knitted up some Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia today to send off to that wrong address. And had wayyy too much fun doing it. (I think I’ll look for a lighter-weight bowl for shipping, though.)

What I saw
Monday April 09th 2007, 5:42 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

I am the daughter of an art dealer, and a modern-art dealer at that. I was taught by my father and his artist friend Nat Leeb to spend a lot of time looking at a scene or a painting, not to make snap judgments or brush strokes, but to observe first. “Look at it for ten minutes: paint for one,” M. Leeb told me the summer I was 16, as if I were his art student. (My little sister was superb with a paintbrush and a gifted artist in her own right. I, however, could only wish. My knitting later grew to fill that niche for me.)

When I saw that photo from Jim, just the top showed on my screen at first, and that shaft of light and the glow it emanated from really stood out. As I scrolled down, the closer to the earth, the more it faded into the overall picture. You had to be looking for it then to really see the same brightness it had had just a moment ago.

I’m sure Jim snapped that to show his son later the perspective on the scene that day. To me, though, and the reason I asked them and then posted it on Easter Sunday, was that the ski lift looked like a modern-art version, for his family, anyway, of the Cross. The suffering of the son, the compassion and love of the father.

And I saw the huge need for each human being to step up when help is needed.

And the huge need to say thank you when they do.

Sunday April 08th 2007, 3:04 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

At the light in that sky reaching down.

Photo by Jim (posted with permission).

“To those who fall, how kind Thou art.”

Go Kristine!
Saturday April 07th 2007, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Spinning

When our kids, who are 19, 21, 23 in June, and 25 next week, were growing up, any trip to the Urgent Care center at our clinic or the ER came with the bonus of their daddy taking them to the local ice cream shop on the way home for comfort: what Richard calls his own “Emergency Room Medicine.”

We have in our immediate neighborhood a shop, Rick’s, which is a hole-in-the-wall place that manufactures its own ice cream right there and which is a popular local summer hanging-out place. When the old fellow who’d run it for decades retired, the guy who bought it painted cows on the walls and ivy coming from the ceiling morphing into silk ivy coming out of the walls; it was very charming, but one day, I thought, you know? That main cow there needed a tail.

I had some yak hair. Not the soft, cashmere-y undercoat; yak hair. Wretched stuff, rips the skin off your fingers if you spin it too long at the wheel, won’t feed through the flyer without a struggle. When my oldest and I took handspinning classes together when she was 12, the teacher showed us some of this stuff, and I wrinkled my nose and went, wow. What would you ever DO with this stuff?

“Make a doormat,” Karen laughed in response. You know? That was just weird enough that I bought a pound of it against my better judgment, spun it up–although, not too much at any one sitting–and made exactly that. But there was leftover fiber (um, fancy that. It was a really small doormat. It was all I could stand.)

And then I saw that cow. And I knew exactly what I was going to do with that yak. I braided the roving (you don’t have to spin it if you leave it as roving!) and gave it to the guy so his cow could have a tail. I left a nice curl of the long fibers at the end, very cow-y.

The guy loved it, he absolutely loved it. He thought long and hard about it and never did add it to the decorations: he was afraid little kids would tear it apart. He’s right, they would have, but they would certainly have remembered the place and bugged their parents to go there all the more often, and I could always make another one. But instead he took it home as a souvenir of the good people who come into his shop, and that was that.

One summer, our Sam, our oldest, went in there, and mentioned out loud that she was thinking of applying for a job there.

The guy refused to hand her an application. He simply hired her on the spot.

But her schedule was such a problem!

He didn’t care.

But she couldn’t come in at this time, or this day, or…

He didn’t care. When could she start?

And so she scooped cones, and, a short while later, I made that tail.

She’s our daughter who had the ITP scare last week. I mentioned the Emergency Room Medicine thing to my friend and reader Kristine across the country, who happens to live a few miles from Sam but had never met her. Kristine’s reaction was, Say no more! What flavor?

Which is how my son-in-law came to open his door today to see a woman standing there holding out some Ben and Jerry’s, and he stood there, jaw on the ground, exclaiming, Do we even KNOW you?

Okay, I should stop and let Kristine tell the tale, but I have to tell you, she totally rocks. THANK you, Kristine!

Blooming against the odds
Friday April 06th 2007, 6:04 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

I once told a friend that I believe God speaks peace to people in whatever way they personally can best feel: and that to me, He spoke Amaryllis. This was right after I’d had a bout of meningitis, it was the end of the summer, and I had an amaryllis plant that had been dying down for the season, as they do–and then all the sudden it had shot up a bud, against all odds. The stalk, usually two to three feet tall, never got longer than an inch, but the flowers were a full 8-9″ wide, blooming merrily upwards while I was sick, telling me I’d be okay. And so I was. (And probably the only patient on chemo who ever was disappointed to test negative for West Nile, thinking then I wouldn’t ever have had to worry about WN again. Having opened my front door about a month earlier to watch a beautiful little bird die at my feet on my entry mat, in a hot territory for that virus…)

Anyway. So I mentioned earlier on this blog that I’d staggered the start times on my collection to try to get them to bloom as late as possible into the year. Normally you start watering to break their dormancy in time for them to bloom at Christmas, but I waited all the way to February for a few of them, hoping the prolonged dry period wouldn’t kill them off.

I went in the garage today and discovered several pots that had somehow been misplaced. With little light, and with no water whatsoever for at least six months, two of them had buds shooting up. There’s no way! But they did.

This one’s for Nicholas. Who comes home tomorrow.

Hold onto those hands
Thursday April 05th 2007, 12:14 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

Nicholas’s dad sent a link to photos of what had happened. There was one showing his wife gently holding their son’s hand, with his fingers curled towards his mother’s, as the rescuers worked on him.

When I was in critical condition at Stanford four years ago, when they were infusing me with a then-experimental med that would either finish me off or save my life, they had every vital sign being monitored, and my blood pressure fell to 64/44 and was headed down. A nurse looked at the monitor and noticed. She reached for me and held me with one hand, saying, “You okay? Hang in there, honey.” She quickly snapped out orders to the other nurse (there may have been two others, it gets a bit blurry at this point) while she held onto me, never letting go. She never knew how much she was keeping me here by that simple touch and those words. She had no idea how strong an effect it had on me, how much I held onto it as my life raft.

I saw that picture of those two people I love and their hands together as that child lay in that snow under that ski lift.

And used my hands to work on a matching hat for the little brother whose big brother fell such an unbelievable fall. *I* needed to hold them gently, too.

Climb every mountain
Wednesday April 04th 2007, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Knit

Never a dull moment.

I think there need to be a heck of a lot more dull moments right now.

Merino (and the only Superwash I could immediately find in my stash), for softness and warmth, you want wool, not acrylic, for playing in the snow: this is to convey the message that Nicholas would get out in the snow again, and not to be afraid of going back. Hand-dyed yarn from my friend, so that all the more hands would be participating in the endeavor and outcome. A hat: warmth and cushioning all at once. Alright, let’s put it baldly, it’s the closest I can come to knitting the kid a helmet.

Our friend Jim was our kids’ organ teacher, and when our older son was 16, Jim got him invited to play the Mormon Tabernacle Organ in Salt Lake City on a weekday as a guest. Jim’s a good one, and his wife was the first person I knew to greet me when I checked into Stanford Hospital last fall for testing; she was working in that department that week.

They’ve always juggled their work schedules so that one of them is home with the kids, which means that sometimes during lessons I got drafted to hold the baby. I remember one memorable time when my other kids and I got Nicholas giggling so hard he started hiccuping and burping, his laughing coming out interrupted and loud, and Jim came running to make sure his baby was okay. Good times.

We got a horrifying email today. Nicholas yesterday lived every childhood fear of heights of mine, falling out of his ski lift, at least 25 feet. He’s alive. No paralysis. No head injury. A few broken bones, and they’ve got him in the ICU to monitor his spleen, but all the could-haves that didn’t happen…

A warm hat. I had to do SOMEthing! I can just picture him asking his daddy, with his wrist in a cast, when can he play piano again?

This is not what I’d planned on knitting today. But you can see why it was suddenly imperative that I go dig this ball out of my stash and knit this.

Robert, this was from the rest of the Lisa Souza dyelot that your hat was knitted from. I was always going to make you a matching scarf. I won’t have enough now, but you understand.

Froggetaboutit (and happy birthday!)
Tuesday April 03rd 2007, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Knit

First of all: (trying to keep it quiet for her, sort of)–happy 21st, Michelle!

I love working with fingering-weight baby alpaca: it is soft, it is drapey, it is just wondrous to work with. You’d think laceweight baby alpaca would be the same, only even lovelier, if possible, as it makes even finer stitches. You’d be mostly right. But. The extra twist per inch in the laceweight of that long-fibered crimpless animal… The result is a livewire of a yarn. It does not hang docilely as you knit; it wants to jump off the needles and go play with its buddies, while you insist like a schoolteacher that the recess bell has not rung yet. Sorry. You just have to wait for the castoff before you can run off and play. Hold still!

Yeah, well. So I made a completely stupid mistake over at least 50 stitches, and didn’t notice it till quite a few rows later. Just a sideways shift and back–the kind that emphatically doesn’t pass the galloping horse test.

What I should have done then was to rinse the shawl, still on the needles, laid it out for the night, picked it up in the morning and THEN frogged it back and picked up the stitches again. What I did, of course, was to immediately put it down and go do that right now.

Had it been rinsed, it would have laid there as sweetly as a fingering weight. No stitches would have run, no yarnovers would have dropped. Since I didn’t, the bell had rung! Yay! Let’s go play! You and you, we’ll be teams, ready get set GO!, while I frantically tried to herd them back onto the needles.

Four hundred stitches per row (roughly), frog four, tink two. I did it. But it would have been a whole lot easier if I’d added a little water and patience to the process. I guess I was a bit tired of knitting this color and was trying a little too hard to get the silly shawl finished so I could work on that really cool green silk over there.

And then–annoyed at the whole thing–I picked it back up again to knit at least one row, to give myself a sense of triumph over the mess. And lo and behold. Everything was now perfectly in place. The baby alpaca felt gloriously lovely to work with as it ran through my hands. Ah, I remember now why I bought so much of this yarn in this beautiful color…

Happy Monday
Monday April 02nd 2007, 1:16 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit

I have a number of last year’s amaryllis bulbs whose re-starting times I staggered this past winter, trying to have my favorite flowers for as long into the season as possible. Amaryllises in April. Kind of a flowery metaphor for teenagers sleeping in till noon (not that we know anything about that.)

Meantime, someone asked the Knitlist if she could make a scarf with 250 yards of yarn. Here’s what I did this weekend with about 125 yards, size 9 needles, fingering weight baby alpaca, and about three hours’ worth of time. Length: 56″.