They are so cool
Tuesday July 31st 2007, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Knit

I got a package in the mail the other day that was a complete surprise: from Martingale? What?… Opening it up, I found this: a copy of my book, signed by everybody there. From the CEO on down to the shipping clerk.  With a cover note mentioning how Martingale felt every person there was important to their success, and congratulating me on such a fine book.the photographer’s John Hancock

I cannot tell you how much I lucked out when I decided to send my book proposal to them. (That’s the photographer’s signature alone on the next page; I like how it goes with the expression on the model’s face: “Here’s looking at you, kid.” “Wrapped in Comfort” signed by Martingalers



Baaaah? Humbug.
Monday July 30th 2007, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Knit

No Sheep For You signingIn real life, the baby alpacajellybeanz baby alpaca Lisa Souza background is closer to a natural than a bleached-white effect, but this is the start of playing with Lisa Souza’s Jellybeanz in the laceweight.

I went to Amy Singer’s booksigning at Purlescence on Saturday, and my friend Jasmin, the one who gave me the Jellybeanz socks, showed up; I showed her this, from yarn Lisa made me to match the socks, and she was delighted. Amy, meantime, was wonderful, like I knew she would be, and I’m very glad of the chance to get to meet her. I introduced Jasmin to her as the one who had driven all the way to Petaluma so I could get to see Stephanie. Since Amy had had no idea who I might be when I’d come in, we all laughed about all of us being on a one-name basis now, right?

And if you want a good book re working with animal fiber-free yarns, “No Sheep For You” is definitely the way to go.



Merrimack
Saturday July 28th 2007, 11:01 am
Filed under: Life

I went to the computer this morning and found myself growling, “The Internet connection is down *again*?”

My husband’s first job out of grad school was with Digital Equipment Corp in New Hampshire. Merrimack was a boom town; when we wanted to buy a house, we had to pick a lot and wait for it to be built. One benefit of that is that everybody else in the neighborhood was as new as we were and curious about meeting everybody else.

One couple, a few doors down and across the street, had, it turned out, been friends with my sister Carolyn and her husband in Indiana when they were in grad school together in married student housing. Small world. The kids directly across the street, when they got locked out of their house, came over to mine and knew they’d be welcome. I used to walk several brisk miles every morning, waving hi at people on their way to work before I headed back in to take care of my little ones. We all knew each other, at least by face.

But after a few years, people became more settled into their own routines, and that initial openness kind of faded. Until the day: a construction crew with a backhoe accidentally sliced through the major phone cable servicing half the town. Thousands of wires gone. This was going to take awhile. We were all cut off from the outside world for a week unless we got in our cars and drove away.

And you know? The weather was beautiful. People started strolling around the neighborhood, taking in the day. Chatting with their neighbors. Actual face time and in person; it was delightful. A bit scary, on one level, knowing you couldn’t call for help if something happened, but for everyday life, it was wonderful.

And then after a week, the phone service finally came back, people disappeared back into their houses, and that was that. The difference was startling. One couldn’t help but wish for just a little service outage from time to time, just a little.



Neck edges
Friday July 27th 2007, 12:56 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

Lisa Souza’s JellybeanzIn the book, I mention that for my top-down circular shawls, I double the strand for the cast-on. Now, the thing is, I figured out about halfway through the book production process that I needed to do that, having already knitted dozens of shawls. (I made duplicates: one for the friend, one for the publisher, one for the friend, one for the publisher. Picture pulling the petals off a clover: she loves me, she loves me n…oh wait, never mind, doesn’t apply–Martingale is absolutely wonderful.) I did not specify to their photographer which were the New Improveds, so there were closeups of the single stranded necks as well as the doubled ones.  So I wanted to reassure those who haven’t been sure how well that neck would hold up that if you *do* do that doubled strand, and then weave the doubled-strand ends through the back of every purl stitch on Row 1, it gives you a braided effect that works out particularly well.

Meantime, yesterday I received a large skein of Lisa Souza’s baby alpaca laceweight from lisaknit.com in Jellybeanz, to match the handspun socks Jasmin gave me from Lisa’s roving. The pink will have to wait its turn, because, right now, my needles are loving the Jellybeanz more. I’ve never had handknit socks to match a shawl before. Too cool! reinforced neck edge on top-down circular shawl



And after all that…
Thursday July 26th 2007, 2:54 pm
Filed under: Knit

And a little more playing with various ideas…  The end result is a new stitch pattern I haven’t seen before.   It was worth it.



Skyscraped off
Thursday July 26th 2007, 11:41 am
Filed under: Knit

Now, back in the day, when I had no clue how to make, much less purl into, a yarnover, I photocopied a number of lace patterns out of various books in the library that I thought were beautiful and that I wanted to make someday. I felt that by having them on hand it would inspire me to persevere in my efforts to figure out how to do this.

This was a goodly while ago.

So. I found this one page the other day. Don’t remember it. Nice pattern. No idea what book it came from, and no way to know. Clearly quite old. I translated it into the abbreviations I’m more comfortable working from, and set to work knitting it as the main body of a circular shawl I’d started.

Our friends Nina and Rod and my hubby and I were once in San Francisco spending the day walking around playing tourist, and at the achingly gorgeous Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, http://www.yerbabuenagardens.com/features/gardens.html#2 you get a lovely view of the downtown skyscrapers. There is one odd one (not in those pictures; I haven’t found one of it quite yet) that has what looks like layers of ladyfinger cookies around the bottom part of it, a bit of whimsy amidst all the metal and glass. I always wanted to knit that; at the time, I was thinking Kaffe Fassett style in multicolors. I later saw I think it was a Horst Schulz modular knitting pattern that pretty well captured it–cool!

And here it was in lace. Perfect. Barbara Walker has a simplified version, but this one had the width and the heft to it that I wanted.

I did just a few rows, with an increasing sense of dragging my feet that just made no sense. You know, dear, you really should swatch that before doing 400 stitches per row across. Get the feel of it, at least, right?

Like I don’t know how to knit lace already?

I finally gave into the insistence, set my shawl aside, and did that silly swatch like I knew I should have in the first place. There were 20 rows in the pattern. At row 12, all hell broke loose. I doublechecked–no, I hadn’t changed anything in my rewrite, I was knitting exactly what it said. Whoever had transcribed that thing from her notes must have been interrupted by a small child falling down the stairs or by her elderly husband having a heart attack, or something–it would have to have been something drastic like that to have had that kind of a result: there is no connection between the first half and the second half of those instructions. No connection to the picture. No connection to the stitch count. What on earth? She must have mashed two totally different patterns together?

The end result is I spent three hours swatching, trying, tweaking, trying to redesign the thing, because as long as I was doing that I might as well make it the 20 stitch repeat I wanted rather than the 19 it claimed, right? (The obvious thing would have been to reknit the shawl yoke to match the other versions of the pattern I could find or easily froggedmake, but I didn’t do that.) I frogged, I knitted, I frogged, I knitted, and in the end, the frogs won this round because I can’t stand to look at it anymore for now.

To misquote Dorothy Parker, this xerox needed not to have been set aside lightly, but to have been hurled across the room with great force. Watch out for that paper airplane, here it comes.

(p.s. You know, I probably ought to delete this post so as not to scare off laceknitter-wannabe’s. Go with Barbara Walker’s stitch treasuries, you’re safe. She cleaned up an awful lot of old mistakes in old patterns.)



I dunno, Adrian
Tuesday July 24th 2007, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Eight embarrassing things, Adrian? Who, me?

1. I’ve definitely and happily led a very Mormon life: no drinking, no smoking, not even coffee for a vice, although I definitely like my hot cocoa and my dark chocolate. Valrhona. And Scharffenberger! Gotta be at least 70%. I read somewhere that dark chocolate, and knitting, too, are ways to lower your blood pressure. Given that I take meds to raise mine, which otherwise likes to give readings like 80/40, don’t tell on me, okay?

2. I can’t always think of a new punch line on my feet and often just cough up old standards when chatting with new acquaintances, like, “My husband” (who is 6’8″ to my 5’5″) “and I grew up together. He just did more. I knew when to quit.”

Trust me, after 27 years, he’s heard that one a few times.

3. Okay, here’s one for you: once upon a time, my little sister and I were supposed to entertain two visiting cousins our ages for an afternoon by canoeing with them up a lock of the C&O Canal, which runs alongside the Potomac River. My sister’s canoe kept bumping into ours–I think she was trying to race us, but I’m not sure–and I, being about 13 1/2 at the time to her 12, found it highly annoying. I pushed hers away hard with my paddle and accidentally flipped her canoe, dumping my indignant sister and younger cousin into the canal, where you couldn’t see past the first few inches into the thickly stagnant water. Ew, gross. (For those who’ve read about my water turtle in my book, it’s been cleaned up a fair amount since then.) I got yelled at a good one later by my mom, who wasn’t about to put it past me that I might have done it on purpose. I was righteously indignant, because I hadn’t done it on purpose–but probably only because I knew that I would never get away with it if I did. Part of me found it quite satisfying. (Anne, don’t read this. Oh, wait–your twins are 13 now, aren’t they? Want me to take them to Swain’s Lock?)

4. I occasionally totally forget that my car and my balance were smashed by a speeder seven years ago, and I do stupid things because I assume I’m still normal. For instance: re the story in my book about visiting Helen. What got edited out for lack of space, was, I told my friend Karen I wanted to touch the Potomac before returning to California, that that was part of going home to Maryland. Trouble is, we were at a lock of the canal where there was no good spot to do so; the embankment was a bit steep all along the river there. But! There was an overturned, bleached-out, ancient wooden canoe (it’s those canoes again) that the waves were lapping against, keeping it firmly in place against the bottom of the embankment. I would just step carefully off from up top, onto the canoe, just jumping a little and then balancing onto my knees, you know, and reach over and splash my fingers in the water over the side. No biggy. Right?

Karen, good friend that she is, tried really hard to talk me out of it. This seemed like a really dumb move to her.

Uh uh. No way. I was going to touch my beloved Potomac before I flew back, and that was that.

What I couldn’t see, was, that canoe was totally rotted out, so that when I landed on it, the first knee to hit it simply crashed right on through. And you know? The detritus washed up along the edge there didn’t smell so great. (Yes, Anne, I had that coming.) But I got my splash! Reached over, laughing, while Karen was just rolling her eyes, going, Some people.

The hard part was trying to stand up again without crunching through the rest of it, on a canoe that was swaying with the water, with little sense of balance on my part. Karen grabbed my upstretched hand and somehow we got me back up to her, though. What are friends for.

We got rained on at the last, to add to my muddy knee. And then we went to stop by her elderly stepmother’s: who had a white carpet and a white sofa. Who completely ignored my mud and our being wet and invited us warmly in.

I wanna be her when I grow up.

5. Can’t top that one. Think I’d better quit for tonight. Thank you, Adrian. This post is all your fault, and I’m quite glad.



The Yarn Place
Tuesday July 24th 2007, 10:49 am
Filed under: Knit

Yarn Place down the aisleYesterday, Nancy, Gracie Larsen, and I headed over to a yarn store neither Gracie nor I had been to before. The Yarn Place, yarnplace.com, imports its own line of laceweight merino and sells it to Purlescence, my favorite LYS, but I’d never gone directly to the source. Gracie is the founder of the Lace Museum and the Lacy Knitters Guild, so of course she was interested.

I stood there in the shop looking at some gorgeous, exquisitely soft (and I’m picky) Angel, a superthin superfine laceweight in superwash merino (okay, cue Charlie Brown appearing with the dog dish and Snoopy dancing: it’s sup sup supertiiiiiiime).  It was just the most perfect shade of raspberry.  No way was that not going home with me.

Meantime, I had asked about their colors, and Nancy’s showing something knitted up from one of the balls in this lineup–which makes it so I really can call this a photo of a stitch kabob.

Stitch kabob



J O Jeppson Asimov
Monday July 23rd 2007, 1:44 pm
Filed under: Life

Janet Jeppson Asimov’s autobiographyNow, I knew she was related somewhere, but…

When my “Wrapped in Comfort” book did so very well right out of the gate–Amazon, Knitpicks, and all the bookstore chains all sold out for awhile the first week, Walmart two days later, and someone was scalping it for $67 Canadian, how cool is that?–my dad used it as an excuse to go call his cousin and chat.

Whom sci-fi readers may have heard of: Janet, aka J O Jeppson, aka Isaac Asimov’s widow.

So I recently ordered her autobiography, it came Saturday while I was off at Jasmin’s, and yesterday afternoon I sat down with it and didn’t put it down till I was done; Harry Potter could wait, this was family.

And when she wrote of her Aunt Hazel, I started to think, “My dad has a relative named Ha–” Oh, wait… And there was a picture near the back of Janet from the 80’s with Asimov, with her hair long, bangs, and big clunky glasses on her face. Now, at my in-laws’ 50th anniversary celebration a few years ago, the grandkids all guffawed during the slide show at the photos of their parents young and in love and wearing 70’s and 80’s clothes and hair, and glasses, those big clunky glasses. And me with my bangs, always.

So here I am, book in hand, staring at what looks like essentially a picture of ME way back when, standing next to Isaac Asimov. Wow.

One of the things I loved was reading about the compulsion to write: her husband’s, which was intense, but her own as well. Goodness: 17 years ago, I had a brain MRI and EEG done, and at the end, one doctor said to me, “Mrs. Hyde: do you like to write?”

I was stunned–who had told him? How did he know? I stammered out something to the effect that, yes, thank you, yes, I did. Why?

He then told me I had a hyperactive (okay, I think I remember the part of the brain he said, but if I get it wrong, there are readers who know who will just guffaw, so let’s skip that particular) and he’d seen that in patients who were writers. Matter of fact, mine was so hyperactive that he was considering putting me on anti-seizure meds.

While I sat there and thought, don’t you dare touch that. Sir.

In the end, he did not.

Janet Jeppson Asimov is a psychiatrist. I wonder if she’s had a brain MRI. I wonder if she, too, has a hyperactive (okay, she could fill in the blank there.) I’ll bet it runs in the family. The best things do.



Constance!
Sunday July 22nd 2007, 1:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life,Spinning

Thursday at the booksigning at Purlescence, my friend Jasmin mentioned that Constance was making the drive down for the weekend.

Turns out, Jasmin had just bought a new house, and it needed a lot of work; the place had been left in terrible shape when the previous owner had passed away. Lots of her friends were coming to pitch in, scrubbing floors and walls, playing barnraising, and one of them was Constance, the same Constance I mentioned in my book; she had a three-hour drive down from the Gold Country. Any excuse to get together anyway, and this was a great one.

Saturday morning, my phone rang; did I want to be kidnapped? Heck yeah! Much though I would dearly love to, I’m not up to much when it comes to being useful, but I was greeted with huge hugs and Constance told me I was to be the decoration to the festivities, and that was that. So here, in a moment of total karma, is Constance reaching to rearrange knitting books just so while adding more on Jasmin’s bookshelf. Note the four Barbara Walker stitch treasuries to the left of her hand: the important stuff first.

But what I didn’t expect was that when I exclaimed over Jasmin’s pair of handspun socks she had sitting on a shelf in a basket, from Lisa Souza’s Jellybeanz roving, Jasmin said they were too small for her. My feet were 6.5? Here, try them on!

Thus giving new meaning for my feet to the term housewarming present, when the air conditioning kicked on briskly. Oh. My. These are wonderful. Wow.  Thank you!

Constance chez Jasmin

Jasmin’s Jelly Beanz handspun socks



Paging Dorothy
Friday July 20th 2007, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Knit

wedding-ring shawlOr Cinderella. Glinda the good witch calling, this definitely feels like one for the fairy godmothers. It does go through a wedding ring, but that doubled-strand cast on at the neck means it has to be my husband’s ring rather than mine, and it’s careful going, but it does go.

We used to have a little kid’s magic wand with a silver star at the top in the Halloween costume box. And a turkey-feather white halo headband. If only.

Although, given that this shawl is going to be a wedding present,imgp2963.JPG I’m not too sure the bride would really go for that anyway.



He knows what he knows
Wednesday July 18th 2007, 1:04 pm
Filed under: Life,To dye for

Getting just the right color is a whole lot easier than it used to be. Fire up the dyepot, sprinkle a little dye, simmer briefly, and you’re done. Doing this in green brings back memories…

We were doing the VIP tour of the White House with our children, pre-911; my aunt, the wife of a Senator and daughter-in-law, years earlier, of another, brought us in. I don’t know if the regular tours had this, but for the VIP tours, a formally-dressed guide gave a well-rehearsed history speech in each room. We walked through George Washington’s dream, taking it all in in awe.

There was a bit of lag time before moving to the next room each time; we had to wait for the group ahead of us to clear out. As we stood in one, I was admiring a very old rug with an Eagle motif (believe me, that E was capitalized. Definitely!) that was set aside from where our feet might touch it. I mentioned to my aunt that the green color in it had most likely come from boiling moss to extract the dye. She thought that was very cool.

Stepping outside a moment in the Rose Garden, I looked out at the lawn and, when the guide was done talking about Jack Kennedy and the like, mentioned to him that President Johnson had thrown a party for the children and grandchildren of Senators on the White House lawn: there was a small ferris wheel brought in, pony rides, and an official-looking white pen with red and blue ink printed with the words “The White House” given to each child. I had been eight years old at the time. (There was no way I was going near that ferris wheel, but I could have stayed on the ponies forever.)

I remember coming home and telling my mom that President Johnson was a really nice man, and I hoped he ran for re-election. (I wanted to ride the ponies again.) She about died.Jacquard emerald on Fino

Meantime, the guide, thrown off his routine, stopped, looked at me, and demanded in all seriousness, “Which President Johnson?”



Booksigning in Sunnyvale, and Blue Moon Geisha
Tuesday July 17th 2007, 12:47 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

If anybody wants a signed copy of Wrapped in Comfort, they can order it from purlescenceyarns.com and I’ll come into their shop and inscribe it. This Thursday evening, though, I’m going to do a little more; I’m going to show up with a whole bunch of shawls for an official booksigning and trunk show event there. Please, no sniffles, for those coming; it would be highly appreciated.

This shawl is done in Blue Moon’s Geisha Geisha Backstabber colorwayline (which they carry), a non-furry kid mohair/silk/nylon blend. My only problem is, I love the colorway. But how do I–I mean, can you imagine a more intense disconnect… I like to write about the ways knitting helps create connections between people and how giving of our handiwork can forge friendships. This colorway is called Backstabber. I would love to know the story behind that name!

Maybe I’ll have to keep this one?



Bartholemew Cubbins
Monday July 16th 2007, 12:15 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

One note in response to a comment the other day: handpaint yarns go well with simpler lace; lots of variations in the colors will visually overwhelm the stitch pattern. The Monterey shawl in my book is one that I would very much recommend a solid or near-solid-color yarn for. It is complicated enough to work without having the jellyfish look like they got put in the blender while you’re trying to piece them together.

You remember the Dr. Seuss story of Bartholemew Cubbins and his 100 hats? He kept taking his hat off to the king as protocol required, only to have an identical one appear on his head, over and over. Finally, as the count got close to 100, the hats started changing and becoming more and more unique and more fun to see what might be coming next.

I think every creative person can relate to that one. You have to put in the practice time before you can play the instrument like a pro, but then you can really take off with it. (I am remembering a neighbor mom, who, when I was a teenager, often hired me to babysit her 10-year-old while the kid practiced her violin and their poodle howled non-stop. Smart mom.) You don’t start off with the stradivarius. Although, the Julia shawl, for instance, while aimed at beginners, is a beautiful rendition of Chopsticks (not to mention a simple carry-around project for anybody).

I’m hitting the Cubbins factor, and have started branching out more. This one is a wedding present for a dear friend and his bride. I can’t wait to finish it and pull it through my ring, so I can go, tadaah: a wedding ring shawl! If by wild chance there’s any problem, then I’m glad my husband wears a size 12; no one said whose wedding ring it had to be, right? But I’m sure it’ll go through mine. And the bride’s, which is what matters for that oh cool! factor.

Almost done. I can’t wait!

Mt Kilimanjaro effect



And a great time was had by all
Saturday July 14th 2007, 6:25 pm
Filed under: Knit

imgp2925.JPGimgp2923.JPGSome of us at Creative Hands in Belmont…

…And what my family had waiting for me when I got home. I love’em.Americone Dream