1:00 today coming up
Saturday July 14th 2007, 11:20 am
Filed under: Knit

I’ve been terrible about announcing booksignings due to fear of exposure/chemo issues, but I’ll be at Creative Hands in Belmont at 1:00 today. Meantime, here’s a picture I just got of Karen Brayton-McFall, owner of the Rug and Yarn Hut in Campbell, from my signing there.At the Rug and Yarn Hut

A shawl to UCSF
Thursday July 12th 2007, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

Shawl for UCSF personI came to look at my shawl patterns, because of that day of testing at UCSF, in a way I hadn’t before.

When they sent me to the room for the full-body scan, the technician was six months pregnant. We got to talking, and I found myself telling her I had had four kids–and then adding, “And a miscarriage.”

Now, that’s not something I usually talk about, much less mention to a woman who’s expecting. But somehow it felt like the right thing to say.

Was it my first? Yes. She told me she’d miscarried her first at five months. “Five months!” I exclaimed. Yes. This, then, would be their first child.

Mine had been at about four months. She knew then that she could tell me about it, and I would know, and I did: the sense of holding back just a bit, the slight wariness at the possibility of great loss repeated, the need to hold one’s child, arrived safe and sound and healthy. She was relieved to hear from an older mom that I’d gone through that and gone on to have four healthy kids just fine. And this from someone later diagnosed with lupus and Crohn’s!

The next morning I woke up to the mental image of a nursing mother with one of my circular shawls wrapped around her and over the baby for those moments in public. The green hand-painted merino one that I’d knitted to convey my impressions of the kelp forest at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Another image came, of the baby wrapped up in that shawl in the chilly San Francisco fog. For a mom who had suffered such a great loss, but who had so much joy ahead of her–pain and joy intensify each other, but it does go both ways–yes. I love how happy the colors are in this, and how good they would look on her. I had felt for quite some time that this shawl was waiting for me to meet its recipient. It would be someone petite. She is. I hadn’t considered that it would be someone expecting, and so deserving of, great joy. Now I have met her. It’s perfect.

I had to call the researcher first to ask the woman’s name again, I didn’t quite remember, and I couldn’t just mail it off to “that nice person.” But I will always remember how she made me feel: she’s such a beautiful soul. And now it’s ready to go.

And I wish I could come hold the baby too when it comes, truth be told. I remember.

Shawl for UCSF person

Wednesday July 11th 2007, 10:35 pm
Filed under: My Garden

I was going to clip a gladiolus stalk and bring it inside yesterday after we got home; we have a patch of them that my mom planted for me a few years ago. A bag of bulbs on sale, late in the season, while my folks were visiting that year, hopes that something might still grow from them, a risk and a chance taken, a morning’s hard work on her part, and here we are now.

Just as I went to open the sliding door, a hummingbird appeared and buzzed the flowers. No way was I going to take food from a hummingbird!

Last night we got a rare summer rain, and today a lot more stalks opened up. Two of them, however, toppled of their own weight and snapped over. Fair game. There were a lot more for the hummingbirds than me at this point, and those two are now inside in a vase. Glorious. Mom’s gladsThanks, Mom!

Tuesday July 10th 2007, 8:13 pm
Filed under: Life

driving home from UCSFAs a longterm guinea pig for UCSF, today I went in for nearly five hours of all kinds of testing as a lupus patient for my part for the good of humanity. (Ed. to add: I’ve always been able to do it long distance before, but this time they needed me there in person.) My daughter (bless her) gave up her day and drove me.

Coming through Golden Gate Park, I could see tall buildings on the top of a tall hill, and said, “I bet it’s that one.” It was.

Now imagine being on the 12th floor of the hospital, looking out the window, and looking UP at the trees. Yes we were way up above the top of a hillside–but there was a taller hillside right beyond it, densely green with tall eucalyptuses. Cool.

Four years ago today I was wheeled into Stanford Hospital after an intense turn for the worse with nobody expecting me ever to come out again. Refractory Crohn’s. Today I walked into Merritt Hospital, enjoyed the view, knit a little between phases, gave the blood, got through their muscle, cognitive, etc tests and body scan and enjoyed the company of some really fine people on this planet that I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to meet any other way. And walked out with my dark glasses into the foggy late afternoon–

–and to my surprise didn’t have to close my eyes for pain nor sudden intense whiteout effects. They felt fine.

Llama to the rescue
Monday July 09th 2007, 12:53 pm
Filed under: Life

Recently, the hard disk on my six-month-old computer crashed and told us all to go to Dell. Today it’s the new flat-screen monitor. I am writing from one that I cannot post pictures from, but hopefully that will (again) get fixed quickly.

I was not happy. Oh well, there was housekeeping to do anyway. Fi fie fo fun.

I’ve mentioned before that I like to have little handknit fingerpuppets, made in Peru by a women’s cooperative to put food on their tables, to give to unhappy little kids to make life easier on their moms as well as them–grocery store lines, waiting rooms, church, you name it. They’re adorable, they’re quite inexpensive, and it’s so easy to turn the day around and make people smile with them.

My daughter said she was going to make a run to the drycleaners, did I have anything to send? Sure, and I picked up my husband’s suit and started checking the pockets.

And found a little wool llama with a cheerful multicolor dash of yarn decorating the back of its head and a matching saddlebag-type decoration, just ready to slip on one’s finger to wave hello cheerfully. I did not expect that. He’d wanted to have one ready, too. It completely made my day. Wow, I love that man!

Nah, yarn IS better
Sunday July 08th 2007, 4:31 pm
Filed under: Knit

That last post was a tad breathless, but you can imagine I was pretty excited; I’d been going to take that paper to the recycling bin for the evening, and just happened to open it up to where I saw that article. Very cool.

Nontoxic mosquito-repellent bracelets will make me a happy camper. Yarn, however, is to make the whole world happier if I had my way.  I am saving the first email I got after my book was released from someone telling me about the shawl they felt inspired to go start on for someone they loved.  That’s it exactly.  Go knitters! Sea Silk Polar Sea

Better than yarn
Saturday July 07th 2007, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Life

Boy, that got your attention, didn’t it? The San Jose Mercury News just validated the cost of the year’s subscription to me. I happened to thumb through their gardening section–like that’s going to do me any good, right? A lupus patient with a flare at the moment so that my eyes are currently going into whiteout conditions, unable to see well enough to read for the rest of the day if I go out in direct sunlight even for a moment. (I’ve been going to the passenger side of the car lately in dark glasses with my eyes shut tight and someone guiding me.) I’m not going out in the sunlight. I’m not growing tomatoes this year. I don’t want to go blind–I was for a few weeks on the left two years ago, and I refuse to go back if I can help it.

But there was a mention of www.bugband.net in an article describing how the reporter had tested it out. A bracelet with geranium vapors to keep mosquitos away. It was cheap, and it had worked.

I not long ago opened my front door to watch a beautiful little goldfinch die right there in front of me on the edge of my welcome mat. The county refused to test it: there was no point. They had thousands of dead birds reported and West Nile was already known to be here in greater force than I believe any other county in California.

I have almost no immune system. I’ve been on chemo for four years. I have been unable to take walks in the evenings, the simplest escape from cabin fever, for fear of a simple mosquito bite and all the potential risk in it with all that I have going on.

A simple bracelet. Totally non toxic. Designed so you can string them into a collar on your dog if you want. Or an anklet to go with your bracelet if you’re really paranoid. Designed to snap open rather than cause damage to the wearer if snagged.

I can’t tell you how much of a hurry I am in for that package of bracelets to arrive. Let freedom ring me!

Coming (pretty much) full circle
Saturday July 07th 2007, 2:12 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

There are some lovely reviews of Wrapped in Comfort up on Amazon, and I thank those of you who have written them. One, though, describes my shawls as all of them being half-circles. Not to quibble, but to explain, there is a half circle shawl, but this is more of what you’re going to find in there.  This is Water Turtles, the smaller version, done in fingering weight baby alpaca/silk.
Water Turtles shawl, smaller version

Dyed a watercolor blue
Friday July 06th 2007, 1:42 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

My sister-in-law is running in a marathon to raise money for breast cancer, and so is for a brief time on my side of the country; yesterday she drove from Sacramento down here for a visit–not a trivial amount of driving time, and much appreciated. I had two shawls I’d been wanting for quite some time to have her pick one from in person. Actually, no, more than those, but those were the two I was sure she would like the best.

I hauled out a whole bunch of ziploc bags, started opening them, and she immediately loved the two I’d most anticipated she would. She picked the one made from this baby alpaca yarn, and I was pleased that she was getting one that was in a yarn that I’d dyed. She asked about the pattern, and I told her the story of the Water Turtles and gave her a copy of Wrapped in Comfort. Oh! She told me about her friend who had so much loved turtles. They had recently scattered his ashes….hand dyed baby alpaca There was a moment of pain and love in her face. And delight that she had somehow picked the turtle-related shawl, a way to hold him close to her thoughts and not have him be gone.

I was so focused on spending every last moment with her that I could that I utterly forgot the camera. Which is as it should be.

(Ed. to add: the photo is a bit hazy close up, and clearer to the view as you get farther away from it. As so much of life is, especially the parts involving loss. I rather like the photo. It fits.)

Strawberry puree in a cashmere blend
Wednesday July 04th 2007, 8:51 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit,Life

A detail edited out of Wrapped in Comfort for the sake of space: Dave’s astonishment at being offered a full berry box’s worth of strawberries at dessert. I had bought a case at a farmstand, my rebellion against New Hampshire’s refusal to give up the cold weather at Easter. He had never before Strawberry scarfconsidered a pint of strawberries and a person to be a one-on-one possibility.

I thought of that just now as I offered my son a large bowl, like this one, but full of sliced strawberries ready to eat, and his eyes got big as he asked, “All for me?” You betcha. Happy Fourth.

Happy fireworks
Tuesday July 03rd 2007, 12:18 am
Filed under: Life

It’s got a few gray hairs too, now, doesn’t it? We don’t even use it anymore for barbecuing: the blacksmithing kid in the family (we accept luddites of every persuasion amongst us, declared the handspinner) has turned it into his personal forge–but *not* under the flammable olive tree when in use, thank you very much.

When we bought our first house, in New Hampshire, we were pretty excited (um, yeah in the way you are when you know what the alternative could be like) that we’d landed a mortgage with the lowest interest rate that had been available in several years–12.5%. That left our budget with not a whole lot of room for extras. Hence the untuned piano in the book, but I digress.

*But the hubby wanted to buy a barbecue grill. I said no way. He wanted a grill. I said no way. (Repeat pattern from asterisk till length desired or till you can’t stand it anymore.)

Which means we eventually got a grill.

Now, if I’d had any idea how much fun he was going to have with that thing, if I’d had any idea how much of the dinnertime work he was going to be taking over when he used it, I would never have argued a word. I would have shoved him firmly out the door towards the store, saying, g’buy now!

But then one day he decided that I needed to use the thing, too. How could I not love his favorite toy? C’mon, just come try it!

Yeah, right, like I couldn’t see right through that one? I had my hands full of babies, I had enough to keep me busy. This is your thing, dude, I want no part.

Come on!

Yeah, so, in the end, I did. He got me to come poke around with it, following his instructions. See? he said. You do this, then this.

I did exactly what he’d told me. Nada.

He’d forgotten one step in the process–he was used to just doing, not verbalizing it–and as I stood there looking at the thing sitting there thumbing its nose at me, he asked me, Did you push the start button?

What, this one? And I pushed it.

Now, I am 15″ closer to the ground than he is in the first place. My head was still reeking a bit when I showed up at my wide-eyed hairdresser’s, asking her if she could make this look, you know, on purpose? Please? I well remember her running her fingers through my hair and having some of it just kind of shred into little dark stinky pieces in my lap as she did. Not a whole lot of it–it could have been far, far worse. It was just enough that I am glad my children were too young to remember or be traumatized at seeing their mom’s face engulfed in a fireball, a view I never want to see from the inside again. Somehow my glasses saved my eyes, and no skin burned. Just a bit of hair.

I never touched that grill again. The hubby tried half-heartedly, and I totally refused.

Yeah, well-aged barbecue grillI guess I know how to play fire with fire. I’m actually kind of fond of the old clunker now, from a nice distance. And I’m told it makes a really good forge.

The Constance shawl in white and a slight correction
Monday July 02nd 2007, 12:44 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit,LYS

Photo by Renee, Saturday at Marin Fiber Arts; go to  http://www.revknits.blogspot.com/ for her blog.  This is what the Constance shawl looks like if you do it in a single-color yarn. It took me about 17-18 hours to knit it in this fingering-weight baby alpaca.

One note on the book: I did the smaller version of the Water Turtles shawl several times exactly as it is written in the book, a generously-sized example being Sandi’s shawl shown here: http://spindyeknit.com/2007/03/page/2/ While knitting the one that was photographed for the book, however, I skipped rows 30 and 32 in the yoke, making a slightly shorter yoke. Either way works fine.Constance shawl in white baby alpaca fingering weight

B still my beating heart
Sunday July 01st 2007, 3:26 pm
Filed under: Knit

I had to laugh at Sheila’s comment (thank you, Sheila!) Yesterday, as I was signing and had three stacks of books in front of me (sitting properly in a chair, no less, that should count for something, right?) a woman approached and asked if I were the author of (mumble, mumble, I didn’t quite catch it) and someone else explained to her that no, I was the author of “Wrapped in Comfort.” (You know, the book that was all over that table?)

Oh, well, then. And she hastily retreated. I got quite a laugh out of the ego check, while wishing I’d caught whose book it was she’d wanted me to be the author of so I could go tell them they had a fan. And if you read this, whoever you are out there, thank you; I quite enjoyed that, I hope you don’t mind my mentioning it.

Meantime, many here know that I’ve been on a quest to knit a lace scarf for every woman at my church–my “ward,” ie, congregation in Mormon-speak. I’ll never finish, because I live in an area where university students are always moving in and out, and that’s just fine with me.

But one old-time regular didn’t have hers yet. I wasn’t sure quite what to do there. She wouldn’t know about all these scarves popping up all over the place unless someone said something, and I didn’t know if… B is blind. Scarves, in our climate, are purely for decoration, and how useful is that if you can’t see it? Could it be a potential hazard, even; dunno. But I finally went out and bought some brushed baby alpaca yarn from Plymouth, figuring well, the softer the better, definitely, and something useful and warm would be the only way to go, for cooler mornings when she’s walking her guide dog. I could just picture her fingers deciphering the diamonds in the pattern, and wondered if it might convey something Braille-ish to her; I had no idea.

The needles were huge–13s–and the thing made my hands ache. It drove me nuts that it took me three weeks to finish the thing. Pick it up, do a few rows, bag it and go do something else more comfortable. Gradually it got there, though. Part of the delay I’m sure was that she had a chronic cough after a bad bout of pneumonia, and I with my severe immune problems had no desire to get too close to that.

But today I finally had it fingertip length and ready to go, so I sat down by her for a moment and explained about going out and shopping for the softest yarn I could find for her. About noticing what colors she wore most often to church, and going out and matching them. I pulled it out of my purse, and her German Shepherd was instantly on his feet and all nose, right there–he’d never met an animal like that, show him more! B, however, as soon as she found out I was talking about a scarf, shook her head, saying, emphatically, “I don’t wear scarves.” End of subject. Class dismissed.

And you know? That’s perfectly fine. But the offer, at least, had needed to be made.Plymouth brushed baby alpaca scarf

Her dog, however, was, I’m sure, quite disappointed.