Happy birthday!
Sunday September 16th 2007, 2:19 pm
Filed under: Knit

Happy birthday, Patricia! I used the orange background in your honor. And happy first birthday to my blog. Shall we make a wish together and blow out the smoking knitting needles?

Note to anyone who’s ever gotten something knitted from me: moth holes happen. Ergo, I figure the way most likely to be successful in getting someone a leftover strand of matching yarn, however much later, is to have it be there in the first place. Thus, I weave the beginning long-tail yarn end all the way across the back of the first row, if it’s a scarf, or, if it’s a circular shawl, across the bottom of the shawl after the cast-off before breaking the yarn. I find, when I’m doing the cast-on tail in, that that is one of those times it helps to be someone who knits by grabbing the yarn each stitch: I work four fingers at a time on the right hand to grab and flip it while knitting. My left hand mostly works to keep bothI stretch the cast-on row a bit after this point, and the woven-in strand relaxes and settles into place. needles held in place. Mozart in merino.  I also use a sewing needle and work the ending strand over the back of the cast-off row on a scarf or stole, so it has two lengths there for repairs.

All those years, my folks thought they were paying for piano lessons.

Back in the slow lane
Saturday September 15th 2007, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Knit

When there’s a huge push to get a project done fast, and you do it and you succeed, somehow for a little while after that, other projects feel almost like a letdown for a day or two.  I picked up Johnna’s shawl–c’mon, let’s get going again–and saw I had 1000 stitches to have to rip out, that there was a botch back there and just too big a botch to fudge it gracefully.  You know, I honestly don’t usually have this sort of problem!  Eh.  But that’s the good side of knitting: you can always re-create it to the way that you demand that it live up to.

Meantime, the Fleece Artist Sea Wool  is singing a sheepy mermaid song to entice me to jump in.   I find the kelp content is good for the merino as well as their Sea silk: I wish you could see it in person, ooh, doesn’t this feel wonderful.  My apologies to the sock knitters out there, and I do love handknitted socks, but there’s no way I’m turning this into footwear when it could be beautifully draped across a friend’s back.

Okay, that did it, I think I’ve got my knitting momentum back.Sea Wool

Friday September 14th 2007, 11:48 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit,Life

So. Sunday night we got an email from Dave, familiar to those who’ve read my book as Dave-and-Wanda Dave. He was going to be in northern California on business and wondered if he could stop by Thursday night for a visit on his way back to the airport? Well YEAH! I asked him if he would mind going and asking Wanda her favorite color?

Note that the original shawl I knitted for her was in a color that was a total guess on my part. Blue is a pretty safe bet for most people, but there are all kinds of blues. White would have been good, too, but at that particular point in my life I couldn’t bear to knit any more white stitches for awhile.

Purple, he emailed back a few minutes later.

I did not have enough purple yarn in the right weight. And every single store in the Bay Area that sells Blue Sky Alpacas AlpacaSilk (which is an exquisite yarn) was going to be closed Monday. Every one. My stash and I were on our own.

I had some lightweight baby alpaca and what was once a full pound of Jaggerspun Zephyr silk/merino (thanks to my friend Karin, who used to own The Periwinkle Sheep.) Together, those would give me close to the same weight, and I could dye it when I was done. I did have purple dye in the stash. And so, as I blogged, the race was on.

I showed a picture of some of those rows I frogged. What I didn’t say was that after that I made another brainless mistake and had to frog it again. So I started 11 pm Sunday night, but in effect I might as well have started Monday.

I alternated knitting with icing my hands and was able to keep on going, hour after hour, Monday all day, Tuesday all day, then Wednesday I was the speaker at a lupus support group meeting and didn’t get to my needles till mid-afternoon. At about 7:30 pm the shawl came out of the dyepot.

I figure, Wanda knew what I was up to the moment she was telling Dave purple. And that’s fine. I love the way the silk in the Zephyr took up the dye a little more slowly, and so came out a little lighter than the baby alpaca and the merino fibers: it shimmers against them. I love it. White is nice, but purpleifying it broughtDave! out the best in it.

And I got to give it to him in person. That is SO cool.

(Now, did anyone get my visual pun on that metronome? Given what Dave did for us in the story I wrote in the book, I had to reference the piano while anticipating his coming.)

Almost time
Thursday September 13th 2007, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Knit

The clock is ticking…beady little eyed bird in purple baby alpaca and zephyr

Bouquet in purple
Wednesday September 12th 2007, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Knit

almost done

By the sweat of thy brow

Shalt thou eat thy bread? (sorry dinner was late, hon…)deep purple

All the dyes of thy life.I did it. Under four days.

Don’t let the turkeys get you down
Tuesday September 11th 2007, 5:46 pm
Filed under: Life

Posted with permission.

There are times when no gesture you can think of is enough, but you have to
do something. Something.

And so it was that I sent off that copy of “Don’t Let the Turkeys Get You
Down,” along with a baby alpaca shawl. (What? You think I wouldn’t send
some knitting with it? Now hey, come on.) It seemed utterly inadequate,
especially the book, butttt… If there was any chance I could get her to

Her group works on contract, and they were nearing the end of their contract year.
Her boss wanted everyone to put in the kind of workweek that medical
residents do, to try to make themselves valuable so they would get renewed.

Only one problem with that for her: Saturday a week ago, she was the victim
of a violent crime. Tuesday, she was out of the hospital to show up in court
so the judge would not grant bail. (He was going to; he saw her there
and changed his mind.) And Monday, got a restraining order, just in case.

Meantime, I had that package flying to her. A guy with a knife is a heck of
a lot more than a turkey, my stars, but it’s what I had.

Now, that thing should have arrived sooner for what I spent on postage,
but–somehow, things work out. Today, she got laid off and told to clean
out her desk. She had fully expected to be continuing there.

And came home, and there was that package at last. Don’t let the turkeys
get you down, hon. She told me she cried…and, somehow, through it all,
looking at those silly Sandra Boynton turkeys, she laughed. And cried some
more. And wrapped herself in a long-distance a
lpaca-knit hug from her friend and smiled.  (She added that last sentence.)

If you ever think the gesture you’re thinking of isn’t enough, know that
sometimes you’ll never know. But the message in the trying is important
enough to put yourself out there and offer the effort.

Meantime, the knitting continues with the occasional break.

blue ice packs

I think I can I think I can
Monday September 10th 2007, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Knit

The first full pattern repeat of four and a half I plan to do in the bottom section is nearly finished. Note that this morning I had barely begun–I was at row 14 at 72 stitches. For anybody who might ever think my shawls look like they take too long to do… (Note, though, that I have no toddlers yanking my needles out of the stitches, bosses intruding on my time, nor cats batting at the yarn.)

Okay, back to work!


The race is on
Monday September 10th 2007, 12:29 pm
Filed under: Knit

Sometimes you suddenly need a project knitted yesterday.  I figure this is going to take me about seven hours of knitting a day to get done in time.  What am I waiting for!  And yes, this picture means that 1,2,3,4,5 does not add up to 6 and, since that meant missed yarnovers and thereby more stitches absent than just the one, I gave up and had to rip out three rows to make it look right.  Argh.  I am not good at reading email and knitting at the same time.  Turn on the Michael Brecker jazz to get some quick rhythm going into those stitches, hurry hurryand I’m off!

Debate, debate
Saturday September 08th 2007, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Knit

So, we got an enrollment option form from the company my husband works for.  Longterm care benefits to cover us and our four parents (who are all close to or over 80)  for five years for under $20/month total?  No having to prove we’re healthy enough to sign up if we do it right now?  Hey.

And then the conversation went to being about me.  I tried to deflect it.  Dontwannagothere.   The coverage could be done at home or in a facility, and I was asking, you wouldn’t want that five year clock to start ticking while you could still take care of things at home, would you?

“Yes, but c’mon, where would you rather be living if you could?”

I smiled at him… (wait for it…)   And then, with a look of utter innocence, answered him sweetly (along with a ‘you-so-set-yourself-up-for-this’ grin), “Why, where my yarn is.  Of course!”

For K
Friday September 07th 2007, 6:03 pm
Filed under: Life

Usually, I like to surprise someone, but in this case, my friend K needs to know right now that I’m thinking of her. So while this is in postal transit, here’s a photo and something for her to look forward to. From Sandra Boynton, of the “Hippo Birdies Two Ewes” famous birthday card. I would have sent Boynton’s “Chocolate: The Consuming Passion,” the funniest little book on the planet, but I think K already has it.

Because sometimes you just need a good laugh in the middle of… (Well, K knows.) And a friend’s arm around you. This is the fastest I could reach over there for right nowSandra Boynton Turkeys.

Making a mint
Thursday September 06th 2007, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Life

mint plants and Italian seasoningA box? I didn’t order any… To “Author Alison Hyde.” Return address simply Mountain Valley Growers. Huh?

Opening it up, I found every variety of mint plant you ever thought of, plus marjoram and oregano, a little Italian seasoning on the side. It was from my daughter and son-in-law in Vermont as a congratulations on the success of my “Wrapped in Comfort” book–put these to grow under the skylights in the bathroom or out in the garden, and make a mint!

Okay, our husbands think we’re weird, but that daughter and I like to rinse mint leaves and dip them in sugar for a snack (do NOT tell my diabetic brother that–oh, wait, hi, Bryan, she whistled innocently…) I will definitely put these in pots, though, rather than letting them run around willy-nilly–mint plants take over every molecule of space they can reach, they’re like bamboo that way. I will concede that that is good if you keep enough sugar on hand, but when the mint might knock on the door to nicely but emphatically demand that you buy the house next door and tear it down so that it has enough room to spread out comfortably in, well, the neighbors might take exception to that. I watered them after opening the box, and even the one that looked dead was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed a few hours later.

Pop question, who was the political figure in DC who archly declared that they were “not a potted plant”? Did they really mint that the way it sounded?

And by the way, did I mention that one of these is a Chocolate Mint plant? Bring on the Green and Black’s. Very cool. Thank you, Jennie and Jonathan!

Green and Black’s dark choc mint

Wednesday September 05th 2007, 12:58 pm
Filed under: Knit

I got a good start on Johnna’s shawl.  At the 48-stitch point, I thought, you know, better count those…  But why?  C’mon, I know I did those increases right, it’s not like this is rocket science!  I did a brief check without paying enough attention to the doubled strands, which of course tend to tangle stitches over each other on the needles if you’re being in a careless hurry.  It went past 48, and I just figured I hadn’t been paying attention anyway, so I must have missed a stitch or two in my hurry.  Eh.  Whatever.  I went merrily on.

It wasn’t till I hit what was supposed to be 193 stitches, and had 204 (still didn’t know that) so that the  new pattern section came out totally hashed, that I found out what I’d done: I’d cast on with 13 instead of 12.  Wayyy back there at the beginning.  I frogged just a bit, trying to finagle it, which is the point at which I snapped this shot, and then started knitting it again.  Stopped, looked at it, realized how bad my fudging job looked, and finally gave in to the inevitable and frogged all the way back down to the cast on.

One simple single stitch, all by itself.  Just one.  One quarter of an inch, max.  And everything built on top of that, over and over and over, until the whole thing was way over in left field.   All I had had to do was stop and take a full accounting of where I was going, while I was so sure I knew what I was doing that I ignored my inner gut check and kept right on, thinking I was following the instructions.

I love the way knitting gives occasional life metaphors.  I also love the fact that when it doesn’t work out right, you can rip the thing all the way back to the beginning, painful though it may be, and start fresh.

You should see it now.  More pictures later as there’s more and more to show off.

Well, THAT didn’t work!

Adapting the Constance shawl
Tuesday September 04th 2007, 12:11 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

Constance shawl in sportweight baby alpacaFirst of all, I want to thank everybody. Being one who believes strongly in the power of prayer, I want to thank everybody who added theirs in for me or who simply Thought Good Thoughts. There’s power in that–and last night I had no problems breathing whatsoever. I can’t tell you how wonderful that feels. Thank you, your efforts did me immeasurable good and buoyed me up, and I’m praying the same for your own days, each of you wherever you are.

Okay, the post for the day: I goofed. I was at Stitches West this past February, stopped at the Pacific Meadows Alpacas booth, and bought the most gorgeous deep red. Now, vivid, orangey reds make my balance go bonkers, but this was a calm enough shade that it seemed okay. (I discovered this past week that a friend with a brain tumor gets dizzy if she’s around too-bright reds. It felt wonderful to not be the only weird one, much though I wouldn’t wish it on her; mine is the after effects from a car accident.)

I’m curious to see how Johnna’s silk and I get along together when it’s finished and I’m not sitting down and holding still knitting it, but it’s worth it; it’s a gorgeous color, and she and I love it.

So. There I was, I picked out this deep red, and it wasn’t till I got home that it hit me: this wasn’t fingering weight! They had only ever sold fingering weight at Stitches, but this was sportweight, and I hadn’t even noticed! So instead of buying more than enough, I’d bought less than enough, maybe, and the weight of it and the look in a shawl would be way different from what I’d been planning. I hesitated to start with it.

But curiosity got the better of my hesitation, and I finally did. I knew I’d have to do a shawl with a lot fewer stitches than most of mine: for one thing, so it wouldn’t look like a bulky afghan on, and for another, there just wasn’t the yardage. I cast on the Constance shawl, one of the ones with the fewest stitches and that goes best with a heavier yarn. I got it up to about 22″ long, and then didn’t have enough yarn for another 10-row half-diamond. So I added this: on the next right side row after the last pattern repeat, I did, k1, *k1, (yo, ssk) twice, k1, (k2tog, yo) twice, k2, repeat across. Next right side row: K1, *(yo, ssk) twice, yo, sl1-k2tog-psso, (yo, k2tog) twice, yo, repeat, end k1. That gives you a continuation of the zigzag pattern that kind of adds an exclamation point to the bottom of the last diamond; I quite like it. Enough that I’m going to add it again whenever I knit this pattern.

So I thought I’d pass the idea on.

Note: I will be signing copies of “Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls” at the Pacific Meadows Alpacas booth at 2:00 Friday September 28th at TKGA in Oakland, and I will be at Lisa Souza’s booth to sign books at 1:00 at Stitches East in Baltimore on Saturday, Oct. 13th. I plan to be at Stitches East both Friday and Saturday. See you there!

Monday September 03rd 2007, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

raspberry baby alpaca and cocoa MalabrigoI’ve been trading off between the big-stitch project and the little-stitch project, trying to wrap up the big one fast and get it out of the way so I can really get into my mug-o’-cocoa Malabrigo shawl. Scharffenberger, Dagoba organic–only the best in those stitches. I can just picture it on Alice Medrich: those who have her gorgeous “Cocolat” or “Bittersweet” books or ever ate one of her truffles at her Bay Area Cocolat shops before a fire closed down the plant and undid her business would understand what I’m talking about. Malabrigo? Something this soft, and with the swirls of different chocolates so artfully displayed? Absolutely. Only the best would do to represent her.

Not that I happen to know her, so that’s a totally moot point. But I can just picture it on her, the woman who pronounced that one must never cook the raspberries to make the raspberry sauce to go with your chocolate torte, or “You will assassinate them!”

But meantime, back in real life, Johnna wanted red. Johnna’s the friend who overhauled and updated my website, and I’ve owed her bigtime for a goodly while now. Hmm. Not that shade of dark-ripe raspberry sauce that I’ve been working on, which was heavier than she wanted anyway–it pleased me, but it wasn’t quite right. Not that finished Bigfoot shawl in a handpaint. Too variegated, too casual. Something vivid and splashy and formal and gorgeous. I had her come over yesterday to look, telling her, I’ve looked in all these yarn stores I’ve been doing booksignings in, and I just haven’t found something that quite declared itself to me as being the right yarn for you. But I’ve been looking!

She immediately asked me, Something I would like that you could stand to knit?

Alright, now, don’t put me on the spot like that… 😉

I showed her my Lisa Souza fine silk done in St. Valentine’s red; beautiful and bright, and I’d thought that one would do well on her, but so thin I would want to run it with another strand. I knew Johnna didn’t like the fuzzies; Kidsilk was out. (I showed her some. She wrinkled her nose.)

And then–I realized later I’d always kept it in a separate place from the silk, and somehow I had just never pulled the two out at the same time together: I showed her some 50/50 cashmere/lambswool I’d dyed, telling her I hadn’t found something to run with this one, either.

And she offered the absolutely obvious solution of, why don’t you just put those two together?

It was one of those stunning moments when you realize something so blatantly right there in front of your face, how on earth had you not thought of that yourself? I had never pulled them out together at the same time before, I’d never seen what could be. We twisted the strands together to see how they played off each other. Exquisite. And she was thrilled at the idea that her shawl would be hand dyed by me and by Lisa–not just something bought from some random shop (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) More personal than that.

So now I am about to go sit down and launch into the last four silly rows of that dark red to get it out of my way so I can wind up the 1000 yards of St Valentine’s so I can finally go make Johnna’s shawl so I can finish the Malabrigo after that so I can work on the… Carry on! Johnna’s project has totally changed for me: it’s no longer the angst of, this yarn or this? This pattern or this? Will I like it? Will she like it? Will this work? I will trade off with the Malabrigo when my hands need different needle sizes for a break, because it feels like it’s going to be hard to stop knitting either one–I’m too excited about both these. And just look at those reds! I love it. Johnna loves it. It will look fabulous on her–definitely just right. Yay!

I’m debating adding to this post… I’ve started fighting a cold, which has started my lupus and dysautonomia flaring. Last night I couldn’t breathe if I tried to sleep on my right side, a Bad Old Days symptom I emphatically do not want back. But I kept thinking, I refuse to get sick now. I refuse to give in. Johnna’s got her red shawl coming at last. I finally know just what to make her. I rolled onto my left side before my blood pressure dropped too low, deciding, so be it…

…And somehow, with all that happy anticipation to buoy me up, slept a good night’s sleep just the same.

If you could package knitting to make others happy into a pill, the drug companies would make a fortune. But it’s a whole lot more fun to be handing the medication money to people like Lisa Souza.Lisa Souza’s St. Valentine silk, and red cashmere blend

Good friends in high places
Saturday September 01st 2007, 6:07 pm
Filed under: Life

mkwares.net potterymkwares.net potterySan Francisco trolleybus at Kings MountainSan Francisco trolleybus at Kings MountainThe people on the bus go up and down

Today I dragged my 19-year-old Sherpa and guided him down the highway to Kings Mountain Art Fair, one of the best art and craft fairs in California. You go up the mountain and then along the crest of it, with breaks in the trees showing you the fog and the ocean way below you to one side, and the reservoir and then Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay to the other. From up there, it looks like you’re perched on the spine of the state.

Half an hour, I told the kid, I’m just asking for a half hour to visit with Kris and Mel. Which is why we chatted for–well, I tell you, it wasn’t just a half hour, definitely, and it was way too much sun, but sometimes, as I once told a friend a little more passionately than I had intended to say it, when it comes to taking risks re the UV, you just have to live!

Mel and Kris are potters; their website is mkwares.net, and I wish they did mail order, but last time I asked, they didn’t. Gorgeous work. Just gorgeous. I’ve been adding pieces gradually for several years, and now I finally have enough plates to serve dinner when everybody’s home.

But more than that: they are friends. I knitted Kris a scarf a year ago that helped keep her warm when she flew into Oakland airport; she stepped out into the foggy weather there and was shiveringly cold and wrapped it around her. My knitting… They were afraid to ask…and then thrilled to find out my book was not only out, but doing well. Yeah, well. So, guess who now has an inscribed copy?

And guess who gave me some pottery as a thank you?

If you live in the Bay Area, Kings Mountain runs through Monday. They rent old San Francisco cable cars converted into buses for ferrying people to parking points further out from the park. Go see!  And tell the Kunihiros hi for me.Kings Mountain Art Fair