Diana’s Bigfoot and my Julia
Thursday January 31st 2008, 11:17 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit

Diana’s Bigfoot shawlI’ve heard a few people say they were afraid my shawls wouldn’t work for plus-size types. My friend Diana’s reaction to that was to play model for me at Purlescence’s knit night tonight.

Diana’s Bigfoot shawl


she wanted to show off her blue Bigfoot shawl. Well done! I knitted Bigfoot a few months ago in Alpaca With A Twist’s “Fino,” which is a baby alpaca/silk laceweight, much lighter than the weight she used here; she tried that one on then, she loved it, and she started in on this one.  Beautiful.Diana and my smaller Julia pattern

When she saw the shawl I just finished, she tried it on for me, too. (I snagged a stitch badly and wrecked the blocking on one side today while fixing it. A rounded hem works fine too.) Note that this is the version of the Julia shawl with the smaller stitch count.

Diana in the smaller-pattern Julia shawl

Thank you, Diana!

Pride goeth before the icepacks
Thursday January 31st 2008, 12:44 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

Julia shawl, faster version, Wagtail 1 skeinThe Julia shawl blocking, the faster version with fewer stitches on larger needles because I only had the one skein of Wagtail kid mohair to try to stretch as far as it would go. Length 23″ lying flat, width somewhat scrunched up right now for the blocking process–it’ll be more of a circle than it looks here.

The closer I got, the more I wanted to finish this tonight, after having gone through the stash Monday night looking for this yarn to wind up and get started with. The ends can get woven in tomorrow, I’m turning in after I finish icing my hands. (Got a pack on right now; it does make for awkward typing.)

The thrilled gratitude on that nurse’s face gave me my knitting enthusiasm back by reminding me how much I love doing this. That it’s not all about the work aspect of it. It’s about seeing someone else becoming happy. I owe him.

(It’s not quite that late, the clock on this blog is an hour ahead of me.  Pardon me while I go adjust those wires and sharpen those points.)

Why didn’t I think of that?
Wednesday January 30th 2008, 12:26 pm
Filed under: Life

One other thing about Monday: I put a small Nordstrom’s bag (it was what I could find, and hey, the one at Stanford Mall sells the best chocolate truffles in town–go to the top floor to their refrigerator case, over near Customer Service. Oh. Okay. Back to the narrative) inside my knitting bag with the three scarves inside it and went off to my doctor’s appointment, intending to stop by Urgent Care afterwards.

On my way out, a woman about my age passed me. A few moments later, as I waited for the elevator, she was approaching me again, coming from the opposite hallway, reading signs, and it caught my attention–I thought, how did you get past me? So I asked her, “You look lost. Can I help you?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed. “Do you know where Urgent Care is?”

I pointed out the window next to us, “It’s on the ground floor right there.”

Oh, okay. So she got in the elevator with me, and when it opened on the ground floor, she didn’t get out. I prompted her, “This is the floor. Would you like me to walk you there?”

No, no, that was okay, she could find it now, thanks.

And I merrily got in my car and drove out of the parking structure. And then it hit me. DUH!!! *I* was supposed to go to Urgent Care! How had I forgotten those scarves! All those cues from talking to that woman and I didn’t remember. Dumb dumb dumb. So I pulled the car back around, went back down again, parked the car again, got back out again, went upstairs again, and walked over to Urgent Care at last myself, feeling more than a little bit silly.

It wasn’t till I was writing the post about the very elderly woman I encountered there that it hit me: if I had gone directly as I had planned, if I hadn’t forgotten, I would definitely have been out of there by the time she showed up. I’m so glad it didn’t happen that way.
And when I asked her if she would like an arm, and she answered with delight, “Why, yes!” in that instant it became no longer a heart problem so much as a joyful way for two people to unexpectedly get to meet each other and come together in the moment. There was so much love radiating from her. And so many people in that room who simply didn’t see, as I chuckled inwardly that it was a good thing that I used my cane on the left and she did on the right, so that we matched up together okay without tripping over each other’s canes as I helped her to her seat.

I don’t know whose great-grandmother she is, but they are very lucky to have her.

Tuesday January 29th 2008, 6:35 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

Wagtail Yarns kid mohair from AustraliaNo dishes. No vacuuming. No laundry. No taxes. Nothing to do, after Nancy kidnapped me and took me to Creative Hands in Belmont, but sit there, enjoy the company of other knitters, and knit. The phone rang: major accident on 101? Traffic stopped? We’ll just have to knit here a bit longer.

Having learned, via the Orenberg skein a few weeks ago that ran 250 yards short, that I can still knit a well-fitting shawlette project with the Julia pattern out of a smaller amount of yarn, I started this with a single 410 yard/100g skein of Wagtail Yarn’s kid mohair. I can’t wait to show it off at this year’s Stitches convention to the fellow who raises the animals it came from.

Another patient
Monday January 28th 2008, 6:45 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

(The former post title didn’t quite do it, I decided to change it.)

I did stop by Urgent Care, and I told the receptionist there what I was up to. I was a little hesitant to just leave the things when I didn’t know the name of the nurse I’d knitted for and I wasn’t entirely sure I’d gotten the X-ray technician’s name right. I’m sure the other people that work there are perfectly wonderful, but I wanted them to go to the people I’d made them for. So I explained. About Dr. Rachel Remen’s writing that another doctor had told her that if they make a difference to the patients, “The patients never tell you,” so I had decided, well, I’m going to! Bring out the knitting needles!

The receptionist was totally thrilled for them. It was fun to watch her. She checked the records to see whom it had been three weeks ago, told me that that nurse was there on duty right then, and called for him in quite a bit of excitement.

Meantime, a very elderly and very tiny woman came up, alone, while I was standing there waiting, and started talking to her. She didn’t want to be a bother or be out of turn… And the receptionist asked her, “You’re having chest pains? I’ll get you a nurse right away.”

I thought, oh good, he’s probably already about on his way out. But I watched her face cloud over for just a moment at the question of chest pains, and I instantly understood where she was coming from: how wonderful it felt to be around happy people, seeing that big smile that had already been on the receptionist’s face. But how much she needed to be taken care of NOW, while not wanting to complain. I looked at her, knowing in my bones, You need a wheelchair!

I offered her my arm to help her to a seat. She gladly took it. (I thought emphatically at myself, bod, don’t stumble on me now. It behaved.) She was trying to go to the main waiting area, which was pretty full with no seats open nearby; I steered her gently to the little alcove next to it that had a chair right there. As I helped her settle down into it, I smiled and told her, “They’ll take good care of you here. I’ve been a cardiac patient here. They do a good job here.”

She smiled warmly and thanked me gratefully. She reminded me so much of my grandmother when she was in her 90’s.

And I was glad to know which nurse was on duty this afternoon.

I did get a chance to give him his scarf in person. He was surprised and thrilled and finally asked me, “Now, what was your name again?…” Three weeks ago, he did such a good job of being there for me. It felt wonderful to be able to be there for him, too.

And the unexpected gift, for me, of being able to bring a moment of comfort to that elderly woman so that she wouldn’t be alone either. We’re all in this life thing together.

And a one
Monday January 28th 2008, 11:45 am
Filed under: Knit,Life

(for the nurse)The nurse’s Misti Royale scarf

And a two

(for the X-ray technician)The X-ray technician’s Misti Royale scarf

And a three

The doctor’s Camelspin scarf(for the doctor)

reasons to go back to Urgent Care when there’s no medical need to. The men’s are Misti Baby Alpaca Royale, the doctor’s Handmaiden’s Camelspin 70/30 silk/baby camel, handdyed.

close-up of needle motifClose-up on the nurse’s needle–being baby alpaca rather than wool, which would have had much more spring to it, the motif relaxed out a lot when I rinsed it and laid it out to dry, so it’s less obvious what it is.  Which is fine with me.  That nurse’s needle was essential to my current well-being, and I wanted to design him something that conveyed his work in his scarf.

I separated the X’s for the technician’s by four rows of garter to give each X separate prominence, but it nevertheless all flowed together in a cohesive whole. I quite like that. It fits.

The doctor’s was the leftover yarn, done in as open a pattern as possible to try to stretch those 26 g as far as they would go, from the project I made my son’s fiancee for Christmas. Camelspin is really nice yarn, and when I saw that small leftover ball, it was one of those moments of, yes! That’s the right yarn! Purlescence didn’t have more in stock of that colorway just then, so I had to make do.

Off for a routine appointment today; I’m going to stop by Urgent Care on my way out and try not to get in their way. Wish me luck.

Saturday January 26th 2008, 4:09 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Life

Bigfoot scarf Kidsilk Haze(Photo: my Bigfoot pattern, done as a scarf with three repeats across of the stitch pattern given in “Wrapped in Comfort,” Kidsilk Haze, size 4.5 mm needles.)

Such a weird reaction to a common cold. Autoimmunity is always an interesting variety show, and so, I found myself in sudden pain last night and in the eye doctor’s this morning. Lupus inflammation leading to a tear in the cornea, drops for three weeks.

I had never seen that doctor before. She was gentle, she was thorough, she asked questions, she gave me lots of details and she asked for any questions from me after giving me enough information so that I had some idea of what to ask. This is the eye that went blind on the left half for three weeks a few years ago; I don’t trust it to behave. (Stomp my feet, demand, “But I’m too DEAF to go blind!”) But in her competent hands, I came away with a sense of grateful relief. It’ll be okay? I see.

It’s not just the technical competence of a good doctor, although that’s essential, it’s the caring that conveys the strength I need to let all this stuff just be background noise so that I can tune it out.

Back to my merino wool and 4mm needles. I can already see it more clearly than I could last night.

Oh you guys!
Friday January 25th 2008, 2:29 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit

Cris modeling her Julia shawl

Chris’s socks from Cat Bordhi’s new book

I almost didn’t go to my once-a-month knit night at Commuknity last night; it’s a big group, there’s always an exposure risk, and it’s a bit soon since my big bug. But I needed to see my friends–I had no idea what was coming–and I’m so glad I went!

There was someone new there, Becky, sitting behind me, who’d brought my book and was working from it. When it was her turn to show off, she said she was doing a shawl from “Wrapped in Comfort.” One guess as to who everybody pointed at. Oh! She said she’d looked at me, she’d looked at the picture in the back of the book, she’d looked at me… It WAS me!

Jocelyn and JulieThey had decided to hold a “show your Alison” night: Diana, Lisa, Susan, Jocelyn, Julie, Lyn, Vera, Nancy, Margaret, Candace, Cris, Fae, and Chris had all made or were making shawls from my book. Catie wasn’t able to show up, but sent word that she was working on one, too. At the point a few years ago when I didn’t even have a publisher yet, Catie tried on my Kathy shawl and told me emphatically to hurry up and get it out there because she wanted my patterns! She gave me her thoroughly quotable reason for vastly preferring the circular shaping on my shawls vs. the more typical triangle ones: “I don’t need an arrow pointing at my butt.” Her much-needed vote of confidence helped keep me going re trying to get published, and I loved that it looked great on her: it showed me how well those shawls could fit a variety of body shapes.

Vera’s Bigfoot shawlSusan had been one of my test knitters. She signed a page of the Kathy’s Clover Shawl, which she’d knitted. Susan is about to move away, and my heart about broke with love and aching when I read what she’d written. You can’t tell a friend Please Don’t Go, you can only wish them the best on their journey. (Hey. Susan. Please Don’t Go.)

Chris surprised me with socks she’d made using Cat Bordhi’s new book. Which happened to match what I was wearing and fit perfectly–actually, even though I avoid knitting socks, I have some handdyed sock yarn that has stubbornly refused to be knit into anything else, which means it’s just been sitting there. I wanted socks in those colors. It’s really close to Chris’s yarn choice. She’d nailed it.

You know, I could get a little too spoiled. Thank you, everybody!

The Blue, the Grey, and the red white and blue
Thursday January 24th 2008, 1:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,History

A curiosity of mine: in American English, the word “gray” is spelled “gray” except in reference to the soldiers of the Civil War, in which case we generally take on the British spelling of “grey.”

We got a letter last week with a handwritten note added at the top, promising that this was going to be the last Christmas letter of the year. My husband gleefully reacted, “No it’s not! My sister hasn’t sent hers out yet!”

My friend Nanci was talking about her 92-year-old mother-in-law, mentioning her son’s speculation that Bashie was probably the last living person whose father rode in the Pony Express. You heard that right. And he fought in the Civil War! He was 75 and his wife was 45 when they had her. Now imagine this: if his father had been that old when he had been conceived, his father would have been a teenager during the Constitutional Convention.

And that would then be his granddaughter who is alive right now. We’re a young country!

I asked Nanci if I could post this, and she said sure and added more to the story. Here’s her note:

“Of course, we’d be flattered for you to say something in your blog about Darryl’s grandfather, Joseph A. Fisher. He actually was serving in the Civil War and a pony express rider concurrently. There was a big problem with the Indians raiding the mail, so President Lincoln asked Brigham Young for 100 men from Utah to help with the war effort in the special assignment of being riders, and he was one of those 100 young men. (It might have been 1861.) He was actually hit by an arrow and left for dead, but miraculously was found, the arrow was pulled out, and Bashie’s brother remembers a big hole in his back that as a boy would like to put pennies in where the arrow had been. He served for 9 months. ”

Try going through airport security with that.

Happy birthday, Nina!
Wednesday January 23rd 2008, 10:38 am
Filed under: Friends,Life

Nina’s birthday hyacinth(Got it now.)

We were among the bunch of Nina’s friends who took her out to dinner Saturday night to celebrate her birthday, which is today. She grinned at me at one point, and said, “You need John! John’s your best hyacinth hunter.”

It was about a dozen years ago that I was out looking for a birthday gift for her, and I happened to come across some hyacinths blooming in pots. I didn’t know why they seemed just the thing, and I wondered whether they were blooming in more my colors than hers, whether buying one would be a donvier–pronounced DON-vee-ay, a gift you give someone else because it’s what you want for yourself, not because it’s what they want–but still. They appealed strongly to me and I chose one. It was just a little thing, but it smelled so heavenly; you couldn’t carry it in your hands without having it make the day a bit brighter.

Now picture me ringing Nina’s doorbell, her opening the door, and then her standing there speechless. Nina is not the speechless type. But she was dumbstruck.

Finally, she exclaimed, “How did you know!”

Know what? What was she talking about?

“My grandmother!”

It turned out, her grandmother had given her hyacinths for her birthday every year as she was growing up in New York City. It was a tradition between them. Her grandmother had passed away, and here I was showing up on her doorstep on her birthday with…hyacinths.

And you know that after that day I could never, ever give her anything else, even if I have to do a bit of hunting around to find some. I don’t have a picture up yet, because I always feel better as the day goes on and it’s still a tad early for me to get out and about to go buy some. But I will. I just wanted to jump in first and say–happy birthday, Nina!

Still going…
Tuesday January 22nd 2008, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends

Sue’s amaryllis today: yes, the same plant that was blooming the first week of December. It just keeps on lighting up the place.

last flower(Added later): The mail just came, and with it, a copy of the second edition of my book–it’s in reprints already. Woohoo!

Monday January 21st 2008, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Life

Another toddler story while I’m at it.

A half dozen or so years ago, circumstances were such that my teenage daughter was pushing me around in a manual wheelchair at Costco. At one point, something caught her eye and she gave me a bit of a push forward and parked me mid-aisle to go look at it.

At the same time, a dad pushing a cart with his little boy in it did the same thing and stepped over to the opposite side of the aisle. And so I found myself on a Saturday afternoon suddenly looking up at this toddler who might have been barely two, with his seatbelt on, a big boy now who didn’t need an infant seat anymore.

I smiled and waved hi.

There was this look of absolute bewilderment on the kid’s face, and you could totally read his mind as he stared:

There’s a grownup! In a stroller! Being pushed by…a KID!

Blew his mind. It took him a moment to decide whether it was okay to wave back: wave, oh, right, I remember waving, um, okay. And so he gave me this very funny half-wave with this expression of, I GUESS I should.

And then there was the time I used Costco’s motorized chair, and at the far end of the store, it suddenly stopped dead. The battery indicator read fully charged, but hey, try to tell it that. My hubby went to go grab the manager, and when the guy came over, he took in the scene and told us, “The problem is it’s thrown the dead man switch. You’re too lightweight. It doesn’t think anyone’s there. Put your purse in your lap, maybe a ten pound bag of rice or something so it knows there’s someone actually sitting there.”

That’s me. Always messing with their minds.

Who was that masked…
Monday January 21st 2008, 12:26 am
Filed under: Life

Went to church with a mask on my face for my protection and for other people’s. I wasn’t the only one coughing, and being hypervigilant to what that can do to those of us there on chemo, I wondered why it’s such an unusual thing to do in our culture.

It’s the little kids that make that mask hard, though. You can smile with your eyes to the adults, and they get it–although I watched several people in a row clearly having to come to terms inwardly on the spot at the sight–but the toddlers stare. They don’t know if you’re trying to play hide-and-seek–but then where’s the seek part? Why the blue thing? And can they have one too? So I did pull mine up and down for just a minute or so with one 15-month-old. At first, her reaction was an ecstatic look of, Yes! You ARE playing by the rules! Then, when I left it on, she just wasn’t sure she approved. Do it again. Prove you know how to play this game.

I didn’t.

The thought suddenly occurs, I hope she didn’t go home and play with covering her face with random things to try to figure out what all that was about.

Watching like a hawk
Saturday January 19th 2008, 12:04 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

My friend Pam gifted me with a surprise: a pair of fingerless gloves with my Rabbit Tracks pattern knitted into the backs of the hands. In a yarn with a colorway named “Red-tailed hawk.”

I was sitting in this very seat, working at the computer one day a few months ago, when a red-tailed hawk flew into the tree outside my window here. I stood and watched it for several minutes; when it spread its wings and tail feathers wide and flew off, it was absolutely breathtaking.

My friend Robert, who lives in the mountains nearby and is the weaver of my medicine blanket, rescued a red-tailed hawk about a year and a half ago, injured by the side of the road. He took it home and nursed it slowly back to health over several months. He sent me an occasional email along the way, telling of the progress she was making, of how he’d won over her trust and she would come to him. He described the thick leather gauntlets he wore to protect him from her claws as she would climb up his arm towards his shoulder to get closer.

Then came the day he decided she seemed ready to return to the wild; he thought her wing was probably strong enough now. He took her outside, on his heavy leather glove, and waited for her to fly off.

This was a new thing. She had to decide to stay with him or go. She did not immediately take off, but when she did, she flew to a tall tree close by (proving to him she could fly that far again)–where she perched and regarded him for half an hour, as he waited to see, as he couldn’t take his eyes off this beautiful bird he’d put heart and soul into caring for.

He described it all to me. Then, at last, she lifted her wings and took off into the sky.

I still have this cough bugging me. I still have a fair amount of nausea, and my weight’s down six pounds from the beginning of last week. It’s a little too easy to feel crummy.

And then I got a package in the mail yesterday, red-tailed hawk fingerless gloves to keep my hands and heart warm. The beautiful and unexpected gift of Pam’s time, thoughts, and yarn lifts my spirits high.Pam’s Rabbit Tracks fingerless gloves

Steve Colbert and the Americone Dream
Friday January 18th 2008, 12:11 pm
Filed under: Knit

Talking to my brother Morgan… When Dad mentioned to him that the baby of the family that used to live across the street from us, when we kids were growing up, was THE Steve Colbert, Morgan went out and got a DVD of some of his shows, curious.

And when Steve mentioned “my sister Margo” on that DVD, Morgan exclaimed out loud, “*I* know *Margo*!” He called me a few days ago, and we wondered whether, with our 40-year-old memories, Steve looked more like Jay or Paul did as kids. Not Peter; Peter had sandy hair in my mental image and a rounder face.

So. What brings all this up. I got some Ben and Jerry’s “Steve Colbert’s Americone Dream” ice cream, and looking at the list of ingredients was one to catch the eye of any knitter: bamboo fiber. Bamboo fiber? In ice cream!? Do I eat it with chopsticks? Can I sharpen their ends and use them to knit it, too? Was it in the waffle cone part? Should I knit a waffle stitch?

Colbert has a fear of bears. (Wave a California flag and ward him off?) So, what do we read into this: do we finish what’s on our plates for the poor starving pandas in China? Is he trying to get the bears to go after our ice cream and leave him alone? Is it a VastAmericone DreamRight-Wing Conspiracy?

Ah, my. Life is so complicated. Pass the ice cream.