A day in the life of designing lacework
Tuesday July 15th 2008, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

Nice idea.  Spent a lot of time on it today.  Good thing I swatched before I launched into it on a grand scale.  Watch me frog.  Watch me hit the delete button.the birds have been at it again ‘Bye.

Nice idea #2.  Spent a lot of time on it this evening.  Realized it won’t work well with the idiosyncracies not to mention the quantities of the yarn I’m wanting to use.  Nope. Try again.

Nice idea #3. Hey. I like this one!  Careful consideration of yarn qualities and quantities taken into account. I think I got it this time.  Nope, haven’t swatched–I ran out of day.

Monday July 14th 2008, 10:57 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit,Wildlife

There’s a reason redwoods are so tall: they live along the ridgeline of the California coast, between a near-desert climate and the ocean and where heavy fogs roll in at night.  They are designed to pierce the fog with their height, causing water droplets to condense and run down their trunks and water them–which is also why they have very shallow roots. They typically reproduce by having new ones shoot up from the roots, with the new ones joining in to help form a wide underground lattice of roots that supports the whole community of redwoods together.

Which is also why my treedling might actually make it.  There was no depth to the bit of earth it was clinging to when I pulled it out, probably no broken roots.

All that said, I gotta say, “bonsai redwood” to describe it is one of the funniest ideas I have heard in awhile.  Totally nonpsychodegradeable.  Thank you, Carol!

(Oh. Right. The shawl.  Tailor of Gloucestor alert!  Heh.Tailor of Gloucester shawl)

Specs: One skein Casbah from Mary’s stash, size 11 (7mm) needles, Faster-version Julia shawl through the yoke, then I switched to the Michelle pattern for the body, it being a 6+1 lace pattern as well, both of them in “Wrapped in Comfort.”  This did not make a very big shawl, the Casbah being a thinner yarn than the original mohair, but it’s good for a small person.  Lying flat, it’s 19″ long.  It’ll stretch out a bit held up when it’s dry.

Sunday July 13th 2008, 10:57 pm
Filed under: My Garden

redwood seedlingI guess it’s the squirrels on this one?  A few days ago, I found a redwood seedling popped up among the azaleas.  Which is all well and good, but, give it a few years and in the coming argument between the eaves of the house and the redwood, the house loses.  So I pulled it out.

And roots came with it.  I looked at it a moment and thought, well hey.  To paraphrase the old saying, Give trees a chance.  I imagine I damaged it too much for it to recover, but I plunked it in an empty pot outside the kitchen for the time being with some water, where I can wonder how I’ll get it out the next time if need be.  You never know.  Some things recover that you’d never expect.

Good timing
Saturday July 12th 2008, 1:46 pm
Filed under: LYS

Kay just called from Purlescence: the long-awaited Casbah shipment finally came in!  So that means I can knit Mary’s skein up, they can put it on display, probably when I come to next Thursday’s knit night if not sooner, and that shawl will be a sample of skeins they actually have in stock.  Everybody wins.  Again.

Casbah comfort
Friday July 11th 2008, 10:40 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,LYS

I love knit night at Purlescence.  I was going through serious knitters deprivation while we were on vacation and then they were too for awhile there.

So here’s the scene: I asked if I could have the shawl back that they had in the window, the Julia pattern from “Wrapped in Comfort,” a little one made out of one skein of Handmaiden Casbah on big needles to stretch the yardage as far as it could go.  It’s softer than the blue Bare one I’d been working on, and softness was something the circumstances really needed.

Kay not only gave it back to me, it had been held on the model with a shawl pin made by a local artist, which she put in my hands and asked that I send it with the shawl to the woman whose husband Marc is so very ill.


I regretted not having the Casbah to knit the shop another one; they have it on backorder, and it hadn’t come in.

At which point a woman across the room, Mary, who’d been quietly spinning away at her wheel, and who I hadn’t even known had heard any of that, reached into her knitting bag, stood up and walked over to me, and asked how many skeins it had taken to knit that shawl that was now in my hands.  One?  Good, then!  And she held out a skeiCasbah sings the bluen, a beautiful blue, Casbah no less, and urged me to take it.

It took me a moment to sink in.  Wow.  I could knit it up and gift it in turn to the dear friends who own that shop.  And that’s what Mary was hoping I would do.  She was giving me her Casbah and blessing all of us in the face of the loss that this other woman that none of them had ever met was dealing with.  We were all in this life thing together.

I was fighting tears.  Wow.

Cast on.

Oobleck Pie
Wednesday July 09th 2008, 12:34 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Life

Kristine sent me a link to a chocolate-chunk cookie recipe with feves by Valrhona in it–oval shaped bits of dark chocolate, available from Whole Foods.  I wrote back that I was embarrassed to say I actually had some in my cupboard.

And we’re off to the races with another story…

Years ago, I really got into baking cheesecakes, back when the kids were very little; so much so that I bought a copy of “The Joy of Cheesecake.”   And in it, I found, at a stage when I was reading Dr. Seuss to my kids, a recipe for Oobleck Pie.

Avocado lime honey cheesecake.  With wheat germ sprinkled on top.

It was almost impossible to buy a good avocado in New Hampshire, where we were at the time, so my hubby and children were spared; I didn’t try it.

We moved to California, and a few years later I found myself with a lupus diagnosis and doing swim therapy every day at a local indoor pool.  You had to have a doctor’s prescription to use the place.  It made for a close-knit community, where people tended to know each other and look out for each other.

Which is how one guy who loved to cook got told about the Oobleck Pie, and decided that that was just too weird: he had to try it.  I don’t think I told him about the wheat germ when I gave him the recipe.  Some things go far enough as it is.

So.  He actually baked one.  (No wheat germ.)  And then he brought it to the pool and handed it to the staff in the office, intact, unsampled, beautiful, slightly green at the gills, and whole.

I, totally unsuspecting, walked in the door, went to check in, and one of the lifeguards grabbed the thing from the desk, shoved it at me, and said, This is your fault. You have to take the first piece.

What, no wait an hour after swimming?  You guys trying to ground me from doing my laps?  Heh.

The first bite was a shock.  You know what’s coming but you don’t really, and then there it is.  After that, after you get past the “but I wanted cheesecake” mode, it’s actually, kind of, um, good.

Oobleck, for those who don’t remember, is the green sticky stuff that King whateverhisnamewas ended up with after telling his magicians he was tired of the same old stuff, rain, snow; he wanted something new.  They chanted and eye-of-newted till the oobleck filled the skies, superglueing everything and everyone it touched to everything else it touched.  This quickly became a massive, kingdom-wide problem.

And it stayed that way till the king admitted he’d made a mistake and said he was sorry.  At which point the sticky Oobleck gunk all magically melted away.

My sweet husband and I were at Flea Street Cafe for I think our anniversary, several years ago, when Jesse, the owner, came over and chatted a moment.  She had angel food cake with lavendar flowers in it on her menu, and I told her about the Oobleck Pie.

She really wanted that recipe.  I went home and mailed it to her.

Whether she ever used it, I don’t know, but if she did, it was probably from avocados and limes she grew herself and honey from a local beekeeper.  I love California.

smaller Water Turtles in merino/bamboo from Maple Creek FarmsOh, right. The purple shawl.  I promised.  Here goes.  Twinsies.

Rounded off to the nearest edge
Tuesday July 08th 2008, 11:10 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

blueberries on a six-string Sigma Here is the Knitpicks Bare merino/silk, reblocked to a smooth edge. This is the smaller version Water Turtles shawl, 24″ long laid flat, about 27″ long on, 880 yards/200 g, with 16 g left over, dyed in Jacquard Acid in less-than-full-strength Navy.

After I finished it, I picked up the long-neglected purple Maple Creek Farm merino/bamboo shawl that I’d started during the weekend of my son’s wedding–it kept getting put aside for projects that needed to be fast-tracked, but it was so close to being done.  I decided, just spend one single day and let it be done.  I’d forgotten which pattern I’d been knitting it in…

Smaller version Water Turtles. Huh. Well, it might make for slightly repetitive knitblogging, but whatchagonnado.  I knitted it down to the very last five grams, and it’s ready to block too.

Wild horses couldn’t have made me
Monday July 07th 2008, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

A side note: I like to answer every comment, but there was a problem with my email that hopefully is fixed now after I noticed that some of the ones on the last post never appeared in my inbox.  If you didn’t hear from me, I apologize.

Okay, another one just for fun.  That one top and center–boy does that bring back memories of exclaiming to a friend way back when when we were all in our early 20’s, “You bought a PINTO?  Your first new car, and you bought a PINTO?!” having many growing-up memories of my neighbor upset at his because the darn thing ran only when it felt like it on alternate fifth Saturdays of the month.

Well, the salesman had talked him into it, and it was cheap…

(I need to go car shopping. I really, really don’t want to.)

Where in the world is…
Sunday July 06th 2008, 11:42 am
Filed under: Life

Mim posted a map of the US as seen by Californians.  Oregon/Washington are vaguely displayed as “coffee,” anything east of there to the Great Lakes as Canada, etc. Having corrected my kids’ take on history after school a few times, I burst out laughing when I saw her post.

There was one memorable time, taking a walk around the neighborhood, when there were some teenagers hanging out together, and I smiled and wished them a good day.  One of them, for whatever reason, suddenly piped up with, “Are you from around here?”  (I think I need to walk more often!  I’d only lived around the corner longer than he’d been alive!)

I put on my best Southern accent and asked him, “Do I *sound* like I’m from around here?”

“Where are you from?”


Clearly that was a head-scratcher for him, so I asked him, “Do you know where New York is?  Washington, DC?”  (Trying to gauge the depth of the education deprivation.)

Yes. Yes.  Uh huh.

“Okay,” I told him.  “When they were building Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia both donated land for it to be built on.  During the Civil War, Virginia took theirs back.”

Throw a little extra at him with his geography lesson: US history did NOT start with the Gold Rush!

I’ve always wondered if that kid paid more attention to his country after that.  Given how funny I thought the conversation was, and the fact that kids learn more when they’re cared about, I like to think I helped provide some positive motivation.

Smaller version Water Turtles
Saturday July 05th 2008, 10:35 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort"

They say Charlie Brown is a block head tooLet’s have a do-over on the blocking here.  I picked this shawl up this morning (deliberately) before it was bone dry: I’m going to rinse it again and smooth out the bottom edge rather than trying to have the pattern end in points.  Knitpicks’ merino/silk heavyish fingering weight was a bit too bulky for that.   The points just weren’t crisp enough for me, and as I ran the wires through last night I was pretty sure I was going to bag them later.  But I wanted to see first.  A rounded edge is easier to maintain anyway, and it’s not something any recipient should be having to worry about.

I was so sure this one wasn’t going to stretch past maybe 24″, but sometimes yarns surprise you. Blocked, held up, it’s 27″, and I had enough yarn out of my two skeins that I could have gotten it to 30″.  Size 9 (5.5mm) needles.

A side note: the fireworks last night probably worked out well for parents of small children needing to go to bed.  They started an hour early this year, given the extra darkness.

News flash: Nepenthe
Friday July 04th 2008, 12:46 pm
Filed under: Life

This is the link to the webcam at Nepenthe: the beautiful resort in Big Sur (scroll down a bit to see a collage on the left of days’ worth of views) founded by Kaffe Fassett‘s father.  Discovering Kaffe’s “Glorious Knits” book is what helped bring me back to knitting nonstop eighteen years ago.  I feel I owe the man, and I have met him several times at Uncommon Threads booksignings: he is warm and gregarious as well as infinitely creative.

The SJ Merc today says that Kirk Gafill, grandson of the founder, his brother, and four others are refusing to evacuate to try to save Nepenthe.  They have their fire-retardent gel at the ready.  All those affected are in my prayers.

(Update Sunday 10:56 am: their webcam’s image is frozen at 6:22:45 am today. I’m hoping they simply lost power.)

Joining yarns
Friday July 04th 2008, 11:15 am
Filed under: Knit

Happy Fourth of July!

Something I learned in spinning surprised me: you could fill up a bobbin, fill up a second bobbin, and then when plying the two together, get most of the yarn ofjoining strands from two skeins both of those onto a third bobbin before you ran out of space.  Shouldn’t it be just half, twice?  Shouldn’t one full bobbin plus one full bobbin make two full plied bobbins? But no, over and over I would get most of the way through the singles as I plied: the plied yarn was denser, but it didn’t take up that much more space. I got really good at spinning just enough of the singles–a little more than 2/3–to fill the plied bobbin just to the tippy top.

When I’m joining yarns from different skeins together these days, I apply some of what I learned from that.  If it’s a multi-plied yarn, I break off a few inches of half the plies (one if it’s a three-ply), knot the two strands just at the points where I’ve thinned them down, and then wind each thinned-down yarn end tightly around the full thickness of the strand I’m attaching it to, both directions.  The tip of my needle is pointing towards where the doubled-up length is after I’ve done this.  You can see in this picture at the bottom of the smooth loop to the right the slight bulge where the knot is–not the knot itself, but the joining strands arcing slightly away from it right at the knot.  But that disappears into the knitting.  I do dampen that doubled area and rub it vigorously between my hands to help it felt together if it’s not a superwash yarn.

I know. Knots are Not Done.  But I’ve heard too many stories over the years of people’s knitting coming apart at the skein seams in the wash, and I refuse to go there.  How tightly you tie the knot affects how it feels in the finished garment or whether its presence is even discernible, and I am careful not to overdo it.

I like this shawl. I’m not quite entirely sure yet it’s the one.  Purlescence is closed this week for the LYSOs’ vacation, and when they open Monday, I’m going to go put this one next to the Casbah one of mine I loaned them for display.  If the Casbah feels more right when I see it, that will be the one going off in the mail to Marc’s wife.   (Nathania, Sandy, Chloe–I’ll knit you another one.  Bring on the Handmaiden.)  But I’m finishing this one up quickly so as to have a good choice.

The other Marc
Thursday July 03rd 2008, 11:54 am
Filed under: Family

Eleven years ago, our friend Conway told me that one of his sons and his family had been visiting and were just going out the door for the airport to leave when his son, a doctor, looked at him and asked him what was wrong.

Conway told me he’d answered that he was fine, saying, you don’t want to miss your plane, but that his son went, No, you’re not. And over his father’s objections he’d called an ambulance and thus had saved his father’s life from that heart attack.  Conway was bursting with love, pride, and gratitude as he told me this.

A month ago.  We arrived at the Loews Hotel on Coronado Island for our son’s wedding, started to unpack, and it was time to go meet up with Kim’s family somewhere around the lobby and then head over to the rehearsal dinner.  At the foot of the grand spiral staircase, I saw a few people I didn’t know and Kim a bit away, talking to someone.  I approached a 40-something man and asked, “You must be Kim’s uncle.”  I figured he would either think I was crazy, or, I was right.

The man smiled broadly and said indeed he was.  He was Kim’s Uncle Marc, Conway’s son who is a doctor.  I liked him immediately.

His brain tumor surgery Tuesday has had complications.  We wait to hear.  I had his age and kids’  mixed with his younger brother’s, though, yesterday.

I may not know him well, but what he didn’t know when we met in May was that I have been grateful to him for eleven years for dropping everything on the spot and giving his dad a little more time on this earth for those who loved him.

And the knitting for Marc’s wife continues.  It’s what I can do.

As time goes on
Wednesday July 02nd 2008, 1:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

The blue oneSuddenly there’s so much to process in a hurricane all at once.

A new relative we just added into the extended family just found out he has a malignant brain tumor. Metastasized.  He has young children.

A young man my son met through their internships in DC turns out today to be Marc, the son of a friend whose husband was killed in an accident just after they moved away from here back when Marc was in I think kindergarten.  I lost touch with his widowed mom when she moved the second or third time and have wanted for years to get a chance to reach out again and talk to her.

My son called in great excitement to tell me, not waiting for me to get to my email for him to share the news.  Marc emailed just now that his mom was just as excited as I am at our all finding each other again.  Synchronicity is wonderful stuff.  And he mentioned something to me about his wife–while I’m struggling to picture the little boy as the grown man.  Wow.

The day his family moved away, a number of us at the young-child stage got together at their apartment on Stanford campus, where Bryant, his dad, had just finished his PhD, to box and scrub and watch kids and help out.  Anything to lessen the pain of their moving.  Bryant bought us all pizza at the end of the day, a rare luxury for us all, and we sat or stood under the scrawny pine trees just outside their door they were about to close for the last time, reveling in the friendship with the poignancy of loss that they were leaving.  How much Bryant was going to, just a few months later, we could never have known.

When Bryant died–he was a pedestrian, struck by a passing car–there was a tremendous need here to do something.  We their friends here got together with one person setting up a video camera, and shared our stories of their father’s kindnesses from people the boys would likely not even remember when they grew up.  So that they had something to remember Bryant by, so they would know the kind of man he was, so they would have his good image to live up to.

So their father would be real to them.  Compassionate and human.

Marc marveled that I remembered his brother’s broken leg. I marveled that he remembered any of us at all. But he did.  But then…  Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.

Get out the video camera, take out the tape recorders.  Write up questions to ask.  Get the older folks talking about back in the day.  Their children and great great grandchildren will cherish every word.

Meantime, I’ve definitely got some knitting to do.

Unusual uses for knitting needles
Tuesday July 01st 2008, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Knit

I have an ancient curling iron that long ago lost its on button.  I am not a fan of the old gray plastic department-store-type knitting needles, so it gave me a way to put an unloved dpn to good use–the iron-y of it allin ten years of poking it into the on switch, I’ve never bothered to replace the iron.

The TSA inspectors must have dropped it out of the suitcase and the flying public is now safe from my deadly weapon.  I had to go looking for one of its mates in the Unloved Needles case.  And found–my old casein needles!

I’ve always thought these were pretty. I wonder, though, who ever thought that milk protein, of all things, would be good for knitting with.  There are urban legends of them melting horribly into one’s knitting in hot cars, but I don’t know.

I picked them up just now, curious.  The 9″ set I bought way back when turned out to be too long for comfortably knitting socks, so they’ve never really been used.  I pressed into them and then raised my thumbs and they came up partway before detaching from my skin and falling back down.  Hmm. Might be good for when you need the needles to hold onto a silky, slippery yarn.  Dunno.

I wonder what the strangest needles and uses for needles others have encountered are.

I don’t wonder what the strangest knitting material I’ve ever heard of is: that would be the salmon skins knitted into a jacket that won a prize at a World’s Fair in the early 1900’s.  Hmm, thought I read about that in “No Idle Hands,” but it’s not in the index.  Googling for a reference led me to these.  (No, those are not leather.  Not in the traditional sense, anyway.)

Should I ever buy one, I’ll keep my casein needles out of it.  Just in case.