A few shawl photos to show off
Friday October 31st 2008, 2:25 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

Peace shawl for Johnna

Bigfoot in 4-ply Jade Sapphire cashmereI heard recently from someone who didn’t quite see what my shawls were about; she thought that when I said circular, I was just referring to the needles used to knit them.  I realized I hadn’t really shown much of my work lately.  So I thought I’d show off some old pictures and try to show the v-neck styling a little better.

The red is the Peace shawl for my friend Johnna. The lilac is the Bigfoot shawl, done in Jade Sapphire’s 4-ply Cashmere; this yarn is about double the weight of the original,  Frog Tree laceweight, but it was exactly the color I was looking for at the time, and the right color and a super soft cashmere–it was hard to go wrong. Somehow this photo seems to me like a Niagara Falls of stitches.

the Constance shawl in fingering weight

Then we’ve got the Constance, the picture cropped to fit into the blog.  Done in two strands of fine laceweight together, one a silk, one Misti baby alpaca.

Next up is the Michelle shawl, with about 2/3 of it showing, done in a handdyed silk.

silk Michelle shawl

Next we have the Wanda’s Flowers shawl, which, like the Constance, is one of the narrower shawls in “Wrapped in Comfort,” done here in one skein of Lisa Souza‘s handdyed sportweight baby alpaca and easily adaptable to heavier yarns.

Wanda\'s Flowers shawl in Lisa Souza\'s sportweight baby alpaca

Next up is Kathy’s Clover Chain shawl in baby alpaca I dyed to match the clovers she and I used to string together. Note the shadow of the amaryllis in the background. Kathy\'s Clover Chain shawl

And then, since I can’t wait for my favorite flowers to start blooming again, I’m borrowing one of last season’s pictures in anticipation. Note how the leaf is waving hi.Picotee amaryllis

Everyone’s child
Thursday October 30th 2008, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Life

I asked my friend Robin if I could borrow her story here, and she said sure.  She flew early this morning, and there was a young family that was going to be on her flight.  In her words:

“When we were in the waiting area, the little boy was very much his parents child.  His dad held him up to the window, showing him the view through the plate glass.  His mom spelled his first name for the person to whom we were giving our boarding passes.  (I was right behind them but don’t remember the name because it’s not one I’ve ever before heard.)  The family spoke another language to one another.  English they spoke to the agent was clearly accented but was clear.  The father was wearing a tee shirt only one word of which I read:  Dutch.

Then the parents were delayed a bit folding up the two-child stroller. The little boy went ahead a bit to see what was next.  And all of a sudden he was everyone’s child.  The stewardess was ahead of him.  At the spot where the platform we were walking on meets the plane, there is a gap.  He stopped.  He looked.  He held up his hand in a way that let me know he wanted someone to hold his hand.  I did.  The stewardess was encouraging him to take that big step across the small gap.  He did.  I looked back and asked the mom whether her son spoke English.  Just then he said “Whoosh!”  Recognizable in any language. Then he looked up and realized it wasn’t mom’s hand he was holding.  Lucky mom was right behind us.”

And thus one little boy had a morning that showed everybody around him, through his eyes, that the world is a friendly place.

I can’t wait to go “Whoosh!” next week!

Pin the flag on the donkey
Wednesday October 29th 2008, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

As I mentally pack for my trip before starting the actual packing:Gram\'s flag pin

I inherited this pin from my grandmother. I was startled to see Gov. Palin wearing a replica of it at one point, but I guess it means she can’t tell me I’m not a real American; I’ve got the jewelry to prove my bona fides.  Heh. (What did they do, hand these out at a Republican convention once? I’d love to know the story behind this. Mom? Uncle Bob?)

My late grandfather, as I’ve mentioned before, was a Republican senator, and he amassed an eclectic collection of elephants over his 24 years in office.  When he passed away at 95, each of his grandchildren was told to pick one out and take it home.  I chose a small mostly-roundish handblown lead crystal one, beautifully crafted; note that the tip of its trunk is 4″ high and the little thing weighs over 10 ounces.

Grampa\'s crystal elephantI wrapped it carefully in my knitting that morning to cushion it from harm.  And late in the day, heading for the airport, totally forgot it was in there.

My knitting was of course in my carry-on bag for my flight home; I would never trust my projects to baggage handlers, much less fly without something to occupy me.

This was before 9/11.  The airport screener ran my bag through and freaked, and I thought oh crud: I brought those because they’re not my favorite needles, but I should have remembered they were metal. I tried to reassure her: “It’s just knitting needles.”  She shot me a look of oh you drop dead! that I thought was totally uncalled for, and in her panic, dropped everything and ran for the manager.

Leaving me with free access before me should I happen to care to nonchalantly pick up my bag and stroll away whistling.  Which of course I wasn’t about to do, but…

The manager and the screener came running back.  They started throwing everything out of my bag onto the conveyor helter-skelter.  Given that I was only flying in and back for an overnighter, everything, actually, was in that carry-on, including my underwear, being shaken out and thrown aside during their search.  Thanks, guys.

Then the screener saw the elephant.  She suddenly knew.  It had looked exactly on the screen how she’d been trained to see that a bomb would.  She screeched in relief, grabbing it and holding it high for all the other screeners and the manager to see, starting to sob in relief.

While everybody behind me in line waited for me to repack my delicates.  Joy.

During the flight afterwards, I dropped one of my straights as I was changing rows and it instantly rolled somewhere far behind me in the ascending plane. I never saw it again.

And I never knitted with metal straights again.  Enough was enough.

Booksignings and book sales
Tuesday October 28th 2008, 2:36 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",LYS


1. Stitches East, Saturday, Nov 8th, Lisa Souza’s booth, 2:00.  Lisa had 14 copies left, last I heard, and last year, every single vendor at Stitches East that sold my book had sold out by about noon on Saturday.  I have to tell you, as an author, it was very gratifying to see empty space where the copies had been, in between stacks of other books still there, booth after booth, although my regrets very much for the people who couldn’t find a copy and were disappointed.  If you have a copy already, you might want to bring it.  My plan is to be at the market all day (all afternoon, at least; we’ll see how I do with the jetlag) on Friday and Saturday.  Next week!

2. Kaleidoscope Yarns, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1:00 Friday, Nov 14th. Feel free to buy one there or bring your own. Let’s hope for no snow that day. They currently have it on sale at 20% off and will hold your order for me to sign for you if you’d like.

3. Knitpicks.com is selling my book at 40% off, $14.97 a copy and the potential for free shipping, through this Friday, Oct. 31st.  Yesterday they had it on backorder, but today it’s in stock and ready to go.

Thank you!

Like a kid on a rainy day
Monday October 27th 2008, 7:39 pm
Filed under: Knit

So.  Finished two projects delayed by my flu.  Got halfway today through another one in the lineup.  I took breaks from the knittingknittingknitting (4620 stitches’ worth today–I think I need to get out more) to go check my email, and…

…Oh, wow, cool, Elann has some nice-sounding new yarns!  I want some of THAT and THAT, and THAT‘s one of my favorites, and it would be fun to try THAT and THAT out in my dyepot…  Okay, c’mon, calm down.  And then, hey, even better, there’s this and this!

Hang on. I already have some kid/silk yarn and some merino/silk and some baby alpaca/silk in my stash. And some Handmaiden.  There’s never enough Lisa yarn, but I’ll see her next week at Stitches East (2:00 Saturday. Signing books.  Come!)

There’s nothing like finishing a big project to make my brain want to run and go play with twenty-leven new yarns and ideas impatiently and all of them at once.  Right NOW!

Full speed ahead!
Sunday October 26th 2008, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Knit

One extra-large platter of baby alpaca, served extra rare, coming right up.Kris and Mel\'s handthrown platter

Happiness grows in red flowers
Saturday October 25th 2008, 4:22 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

Kathy yoke Nina main body from \

I showed this awhile ago in its earlier stages.  There was a lull in the knitting with that flu bug.  But now it’s done, blocked, the ends run in, and ready to go.

I wanted a one-off, something unique but familiar.  So I knitted the Kathy shawl through the yoke and from there in the Nina pattern, and I really like how they played together.

I love the arbors in Nina’s done in red: they remind me of the climbing bougainvillea that so surprised me when we arrived in California in March ’87.  We were coming from New Hampshire, where it had been snowing and snowing and SNOWING and snowing, five and a half feet’s worth in 17 days after a whole winter of the stuff.   The kicker was when my little girl wanted to play on the swingset: I looked out the window from the second story and challenged her wryly, “Try to find it first.” You could just make out the top bar.

bougainvillea down the streetThen we arrived here where it was in the middle of springtime, with these gorgeous flowers skipping around fences everywhere in cheerful red and bright fuschia, just an explosion of nature singing “I feel pretty!”

Which, you know, is actually how I’m hoping the recipient will feel when she puts this on.October bougainvillea blossoms

The school book
Thursday October 23rd 2008, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Note the new category.  I wanted to make it easier for people who were curious to find old posts such as about the Pony Express rider‘s daughter–who is still alive–to be able to go look them up.

Reading Sharon Randall‘s Sept 16th column reminded me of this.  A few years ago, one of my sister’s sons had a school assignment: he and his I think fifth-grade classmates each made a book, putting together so many blank pages, and mailed it away, asking that it be forwarded around and then mailed back by a date towards the end of the school year.  Each person it was sent to was asked to write about any particular historical date that they had memories of and might wish to write about and then to pass it on to the next person who would be interested in adding to it.

I quite honestly don’t remember what I wrote.  Having grown up just outside DC, I remember there were a lot of things I debated telling them about:

The announcements crackling badly over the PA system at Seven Locks Elementary School, with Mr Newcomb, the principal, telling us of yet another loss: President Kennedy.  Helen Keller.  Martin Luther King.  Robert Kennedy.

Watching the lunar landing.  Finding out that my little brother‘s new friend at school was Neil Armstrong’s son.  Living where we did, connections such as that were common.

The hitchhikers we passed, as my mom drove me from DC to Peabody Institute in Baltimore for the Maryland State Piano Competition, their thumbs up and signs held high: New Jersey.  Delaware.  Maine.  Asking for a ride for any part of the distance to help them get home after the March on Washington to protest the Vietnam War, hundreds of people along the freeway where it was illegal to hitchhike, but hey, that’s where the cars were, and hitchhiking was the norm in those days.  Not a one was hassled by the cops for it, as far as we could tell.

It’s so different now: when was the last time you saw someone with a thumb up along the side of the road?

The DC mounted police and the protesters at our picnic

But what I do remember is, my brother and my father got that book before I did, and before I passed it along, I photocopied their pages so I could pocket their memories, too.

I’d never heard the story before of how my dad had found out about Pearl Harbor.  Of his being squished down among 49 Christmas trees bumping along in the back of a pickup truck coming out of the forest, doing his part in a Boy Scout fundraiser. (I always pictured the truck white. I have no idea what color it was. I never realized it till I typed this, but, I always just assumed it was.) I could smell the intensity of the needles and the bite of the cold on my face from here as I read Dad’s words.

They were met and stopped by his father, who had raced to where they were to tell them the news: the US, too, was now at war.

Dad’s brothers served, as did Dad.

Mom sent this to the family two years ago, a story of forgiving and reconciliation.

I think that covers the posts that ought to be in the History category so far.

May we pass on a world with good stories for our children to tell.

One last thought, leading to perhaps the point of all this: when my grandfather turned 90, it was the same weekend that my brother got married to a girl in the same city, so there were a lot of family members gathered together.  A cousin prepared a list of questions to pepper Grampa with, and he and Gram and their five children were seated around a table at my aunt’s house, the rest of us playing audience around them, with a tape recorder going and a video camera running.  The questions got Grampa reminiscing and telling stories and it was wonderful.

Eventually the cousin manning the camera announced with chagrin that he’d run out of videotape.  We of the cousins generation watched from the sides with amazement as our parents all visibly relaxed around that table and started elbowing and teasing each other like the teenagers we’d never before seen them act like and started telling the REAL stories on each other now, and hey, do you remember Fran’s pony?

There is history in our older loved ones.  If you at all can, go grab something to record it with and go ask the questions that will help a part of them last forever.

While the aunts and uncles were laughing and telling on each other, the cousin with the videorecorder turned to my husband and whispered, “The audiotape’s still running.”

(Edited to add, found one more, about Abraham Lincoln and my ancestor.)

Wednesday October 22nd 2008, 1:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Thank you, everybody. I especially loved the image of the angels blowing on their fingertips.  If you feel so inclined, if you could say a prayer to help speed Kyle along his way on his recovery, and for his mom, I’d be most appreciative; thanks.

Here’s what happened:


Friend’s new skateboard (how do you stop this thing again?)


The doctors couldn’t believe he’d survived.

It makes me wonder once again at my own very existence and that of my siblings and cousins: my dad and his brothers used to have summer jobs as caddies at a golf course atop Lake Tahoe and ride their bikes straight down the mountain home to Carson City, Nevada.  Dad told me this while we were driving that exact spot, and looking down that mountain, I was speechless and he was chuckling and allowing as how yeah, it wasn’t the brightest move.  He described the speeds they would hit by the time they got to the bottom and how very fortunate they were that a car never appeared at the wrong place or wrong time or that a rock never got in the roadway, because they were going far too fast to safely turn to the side.

But I have to add: in my own experiences, the people I’ve encountered who went through major traumas or illnesses in their youth generally grew up to be deeply compassionate individuals who are a great blessing to society.  A heck of a way to get there, and I have no doubt Kyle would have done just fine in that regard without this; he’s a good soul.

Take a deep breath
Tuesday October 21st 2008, 3:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Two weeks ago, I called the doctor’s to ask about getting a flu shot, with the gut feeling I needed it *now*, knowing I’d never pass the screening questions at the drug store–they won’t take the liability.  The nurse who answered the phone didn’t know me from Adam and couldn’t be moved, permanent chemo or not; one week’s wait for an appointment, no cutting in line.  I stewed a little and debated simply showing up and telling them I would leave only when I got that shot; had I known what was coming, I would have.  I should have.  I did get my shot, but by then I’d been exposed to the flu three days before.

The doctor yesterday prescribed me some Happy No-Cough Sleeping Juice and offered a chest X-ray, and I told him let’s wait till we’re sure I need it; no pneumonia yet, but he made me promise to run back if it got any worse at all.

I was feeling a little sorry for myself.

Till we got a phone call this morning, and I have nothing! to complain about whatsofreakingever.

Imagine a fight between a car and a kid’s unprotected body that totals the car.  Miraculously, no brain damage.  He will heal. It’s simply going to take time.

I’m sending a card to the kid’s mom. She’s already got one of my shawls from when her husband slipped into a coma this past summer.  And once again I passionately wish I could knit cures.

He turned it down
Monday October 20th 2008, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Life

Joansie’s comment sparked this memory:

I was at a gas station, filling up, in a really good mood on a beautiful day.  One of those wonderful moments when your heart feels open to the whole wide world.

A young man roared up to the opposite tank: sports car, windows tinted dark and nearly pulsing outwards from the rap coming from his speakers–you get the picture.  A decibel level designed to say, Pay attention to me!, with the added subtext for anyone who’s ever parented a teenager of, Pretty please? Or, (defiantly), I’ll make you!

As he got out of his car, I caught his eye, and chuckling, yanked my hearing aids out of my ears and held them out in front of me. Thinking of some of the loudspeakers I’d sat in front of in my youth that had contributed a small bit to my hearing loss, I told him, “Just don’t make it too loud or you end up with these.”  Then I put the aids back in, which is something that never looks like a particularly graceful motion–push the hair out of the way, twist just so into the ear canal, hit the button in your ear to turn the thing back on, push a little further in to tighten up the fit in the ear canal, look like a total dweeb, know it, and laugh.

I was not the cliche of the white lady grabbing her purse close to her in the presence of a young black man; I just had something funny to share with him in the moment and a sense of delight that his music had provided a way of coming together, of being glad to have gotten a chance to meet.

He actually reached back in his car and turned the sound way down with a smile back. I couldn’t believe it.  And we continued on our day and on our way.

Let’s march to a different drummer than that last one
Sunday October 19th 2008, 11:51 am
Filed under: Life

Thank you everybody for the input and help; I think the biggest reason I didn’t knit yesterday was I just wasn’t up to it. Today’s a good deal better.

Now.  It’s much easier to learn something or remember something if it’s set to music.  And it’s much easier to maintain a rhythm at something if there’s music going; many a store has installed muzak to get people to slow down and look around more at the merchandise.  Or, in the case of some stores I know of that cater to teenagers, loud, edgy music to drive their parents away so the kids can look more cool, ie be seen hanging out there while definitely not with Mommy nor Daddy.

I like to knit to music, and the tempo often matches without my even noticing.  When I’ve got a heavy deadline looming, I have a tendency to pick out albums with more verve and energy to them.

My apologies in advance for the earworms I’m about to inflict on you.  Someone somewhere, who must have been a teenager in the ’70’s too, was teaching a CPR class and came up with a way to demonstrate how to aim for the right number of compressions per minute a rescuer should be doing.  Which is 103, ideally.  You ready?

“I. I. I. I’m staying alive, staying alive.”

Okay.  Well, it’s the right idea for your heart attack victim anyway. This, though, not so much: (using *!* to represent sharp drum beats)

“*!* *!* *!* Another one bites the dust!  *!* *!* *!*”

(With thanks to John, RN, for the information.)

No, no, don’t touch
Saturday October 18th 2008, 7:54 pm
Filed under: Knit

I was going to take and post pictures of the blocked red baby alpaca shawl today to show off before I mail it.  But. I did warn Mel and Kris that I’d woken up with a cold yesterday, and they decided it was worth the risk and came anyway. I hope nobody catches this from me.  My fever and I aren’t touching the knitting today, although that teal project’s got a deadline breathing down my neck.

Anyone know how long bacteria and viruses can live on a dry surface?

I could use days like this more often
Friday October 17th 2008, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Friends

Wow. What an afternoon!

Before Stitches East last year, I started looking for a website for my old high school; it was our 30th anniversary, and I was curious to see if there might be a reunion, since I was going to be flying East anyway.   Which is part of how, months later, my old classmate and friend Elizabeth and I happened to stumble across each other.

Mel and Kris\'s pottery, Elizabeth\'s cria spun upWho would have thought… She’s now an alpaca farmer in Colorado.  And when I told her how much I have a thing for baby alpaca yarn, she gifted me with these two hanks from one of her babies, complete with a picture of it. Oro’s Cocoa Puff. Cool!

And then!  I got to show the yarn off to Kris and Mel, who fondled it and oohed and aahed: they were in the area for a show at Half Moon Bay, and had phoned and asked if they could drop by.  COULD they??!  Ohmygoodnessyes!

And then they surprised me with this beautiful serving tray they’d made me.  I was already in I-don’t-deserve-this mode.  At least I was able to do something back this time; Kris had forgotten her cane, and I had a spare that worked.  I showed her how the crooked shape of the top of it was good for leaning your chin on from a sitting position to embarrass your teenagers into hurrying up when they’re taking too long shopping.  They guffawed.

My husband came home early from work to get to see them; I served chocolate and mangoes and we all swapped stories and told tales and laughed for several hours till they really had to go. Time to set up their booth over by the ocean.  If you’re going, tell them hi again from me.  And thank you.

Concert-Tina at Knit Night
Thursday October 16th 2008, 11:25 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",LYS

Concert scarf pattern, shawl-ified.  Yarn by Tina.  Swirl effect by NathaniaOoh, cool, Mommy!.  Smiles by little Ellie to everybody she can see to wave hi at (unless you lean in too close, in which case she wants her mommy only, which is totally normal at nine months).

Nathania’s outfit and the print in Ellie’s are the same shade of lavendar, and it always cracks me up: they always match. Just like I used to dress my babies in clothes the same colors as the ones I had on that day, every day, without noticing for the longest time that I was doing that.  Even after I did notice, still, most often I’d be halfway through the morning before I would realize that I’d done it again.  It was as normal and natural to do as singing.  Or cracking bad puns.

(Edited to add the answer to Joyce’s question up here: the Concert Scarf is a 12+6 lace pattern +6 edge stitches. I started the (where are my notes I was sure I wrote which one down) one of the shawls in “Wrapped in Comfort” that had a 6+1 lace pattern in the yoke, and then since 12+6+6=24, fudged it by I think I added one stitch to each edge.  I did the edges of the Concert Scarf pattern at the beginning and ending of each row, with the repeating part over and over between.  Nathania and her husband met in a singing group, so I wanted that pattern in her shawl.)