Knitting for civil discourse in Congress, and a story
Does anyone else find themselves wishing they could knit hats for everybody in Egypt? I wish and hope the best for them and thank them for their peaceful efforts; they are representing themselves well to the world. I’m holding my breath and fervently hoping they’ll get to do so in their government too.
We are so blessed.
Here at home, there is now a Ravelry group at http://www.ravelry.com/groups/warm-hats-not-hot-heads for the campaign to knit hats for our Congresspeople and there will be a Facebook group soon.Â If anyone feels so inclined, please, feel free, spread the word on your blog or your knitting group or wherever. If you knit a hat for your congressperson, please shoot an email to Ellen, here if you would; we’re hoping for Feb. 28th as a deadline to get them all shipped by, en masse would be great but if you want to sooner, more power to you. Sending it to your representative’s local office works well, in person even better; the whole idea is to make it feel as personal as possible to them.
Those who tell Ellen so she can put it on her spreadsheet, by whatever moniker you want for yourself there, will be the ones I’ll be able to know about for sure: because when this is all done, I told her that as my thank you I’d like to draw a name and send out an autographed copy of “Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls” to that knitter, wishing I could do it for everybody. I know, I don’t need to bribe anybody, so many people are already simply diving in and doing this without feeling the need to tell about it, but I’d like to be able to do something by way of thanks to those who do.
Ellen and I talked on the phone tonight, and someone she knew had gone from, I could never knit for…!, to, I need to knit for them. Don’t I. Yes.
And so I told her the story of a nursing assistant in the hospital during my first severe Crohn’s flare in ’03 who was just an angry person, consistently and bewilderingly mean to her patients–just angry. I wondered why on earth, at that time of all times, I had to be stuck dealing with her. Her accent was thick, my brain equally so in my illness on top of my hearing loss; we were not a good match.
And then a few days into this I found myself wondering what it must be like to be her. Or what got her that way.Â What is it like at home for her? Where is her family, what are they like?
That stopped me, and I said a prayer for her: not completely willingly, and apologizing to God for that, but this much at least I could try to do. Please bless her? (So I don’t have to?)
The next time she walked in my hospital room, though, what happened was definitely not sweetness and light: I beat her to it and immediately snapped at her. The one time she had done nothing to deserve it, I just didn’t want her in my room just then, I’d had enough.
And she, instead of yelling back or defending herself, suddenly looked deeply sad. She spun on her heel and was gone.
I felt TERRIBLE. That was so not what I had prayed for, my stars!
The next time she walked in the room it was by coincidence a step behind when her boss did, a nurse who was one of my favorites, and I grabbed my chance: I said to the woman, in front of her boss, “Thank you.”
(Say what?! on her face.)
“You came in here and I snapped your head off and you were kind to me. I did not deserve that. Thank you.” Because I knew that for her, that was the best she could have done and she did it.
After she left I said to her boss, “I’m so glad I got to say that to her in front of you.”
And the boss, a dear woman, answered with a glance to the door to make sure we were alone, “Me too!”
That nursing assistant completely changed. The next time she came in I honestly didn’t recognize her, her face was so different. She looked radiant! She had finally seen herself through someone else’s eyes in a better light.
I later knitted a lace stole in the boss’s favorite color and several more things for quite a few more people there; and I knitted a hat in case I might see that nursing assistant, whose name I never did know–she’d tended to keep her badge turned over, I always guessed so that people wouldn’t be able to complain about her by name.
I didn’t see her but she saw me down the hall when I came back for that visit. She ran down the hall and she *threw* her arms around me with great emotion. She had no idea yet about the hat. No language barriers. Friends, in the deepest sense of the word; she wept, and I knew then that what I had done had meant everything to her.
I said to Ellen, Now, can you imagine if I had NOT made her anything while I was handing out my handknits? Thank heavens I did. Thank heavens I knit that hat.
Ellen said, “It made all the difference to you, too, then, didn’t it?”
Oh you bet. Oh, honey. It was one of the most important things I ever made.
Count on it
If I type fast enough I might be able to get back to the needles in time to finish that third, last, pink sparkly cashmere hat tonight. The yarn is almost gone and the rows are almost done.
Pinch a finch
A house finch (ironic, that), was probably artfully isolated from its flock and was fleeing the Cooper’s hawk at full speed when it hit the window.Â Boom! It died instantly.
I turned at the sound, one I rarely hear anymore, but my motion startled the hawk out of its lunch and I caught just a glimpse of the banded tail as it went off through the merest opening in the trees. Mad flying skillz: I haz them.
Oh well, it won’t have to expend much energy to retrieve its meal at the pick-up window, I thought.
Says me. The squirrel didn’t get the memo. I saw it dashing up my tree with its fast food carry-out a few minutes later, running as fast as it could as far as it could to get away from anything that might steal its happy meal with the prize inside.
Yes, they do eat birds, it’s the catching them that’s why you just don’t see it. It continued far, far down the telephone wire as I watched, outraged, thinking, you don’t even live here and you steal my birds’ food? I mourned the little red finch.
That did it. I fled. If I’m getting ticked off at the wildlife for being what they are it’s time to put me around people and friends and take a deep breath from everything that has nothing to do with squirrels or birds–Purlescence, here I come.
What a relief.Â I plunked down on the floor there, trying to keep out of the stream of sunlight from the door, grabbed the yarn Kaye and Sandi had gifted me with on Thursday, and cast on.
Pamela’s granddaughter, age 3, smiled at me and waved hi shyly. Totally charmed me.
It felt like a long time since I’d knit a lace shawl. It felt so good. Something familiar, something new. Kidsilk Night–never worked with it before–with Alpaca Fino, slightly lighter, making the silk look even shinier, the combination Sandi’s idea. I’m not a glitter person but this project could change my mind.
The yoke is finished now and it’s one of those moments where you look at your knitting and think wow, have I ever made anything this pretty before?
And here’s the funny thing: it’s gray, smog gray.Â It’s not my color.Â And yet. There have been a few times when I’ve knitted something whose color I normally didn’t like but that I knew that the person it was for did, that while I knitted it with them in my mind, wrapping wool around wood for them personally with each stitch, it was the most beautiful thing in the world to me then. And to them, too, when they got it.
But did I want to knit up the leftover yarn afterwards, all that oh-so-beautiful yarn I’d been loving?
Nope. No real appeal. Totally gone from me the moment the project was given away, back to just not my color. But for the time that it needed to be, it was the best one in the world to my eyes and in my hands.
As this is. I can’t wait.
(Ed. to add by the light of the morning: it’s dove gray, the color of the bird of peace.)
The flower will open up next month, and next year, and
Our family was once on a tour of the White House when the guide (gotta love his question) pointed out the ancient but still-sharp-looking Eagle rug.
I told my aunt, who was with us, that certain species of moss nearly became extinct because people had so coveted it for the color back in the day; it grows back so slowly.
I was reminded of that today.
At the grocery store, I ran into an old friend of my husband’s, who recognized me but I didn’t him till he called out my name–I recognized his voice. Ah yes–one of the other ham radio/disaster services volunteers, how are you?Â He was amazed to see me out and about and looking so well, when just a year ago, who’d have thought…
…It’s been two, actually, I told him. Hard for me to believe it too. I wanted to add, and isn’t it wonderful amazing glorious to be alive on a fine day like today!
Later, the phone rang. It was one of those calls that is the price of caring about people who happen to be mortal.
The first of my outside amaryllises sent up a bud today, my Dancing Queen, one that, going by the book, I should have tossed two years ago when it contracted red virus; it wasn’t supposed to survive anyway. But it just kept on doing what it does despite my absolute neglect during my months of being so ill, and there will be flowers again this year in a month or so.Â I pulled it inside so the squirrels wouldn’t give it a taste test.
And inside the pot was a good thick covering of healthy, green moss. Thriving. I very much like it.
Later, a Bewick’s wren was bopping around at my window, its beak inches from my nose at the glass as it glanced upwards. Somehow, when I need a moment like that, it comes.
Then I picked up my needles at last, cast on, and got past the brim on the third and last pink sparkly cashmere hat: I will finish it and give it to someone who’s going to love it and then, that yarn will be gone.
And it will be time to let a new one dance in my hands.
Knit more love more
(Picture this line as the ticker tape streaming above the blog: the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads campaign has more knitters. Yay, and thank you!
And second, copies of Wrapped in Comfort are available at Purlescence at the cover price+shipping. Hey, I’m not good at this marketing thing but I have to try a little occasionally. )
Back to the blog.
To quote my sister quoting my mom on the phone today on the subject of reading: “I can abstain but I cannot be moderate.” We had a good laugh over that one because it’s so true; a good book is for getting totally immersed in. Good yarn, too, definitely.
Speaking of which–it was knit night tonight. Last week, Kaye exclaimed emphatically, “Oh *cool*!” at the pink sparkly hat that was going to someone else, turning it over and around in her hands to see how I’d made it.
Well hey, I know how to respond to that.Â So I went home and knitted a second and you know whose head it stayed on the rest of this evening. That was way too fun, and there’s one more hat’s worth of that Classic Elite Intrigue;Â I offered to give it back, since it was their yarn to begin with, and they just waved me away.
And even more: they handed me another bag with another murmur of You’ll know what to do with this, another explanation that this too just hadn’t worked for them personally.
And I instantly did know. I asked permission and got an Oh, perfect! in response.
Just let me catch up a little here first.Â I am definitely not abstaining. But my limited number of arms and the brain cells it would take to keep track of all the multiple sets of projects they’d be holding forces me to moderate the pace at least somewhat.
Back to the front of the line
And another hat got finished today.Â I’m hoping our Senators and House Representatives have plenty to choose from by the time we all get done with Warm Hats Not Hot Heads. Shoot a note over to Ellen at the twinset.us blog when you get done with yours, if you would, or let me know if I can for you.
I want to knit at least an extra hat for the Afghans For Afghans basket at Stitches West, too, to feel like I’m taking care of the truly needy as well.Â But I needed a break to work on something not-hat for a little while. A little variety.
There’s the qiviut waiting; I’m trying to use it as incentive and motivator–what I’d had in the queue ahead of it was being obstinate andÂ I wanted it done. It’s some Abstract Fibers Supersock that I’d started on, gorgeous stuff, but I’d put it down while my kids were here and had tucked a note in the bag saying I’d goofed on row x and would fix it in the morning.
Did I fix it? I have no idea.Â Which absolutely will not do.Â I knew it had to go: it is a new pattern, therefore it must be done perfectly, end of story. But it looked so much prettier knitted up, they always do, because then you can really see how those colors can show themselves off.
Ripped. Totally. Gone. I finally did it. And looking at it with the yarn laying there in kinks it suddenly hit me that, look at that, you know, I could… I did like this one hat and, you know, I could riff and do it like…
Bam. Totally new approach. Totally new take on what I was going to do. And that could only have had a chance to hit my brain by my having knit something for someone else that was so different from my usual–because I’d wanted to make them no more than just a quick little hat.
Friendfish and duckfriend
Five o’clock at Trader Joe’s. I usually avoid grocery stores at that hour, but there I was.
And there was an old friend; she saw me first. Hi! We talked a moment, I did the grandma stereotype and whipped out a couple of Parker pictures, we laughed. There’s nothing like an unexpected moment together to take the drudgery out of the shopping.
And then, as we chatted again at checkout a few minutes later, there was a young mom with a toddler and he was quickly going into escalation mode.
My friend smiled at them both, remembering when her teenagers were that size, saying that they get tired and hungry at this hour (as in, it’s okay); meantime, I reached over with a yellow-with-brown-stripes duck fingerpuppet.
The woman looked at me, gobsmacked, questioning…? No, I told her, I didn’t make it–though it is handknit. A women’s cooperative in Peru does these.
And now the man behind her in the line was smiling.
Another young mom with another toddler was next up behind A., and that little girl with the most adorable curls was as happy as could be. That mom helped us help the stressed mom by admiring the ducky to help the little boy be charmed by sheer peer pressure. (Totally worked, too.)
So out came another one. A striped green fish!
Oh you don’t have to do that! the second mom exclaimed in surprise.
And then I got to watch those two playing happily with it while A. finished up–and now everybody around us was happy.
The power of the fingerpuppet (not to mention A.!)
Maybe I should make a hat with a pocket and tuck one inside.
As Parker steals the show
Parker’s being Kinneared.
I bought a single skein of Arctic Musk Ox Blend in the 2-ply a few months ago, undyed just to get a peek at what was underneath before I bought any more, and it’s been my carry-around project for awhile: small, mindless knitting, easy to stuff in a purse, and laceweight, taking extra stitches to work up in case I got stuck somewhere for awhile. (Always a possibility when your minivan is older in car-years than you are.)
But it was easy to feel it was never done, so today I simply stayed with it till it was finished, all but the blocking–18 out of the 22g. I actually had some left over.
What would you do with 4g of qiviut-blend laceweight?
Although, I have to give J. credit. She’s an old and much-missed friend who now lives back East and was in town yesterday, so a bunch of us got together and caught up for old times’ sake. J., I noticed, was careful to enjoy both the small crowd as a whole and individual time with each one of us.
I pulled out my needles and showed off. J. thought it was just so pretty that I came away feeling like how could I not have had this done and finished and ready to go?
A little water now for it to relax in the pool by, lay it out on a beach-sized white towel, let the amaryllis come play palm tree to complete the scene, and it will be.
Warm Hats follow-up and warning
I got a note and I followed it up with a question to my cousin, who’d worked for his dad’s campaign: and the answer was, if it arrived in the mail, the hat would go straight in the trash, he was afraid.
So it would need to be delivered at a meet-your-Congressperson event. That’s not news I want to deliver, but it seems to be a much better idea than trusting the mail and wondering. And it does get the message across on an even more personal level.
Braced for it
Sunday January 23rd 2011, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Friends
My friend E. spoke in church today. About braces.
She needed braces as a kid, she wanted braces and was all excited about it till the day came that she actually got those braces. Hey! They hurt! Nobody said it was going to hurt! And not just for that first day, either!Â She said she cried, she told her mom she wanted them off, and you can just picture the rest of the story: being reassured she would have a beautiful smile when it was over, retorting that she didn’t want a beautiful smile, not if she had to go through this no make it stop I don’t want them.
And now? She’s one of the smilingest people I know. Her mom was right.
You know the point she was trying to make about our Father’s wisdom.Â And of course, life puts real teeth into the analogy.
It isn’t always easy. I listened to her while remembering two years ago–remembering my decision to try to find meaning in the experience by praying silently for each person who came through my hospital door and what a vast difference it made in our interactions, even though those doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists and wheelchair pushers and the list goes on and on never knew. But I did. And then I had to live up to the request I’d made on their behalf.
We are meant to learn, to grow, to find ways to serve others better and with more compassion through each experience we have whatever our background, and, best of all, to come out in the end smiling.
Warm Hats Not Hot Heads
Sample letter, feel free to use or not when you send yours in:
This hat was hand knit for you by me, ____; I live in ___. I wanted to show you that I appreciate the work you do for those of us whom you serve in the House/Senate.
I knitted it as part of a campaign among knitters for Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads. We are from many political backgrounds. We want those who engage in angry and even vicious public rhetoric to stop speaking for us in those ways. We want civility in Congress.Â We are choosing to give hours of our time silently to be able to give you a visible, tangible, heartfelt symbol of our desire for respecting and honoring one another within our government–and to thank you for doing your best.
Each stitch is individual. Each stitch depends on every other stitch within that hat being present for it to be able to do its job where it is of creating comfort and warmth.
I wish you the best in your work and thank you for your service to us all.
(And then the imp in me is tempted to add, It’s not all about running…)
Ed. to add: Ellen at twinset.us is keeping tally on who’s getting one/who needs one.
Qiviut from a Cottage in Canada
I am nearly done with hat #2 for my representatives in Congress. And my order for a few more hats’ worth of the DBNY King George came today.
But oh, the other thing that came.Â We’ve been waiting for Customs to let it through, and finally–I called “Thank you!” after the mailwoman this afternoon, took it inside and opened carefully.
Qiviut. A long wide lace 90/10 qiviut/merino scarf knitted by Lorraine at Cottage Craft Angora and a large skein of the Taiga for me to go knit with, too, her thanks for my naming her colorways.
I put that scarf on and instantly never ever wanted to take it off. I–
–Okay, here’s what it reminds me of: we were remodeling our house years ago, had been for months, and there were a couple of guys working away who had seen me day in day out in my jeans being a mom to my kids. Ordinary life.
Then came the day I had to go out in a black dress with a white Battenberg lace collar, very stylish then, very formal–and as I walked past them they dropped their tools to their sides, speechless. They had no idea I could look like that. I had no idea I looked that different like that.
That scarf completely one-ups that dress.Â It is soft, it is warm, it is gorgeous, it matches what I happen to have on today, and I feel incredible with it on.Â I was just gobsmacked all over again. Lorraine knitted this for me!, even if she didn’t know it was going to be for me at the time she knitted it. Still–she milled the fibers, she dyed the yarn, she knitted it on fine needles, all with the intent of making someone out there happy in the world.
And how. Wow.
I hope… May our congresspeople appreciate the thought and work going into the hats being knitted for them and may they, too, totally love what they get.
I know, I know, it’s snowing over there
Thursday January 20th 2011, 7:33 pm
Filed under: Wildlife
Love the birds along the marshlands, the name not quite as much; if the population were ever to crash, would you call it no re-egrets?
On my way to the post office today, going down a frontage road that runs alongside the Baylands, a sudden movement caught my eye and I glanced over, glad to be alone on the road.
Was it a courtship display?Â There was a tall white egret, swooping over in an arc down to the water: wings stretched wide, a burst of sunlight in its feathers, it looked for all the world as if it were doing a cartwheel.
Hat pattern to knit for our Congresspersons
Here you go, and I’ll try to get a better photo of it in the sunlight. This is what I finished for my local House representative, a woman, in our knitters’ campaign to ask Congress to speak to and of each other with civility and a sense of decorum: for we knit softly and carry a big bag of sticks.
At the brim: a line of cables leaning to the right, a line of cables leaning to the left, a purl stitch dividing them, but when they’re relaxed, the purl disappears into the fabric and they come together in an interlacing effect as one.
I figure that’s pretty representative of what I’m trying to convey to them.
Congressperson hat pattern, version 1.
(Note: version two would be to use a heavier yarn in, say, a dark color for a male recipient and only pick up 2/3 of the stitches as noted below for a beanie effect above the brim. It would be fewer rows upwards, too, thus faster to make; I wanted this one to have extra height and width above the brim to go with that knit/purl pattern for a slouch effect, and to protect my congresswoman’s hair from being matted down by allover tightness.)
Yarn: worsted weight. I used Misti Baby Alpaca Royal (apparently now discontinued), 86 g out of two 50g skeins, a very soft, very drapey yarn, but very fine and thin to my hands for worsted weight.
No gauge swatch necessary, although a measuring tape pretty much is.
Needles: I used US size 6, 4mm.
Cast on 17 stitches. You can use a temporary cast-on, or later just pick up the stitches of the side of the strip; I found it easier to do the temporary cast on.
Row 1 and all wrong side rows: Purl 2, k2, p4, k1, p4, k2, p2.
Row 2: K2, p2, k4, p1, k4, p2, k2.
Row 4: k2, p2, slip two stitches onto a dpn and hold in back of work, k2, knit the two stitches on the dpn, p1, slip two stitches onto a dpn and hold in front of work, k2, k2 from dpn, p2, k2.
Repeat these four rows till the strip is the length you want to go around the head. Hat size chart, again, is here.Â Remember to take into account that the strip will have a bit of give to it; on the other hand, it will, if you make the hat long enough, be folded up over another layer, taking up just a little of the give. On this particular hat, the cable part can be folded up as high as a person wants to go as there is no right or wrong side above the cabled strip.
I did 25 repeats of my cable pattern to get what looked like 18.5″ sitting there but easily stretched to 21″. If it’s a little loose on the person, they can always just fold the cabled part up higher.Â End with a cabling row.
From here, I undid the temporary cast-on, putting those stitches on one needle and the live stitches at the other end of the strip on the other needle and did a three-needle bindoff to work the short edges of the strip together; then, I picked up the stitches around the top of the now-circle.
For a standard hat, you pick up 2/3 of the stitches. For this one, wanting a slouchy hat that wouldn’t compress a coiffe, and given that I had a good drapey yarn that matched that concept, I picked up all of the stitches: 100 stitches. (Remember, 25 repeats times four rows.)
I knit five rows.
Then I purled five rows.
I repeated those ten rows till I had, facing me, four sets of purl rows alternating with five sets of knit rows.
Row 1: P2, p2tog, p1, repeat across row.
Row 2: Purl.
Row 3: P1, p2tog, p1, repeat across row.
Row 4: Purl.
Row 5: P2tog, p1, repeat across row.
Row 6: Knit.
Rows 7 and 9: K2tog across row.
Rows 8 and 10: Knit.
Row 11: P2tog.
Row 12: Purl.
Row 13: P2tog.
And then I think I did one more p2tog row–I ended up with five stitches and cast those off. I wove the end in a little and added a “Created with Pride by” and then my name on the tag on the inside of the hat and wove the strand in just a little more.
Note: When I knitted the light pink hat with the braided cable out of the King George yarn from DBNY, I picked up all the stitches as well: cables tend to shrink the size of the fabric by a third, roughly, so picking up all rather than 2/3 of the stitches worked–but the cables are slightly stretchedÂ when the hat is worn, at least in that pattern on my needles.
And when I knitted this bright pink one, the hat that started this whole thing, I picked up 2/3 of the stitches and made it shorter than the red one is because it had no extra width for a slouch effect; on the head, it simply comes out as knit/purl stripes.
Here’s another shot.
The yarn was a gift from Sandi at Purlescence: awhile ago, to my great surprise, she handed me a bag of this cashmere-with-sparkles in a heavy worsted and told me that I would know the right thing to do with it.
I don’t know if any of my three Congresswomen want bright pink sparklies. What I do know, is, playing with that yarn got me familiar enough with this pattern that I could go play with it comfortably and offer up my own version in the pattern above in hopes that others run with it, or with whatever pattern they like, and help to create a little peaceableness in the halls of our Congress.
And one other thought: I want our representatives to know that people care about them personally as they go about their work serving us all.
No, I couldn’t wait, I went stash-diving and came up with some Misti Baby Alpaca Royal from a Webs sale and my first hat is into the second skein now.
I’ve been reminded that Talking Heads as the name of a group has been claimed already.
How about… Per caps we could say…
Making Headlines. (Except I really don’t want to.Â So not my style. Not to typecaps myself as a new grandmother, but I just want to quietly knit away over here.)
Creating a vast left- and right-win caps-here-I-see.
A mesh lace and twists pattern could become The New Cables Net-work.
Hat-y days are hair again!
Cap, Hat-R-Us for the Outer Banks knitters. Over here, if Dianne Feinstein, my senator who lives in San Francisco, has a spinnable dog (or wouldn’t mind my using a skein already at hand from my wheel), one could theoretically make her a cabled Fisherman’s Woof.
I know, there are grad(u)ations of cap and groan in that list, but what else can we come up with for the newscapsters.
By the way, for those who don’t yet do dpns or two-circ knitting, you can still make a hat. The easiest way would be to knit a strip about as wide as you’d want the brim to be; remember that it will stretch a little lengthwise once on. It can be plain stockinette, ribbed, cabled, mosaic, anything you want to try out.Â Again, head sizes are listed here.
Then you’ve got your measurement as to how wide to make it and that’s all the swatching you have to do. Cast off the strip, don’t break the yarn, and pick up 2/3 of the stitches down the long side. Knit it back and forth to the length desired (checking Bev’s chart again) including decreasing stitches spaced out across the top, maybe alternating plain rows with decreasing rows. Or not. You can pick up the stitches along both sides and do a three-needle bindoff if you don’t like sewing.
Let’s get these delivered by the end of February, sooner being better; warm up their heads inside and out while it’s cold!
Tomorrow I’ll post the pattern I’m knitting.