Let’s change the world
Tuesday January 18th 2011, 12:38 am
Filed under: Family,Knit,Politics

This started with a stray comment between us but the idea has only grown more insistent.

In response to the shootings in Tucson, Arizona,  Ellen and I have been talking about what we could do to make manifest the idea that we want our Congresspeople to deal civilly with one another. To hear one another. To talk things out. To not do what will play on the news the loudest but to do what’s best for all of the American people the best they know how.

How could we personally help make that actually happen?

My uncle Bob Bennett of Utah, in his remarks to his colleagues on leaving the Senate last month, discussed the general philosophy of the Republican party vs the Democratic party re the role of government,  and then pronounced, “Both sides are right.”

This is a man who had been rated one of the most conservative members of the Senate (and with whom I often disagreed politically).  But he’d also had real-life experience: as a homeowner trying not to lose his house at one point. As a former business owner who knew that for businesses to succeed, their workers had to have the peace of mind of knowing that they could have adequate medical care should something happen to them or their families.

He said, and I’m paraphrasing to the best of my memory, It’s the meeting in the middle to negotiate our differences that is where we do our best work. None of us is supposed to get everything all our way in any other part of life, and certainly not in politics where we are working with people with completely different life experiences.

So here’s what Ellen and I are hoping for.

Never mind, I’ll let her tell it, she says it better than I do.

From Ellen:


“Here is what I think I’d like to do.

Invite any and all knitters who would like to join in to knit a hat (sizing information here) for their own congressional representative, whether Senate or House.  Ask them to email me, perhaps send a photo or link to a Ravelry project, and let me know to whom a hat has been sent.  I can track who is being covered (literally!) and if anyone wants to knit more than one hat, they can send them to me and I’ll handle mailing them to a rep who hasn’t received one yet.

I’d like to write a standard note to go with it, to which any knitter could add her own personal message.  I’m also thinking how cool it would be to design a hat for it, but I am also telling myself to keep it manageable.  (Her husband) suggested that the hats be purple, a blending of red and blue, but I told him I want them to be worn!

This doesn’t rule out hats for the victims, which is also a good idea and could be a use for some of the extra hats, though I still don’t know how to go about getting the names or how to deliver them.  After thinking on it all week, though, what is really compelling me is to highlight the need for civil discourse even over things we disagree on.”


From me: I would plead that the hats be of a material you’d want to wear yourself. I want each recipient to feel they are being treated with the great respect we all mutually deserve.  For whatever it’s worth, I can vouch for the fact that the Plymouth King George (how’s that for an ironic name!) baby alpaca/merino/cashmere blend on sale for four bucks a ball (for the moment, at least) will make an absolutely soft, warm cabled hat using two balls; I just knitted one. Three balls should I think get you two plain beanies.  All in a day’s work.

I’m not trying to shill for DBNY, I’m just trying to convey the idea that it doesn’t have to be a lot of money for it to be something nice if you don’t have something ready in your stash. Support your local yarn store, too. However it works for you.

We want each individual to be glad they got one–and wouldn’t it be cool to have Congresspeople swapping around with each other to get just what they want? Let the cheerful negotiating begin!

I just ordered two more balls in, yes, Ellen’s husband, purple.

Can you just picture the photo-op we could all make happen? Knitters can change the world. We can set the tone. In wild color combinations or subdued: as the song says, We’ll give them something to talk about.

You in too?

(ed. to add: What should we call this campaign? So far I’ve come up with Talking Heads.)

Late birth-day cake
Sunday January 16th 2011, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

While we wait for the blueberry cake to cool…  (The springform pan was lined with parchment. )

Meantime, here’s Parker at three weeks, ie around his due date of 1/11/11. Clearly he needs more handknit socks and hats in every colorway you could imagine.

And I’m suddenly remembering Dr. M, our family’s ENT, looking at my then-baby younger son, who, as soon as he could manage it, always took his socks off and put them on his hands instead; the good doctor noted with bemusement, “He’s going to have a hard time walking on those when he gets older.”

It’s okay, John (not shown) got to meet and hold his new nephew last Sunday and I don’t think his feet have touched the ground since.

Technical knitting stuff
Sunday January 16th 2011, 12:23 am
Filed under: Knit

Remembering fondly a sweater my mom knit me when I was a kid that was close to the color of this hat, that I refused to outgrow, that I kept wearing till Mom finally hid it so she wouldn’t be embarrassed to have me be seen in public in it…

This idea from Knitty’s Coronet hat where you knit a cabled strip, join, and then go up from there? Version number three.  I’ve been having a lot of fun playing with the idea.

Pictures later, but, you know, if you make the body of the hat in a stretchy pattern, you can pick up those stitches and continue *without* joining the ends of the strip, simply leave them flapping around down there, and then, go back later and crochet them together (as I did). What you have, then, is a hat that can be made small for a child and then, if it’s their most most favorite hat ever and they never ever want to outgrow it–but they d0–you can go back and undo that bit of crocheting that you made sure not to overdo the job of running the ends in on. You might want to crochet a row down the ends of the strip to neaten them up a little. (I didn’t.)

There. You’ve got a hat with a brim that doesn’t have to be folded up anymore, thus adding length, you’ve got sideways stretch from the pattern you used above, and you’ve got collar-ish points at the back of the hat where the strip ends separate in a V .  If you decide to make that the front of the hat, make sure to do a jogless join at the start of each round as you’re going up.

(Don’t you love instructions that tell you what to do in the middle at the end?)

Friday January 14th 2011, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

My needles are suddenly brimming with hats. Their crowning achievement.

Okay, so I ended this one by taking a small crochet hook, starting at the second-from-end stitch, and chain-stitching a length and then running the end in to make a loop. Makes a nice little colors-of-the-forest halo for the baby, don’t you think?

While it’s all carefully rounded out like that for the camera, anyway. In real life, I stepped back to admire the achievement and, as that loop danced the twist, was suddenly struck speechless by its extreme likeness of an unintended Teletubbie.

(It’s all good.)

It’s tofu you with
Friday January 14th 2011, 12:08 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knit

First, the marshmallows: every holiday season, several grocery stores around here sell homemade marshmallows, great big squares in a clear box, vanilla or peppermint or chocolate, really good and with none of the feeling of inhaling stale cornstarch of the usual mass-made plastic-bagged type.

My two younger kids love the good ones and the perfection in how they melt into their morning mugs of hot cocoa. I don’t know what the skunk would have thought of them, but hey. So I sent them back to school after the break with some for however long they might last–they don’t stay fresh forever like the commercial ones do, you might as well enjoy a good thing till it’s gone on that one, hoarding and saving and cutting them into pieces to stretch them out will only disappoint.

And so Michelle’s housemate, who knows she can’t do dairy, asked her, “Tell me: *why* do you put TOFU in your hot chocolate?!”

Well now.

Okay, the knitting: I had two size 3.75mm circs tied up in a UFO, just the ribbing done on them. It was a baby hat-to-be but with no particular person in mind on that color, it sat stalled out.

And now oh, I definitely knew who, and hey, as long as I’m on a hat kick, I wanted those needles back for another one for Parker–and there you go.  Motivation.  Parker’s is halfway done now too.

Every good knitter needs a good UFO stash. They finish up so much faster.

(Okay, this is so crying out for a joke about the new yarns made from sugarcane, but it’s 11:30. Anyone? Maybe a sugar-rayon hat with a red-and-white-spiraling candy-cane motif?)

Circle of knitted life
Thursday January 13th 2011, 12:35 am
Filed under: Family,Knit

Thank you, everybody, for your thoughtful words.

To misquote Robert Frost wildly out of context, meantime, Ice (yesterday) was great and did suffice. I tested my hands today with a row, then another, then another, and after a day of it, hey, I had a hat!

It wasn’t till I was snapping its picture that it hit me. I’d been making the thing up as I went along, and the pattern is similar to the one I doodled with to create the first baby sweater I ever knitted for my first baby, 28 years ago. Great mind thinks alike.

Time to grab the needles to knit something for Parker next. I *so* can’t wait to see him and his proud parents.

Well balanced (him, anyway)
Tuesday January 11th 2011, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I was going to do another hour of knitting on this and then show you how it was going to look with the braided cable turned brim-up; I’m delighted that my expectation on the cable/stitch ratio proved right.

But my lack of balance did one of its occasional zings and I’m icing my hand and that’s it for this evening.  I do really like how this hat is coming out.

Meantime, (you can ignore the pajama silliness right at the beginning) Jon Stewart did the best job I have seen anywhere of saying what I think should be said and heard and discussed widely in the aftermath of Saturday.  It is well thought out, kind, and straight from the heart.  I highly recommend it.

Have we met?
Monday January 10th 2011, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

I had a certain feeling of being watched and looked up.

And there, ten feet away, perched on the back of the nearest outside chair on the patio, as close as he could possibly come, was a hawk. An adult Cooper’s, smaller than the one I’ve seen before, the markings slightly bluer on the head and redder in the brown, beautiful earthy tones–my guess is, the male of the local pair. I think I’ve only ever seen him from a distance before.

Eye to eye we stayed and very still.  I so wanted him not to fly away; let me take in every feather. I remember M. Leeb, my father’s artist friend, telling me when I was 16, Observe for ten minutes. Draw for one.

Would that I could.

After a few moments, he glanced to the side, keeping an eye on the business at hand but no, everyone was playing hide to his seek–and he was off between the trees and gone.

I sat there unable yet to move, not wanting it to be over.

On the knitting front: I have come to realize that I do not own a really warm hat (other than the by-now very ratty very bright red one my grandmother gave me on my 12th birthday) because I haven’t needed to.  I’m not off meeting Parker because I caught a cold–very slight, but a cold–and one does not bring germs to a preemie. I can’t go to the climate of cold yet–but I can knit about it.


When I made the Coronet hat for Michelle, I found myself wanting to revamp the pattern. Plain stockinette above the brim? But that’s not as warm as cabled. Pick up 2/3 of the rows to make the new stitches? But, wait, cabling takes about 1/3 more stitches on average than plain, so, if I pick up every row and cable all over that should work, right?

Yes, I already see the problem: a cable of nine stitches across and the rows come in groups of eight. I’m working on it.

But what I wanted to show here was my answer to the Knitty instructions to kitchener the knit, purl, kniiiiiit, purl, knit stitches as you go across. It kept coming out reversed in the grafting for me. Bag that. I’m a lazy cuss.

So what I did was a three-needle bindoff: one row ready on one needle, the other on another, hold them together with the right sides together on the inside, and then I bound off. You take a third needle and go as if to knit into the first stitch in front and then keep pointing the tip on into the first stitch in the back; finish knitting the stitch. Repeat on the next, then slip the first stitch made over the second just like you would a normal bindoff. It will seem strange to have two stitches popping off each of the left needles as you go rather than one, and it may seem awkward as to which of the two needles to the left is doing the slipping over, but it’s all good and all quick. Not to mention easily undone if you change your mind about doing it that way.

What you see in my picture is how it looks before I’ve woven the ends in; I will use them to tighten up that line a bit. I used a spare length of yarn to bind off with, rather than my working yarn, for that reason (and the fact that my beginning strand was too short. Oops.)

It feels good to be creating.  Something warm, soft, pretty, useful, and brand new coming into the world in my hands.

Now all it’ll need is a wild feather in my cap. I have a black and white one on the mantle that the woodpecker once let go.

Sunday January 09th 2011, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Sometimes, setting out a little suet and having a small bird recognize me and fly in in unafraid response to the offering and my tap-tap summoning is such a comfort.

Sunday January 09th 2011, 12:20 am
Filed under: Life,Politics

My heart goes out to the wounded, the families, the bystanders, the doctors and nurses and ambulance crews and all those who have had to see firsthand what was deliberately done by a human being to other human beings.

My hometown paper had this to say.

It doesn’t matter what party the shooter belonged to. It is the simple truth that the unbalanced among us had been told what to do to get the most attention and to believe they would be praised for it.

The words we choose to represent ourselves by have consequences beyond what we can know or control, and that is especially true in the political sphere. Choosing to have basic common courtesy: is it so hard? It is so essential.

And yet.  However one feels about how this all came to be, there is another truth: that we are all in pain, all grieving over the senselessness and the pain and the injury done to individuals and, really, to all of us.

And that speaks to the empathy and the great good in the very great majority of us. We may not personally know any of the people at that scene, but they matter to us as if they were us.

We are all in this life thing together.

One stitch at a time on its Journey
Saturday January 08th 2011, 12:13 am
Filed under: Friends,Knit

My hands needed interruptions and the day provided a few. But still. This is probably a record for me, sockknitting-wise. I can just see Gigi and Jasmin laughing at that not-yet-kitchenered toe; maybe I could trade them for a chocolate torte this time, what’s a little grafting among friends… (Nah, I can do it, it’s just seeing the fine dark stitches to weave in and out of them.)

My best pun of the day was over at Lene’s blog. After all, the snow shouldn’t fall till the trees are done coming home from their Autumn party. Having to make the snow melt off the sidewalk already… It was mapley wishful thinking on its Journey down to the ground that it could somehow hold winter off just a little longer with its bright yellows and reds, but as I told Lene, the trees sang, Don’t salt! De-leafing…

And a picture of Parker just because I want to
Thursday January 06th 2011, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit

I felt a tug at my back at Purlescence (remember, they have book copies) and turned and laughed as someone said, “You know you’re in a yarn store when…”

I was wearing a storebought hoodie sweater with an unusual stitch pattern to it and the two knitters behind me were looking at the hood.  I took the thing off and handed it over to let them try to deconstruct it.

Meantime, the sock photo is overexposed and doesn’t do Dianne’s yarn justice at all. What might better is that Pamela came over to look at it more closely and then just stood there loving how it looked; after a moment of staring at it, she started telling me happy memories from when her kids were growing up that those colors, all those colors together, brought back for her. So perfect. Baking cookies and having the kids decorate them and kids, being kids, pouring all the colors they could into them, all the cheerful joys of blue red yellow pink green you name it.

She has a new grandson, born two days after mine.

She has a son in the service who just arrived home due to injuries.

Hey.  I bought two skeins for the yardage for a shawl, but somehow it demanded to become socks. So I only need the one I had with me.

To be continued.

It’s a wrap
Wednesday January 05th 2011, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Parker at two weeks and my beautiful daughter-in-law. I can’t wait to get to hold him too and to thank her and my son for him!

My husband’s almost-more-a-sister-than-an-aunt, who lives about 45 minutes away, happened to be in the area and called and stopped by today. She quilts and has been knitting lately for her young grandchildren, and I showed her the fine, soft, white Malabrigo Sock baby blanket and asked if she thought it was big enough?

Oh definitely!

So after she left I knitted for nearly another hour. I mean, if after all that work and after the blocking, if it came out too small to my own eyes–well, just better to add a little bit more.

I finally made myself cast off.   I ran the ends in to make it feel final.  There! Done! Stop! And it is blocking.

I think I’ll go looking for the very biggest, stretchiest hair elastic I can find and crochet all around it with the Malabrigo to make a slide to hold the blanket ends together: that way, Kim can wear the blanket as a thick, poofy, warm scarf if she wants to. Supersoft and machine washable and practical for a new mom.

And now back to the color that I escaped to from time to time. Back to the Creatively Dyed (can you believe I’m making) socks!

I’ve been telling myself you can’t have Second Sock Syndrome until you finish the first one, so I’d better get to it.

Ed. to add–top-down style, just got past the heel.

Taken a lichen to it
Tuesday January 04th 2011, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

I checked the airport and flight info last night and we had more time than we thought–which is why I set my alarm for 5:00 am rather than, say, 4:30. Small favors.

Michelle was getting ready to go this morning and I sat down to peek at my comments while I waited.

And saw the one from Lorraine.

Now, my first reaction (note the sleep deprivation) was, how did spam get through?  But wait–I know that name. (Michelle, I thought towards her in the other room, take your time while I go check this out.) Looking in my inbox, yes, that was Lorraine from cottagecraftangora.com whom I’ve bought qiviut-blend yarn from. (That qiviut angora would take color really nicely and I only wish I could have angora in the house.)

We went off to the airport with me marveling out loud to my kids. John was driving; I simply was coming along to try to get every last minute out of our time together and to make sure there was no falling asleep at the wheel coming home. *Hugs* “Love you Mom!” “Love you ‘Shelle!” “Bye!”

We’re missing her keenly already.

With my focus on my kids while the two were home (John’s got a few more days), I’d totally forgotten: Lorraine had run a contest to name her handpaint 90/10 qiviut/merino, and I had spent a pleasant afternoon meandering around Google and Wikipedia and learning a whole lot about Arctic areas while trying to come up with something relevant to both the colors and the muskox. I’ve seen it snow on the Fourth of July in Banff, I’d read a little, (I loved the story of what the re-introduced buffalo did, thank you for the book, Scott!) I have a niece-in-law and cousin-in-law from Alaska, I knew enough to know I knew very little. Just enough that the contest was simply an  excuse now to go learn about a part of the world that intrigued me.

Pictures of a mountainside in bloom in the tundra: life being determined to celebrate itself in living color. No depth of cold could stop it.

A Canadian national park I’d never heard of.  The Arctic Cordillera Range, isn’t that a Spanish word? How did it get that, I wonder. (And if you search the word without the Arctic part, you find yourself over in the Phillippines.)

I was sure I’d disqualified myself by offering more than one potential name for some of the colorways as I tried to share briefly what I’d discovered, but it didn’t matter; it was surely such a nice yarn, someone else should get a chance to enjoy it. (I tried really really hard not to wish for it and to feel as generous as that sounds. I rather  failed.)  I could just picture someone doing all that work milling that fiber and then painting that yarn and then feeling stuck with having to take on names for her work that didn’t live up to what she was hoping for, so I was trying to stretch the range of possibilities. I told  her in my comment that since it’s her product, if she wanted to choose this name from this person and that from that, it seemed fair to me.

And then I promptly forgot all about it because I don’t win things nor did I deserve to.

A qiviut scarf and 100 g of that yarn to make my own with, too. A shawl’s worth. I can’t believe I get to have Aulavik.

Lorraine says there will be more contests.

I figure the least I can do to tell her thank you is to point you all to where to enter her next one while saying that it was very, very generous of her.

And that Arctic Blend that just came back into stock? My needles can tell you you can get a surprisingly big lace scarf out of one little ten-dollar 2-ply skein, a nice shimmer to it to go with the softness and warmth.

My needles are going to dance in delight in the blooming tundra!

Wholly mackeral
Monday January 03rd 2011, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

To celebrate Michelle’s last evening home of winter break, we took the kids out for dinner at a place she suggested. I don’t usually go near Japanese restaurants because sushi is just not an option anymore, but she raved about their bento boxes and promised there would be plenty I could choose from.

And so there was.

The server was pleasant but, oh honey, clueless. You don’t put a meal in front of one person while the others admire it hungrily for a long half hour. But the food was good and the prices probably the best bargain in town and I could see why university students loved the place.

And they had mackerel. I had not seen mackerel on a menu since we moved to California in ’87.

I was 11 the summer my folks drove north with a camping trailer and six kids in tow and stayed on Prince Edward Island off the coast of Canada for two weeks. I’ve blogged before about my mom later packing up house after 45 years in Maryland, coming across some yarn in a box and wondering where on earth she’d bought that and when.

I knew. It was from that mill on PEI we’d visited. (See? She taught us right: travel a bajillion miles and look for the nearest yarn store!) I’d made a granny square hat and scarf out of it in junior high and those were the leftover skeins and I don’t remember what she made out of it.

I still have mine. Wool lasts.

One of the things we did while we were there was to go deep-sea fishing for mackeral. Get on a small boat and go way out on a big ocean.

That fisherman had it all figured out: you get the tourists to pay to board. You give them fishing rods that were simply four short boards nailed together in a square with a string hanging from the contraption, with a big collection of hooks (you show the folks how to tie them on) because you’re going to lose a bunch of those each trip out.

You show the 11-year-old girl your new toy when she asks: the radar that helps you find schools of fish. She wonders how you’re so sure they’re all going to be mackeral; you assure her you are and they are as you ease the boat over and above them.

Seemed rather unfair to me not to take your chances the way Nature intended, but then I didn’t have rent to pay.

And so we caught mackeral after mackeral that afternoon, the numbers roughly corresponding to our ages, everybody keeping count of their score, the littlest (my younger brother turned seven that summer) sometimes needing a little help. Memory says I caught two and a half–my little sister and I both saw a rod jerk that we’d walked away from, bored, and both of us being sure that that one was ours, grabbed it together and landed the thing and then both counting it because you know, you don’t concede to your sibling when you have a perfectly good half-claim on the thing.

One fellow had a brand new and very fancy rod and reel he was eager to try out and to show off with.  It was maybe a little too efficient: he caught a shark. I assure you the rest of us hustled away quickly from where that fairly-big thing was flailing around on the floor after he hauled it in.

There was a big wooden holding tank in the center of the boat, us beginning fishers adding in our mackeral as we caught them. I wanted to keep my catch separate–I wanted Mom to fry up mine for dinner for everybody, I might not be getting many but they were mine–but the boat owner just laughed, saying no, they all go together in there and you all take as much as you think you can eat when you’re all done.

But don’t take what you can’t, though, because fishing is for eating. You don’t waste the life of the fish.

To the guy with the shark, he said, Those are tasty but we don’t have room for it; it’ll just sit there in the tank and eat all the mackeral, throw it back.

The guy threw it back. (I’m trying to remember now just exactly how. The thing wouldn’t have been lightweight, wouldn’t have been happy, and it could definitely have put some teeth into its argument.)  A few minutes later, he caught it again. Same one.

How’s that for a workout routine?

That’s when I decided sharks were kinda stupid. Don’t tell that to the hockey team in San Jose, though, okay? Just between you and me.

As we came back towards land at the end of our ride, the boat owner explained that the fish we didn’t take with us he would be taking to that fish processor over there, where it would go into cans so all of it would go to good use.

Dude got free labor, a chance to meet new people and to tell fish stories every day should he feel like it to a new (and definitely captive) audience each time. If he teaches children to respect what Nature lets us take while he makes a little extra money to pay off his boat or his house, hey. I’d love a chance to tell him thank you for earning a living that way.

Broiled mackeral. But wouldn’t it have a ton of bones? I didn’t care. (There were five, all easily dealt with.) Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia across the water, wooden squares and ropes and my little brother landing a really big one with I think it was the boat owner’s, but I remember someone’s big arms suddenly wrapping around from behind him, helping him not let go of that thing while talking him through it as if that little boy were really the only one doing any of it or deserving that moment of glory. It was the best and last fish any of us kids caught.

And the one tonight that caught memories and held onto them without letting go was very very good.