For my daughter by another mother
Wednesday March 21st 2018, 6:39 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Two rows of 269 stitches–because I wanted it warm and dense since it’s for a home in snowy Maine–that were then scrunched in by two rows of 181 stitches. Repeated seventy times, fifty minutes per repeat.

I just ran past the finish line on a 3500 minute marathon. Add in the casting on and off, and that was a 59 hour project.

I guess it’s not so bad that it took me so long.

Peachy pink
Tuesday March 20th 2018, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift

Seventy inches. That had been the goal all along.

I put down the wedding afghan project to knit my friend Jerry two hats to wear over his brain tumor surgery scar, and since the afghan is heavy and half cotton it’s hard on the hands and it was easy to let it wait some more while I cast on cowl after cowl.

But it was bugging me, and rightfully so. I was so close. I pulled it out of the overstuffed ziploc today and got to it.

When my hands had had enough for now, I laid it out on the floor.

Seventy. I can’t tell you how good that felt.

I have easily enough on that ball for one more pattern repeat, though, and given that cotton tends to shrink vertically, it would be a good idea. So I will.

Meantime, the Baby Crawford peach (above) still has a few new flowers for the Indian Free that is not yet fully in bloom and can’t set fruit alone. Here’s hoping today’s rain didn’t wash all the pollen away? If anyone knows more on that subject than I do, please let me know. Thanks!


Monday March 19th 2018, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History,Life

I remember the day years ago when we drove Dad to Carmel to see his old Army buddy for the first time since I’d been about three. We held back at the driveway to let Dad walk on ahead of us.

The man saw our car and quickly came out the door to greet us.

I got to see the moment when the two men laid eyes on each other, a mixture of recognition that was delayed just that one slight millisecond–and the unspoken sudden shock at each other’s aging and thus their own in their joy as they threw their arms around each other. It had been so long.

Dad’s buddy’s career was as a producer of the Hanna Barbara cartoons.

So maybe that’s a small part of why I so like this place: it reminds me of Dad’s friend.

Someone has finally bought the Flintstone house. Someone with the money and the will to preserve it and the hillside it’s built into, someone who walked in the door and fell in love at first sight, someone with a keen sense of whimsy.

Someone who’s added fifteen-foot dinosaurs, cartoon mushroom sculptures and Fred himself, with more to come. Because she can, and why not?

I’ve seen it at a distance driving by and had wondered, and those pictures are a treat.

I love that the original architect got to see his masterpiece being loved all over again.

Love your dear ones
Sunday March 18th 2018, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

The friend I knitted the purple for was wearing an outfit today that would look smashing with the butterscotch cowl, and she definitely thought so, too. Got that one right even when I got that one wrong.

Eli loved his new teal-green hat and the vote of thanks and confidence in his mango-tree-caretaking it conveyed.

Which was as far as I got. I was all ready to tell the expectant mom she could shrink the baby hat for a few minutes in the dryer while the baby was small, let it air dry as the baby got bigger and the superwash treatment would shrink or stretch the fit accordingly. But those came home.

Last Tuesday we got a phone call close to dinner time: my friend Karen (this friend), my visiting teacher in Mormon-speak, had a big dinner ready to set out and she was suddenly in need of people to feed it to and would we like to come? There was no way she by herself could plow through all this.

Hey, love to. A few others showed up at her spur of the moment call and a grand time was had by all and we should do this again, definitely. May I just add, and that was the biggest lasagna pan I have ever seen.

Her daughter-in-law is the one I just knitted the butter cowl and baby hat for.

Karen had a heart attack two days ago and her family was not in church. Any protest of mine that she is way too young for this, well… She is recuperating.

Someone definitely needs me to bring them a good dinner. My pans may be smaller but I’ve got two ovens at the ready and all the love in the world.

Good. Stick around, hon, we need you.
Saturday March 17th 2018, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We were leaving a potluck dinner that had been quite delightful when I turned to Gail, who’s my mom’s age and was moving carefully, slowly with her walker.

I told her that to quote an old children’s book, Today is done. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one!

She chuckled that sweet laugh of hers and decided, Yes. Yes it is!

(Baby hat: done with a yard to spare. Tomorrow it gets delivered.)

Plus one
Friday March 16th 2018, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,LYS

Cowl: damp. Hat: not so much, not yet.

I’m going to have to finish this game of yarn chicken in the morning. If I do run out–I don’t think I will, but if I do, then I could make the top of the hat a solid white and run diagonal lines of white weaving down through all the yarnovers. Or rainbow colors. Or something.

(Having typed that, I got up to weigh the remaining yarn: 16 grams.) Yeah, it’ll be close. What would you do with a shortage at the top? Note that there is, or at least was, one last skein of that dye lot at Cottage Yarns this week. (Hey, Kathryn’s website’s back up!)

Passing the baton
Thursday March 15th 2018, 10:41 pm
Filed under: History,Knitting a Gift,Politics

The first of the two skeins of Debbie Bliss Rialto in butter is done. The knitting is dense, the yarnovers are few so as not to give baby fingers much to snag and pull on, and I could almost stop here. Nah, it needs that second one, I don’t get off that easy.

Meantime, I didn’t say yesterday because I was still trying to process the experience into words: around ten a.m. Wednesday, I happened to be driving past a school that’s on the main drag and it looked like the entire student body was out there on the sidewalk protesting.

I gave them a huge smile and thumbs-up from the other side of the road and they all cheered and waved their homemade signs. It felt very much like a celebration of the right of the people peaceably to assemble to petition the government. Their civics and history teachers aced this.

I remembered the day my mom was driving me from near DC to Baltimore for the Maryland State Piano Competition when the March on Washington to protest the Vietnam War had been the day before. There were hikers with backpacks along the freeway, where pedestrians were never supposed to be, and every now and then they would turn and hold up a cardboard sign at the oncoming traffic naming the city or town they eventually hoped to get back to. Some of them had a very long way to go.

Hitchhiking was common in those days and on that hour’s drive and back I saw no sign of any cops hassling those kids: they had come together to change history for the better for all of us by demanding their voices be heard–and they succeeded.

Those just older in my generation didn’t want to shoot at other people’s kids in Vietnam. Our kids want the shootings of kids and others here to stop. They are in the right, and they are making themselves heard.

Right here and all across the country. I am so very proud of them all.

In happy anticipation
Wednesday March 14th 2018, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Lupus

I had a skein of Malabrigo Mecha (130 yards) on short US 7 circs with the ribbing all done and a row or two of stockinette above: all set for the next time I needed to throw a brainless project in my purse.

I grabbed it on my way out the door to a lupus group meeting just in case.

It was perfect: my hands could go round and round and round the hat almost without looking at all while keeping me fully focused on whoever was speaking, and two hours later as we closed up I was to where I needed to measure and start the decreases at the top. Cool.

But rather than finishing it once I got home, I picked up some Rios (210 yards), another pair of 7s, and started doodling. Never made a pattern like that before. Never saw it from anyone else, either, and I kept knitting until nearly the end of the ball to see what it wanted to be when it grew up, knowing I have to do this again and I have to write this down and I have to put this out there–I really like it.

Looking up in surprise at the hour, it is time to call it a night. I will leave the cast on for the morning.

Most of a hat and a cowl-minus-one-row for one day. Clear’em on out so I can get to the butter yellow tomorrow.

If you keep on knitting the knitting gets done. Why does this always surprise me?

This is yellow journalism
Tuesday March 13th 2018, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,LYS

(Phone back on strike, no photos yet, sorry.)

An expectant mom, so you know superwash merino is the only way to go. Not allergic to wool. Her favorite color? Yellow, she laughed, looking down at her butter-colored dress.

Let’s see, do I have… Hmm, no I don’t…

Coral, I love coral, too, she quickly added, trying to broaden my options.

You know what this means. I had an excuse, no, a need to go to the yarn store–when it comes to yellow anything I don’t even have the dye for that.

The rain mostly let up and I headed out to Cottage Yarns today, where the inventory is quite a bit bigger than the more local stores. Kathryn and I started to go through the aisles together: this peach? she offered. It was on the gray side.

I couldn’t see it. But there, that butter yellow is just the shade: is it machine washable? (It was a brand I wasn’t overly familiar with.)

Yes, and it’s very soft.

(Checking the label.) Extrafine merino. I was very pleased. And then when I actually touched it I knew that this was a yarn that could do no wrong.

I brought it home, ready to go–and cast on the Malabrigo Anniversario for the other person I’d asked Sunday, whose color preference was, with a laugh, “Everything!” Which that kind of is.

I think after making a lot of other people’s favorites last week I needed to tackle colors I loved for a bit to help keep the batteries charged.

And then the soft-as-butter. Its turn is coming right up.

The newbie
Monday March 12th 2018, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

So the recipes both said 4 c water or broth to one 2-2.5 lb corned beef in your standard 6 qt Instant Pot.

The meat was a 3.5+ lb, thanks, Costco. The machine was an IP Mini, 3 qt. I did get the whole slab in there–but there was no way on earth that much broth was following after.

Pours in the second cup of broth, slowly, carefully, right to the tippy top of that Max line on the inside. Oh, you’re not supposed to actually fill up to that? (Then why is it there?) Too late. I consider. I could just throw it in the oven and let it take its standard three hours. Nah, don’t have the time, I need it in two.

(Hits presets. Machine says 1:00. Adds 30 for it to cook 90 minutes. Wait, did I do that right?)

Comes back 40 minutes later and I guess I cooked it for one minute and it’s been warming for 39. Joy. Or was it actually cooking and I only saw the Warming button because it’s on anyway when the cooking’s going, but there’s no steam venting out. Resets the whole thing to start over from scratch. Confirmed by pot being unable to get back to countdown right away even though I didn’t open it. 90? Make it 110. Still no idea if I’m way overcooking it but undercooked could be far worse. Adds twenty minutes yet again to be on the safe side: that was a big roast.

Since there was no room for the veggies, they simmer in the rest of the broth on the stove. They come out palid, no surprise, because all the spices are in the Instant Pot. Checks spice cabinet. Nope. Not combining that with that.

Comes back when the time is finally about up anyway wondering if something is burning? Uses oven mitt to do an Instant Release to stop it because that sure beats wrecking all that food after all this wait and oh right I forget just how much of a mess that makes and I quickly throw the mitt half over it and the boiling geyser that ensues anyway makes every knife in the block on the counter next to it a greasy dripping mess, and how do you get beef fat out of the holes down inside that wood? And why did I leave it there?

Waits for the pin to drop. Pin drops. Lid willing to come off now.

Slices and scoops and serves dinner to a very very very patient husband at 7:45 who did not even look for snacks while all this was going on.

The surprise? It’s about perfect. And the cabbage and potatoes didn’t soak up fat and salt like they do in the traditional version, they’re much better. Pour grease off broth and broth over veggies for flavoring on top of meat as desired. Done.

But it’s a good boss
Sunday March 11th 2018, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Rachel is moving to Maine (note that that is farther from here than Barrow at the tippy-top of Alaska. I checked), and only because I don’t have any say in it. But then her dad–okay, so, she’s allowed.

She had some time to stop by today.

I pulled two things out of an overstuffed bag and then shook out the rest, saying they were my back-up plan, but she’d already picked up the baby alpaca cowl. She did a double take at how much softer it was than even what one would expect out of such a fiber. Didn’t even look over the others, this was it.

The hat, too–they’re a set.

The hat?

I told her they were in memory of the qiviut she’d spun up for me back when my fingers couldn’t feel to spin that fine a fiber with any justice. I’d told her not to give it back; she’d given it back.

We were both really glad of that after it went to a high school friend of mine as a small but very warm scarf after he was paralyzed when a car hit his bike. Grateful to be able to do something. Grateful to each other for making it so we could.

I am so going to miss her.

So, off to another friend’s for her and church for me.

A burgundy cashmere cowl (not in the picture) was exactly the favorite of… The pink pearl was worn proudly throughout by…

We had a linger longer after church, a potluck (with the desserts on a table set on blocks to raise it and keep the littlests from devouring only sugar. I was much amused.)

I found the husband of the one I’d knitted the silk for, a couple that’s only been here a few months and whose name (his I mean) I don’t think I actually know yet: is B here?

She’s out of town, he half-apologized.

Oh. Could you do me a favor?


Could you give this to her for me?

And in that moment I was given the great privilege of seeing how much that man loved his wife. Wow.

At the last, I found…

That large smalt-colored cashmere/cotton cowl I’d worked on Friday and all day Saturday? When I got up this morning it was a beautiful thing, and still a little damp. I hairdryered it. I felt, with a good night’s sleep between finishing it and seeing it finished, that I would be disappointed somehow if it didn’t go to her. Sure, I could knit her other things later: but this knew where it wanted to be.

I asked her if she liked this color, then reached into the bag and pulled it out.

“That is a beautiful color!” she gasped. And on her, it very much was. It was perfect. It had been worth every stitch.

I came home and eyed that butterscotch baby alpaca that had been sitting in my stash for ten years until this morning, when it had leaped onto my needles and cast itself on. I considered taking it off and frogging out that tiny little bit and picking up something more my color.

Which is why the first of the two 110-yard skeins has now transmogrified itself into fern motifs. Butterscotch it is.

When I let the yarn be the boss of me, someone out there always wins. I do, too.

Letting it go is a no smalt thing
Saturday March 10th 2018, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life

A few mild days and nights and suddenly there are baby figs (that’s two there, with a leaf whorl at the top) and more Indian Free peach blossoms. (Just noticing–the copper tape needs fixing. It does work at keeping the snails and slugs from eating the fruit tree flowers at night, but only when it goes all the way around.)

I had a cowl I’d started yesterday that I wanted done. I would describe it as densely spun almost more like a sock weight, 66/34 cashmere/cotton (mine was the smalt blue) that I wound off into two 75+ gram balls a few months ago.

Straight from the cone without scouring first. I’d forgotten that. That was a mistake. I believe in letting me enjoy the yarn as much as the person who gets it, but this time with the dried-hair-mousse effect still there, let’s just say it accentuated the knitting-with-cotton aspect.

The wooden circular needles did not want those stitches to slide across (after all, the whole purpose of that coating is to keep fibers together in the spinning process), and when I tried to change to a smoother pair I found my others that said 4mm were, but the one in my hands was more like a 4.2–they didn’t match up and I was stuck with it. At least I’d cast on doubled to speed things up.

I started at 10:30 this morning. Other than a load of laundry, heating leftovers, icing my hands, and a quick run to the grocery store, I basically knit all day long, breaking the yarn at long last at 8:40 p.m.  Done.

After all that angst and those short circs, I finally got to try it on in its crumpled-tin-foil stage of the lace.

Oh. Blink. That’s why I did this. This is actually gorgeous. Who’d have thought.

Almost crowded out by the thought of I DID IT AND I NEVER HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN!

It is soaking those oils out in the suds and will be luscious and soft. Or at least softer. Tomorrow I will simply totally love it.

Whether I’ll be ready to give it up immediately after all that is another story whose ending I quite honestly don’t know yet. Let me look at it in the morning. That vividness is not quite my shade of blue. Close, though.

Anne B
Friday March 09th 2018, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knit

Now that was a fun evening!

Back in ’09 when I was ill enough that my survival was no sure thing, Anne decided to make me a get-well afghan and asked if anyone wanted to contribute squares to it. She got so many squares offered up that she pieced them together into two of them.

I love them, I love every person for being part of that, and her for the whole thing. She’d never even met me.

Turns out Anne had a business trip that was bringing her to California, and she asked on FB if anyone knew anything she should see while she was in–my town. I answered, Yes! ME!

I had wanted to meet her for so long. So long.

We made tentative plans, business trips being what they are, and then this afternoon some time opened up for later on if I didn’t mind potential work interruptions as we visited. No problem. I have knitting. I would pick up Richard, drop him off at home, and we could have the evening to ourselves.

Except that he got stuck at work till close to the time we were supposed to meet and she said hey, bring him along too, then.

Two afghans. There was nothing I could knit that could match that. I looked through some of her pictures to get a sense of what colors she might like and chose a circular scarf and a thick warm Malabrigo Mecha hat, thinking, what Canadian knitter doesn’t already have a closetful of hats? And yet it felt important, so I put it in my purse with the other and when dinner was over I showed her the ziploc and asked her her choice of colors without saying what the two things were. Color is everything.

She was quite delighted that what she picked out was a hat: she had had one ready to go for the trip and had accidentally left it home. She was going to need one and now she had one!

The place we’d stopped at mostly caters to the lunch crowd, and Richard asked them to kick us out any time they wanted to close down. When he asked again after we’d finished eating, they apologetically went, yeah…

So we adjourned to Timothy Adams. Hot chocolate and truffles to top off the evening with more time to chat, Adams himself welcoming us at the door.

I can’t tell you how good it feels that we finally got to meet and that I finally got to thank her in person. Here’s hoping life brings her back this way again soon. Anne is just the best.

Set and match
Thursday March 08th 2018, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift

Leaves and flowers on the Santa Rosa plum, with the Indian Free peach behind it popping out its first flower.

The teal-blue silk cowl came out roughly 13×13″. It will stretch downward somewhat over time, and I’ll tell the recipient that if she wants the top edge tighter I can do that: you pick up two stitches, cast off the first, pick up another, cast the previous one off till you’re done. No problem.

Not that I think she’ll find the least bit of fault in it, I just thought I’d throw that out there in case anybody hasn’t done that before to fix a too-loose edge.

Meantime, I took the second skein of Chalet and knit a not-oversized baby alpaca cowl in order to give my friend Y several to choose from; she wanted cashmere, I have a cashmere one, but color is everything and this is softer than some cashmeres and beige goes well on her. Up to her. It’ll be dry in the morning.

I used the last of the yarn from last week’s hat to win my game of yarn chicken.

For Vera
Wednesday March 07th 2018, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Done. It stretches sideways easily and will adapt to anywhere it gets put in there.

The people in my South Bay knitting group were knitting a memory blanket for one of their oldest members, who has Parkinson’s with dementia these days, and did I want to knit her a 12″ square?

I hadn’t made it to one of their evening meetings in over three years and I hadn’t heard the news. Vera had knitted a very nice square for a blanket they had all made for me a dozen years ago, and yes, absolutely.

She likes bright oranges, pinks, reds, cream–I knew poppies were her favorite flower.

I went to Cottage Yarns looking for something in machine washable worsted weight and came home with something I liked but that I couldn’t persuade myself in the end would quite be her favorite. I just hadn’t found what I was looking for. I was stumped.

I found something wonderful at Stitches, but oh of course, it needs to be machine washable. That’s not.

There’s nothing like putting the fear of deadlines into you, though, so when I got asked a couple of days ago if I could get mine to the person piecing the squares, I did a deep stash dive after putting down that silk last night.

And lo and behold: I remembered those two sock yarns–I knitted them together to make a hat for…and it all came back to me. Did I still have enough? I weighed them. I was sure/almost-sure I did.

One strand was Lisa Souza’s bright Earth Birth colorway in merino, the other some other hand-dyer’s merino/tencel.

I remembered Vera once approaching me in great excitement years ago when I showed up, complimenting me on my new blouse: “Is that Tencel?”

“No, silk.”

She was confused. That was not the answer she was anticipating, so she asked me again, with less certainty: “Is that Tencel?” Because she had been knitting some Tencel yarns and loved them and she was clearly excited for me.

I had to explain that no, it was (just) silk.

I’m sure she doesn’t remember that. But I do, and here was a bit of that fiber she loved, and I could make it make flowers. One could even claim poppies. She may not see nor recognize them in the swirl of colors, but she will have the warmth and love from all of her old knitting friends to wrap around her, with a photo of each of us holding our squares to help her hold onto those connections as long as possible.

I knitted for three+ hours, rinsed it, spun it out in the machine, put it on a pillow with a clean white pillowcase and hairdryered the heck out of it and delivered it to Green Planet Yarns, where the person doing the piecing works.

Driving away from there, I was so very glad–and relieved–that I’d been part of that. I marveled at how I’d almost thought, and in reality for several weeks did think even if I wasn’t admitting it to myself that I was too busy to get around to actually doing it just then: the stash diving, the knitting, the measuring, the designing, choosing every variable involved and then getting it done.

But what else is life for but to be there exactly when someone needs you. Not just when it’s easy to pitch in. I just made it.