The mechanic
Tuesday January 21st 2020, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

That light gray-blue Mecha wool hat a few weeks ago that I didn’t quite get to finish while the garage worked on my tire?

Guess which idiot light came back on in the car?

Sure, you can bring it over right now, he said on the phone.

When I told him the tire light had blinked for several blocks on the way there before going solid, his own light bulb went off and he was glad I’d mentioned it so he knew what to check.

It was a different tire this time but it was also the sensor that tells the car about it. The car’s an ’07; he said the other three would probably start failing, too, but at least hopefully not all at once.

He’s such a gentle, kind man.

Today though he looked like the world was heavy on his shoulders, and all I could think of was how much he reminded me of my cousin John.

I hadn’t unpacked my purse from the trip yet. That hat he’d seen me working on the last time was in there. I also had a brighter blue one (London Sky) I’d knitted on the plane, with a third (Piedras) on the needles I’d started at the airport on the way home.

Again, I almost finished it before he called me over.

After he’d rung the work up I presented my own and offered him his choice. He was blown away. He picked the London Sky, and as he went to put it on his head I told him, “Happy Birthday!”

He looked at me in surprise: “Did you know it was my birthday?!”

Me, surprised but delighted: “No!”

“It was the 17th,” he said, “but, yeah, it was my birthday.” It was cold. He told me his ears were warm already and that he’d needed that. He told me his girlfriend was going to love it, so I asked his girlfriend’s favorite color and unlike quite a few men I’ve met he knew it without hesitation.

Pink? Suddenly I have an excuse to buy a skein of yarn. Twist my arm.

Anything I can do, when I know I can do at least that one small thing. John would want me to. Can you just picture the man’s happy anticipation towards making her happy once he gets it?

The way my tires are going, I’ll get everybody in the shop by the end of next month.



Blueberry
Monday January 20th 2020, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

It was lovely and heartbreaking and heartwarming and full of music and love and belonging. My sister found a video that’s a close rendition to the last piece offered up at the funeral by the Salt Lake Men’s Chorus, whom John used to play piano for.

One cousin told of her toddler granddaughter’s love for Uncle John, who came by often and taught her to love blueberries when nobody else could get her to touch them. She liked his so much that he brought them every time after that to share some with her.

She was given the little toy stuffed dog he’d cherished as a memory of his mother and promptly named it Blueberry.

She went to sleep still holding it, woke up in the morning still holding it, and with nobody having told her any such thing pronounced:

“Blueberry, Uncle John gave you to me..  It’s okay, I will take care of you. Uncle John is far away, Uncle John is up in the stars.”



Heading out
Saturday January 18th 2020, 11:35 am
Filed under: Family

My cousin John’s obituary.

Just me going this time, some one on one time with my mom as well as the funeral. Back Monday.



Where’s a piano when you need one
Friday January 17th 2020, 10:56 pm
Filed under: History

Impeachment Polka, written for Andrew Johnson’s in 1868.

Who knew the proceedings had sound tracks back then?



Checking out volumes from the yarn library
Thursday January 16th 2020, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Projects. I do them one at a time and keep at it till they’re done.

Except when I’m about to be traveling, in which case forget it. Mecha yarn for airplane knitting, don’t forget the second circular for the tops of the hats, try to match the colors to whom I’ll be seeing and try to leave room for, y’know, the actual clothes in there.

And then a ziplock of no particular glory caught my eye.

In no way was that Rios planned much less thought of: black? Who wants to knit black stitches on a very dark rainy day? But suddenly I was going through my needles looking for short-corded 5s for it.

It had to be that patten. Fair isle, with one color twisted around the other for every single stitch and then the balls needing to be untangled 84 times per row in the midsection of the hat. It challenged my “I can do anything for ten rows.” It always does. I always do it. But not very often.

I’m done with that part now and I really like it.

I started out with it wondering which of my late cousin John’s friends it would be for and how would I even know if it was but shouldn’t I be making this for his three siblings but there’s just the one of it…when halfway through that section there was this definitive lightning-strike moment.

I knew, and how had I ever not known, and of course, and man I’m so glad this is almost done now so that for sure it’ll be ready in time. I’m so glad I had those colors not only in my stash but put together like that, waiting for me to catch up.

Which is all I’m going to say about it quite yet.



Next year every day in the White House won’t be worse
Thursday January 16th 2020, 12:14 am
Filed under: History,Politics

Parnas, with notes, singing to the prosecutor about a Republican congressional candidate’s offer to him to do what sounds very much a literal hit job on Ukraine Ambassador Yovanovitch for her determination to do her job right–the guy was stalking her physically and electronically and knew when her phone was off so she wouldn’t be able to call for help. Swearing that Trump knew every detail of all that he was saying. It gives fresh malevolence to Trump’s warning, “Maybe something bad’s going to happen to her” if she didn’t flee Ukraine immediately. Which she did.

The trial. Only the CNN camera will be allowed (because McConnell can’t get away with ditching that one.) Most reporters’ seats are being taken away and given to Senate family members. The lights are to be kept low as one approaches and no cameras or phones allowed near the chambers, much less in. Secrecy and darkness.

So very McConnellized.

But in the end he cannot gerrymander his fellow Senators.

I still hold out some hope that enough of them still have a conscience somewhere within them. History will hold them accountable, and you better believe, so will we.

When the country erupts in celebration at the conviction, all those Senators now hiding their views will be sure to point out that they’re the ones who get the credit.



I dream of gene-ey
Tuesday January 14th 2020, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

So this got started: that’s an instant-gratification swatch from the weekend with the water smushed out of it and the towel there on the footrest straight from the sink. Good enough for measuring where you don’t have to worry about the fit.

But having just finished a project that for weeks took my thoughts when it wasn’t taking my actual time, today I just didn’t touch the new one at all. I had work to do.

My yarn storage is now more organized and the room is straightened up and vacuumed, and I made good headway on that other room, too.

It’s good to know there’s at least one organizing gene in there. It may be recessive but when it’s expressing itself you run with what you’ve got.



The Kauri
Tuesday January 14th 2020, 12:15 am
Filed under: History

Just because I think this is really cool, a Newsweek link: a 41,000+-year-old tree, the only one ever found that carries in it a record of a reversal of the magnetic poles that help protect our ozone layer from the solar winds. Found way down there while digging for a geothermal plant for clean energy. And it still exists. Fascinating stuff.



SnowDad
Sunday January 12th 2020, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

This Calvin and Hobbes strip. One commenter said that Calvin would never forget those moments with his dad.

Amen to that.

My little sister and I were about seven and nine years old. There had been one of the bigger snowstorms we’d ever seen and we were set on making the biggest snowman ever and certainly the biggest one in the neighborhood. I’m pretty sure our older brother was part of it at the beginning.

This was in a neighborhood of five and seven bedroom homes in a predominantly Catholic state and we were all big-family baby boomers: we knew we had our competition close by.

We skunked’em.

Anne and I collected that snow and we rolled and rolled those balls (and I remember a small pang of regret that we were wrecking how pretty the blanket of snow had been in the yard) and after several hours’ work we did, we had the parts to the biggest snowman ever outside our parents’ bedroom window–possibly because that was slightly downhill as the front yard went. Thank you gravity.

But that ball for the middle section: it was ambitious but as we stopped and considered and even tried just a bit there was no way we were going to be able to heft that thing onto the giant bottom ball.

I’m pretty sure I ran inside to ask for help because at that age Daddy could still do anything, but it may be that he looked out the window instead. Either way, he was soon out there with us all bundled up and helping us roll the snowballs for just a bit longer. He declared it good and that it was all big enough.

Combination of, But Dad! and (ohthankyoufinallywecanstopnow).

And then he had a plan.

He disappeared for just a moment towards the shed on the other side of the house and came back with a large wooden plank, and together–it took all of us–we all rolled that middle ball right on up there. We did it!!!

It would have taken a way longer plank than anything around to get the head on that thing, so Dad lifted the smallest one. It was heavy but doable.

Scarf, carrot, eyes, the works. Classic.

Later we saw that some of the kids up the street in both directions had indeed made snowmen, and ours was indeed the biggest.

But then, we had Dad.

And hot cocoa on the stove from Mom when we came inside and stomped our feet and took off our boots on the slate entryway.



Over in the guest room
Saturday January 11th 2020, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Politics

After the scouring to get the mill oils out. I get to tell the new parents that it’s already been washed in water too hot to touch.

The answer to the lace pattern pulling the edge pieces upwards after the cast-on: run in the ends only through there, and then again from the other direction. Weigh them down, add the bulk, it’ll straighten them out and make them stay straight–and they did.

And while I was doing that I worked on the back of the join areas to tug down anything sticking out and it worked. Nice and straight now all around.

I didn’t get a good picture of any of that but I did manage to capture the damp afghan in direct afternoon sunlight.

On a political note, should you be interested, my cousin Jim, formerly a Republican and definitely far to the right of me, had a few things to say. 

 



Cashwool afghan
Friday January 10th 2020, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift

Turns out, all it needed was for a Great Big Corporation to put me on hold long enough on speakerphone.

It’s not exactly how I’d do it next time but it’s pretty darn snuggly and good. Note to self: I needed to add a pair of plain rows before going into the lace pattern for the separate edging pieces. That’s obvious now and I should have seen it.

Now to go scour the mill oils out in hot water. I will not, however, run it through the dryer and totally fuzz it out–that’s for the parents-to-be to mess with (or not as they choose), I want to present it at its best.

Note to self: two strands dk Cashwool from Colourmart, size 5.5mm US 9 needles, 183 stitches, 51.5″ wide by 62.5″ long after rinsing but before scouring in hot soapy water, and it took 1125 grams (not quite two and a half pounds) to make. My swatch promises it will not shrink appreciably even in the dryer.

(Note: If you click the Show Items: All button in the upper left on the Colourmart page, you can see the sold-out Lavander (their spelling) color that I used to check against the Violet that’s in stock. Mine’s lighter.)



Edgy edgy
Thursday January 09th 2020, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Knit

On the left: blocked with nice straight edges that didn’t last, on the right, blocking now.)

Having knit all day Saturday, my hands were not in the mood for working much on that afghan. I felt guilty about taking a break Sunday and Monday and got some done Tuesday. Wednesday, not much. (Plus the news on my cousin kind of took the wind out of me.)

Today I looked at what had to be done and when I needed it done by.

Actually, when I told my husband I felt I had to give it to his cousin on Sunday, his response was, What’s the hurry? Give it to her when the baby gets here.

I prefer to add to the happy anticipation. That and, hey, you, don’t abet my procrastinating, okay?

I realized later that wait, to block the second edge to sew the two of them onto the afghan to wash the afghan to dry the afghan to gift it–meant I had to finish the second edging today. It was about four inches long.

Saturday all over again, with more breaks.

All of which is leading to the question: would you join such a piece to live stitches or cast off ones? I’m leaning towards cast off, just to minimize how far a future broken stitch could run. (I’ve got live ones at the base of the afghan right now, having cut off the original edging, and having it run upwards creates a real mess.)

While I’m at it I think I’ll rip out those purl rows top and bottom of the afghan: the ones along the side don’t really show and those do.

Once I’ve got all that done I should probably knit a very simple edging all around the edging to smooth out those blocking-resistant angles, that instep at the heel of the lace in the edging. Right?

And so the perfectionism and overthinking continues.



The English language is weird
Wednesday January 08th 2020, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Spinning

Kemp: it’s the occasional short thick wiry stabby bits in wool. Merino has it mostly bred out of it. There’s a good description in Spinoff,  where they mention that contrary to rumor those fibers do indeed take dye–but they take all the dye, hide the pretty colors away inside themselves and don’t let anyone see the changes.

Coming out of my lupus meeting today, someone admired my dress and asked if I’d made it.

“I could,” I answered, “but no, I got it directly from Ireland for Christmas on a really good sale.”

I really really like it. But it has just a very small amount of white kemp against the very very dark green that didn’t quite come out in the carding back at the mill. I wonder, if I snip a piece open will I find its missing green?

It got me thinking: the British often use a -t to end a word where we would use -ned. Burned your toast, burnt. So examining a fleece, you’d go from seeing a bit of kemp to describing that one as kempt, wouldn’t you? (No.) So how on earth did we get unkempt in the language to mean messy and not caring about appearances when one would think it could mean, say, carefully processed or taken care of to make something look and feel its best?

Unkemped. It should be a good thing, right?

So that got me looking. Dictionary.com is utterly ignorant of the fiber definition and calls kemp a warrior or a rogue, and that kempt is neat and tidy or combed hair.

Which I knew, but still, wait. Combed nicely means hair is kempt?

Someone way back in the day totally messed this up.



Basketball?
Tuesday January 07th 2020, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Family

The cousins have been swapping stories, and will do so in person tomorrow night, informally, and I would be there in a heartbeat. But the $600+ for a next-day flight for one person just defeated me.

One memory was from two brothers who are very tall like John, who always wanted to get a t-shirt like he had.

It said: No I don’t. Do you play miniature golf?



Cousin John
Monday January 06th 2020, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

John sent me this selfie, looking up, and it took me awhile to figure out what seemed so odd about it: it’s that I always saw my 6’7″ cousin from well below. The perspective was so different.

His father had Parkinson’s with dementia and his mother was becoming frail; he took them into his own home, and when it became clear that that was a full time job now he quit his to take care of them.

He never married, but his father is why my parents met: our dads served Mormon missions together across French-speaking Europe right after the war. Dad later went to Utah to go visit his close friend David, and David’s little sister heard an unfamiliar voice across the house and ran a few steps back to her room to dress in something nicer and then Mom came back out and met Dad.

Uncle David and Aunt Bonnie met playing in the symphony together, so music was an important part of their and their childrens’ lives. John played piano and French horn.

Uncle David died a few years ago; one year ago, I flew into town for Aunt Bonnie’s funeral.

Everybody wanted to thank John for all that he’d done for them and everybody wanted to rally around him in his loss–what do you do when everything is different now.

He wasn’t one to say much. But if you talked to him you knew he loved you. Period. Everybody. I just got off the phone with my older son who said, Yes, I saw him at Grampa’s funeral in October and we talked for several minutes and he was just the nicest guy.

John mentioned to me about twenty years ago that he was allergic to wool, although, other fibers seemed fine.

There was a cousins-only get-together after the service, a reunion for our generation. I asked John when it seemed a good moment for it if we could step into the other room where the noise level wasn’t quite so bad for my hearing.

He, a bit quizzically, followed me over there.

He nearly cried when I pulled out a keyboard for his head. Baby alpaca, silk, cashmere: no wool. I’d remembered. He was intensely grateful at being thought of, at being seen. He exclaimed in the rawness of his loss, “She was my best friend!” We held each other and I wished I could make it better.

I had no idea from where I lived that that fog of grief never lifted for him and that the depression was spiraling him so far downward. I would have done anything, we all would have. I was stunned when my brother called with the news today. It is unfathomable that my beloved cousin John, the one whose kindness and empathy were why I named my son after him in hopes of raising a man as good as he was, is gone from us.

He had lost how to love himself as much as he loved each of us.

I am gutted.