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.
I want to sing Martingale’s praises for a moment.
My final deadline re the book was mid-January. In late February, I went to Stitches West, ran into Ann Rubin, and knew exactly who that Barn Swallows scarf had been meant for all along.
When I knitted it, it had absolutely demanded to be made in laceweight in that taupe color that it’s shown in in my “Wrapped in Comfort” book. That is emphatically not my color, but nothing else would do. I did not know why. I did knit it again in other yarns, but it felt like, for the book, that taupe laceweight was what it absolutely had to be.
After I blocked it, I thought the edges would look more solid if I were to redo it with one plain stitch extra at each side edge–but then I would have had to spend hours looking at that taupe again, and frankly, I didn’t know any good enough reason to do so to motivate me, not in that color, and I just didn’t get around to it.
I wrote a caption for the main picture of each project. But the one for the Barn Swallows scarf never pleased me, never felt finished, never felt like I could rewrite it well enough, and I had no idea why.
And then I saw Ann. I recognized her from previous Stitches events as I gave her this wool afghan for her Afghans for Afghans charity; she didn’t recognize me, which was fine. One look at her and I knew that taupe was exactly the right color for her, that it would be absolutely beautiful on her. (If only I had known that, I could have anticipated specifically and been just peachy-fine knitting up that color again and adding those edge stitches!)
Had that scarf been a warm one, Ann would have felt morally absolutely obligated to pass it along to the people she serves in Afghanistan, and rightfully so; their needs are so much greater than ours. We have so much here. But it was a wispy little thing, a decorative little thing, a thank you for the work she does for so many people, encouraging knitters to give of their wool, talents, and time, helping those in need not just to receive physical warmth but human warmth as well: the tangible evidence that someone from around the world wanted to reach out to them and wish them well. And yet–it’s okay for her to feel thanked and reminded that people are grateful for her efforts, too. (That took some convincing from me, much though she loved the thing. She didn’t want to in any way put herself above the other volunteers.)
Changing a manuscript so very late in the publishing process is, my daughter with a college minor in editing tells me, very expensive. But after I gave Ann that scarf, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and what that caption had needed to be all along and why it had felt inadequate before. Martingale put people over profits and immediately agreed with me. We changed it, and they added A4A to the Resources page as well. I must say, I think that new caption totally makes the book, it ends it exactly perfectly.
I don’t have a new picture of the afghan I gave Ann that day at Stitches, nor of the original scarf–which arrived back from Martingale the first day of Stitches, exquisitely perfect timing on their part–so, you’ll have to put up with this old photo.
How that afghan came to be is a whole ‘nother post.
Small world, Afghans for Afghans edition
About five years ago, I ran into someone I barely knew, a former fellow knitter. She said she was a quilter now, and offered to give me her yarn stash! No. I knew what gorgeous work she’d done in the past. Surely you’ll get back to it someday.
No. Don’t want it. You take it. I’m getting rid of it. I’d rather have the closet space.
I finally thought, well, better me than Goodwill, okay, sure! So, soon after, Pamela came over to my house with all these fabric bags stuffed with yarn, nice yarn, good wools and the like. It was an incredible amount, and she refused any kind of payment; she was just glad to see it go to a good home. Wow.
There were twenty balls of a donegal tweed in brown (does that sound familiar yet?), and I ended up knitting them, along with a strand of a darker camelhair/lambswool blend, into a thick warm blanket. My plan was to give it back to her as a thank you for all the yarn. I didn’t know how to reach her other than her phone number she’d given me when we’d run into each other in a store.
I called. I left messages three times, eventually telling her answering machine that I had something I wanted to give her as a thank you. Eventually, I thought, well, I don’t want to stalk you, honey, I guess you’re not interested. And so I quietly kept the afghan. It sat to the side, unused and uncertain.
Last year I almost donated it to Afghans for Afghans, but, for no earthly reason I could tell you, I just didn’t feel like it.
Meantime, Sandi, my friend who gave me that red scooter down a few posts ago, opened a new yarn store last year, and started having knitting group nights every Thursday. I’ve wanted to go, but, not driving, I’ve just never made it there yet. I get to my old group, somehow, just fine. But I haven’t gotten to that one, even though it’s closer.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I decided this year to finally give that brown blanket to Afghans for Afghans at Stitches–it felt like the right time, at last–I emailed Ann Rubin to ask her if they could handle a larger item at this time, and that whole story happened.
It was long past when I should have been allowed to make such a change to the text of my book, but I asked my editor afterwards if, now that the Barn Swallows scarf had declared whom it had been for all along, if we could mention Ann and her organization in my book before it flew off to the printer. She checked, and–I absolutely love Martingale Press–said sure. So just barely in time, that happened, and that wonderful A4A organization will get the publicity it so much deserves: a place where individual knitters can create connections to other people, create a bit of world peace, one person at a time. And my profound thanks to whoever at Martingale decided I needed my projects suddenly back, so that I had Ann’s scarf in hand in time for Stitches to give to her. When I hadn’t even known I would need it, and neither did they.
Meantime. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has been doing some home repairs, and someone posted a comment on her blog. I read it, and immediately shot off a note to the woman: I had no idea who she was or where she lived in the world, but I simply said, I live in an Eichler home in California, meaning one where, like your house, the water lines were originally run under a concrete slab. We, like you, developed a leak under there. We knew that; what we didn’t know, was that by not immediately repairing it, the vibrations it set off ended up breaking the pipes open in 17 places. In our case, we’d been sitting for 18 months on plans to remodel our house. All the sudden, we could no longer just sit there, we had to really do something, with the result being that that remodel did happen. Meantime, (I told her), if you don’t want to jackhammer your whole slab, get that fixed right away.
I got a note back yesterday from the woman. She exclaimed, “I think I KNOW you!”
It was Pamela! All this time later, she’d come back to her needles after all. There was a knitting group meeting at Sandi’s shop, and she’d been going to it, in case I was interested in meeting up there.
If I had gone to Purlescence’s knitting nights all those times before, all those times it never quite happened, I would have seen Pamela, I would have given her her afghan and been glad of it, and that would have been the end of it. Ann Rubin would never have been able to ship it off to Afghanistan, Ann never would have gotten her scarf, and associating it with her and mentioning her in my book would never have occurred to me.
Pamela checked out my blog, saw the photo, says she missed out on a good thing, but was thrilled that that blanket is off to where it’s off to–”How cool is that!” was her reaction. Go Pamela!
And now I can finally, at last, get her yarn-holding bags back to her!
Afghans for Afghans
Before I say the rest of this, I want to publicly thank Shelly, who has emailed with me any number of times but whom I had never met. Today was her first-ever Stitches, she was only going for the one day, and she spent three hours of it pushing me around. Knitters are such nice people… Many, many thanks, Shelly.
When I was knitting my Barnswallows scarf for my book, I picked out a yarn that reminded me of the color of well-weathered wood, Jaggerspun Zephyr in Mushroom; it went with the story and it felt right. But as I knit it, I wondered whom it would eventually go to. It was pretty, but it wasn’t a color you’d be seeing me wearing any too often.
Ann Rubin is the person behind Afghans For Afghans, as I noted on my Weapons of Mass Construction entry, and for the last several years she has run a booth cum collecting point at Stitches for people wanting to donate handmade warm woolen things for the people of Afghanistan. To wage peace and goodwill. I’ve stopped before and chatted a bit, but never felt virtuous enough to make the effort to knit a whole blanket.
Well, Ann recently put out a call asking for hats, mittens, small things; someone was flying over there, but luggage space would be a problem. The one time I finally have an afghan I want to offer, a donegal tweed wool knitted with a camelhair/lambswool, big and warm and practical. So I emailed Ann; could she still use this? Sure, she said; there will be another shipment going not too far off, bring it, and thanks.
I went to the KnitU meetup last night, held after the opening-day stuff was otherwise over. I didn’t expect Ann to recognize me; other than the fact that I’ve been in a wheelchair at Stitches past, there was nothing ever to make me particularly stand out when we’ve met before. She and I were sitting across the large room from each other at this meeting, and she was dead tired, could hardly keep her eyes open–but they had us go around the room and say our names; she registered mine when I said it, her face lit up, and she smiled a silent hello.
Getting ready for bed last night, it suddenly hit me in total clarity: if I knitted something for Ann, anything warm she would feel morally obligated to share with those in far greater need of that warmth. She is someone who cannot sit still when there are humans in need. But the story of that Barnswallows scarf was about creating a place of peace in a background of ongoing war–and it is a wispy little thing, a bit of Jaggerspun Zephyr, a symbol and an airy lightness.
There is nobody else it could possibly have been for.
(Ann hesitated to accept it; she didn’t want to leave the other volunteers out, and she didn’t want the focus to be on her. I told her it would be wonderful publicity for the Afghans For Afghans project, and with that she relented. And she absolutely loved her scarf.)
Weapons of mass construction
(My Rabbit Tracks pattern with the recommended extra edging at the sides. Yarn: Lisa Souza’s Seafoam colorway; sorry I don’t have any more of the requisite cashmere knitted up on hand for the illustration.)
I am so stealing this line from Carol H., a commenter over at Yarnharlot’s blog. Stephanie aka Yarnharlot wrote a superb post Friday that every knitter who has ever been condescended to, but who wants to handle it well, can relate to. For me, the biggest such moment was when a medical resident last October, seeing me knitting as I sat in my hospital bed, having just met me and knowing nothing whatsoever about me except the fact that I knit, when I mentioned something about my blog and website, gasped loudly, “YOU!!! have a WEBSITE?!!?”
Like wielding two sticks and some wool means you’re not capable of using a computer? Sir?
Stephanie is a woman who, single-handedly, raised $320,000 for Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres from her fellow knitters simply by asking for people to open their hearts. This is a woman with great power to do good, by how she writes and who she is. Her picture is on the very first day that this blog was launched, if I may so brag, from when she was in Los Altos, CA for a booksigning–one that involved a city permit to take over a large parking lot to accommodate the over 300 knitters who showed up for it.
And yet at another venue, she had someone hesitate to set up that tenth chair in their hands, no matter her protests, sure there couldn’t possibly be ten knitters in the area to want to come to a signing for a knitting book. Knitting?
Thus Carol H.’s line: we hold “weapons of mass construction” in our hands. We use them to show people we love them. And there are a lot of us. Ann Rubin’s Afghans for Afghans project, putting warm clothes and blankets made by hand–not just physical warmth from things bought, but a real and human warmth, stranger reaching out to stranger–I think goes a huge but quiet way to launch peace between the peoples of our countries. Our hours spent doing so cannot be bought: they can only be given. And when they are given, when we measure our lives in a manifestation of real caring, we have great power to do good.
Weapons of mass construction. Let’s knit!
Oh, and, that resident? The last day I was there, he looked at the lace scarf I was working on, in cashmere that I had dyed in shades of a royal blue, (absolutely gorgeous if I do say so, and I do say so), and said, wistfully, “I have a wife…”
I thought long and hard about it after I finished it, and finally went back to Stanford and left it with my favorite nurse, whom I’d already gifted with baby alpaca/silk lace, to give that man for his wife, the resident being unavailable just then (she paged him; he was there somewhere; we tried.) A physical reminder, soft, lovely, and skilled in the craftsmanship, that he needs to truly see his patients, not write them instantly off on the basis of his prejudices. It gently holds fast to the truth that I did not write HIM off despite that and other mistakes I believe he won’t repeat. I figure, if I’m to be part of his medical education, then it’s essential I play the part well.
We can construct a massive amount of good by holding fast to our good will. When we express it in stitches, all the better.