Meeting
Monday June 18th 2018, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We solved people’s problems (we hope, we wish) and got a lot done and stayed late and tomorrow you hopefully get a better blog post than this.



Highway 80
Saturday June 16th 2018, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

When I was a kid, the freeway between Washington, DC and Baltimore was two lanes each way built out of, if you can believe it, concrete. Set in blocks with the gaps between giving the material room to contract and expand with the temperatures. You did not want to drive it fast: it was a loud bambambambambambambambambam jackhammering all the way. But there really wasn’t all that much traffic on it, at least.

Eventually they tore all that out and put in a real road, which now has heavy development pretty much all the way and the cars to match.

I was remembering those childhood trips to the Maryland state piano competitions at Peabody in Baltimore as we drove from here to Milpitas to Sacramento today. On a weekend, that should be a two hour drive, ideally.

The road is old and not very wide with a whole lot of traffic and they are improving it and widening it in some spots. Construction. Accidents. Cars cars cars.

Three and a half hours there, two coming home.

And yet. We were carpooling with friends and it was time well spent and I’m very glad we went.

Knitting in hand, I finally ventured to ask… The driver guffawed in disbelief at the question: “YES! I LOVE cashmere!” She told me wistfully she owned one single cashmere sweater.

I did not tell her I hadn’t made her a cashmere cowl because her husband had told me she was allergic to it. I had wondered ever since if he’d heard me right, if he’d thought I was only talking about wool because I knew he was having a hard time hearing every word. But he seemed sure enough of himself that I hadn’t pushed the idea.

She loves peach.

I have a finished one in peach.

Well then.



Would you could you in a box? Would you could you with a fox? Would you eat them here or there? Would you eat them anywhere?
Thursday June 14th 2018, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

The weekly veggie box came.

He saw the bag and asked, Chips? (Why would they sell…? You’re not a corn chip fan, why did you…) He was about to reach for some. I headed him off, shaking my head.

Crickets.

??!

Only later did I see the word Chirps at the top, but yeah, those are chips made from a high protein source that happens to be, um, bird-friendly, other ingredients aside. One bug per chip.

The Imperfect Produce people were trying to close them out because they were getting close to their sell-by date and during the brief weekly glance at the offerings I’d thought, well that sounds curious.

And then spent the week wondering whether that was really such a good idea. It’s easy to be adventuresome when the adventure’s far away. Now that they’re here I…I…

I find that I just do not seem to want to open that bag.

It is safe to say I don’t think he’s in a rush to, either.

We’re going to a potluck dinner next week where I’m sure they could be the talk of the night. Better bring a chocolate torte–no, two! And peaches from Andy’s!–to make sure they forgive us.

“You know what bugs me about you guys?”

*crickets*

The puns, they await. We may never live this down….



Sending her off
Sunday June 10th 2018, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Friends

A skein of superwash Malabrigo to go with the grad student’s cashmere, after she chose the smaller ball of it because, hey, luggage space, and a 24″ circ, her first circular needle and the right size for the hat she wants to make with that Rios.

The single mom chose her cowl and her three-year-old picked his hat. I showed him how you could play hide and go seek with it, pulling it down over my face–he thought that was a great game.

The beaded green silk finally found its way home.

The green hat did not. Not yet, anyway. It will.



280 grams and 140 grams
Saturday June 09th 2018, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

A friend was throwing a Relief Society (women’s organization) potluck brunch get-together. She has a beautiful big back yard with picnic benches for a crowd, perfect for a summer day.

Her small house did not have enough space inside for her guest list. I said the June sun was the issue and I was sorry I was going to be missing it.

She talked me into coming anyway, parking close and sitting at her table just on the other side of the window from everybody.

She excused herself from the group and came and kept me company for awhile; one-0n-one is so much easier for me to hear anyway. Cool. So did several other people by turns, and it was much appreciated. I’d brought my knitting and it filled in any gaps. Meantime, her kids, teens to 21, passed by going from here to there in the house.

Plus one young woman I didn’t know. Who saw the work in my hands and on the second time by decided to stop and ask about it.

Turns out she was their niece, visiting before her move overseas Monday for her graduate studies at Oxford.

Turns out she’s a knitter.

Turns out she’d never heard of Colourmart, but now she’s hoping to visit them in person and is quite excited about it.

I told her I’d knit in high school but had had to give it up in college: I simply had had no funds for yarn (she nodded in boy-ain’t-that-the-truth agreement), and it took ten years for me to get back to it. I regret those ten years and would love to make it easier for someone else to keep going; what were her favorite colors?

Was I serious?!

That’s what yarn is for, yes.

And that is how, a year after I bought it, that huge 420-gram cone of dk cashmere I’d hanked and scoured finally got wound up and ready to go. It took…awhile this afternoon. (That big ball nearly qualifies for planethood. The bowl it’s in is platter size.) I’m not giving her all of it and I’m not sure it would fit in her suitcase if I did, so, some for my cowls project, some for her. Whichever one fits in her luggage. I want her to have something that sustains her wanting to knit.

And now it’s finally available to me to actually work with, too.



Sunday’s service, Monday’s mail
Friday June 08th 2018, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Thought I’d up the stitch count this time from 68 to 70 but I continued with the 2×2 ribbing.

If you’re a knitter (or were ever taught math in third grade for that matter) you can quickly see where that’s going: seventy is not a multiple of four. Well, duh.

Alright then, why not alternate the pairs seed-stitch style. The variety would be interesting to work on.

The funny thing is how it came out in columns anyway. It will stretch to fit any adult but it stays a bit relaxed for a toddler’s head; I hope little Ray prefers the other one but either way now there’s some choice for him in the matter, a means of being in control of an expressive part of his three-years-long life, and that is always a fine, fine thing.

Then a message came in from across the country, I knew *exactly* who I needed to knit for next, stat, some cashmere leaped onto my needles and it is racing along.



He can take a little ribbing
Wednesday June 06th 2018, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

(It’s a little darker than this.)

Yesterday’s cowl was for a newly-single mom of an adorable three-year-old and was from a single skein of souvenir yarn bought in Ft. Worth the last time we got to visit my father-in-law before he passed.

I couldn’t match it.

But after some serious stash-diving I came up with this to at least approximate it; I remember, back when I was a young mom I would be halfway through the day before I realized I’d dressed my baby to match me without even knowing it. Again.

Two-by-two ribbing all the way up to give it some serious stretch. It will fit a preschooler’s head with lots of folding-up and it goes comfortably over mine. Kids grow.

Of course, being three and having a mom who’s back in school and will likely soon move again means it’ll probably get lost somewhere before he’s four and make how it was knitted a moot point, but then that would just mean he’d get to choose the colors himself next time.

The point is that in all the shattering losses they’re going through, good memories and a sense of belonging are still being created. They matter.



Breathe
Monday June 04th 2018, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

K. made me feel like I was instantly family yesterday, with such a profound sense of love that I was in awe of her.

Tonight I found out she’s on chemo.

(Say what?!)

Again. Apparently inoperable.

(But. But. But we’re just getting started!)

I think we need to get to those lace knitting sessions pronto.

Suddenly her keeping to herself like she did–I totally get it now. That profound offering of love: I get that, too.



That soft gray cashmere
Sunday June 03rd 2018, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

I finally learned how to pronounce her name today.

She’s a knitter? I…I… How could I not have known this! She’s so shy and so quiet, but offering her that cowl changed everything in an instant. She crochets, too, but she’d never knitted anything like this. She was blown away.

What kind of… She looked for the right words to ask.

I got it and grabbed my purse. I pulled out a circular needle.

Yes! That! She marveled over knitting needles that were all in one piece like that. Where do you get that?

It was a 4mm/US6 and apparently a fair bit smaller than she was used to. I told her where the nearest yarn store was, or maybe Michael’s, or online?

She did not know how to do it like this, though. Could I teach her?

Be still my heart. Oh honey yes. And there’s a book out there that has lace instructions (lace. That was the word she’d been looking for. English is not her first language) both in words and pictures. I couldn’t resist adding, And I wrote it.

(With credit thoroughly owed to Donna Druchunas for those diagrams and the charting.)

I told her I was giving her a copy next week (or next time, I explained, depending on when my aunt’s memorial service gets scheduled for. Aunt Bonnie cannot leave us without her children knowing just how much their sweet mother meant to my family and me.)

If only I’d done this good woman’s cowl a long time ago. But at least I did it now. We have us some catching up to do. This is so cool.



ABC
Wednesday May 30th 2018, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I.e, All But Castoff.

Which actually is done now.

I have a friend who’s into history and studies of other cultures and somehow it seemed more fun to knit her something with a hint of vicuna while anticipating telling her about the traditional chacu roundups of that animal, and the triumph of its comeback from near-extinction–a bit of a visual not to mention tactile aid.

Yarn: 98/2% 16 micron merino/vicuna, with the vicuna at about 12 microns. That 2% makes a noticeable difference over even the most super-fine wool.

I found one single light brown hair that had slipped into the spinning and showed up right at the cast off line.

I like that. A little bit of the animal it came from, untamed.

(Note to self: US7, 96 stitches to 128. Width 22 and 36, length 14 laying flat, 16 upright.)



Saved by the deadline from the deadline
Monday May 14th 2018, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I guess I made it look easy? I hadn’t knitted all of them in one week.

Remember when I offered the three elderly widows who were sitting together their choice of cowls a few weeks ago? They were all very appreciative.

So appreciative, one of them came back to me yesterday and made a point of telling me how much she loves hers. How she’d worn it day and night for two weeks, how her son had told her to cover her neck and head if she were cold and this did such a fine job keeping her warm and she’d never had a way to keep just her neck warm like that before. And it was SO soft!

Why, thank you!

What came next took me so by surprise that she had to say it twice, not because I didn’t hear it but because I just… (Surely that’s not what she’d said.) It was.

Her family was going to have a big happy reunion this summer (I knew one of her kids had adopted a whole lot of kids) and could I make twenty-nine matching cowls by then? She would pay me.

Clearly she wanted each one of them to have all the love that she’d felt in the one that I’d made her. One of her daughters so loves the one I surprised her with while she was visiting her mom last year; her son has a scarf I knit him years ago for wearing to Canada, if he still has it, and I know my friend and her late husband raised their kids to appreciate handmade things. They could all have a visual symbol of being a family that loves each other no matter where or what circumstances the individual grandkids had come in from. I got where my friend was coming from.

But.

Twenty. Nine.

MATCHING. No variety in the knitting.

Cowls. This summer. The summer that starts in five weeks?

It was suddenly a very good thing that I have a whole lot of experience with knitting requests by people who have no idea, because in that moment I needed every bit of that been-there-done-that-blase’-ness  to keep me from laughing out loud or gasping in astonishment or cringing and just all-around embarrassing her. Having her repeat the request helped put a bit of distance between the urgency of the ask while lessening the urgency of the no.

Well, says I, I’ve been wanting to make one for every woman in the ward. I started just over a year ago. I’ve done fifty so far.

Oh, says she, disappointed as it starts to sink in. She had so hoped. A year? Fifty? How long does it take to make them?

Seven to twelve hours, on average. And I need to get an afghan done and soon, and that’s a month. (Side note to myself: if I really work at it.)

She did the math on the time left and figured that that looked like that wasn’t going to work, then, was it. But she would pay me if I did, she hastened to reassure me.

I didn’t tell her my starting price for such a project in that time and that spot in my queue would start at, oh, let’s say a million. Plus materials.



For old times’ sake
Friday May 11th 2018, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

She was born in 1926 and today we gave her a great send-off. Eighty great-grandkids. Wow. Her family filled most of the big center section of the church.

The littler ones were having to sit quietly for a long time as the funeral went on. Fortunately I had just restocked my purse.

One young man of about twelve helped pass along some handknit finger puppets (some still had a tiny Peru sticker on them, I’d just gotten them) to his small cousins, pleased at how those quieted them down and that he’d gotten to help out.

Agnes, an old friend who’d driven into town for this was sitting next to me and nudged me, motioning that he wanted one, too. I’d almost missed it. He was one of the great-grandkids who’s local so I know him.

I raised my eyebrows silently with a smile, glad they weren’t all gone yet: You want one?

A small hopeful nod.

I reached across the church aisle and gave him what its knitter probably thought of as a reindeer, but having seen that moose in Alaska, I’m (silently, at the time) calling it a moose. The antlers totally made it.

He examined every stitch and everything about it as the talks went on with intense enough curiosity that I thought, grab that kid some needles and merino, friends, I think he’s ready to learn how to knit.

p.s. Mom, Dad, and Carolyn: Debbie MH and her husband Ron’s cousin Lisa T.C. from back home asked after you. Debbie’s folks are doing well.



Raspberry cupcakes
Monday May 07th 2018, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

I was short about a teaspoon’s worth of butter and added about that much extra sour cream in tradeoff and they didn’t rise as high as last week’s. Which is fine.

This time, I made homemade lemon curd via my Meyer tree rather than opening a jar of the stuff from Trader Joe’s.

And again, I took four of the finished cupcakes, with a raspberry on top just like in the pictures, over to our friends Phyl and Lee after they affirmed that yes, they would love to taste-test this version, too.

Lee’s brother fell and died of a head injury last month and that was the last thing anyone expected. Coming for dinner that night, yes. But…

I cannot bring him back. But by golly I can make really good raspberry cupcakes to let them know we’re thinking about them, thanks to my daughter Sam’s heads-up on that recipe.

We do what we can.



How it came out
Sunday April 22nd 2018, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

The story of the cowl.

I bought the yarn with a particular person in mind, knowing her favorite color, but as soon as I got going with it I knew the shade was off and it just wasn’t going to be it. And yet that yarn had practically thrown itself at me in the store just the same. What was I thinking?

Nothing for it but to keep on knitting till it’s done–there’s always a place for one of these, and if I hurry I can get it off the needles faster and get on to what I’d hoped for.

Done and blocked, it quietly made a case for itself: it was pretty. I’d almost missed that.

So this morning as I ran the ends in I found myself saying a little prayer: please, could You make it obvious whom to give this to? Like, really obvious so I don’t second-guess myself and wonder? Not that I’m in any way owed that, but I’d love to have the gratification of knowing it was worth it given that I kind of struggled not to be annoyed at it for making me wait for what I’d wanted to do.

Sitting in Sunday School, I spotted two new people across the room, one of whom had a face that was familiar to me from other contexts but I don’t know her; she was wearing a dress that matched that cowl. There was this little spark of happiness that exclaimed, Yes!

But she was deep in conversation with the other woman and in no way was I going to give offense by excluding her, so my attention moved on.

Sunday School ended, the Relief Society women’s meeting was about to begin–and that acquaintance stood, walked across the room, and sat down by me to talk to the next woman over for a minute.

Wow. That sure worked.

When their conversation was over, I asked her, “Are you allergic to wool?”

That was NOT a question she was expecting. “No–?”

“Is this a good color?”

She loved it. She was thrilled. Yes, and it matched her dress!

We asked each other our names. When I said mine, she did a double take and went, “Are you Michelle’s mom?!”

“Yes!”

She proceeded to tell me about things she’d done with my daughter, reminiscing fondly over her baking skills, telling me how much she and her friends had missed her and how they hoped she would move back.

Who doesn’t need to hear something like that about themselves? (I passed the good word on to her.) What mother doesn’t love hearing how much her child is loved?

Who knew how much that simple bit of knitting would come back to bless–us, too?

I really like Michelle’s friend. And she’s a knitter. What a way to start off knowing somebody!



The widows might
Sunday April 15th 2018, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I laughed. I told Jean, You wore that quiet green last week, and so (I held up the sage-green cowl) but it doesn’t go with that sweater at all!

Then to her delight I offered her not just the green but (reaching into the bag again) the purple and the purpley-brown to choose from.

For me?!

She complimented them all. But that purple! Oh, she loved that purple, all the more once she touched it. (That was the Chateau cowl, the braided baby alpaca.)

Then she explained the sweater: her husband had bought it for her years ago; she had felt him close to her all week, and so she’d wanted to bring it to church today.

(And him along with it, I thought. He was a good one. I could just picture him looking on in delight.)

It was in neon shades of brightness, varying colors in diamonds and angles, a cheerful piece of clothing straight out of a modern art museum (said the daughter of the modern art dealer, debating between Piet Mondrian and some of his contemporaries.)

Mona Jo, sitting next to her, when offered a To Be Continued if she preferred something else, happily chose the brown-almost-purple knit from Woolfolk, also extraordinarily soft.

A little later, Gail, a knitter in her younger days, was wearing a skirt in a sage green plaid. That sage green cowl went exactly with her strawberry blonde hair, too. Wool and mink? Mink?! She laughed and held it to her as if to say, Ta Daah! I got mink! It went right on and it stayed on. It wasn’t very big because I didn’t have very much of that mink left, but she told me how warm that bit around her neck would keep her on our cold mornings.

And so these three widows, lifelong friends who had raised their children here (some of whom are now grandparents themselves) all came away on the same day with a handknit cowl in a color they liked. I thought I was just planning for Jean and letting the rest play out as it might and it all came out absolutely perfect.