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?

Sure!

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.



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.



Baby mountain climber
Monday March 05th 2018, 11:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knitting a Gift

Someone figured out how to get to a favorite Dr. Seuss book…

And that picture I shared the other day of Mathias passing some Cheerios to the dog from his high chair? The dog has started bringing Mathias bits of kibble. Fair’s fair.

(Re the knitting, I finished the fluorescent pink and blocked it and delivered the beaded cobalt cashmere/silk to the friend who loved it as dearly as I’d hoped she would.)



The first one
Sunday March 04th 2018, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Maria in the comments was right. I picked out that colorway at Stitches specifically to match a sweater I’d seen a friend wearing (that I thought was wool) but before I even pulled it out of my bag I asked her if she was allergic to wool–and she said she was.

“But I’m not allergic to cashmere.”

I laughed. I did indeed have some, albeit in limited colors. What was her preference? She was at the head of my list.

So that freed that cowl up, she never even saw it, and across the room was someone who had moved into town two weeks ago. It is never easy to  have to start from scratch on making friends in a new place, so hey, maybe we could speed up the process. I went over and introduced myself (church having just ended) and said I’d spent last weekend at a big knitters’ convention having the time of my life, and so–“Are you allergic to wool?”

That was the last question on earth she would have expected from a complete stranger and she laughed, “No?” with a question mark.

“I think this would match your jacket–if you want, and if not tell me your favorite color.” And I pulled the cowl out.

Sharp intake of breath: “I LOVE it!” She put it on and petted it, gobsmacked and very very happy.

She just made a hundred more knits happen for other people. Just watch.



Instant gratification hat
Saturday March 03rd 2018, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I started another cowl after last night’s post and finished the first skein today and at that stopping point considered: it really did need a second.

But I decided that I had done all the vivid Barbie-pink pearl yarn I could stand for one day, in part because with the sun gone, the artificial light did not improve the color for me, even if I think it’s just the thing for its intended, and meantime some super-soft, thick, braided Classic Elite Chalet yarn had been jumping up and down at me yelling louder and louder. It was emphatic that it needed to jump the line, and so I let it. Just for the evening, I told myself. It works up fast.

I have a hat like this with seven repeats. But there were only 98 yards to work with–and again, it’s quite thick–so we would have to go with six. (Note to self: needles US 6 and 8, 60 stitches.)

And there you go. It reminds me of a carousel somehow. Up down up down hold onto that line anchoring your character and a curving top above with those angles built into it.

As I was knitting it, it dawned on me at last that the person I sometimes see at church with the tracheotomy probably doesn’t want the possibility of loose fibers near her throat, but in this long cold spell we’ve been having, (34F as I type) a melt-in-your-hands-soft hat could be just the thing…



With sparkles
Monday February 26th 2018, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I’ll try to get a picture tomorrow.

There was an older woman at Stitches selling 76 gram 200 yard skeins of three plies that she’d clearly plied herself: because one was 85/15 cashmere/silk, one was silk, and the last one embedded in there was a strand of mylar/nylon sparkle.

And that sparkle yarn had hundreds of matching cobalt-blue glass beads strung along it.

She had done that stringing herself.

And she was selling those skeins for $18.

I bought just one, and told her I knew I would regret that. Which I do. I was in Stitches overload and sparkly isn’t usually personally my thing but even then I knew I would wish for more of this stuff. It was very striking. I asked the woman if she sold them online and her response was, no, because she can never keep up.

I went looking today out of sheer curiosity and found lesser amounts of wool beaded in villages in India for three times the price and a beaded cashmere yarn for $74 for, again, less yarn, and realized that my take that the lady at Stitches was seriously undervaluing her time and product was definitely an understatement.

So here I was today, not thinking of that at all but rather of a friend who sings semi-professionally and who loves a good formal dress for a performance. She wore a striking new cobalt-blue one to church yesterday. She is a profoundly kind human being and I told her a week or two ago that I wanted to be like her when I grow up.

She laughed in surprise and told me I had that backwards.

Yesterday, though, she opened up a little to me about how hard this parenting three small children thing was being just then. I sympathized; I told her of when my two-year-old had danced to make the four-month-old giggle, had suddenly stopped, pulled back her foot and kicked him hard in the face just to see what would happen.

Mommy grabbing her shoulders and screaming, NO!!! in her face as the baby screamed hysterically is what happened. Trust me, they’re good friends now.

So here I was today, thinking of her needing a hug and a you’ve-got-this, winding a skein of superwash wool to match that dress: practical, soft, and one less thing for her to stress over. And I sat down to cast it on.

I only got to about four stitches. The wool just refused.

But with little kids and a baby surely that’s what she needs, and it’s the right color….!

I looked up mid-self-argument and saw that beaded yarn.

Sometimes it feels great to be more than just the mom.

Instantly I knew why, in all the time I’ve known Becca, I’ve never yet made her a cowl. It was because her yarn hadn’t existed yet, and I didn’t know that, but now it does and it is perfect. Nobody else will have one like it, and that’s okay: nobody else does what she does.

I sent a note in thanks to the woman who’d strung those beads and she was very pleased.

I’ve got the stitch count. I’ve got the first row. I just have to get past the feeling that I only have just this one chance to knit this gorgeous yarn right–and that after that I may never get to again.



Stumped the math guy with my knitting
Sunday February 25th 2018, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Wait. How does that make sense. Who could I ask.

Oh of course! I knew it the moment I saw him: the high school math teacher!

Hey! So I have this pattern, so many knits, so many purls, and then move them sideways–so suddenly it’s knit five here, but that’s okay because the purl stitch will come up at the rear later. Right?

Riiight…?

So then how come the line going straight up here is this many and in that section is that many when it should all be the same? I got the stitch count right.

Let me look at that. He counted stitches as if he’d been knitting all his life. You’re right–that’s–huh. He was stumped. He wondered if it made a difference if you started with knits vs purls, and assured me, But I don’t think it shows…

It doesn’t, or not really; it looks like a half a stitch’s extra width here, and it makes no sense. But you’re right, I don’t think it shows.

I told him that when you’re knitting in the round there’s always this half-stitch jog upwards where the row had begun and that some knitters knit half of the stitch below to try to straighten out that line.

He was intrigued: I can’t wait to go home and look at my socks!



And a little child shall lead them
Saturday February 24th 2018, 11:20 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

There was a young mom with her infant in a front pack, her adorable young toddler whose legs still wobbled occasionally, and a friend to walk the aisles with her at Stitches to help keep a second pair of eyes on him.

And suddenly there was a finger puppet, because in that crowded venue among so many strangers it was something he was going to need. Something wooly and bright and soft of his own.

His mommy had him waving thank you for it.

I smiled a been there at the women and got out of their way.

So here I was an hour or so later suddenly realizing that they were coming at me from a side aisle–and that that little boy, not yet old enough to talk (or at least not among lots of strangers) had seen me before I’d seen him, because I didn’t notice him till just as his hands moved at the basket on my scooter, having gotten ahead of the grown-ups at seeing me.

He had grabbed a quite-small skein of light pink exquisite softness his mommy had just bought and was stuffing it in on top of my Neighborhood Fiber skeins: clearly that was where I wanted my yarns to go. I didn’t see the label and don’t know what it was but it was clearly the good stuff.

That was one of the best thank-you presents I have ever been given.

His mom suddenly saw and was apologizing to me but clearly also delighted at the graciousness of his intent and we were both very proud of him. I thanked him.

And handed it back to her.

He wanted to fix that and do right by me–didn’t we understand? His mom and I both laughed with love and gently insisted it needed to stay with her. But to make sure he knew he wasn’t being scolded nor his gift rejected but rather, praise had been earned, I thanked him again for the lovely gift.

He is going to be a good man when he grows up.



Buffalo Wool Co
Friday February 23rd 2018, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

First, a side note: my phone died. Anybody trying to text to meet up with me tomorrow at Stitches, we’re going to try a different charger tonight and see if that does it.

Meantime, one of the first booths you see as you go in the door at Stitches (turn right) is Buffalo Wool Company‘s.

Where, last year, Ron Miskin said to me in surprise, I didn’t know you wrote a book!

Just like that they had a copy. Funny how that works.

I had just bought a skein of their buffalo silk yarn and suddenly he grabbed a twin to it and put it in my basket. I protested that that wasn’t a fair trade for them, and he grinned an oh well! at me.

So today. I go in there, and I say, I’m bringing some yarn back; it just didn’t work for me. I hope they didn’t mind if it was slightly used.

He was catching on…

I was pulling the cowl out…

I forget if I said happy birthday or merry Christmas–I try to say the first these days, it’s universally applicable–and had fun watching him be blown away. Theresa, busy with another customer for part of that, tried it on and loved it. She asked about the pattern; I said it was a doodle.

I told them how much I had regretted having restocked my husband’s socks supply with (bignamebrand) supposedly washable merino socks, and how much some of them had shrunk and some had had elastic threads tear out even though I handwashed them (I spin them out in the machine). I’d then bought two of their buffal0/merino socks–and they were soft and got softer with washing, they didn’t shrink, they held up, they are fabulous socks and I am not buying my husband anything else from here on out.

Do you live where it’s cold? he asked.

Right up the freeway, actually, but we’ve been to Alaska several times now with a baby grandson there. And we talked a little about that airport vending machine that had made me guffaw–perfect product placement!

Now, I should have guessed what Ron was going to do next. He grabbed a pair and put it in the scooter’s basket.

I protested and he grinned.

I debated a moment while he helped someone else, and then admitted that I have 6.5 feet (even if EE) and my husband’s a 13 and I was afraid neither of us could wear his size large.

So he grabbed more expensive versions–two, no less, one for Richard and one for me, and when I tried to tell him he couldn’t do that he grinned something along the lines of, try to stop me.

You know I can’t get ahead of them.

But we’re having fun trying.



One more way to stay in touch
Monday February 19th 2018, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Knit,Wildlife

There! I said in triumph, done with it for the night. I octopused it.

You what? He wasn’t sure he’d heard that one right.

You know how octopuses can squeeze into anything? I got 61″ of afghan and that ball into that ziploc. (Warning: great National Geographic video in that link, annoying announcer–you might want to turn the sound off.)

Meantime…

I was talking to a friend yesterday who has just bought a house a half hour north of us and is getting ready to move into it. This is a rare and marvelous achievement around here these days. I was wondering out loud if she’d like a fruit tree as a housewarming present.

Because I know how many times I’ve wished I’d planted mine when we moved here, rather than most of them at 25 years later when my kids were newly grown and I needed to still see something grow up year by year under my care. Plus I wanted the fruit. Plus I think they’re pretty trees.

She instantly knew exactly what she wanted and she was ecstatic–was I serious?

Absolutely! As I thought, my late father-in-law is the one who encouraged me to start gardening, and that would be the best use I can think of for some of the birthday check he gave me in December just before he died.

I checked the Dave Wilson site and they said the Blenheim (Royal) was the #1 apricot in California and the top-rated one in their taste tests. But also, as I said to her yesterday, one good thing about apricots is that they’re a little tart and squirrels don’t like tart.

It turns out she knew her apricot varieties and Blenheim was her favorite. Well then.

Yamagami’s, my favorite nursery, had the Royal variant in stock. Perfect.

She helped me get that big thing out of my small car this afternoon, exclaiming, I can’t believe you did this! I can’t believe you already did!

Take pictures for me when you get it in?

She couldn’t wait to.

And I came away thinking, how often do we get to spend money on something that will last the rest of the recipient’s whole life? That tree will keep giving and giving and giving, and you learn with the first one and who knows where it’ll take her from there.

I could hear one of my favorite doctors in my head, an avid gardener, when I asked him about the squirrels, answering happily, I have MILLIONS of apricots! They hadn’t touched them.

I said a little prayer for Jennifer’s tree to grow and thrive along with her three little kids. They need to wait a little while before they climb it, though.

A bowl of them (cupping my hands for size) in five years? An excuse for a visit.

She’s looking forward to it.



Made my day
Sunday February 18th 2018, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I put down the afghan and came over to the computer to try to figure out what to write about tonight and an email had just come in: Jerry and Vivian, with her saying she’d stolen one of his hats for the picture that they were posing for.

With the most radiant smiles.

I tell you.

I described to them what Stitches West was, that it was this coming weekend, and to let me know what colors or fibers they’d like next and I’d be right on it. And I wished they could see how big the smile was on my face too right now.



Two-thirds
Thursday February 15th 2018, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Yay for the postal employee yesterday who checked that zip code before letting my package go into the system: I had two numbers transposed. The rest of the rather unusual-sounding address was a match so it was clearly going to the right place now.

I drove home after Jerry’s two hats went on their way feeling grateful beyond anything I could begin to say that I could do something that could actually help–what do people do who don’t knit?–and I pictured their surprised faces as they opened the box. I really should make the whole family matching hats in solidarity with their dad, but, at least there’s a start.

Then I dove back into the waiting afghan.

Early last week I was at eight repeats and wanted sixty and I was fighting the sense of, how could this ever be done?

So just do it. After nearly seven hours’ work on it today I hit forty. (I am alternating typing with icepacking.) My yarn planet has gone from Saturnine to Martian, with Pluto a little too wishful thinking quite yet but I am going to have to scour more off the cone soon. That’s a very good problem to have.

Like the hats I just wish, really really wish, I could deliver it in person when I’m done. Which won’t be too long now.



Love by chocolate
Tuesday February 13th 2018, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

My friend Karen dropped by today to pick up the amaryllis I’d promised her (thank you, Dad!) and we ended up chatting awhile.

One of the things she told me was something that in 30 years I’d never known about her: that her family had had an older neighbor who’d never married and had no family around and they with their seven sons had just kind of adopted him as their local grandpa and he loved it. They had had him over for dinner at least once a month for forever and made him theirs.

When he could no longer care for himself and needed to go to a memory care unit, they helped him with that move. He’s 96 now.

She was talking to someone who worked at the nursing home and that is how she found out that the residents got fruit for dessert: but no chocolate. Never chocolate. There was just no reason for it in the caretakers’ eyes, I suppose, nor for the expense.

“Not even, like, brownies?”

Nope.

Well that was definitely something she could do something about–she knew how much he loved the stuff and went to his room and asked him if he’d like some chocolate.

Now, he might have some dementia but he remembered chocolate. Definitely yes. Yes please!

So now she has something she know she can do to cheer him up, to connect to him wherever he may be in there, every time she comes.

And I thought I would pass the good word along. If you don’t know how to visit or what to say to someone in a nursing home–bring them chocolate.

And if it’s ever me in there, dark would be great, thanks.