Gracie Larsen
Friday April 13th 2018, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

So. Many. Spammers. And you never say the word “yes” to them. “Can you hear me now?” they’ll try to prompt, because then they have your voice with that word and can splice it to whatever they want to claim you agreed to.

So the person on the other end got my quite formal voice when she rang. “May I help you?”

After a few sentences, she got it, and went, “Ah–you don’t recognize my voice.”

And in that instant I’m quite sure I finally did. The friend (of about my age) of Gracie Larsen’s. Her friend who was invited along with me to dinner chez Nancy when my husband was out of town. The woman who flew into town annually to help out at the Guild booth at Stitches and to see Gracie all these years. She was a member of the Lacy Knitters Guild that Gracie founded along with the Lace Museum in Sunnyvale.

For years, Gracie and I were in a knitting group that met at Nancy’s house; after Nancy moved away, I at least still got to see her and that friend manning their Stitches booth that volunteered to teach lace knitting to anyone who wanted to learn.

One year there Gracie asked me, sounding just like my grandmother: “Now, Alison: how old are you?”

I knew not to say ‘The answer to life, the universe, and everything’ for fear she wouldn’t get the Douglas Adams reference and simply said, 42.

“You’re just a BABY!” she exclaimed, guffawing in delight. She was 80.

And then there was the time when she asked me how my book was coming along.

“It’s not.”

“Well that’s no good! Why not?”

I told her I’d used some of the lace patterns in Barbara Walker’s stitch treasuries, was not going to plagiarize, and had no idea how to reach Ms. Walker nor even if she was still alive to ask. My mom had had the original editions of those treasuries when I was a teenager.

“My friend Barbara!” Here-and she gave me the contact information for her, for Meg Swanson (who had re-issued those treasuries), and a third person in the knitting publishing industry.

Which meant… I had to call or email them, as she provided.

Meg Swansen, the late Elizabeth Zimmerman’s daughter, was gracious beyond measure and sent me over to the good folks at Martingale with an editor’s name and number she thought I should talk to.

Ms Walker commended me on my work and asked only that I give her credit. I did. We swapped hurricane stories; turns out my son was living near her that year.

Richard came home from work that day and I was still starstruck nearly speechless. The idea of just picking up the phone and calling–that was like, oh, sure, the White House will put you straight through to President (W.) Bush, no problem!

So my dormant manuscript finally ended up where it needed to go. Turns out there was a staff meeting so many times a year and no more, so there would be a wait. But after that meeting, my phone rang. The person told me who she was.

(And? And?!?) It felt like an unbearably long silence while she tried to think of the right way to say it, or at least it felt very long to me so finally I asked, in great trepidation, sure they were searching for a nice way to turn me down, “Do you like my book?”

That freed her words: “We LOVE your book!!!”

Gracie, you have no idea how much I owe you…

But I tried to tell her. I sought her out at Stitches every year and I thanked her for making my book come to be. Gracie would brag on me for writing it and I would brag on her for getting it to happen.

I’ll think of her name probably some time in the middle of the night, but, that voice was of the woman who’d come to dinner with me at Nancy’s. As Gracie’s age gradually got the better of her, she was the one looking after her all day at Stitches, making sure she got what she needed, making sure she was okay getting to where she needed. This past February, she stopped me at some random point in the aisles and said Gracie was looking for me.

I was looking for her! Where was she? Where was the booth this year? (While thinking, Oh good. Oh good. She’s still with us.)

And so I got my Gracie time, with her holding my hands and looking me in the eyes with a lifetime of love for everyone around her, and in those moments, me.

Her friend wanted to make sure I heard.

I did the math from 42 half in my head half out loud while she did the same and she confirmed, Yes. She was 97.

If you happen to own this book, that’s our Gracie it’s dedicated to.

Her life was well lived, and I–we will all–miss her.



While humming Cat Stevens’ “Into White”
Friday April 06th 2018, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I was bored with white, I was bored with that pattern, but white was what she wanted and I’d promised. It’s not about me, I reminded myself.

I finally started to cast on once I had a tight enough deadline: a waiting room wait, coming up in about an hour minus driving time.

Which is how that pattern happened after all. It was something I could do blindfolded, which is certainly a plus in a carry-around project–and I knew the recipient would love it and that’s the part that mattered. All I had to do was keep pushing away at it till it got done.

And now it’s done!



YouTube today
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life,Politics

She was going out to dinner near the airport with her best friend, who was then going to drop her off for her flight.

She glanced at her phone as we started out. Great, there’s been a shooting.

In San Bruno.

We were headed to San Bruno.

On some level, it just didn’t sink in; it just made no sense.

She read on. The shooter was already known to be dead; we didn’t think we were going to be too close to the scene anyway.

But after I got home I found out a friend had marked himself as Safe on Facebook (Oh is that where your new job is) and another had said that she was pinging her co-workers, hoping to hear that they were okay. She later deleted the post: no sense in letting the crazies know where she worked.

These are the times we’ve been allowing ourselves to live in and creating for our children to inherit.

Meantime, another friend had a small fender-bender near there and a witness waited with her for the police to come–and for friendly chat to pass the time he asked her, Did you hear about YouTube? When she said no, he (with expletives) said that they deserved it because they were threatening our Second Amendment rights.

Wait. YouTube said they would no longer allow videos that made them a party to gun sales. They didn’t say you couldn’t sell, they didn’t say you couldn’t speak, they didn’t outlaw your guns, they’re not the government nor are they a public utility nor are they censoring speech, they simply said that on the platform that they own and pay people to manage, on the machines and electricity bills that they pay for, these were some of the rules for participating.

Anybody can still make their own video and host it on their own server.

This man actually thought it was okay to wish a death sentence on innocent people out loud to a total stranger–and he assumed she would agree with him!–for YouTube’s unwillingness to be a party to what they felt was promoting gun violence. This afternoon that issue was forced into their very workplace and I imagine their decision gained both clarity and a deep-seated sense of righteousness.

If people like him think that they’re a majority, then clearly that would suggest he could strike it rich with his own startup: video hosting for people who think like him. Literally nothing right now is stopping him. Venture capitalists in Silicon Valley constantly chase the next big money-maker, go make your pitch to them.

You see? That First Amendment: and it came first for a reason.

But it does not include the right to force someone else to pay to issue your speech for you.



Celestial lights
Thursday March 29th 2018, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift


Knitting-wise, it’s been a fairly slow week, but I finally finished the beaded silk.

I thought it was nice enough. Even if the dye left my fingertips slightly smudgy–I was definitely going to have to wash this. (I just did.)

I broke the 4 gram remnant off at the last and put the cowl on and went to go take a look.

And in that moment I knew why I’d put up with that snaggy little strand the glass beads were strung along on, the loose dye, the beads, the taking more time than I’d intended. It looks like the constellations. It is exactly her sort of thing. It was so worth every minute.

I can’t wait.



It sparkles!
Monday March 26th 2018, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift

Figs!

The woman at Stitches who’d beaded her yarns herself, when I told her I loved that her glass beads were so small, told me that they kind of had to be or they’d run together in the strand.

Knowing she wasn’t going to be selling me any more (not online anyway) till her show season was over, I went looking for what I could find. I bought some beaded silk yarn from this lady and in talking to her, found out she had some in black, too, and in a bit of a leap of faith ordered a skein of that as well.

I’m so glad I did.

The beads on these are a bit bigger (but not big) and heavier and do tend to come in the occasional clump. Alright then. I just take them as they come and keep on going–part of the pattern of the thing, I figure, and it’s coming out soft and sparkly and absolutely gorgeous. Altogether the most perfect thing I could have found for the person I’m knitting it for.



So he got to look forward to making her happy, too
Sunday March 25th 2018, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knitting a Gift,Lupus

My thanks to all those who participated in the March for our Lives yesterday–I would have given anything to join in. But lupus. And sun.

But wow those kids! They are the courage and the conscience of the nation.

Knitting stuff: my friend Karen’s son told me his wife was home with a cold. You should have seen his face light up when I gave him the butter-yellow cowl to take to her–and then the matching hat for their baby on the way. The joy and the love for both of them and the anticipation… I came away feeling how fortunate they were to have each other. That baby is going to grow up in a happy home.



Creamed
Saturday March 24th 2018, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

After the afghan, I did a cowl in Malabrigo’s Solis blue/green colorway Thursday and Friday and wondered what to start and for whom. So I said a little prayer: You know who most needs the next thing the soonest.

And out of all my new Stitches stash and all my older stash, you know what answered that? What demanded to be next?

That same cream cashmere/cotton, (mine was a heavier weight) of which there was just enough (that was already scoured) left from that afghan to make a hat.

Again?!

It’s like I can’t get away from that yarn. (Two afghans in six months and another cone waiting to be a third.) I confess I had to let the thought percolate a bit and left it for the morning, and then left it for the afternoon till I finally decided both that I was being ridiculous and needed to get to it–and till it had come to me what pattern to use. Till I knew, and I did, exactly what pattern it had to be. Maybe not for the recipient’s sake but for mine.

A cream, almost white hat with cotton.

Like the one that was my mother-in-law’s… (Where did I post that story?) Only this time it would not vanish into the wild.

I had gotten my late mother-in-law’s chemo caps sent back to me after her death, and on impulse I had grabbed one to wear out to dinner with friends on a chilly evening. None of us ever saw it again. I retraced my steps, I called the restaurant, but it was gone.

And yet mixed with that great sense of loss–I had made that for MomH!–was this strong feeling that all was not actually lost, that it had gone to someone who needed it. It was cotton. It was non-allergenic. It was pretty. It was warm, because I had knitted it doubled fingering weight on size 3 needles, an aching task (especially with those cables) that I could only put a couple of rows into a day but I did it for her.

And now for someone else, whoever they were. I might not know them but they were known to G_d, and there was a comfort there that I did not expect and it has stayed with me whenever I’ve thought about that hat.

So. Cream, almost white. Half cotton, half cashmere, bigger needles, easier to work with, so soft. Make it just like Mom’s had been. A cable going sideways around the head, stitches picked up lengthwise to knit straight up from there, curving decreases in a pinwheel at the top.

I knew exactly who it was for and I couldn’t wait to give it to her and now it is done and I can.

This time, since the recipient isn’t a tender-headed woman balded by chemo, it has a tag inside saying who made it for her. If somehow it should get lost, it can make its way back.



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!

 



Flintstones
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.)



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.



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.