Another good guy
Monday January 27th 2020, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

The friend I gave the five hats to, who promptly distributed four of them to his friends, dropped by for just a moment this evening with another friend in tow.

So I briefly put him on the spot by asking the guy, Now are you one of the friends who got one of my hats?

A quizzical, Hats?

So he turned that to the subject of–and here the two of them interwove various sentences to tell it–how our friend had gone running, had managed to spear his on a tree branch overhead, didn’t realize it wasn’t still on his head till later and he’d gone back and looked and looked and just couldn’t find it. Meantime, the second guy had gone running later, in the same place, had seen and recognized that hat and had snagged it and returned it to him. They were laughing at all the improbabilities that had happened for that to have worked out, but it had. Good times.

I grabbed my purse and checked: they were still in there. Good. I didn’t have to interrupt to go looking in the other room. I asked friend two if he’d like one of these?

He in great delight picked the foggy blue one. Now he had one of his own. Watch out for those tree branches!

They went off with the guy touching the new softness on his head in the chill of the evening, marveling and thanking and man that felt great.



Warm and cozy
Saturday January 25th 2020, 7:52 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

The warm brown is dominant in real life–this is the one I was working on at the mechanic’s on Tuesday. It had been kicking around in my purse not quite all there yet ever since.

Sometimes you just need to go finish something.

So I did.



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.



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.



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.)



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.



Sometimes you just need to dive in like that
Saturday January 04th 2020, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

(Photo from early on where I was trying to capture how the same stitches looked blocked vs not. Even if the one is upside down from the other. Water is magic.)

A friend who’s a grad student at Stanford asked for help and we invited him over for the resident geek to coach him.

It turned into an eight-hour marathon.

Which meant a marathon knitting session for me, interrupted by a quick trip for groceries and I made myself stop every now and then and go do something else with my hands, but essentially I knitted from ten a.m. past six. Icepacks were my friend.

I lined up the lightly blocked afghan with the not at all blocked bottom border, measured the blocked side border and counted repeats and went back and added one more to the edging piece. It’s now blocking. But not cast off yet, with the thought that if I need to add another before the sewing I can.

So now at least I know how long it will take to knit its twin for the upper side.

But that moment with everything lined up, standing back and taking in how it looked: there was this immediate sense of YES! *This* is how it was supposed to look! It made it all worth it.



The long and winding rowed
Friday January 03rd 2020, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I did it. It took me two and a half hours, to my surprise, and the longer it dragged on the more I had to finish it now and not come back later. I did it.

My late friend Gracie Larsen (here, and here) once taught me that when you want to undo from the bottom, the best method is to snip at the side several rows below where you want there to be live stitches. Not too close.

And then basically you do a reverse kitchener stitch, (grafting, for the non-knitters) unwinding that strand up and down and in and out till you get to the other end of the row.

That was one really long row.

The fact that I’d set the stitches by rinsing the afghan and laying it out to dry helped them behave, but the yarn was still kinked and it had to be done slowly and with a hand on and the needle through the stitch the strand was being pulled through–on the lower stitches. On the upper ones that would soon be done away with, I learned fast that you have to be careful with them, too, or you’ll have multiple unravelings catching on yours and getting in the way.

I apologized to the guy at the garage for being later than I’d expected.

Not a problem, he smiled warmly.

The car has a new tire.

The afghan looks so much better with that mismatching edging gone. I actually started to cast on a new edging piece first and chucked it–I needed to scratch that itch. I needed to see it done.

Next time I see a pattern not working and ask myself if it’s worth frogging and starting over vs just going on from there? Frog it.



Schroedinger’s afghan: done/not done
Wednesday January 01st 2020, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift

After a slower start than I wanted, it needed every spare moment for the past month. It made me make good use of my time, and it occasionally diverted me from other things and there was some internal second-guessing over whether I always got it right but I knew it was such a huge project and that that deadline was non-negotiable.

Plus the unshakeable feeling that her baby is going to come early. She’s due the end of this month.

For the last hour or so I’ve repeatedly found myself feeling that itch, that sense of hurry to get back to it.

Well, actually, I could: I’m still going to knit those matching end pieces and sew them on.

But for now I’ve earned the rest of my evening off and some time to simply marvel at how water plus lace stitches equals magic.

Do I admit to a bit of relief, too–that no matter what, there is now a blanket I could hand over. Having broken my hand three years ago while making one for Mathias makes me appreciate the uncertainty of being able to finish things when I want to.

So. The other part of today: while split pea soup was cooking away on the stove (dinner that doesn’t need much attention: good) I picked up the lavender afghan and the left end of the circs was caught in the fabric. I was paying more attention to trying to make sure the stitches didn’t fall off the other needle tip as I both picked the afghan up and started, with arms raising high, to swing that giant heavy mass of wool around to start a new row.

The left tip I was trying to uncatch but not paying much attention to flipped out and into my eye.

I had this moment of, You can’t do that! I had my glasses on! And usually I don’t these days when I’m knitting, I need to fill that new prescription. How did it do that?!

So yeah, if I show up at Fillory with a black eye my knitting needles attacked me.

I instantly thought of the woman across town years ago who tripped, fell and impaled herself on a straight metal needle and would not let the paramedics touch it. The ER doctor told her, good thing, because she’d impaled her heart and needed to go straight to surgery and oh by the way did you know you have breast cancer?

That is how she got diagnosed early enough. Her needle saved her life.

I got back at mine by finishing those last rows of the fifteenth repeat and casting off. For now.



Why even people who can’t draw should sketch
Sunday December 29th 2019, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift

Ten tall clumps of green that, a hundred years later, would become a fairy ring of redwoods towering above. She grew up in the redwoods, she knows every stage well. A single tree to each side towering alongside the height of the inner section of blooming bougainvillea, then a matching row of those clumps again.

It all sounded good in my head.

I botched I don’t even remember what on the first clumps and so since I was going to have to rip it out anyway, I took it off the needles and spread it out to see if the width matched my gauge swatch while I was at it.

Wow. No.

Well, then, okay, eight clumps.

But then the flowers were going to be too close together. At that point I’d frogged three times and the baby’s due date was looming and it was getting late that night and I didn’t want to think about it, I just wanted the clumps to stay done this time and to ditch the frustration and get the thing finally past that point. So I did. With seven repeats across.

Which is why as soon as I’m done with the fifteenth repeat (might make it sixteen) I am going back to that beginning and snipping a few rows below the line of purl stitches and working the strand carefully out across to drop the bad part off while leaving enough yarn to go back and cast off from.

And then–this is the hope right now, anyway–after a minor blocking to make sure I can get the sideways to match the lengthwise, I’m going to knit two pieces that look like the sides and sew them on to frame the thing all in the same pattern. Fallen redwoods provide a great deal of life in the forest.

Or I could keep it simple and rib the live stitches upwards at the top and downwards from the bottom or just skip all that altogether and leave it plain. Eh. We’ll see how patient I feel at that point and whether the baby comes early.

But that mismatched bottom–it has to go. It kinda hurts to look at, it’s so bad.



Christmas Eve Eve (wait, make that one more Eve)
Sunday December 22nd 2019, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

About thirty years ago I was offered an assignment at church: to be the Compassionate Service leader.

I was young and had no experience and got no answers when I asked what that meant I was supposed to do. The Relief Society leader, for whatever reason, never once included me in a meeting, never talked to me about what she wanted done except for one single item two years in, and waved me away any time I brought any questions or ideas up. She would get back to me.

She never did.

I still have no idea why nor why she chose me in the first place. Maybe she felt just as inexperienced as I did, even if she was a generation older.

Well, alright then, but I still felt I had that responsibility even if I had to be the one who decided what it meant.

We had just moved into a house whose previous owner had loved roses. I knew nothing about roses other than that they look great in a vase.

And so: I kept an eye out at church for whoever looked like they might be having a rough time of it, and then one day I showed up on the doorsteps of a bunch of people with a rose in hand to tell them simply that I was thinking about them and have a nice day and there’s a whole ‘nother story about that part that I’ve probably told here before.

But I kept thinking, y’know, it’s the teenagers who most need to know that an adult is looking out for them–someone who doesn’t have to, someone who’s not family and under no obligation but just does simply because they exist so they matter to them. I wanted to make a second round of deliveries.

The problem was, I didn’t know the teenagers at church. And there were none in our neighborhood, either: in a square block there were old folks and our little kids.

So I called up the one at church that I had at least interacted with enough to feel I could make the request: could he come up with the names of his peers who could use a rose and a moment’s cheering-on like that?

Robert was not only happy to, he loved the idea and offered to show me how to get to each of their houses.

And so we spent not a lot of time, not a lot of roses, but we did that run that fine afternoon.

One girl, her parents were in the middle of a divorce. Definitely the right call.

One, I came away quietly smiling to myself thinking, oh, I hadn’t realized you were sweet on her. Best stealth flower ever with the best excuse–blame it on me. Happy to help.

I don’t remember who the others were, just that we did, but in that hour or so we discovered a mutual admiration that has stayed with us ever since. He was a nice kid.

Last night I finished the one-repeat self-quota of the day on the afghan project and had time to do a bit more.

I looked at the clock. I looked at the mostly-done hat from last week’s return flight: it needed five more rows and then the decreasing, which doesn’t sound like much but would probably take about an hour.

Ever-tightening stitches of thick yarn on small needles to keep out any gaps between decreases is the not-fun part of hat knitting and I didn’t particularly want to do it. But I found myself saying a prayer, asking which would be the best use of my time right this very minute.

That hat leaped straight into my hands and fifty minutes later it was bedtime and done. I even got the ends run in. I really liked how it had come out, that bright royal blue soft Mecha. Such a pretty color.

Then came the prayer: okay, then, if this is supposed to be for someone please help me get it to the right person who needs it most. Please make it obvious so I don’t mess this up; help me get it right.

We happened to be parking the car at church a little early just as an older guy and his son (where did his hair go?) visiting from out of state walked past, with the son looking in that moment as if… Like, man, he could sure use a hug about now.

It was Robert.

He was inside by the time we got out of the car and I didn’t see him, which gave me time to say a little prayer again–am I just thinking what I want to think, should I look for someone else?

Robert.

Okay, then.

I didn’t see him. Church let out and I wondered if he’d gone off to his folks’ house.

But it being Christmas Eve Eve, there was a Linger Longer afterwards, with food and chairs set out for people to sit around and munch and chat with no time pressure, and I found him after all.

A mutual, So good to see you again! How ya doin’!?

“Do you…” I started to ask. “If this isn’t your color I could make it in a different one,” and with that I pulled the little ziplock out of my purse that the hat was tucked away in.

His eyes went big as he exclaimed, “I LOVE that color! It’s my favorite!” He exclaimed over it, he loved it, he tried it on, it was just right, it so made his day.

Y’know? I probably could have/should have knit and mailed him one ages ago.

But today it was ready, today was when he needed it, and today was the day.



Found my momentum
Thursday December 19th 2019, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

It wasn’t getting done–okay, it’s December and everything else has to be done, but still–it was driving me nuts.

Usually, when I buy Colourmart yarn mill ends I pre-scour it to get the oils out, but I had two 900g cones of the stuff to knit doubled from and there was just no way I was going to deal with all that–just scour afterwards, it was superwash, the swatch had already shown it wasn’t going to shrink appreciably.

That fine a merino with that coating on it made for stitches in twins that were constantly jumping off my needles. They were fairly big so I thought it would work up fast but that just wasn’t happening.

I finally found my old worn cheap bamboo pair in the right size, ones I rarely use because they grab and almost snag at the yarn. They were exactly what it had needed.

And just like that, in two days I’ve done two 16-row repeats, the pattern is showing well enough to make me glad I chose it, and it looks like the blanket will beat the baby here after all.



Finished. Just like that.
Thursday December 12th 2019, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

On a day that needed a little semi-instant gratification…

So that’s where my shorter size 7s went. I’d been looking for those.

Forty-five minutes carefully frogging the mistake where it had stopped being diamonds and had just piled up in the same direction like a wreck on the freeway. Then a reknit.

And now those 7s are good to go for carry-around projects again.

 



Anchorage Afghan 2.0
Monday December 09th 2019, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Scratching that itch again to get something finished and finally off the needles.

It had needed a dozen rows of seed stitch to top it off. That’s all.

I don’t love knitting seed stitch; I just like how it looks when I do.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

(A detail I added this time: on the first round of pines, I started each tree one right-side row later than the one to its left in order to give a sense of the hilly topography. I liked how it came out a lot better than the original flat-across version.)

 

 



Such a simple pattern
Saturday December 07th 2019, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Sherry asked if my Christmas knitting is done and I wanted to put my hands over my ears and run away yelling, I can’t HEAR you…!

Yeah.

So.

I had this hat I started over a month ago, y’know, the little project stashed in the purse for whenever. Only, instead of the cookie-cutter plain-jane quick-knit stockinette Malabrigo Mecha hat, I thought I’d jazz it up a bit. Besides, I was a little bored with those.

Mistake number one: using, and continuing to use, two longer circular needles–and black ones at that!–to work it on because I couldn’t find my short size 7 bamboos.

Well, not really a mistake, but, two, the choice not to do a plain row every other row, which meant the constant needle switching with decreases and yarn overs running into the changes was a pain twice every single row, and helped make k5 k2tog yo forever and ever not a fun knit. Add in that it was a steep mountain switchback all the way through meant that knitting for an hour had the tape measure claiming I’d knit not one quarter inch at all–the thing was a Slinky that kept compressing downward.

There was only so much yarn in that single ball.

I had other hats I wanted to knit but they couldn’t start till that one was done, because I’m stubborn like that. It didn’t matter anyway because I had those baby afghans to do, right? They were my priority, and still are.

But come on. A month on a hat and it’s not even done? This was ridiculous.

So, and it’s all Sherry’s fault, today I knit a full 16-row repeat on that lavender afghan because I’d promised myself I would, and then I sat down with that hat AND I FINISHED IT. I thought I’d surely be done by nine pm and it took till a little after ten.

You have no idea how huge this feels. The relief, not the hat. I don’t have to do it anymore, it can’t guilt me anymore! (After I work the ends in.)

And then I went over to the mirror and for one last time, no four needle ends in my face this time, tried the little stinker on.

It looked nothing like the surly teenager it had been on my needles. It had gone to college and turned into a lovely adult and you could just see it riding its skateboard down those long, steep, curving lanes all the way down.

I really like it. I’m glad I made it. Believe me, it’s one of a kind.