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!



While the hawk flew by
Thursday April 19th 2018, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Knitting a Gift

Done and drying: I do like that Anniversario colorway.

As the English Morello tree holds up a sign to the honeybee highway: Will Bloom For Cherries.

 



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.



Building its house
Thursday April 12th 2018, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

I was hoping to be able to show this off finished, but I’ve simply run out of day. This is about 150 yards into two 98-yard skeins of Chateau on size US 9s. The long-tail end is being used to mark the end of the rows. (I pull it out and move it up every now and then.)



In happy anticipation
Wednesday March 14th 2018, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Lupus

I had a skein of Malabrigo Mecha (130 yards) on short US 7 circs with the ribbing all done and a row or two of stockinette above: all set for the next time I needed to throw a brainless project in my purse.

I grabbed it on my way out the door to a lupus group meeting just in case.

It was perfect: my hands could go round and round and round the hat almost without looking at all while keeping me fully focused on whoever was speaking, and two hours later as we closed up I was to where I needed to measure and start the decreases at the top. Cool.

But rather than finishing it once I got home, I picked up some Rios (210 yards), another pair of 7s, and started doodling. Never made a pattern like that before. Never saw it from anyone else, either, and I kept knitting until nearly the end of the ball to see what it wanted to be when it grew up, knowing I have to do this again and I have to write this down and I have to put this out there–I really like it.

Looking up in surprise at the hour, it is time to call it a night. I will leave the cast on for the morning.

Most of a hat and a cowl-minus-one-row for one day. Clear’em on out so I can get to the butter yellow tomorrow.

If you keep on knitting the knitting gets done. Why does this always surprise me?



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.



One 150 and two 200 yard dashes
Friday March 02nd 2018, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Knit

One week. One skein from stash, two from Stitches last weekend. Done.

(Back of the cowl I just finished pictured because it better shows the changes in how the colors relate to each other after the stitch count change. Same colors, same length of repeat within the ball of yarn, totally different outcome.)



Thththththat’s all, folks!
Wednesday February 28th 2018, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift

Hey, Dad, one of your amaryllises is blooming. Thank you!

And on the cowl: I wanted to use up every inch of that beaded yarn, to put all of that good woman’s work to use.

I found myself wanting a bigger motif at the bottom. Given that the beads will go in through a loop but they do not want to come back out of them again and if you do, the antsy little strand they’re on catches along with the bead and starts tangling, one really can make no mistakes with this stuff. Pushing on the yardage when there was absolutely no more and no backtracking was dicey. But I wanted to so I did.

I should add, after I weighed a few times as I went along and prayed a little bit to stay on the safe side.

And I got it! Casting off right after a yarnover row is fine when you have to. But I finished that bigger motif and I really like how this cowl came out.

Five beads left. I don’t think that vendor would mind.



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!



Notes
Wednesday February 21st 2018, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Knit

Re the buffalo silk, after the increase you–wait. I should have indented the slantings by one stitch around each straight line on the first one, because either those are going to jog now or the center motifs after the first one are going to be two rows and two stitches smaller than the one I just did and that doesn’t work and I’ve made this mistake years ago and I knew this–oh well. Okay. (Tink back.) So we ditch the columns and go on the half-drop principle from here and that preserves the initial seven stitches at the first row of each–

–Oh hi, guys! Stitches West is this weekend, thousands of knitters wearing things they’ve made, all that inspiration, all those people who love to do what you love to do, two hundred vendors, every kind of fiber you could imagine. See you at Santa Clara Convention Center!

–isn’t it a relief to be knitting deep turquoise after that kilogram of endless, endless offwhite. Okay, the half-drop is working, it’s a go. I have a lot to do tomorrow but it should be finished and dried by Stitches.



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.



Cone-iverous yarn
Monday February 12th 2018, 11:46 pm
Filed under: Knit

It had felted to itself a bit in the scouring and was a pain to separate, yard after yard. I knew that going in–I’ve done this before (but I wanted to preshrink this as much as possible in the expectation that it would go through the laundry later.) It was 332 grams and the length to match. I pretty much knew that, too.

But today I told myself my Sabbath day of rest was over and it was time to tackle it anyway, and with visions of finding the perfect swift and big-ball winder at Stitches next week so as to avoid this next time, I gradually created what my husband calls a yarn planet to continue the afghan from. Knowing I might have to do this one last time for it. Maybe not.

Subtract 36 g for the cardboard, and that cone still has 572 grams left vs. the 332 scoured and plumped up next to it.

The afghan. It’s coming. Slowly, but it’s coming.



Cashmere and cotton
Friday February 09th 2018, 12:13 am
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

I had this afghan I needed to make that I’ve mentioned from time to time for several months now.

The first try ended up being cast off and declared a scarf–spending more time on its yarn was not making me like it better. Done.

The second try got started but was put aside while I tried to decide if I wanted the lace to be a great big border around a drawing in knits and purls of the recipient’s house. Which I have never been to. And which I didn’t know how to ask for a picture of without having to explain why I wanted it–when simply continuing the lace would make a perfectly fine blanket. I dithered. Which means I stopped.

Aside from an hour here and there, which gradually, naturally answered the pattern question, it got put aside again for all the Christmas knitting: ten hats, who knows how many cowls, things that all had a definite time limit–while the afghan reproached me. I’m not good at having multiple projects on the needles but it was just too much to try to get that big one done and out of the way first.

I took it with me to a knitting group get-together Tuesday morning to make myself really dive back into it at long last, but as it dangled from my circs, it was inwardly embarrassing that another knitter couldn’t instantly peg it as an afghan and it made me determined to get it at least to where it was obvious what it was, fast. It was long overdue.

Today, after three straight days of putting my all into it, it is nearly half done and after all this time that feels just unbelievable, and very encouraging.

Part of what happened was I realized I did have a deadline after all: Stitches West. It’s only two weeks away and you know there are going to be new toys that I’m instantly going to want to play with. Anticipation is way more fun–and I’ve finally found that place where there’s great anticipation in this afghan, too. It’s gotten really pretty. I can’t wait to give it to where it’s going.

 



For Suzi
Monday February 05th 2018, 12:06 am
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

Walked into Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco Friday, and just inside the door was one single skein left among the other colors of Malabrigo laceweight baby alpaca/silk.

“That’s exactly what I came for!” I exclaimed to Kathryn. Archangel. Perfect!

I had some cashmere, red plied with a nearly tan off-white, a bit thinner than I wanted to work with. The silk content with the alpaca wasn’t so high as to make the strand snag and slip out if I knitted these two together but it definitely added a sparkle, and the mostly-salmon colorway bridged the colors in the cashmere.

The fabric they made is SO soft.

I knew before I started this morning who it’s for: a woman who is generous in every way, so her cowl needed to be, too. It came out a good size, and I ended it with a right-side row of yo, k2tog across (and then a purl row before casting off) to let the bottom edge fan out just a bit without having it sag or to have to add anything more than that. I wanted to be able to call it a night with a sense of accomplishment to the day.

Suzi was wearing something today that exactly matched this. Nice. Not that she knows that yet.

Nine repeats across and seven repeats down on size 8US later, it is drying.



The pinwheel toy
Friday February 02nd 2018, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

She loves orange, she told me last June. And blues. I didn’t have much orange in my stash–but I had this old ball in Lisa Souza’s Joseph’s Coat colorway.

I found the pictures. They were taken at night and by the bright light of day and the cowl was mostly somewhere in between, and maybe some of you remember it. I sure do. It came out so unexpected.

It started off with all the colors kind of melting together into an almost-purple, but then when I added a few stitches to widen it it changed the whole thing abruptly: individual colors stood out on their own and became like the brightest sunrise against the darkest clouds. I expected them to go back to how they’d been after I added a few more but they simply formed a new pattern altogether yet that continued off the second one.

No matter its quirkiness or even faults, of the three, this was the one she wanted to take away as a memento of the years they lived here.

I heard the news.

She’s a young mom.

Whose husband is now fighting a brain tumor.

That which they had gauged their plans by was suddenly thrown to the winds and what they are going through now is radically different from anything they’d wanted or expected. And yet there he is in his hospital picture, smiling, same as always.

In a hospital cap.

He needs a soft handknit one, stat. Even in San Diego.

If you feel inclined to say a pray or to Think Good Thoughts in Jerry’s direction and his family’s, it would be lovely. The G_d that I believe in honors either as love: and love is what we are sent here to learn and do.

May that great Love sustain them through all that lies ahead.