What happens in Vegas
Sunday June 24th 2018, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

Cariaggi Piuma cashmere from the mill blooms immensely with washing, growing into a much thicker, denser-looking knit that is actually very very light. It fills up the visual spaces with color and yet air.

I was knitting it straight from the cone. I actually almost left the project home because of that cone. (Luggage space, knitting space in an airplane seat.) But I really wanted that cowl done. It was in a neutral that I could give just about anybody and just delicious to knit with, mill oils for now and all.

My tiny elderly Asian seat mate (part of what was clearly a large tour group) coming out of Salt Lake spoke almost no English, but she watched my hands intensely and gave me a smile and an enthusiastic thumbs-up. When I returned the smile, she reached gingerly for the yarn, felt it just for a moment and gave me another big smile.

She was tired and napped and suddenly woke up distressed to realize that we others in the row were being served juice and she wasn’t getting any; I knew how long she’d been waiting in that airport before our delayed flight and that she probably really needed that water. I should have offered her mine but didn’t know how to reassure her it was only apple juice.

I helped her with the flight attendant and she got taken care of. We were definitely friends now.

She got a particularly cute finger puppet just before she left and between hand signs and head shakes and nods she got that I hadn’t actually made that one; I’d just wanted to thank her for being her. She was delighted.

So. The cowl. Since I knew what it would be like when it was finished and washed, I was using needles that made the knitting look sloppy-loose. Quite.

An agent had told me I wouldn’t miss my connecting flight despite the delay because it was actually the same plane and they might even let me stay on in between. But, she warned, they might not.

Flight #1 landed, they made announcements, most of the passengers filed out–and at that point the flight attendant had time for me to ask the question when I could hear the answer: same plane? Just to make sure. May I stay here?

The answers were yes and yes, corrected by another to “but the memo said” and they went and checked together, followed by, alright: I could stay put.

So there were some by-now familiar faces that were the first to get back on the plane and I chuckled and nodded hello in acknowledgement as they came back on.

An older woman among them surprised me with, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you.” My best guess was that she had learned English with a British accent. She got in the #3 row behind me and leaned over.

Had anyone ever shown me how Germans knit?

Do you mean Continental style? I asked, and affirmed that I had.

She asked for my needles. She winced at the size of that yarnover that was right there but was trying not to mess up my work. She demonstrated, You do this. And then when you want to go the other way (she searched for the right terms in English) you do this. You don’t have to (and here she motioned in great sweeping arcs with her right arm) go like *this*.

She wanted so badly to help.

I chuckled and told her I knew my way was slower. I explained that my mom knits like she does and taught me how when I was ten. That when I was a teenager I’d wanted a sweater in one of her knitting magazines but was too much of a teen to admit I didn’t remember how, so I’d gone in my room and taught myself how to knit–my own way, it turned out.

Her face was saying, But this is not how it is done!

I said, It’s easier on my arthritis this way.

Ah. That made sense. Yes she could see that. Okay.

And we, too, parted friends at the end of the flight.



Roll over, Beethoven
Friday June 15th 2018, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Knit

I’ve done plenty of intarsia knitting in my life but I do it Kaffe Fassett style: snip as long a strand for each color as you can stomach dealing with and just pull it through and through and through, out from among the tangle of the others.

Except this time I’ll need enough of each color in this area that I decided it was time to cave and finally do knitting bobbins for the first time in my life.

It will surprise nobody that I didn’t have any.

An empty toilet paper tube cut in fourths actually seems to work quite well. Except I need more than… The recycling went out already, didn’t it?

Somebody go spill something for me, okay? Quick? That paper towel roll is almost ready.



Totally tubular yarns
Monday June 11th 2018, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

The weekend’s project. It will get even softer with age.

Then today, for instant gratification, Classic Elite Chateau: the yarn was thick, the yardage scant, and the needles big.

I ripped out the first attempt at the long-tail cast-on because it wasted a foot or two and you never know when you’ll need to go right down to the end of the skein.

Truer words… (yeah those stitches were getting a little smaller at the end there.)



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

I finally learned how to pronounce her name today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Stanford Ambulatory
Wednesday May 23rd 2018, 6:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

With yet more hours on my hands, I wondered if that enormous lighting display in the ceiling was a deliberately artistic echo of the ones in the operating room. Surely that must have been the thought.

Someone in scrubs was walking by facing the people beyond me, followed closely by the woman who’d checked my husband in at the far end of the hallway from here at the much-regretted hour of 6:50 a.m.

Who scolded me sharply: “He’s talking to you!”

Blink. (A silent, What? Hello?) I did not so much as see the side of his mouth move and he was in no way looking at me. Nor was he anybody I’d seen earlier. He was paying no attention whatever to me as far as I knew.

At that, the young surgeon rather awkwardly turned, maybe only just then realizing that I was the one who was the wife of his patient, and sat down to let me know (after I asked him several times to speak up–the waiting area was one great big noisy room) that things had gone well.

He had a rash of warts across his forehead that made him look like he was sweating profusely as he leaned forward.

I would be called back there in twenty minutes.

I picked up my phone forty-five minutes later, looked at the time, and shrugged. These things never go quickly.

I looked out the wrap-around windows at all the new construction. I saw that the place I’d done my brain rehab after my car was sandwiched in ’00 was, to my surprise, still standing, even though it’s only two stories high. Stanford likes to go big these days, but there it was, and prettied up, too.

I got halfway through another cashmere cowl and I have no idea who it’s for and really would rather have been making progress on the afghan for the little brother who’s been promising that Maddy will not have to be the baby of the family forever but was comforted at knowing that, whoever this bright little bit of soft scarfiness turns out to be for, I’ll be glad I did it.

I alternated between reading and knitting to keep my hands comfortable. I got sixty-five pages into a book on bird intelligence that I’d been quite looking forward to but that desperately, desperately needed a decent editor. Or at least for the writer to have sat down and read her own work cover to cover at the finish to find out for herself just how much she’d beaten the same, basic, boring, repeating points to death, page after page after page.

It matched the day.

At last an older man wearing a Stanford-red suit coat came from behind the desk to escort me and one other person to our spouses, chatting amiably along the way, quite making up for his co-worker. (He’d seen her.)

Coming into post-op, the first thing I saw was the hospital’s attempt at the usual requirement that the patient put on their non-skid no-falls socks. What you can’t quite see here is they’d even cut them in their efforts to make them somehow get over his big feet.

I decided not to joke about sock episiotomies. Yet.

It felt downright strange to be the one waiting for the valet to bring the car around so I could pick up the patient.

All went well, he is fine, and we are home.

 



The consensus is…
Tuesday May 22nd 2018, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit,Politics

The Spartacus bulb opened up, and at 30″ high with a full display of leaves it is rocking this amaryllis thing.

The second cowl from the orange Piuma: done. (Note to self: 84 stitches, US 8 needles this time and it’s not small.)

Did anybody else get the annual Community Survey from the Census Bureau? Three million households randomly get chosen and this was our year.

After making sure I couldn’t get the info online, I called the city’s utilities department and said, I’m sure you’ve gotten a lot of people asking the annual total of their water+sewer and their electric and gas usage for the Census–and they said, Nope! You’re the first one.

I wonder how many people the Bureau chose out of any one town? And how much any answer of mine tilted the results.



Carrot top
Wednesday May 16th 2018, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Knit

Two things.

I finished this generous-sized cowl on size US 8s in Piuma cashmere #22077 from Colourmart (it’s damp in my picture) with 70 grams left of the original 150, plenty to make a smaller one.

And I found and bought this pattern. Angelfish, octopus, sea horse, clownfish, surf rolling in (I’ll vary it rather than repeat it exactly)–this was exactly what I’d been looking for for the afghan, though I’ll probably skip the goofy grins on the critters’ faces. Do I need dirt at the ocean floor? Only if I can find cute enough dirt.

(Maddy’s cape is still definitely in the mental queue but it has no deadline.)

I did a thorough stash-diving amongst my Malabrigo Rios for bits and pieces of bright enough color to match my ten skeins in Cian. Huh. Is that all the Glazed Carrot I have left? Maybe I can manage a clownfish out of that? (The Piuma is not an option. It has to be superwash.)

Maybe with that red as an accent.

Just often enough, hoarding the last of each ball pays off big time.

I need to start another cowl, for a carry-around project if nothing else, but I really want to dive right into that blanket.



With multiple strands for extra warmth
Tuesday May 15th 2018, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

It took a random mention on a four-year-old Ravelry thread and then some searching, trying to track down where that picture had come from when there was no information with it, just a hey, isn’t this idea cool.

I saved the photo. It had a long .jpg number. I googled that.

Which of course took me right back to Ravelry.

This pattern. In those blues and white, like a fine Delft china plate. Wow. This is why I have a granddaughter–right? (In San Diego, sure, but hey, she has a cousin in Alaska. Right?)

Right. Right after I do that afghan, and all the cowls that are left to do, and and and.

Maybe I’ll knit the patterns into the baby’s blanket instead?

Like the littlest fingers wouldn’t yank and catch on those strands. He’ll be a newborn, not a responsible older brother. Okay, back to the cape idea then, three and a half is old enough to listen to you telling her why not to and then not to.

Right?

Yeah, yeah, I know. But some part of my knitting brain is suddenly fiercely wanting to do some fair isle work. I think it was those blues that grabbed me first.

Speaking of cool things found, there was also a mention of the floral bouquets, here. (Scroll down a bit.) Wiltproof.



This could be addictive
Saturday May 05th 2018, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Yarn stuff ahead.

A little knitting at last, and man did it feel good to get back to it. The super-soft Piuma tubular-spun cashmere from Colourmart in 21105, their lightest beige, started on the plane ride home and finally finished. It’s not yet dry so the picture is darker than it will be in real life.

The cone was a bit of a splurge but I got two cowls out of the 150 grams with 48 to go. They were not huge cowls and would be best on someone of average or small build. Basically, I just had no idea how much the lace would grow on blocking, and winged it. (It didn’t grow.) I used US 7 needles but even with my loose knitting could easily have gone larger. I did hank and pre-scour to try to pre-shrink the yarn and let it bloom, and wow did it bloom: from worsted and solid-looking to wide and soft and quite airy.

Colourmart lets you put these in your basket for 14 days–half the usual time, due to the demand–where no one can touch them while you wait for a small sample to see if you really like that one, or while you make up your mind or try to finish whatever project you have on the needles first. So if you want to sneak a peek at what colors they actually still have around that aren’t showing on that first link, that you could hopefully snatch up as soon as someone else’s cart expires, go here for the Piuma. (I have no idea how to do that on their other yarns other than to ask them, I only know that one because they posted the link on Ravelry.)

They’re a mill-ends place and it’s been eight years since they got that many colors of that yarn. I saw their email saying they had new stock three hours after they’d sent it and the teal (and some of the other colors) were already long gone for good. People had been hoping for more for a long time. I bought the beige to finally try out the famous yarn and to see how cost-effective vs other yarns it could be (or not), and after seeing how things were coming out I too wanted more. More came.

After someone else’s cart expired. If yours does you have to wait a week before being allowed to cart it again. It’s only fair.

For whatever it’s worth, with this yarn there’s only a single ply sort of braided around on itself: it doesn’t have multiple twisted plies in the traditional sense. In the tradeoff between the friction that twisting creates, which takes away softness but adds strength, and wanting to preserve what that cashmere can feel like, they went for preservation of the softness. Cowls and scarves and hats are perfect for it. Cablework, maybe not so much–too much stretching and pulling, I would think, and I wouldn’t dare use it for a baby blanket, much though I wish.

A cowl will do quite nicely. My daughter Sam got the first one. I hope to find out tomorrow who gets the second. There will be more after that.



That crazy hat lady
Saturday April 28th 2018, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Knit

If you put a handknit hat on Mathias’s head he will grab it, pull it hard sideways, and fling it with great force when it finally gives up and comes off.

If you put it not quite on but flat on top of his head and convince him it’s a new version of peekaboo, trying to get him to accept the idea of wearing something up there for even a moment (kid. You live in Alaska) he will giggle like crazy and only take it off and hold it in his lap waiting with a big grin for another round of the game.



But Not the Hippopotumas
Friday April 27th 2018, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Knit

Mathias picked up a Sandra Boynton board book and toddled awkwardly towards their big dog and plunked down with a thunk.

“She can’t read it to you,” his mommy laughed.

So he read it to the dog.  Even if he didn’t quite succeed at getting that thing open on the first few tries: he knew the words by heart. “Ah BAH. AH BAH. Ah bah bah  bah!”



Their number one son
Thursday April 26th 2018, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Knit

Babies live life on speed dial: somehow Mathias turned one today.



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.