Edgy edgy
Thursday January 09th 2020, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Knit

On the left: blocked with nice straight edges that didn’t last, on the right, blocking now.)

Having knit all day Saturday, my hands were not in the mood for working much on that afghan. I felt guilty about taking a break Sunday and Monday and got some done Tuesday. Wednesday, not much. (Plus the news on my cousin kind of took the wind out of me.)

Today I looked at what had to be done and when I needed it done by.

Actually, when I told my husband I felt I had to give it to his cousin on Sunday, his response was, What’s the hurry? Give it to her when the baby gets here.

I prefer to add to the happy anticipation. That and, hey, you, don’t abet my procrastinating, okay?

I realized later that wait, to block the second edge to sew the two of them onto the afghan to wash the afghan to dry the afghan to gift it–meant I had to finish the second edging today. It was about four inches long.

Saturday all over again, with more breaks.

All of which is leading to the question: would you join such a piece to live stitches or cast off ones? I’m leaning towards cast off, just to minimize how far a future broken stitch could run. (I’ve got live ones at the base of the afghan right now, having cut off the original edging, and having it run upwards creates a real mess.)

While I’m at it I think I’ll rip out those purl rows top and bottom of the afghan: the ones along the side don’t really show and those do.

Once I’ve got all that done I should probably knit a very simple edging all around the edging to smooth out those blocking-resistant angles, that instep at the heel of the lace in the edging. Right?

And so the perfectionism and overthinking continues.



The English language is weird
Wednesday January 08th 2020, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Spinning

Kemp: it’s the occasional short thick wiry stabby bits in wool. Merino has it mostly bred out of it. There’s a good description in Spinoff,  where they mention that contrary to rumor those fibers do indeed take dye–but they take all the dye, hide the pretty colors away inside themselves and don’t let anyone see the changes.

Coming out of my lupus meeting today, someone admired my dress and asked if I’d made it.

“I could,” I answered, “but no, I got it directly from Ireland for Christmas on a really good sale.”

I really really like it. But it has just a very small amount of white kemp against the very very dark green that didn’t quite come out in the carding back at the mill. I wonder, if I snip a piece open will I find its missing green?

It got me thinking: the British often use a -t to end a word where we would use -ned. Burned your toast, burnt. So examining a fleece, you’d go from seeing a bit of kemp to describing that one as kempt, wouldn’t you? (No.) So how on earth did we get unkempt in the language to mean messy and not caring about appearances when one would think it could mean, say, carefully processed or taken care of to make something look and feel its best?

Unkemped. It should be a good thing, right?

So that got me looking. Dictionary.com is utterly ignorant of the fiber definition and calls kemp a warrior or a rogue, and that kempt is neat and tidy or combed hair.

Which I knew, but still, wait. Combed nicely means hair is kempt?

Someone way back in the day totally messed this up.



Basketball?
Tuesday January 07th 2020, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Family

The cousins have been swapping stories, and will do so in person tomorrow night, informally, and I would be there in a heartbeat. But the $600+ for a next-day flight for one person just defeated me.

One memory was from two brothers who are very tall like John, who always wanted to get a t-shirt like he had.

It said: No I don’t. Do you play miniature golf?



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.



Lillian
Sunday January 05th 2020, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Family

She’s four and a half months, but gestationally only three and a half. So their showing us surprised me. How is she rolling over that early?

But she is. She’s going to move mountains, that little one.



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.



Mend and replace
Thursday January 02nd 2020, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Politics

I was sitting in the little waiting room at the garage while they tested my tire–yup, a second leak close to the whitewall, too close, can’t mend it this time, they’re ordering me a new one but at least it’s partly covered by the warranty.

So.

There was a man studying what I took to be a textbook at the other end of that long table. (It was.)

I had my needles in hand–Mecha yarn for a hat that was six rows in when I arrived–and was quietly knitting away for that classic little old lady look.

About forty minutes in, he gave it a break for a moment to strike up a conversation with me. I had to make him wait till the air compressor on the other side of the wall stopped so I could hear him.

He wanted to ask my take on the election goings-on.

Which led to my asking if he had a favored candidate, (since he was pushing for me to tell him mine and I wasn’t doing so) and he got a grin on his face and pulled the sides of his button-down open Superman style to show the Superman-styled t-shirt underneath in dark blue.

I recognized that logo and grinned right back. Good for him! We need more involvement!

Turns out that he’d been volunteering as a fundraiser for Yang’s campaign.

We talked about some of Yang’s ideas that we both really like. He didn’t like it quite so much when I said that even if Yang were to lose, so often the best of a candidate’s ideas win out even when the candidate him/herself doesn’t and they do us all good by putting them out there.

I didn’t fully believe in his man, his face said. He was disappointed.

I said I hope the best candidate wins whoever it may be and I don’t even know yet for sure who that might be but I do know that every single one of them is better than…

We moved on from that and it was clear he totally loved being able to talk politics to someone who loved to talk politics, too. And from DC!

Every candidate he admired was a Democrat. And yet it just killed him that, he said, You can’t be a conservative on campus. If you say anything and people find out you’re a conservative they just totally go after you.

I agreed that we all have to be respectful of each other. Absolutely. My grandfather and uncle were Republican Senators, I said, and I quoted what Uncle Bob once told me about how the Republicans believe you should work hard, you should take care of your own, and the Democrats believe the government should help you do so. And they’re both right. The work of Congress is to come together and hammer out the differences between.

I had to add, But I cannot be respectful of some of what’s been done in conservatism’s name: separating children from their parents, caging them for seeking asylum–one of my friends got her law degree at Stanford and now works as an immigration lawyer at the border, trying to get the Feds to honor Federal law re asylum statutes. And they won’t. They don’t. She sees the effects day in day out and it’s very hard.

He agreed with me that none of that should be happening and that we need to do something.

His candidate had ideas and indeed, plans to DO things. To look at the problems and come up with solutions.

The mechanic came over to say the guy’s car was done, and the young man got up, more than a little reluctant to leave. But I knew he had a lot of other things on his mind, too.

He is defending his thesis tomorrow at Stanford.

“What’s your area?”

“Math,” he answered. I was proud of him. He’d worked his tail off to get to this point.

I sent that tall child of Asian immigrants off with, “Good luck on your thesis! I’m rooting for you!”

And that clearly made his day most of all.



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.



2020
Wednesday January 01st 2020, 9:18 am
Filed under: Life

Wishing everyone a happy new year. All the best to you and yours.



That one year in Indiana
Monday December 30th 2019, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Someone else got me remembering back when…

I was a new mom, doing the grocery shopping with my first baby sitting in the cart; she was just a bit over a year old.

A woman I’d never seen before and never would again came up to us exclaiming over how cute she was and reached out and felt up her blonde curls and asked me if I’d permed it?

I was too staggered to think of the perfect comeback till much, much later:

So did that mean she thought my baby was a bottle blonde?



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.



There Be Dragons
Saturday December 28th 2019, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Family

With a built-in game of peek-a-boo and a sister to play it with.



31 tonight and heading down
Saturday December 28th 2019, 12:06 am
Filed under: Wildlife

Somehow the week between Christmas and New Year’s always has the coldest nights.

So this is what happened to my two pomegranates that were just above ground level: a classic Californian cottontail, trying to figure out this frost thing this morning. How on earth did it survive 70 years of dense suburbia and fencing?

I can only guess that the motion-activated water sprayer next door did not meet its approval nor the dog at the house past that.

I wonder how those sprayers hold up after freezes.

(Edited to add, and if we hadn’t gotten home from our friends’ house so late I would have mentioned that we found out about the neighbors’ zapping sprayer when they asked us to feed their fish while they were out of town. They forgot to mention that, oh, and please do it before 6 pm–the anti-raccoon-raider device timer starts then.

Oops.

We have laughed about that for years now.)



He opened his car door
Thursday December 26th 2019, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

The doorbell rang.

It was the son of the elderly woman next door, the one who fell two months ago and after her kids couldn’t reach her from out of state and called us neighbors and then 911 was found by the firemen breaking in her door for the rescue.

Previously, she had been adamant to me that she did not want to go into assisted living.

She doesn’t know how many days she was down but it could have been as many as four. Even before that she could barely walk and clearly she just could not continue to live alone.

She has not returned.

He was coming by to let me know he was taking her home. There was a place a mile from his house, she had seen it before and actually liked the place and she has decided for herself that that’s where she’d like to be now. He wanted me to know her story had a happy ending after all, and that he would be right there to look out for her.

And he will. And his wife is a love of a woman who will be right there with him on it. They are all deeply good people.

I thanked him for letting me know, and told him, “I miss her.” A lot.

I knew she would want to know that, to really know that, not just assume that I would. Of course I would. I have, for all these weeks. But I knew he would tell her and that it would feel good for both of them to say it and to hear it on their long trip to where everything will be different now, again.

I sent him off with a box of Andy’s peach and honey-stuffed figs, glad for the surprised delight in his face at the mention of Andy’s Orchard. Taking the best of California with them on their long way north–he knew they were in for a treat.

And I just wanted to say, Thank you, Andy. That helped.