Nice to be human again
Monday April 30th 2007, 1:02 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

Doing better, had another blood test, got the results, and shared a sigh of relief with my doctor, who can now go enjoy his vacation tomorrow without worrying. Alright!

One of these days I’m going to design an amaryllis pattern in lace.

Norman Cousins had it 2/3 right
Sunday April 29th 2007, 4:39 pm
Filed under: Knit

When my lupus was first diagnosed, I read Norman Cousins’ book, “Anatomy of an Illness,” wherein he recounted dealing with a devastating illness by treating himself to funny movies and the like to make him laugh; you make use of all that the medical community has to offer, but, as the cliche reminds, laughter is awfully good medicine in itself, and he was determined to do the most he personally could to help himself recover.

He went on to add that when anything catastrophically upends your life like that, you need a creative outlet to cope. What that outlet might be is as infinite as humanity itself, but, you do emphatically need a creative outlet.

Reading his book helped propel me back into knitting. He was right about the need for creativity, and right about the laughter.

The last few days, I’ve had three of my kids home, and my nephew and his sweetie visiting (and dearly wishing my oldest and her husband were here to enjoy it all, too); there have been funny stories told, good memories shared, gentle teasings, and much, much laughter.

And all this while I’ve been dealing with a Crohn’s flare. Given that my options for treating Crohn’s are severely limited–steroids don’t touch mine–this is something that can be unsettling to me, to say the least. And yet. There is so much to celebrate around this home, and I’m so glad they’re here right now.

Laughter as an expression of great love: that, that is the best medicine of all. Whether the physical symptoms continue or not, it heals like nothing else can.

Just one more ball
Saturday April 28th 2007, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Knit

Some well-marinated stash French angora that I tripped across while trying to figure out just the thing to knit up quickly. Last night, as I asked the recipient what length she would like, she wondered out loud, Did it take you long? And I told her, I started after dinner. She’s a new knitter, and she just laughed.

It was 48″ long at that point. Fifteen stitches (gotta love that fluff factor) in a pattern I could do in my sleep (which I kind of need right now). Four balls, one more to go. She likes it! Hey Mikey!

In vein
Friday April 27th 2007, 1:09 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

I’d already explained, and so I thought she was going to go for a different vein in my arm. “That’s a blood clot,” I said again.

The phlebotomist ignored me, and went right for the spot in the crook in my elbow.

“I have a blood clot right there, you MAY NOT put that needle there!”

She ignored me till right as the needle came in at the spot and I was pulling away from it. Oh. A blood clot? Oh, okay. We’ll do the other arm, then. (Ya THINK!?) She then had a hard time getting blood to come forth, my veins having been fried by multiple IVs in the hospital shortly before, and yanked the needle around hard to and fro, up and down, to try to make it come. It was excruciating.

That was four years ago. Today, there was a new face in the lab (you know you go too often when you know all their faces, it’s a huge clinic) and she wrapped the tubing around that arm. No… Veins too small… Let’s try this one. Her face fell. Oh. That’s worse. Back to the first one, and she wrapped the tubing around it again.

Given the past experience–and of having informed the lab back then that that first worker was never to touch me again–all my pavlovian reactions surged forward. I debated the urge to say, You get one chance and one only and then I want the supervisor. But then I thought, if I make her nervous she’ll do a worse job, and if I’m rude she’ll hope I never come back (fat chance). So instead I silently said a prayer for her.

And lo and behold, I almost couldn’t feel the needle, and it certainly didn’t hurt. I didn’t look, so I was quite surprised to see, at the end, that she’d drawn four vials. I was sure they weren’t mine. There’s always that jerk of the needle as they change vials, and there was no tug at all. Surely…

…But no, she then took the computer printout with my name and patient number printed onto the stickers and wrapped a sticker around each of those vials. Man, she was good!

And I wonder now, if I’d prayed for that other woman, if it might have made a difference. Dunno. It would have in my attitude towards her, at least.

Linus Project
Wednesday April 25th 2007, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

I have wanted for years to knit an afghan for Jim and his family; they are dear friends, and Jim’s a second cousin to my husband. It was on that list of want-to-do’s that every knitter has but it had never quite happened yet, even though I knew just what it would be: either cream or green in basketweave, to match their cream and green plaid couch.

I blogged recently about finding the amaryllis bulb in the half-dark in the garage, shooting up a large bud, when I hadn’t watered the thing in enough months that it should have been dead–there’s just no way it should have been preparing to bloom big and beautiful like that. But it did. I took it over to Jim’s as a way of celebrating the life of his eight-year-old son, the one who had fallen 30 feet off the ski lift during spring break.

And there was Nicholas. With a handknit wool afghan. In basketweave, and a cream and green variegated yarn. I was speechless–who? How? Nicholas’s mom flipped the edge over for me to see the label: Linus Project. Someone had made this and donated it to the hospital in Reno, and the trauma unit had given it to Nicholas.

Someone had channeled my inner afghan. I don’t know who you are out there, but we wanted you to see this. Photo by Nicholas’s parents.

Wedding ring shawl
Tuesday April 24th 2007, 11:45 am
Filed under: Knit

For those who google for patterns for wedding ring shawls, I’ll make it very simple: the definition of a wedding ring shawl is one that is knit so fine that you can take off your wedding ring and pull it through it (um, just watch out for catchy-edging prongs and the like. And try not to flip your ring across the room in the process like I did once if you don’t have a metal detector to help you track it down afterwards.)

I spent last week taking one of the largest of my circular shawl patterns and knitting it up with Fino baby alpaca/silk, a laceweight yarn but on the heavier side of laceweight, 875 yards to 100g; I used size 7 needles. I was pleased to see, when I got done, that it was wide enough around not only for me but for a friend who is a goodly bit larger than I am.

I never thought…But I was curious, and what could it hurt to try. And look at that ring!

Way back when
Monday April 23rd 2007, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Knit

When I was a teenager seriously coveting a cabled vest in one of my mom’s knitting magazines, Mom told me, “It’s not your turn. Go knit it yourself.” And with that, she launched me forth into my knitting, bigtime. Go Mom!

Now, she had taught me how to knit when I was ten, on a summer-long road trip, but it had been awhile since I’d really worked at it: enough so that I couldn’t remember quite how to go about it. Being a teenager, I was not about to admit that and ask for help; I just sat there, yarn and needles in hand, trying to picture Mom’s hands at work and how the yarn was supposed to lay between which fingers. I did ask, now, how do you do that cast-on, again? But after that I went carefully off by myself where nobody could catch on that I wasn’t sure what I was doing.

The end result is that I concocted a knitting style that works perfectly for me and is utterly different from how she knits. It wasn’t till many years later that I discovered that, for my joint issues with my lupus, this was an exceedingly good thing, and that had I knitted Continental like I’d originally been taught, I probably never would have become a Knitter with a capital K. My style of grabbing the yarn every stitch involves virtually no wrist nor finger twisting and is far more comfortable for me.

That cabled vest came out gorgeous. Then the four-color Scandinavian sweater that I did in two weeks. Then the Vogue cardigan, good wool, all of them… I knit like crazy through high school–but then when I got to college, I found I just didn’t have the funds for the yarn anymore, nor the time, and let it go.

But then, later, married and graduated and with a baby on the way, I wanted her–I was sure she’d be a her–to have a handknit sweater. A cabled vest somehow seemed just the thing.

I went to Sears and bought some cheapo acrylic Red Heart. In fluorescent green. I know, I know… “Color is everything,” Constance Harker… There are those who will tell you that Red Heart softens up after the first time you wash it. And that may be true nowadays. It wasn’t true then, and the thing still feels like you could scrub burned pots with it. Unfortunately, thinking that’s all there really was out there to work with, knitting and yarn stores having become rare by then, that turned me off from knitting for a half dozen years or so, which I regret. All the cute baby things I never made!

But I wanted to show off this vest that I designed completely on the fly 25 years ago as a new mom-to-be. I look at it and think, not bad (don’t mind the seam coming apart at the bottom there. It’s earned its gray hairs-equivalent.)

And this is what I made when that daughter was about ten. We’d come a long way, baby.

Sunday April 22nd 2007, 5:40 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

Last night I finished a heathered blue brushed baby alpaca scarf quite late; it was a UFO that, when I picked it up, just felt like no, it needed to be longer, even though it was at a goodly length already; I just somehow had never gotten around to binding it off. So I added another foot to it, finally did that bindoff, blocked it, and went to bed. This morning it was still slightly damp, but I grabbed it anyway on my way out the door.

And there at church, visiting after having moved away a half dozen years or so ago, was my daughter’s dear friend Emily, the young newlywed back then who had been the adult my child had needed as a teen, the person to turn to, the voice instilling confidence in my child in the confidences they shared. One of the people who had made a tremendous difference to her.

Emily is quite tall; adding those extra inches made it exactly right. And I finally got my chance to convey my thanks.

Terri’s book came!
Saturday April 21st 2007, 10:37 am
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Years ago, I used to trade off babysitting with another mom every weekday morning; she would go work out, and I would go do swim therapy. She had three preschoolers, including an adorable little baby girl that I used to sing “Love you forever” to–the refrain, set to a tune, from a children’s book I’d come across but had never gotten around to buying a copy of. My kids were just a bit past the age for it when I discovered it, cute though it was.

Terri Shea knew none of that. She just happened to come across this adorable little children’s book, “Love You Forever,” and on impulse bought a copy and mailed it to me just because. It was not terribly long after that friend had moved across the country, where I wouldn’t get to see her kids growing up anymore. But no matter the time and the distance, I will love them all forever.

Terri didn’t know I about burst into tears when I saw what was in that totally unexpected envelope. Wow. How did she know… The answer, of course, was, she didn’t. She just thought it was cool. It was. And how!

This book is the one that Terri just finished writing and self-publishing. I think if I had found it before I found Kaffe Fassett, my love for fair isle might have drowned out the ambition to learn intarsia: the focus in this is mittens, but you can take the patterns and apply them to anything you want. This book is a work of love and art (insert subliminal message: buythisbookbuythisbookbuythisbook). She’s over at . Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Happy birthday
Friday April 20th 2007, 3:24 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

When my husband turned 29, I found a card that had a mountain goat climbing up a steep hill, with the saying, “You’re 29? You’re not over the hill.” (Open the card, and the goat is perched on a sharp pointy top with a very goofy expression on its happy face) “At the tippy tippy top looking down…”!

I tried to save that card for when he turned 39, but it got lost in the chaos of a house remodel. I need an updated version again for today. Happy day, sweetie. I’ll go start your angel food cake now (somebody go run get some cream and freeze and crush some Heath bars to whip into it.)

Salvador Dali amaryllis
Thursday April 19th 2007, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

All it needs is a watch.

Wednesday April 18th 2007, 7:18 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit

Back when I first started getting seriously back into knitting, 17 years ago, as a way of coping with my new lupus diagnosis, I went looking for–something; I wasn’t sure what. Plain stockinette certainly wasn’t going to do it for me. (The Barbara Walker stitch treasury books had not yet been reprinted.) I went to the local yarn stores and pored over what gansey and fair isle patterns I could find. I knew I could substitute colors from the ones in the pictures, but still, whatever it was I was looking for–and I wasn’t sure what it was–it just wasn’t there. Hmmm.

So eventually I headed over to the library, where Kaffe Fassett’s Glorious Knits book practically fell into my hands; I opened it to the page where he has two models dressed in his Big Diamonds pattern, posed in an amaryllis garden in Holland.

Now, you know I love amaryllises. There was no way on this planet that my hands were ever going to produce anything like the projects on his pages. (I thought.) But that garden! And (oh yeah, those too) those sweaters! I could wish,anyway.

So I checked the book out and took it home. And then renewed it. And renewed it again. Took it back, waited the requisite day or two, checked it out again, renewed it, and finally decided, this was nuts, and simply went out and bought my own copy.

You know what happens next. There was no way I could not at least try that intarsia stuff. The first project was a long mohair vest for my mom, just four colors, Big Diamonds. But now that I was past my fear of the technique, I went whole hog and made his Carpet Coat in 68 shades of wool and mohair, with the yarn carefully collected over quite a few months from many of the local stores. “These are large, but they drape beautifully on everybody…” Yeah, uh huh. I later met Fassett. The man ain’t short. My husband crowed, “It fits me better than it fits you, go make yourself another one!” Note that I am 5’5″ and my husband is 6’8″. The sleeves on his are short for him, but go ask him if he cares. I made that second coat; mine had 86 colors. So there, dude.

Mom wore her vest soon after she got it to a concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and as she was taking her seat, she noticed the woman sitting behind her: who was likewise decked out in a handknit sweater in Kaffe Fassett’s Big Diamonds pattern. They looked at each other a moment, not quite believing the impossibility of it all, and then the other woman laughed, “Don’t you just love that designer’s work?”

I do indeed. He helped pull me back into knitting, bigtime. His work was what I’d been looking for, and all else followed from how thoroughly he got me hooked. I will add the stray thought that I personally believe he is responsible for the popularity of the handpainted yarns that are now on the market; for those who want to play with color for far less work, they’re a great way to go, and he popularized the idea of knitting in many colors in the first place and paved the way forward.

My thanks to Nina for playing model with me.

Anybody know what this is called?
Wednesday April 18th 2007, 11:26 am
Filed under: Non-Knitting

This one is courtesy of the squirrels, is my guess. I love the way it’s leaning into the siding, kicking back and taking in the view on a beautiful spring day.

At a snail’s pace
Tuesday April 17th 2007, 6:40 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Non-Knitting

Not long after we moved here, our ancient Gravenstein apple trees were dying of old age, and I bought every kind of apple I could find in the markets to decide what to replace them with.

And so we planted a Fuji tree, a variety that was pretty new at the time.

It grew well enough right away, and we’d been told we would have apples by the second year. The third, fourth, fifth years went by, the tree branched out beautifully, but where were my apples?

Till one morning, quite early, I happened to go in the back yard. Now, of all the pests imported to a place they don’t belong, with the original intention of providing food (or whatever) to the new settlers there–snails? Someone couldn’t live without their escargots?? And so California is besieged by snails and slugs with no predators (they’re not dumb), and, lo and behold, my Fuji was in flower: and there was a whole herd of snails and slugs sliming back down the trunk at daylight, with a few still munching on apple blossoms before calling it a night.

I read recently that they won’t climb over broken eggshells. Makes sense. I mentioned this to someone buying a 25 lb box of snail poison in the hardware store, and he listened sympathetically, but exclaimed, “Lady–I’d have to open a restaurant!” to get enough eggshells.

I’ve been baking a bit lately–it’s appleblossom time.

Monday April 16th 2007, 1:19 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit

Before there was even a book, Laura, whom I’d met up with at Stitches yet again and was eating lunch with, was holding up her new laceweight scarf from me and crowing, “I get to say I knew you when!” I sat there laughing, going, When what?

She surprised me back recently. And when I went off to hear the recent Good Friday concert, I wrapped her work around my shoulders to wear, to keep my friend’s presence there with me on a day I needed it. I knew people would ask me about it, and I would go no, I didn’t knit it; my friend did. Which happened. Laura, just so you know, you got bragged on.

I’m so glad I knew her when!