Friday May 18th 2007, 2:32 pm
Filed under: To dye for

Lisa tagged me, and I’ll be lazy and refer over to the Dec. 16th post–but add one more item: spring break, 11 years ago, my brother-in-law was getting married near San Diego; we got tons of books to keep the four kids happy and headed on down the freeway. All is quiet on the west coast front. In the middle of the Central Valley, we passed a flock of obviously just-sheared sheep; I’m quietly looking at them, thinking, I bet you’re cold!, when this little voice from our youngest pipes up from the back seat: “We’re not STOPPPPPPPPPPPPPingggggggggggggg, Mommmmmmmmm………….”

Said in the perfect whiny voice of bored little kids everywhere. I thought his eight-year-old nose was totally in his book, but no. It so totally cracked us up that it’s been a family line ever since.

Meantime, it’s a bit darker so far in real life, but the periwinkling is on its way.

C. what you get?
Thursday May 17th 2007, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Knit,LYS,To dye for

This is Chloe, aka C., one of the co-owners of Purlescence, where we had our knitting group meeting tonight (and where I was really, really, really hoping she’d show up. Funny, that.) One of the regulars was exclaiming, “She picked out the yarn last Friday?!” Well. Yeah. I didn’t offer her before that, so how was she going to do it sooner?

And this is tomorrow’s baby alpaca project in periwinkle.

Another one!!
Thursday May 17th 2007, 11:47 am
Filed under: Amaryllis,Non-Knitting

You remember how I walked into the garage in April and found those amaryllis bulbs that should have died of neglect, having been dried out far too long, that were instead shooting up buds? And how I gave one to Nicholas and his family to celebrate his recovery from falling off the ski lift?

Yeah well. Our garage is fairly dark, and it doesn’t help that the lightbulbs are in places nearly impossible to reach when they burn out. So. Last night I was squinting in there, looking for–what else–the lightbulbs. And thought, nahhhh… But… I looked under a tarp that was folded up inside its package, and there…

…You guessed it. My friend C. is going in for that surgery, and I’ve been madly knitting her that shawl. There it was. I found one more pot buried under there. I laughed, marvelling at it, although a bit ruefully, and asked my son, “Do you think this one could bloom too?” I poked fingers from both sides at it: if they met in the middle, it was toast, toss it.

The outer edges were indeed soft, but the inner core was as solid as you could ask for under the circumstances. I soaked it in water to break the dormancy.

Four hours later this appeared. That’s not a leaf, that’s a bud. FOUR HOURS. Go C.!!!

Making a mountain out of a gopher-it hill
Wednesday May 16th 2007, 10:25 am
Filed under: Knit

Gotta be done by tonight if I don’t want to block it outside where… (See the bluejay shawl’s story, June 11 when the book comes out.) And I’m not going to put it in the oven to dry like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee did hers! Seventeen more rows, the bind-off, and a dentist appointment today. I think I can I think I can I think I can.

Twenty-eight rows yesterday: if that’s not a record for me, it’s real close. It felt a combination of, this is nuts, (as I applied ice mid-day), and, look at this! Why don’t I do this all the time?

So far so good
Tuesday May 15th 2007, 12:41 pm
Filed under: Knit

Twenty 381-stitch rows done yesterday. (8.5×11″ book for scale.) Onward!

That teal one there
Monday May 14th 2007, 11:53 am
Filed under: Knit

A younger friend of mine has found herself suddenly facing surgery that is emphatically Not Fun. I took a number of balls of yarn over for her to choose from on Friday, and she chose this one. I am trying hard to get her her shawl done fast, but at least she knows that I’m making it in a color she loves and that I’m thinking of her. She’s a knitter too, and has stroked my ego over and over by telling me how much she’s waiting for my book to come out, but by golly I’m going to beat her to it with a shawl from it myself rather than waiting for her to be able to when it comes out next month. It’s what I can do.

There’s a photo in the book of a number of balls of yarn together, all in different colors, with a light blue one dead center, a color I’d found very much on sale and the rest being ones I’d created from that light blue. What the picture doesn’t show is the scale of the things: the balls are all from 450-g cones of baby alpaca. The needles in the picture here are 32″ long.

In other words, I know I have enough yarn, absolutely. I have enough time, too, before the surgery date–as long as I make the time. Like I made the color. Just throw it in the dyepot of my life and make it happen.

…Running off to the needles now…

Looky here!
Friday May 11th 2007, 1:44 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort"

I was expecting my author’s advance copy today. The doorbell rang, I thought, oh good! But when I opened the door, instead, I found this:

I thought, Richard had flowers delivered for Mother’s Day? Huh. Well, that was nice of him (hmm). But then I read the tag: it was from my editors at Martingale, telling me congratulations on my book. Cool! Thank you!

What they didn’t know, was, the local florist they’d ordered it through was a car mechanic who loved flowers and started selling a few on the side; not your usual auto-repair-shop look. Gradually they took over and booted the cars out, and there you go. The guy is one of those really nice people that you hope does really well, so, having my flowers come from him just totally makes my day.

Eventually, the doorbell rang again:

And my son grabbed the camera and started snapping. And there you go. Thank you, Martingale!

Salt marsh in the morning
Thursday May 10th 2007, 3:32 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

I am emphatically not a morning person. But my daughter had an early flight out, and Oakland Airport isn’t far enough away from the MacArthur Maze, which recently made the news when a double-tanker gas truck crashed, exploded, and melted two layers of freeway ramps; we had no idea how much extra time we had to allow for with that mess.

Turned out, there was a major backup starting just ahead of where we got off 880 for the airport, and the three of us made good time after all. But it was way too early in the day, and all I wanted to do after waving goodbye was to go home and crawl back into bed.

Just as we got past the Dunbarton Bridge over the San Francisco Bay, I, in the passenger seat of our Prius, happened to glance up at the driver next to us, riding high in a large white pickup. He was watching the road but glancing repeatedly past us at the salt marshes alongside the roadway there: it wasn’t much past sunrise, and the sky and the marsh were beautiful. Shore birds were flying, it was a new day, and that man had the biggest smile on his face.

Without even knowing it or being aware of me, he was showing me what he saw, so I could see too.

For the sophisticated palette
Tuesday May 08th 2007, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Knit

Briiiiiiing, briiiiiiing.


Is this


Yes, I’d like to order the merino pizza number six.

The merino/angora?


What kind of toppings?

Oh, everything. Really make it a party.

Okay, so, perhaps you’d like the Mardi Gras, merino angora special?

Sounds good; what’s it got on it?

Well, we’ve got an organic blue cornmeal crust, sauteed orange and red heirloom peppers with baby eggplant, topped with our in-house pesto sauce and stone-baked with three-year-aged Wisconsin cheddar. And perhaps some pepperoni, if you’d care for that as well?

Yes, yes, that sounds wonderful.

Is that for here or to go?

Um, let me think, yeah, to go. It’ll definitely be able to go with just about everything. Yeah.

And how did you want to pay for that?

With size 10s, 53 stitches, and about eight or nine hours.

Very good! We’ll see you then.



(With apologies to the cute waiter at the Commodore Inn in New Orleans who actually flirted back with me the summer I was 16. I was smitten: with him, with the French Quarter, with the bouganvillea that draped itself luxuriously down the side of the buildings like cabled baby alpaca, with the horse-drawn carriages on the cobblestones, the whole thing.)

Charts vs text
Tuesday May 08th 2007, 12:28 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, on her well-loved blog, asked today why publishers don’t often offer charts and text instructions both; was it cultural? The expenses involved?

The cost is a huge point; every page adds up. On the other hand, offering both greatly expands the audience, given that people tend to feel passionately about the method that they prefer.

When I first contacted Martingale Press, I told them upfront that I had visual memory damage, and that one of the effects of that was that my instructions were all going to be line-by-line; chart symbols were scrambled scribbles to my brain, but text, no problem. (To me, following line-by-line is like reading music, just moving the hands in another language.)

Martingale said sure, text is fine.

But after some time and some discussion, they felt they really did need to add charts, and that my instructions were short enough that they had the space. They asked Donna Druchunas, author of Arctic Lace and The Knitted Rug, if she would be willing to draw up those charts. She did. I will forever be grateful to her for that, and to be able to tell knitters that my “Wrapped in Comfort” book is accessible to both styles.

One more month and it’ll finally be out!

In Vogue
Monday May 07th 2007, 5:37 pm
Filed under: Knit

Maybe eight years ago?–I’m guessing here–Vogue Knitting sent me a please-subscribe come-on. I debated, wondered where they’d bought my address from, and then, always curious for new knitting ideas, sure, so, I did.

The first issue that came had nothing that interested me whatsoever, except one sweater: they had a Blast from the Past section, where they said they would be bringing back one classic design from much earlier editions of the magazine, starting with that one. Clearly they were going for the baby boomer nostalgia factor; they had originally published this pattern in 1969. It looked reeeeally familiar, it took me a few minutes to figure out why, it being in a different color on a different model, and then…

…My mom had owned the original copy! I’d made that sweater in high school in the mid-70’s!

My sweater was a miracle, really; I’d known nothing of gauge swatches, or if Mom had warned me to make one, I’d ignored her totally. I’m sure the weight of the yarn I’d bought bore little resemblance to the one called for; I’d just gotten what I liked that happened to be white like the one in the pattern. I winged it with the arrogance of youth that could see no reason why it wouldn’t work. And somehow it did!

It needed three zippers sewn in, however, and for that part I ran to Mom for help. I remember my good Mormon mom going and buying tea at the local Safeway to dye them when we couldn’t find the right color separating zipper for the front; my wondering if anybody saw her at it (buying tea! The horror! And yes, that’s very funny to me now: the self-consciousness of teenagers.) I remember watching the zipper tapes turning a soft beige in the little red enamel pot on the stove. She was as fascinated as I was at watching water bubbles that afternoon.

Mom told me that creating the actual pockets for the inside of the sweater and attaching them to the zipper tapes, however, was my problem. Which is why to this day you can unzip those pockets and find a whole lot of nothin’ goin’ on there.

That sweater was kind of my backup jacket in college. I haven’t worn it in ages, although it still fits; I’ve spared my sweet hubby the “does this make my butt look big” question, because it does, so, into the closet for you. (You know, though, I could dye it denim blue, and then it wouldn’t… Now, there’s a thought!) The zipper at the top needs a bit of resewing, and those silly pockets… It definitely needs a good cleaning. But there are no moth holes, and it’ll never really go out of style.

Which is something I like, but is a distinctly un-Vogue characteristic. I let the subscription go after that.

If at first you don’t succeed, make it a pattern
Saturday May 05th 2007, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit

Last night, he hadn’t said anything, so I figured yonder blogminder hadn’t read the blog. So I opened the conversation as we sat down to dinner, with, “My pet gopher died today.”

You should have seen his face! “Your *WHAT*?!!!?”

And then we quickly moved on to other things. I’m posting these amaryllises in memoriam to the little animal. Richard did make a comment that had me suddenly realizing that the gardeners who come for maybe an hour a month happened to have come Tuesday, and they’d probably poisoned it. I once caught them spraying weeds between me and the neighbors, and I’d made it clear, I thought, that there was to be no poison in my yard. I guess they didn’t think that applied to gophers?

What I had been going to blog about yesterday before it showed up and acted cute was a tutorial on how to chop off lace without screaming and running. I had this project in Kidsilk Haze and Merino Oro that I’d started off doing, the Crohn’s flare had wiped me out, I’d put it down for most of a week and then when I’d picked it up I’d continued it *in the wrong pattern* without noticing until it was almost to a finished length. And then it suddenly hit me what I’d done. Oh my.

I was spending too much time outside in the sun yesterday, something I really can’t risk, which is one of the reasons I grabbed the kid and we went to Karen’s shop instead. While we were there, I mentioned about the goofed project and how I was going to just cut it off two rows before the change and undo it backwards just a bit from there and then cast off that end. When you’re frogging backwards, you have to pull the yarn through the last stitch in the row every time, which is a very good reason not to unravel the whole section in one uninterrupted strand.

Another customer in there immediately responded with an idea that should have been obvious to me: “Make it a pattern!”

I thought about it: she was right! The scarf was not quite long enough to call it done; all I had to do was repeat that beginning section at the other end. The midsection was similar enough anyway that a non-knitter might not even ever notice.

And now that I’ve done exactly that and liked it, the funny thing is that I’m sitting here debating which yarn and needles to repeat the whole scarf with to make the contrast show up more. It needs to be a denser knit. I like it!

Friday May 04th 2007, 6:15 pm
Filed under: LYS,My Garden

I went back out there a few more times. My gopher was clearly slowing down as the day went on; I wondered why he never went back down into his mound. I startled him at one point, (sorry gopher), and to make it up to him, I found a quite long dried straw and stroked his back gently with it. He seemed to like that, and calmed down while I did that.

And then one of the kids and I headed down to Karen’s Rug and Yarn Hut shop in Campbell, where we set the date for my first official booksigning there on June 23 and chatted awhile. Ran one more errand. Then came home and decided to go check on our little guy in the back yard.

Who was gone. The zucchinis would be safe after all. But…but…! On his last day, his little gopheriness had been well loved, and for that I am grateful to a degree that might seem silly. I debated easing him back down nice and safe into his mound with a shovel, but practicality and basic common sense intervened. I just hope he doesn’t fall out of his paper bag for the trashmen next week.

Gopher it
Friday May 04th 2007, 12:09 pm
Filed under: My Garden

A number of years ago, I planted a garden and had gopher holes appear in my yard; one day I went out there, and a new hole had appeared right at the stem of my zucchini plant and the zucchini was gone. This was war.

I asked the neighbor’s advice, and then stuck the water hose down the hole and turned the water on for two days to discourage the thing from thinking my yard was a hospitable place. My water bill jumped thirty dollars, but the gopher just laughed and moseyed on over a bit to a new spot. So at someone else’s advice, I went to Common Ground in Palo Alto, bought some Gopher Plant seeds, and tried that.

It’s supposed to be an old Native American tactic; the roots supposedly give the gophers poison ivy, and they stay away. And it worked! We went from lots of mounds to no further signs of any activity. Those plants multiplied like crazy, and it was a bit of work to get rid of them after they no longer seemed needed, but both plants and gophers have been gone about ten years now.

This year mounds started popping up again, not in the same area around the perimeter of the yard this time, but dead center of the back. About an hour ago I saw a beautiful jay outside my window here and decided to try to get a picture of it. The jay didn’t seem to mind, so I got closer–and what I’d first thought were leaves near its feet suddenly moved.

I have never watched a gopher going about its day before. When I got close, it held still for the camera. When it walked, its first steps were a tumble to one side till it got its bearings; I looked at it and thought, poor little gopher, did a speeder smash into your car, too? It totally charmed me. It walked like me. It had lousy balance like me. And it was a total ham for the camera.

I kept going back out there and looking at it again, and it kept holding still every time I went near. It even let me stroke its back with my foot (very gently, and with my shoe on; I ain’t quite so dumb as all that.) So now what do I do? Put a basket over it so it can’t escape? (It’s a GOPHER, like that’s going to work!) It’s like the Alice in Wonderland scene, where Alice is introduced to the food, which curtsies to her, and then she can’t eat it. You can’t off an animal you’ve made friends with.

Clay soil, good soil aeration. My own personal rototiller, right?

I never liked zucchinis that much anyway.

A quarter ounce
Thursday May 03rd 2007, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Knit

(Picture snapped mid-frogging.)
A quarter ounce, five inches, let’s see, four ounces in the ball of Lisa Souza Mardi Gras merino/angora, that would come to 80″ long by 22″ wide, yeah, that’ll do… Except… I really didn’t like that one superfluous stitch there and that one there as the thing grew, they threw the balance off visually. And I wasn’t going to like them any better if I kept on going. They might not really have been that big of a deal, except that this was a new design idea that had been swimming around in my head for the next book–out!

(P.S. That last little bit of frogging is where I become a tad less enamored of my habit of wrapping the longtail cast-on strand across the back of each stitch along the entire first purled row. I always figure that when you give someone something you knitted them, you should give them enough matching yarn to go with it for them to be able to mend any future holes (or to bring it to you to do so). Now, who’s going to remember years in the future where they put that strand, if they even still have it? But if it’s stored right there across that row, it’s real easy to find, and there’s way more than you need for the task at hand of securing the end. See? Practical.

Till you have to frog the silly thing.)