Marin Fiber Arts in San Rafael
Saturday June 30th 2007, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Knit,LYS

I had a high school English teacher who never knew the impact he had on me and on my writing: if your name is Mr. Smith and you taught at Winston Churchill in Potomac, Maryland till you left to go get your doctorate, thank you, wherever you are now. One memorable moment was immediately on the first day of class, when he looked over the gathered students sitting quietly in their chairs after the bell had rungMarin Fiber Arts, and just kind of went, wow. Then he explained to us that when he’d started teaching, the kids didn’t come in and sit at their desks–that was too establishment. That was Not Done. It was the late 60’s, and they sat on the floor instead.

My friend Nancy and I were at Marin Fiber Arts today, up north of San Francisco, and at one point in the afternoon, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to do just to plunk down on the floor and pull out my knitting along with everybody else. This photo was shot as I was brought another book to sign, a bit after I’d done the others.

Mr. Smith would have loved it. And a very good time was had by all. I can see why my friend Patricia goes out of her way to come to MFA: it’s a well-stocked, wonderful store, with a huge selection of yarns that appeal to one’s sense of touch as well as one’s sense of colors, and Warren, the owner of , is a peach.Renee, me, Warren

Friday June 29th 2007, 4:45 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

I belong to two knitting groups, one weekly, the other held once a month at Commuknity in San Jose; last night, the latter was a booksigning event. My friend Robin showed up from Bethesda, Maryland! The others were all friends who’d watched the pieces of Wrapped in Comfort slowly coming to be, shawl by shawl, and it was fun to put the whole thing together on display at one time for them. This is a shot of just a few of them. You see that lovely gray-haired woman there to the right? She helped with the test knitting.Commuknity knitting

Gail, the LYSO, is looking for people to volunteer to teach Girl Scouts how to knit, so if you’re in the area and you’re interested, give her a call. Thanks!

New plant on the block
Friday June 29th 2007, 4:33 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

There, there, little orchid (the amaryllis reaches out a leaf) see how much we’re more alike than different? We’re all friends here. Glad to have you move into the neighborhood. (Turns on the stereo, and the orchidstra starts playing.) Enjoy the music, pull up your knitting, and set a spell with us.orchid

Over on Alameda de las Pulgas
Thursday June 28th 2007, 10:12 am
Filed under: Life

Richard was asking me, “Where would you like to go out to dinner?”

Like there was any question? Where do we always go to celebrate our anniversary (not to mention, this time, the book’s being launched at last–what else would do)? The Peninsula’s answer to Alice Water’s famous Chez Panisse in Berkeley, the place where you go if you want to really, really enjoy your meal.

“The one where they shear the sheep.” I grinned. “Of course!”

That utterly threw him. There was this head-tilted-sideways pause, and then, “Huh?”

Flea St Cafe in Menlo Park

“You know! Fleece Treat Cafe!”

6 Twenty-seven 07
Wednesday June 27th 2007, 11:29 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Life

“Congratulations–you picked the hottest day on record in Washington, DC!”

“You’re marrying that Hyde boy?” (This from a sweet, elderly woman about 4’10.” The groom was 6’8″.) “I’ve looked up to him for a long time!”

(Spoken in a grinning aside to the groom by a friend of his grandparents:) “I unlocked the back door on the north stairs. Got it? The North. Stairs. You can bolt.”

My father-in-law and my husband each have one crummy tooth that has cycled through numerous crowns. Dad Hyde is the practical sort, and hey, he’d paid for that gold, so he collected the ones that came out and always wanted to go create something out of them. Richard and I were students when we got married, with absolutely no money, so here was his dad’s chance. He melted them down and recast them and voila–our 20k wedding bands, done, at the time gold was hitting an all-time high of $360/ounce. (Our bands are silver now and so is our hair. Wait–I can just hear Richard reading this and guffawing, “Speak for yourself!” Can you hear me going, “You do too, look back here, if I stand on my tippy tippy toes I can see plenty of gray, trust me…”)

Today is June 27th, our 27th anniversary being in ’07, we created a family of six, and when I checked Amazon Saturday, I must have looked at just the right moment; their numbers tend to dance around a fair bit, but my “Wrapped in Comfort” book was listed as #2007 in their sales rankings. Somehow that coming together of numbers just pleases me, like a well-balanced lace pattern.

So my Richard gifted me with some superb hot cocoa mix today that a cafe in our downtown area sells, by a couple who owns the cafe and the plantation their cacao beans come from. Superb chocolate–with a connectedness.

Simple celebrations .

Abuela hot cocoa

Go Martingale!
Tuesday June 26th 2007, 12:37 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",afghans for Afghans,Friends,Knit

imgp2162.JPGI want to sing Martingale’s praises for a moment.

My final deadline re the book was mid-January. In late February, I went to Stitches West, ran into Ann Rubin, and knew exactly who that Barn Swallows scarf had been meant for all along.

When I knitted it, it had absolutely demanded to be made in laceweight in that taupe color that it’s shown in in my “Wrapped in Comfort” book. That is emphatically not my color, but nothing else would do. I did not know why. I did knit it again in other yarns, but it felt like, for the book, that taupe laceweight was what it absolutely had to be.

After I blocked it, I thought the edges would look more solid if I were to redo it with one plain stitch extra at each side edge–but then I would have had to spend hours looking at that taupe again, and frankly, I didn’t know any good enough reason to do so to motivate me, not in that color, and I just didn’t get around to it.

I wrote a caption for the main picture of each project. But the one for the Barn Swallows scarf never pleased me, never felt finished, never felt like I could rewrite it well enough, and I had no idea why.

And then I saw Ann. I recognized her from previous Stitches events as I gave her this wool afghan for her Afghans for Afghans charity; she didn’t recognize me, which was fine. One look at her and I knew that taupe was exactly the right color for her, that it would be absolutely beautiful on her. (If only I had known that, I could have anticipated specifically and been just peachy-fine knitting up that color again and adding those edge stitches!)

Had that scarf been a warm one, Ann would have felt morally absolutely obligated to pass it along to the people she serves in Afghanistan, and rightfully so; their needs are so much greater than ours. We have so much here. But it was a wispy little thing, a decorative little thing, a thank you for the work she does for so many people, encouraging knitters to give of their wool, talents, and time, helping those in need not just to receive physical warmth but human warmth as well: the tangible evidence that someone from around the world wanted to reach out to them and wish them well. And yet–it’s okay for her to feel thanked and reminded that people are grateful for her efforts, too. (That took some convincing from me, much though she loved the thing. She didn’t want to in any way put herself above the other volunteers.)

Changing a manuscript so very late in the publishing process is, my daughter with a college minor in editing tells me, very expensive. But after I gave Ann that scarf, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and what that caption had needed to be all along and why it had felt inadequate before. Martingale put people over profits and immediately agreed with me. We changed it, and they added A4A to the Resources page as well. I must say, I think that new caption totally makes the book, it ends it exactly perfectly.

I don’t have a new picture of the afghan I gave Ann that day at Stitches, nor of the original scarf–which arrived back from Martingale the first day of Stitches, exquisitely perfect timing on their part–so, you’ll have to put up with this old photo.

How that afghan came to be is a whole ‘nother post.

Aphrodite double blossom
Monday June 25th 2007, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

It just finished fading out, and it’s gone now, but this was the last of the amaryllises last week for the very-stretched-out Aphrodite amaryllisseason. At the same time it started blooming, I started watering a dormant bulb that I’d let rest early from this past winter, and soon I will succeed in my efforts to conquer the world (or at least the back patio, the windows, and the bathroom) and have my bulbs flowering year-round nonstop.

I thought of Lois, and decided I needed to put this photo up here for her.

Baby blessings
Sunday June 24th 2007, 8:24 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Remember that game of telephone we all played as kids?

We drove down to Saratoga today for the blessing of a cousin’s baby at church. The hubby’s aunt has a dear friend, Louise, who has been at all the big family parties: the weddings, the baby showers, you name it, always helping out with an impish smile and energy and a way to make you laugh, and I just love her.

Yeah well. Richard talked to his aunt on the phone one time recently, and then told me, She says her friend Louise got diagnosed with scleroderma–and poof, died, just like that.

Now, autoimmune stuff would hit close to home already, but Louise?!? But she was perfectly fine last time I saw her!

People sometimes go fast with the autoimmune stuff, he reminded me.

I quite grieved over that one. I only saw her maybe once a year at most, but that makes absolutely no difference in how you feel about a person.

Okay, so, here we are arriving at the chapel down there, I’m just getting out of the car, opening my door and beginning to stand up. When, just then, I look up to see someone coming dashing over to greet an old buddy-in-law–me. LOUISE???!!!!????

Yeah, it turns out it was Lois who died; one of the cousins straightened out the details for me later. I have no clue who Lois is, and I’m quite sorry she’s gone, but but absolutely thrilled for Louise and thrilled for me. Louise, of course, had no idea why I was so speechlessly happy to see her, and I wasn’t about to say. All she knew, was, I was just really really really happy to see her, too.

Ya think?!!!!!!!

Booksigning bonus
Saturday June 23rd 2007, 5:54 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort"

imgp2824.JPGI wrote in my book that some day I was going to have to knit me some kind of a penguin. At the booksigning at Karen’s, Nancy surprised me with an absolutely adorable felted penguin with a handspun scarf that she’d been working like mad on all week. She tells me I have to come up with the perfect name. Any ideas?…

Warming the cockles of my heart
Thursday June 21st 2007, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

I always thought that was an odd phrase. I have asked my folks about it from time to time, they being gifted wordsmiths: does anybody have cold heart cockles? What’s a cockle, and does it truly have heart? Where on earth did that phrase come from? They didn’t know, and neither did our dictionary.

Shelle just came home from a college internship in marine biology–a few hours after her Sea Silk shawl arrived home via UPS. Cool. She spent several hours showing us pictures of things she’d studied, some weird, some wonderful. One of those crabs looked exactly, in the photo she took, like the tick I removed from her back after she came home from a week at camp one summer, with a bulls-eye of red rings around that bug. (They tested the bug and her both, no Lyme. Phew.)

Anyway. She brought me a few shells, and I had to show this: these are Heart Cockles. So named because when you see the intact shell from the side, it looks heart-shaped. But what I now love best about them, something I had thought to be just an ordinary white shell you see on probably every beach–kind of like sea gulls, something you take for granted, right?–was this: they are a favorite food of giant sea stars, which can move amazingly fast towards them. The heart cockles have one foot, which they stick out so they can run away from the sea star. How does such a thing run? It flips itself, over and over, a seashell version of a living Slinky, running away at a good clip. Does Pixar know about this?

I mentioned in my book that I’d made my first Monterey shawl for my friend Michelle, who is a dedicated marine biology enthusiast. I had no idea, when I wrote that, that my daughter Michelle was likewise going to become one. But I sure can see now why she is.

So good to have you home, sweetie.imgp2815.JPG

My yin got yanged around
Wednesday June 20th 2007, 12:25 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit

(Actually, looking up those two words on, I’m thinking I should reverse them, but then it wouldn’t be a pun in English.)

That Monterey shawl I started in Sea Silk yesterday? Um… I moved it off my lap mid-row to attend to something else, didn’t notice with the stitches all bunched up, and you don’t have to be a knitter to see why I took it off the needles. I was long past where it could be fixed without ripping. I was on row 30. Now I’m on 12. I was going to try to rush it to be finished for my kickoff booksigning on Saturday, but, um, I think my knitting was telling me to chill out. Kick back. Relax.

For those who are coming, you’ll get to hear a few details that there wasn’t space for in the book. That stroll along the canal with Karen? I didn’t mention that I fell through a canoe. Yes. Through. It was very funny, and Karen was just shaking her head, going, Some people!

See you Saturday!The tide’s out, eh?

You completely made my day
Tuesday June 19th 2007, 3:46 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort"

Sea Silk Monterey patternI write this site to try to create a place of safety from the pressures of the world, a place where people can grab a chair, their knitting, if they like, and relax and find themselves among friends.

My book was released last Monday. By Friday evening Amazon had reverted to its “This title has not yet been released” page, at the same time some people were getting theirs–from Amazon. After there were a few posts of “Mine came!” on the lists, I got an email from a woman who had pre-ordered in March, after Amazon had told her it was not available yet, asking, did that mean she didn’t pre-order early enough in the line-up to get hers?!

I’m assuming Amazon assumed x percent of the pre-orders would be cancelled, didn’t stock enough to cover the initial demand, and simply ran out. It’s just knitting, after all, and really, how much interest could there be in that? And lace, at that.

You know what the largest user group of bloglines is? You got it. Knitters.

By yesterday Amazon was shipping again. Meantime, over the weekend, likewise posted it “temporarily unavailable to order” (maybe it got held up at Customs, let’s not be too full of myself) and a large online vendor of knitting supplies had, like Amazon, gone from shipping to “not yet been released.”

The funniest was a guy who was scalping copies at $52.

I dunno how word got out so well or how you all did this, but I have to tell you, you’ve been making me feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve. Thank you thank you thank you. I can only hope it lives up to your hope. I cannot tell you how wonderful it feels right now to be getting multiple reports from yarn store owners of opening up cases and selling out on the spot. Y’all don’t mind if I bask a bit, do you?

Diamonds last forever
Monday June 18th 2007, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Knit

I got a delightful email today from a woman who’d just knitted her version of my Strawberry Pie shawl for her nine-year-old granddaughter. I immediately thought of the sweater my mom had made for me when I was nine, and I wish I had a picture, any picture, anywhere, of it, but it’s long gone.

My grandfather once requested that my mom knit him a cardigan. Being very proper in his dress, and needing it not to look too casual, he specifically requested a very fine knit and something that he could wear easily at work–which happened to be the hallways of Congress (when he wasn’t wearing his suitcoat.)

Mom designed an allover diamond Aran, the kind of cabling that Barbara Walker would describe as right-twist and left-twist, quite understated. I vividly remember that subdued green wool yarn and that pattern as it slowly, slowly appeared on Mom’s needles: she used to knit it when she was waiting for me at my piano lessons. With six kids and little downtime, it took her a year to do. I reminded her of it once, a few years ago, and she exclaimed, “I used fingering weight and size 2s?! I must have been out of my mind!” Yes, Mom; I remember you teaching me what the term fingering weight meant. I wanted to do that someday. I remember. She had had to buy needlepoint yarn to get the look she’d wanted.

The ultimate act of motherly love is that, because I totally fell in love with that sweater while she was making it, when she finally finally finished it and told me it was my turn next for a sweater, when I said I wanted that same diamond pattern, she actually did it. She must have been screamingly bored out of her mind with repeating that same thing after so much time, but she did it. She let me pick out a rosey shade. With a zipper in front. This was radically fashionable at the time, and with a big family, we rarely went for the latest fad–but lookatmenow! She did mine in worsted weight (there are limits, after all) and I was thrilled.

You know how teenagers sometimes wish they could tell their parents how to dress before they’ll be willing to be seen in public with them? Yeah, well. In my case, I loved that sweater, with Grandpa’s diamonds altered just so just for me, and I refused to give it up. I outgrew it. Badly. I refused to stop wearing it. My mom saw me sneaking it on one day when the wrists barely went past my elbows, and that was that–it just kind of “disappeared” shortly after. I was not happy.

I asked Mom a few years ago whatever happened to it, and she didn’t remember; oh, she’d given it away, she was sure, but she would only have given it to someone who appreciated it, she assured me.

Grandpa, meantime, wore that sweater for thirty more years, until his death at 95. It was always his favorite. His daughter had created it just for him, and it was just the right weight for wearing year-round. It’s one reason why I like knitting in wool and baby alpaca; with good care, one’s work can last practically forever, without the aging tendencies inherent in a cotton yarn.

It just now occurred to me as I was writing this why my Embossed Diamonds pattern that frames these pages must have so immediately appealed to me as it appeared out of my needles the first time. A similar-shaped stitch pattern. Huh. The things we learn about ourselves when we write.

As for that grandma who wrote to me, I am delighted she liked my pattern–and I am thrilled for her young granddaughter, who doesn’t ever have to worry about wrist lengths.

(Meantime, since every good post needs a picture, I’m putting the back of the book on top of the Sky Drama shawl shown on the front cover.)back of the book

The orange book
Saturday June 16th 2007, 2:46 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

GramGram’s inscriptionI signed a book for my friend Mary in Iowa at Purlescence last night, went out to dinner with friends and hubby, just normal busy life stuff, came home, and read Mary’s blog entry about her elderly father being interviewed and talking about how important it is to get our stories recorded. Yes. It’s not just a busy life–it’s how we spend our time becoming who we are.

My grandmother’s mother died of colon cancer when Gram was eight. When Gram was 60, knowing well what it was like to grow up wondering who her mother had really been as a person, she got talked into writing down some of her own life stories. Thank you very much, that’s me, the three year old in the family photo in there with the curls who, on being told to sit up at the table, declared emphatically, “I won’t sit up! I’ll sit down.”

This business of needing to get the words just right. It goes way back.

I got given a copy, with her inscription, “To Alison, who is old enough to read and enjoy this book.” I was by then nine. I hated it. It was boring. It had a vivid sunflower-orange cover, a color that was very much in vogue and that I very much hated.

Yeah, well. You know what comes next. Or some of it, anyway–the rest, I did not quite believe till I’d called my mother, who knew the people involved, remembered it, and confirmed it was so. So: I picked up the book a few years ago and read it, wondering why on earth I hadn’t earlier. Maybe I’d been afraid I would be critical of the writing, or that I might find it to have any vapid Washington DC politics, or–I dunno, but I didn’t want to be critical of my grandmother.

I liked it. Hey Mikey. The Supreme Court Justice who came to his office every day in a horse-drawn carriage? The senators’ wives being expected to wear hats and white gloves and to leave their calling cards at each others’ residences, timed and ranked by Senate seniority, her surprise at how southern and how Victorian-style Washington was in the early 50’s? It was fascinating.

But what I hadn’t expected to find was one story of what had happened after they made a slew of new friends when they moved there part-time after that first election.

My uncle, his father’s namesake, was serving in the Army in Korea, and an officer came up to him whom he’d never laid eyes on before, and barked at him: “I don’t know what your name is, soldier, but it ought to be–” And then he named my grandfather’s and his name.

To which my uncle, stunned, stammered, “Uh, yes, sir. That’s exactly what it is, sir.”

She named that officer. She published this when I was nine and my husband was ten.

It was my husband’s great uncle.

“But we can’t get our picture”
Saturday June 16th 2007, 12:04 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Amaryllis

imgp2770.JPG“On the cover of the Rolling Stone.”  (Everybody keeps asking me who the models are.   I should ask.  I don’t know.)

“Gonna buy five copies for my mother!”