Friday November 30th 2007, 11:41 am
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Jasmin knits socks. Saying that is like saying I knit a little bit of lace from time to time: Jasmin. Knits. Socks!

When she made some comment about a month ago about how her sock drawer had run out of space and gee, she was going to have to ditch some pairs, maybe Goodwill, I had no doubt she was joking, and I joked back at her that I could help her find a better use for them than that.

She showed up at Purlescence last night with the cardigan I’d left behind at her house (oops, and thanks) and five pairs of socks. Which she already knew would fit me because she’d already made me a pair.

Jasmin’s socksI was stunned. She loved it. I protested. She threatened Goodwill again, and told me this batch was for me. Now for anyone who has ever thought me a generous person, I tell you, the true me burst right out and said to the group something like “Mine all mine bwaahaahaa” and it was about another hour before I asked a couple of people, individually (and, they will note, quietly–I didn’t say it too loud) that they seemed to have about my size feet too if they’d like some. They just laughed me off.

Some friends, you can do all the nice things you could ever possibly think of for them, and you’ll still never catch up.

(p.s. For the non-knitters reading this: I never understood why someone would bother to knit socks, something that would wear out after all that work to make them, till the day someone handed me her sock as she knit the other one and said, Here. Put this on your foot. You’ll see.

And wow did I.  Instantly.  There is simply no comparison between that and anything machine knit. I still don’t love to knit sock yarn on size 0 needles, but oh, do I love handknit socks.)

Next sister
Thursday November 29th 2007, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Knit

I once casually asked my older sister if she ever read my blog, the context being that I didn’t want to repeat myself if she already knew about (fill in the blank).

Yes or no was no big deal to me. What surprised me was her answering, with a note of faint disapproval in her voice, “I don’t read blogs.”

I did not know I was a member of such an unsavory bunch. I can just picture us bloggers plotting away how to force the world to read, day after day, the equivalent of the much-mocked World’s Worst Christmas Letters. Year round! Stephanie Pearl-McPhee once cracked me up by saying how she’d had to avoid the word “blog” with someone and told them, “I have a website. I update it daily.” Oh, well, then!

But it means, either my sister has since changed her mind, or, I can get away with anything. Heh. So, since I’m breaking the rules and giving to two sisters this year, I can give to her too and round things out. (My sister-in-law already picked out a circular shawl in person a few months ago; I feel like I’ve got her covered.)  Can’t leave just one person out!  I posted Anne’s yesterday because it’s not officially for Christmas, right? So it doesn’t have to be a surprise, right?

Years ago, when I did a lot of spinning but was very new at trying lace, I offered that older sister some handspun yarn of her choice made into–something, anyway. She looked at the skeins I was offering and picked the angora. I knitted it up into a lace vest which, um, is still sitting in a drawer because frogging handspun angora when it didn’t turn out just right was just not doable.   It melts into its felted self just from the heat of your hands, it seems like.  I gave up, knitted her a perfectly nice kid mohair afghan for Christmas, and wanted to go hide under a rock on the subject of that angora. She never said anything but a very gracious thank you for the blanket.

So. I’ve felt ever since like I owe her angora–and I do. I had a large bag full of 70% angora roving, but after that failed vest it sat carefully closed up in its bag; it made me sneeze like crazy to work with it. I finally gave it away to Robert, for those who remember the weaver of my much-loved Medicine Blanket that I use as the near-black background on a lot of the photos here. I knew he would spin it and use it to make more warm blankets and that he would give generously with it. Um, I do mean blankets, plural. I had had about eight pounds of the stuff. Somebody had been closing it out for less than the price of most wools.

I stumbled across a cone of pure angora on Ebay. Oh, okay; that wouldn’t have flying feathery bits flinging from the wheel to inhale. I got it.  I knitted it up into my Marnie’s Scarf pattern. It’s not handspun, but it is her color, and it is angora. It’s not a circular shawl, but I only had so much, and, can you imagine how warm one of those would be in that fiber? A thick warm scarf, on the other hand, she can use every day when it’s cold out.

Marnie’s Scarf in pure angoraAnd Carolyn if you read this before the package arrives I am just going to laugh. You had it coming. Besides, little sisters are for teasing, always will be.

Anne, do NOT read this entry!
Wednesday November 28th 2007, 1:09 pm
Filed under: Knit

I had it all planned out. I found just the right yarn at TKGA–she wanted dead white, but how often do you find that in a natural animal fiber? And then I found close enough to it in the Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca Silk yarn, with the radiance of the silk increasing the perception of whiteness. Perfect. I knitted it up, and now it just needs a good blocking.

I’m from a family of six kids, and we long ago decided that sanity mandated that we only give to one family amongst the siblings each year at Christmas on a rotating basis. I was giving to Anne this year, and I was fairly proud of myself for getting that knitting task out of the way all in good time. She would love it. I couldn’t wait.

Talking to my brother on the phone last night, he mentioned whom he was giving to, and I did a doubletake. Wait, that means… He counted on his fingers out loud: “Yeah, that means you’re giving to Marian.”

I *what*?

The sister who’s allergic to all animal fibers? The one whom none of my stash would match? The one whom I have not yet knitted anything for because there was no particular reason I should for the moment and oh my now what do I oh goodness.

“Who’d you give to last year?” he asked me.

Like I ever remember? But wait, I last made Marian that afghan that… Um, yeah, it has been awhile…

And thus begins the insanity you knew was coming. My husband helpfully said I should put Anne’s shawl away for next year. Dude, I pointed out, Anne comes after Marian, Carolyn, and Morgan–I am not putting it away that long! I made this for her, she’s getting it and that’s that!

(The copy of the book is my author’s proofs pages, which I had spiral-bound at a copy shop for $1.13. The picture is lopsided because, well, I am.)

Note that I am hiding the picture at the bottom of this post. You think she’ll miss it down here? You think she’ll obediently close the screen and go, oh, right, better not look at that?

Right. Have you met my little sister?

Wanda’s Shawl for Anne from Wrapped in Comfort

Heads, you win
Tuesday November 27th 2007, 12:39 pm
Filed under: Life

There was a news article a few days ago, saying that some researcher had discovered that migraine sufferers have thicker cortexes than the norm, and MS patients had thinner than the norm. It was conjectured that the thicker ones might have to do with an increased susceptibility to pain.

I don’t have MS, but one autoimmune neurological disease is as good as another; my ability to feel pain in some areas has become impaired. I said to my husband, who gets migraines, “So. That means you’re thick headed and I’m a numb skull?”

Oh my
Monday November 26th 2007, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Amaryllis?  What amaryllis?Every year, my family tells me I have enough amaryllis bulbs already, fer cryin’ out loud, and that I’m not getting any more for my birthday nor Christmas. And that’s final.

And every year I fall for it. Because every year, I look around and go, well, you know, I *do* have quite a few, and mine do tend to bloom year after year, unlike some people who simply toss them when they’re spent for the season.

And every year, I dunno if they were plotting it all along or if they cave at the last moment: after all, it’s such an easy way to make me so happy. I adore amaryllises. I adore planting them. I adore watching them grow. I adore seeing them bloom. The only reason their pictures aren’t plastered all over the front of this blog is that–well–there’s just not space for one more thing. Oh, wait, I think I see a pattern here…inside Lene’s box

Mail came today. A box. “Jolity”? I don’t…where? When did–wait, did I…? Who…?

I opened it. A Candy Cane amaryllis bulb, with a biodegradeable pot, soil, bulb, all ready to go.

chocolate tree chunks and amaryllis pot

Chunks from cocoa trees (how perfect is that?) for helping with drainage at the bottom. A few wheat seeds to add a grassy effect if I want. Even the tiniest tip of a flower bud, and when those start to come, you have to add water quick and let it grow or the stalk will come out stunted. I hunted through the packing slip, trying to figure out where this was coming from–and no, I didn’t wait till my birthday to open it. I’m not getting amaryllises for my birthday or Christmas this year, John said so. So there.bloom where you are planted

“This just screamed you… Best, Lene.”

Oh, Lene. Oh, wow. Oh, THANK YOU!!!

Five minutes
Monday November 26th 2007, 1:21 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

moonstone Blue Moon scarfYou know, this is working up fast enough that I ought to finish the silly thing before snapping its picture, but here it is, unblocked: 33 stitches and five minutes to the inch. Being a very open pattern, it stretches out a lot, which means it’s good for getting as much length as you can out of a small amount of an expensive yarn (I would say go for at least 250 yards of a fingering weight with size 5.5 mm needles). This is three repeats across plus one plain stitch added to each edge, the main body of my Water Turtles Shawl pattern from “Wrapped in Comfort,” rows 38 and 40. The yarn is by Blue Moon Fiber Arts, merino/tencel in the Moonstone colorway.

Five minutes an inch. You don’t have to knit the whole shawl, a scarf from the pattern will do. So, how is your holiday knitting deadline coming along?

Some of mine just got moved up two weeks: our son John is going into the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah, to start his mission for the Mormon Church in December. When his big brother went off, his dad took him; this time it’s my turn. I haven’t seen my folks’ new place in Salt Lake City yet, so it only seemed fair.

And I thought yesterday of how much I’ve gotten used to Californian winters, of just how cold I was going to be, and wished I had something warm. You know, like a scarf, and maybe a hat, too.

Wait a few seconds for it to hit me… DUH! Even with a few holes here and there in the patterns, yeah, um, I think I’ve got a scarf or two around here.  Now to finish this and go knit a solid one for the kid.

Or a bowling ball
Sunday November 25th 2007, 12:25 am
Filed under: Knit

belly button in the silkLook! My ball of yarn has a belly button!

“Sometimes I wonder if you live on the same planet Earth we do, Mom.”

Got that one right.
Friday November 23rd 2007, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Knit

Golden Gate walkwayUpdate: she chose the Blue Moon Geisha one–it matched the sweater she happened to be wearing. Yes! Her mom was there, wearing a pair of pants that matched the brown one, and absolutely loved it. Perfect!

I had three unfinished scarf projects I threw in my knitting bag yesterday and took to Nina’s. When I went to go knit, I picked up the one in the color I wanted to work on, and found myself looking at it, going, nahhhh…and putting it back down and picking up the brown one instead that had languished for so long, because I just hadn’t known whom it was supposed to be for nor why I should be making the effort to finish it. And I finished it.

It was the perfect color on that lovely African-American grandmother visiting her daughter and grandchildren for the afternoon today.

Moments like today’s are why I keep knitting.

Choose one
Friday November 23rd 2007, 12:57 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

two Thanksgiving day scarvesIf you’ve read “Wrapped in Comfort,” you already love Nina and Rod, and we do, too. A month or so ago, they took a chance and invited us for Thanksgiving this year, knowing that we always spend it with my husband’s aunt up in the mountains of Los Gatos.

Turns out the aunt was flying to Arizona this time. Thank you, Nina, much appreciated, and a grand time was had by all yesterday (hi, Maryam!)

Michelle decided to make the two pies I’d volunteered to bring. Only, as we went along, why stop at two? She made two batches of rolls, two chocolate silk pies, two pumpkin pies and a pecan pie. Go Michelle!

Nina had specifically told me to bring my knitting, and at one point, thirteen of us sitting at the table after the meal, she and I pulled ours out as we chatted away. I said to her sister-in-law next to me, “You know you knit too much when you see someone’s project and instantly know what brand of yarn it is,” spotting the Noro in Nina’s hands. I finished two scarves, the Blue Moon one and this baby alpaca one that I’d dyed, adding a bit of burgundy to its natural brown; it had been a UFO threatening TOADhood for awhile, and I rescued it on our way out the door, somewhat on impulse, and now it’s done. After three months of having it be seven inches long, it’s kind of hard to believe it actually grew up at last.

Today we go off to a friend’s way up in San Ramon that we see once a year, and I can’t wait to offer the wife her choice of colors. That brown I think will be perfect for her, but I’ll let her decide. Over the bay, and through the woods…

Listening to the mom
Wednesday November 21st 2007, 11:36 am
Filed under: Life

I have had times, as a mother, when I learned the importance of following my inner instincts for my children. Telling the pediatrician she needed to check my daughter’s eyes, regardless of any past testing. Telling her, another time, that that other “cyst” had to go. She dismissed me and it, but eventually, as I continued to push her, referred us to a plastic surgeon, who was sure I was regarding it out of vanity and warned me that the scar on that child’s neck would be more visible than the cyst left alone.

No. Out. Now.

Okay, then. And he went to the operating room expecting to deftly nick that little lump out of there–and found it to be the tip of a long iceberg of growing fetal cells growing around the child’s neck and starting on its way down the back, not cancerous yet but on the verge of becoming so. He thanked me profusely for following my instincts and not letting their dismissals of it get in my way.


I do think she’ll be okay this time. I thank each one of you very much for caring, and I want to return the favor by saying see, it all turned out fine, just like I said. Obviously, I can’t quite say that yet, but give me a month or two and then hopefully I will.

The eyes have it
Tuesday November 20th 2007, 2:25 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

eyedoctor knittingMy daughter was seven when I watched–something, I don’t even remember what–go past her face on the playground at the elementary school. What stayed with me was the look on her face: an utterly bewildered, helpless, I don’t get it!

I hauled her to the pediatrician’s and said, Humor me. I know you just tested her vision six months ago.  Do it again.

She sent us to the pediatric opthalmologist, who found the cataract and operated on it, explaining that most pediatricians would never see a case and could easily miss it, but that he saw quite a few.

And every now and then since then, we’ve had an occasional blip related to that eye. They saw a cyst last summer, and asked that she come home from college this week to get it checked again.  I wouldn’t mind having her home for Thanksgiving, would I?  Hey.  Twist my arm.

So today, they checked it.  A cyst?  Maybe not, now.  They do think it’s benign. Ultrasound at Christmas break.  That’s suddenly a lot longer away than it was.

I knitted away in the waiting room on a lace scarf out of the Geisha yarn left over from the shawl I gave Tina Newton of Blue Moon Fiber Arts, picturing it on the person it’s going to and looking forward to their face lighting up when I give it to them; it’s lovely stuff. As I sat and other patients and parents came and went over nearly two hours, two toddlers got antsy, and I had a Peruvian handknitted finger puppet for each of them. Both of them instantly lit up, as did their parents and everyone around them.  They put their fingers in them–a whale and a parrot–and brought them to life, dancing in their hands.

And I think things will turn out okay.

Trashed Object Abandoned in Disgust
Monday November 19th 2007, 11:49 am
Filed under: Knit

Barnswallows scarfI have as many UFOs as the next knitter, and it can be very useful at times. The Barnswallows scarf that stalled because the needles were too large and my hands were aching? It’s probably been sitting in that bag for four months now; it’s 27″ long, and I can easily finish it up this afternoon. Yay! Because I know exactly who it’s for now, and the shortcut is a help this busy week. It’s often like that; I stumble across my UFOs when I need them for the person they were really meant for all along, and knowing now why I’m making them helps them fly to the finish line. Having a small stash of UFOs can be a very useful timesaver. (Why yes, I do own a lot of needles, funny you should mention it.)

Trashed Object Abandoned in DisgustBut I like to think I never have TOADs. I figure if it’s that bad, I know it, and I rip the thing out and put it out of its misery. I never rip the needles out and just leave it abandoned like this.

So when I found this, it rather surprised me. Came with its own mascot, too.

Picture by permission and courtesy of Doc at www.docwalkersphotography.com .docwalkersphotography



November in California
Sunday November 18th 2007, 6:12 pm
Filed under: Life,My Garden

nameless white evergreen flowers

Sitting here in our family room, these white flowers whose name I wish I knew suddenly required of me that I look up out the window and notice them. That I notice that it’s November and that they’re blooming and that there are things about living in northern California that I enjoy very much.

Red berries

So I picked up the camera, walked outside–something I, with my lupus, too seldom do–but it was 3:30, the late-fall San Francisco fog had rolled in, and the sky was darkening; the exposure seemed like it couldn’t be a risk. The flash went off repeatedly as I was snapping pictures. The leaves on the apple trees are a beautiful bright yellow. The lemons are turning color to match. I picked one, and as I sat here quietly typing away again on my email, its lovely scent was on my hands, so much so that I went back out and picked more and now a lemon cake is happening in my kitchen. I will cook down some frozen mixed berries with just a smidgen of sugar to pour as a sauce over the slices after it cools.

My mother and mother-in-law were newlyweds together, friends living across the street from each other in DC proper, before they bought houses and moved their growing families to the suburbs. They both owned the then-recently-released Betty Crocker cookbook, and Mom Hyde told my mom that the hot milk sponge cake was a great recipe to try.

When I was a teenager, I stumbled across that same cookbook, 1950 edition, at a sale being held as a school fundraiser. I recognized it, and since I was about to go off to college, it seemed a good idea and I bought it.

Mint condition. Original edition. Looked like it had never been opened. I have since been told it would have been worth a fair amount had I left it like that, but like our mothers before us had done, I put it to the good use it was meant for.

And when we moved here, I pulled out that same hot milk sponge cake recipe that I remember my mom making more often than any other cake, for a treat for my kids, except, I made a substitution. And later told my mother-in-law about it.

Why, she asked me, even if it was so good, why would I want to use fresh lemon juice for most of the milk? Wasn’t that, like, hideously expensive?

She’d forgotten we had that tree.Meyer lemon tree

Tart and not too sweet and the top with an intensely lemony melt-in-your-mouth texture like the filling of a fine pastry. Almost no fat nor guilt. You can have your cake here, and enjoy it, too.

At least in my family
Saturday November 17th 2007, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Laura in Alameda’s yarnThanksgiving. A time for family gathering around: let the pun times roll!

Bilingual turkeys speaking chicken with a knitter’s accent: BlOCK, blockblockblockBLOCK!

I’m blogging this
Friday November 16th 2007, 8:09 pm
Filed under: Knit

Jasmin and Gigi

Photos from knitting group night at Purlescence last night. Gigi and Jasmin of http://cuteknitter.blogdrive.com/ Jasmin’s T-shirt reads, “I’m blogging this,” so I had to take her up on the challenge.

The one and only infamous No-Blog Rachel, http://no-blog-rachels-blog.blogspot.com/ who actually happens to have a blog now. No-Blog-Rachel spinning

Kathy, http://queenofpurpleyarn.blogspot.com/ who finished her pink socks!Cathy

Colleen pummelling Chloe with yarn. But was it merino? I mean, as long as it’s soft it’s okay… Colleen and Chloe, Kay watching

Which brings up the thought for my family, for their own protection: come the next earthquake, where would you rather be doing your Christmas shopping? Say, Costco, with the pallets stacked up to here with crates of #10 cans hovering above your head, just waiting for that 7.5? Or a yarn store? Skip the kitchen supplies. We’re talking major safety issues here. Go directly for the cashmere. Or the new Fleece Artist Camel Spin (oooh, aah).

Colleen, Rachel, and Cynthia quietly plotting world dominknition in the back.
plotting world domiknition

I tell you, if the head of Microsoft ever tried to go into yarn to take them on, I’ve got just the title for his efforts: The Purly Gates.