Flower child
Thursday January 17th 2008, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Knit

When Nina was here, I was experimenting and frogging. I woke up the next morning with a mental image of exactly what I really was trying to knit: not this ribbing pattern, not that drop-stitch wave that I’d been trying the evening before, but what I really wanted to knit. For that male nurse.

Baby cables and ribbing framing, in the center of a soft scarf, a knit-purl-patterned hypodermic needle. Such a basic part of his everyday work, and yet something that has been so vitally important to my life the two times I’ve seen him. And he has such a deft touch with them. I pictured the whole thing and worked out the stitch count across the scarf as I lay there–all of which I promptly forgot when I got out of bed, but I later sat myself down on the couch and made myself work it back out again. My brain had it once, I could do it again. I did.

I really, really like it. It’s one of those things where, if you know what you’re looking at, it’s obvious. If you don’t, it’s a pretty pattern. I’m knitting it in the worsted-weight Misti Baby Alpaca Royal I bought at Stitches West a year ago, that I’d wondered why I’d bought such a (for me) heavy yarn. (I know why, it was one of the softest yarns in the whole show and that was the weight it came in. Period.) It’s not spun so loosely that it’ll fall apart at all, and yet, because of the fine micron count and fiber type, it is nevertheless exquisitely soft–the spinners at the mill got the balance exactly right. It’s perfect.

And then I’ll do one with x cables in the center for the x-ray technician.

Meantime, here is the bouquet from Nina, the roses from Phyl and Lee, and the last flower on Sue’s: which has been blooming, with a one-week break in the middle, since the first week of December. Wow.flowers from four friends

Phyllis, Lee, and Nina
Wednesday January 16th 2008, 12:52 pm
Filed under: Knit

I wrote in my book about Nina’s Seder; the other family she invited was Phyllis and Lee’s that day, nearly 21 years ago. Nina and Phyl and I have all been good friends ever since.

Phyl and Lee came by Monday night for a visit with a bunch of flowers for me. They weren’t going to let me be sick and be stuck by myself. They also weren’t going to let me get too tired; they left after about an hour, with me pleading for them to stay longer, and them explaining that they didn’t want to overtax me, Lee grinning, “Always leave them wanting more.”

Then Nina appeared on our doorstep last night with, bless her, a bunch of flowers and her knitting in hand (I would show you pictures of both bouquets, but my camera batteries both died snapping shawl photos–I’ll try later), pulled up a chair with me and sat and knitted and kept me company for the evening. After a week of playing solitaire, other than those two visits, I tell you, they weren’t afraid of my germs and they were more concerned about me not getting too lonely–I can’t tell you how much I love those guys.

My Dr. R assumed Phyl was my sister when she and Lee came to visit me in the hospital. She almost is.

I spent the evening chatting, knitting and frogging. I had a project I’d thought about but not started, because I couldn’t decide how I wanted to do it, so with Nina there, I simply tried out one idea after another, over and over. Didn’t get a thing accomplished; I was back to the cast-on when she left, but–I did, though. Now I know what doesn’t work.

And here is why I needed a new project.

I kinneared it. Mix of Julia and Michelle shawls from Wrapped in Comfort

Elliott and Lara
Monday January 14th 2008, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Lara, it turned out, is one of those people that you meet and instantly adore.

My nephew Elliott called last year at the start of spring break, saying he was thinking of jumping in the car, driving the 800 miles from BYU, and playing tourist with a friend of his: San Francisco, the redwoods… Would we have space for them if they came?

Would we! Watch me jumping up and down! Yes!! It was while I was getting the house ready that one of my kids, who also goes to BYU, mentioned casually, You do know that his friend is likely going to be Lara? That he’s got a girlfriend?

Oh. Okay. He didn’t mention that little fact. Two rooms… (Hey. We’re all good little Mormons.)

And so we had a far too short but absolutely delightful visit. I asked Elliott at one point how they’d met, and he said they were old college friends; he mentioned some to-do where he was supposed to bring a date, and he didn’t have a date, and he just thought, eh, I’ll invite Lara, why not. He had never thought of her as a potential date before–but when he agreed to the thought, “I was just..so…HAPPY.” He kind of shook his head a little at the memory of it, with this big and slightly bewildered smile on his face.

Have you ever had the experience where you see a couple and you instantly know they were meant for each other? But I was careful not to say anything too presumptuous sounding, because it wasn’t my decision to make.

Months later, I got another call I loved: they were engaged, and he wanted me to know that their visit here was what got them each thinking of their old friend as, actually, the person they couldn’t imagine not spending the rest of their lives with.

Lara is from Fairbanks. The date was set for last week. Um… They looked at it, and realized that for almost everyone that would want to be in attendance, it would be a destination wedding because of the remoteness of where she grew up, and–who in their right mind heads to Alaska in January?

And so they went for the opposite idea. They kept it very small (although, with a large reception to follow in Salt Lake City). For the actual wedding at the Mormon Temple, I know on his side, there were his parents, his three living grandparents, and his brother playing photographer.

In Hawaii.

Elliott and Lara before the wave hitsMy sister Carolyn, his mother, forwarded me some of her older son’s pictures and gave me permission to put them here. The first is one that Joel snapped not knowing why he was getting the expressions on their faces he was, but he caught it just immediately before the surprise big wave on the calm day swamped him and then them. The second is after the wave.

And a good time was had by all. Happy forever, Elliott and Lara, I love you dearly. And I am SO glad you came!Elliott and Lara after the wave hits

Knitting time coming up
Sunday January 13th 2008, 5:38 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

(Sorry for the wrinkled-towel background; it was the color I needed, and for today it has to do.)

I have a nearly-finished silk scarf for my daughter I need to get done and mail, but it’s staying safely inside its ziploc bag and away from me, germ free. I have a shawl I want to photograph before I mail it off, and, ditto. Even if other people don’t get Crohn’s flares when they catch a bad cold, it’s still a bad cold.Orenberg handspun and Kid Seta

Today is the first day I feel like I could actually hold up the needles for awhile, meantime, and the knitting bug is getting to me. I wanted to show something: in person, the Kid Seta (the bigger ball) and the Orenberg handspun “kidd/silk” from Russia are a little bit off from each other, the one more to the brown side, the other more to the vivid pinkish-purple. But knitted together, they’re absolutely stunning. They were so made for each other.

I bought the Kid Seta from Warren at Marin Fiber Arts http://www.marinfiberarts.com/ last summer while I was doing my second booksigning. I adore Warren. Every yarn store owner should be like Warren, not only as kind a soul as you could ask for, but his yarns! Chosen by how good they feel, as far as I could tell: wonderful. At the time, I just bought two balls, thinking I’d do a scarf or two, nothing major, a souvenir of my coming to his shop. But every time I went to go work with it, it just felt like, nah… It hadn’t found what it wanted to be yet.

My friend Margo Lynn totally surprised me with the gift of the Orenberg about two weeks ago, just to make my day, which she very much did. I pulled out Warren’s yarn, curious, and instantly knew. Yes! This is what it had been waiting for!

Neither yarn alone had enough yardage to do a shawl, but together they could. I thought, let’s see, I got two shawls out of 1000 yards of Lisa Souza’s fluffy Kid Mohair (the turquoise Julia shawl in the book), and the second one was pretty long, at least for me. Two balls of 230 yards of the Kid Seta, and the label says 50 g and approximately 600 yards on the Orenberg–yeah, that’ll do. I’ll just have some Orenberg left, that’s all.

It’s not working out that way. Handspun is of course variable, but the Orenberg appears, calculating by the weight of what’s left of the Kid Seta, to have been about 350 yards long. But oh, such gorgeous yards. And yet–I think this thing will still be long enough to keep me happy. And I’m thinking that silk has a tendency to stretch over time, which couldn’t hurt. I’m just glad I’ve got a scale in grams so I can see if I can get one more row, and another, out of it, and one more after that. I’m so close to being done.

Design-wise: I chose the smaller-stitch-count Julia to try to stretch the yardage as far as possible using 7mm needles, but past the yoke, I ditched the Julia stitch pattern for a different 6+1, doing the pattern from the main body of the Michelle shawl from there instead. I’ll show you when it’s blocked.

I can’t wait to see!

Okay, I think I’m ready for a nap. Knitting later.

No light, no water
Saturday January 12th 2008, 5:02 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

And yet by golly it was time to grow, so there!

I found this under the sink of the kids’ bathroom last night, having no memory of putting it under there months before. Somehow it had decided it had waited long enough and it was just going to go do what it was born to do. I found the dried top of the stalk wrapped around the pipe under there like a cartoon of a guy in cowboy boots on the desert gasping, “Water!” at a mirage. And still–with only its inner reserves from last year’s careful care–there you go.

And yes, I’ve now cleared off the debris and added water. We’ll see what it can do now. I like this one. I’m going to baby it for awhile while it gets its strength back.


One more stalk
Friday January 11th 2008, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

Sue’s amaryllis put up a third stalk, taller than the first two. The bud on Lene’s took awhile to get past that first peek at the world, gathering up strength like they sometimes do, and is now on its way up day by day. I can’t wait to see it when it grows up.

Sue’s white amaryllis and Lene’s bud

Thursday January 10th 2008, 2:54 pm
Filed under: Life

Yesterday was, abruptly and unexpectedly, a blender-hair day. I got to see this guy http://spindyeknit.com/2007/02/nurse/ and this guy. http://spindyeknit.com/2007/02/people-placed-along-way/

I guess I overdid it going to Karen’s, and I apologize to everyone there whom I inadvertently exposed. I woke up yesterday morning too sick to sit up, much less stand; it was everything I could do not to pass out. But eventually I had to try, because I wasn’t staying there. Going from the bedroom to the car, I grabbed my knitting…and then threw up, repeatedly.

“You’re NOT going to be knitting!” said my husband, firmly.

Yeah, I know. But it was my insurance policy: if I didn’t take it, I’d end up being admitted to the hospital. If I did take it, they would send me home from Urgent Care.

Five hours and one IV later, a little liquid, a little Zofran, they did send me home, but none of us was quite sure that was the right idea. I did, however, get taken care of by that same male nurse, who didn’t at first recognize me from my bout of pneumonia awhile back–I’d had a mask on the whole time both times–but who again looked so gently in my eyes that I knew I would heal. Which, yesterday, was not feeling like a sure thing. The x-ray tech was also as kind and as gentle a soul as you could ask for. It helped, I think possibly even more than the IV did.

Today’s a little better. I’ve managed to stay upright this long so far.

Rug and Yarn Hut
Tuesday January 08th 2008, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,LYS

It was out of the blue–and yet I could see it coming a long way off. My friend Karen calling today, with a stunner: she was closing her yarn store. Oh, Karen, I’m so sorry; when?…

After today.


She’s been doing two fulltime jobs for I think six years; I’ve wondered for a long time when something would have to give. And abruptly, yesterday, she looked at the lease and decided it had, and that was that. She was making lots of phone calls, asking people to spread the word. We did.

Karen and me at the booksigning last summerThe end result was an impromptu get-together party of many an old friend: friends of Karen’s, friends of each other’s, friends of the shop’s, after 20 years. Karen is the friend who taught me to spin and dye, working out of her home for a few years after her first location was destroyed in the Loma Prieta quake. This is the friend who gave me one of just the best stories that didn’t make it past the editors into my first book, for lack of space, but I tell you, her cat that dyed itself green will be in the next one. This is the woman who, when I called her after my car accident, saying, my sister wanted a navy afghan for Christmas and no way no how was I able to drive right now, did she do mail order? Responded with, “Yes, but I can do better than that,” packed her minivan with navy yarns, DROVE TO MY HOUSE 25 minutes away, and then insisted on giving me a discount. Gave me a hug, as I stumbled dizzily, and told me to get better.
This is…was…the store of my friend.

And I will miss it. But now she’ll have time to actually knit for the first time in years, and I hope I’ll actually get to enjoy more time with her, not less, because of the change. It’s hard to let go. But it was clear she was ready.

Jo’s ears
Monday January 07th 2008, 3:40 pm
Filed under: Friends

One more mention about Jo: she’s the only person I know with leopard-print hearing aids.  If you’ve got’em, flaunt’em.

Sunday January 06th 2008, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

I am changing her name here.

The whole way along, Jo hasn’t been entirely sure about this whole aging thing. Californians are supposed to stay young forever.

Picture a woman with white bouffant hair, holding tight to the high style of her youth, and a well-preserved old Mustang muscle car that she’d babied for decades as well as any hobbyist. She used to laugh at young men who would roar up alongside her at red lights and start to offer to drag race when the light turned, till they got a good look at the person in the driver’s seat. A woman! An OLD woman! As the first female to get an MBA from her university in the 40’s, she enjoyed lobbing other peoples’ expectations back at them like that. I think she was into her 80’s before the hair deflated, after she’d had a stroke, and her beloved car was totalled by her ex-husband, whom she had stayed friends with and who had borrowed it.

She goes to my church. Her stroke turned her into an instant little old lady, and she was not happy about that. There was a Sunday morning when I asked her how she was doing, and she, from her wheelchair, declared, “Heavenly Father forgot about me!” She didn’t care much for this dependency thing, not one bit!

From there she seemed less and less often lucid; sometimes she didn’t recognize me anymore, despite our having moved here in ’87. But she still had good days, just, none recently, when I made my decision.

I didn’t know how she would respond to my knitting for her, but I decided to do it anyway. I took some baby alpaca in white, white being about as generic a color as you could ask for, one that wouldn’t freak out the caretaker if her patient played dress-up with too-wild and crazy abandon; I knitted Jo up a bit of a scarf. Not too long, since she’s seated these days, you don’t want it catching in the wheels, and besides, she might not notice if it did. But oh so very soft.

I took it to church. I put that scarf around her neck and kind of patted it in place on her shoulders, telling her I’d made it for her and what the yarn was made out of. (Ever the fiber artist here.)

She’d been feeling down for some weeks, and that day, she was just plain out of it. She reached one hand absent-mindedly upwards towards mine, but she didn’t seem to have a clue what was going on. Some of her elderly friends swarmed her as I stepped out of their way, exclaiming over her, exclaiming over her new bit of adornment, telling her what it was and how wonderful it was. Jo’s face went from blank to mildly bewildered.

The next Sunday, there was Jo. She was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. She was with it. She greeted me cheerfully. She totally knew who she was and where she was, she was her old self again, and she was ready to challenge anybody to a drag race in her wheelchair, scarf flying.

It was startling to me how changed she was and how much of a difference a simple gesture had made in reminding her that she really was thought about, honest!

I thought of all that today, about a year later, as she sat parked in her chair waiting for her ride home to pull up near the door. She waved hi and laughed. I didn’t put her on the spot by asking her my name or hers; she recognized my face and was glad, and that was reward enough.

Let it snow?
Saturday January 05th 2008, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Knit

The kids we put on the plane yesterday were heading home to a foot of newfallen snow to have to haul their luggage through.

Later in the day I got a note from my friend Gigi, one of my testknitters for “Wrapped in Comfort,” who grew up in Iran: she was off on vacation and enjoying new snow, too, and mentioned quite gleefully what the word for snow is in her native Farsi language:


She was cc’ing her note to a bunch of us back in California, saying she wished we could all come play in the barf with her.

Cherry Tree Orenberg yarn in Raspberry SorbetAhem. Moving right along. I got totally blown away by a surprise package in the mail yesterday, handspun handdyed yarn, Cherry Tree’s Orenberg in Raspberry Sorbet. Wow, thank you, Margo Lynn! You have to love a yarn that gives employment to handspinners in Russia trying to keep a tradition alive that goes back to Catherine the Great; google Orenberg shawls if you’ve never heard of them, they’re gorgeous. They have geometrics that remind me of Persian rugs. Although, traditionally–this is an aside to the laceknitters reading this–their patterns have one quirk: the decreases are all of the knit two or three together variety. There are no ssk’s to lean the other direction to keep the fabric from biasing. The Orenbergers blocked the heck out of their shawls, with the fact that they’re made of cashmere plied with silk–not wool, so there’s much more limpness and much less memory–making up for that inherent biasing.

The hank was small enough around that I’m guessing it was wound from someone’s hand to the crook of their elbow, what I think of as a vacuum-cleaner hank, because it fits best on the handle of one when you want to wind it up. But this one I was able to do most of the winding simply by putting it on the floor with a flashlight in the center to make sure it didn’t tangle inwards on itself, so that I could sit and read emails as I wound. It worked.

I pulled out the bag of yarns I have from Stitches East, marvelling at how Margo Lynn’s color choice matched so well with some of mine. Her yarn is cobweb fine, and I’m going to knit it with a strand of merino laceweight from Shelridge Farm that slightly contrasts so that the two colors add depth to each other.

Right now, I’m thinking I should knit a scarf in a snowflake lace pattern, wad it up into a soft big ball, and throw it at Gigi.

Where’s Waldo’s truck
Friday January 04th 2008, 6:24 pm
Filed under: Life

Bay Area storm

I looked at the sky before we left to drive our oldest and her husband to the airport this morning. Note that this photo was taken at twenty minutes before noon: see the truck in the picture yet? And yet, today’s storm was far less, I kept thinking as we drove.

Several years ago, one of our children lost her sheet music the day before her high school concert where she was to perform a solo. No time for letting the mail bring an order. The only place in the whole Bay Area that sold that music, as far as I could find, was in Berkeley–across the San Francisco Bay and 50 miles up the most congested highway in Northern California. The sky looked very dark that morning: my husband urged me, worried, Go early. The kid was pretty upset at herself for losing her music and fairly frantic that it be replaced. I thought, only for love…

We had this ’88 Honda Accord, the sort of well-aged car you own when you don’t ever want to have a scenario where your kid with the new license comes home after crashing the car and you blurt out something stupid that makes them think you care more about the car than them. It had a mildly bashed bumper before we even got it. I felt it was a good antidote to the intense materialism of the area we live in, and that that was a good thing when you’re trying to teach your teenagers what’s important in life. Embarrassing the heck out of them had its definite points. I mean, what teenage boy is going to drag race to impress his friends in…that? Right.

So. The skies started pouring before I even got to the Dumbarton Bridge, (the day was later given 100 Year Flood status) and I could barely make out the truck in the next lane over. It was some of the heaviest windblown rain I had ever driven through, and I kept going, This is California? East Coast, sure, but California!?

And then, when I was most of the way there, my windshield wiper got the hiccups. One side started going slower. Spastic. Erratic. I held my breath, not sure I could even find my way to the side along the soundwall, and if I did, I’d be a sitting duck in the breakdown lane. I tried turning the wipers off, but that was just too blind in that horrendous rain, I had to have at least one side I could see out of; I was leaning way over to look out the passenger half. And then the one wiper caught on the other and they both came to a heartstopping halt. Fini.

What happened from there was the scariest drive of my life. The blinkers the other drivers couldn’t see. Trying to get off the highway. Trying to find someone to help me fix this. Knowing how far I was from home. This was just before I bought my first cell phone (I got one soon after!) It was several miles before I found a garage off the freeway.

And when I did, the guy at the gas station said, Here. Pull into the bay here, get yourself out of the rain. Let’s see what we can do for you, lady. There–and he found the loose screw on the wiper, tightened it up, and said, There you go. Have a safe drive home, lady.

The whole thing took him less than two minutes from when I’d pulled in, fighting tears, and he waved away any payment and my fervent thanks. I filled my car. That, at least, I could do in return. Two years later, I filled my car there again, on the way home from Stitches West back when it was held in Oakland, making a point of telling whoever was on duty that day why I went well out of my way to go to their station.

Because I wanted to take that good man’s graciousness and bless the next worker at that station with the story of it. Let them know that when they help a traveller out, it is not forgotten. It is remembered with great gratitude. And that can even be good for business. For years!

p.s. The band teacher had a spare copy of the music.

Knitters at the doctors’
Thursday January 03rd 2008, 12:19 pm
Filed under: Knit

Knitlist subscribers, forgive me–it’s too good a pun not to put here too.

Someone on Knitlist had mentioned a day at the doctor’s that had gone on and on and on, with technical problems with the x-ray machinery and the like.

To which my answer was, Thank goodness for knitting.  Maybe that x-ray technician was trying to stall you long enough for you to become fond enough of her to knit her some socks.  You know, Sockholm Syndrome and all that.



The p.s.
Wednesday January 02nd 2008, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Life

I debated quite awhile about writing about that boiling pot, and I didn’t want it associated with Dr. R’s afghan at all, matching pattern notwithstanding. But I did confess to that splash because it felt like there was a universal experience in there, that it was not all about me. Last night, I was tossing and turning, thinking about it.John’s baby alpaca afghan

It involves something I haven’t mentioned on the blog: that a few days before our trip to Salt Lake City three weeks ago, I found myself suddenly at my cardiologist’s. There’s got to be a word for when your heart’s arrhythmia knocks the air out of you so hard you cough, you can’t help it, it’s a reflex. Over and over and over. It took me a few days to get past the receptionist and the sub nurse, and when I finally did, I got told I should have gone to Urgent Care that first day when it was bad. Oh. Well, I’d seemed okay to me.

That little flareup is much better, and the cardiologist isn’t worried. Still, the thing was on my mind when I was trying to lift that overfilled and overly heavy pot with my daughter’s afghan in it, and the distraction might well have contributed to the splashing.

The thought I keep coming back to is this: we put our hearts on the line for our children from the second we see their tiny faces for the first time. Sometimes (writing as the mother of four people who have recently gone through teenagerhood) they don’t get it.  If they don’t get What They Want Right This Second they don’t see it as us as doing What They Really Need, especially when it’s Vitamin N–the word no.  But we know.  Sometimes we wait for the day when they have their own children–not as revenge, but simply because there are some things that can only be learned through one’s own personal experience: like how much a human being can love another human being, from that moment and for every moment of the rest of their lives. We would do anything in our physical or emotional power to make things right for them.  To make things work out for their good.

My daughter had hoped for an afghan the color of her brother’s (pictured above) and I was going to do everything I could to make that happen so she would be able to cuddle up in it and know that her mom loves her. Not that she doesn’t. But we never, ever stop teaching our children that we do.

And it feels lovely to be able to tell them yes.

Prehistoric I-pod
Tuesday January 01st 2008, 4:57 pm
Filed under: Life

I seem to be in writing mode today…

My daughter was cleaning out her closet, came across this, and asked me if I recognized it.

The I-pod of my teenagerhood. Not only a radio–with FM too, which conveyed an air of sophistication above the teenybopper AM market–but a cassette deck player. Not 8-track, but cassettes! The word “boombox” I don’t think had even been invented yet, but hey, this was really cool–even Sandy down the street liked it. Instant time warp, as my daughter held it up and we brushed the dust off. Did I want to keep it?

archeological dig I-podNope.  Out.