And a plate of cookies
Sunday October 31st 2010, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Life

“What’s this?” the little boy asked me.

I told him, “Oh–thank you!” as I took down my forgotten No Solicitors sign. Oops–maybe that’s why the early kids didn’t show.

Out of one trio, two happily took some more when I offered more but one little boy did not. I offered him again and then simply grabbed a few mini bars and put them in his bag.

He looked at me, wounded: “I already had some!”

Two more little girls. The candy bowl with the ugly green Hand of Doom which in true zombie spirit refuses to die of old age after all these years, croaks Happy Halloweeeeeeeen and AAAHHHHHAHHAHAAAHHAH! when small hands reach for their candy. One of the girls thought it was funny; the other one was scared, so I quickly held the hand down to shut it up (the alternative being to hunt for the on/off button on the bottom while absent-mindedly pouring candy over their heads in a pinata effect while I search.)

She reached carefully behind it, back there to where those fingers couldn’t have contaminated her good Milky Ways, and picked out what she wanted. I told her happily Happy Halloween and she shot me a How DARE you! look in return. Scaring her like that!

Ah well. Give her another year, and she’ll do like my daughter did: went from being terrified of the weirdness at the door I kept opening, to saying to her little brother the next year, looking eagerly out the window with him, “Here come trick or treaters. Let’s be scared!”

After an hour of quiet, I put the rest of the candy in a small box outside the door should anyone else come: winner take all. Please!


Towards the end of typing that post, I heard a car. Then a car door close. Oh good, maybe some straggler got the loot–so I went over and opened the door to see.

The box had been moved, although it was just as full: and next to it was a plate of holiday cookies with candy corn sprinkled around them. You know how knitters learn to read their stitches? I can read this friend’s baking habits.  Thank you, (name edited out)! Happy Halloween!

Watched them like a hawk
Saturday October 30th 2010, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

When you are married to a computer scientist and it is nearly Halloween, you get a cable plugged into your monitor that makes your computer haunted: random back buttons, caps locks, punctuation or letters that scoot to the far end of the screen, the cursor twittering around in circles… Alright, thanks, dear, that’s enough Halloween spirit for the moment. Out!

Meantime.  I got up early this morning and was puttering around, when I saw…

This past spring my neighbor was having her tallest tree trimmed (not this redwood) when the city’s tree workers abruptly stopped and told her that was all they could do–no explanation. ‘Bye.

It is against Federal law to disturb a raptor’s nest, after all the DDT damage that nearly wiped out many large bird species. Still, since that tree trimming, there had been no sign of the resident Cooper’s hawk, and I have missed it.  I’ve wondered if the babies survived.

The bluejays, who nested elsewhere this year with a hawk’s nest right there overhead, recently noticed it was safe to take over my yard again, and there have been at least three of them fighting territorial fights over my feeder the last few weeks.

Not today.  Not a jay in sight all day. There was a juvenile Cooper’s, big, stunningly beautiful, perched on the arm of the barbecue grill out there, taking the measure of the yard. Glancing nonchalantly over towards the birdfeeders: hey breakfast, where are you? I asked for room service!

I guess the juveniles survived that tree trimming after all?

It didn’t happen to look up behind it.  I took this picture from where it had been. If it had, it would have seen a small black squirrel on that post, tail completely fluffed, peering over the edge of the roof of the shed. Mesmerized. It couldn’t take its eyes off that hawk. It moved only slightly, a little closer in as if for a better look, hovering right over the edge, during the moments the hawk turned safely totally away and towards the feeders.

And I sat watching them, measuring the size and potential speed of the squirrel relative to the hawk: if it wants you, honey, you are dead meat.

The hawk was cool with my being there, so much so that I even managed to reach for my camera after a careful long minute or so. Then, before I could raise it, it beat its wings wide, glided across my yard, and was gone.

Off hunting for my cursor for me.

New! Improved!
Friday October 29th 2010, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Knit,LYS

That royal baby alpaca/cashmere/silk yarn last night was called Epiphany, and this morning I had one.

Trying to get ready for Knit Night yesterday, I was between projects and dithering what to do next so I grabbed a longtime UFO out of the back of the line-up, figuring that would make me at least make a little progress on it before I went back to the baby knitting. It was done to this point, right?

No. It was not. Okay, where, then… Okay, found my place.

Needed to switch it from a junk-drawer-reject timeout needle and onto my good Holz and Steins.  I found myself squinting, and another knitter laughed when I said I remembered now: I wasn’t going to work on this laceweight again till I had a new glasses prescription.

But I (deliberately) hadn’t brought anything else, so I quietly plugged away at it–when I wasn’t being distracted by those skeins. (Dudes! Purlescence totally scooped Webs!)

The upshot is that it hit me this morning that I hadn’t made progress for a *year* on that thing, though I very much wanted it done, for a reason I hadn’t been able to quite clearly see before. There were things I’d learned since I’d started it, small improvements that could be–I think… If I swatch…

So I spent the day ripping back to zero, redesigning it, trying it out, liking it immensely, rewriting, counting, redoing, proofreading, counting counting counting.

And as I worked, I had that Epiphany yarn over at the shop dangling as future reward for when I actually, finally finish this. I’m glad I didn’t buy any: when you don’t own it yet, it doesn’t own you yet, either: it can’t jump in line, it can’t hog the needles, it can’t thwart my intentions to persevere with the squinty laceweight, it just has to wait its turn. Anticipation is a happy thing–and great incentive is too.

And the new shawl design is very very good. I am very very pleased. That long timeout, along with an hour and a half of not being quite pleased with it but not putting it down, helped me see it all with a new eye.  Getting it exactly right was so worth the wait.

Thursday October 28th 2010, 10:53 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family,Knit,LYS

Thank you, everybody. I talked to Dharma Trading Co, purveyor of all things dyeing, and they cautioned that the chemicals that would reliably get the dye out would wreck the feel of the cashmere and, they said, miss the point of such a sweater. Their advice was wash, wash, wash, gently, and hope.

O—– said they were passing the word along and would get back to me shortly. Okay. Now that I’ve had a day to chill, reading all your notes, thank you, you really helped, even just by speaking up.

The best antidote, of course, was to finally run in the four yarn ends on a project I’d blocked–yup, dry now, it’s ready–go off to Target, buy envelopes and mailing tape, and then a little later, after checking my email for details, get out to the post office. One book (yeah, that book) sold (directly, thanks) and in the mail, and one…

And (whistle) typing that sentence is when it hits me that, oh. Right.  I forgot to photograph it. *Bad* knitblogger!

And there, in my own mailbox, was a gift of beautiful, beautiful shots of the coastline, taken by my childhood friend Scott, one of the B’s I drove to Pacific Grove to see. If I couldn’t stand in the sun admiring the surf and the fog and the steep hills rising from the water, he could and he did and he gave that tideline to me. Gorgeous. Well done, Scott, and such an antidote for petty disappointments. Such good timing!

And in the glow of that, I went off to Purlescence tonight and they had a new line in from Cascade: royal baby alpaca, which is the finest grade you can possibly buy and hard to find, mixed with cashmere and silk. Swoon.

I told Richard that when I got home.

“So how many skeins did you buy?”

I didn’t.

“You DIDN’T?!” He was genuinely stunned.

I couldn’t make up my mind. The deep blue or the wine-red: both colors were exactly my shades. I’ll have to come back.

Yeah, I think they’ll see me again. Happens.

Moths and rust are amateurs
Wednesday October 27th 2010, 8:56 pm
Filed under: To dye for

You know you lead a privileged life when you can worry about such things. And yet.

It’s the perfect sweater, for a machine knit: the perfect length, the perfect classic style, the perfectly-soft that is the best cashmere can be, and without being too-young too-tight, it goes in at the waist just enough rather than being a plain downward tube. It’s my very favorite store-bought and my husband loves it when I wear it.

I need advice. Badly.  Fellow fiber types, help me out here.

So. I have this offwhite cashmere sweater. Got a good deal; had no idea that looking it up later would show a replacement cost well above $300.

I bought a reddish-burgundy fleece vest from the well-regarded O—- company (the color was on close-out) and the weather being what it is, took it straight from the box and put it on over that sweater. I was horrified, taking the sweater off later, to find it had turned slightly pink across the upper back and definitely pink under the arms.

I contacted O—-. They said get it drycleaned, email us the receipt for that and we’ll refund it. Was it an O—- sweater? (They asked hopefully.)



What if that doesn’t do it, I asked.

Uh… (he came back in a moment.)  Let’s try first and then we’ll see.

Okay, fair enough.

So, I took it to my regular drycleaner and explained. The woman waved her hands in front of her face to ward me and it off: no, no, no can do, is dye, will not come out, do not give it to us, so sorry.

Now, I’m of the mind that if you have dye that loose that it can rub right on then it can come back out again. I hope.  If I do it right.

Do I… wash it with Purex undyed unscented laundry detergent gently by hand in tepid water? Which, by the way, is how I always wash my animal-fiber sweaters. Ignore the dry-clean-only tags–that’s a cop-out, put there because they can’t put all the information you would need on that tiny tab, as TSE Cashmere is my witness. (Click on their “About” and go to “Cashmere care”–they’re not letting me link directly to the page, sorry.) Drycleaning chemicals harshen and yellow the fibers.

So I wasn’t quite sorry when the drycleaner refused it.

I know Dharma Trading Company sells Synthrapol. I have no experience with it.  I did actually buy some awhile ago–and after reading the warning labels and that bit about prolonged exposure causing brain and neurological damage, and not even being sure it’s what I need for this problem…

I think I need to throw it back in O—-‘s court before I try anything. I need to take pictures first, definitely. And one of the reasons I contacted them was simply to let them know what their (yes it’s made in China) product was doing.

I find myself with a heightened sense of appreciation for my non-damaged sweaters, so, that’s good.

Off the cuff remarks
Tuesday October 26th 2010, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

One of the things about being around old friends you haven’t seen in a long time is that you get to learn more about them–and you also tend to learn more about yourself.

When I drove down to Pacific Grove three weeks ago, it was right at the beginning of cooler weather and I knew  Monterey Bay is always a tad chilly anyway; I put my favorite silk jacket (picture if you scroll down here, under Karin‘s yarn) over my blouse on my way out the door.

I have short arms. Sleeves tend to ride down partway over my hands if a blouse otherwise fits.  Get the petite size, it’ll be too short elsewhere; I just plain have short arms.

And as a knitter, that bugs me: the cuff edges bump against my knitting, they catch on my stitches, they catch at my project when I go to turn it around at the end of a row–and there’s also the problem that, as a sun-sensitive lupus patient, I’m supposed to wear finely-woven long sleeves all the time. They’re part of my cage.

I’ve gotten in the habit of folding the cuffs back. Poof, end of problem. And a little bit of defiance of disease.

Visiting with the B’s, one layer of cuffs I could ignore. Two, and when not yet used to cold-weather clothes for the season–I kept absent-mindedly trying to fold both layers back off my wrists, the heavy jacket ones flopping back down repeatedly.

Looking back, it probably looked pretty silly. Unhand me, you silk you!

I thought of that today in a cold house with two layers of long sleeves on again, bugging me, and just too cold to roll them up. I finally realized it was keeping me from finishing that sweater. Well then. I went and did my treadmill time, got warmed up, got the cuffs properly out of my way, and voila. One baby sweater.

Except the button. I need me a good, round, safe for little fingers, dragon-looking button to top it off.

I know, I know, pictures. When it’s not so late.

Skeleton accrues
Monday October 25th 2010, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

For the record: Mondays are being a Good Thing around here:

The Crohn’s Lite is much improved. The yank-ees, ditto.

The carry-around lace scarf project of three weeks actually got finished and is blocking.

I wanted to say the baby sweater is done, but it’s a dozen 99-stitch rows shy; the wrist is carping, there’s a tunnel ahead, and I’m stopping the train under icy conditions.

And for anyone who didn’t see the looks-real knit skeleton yet, it is really, really cool.  Very Deb-bone-air.  The artist’s site for it is here; scroll down to see the intense level of detail he put into it. Happy almost-Halloween!

Back to schools
Sunday October 24th 2010, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,My Garden,Wildlife

It’s interesting watching the birds really flock at the feeders just a little before it starts to rain. They know it’s coming and they want nourishment against the cold and the water in a safe, dry place.

Thank you all, meantime, for the support, and I knitted a few rows today. Decided it wasn’t worth pushing it too soon, but at the same time I was delighted that I could. Another day or two and it’ll all be back to normal.


Me: “I don’t WANT to do a liquid diet! I’m hungry and I want some real food!”

Hubby, looking at me steadily: “Nasal gastric tube.”

He had me and he knew it.  Four days that felt ever increasingly like having surgery without anesthesia. Never again.

Well, at least you can pack a lot of nourishment into soup.  So now the blockage, too, which had been ignoring my protests of I so did not earn it, is starting to improve. And Don is right: Stones into Schools, written by Mortenson himself, is the better book, but Three Cups of Tea, the one that made the man’s name and cause known, is vastly important in its own write.

Remember my dying tomato plant of a month ago? Its main branches are just straws now, bent in half from birds landing on it and going Whoa! as the stems collapsed under them–I saw them.

I discovered a new tomato on a small, still-green branch yesterday. It cheered me greatly, and all the more today.

Off the beaten track
Saturday October 23rd 2010, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Family

Auditioned for the next Incredibles movie: st r e  t ch.

So I was going to show you the it-was-going-to-be-finished baby sweater. Yeah well.

Typing gingerly and glad for a hubby who raced for the icepacks: turn the treadmill off first, don’t grab at the handle to keep from falling while it pulls your feet away. Or, how to learn things you already knew and thought you’d planned out against in advance.

Life’s way of saying, forget the chores; go prop up your feet, wrap an afghan around you (thank you all for those!) and go read a good book in the October evening cool.

Why thank you, Three Cups of Tea arrived in the mail, I think I will.

Paws to reflect
Friday October 22nd 2010, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

Got back late from an evening out, so this will be quick. We picked up a friend and gave her a ride, and she directed us over a small bridge to get to the freeway from her home.  Houses on this side, apartment buildings over there, the freeway and a large retail complex, a swanky hotel, etc etc right over thataway. We are talking city.

She happened to mention that her neighbor had seen a full-grown mountain lion sandbathing in the dry creekbed there.

Well now there goes the neighborhood.

Raspberry fields forever
Thursday October 21st 2010, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

I spent a fair bit of time poking around the various books at hand and and Google, searching for… I wasn’t sure what but page after page, those weren’t it.

Till I stumbled across the picture of the pink one here. Hey. Color Transplants R Us. That’s IT! That’s what my subconscious was trying to push out of the memory banks. I’ve seen that before but I couldn’t tell you how long it’s been.

During the few years of my life I wasn’t knitting much, I was making smocked gowns and dresses for my own babies, and that round patterning around the neck, called a bishop style, was something I made over and over.  A knitted sweater that echoes that, a generation later? Perfect.

I hadn’t ever realized till I took the photo just now that the reverse holds true too: I designed a smocked dress back then for Michelle with a sheep front and center.

Meantime, today was my monthly trek to Los Gatos to buy birdseed. There in front of my car as I parked was a signboard for a shop at the far end of the plaza–where I had never been nor really looked. A chocolatier? There is?  Okay, that’s worth checking out.

You walk in and there’s an intricate haunted house at the front with figures and jackolanterns and all kinds of detail. And it’s chocolate. All chocolate. All made in-house by hand. We are talking someone who plays with chocolate like I play with baby alpaca and silk.

I decided to try just one piece to test the place out, just one framboise.

Oh. My. Goodness. Change the metaphor to qiviut and silk.  Richard exclaimed later, You didn’t get ME one? But I had no idea till she rang it up what it was going to cost vs the amount of cash I had on hand for an impulsive try-out.

To give you an idea, I later got in and out of Trader Joe’s without buying a single chocolate thing. Not even a plain good dark Valrhona bar.  It would only have been a comedown.

The one thing I regret? I didn’t eat it till after I’d left and the woman didn’t get to see my whole face light up. She certainly earned that. I’ll have to go back, and Richard needs to come too.

Okay, right about here a good essay would pull the knitting and smocking together with the chocolate shop. Does that sentence count?

23 days’ love
Wednesday October 20th 2010, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,LYS

I don’t think Kathryn at Cottage Yarns was surprised when I called.  She recognized my voice.

She thought the edges and width were fine. She was quite happy to sell me more anyway. Her Rios had just come in, the Solis darker than mine but as usual, oh so pretty.  I’ve really wanted to make a baby sweater to go with the blanket and now I can.

After over three weeks, it’s hard to just stop and put the baby blanket down and call the thing done and not be working on it anymore. It’s also over a pound; enough already.

She mentioned that another woman had come in between when I called and when I got up there and was going through the Rios, leaving Kathryn going, uh, oh. But the woman had bought a whole bag of a different color and my Solis was safe after all.

And! She had one last skein from the same bag of undyed Malabrigo Sock I’d bought there awhile ago. I’d been thinking of making a formal christening blanket too and had been wishing I had more, and now I know I can go for it in that so-soft and washable wool.

You know, after 41 years of fighting the knitting grandmother stereotype…

It was after I got home that I finished the ribbing on the Rios, and I remembered wrong yesterday, having not done such a thing in years: if you pick up the stitches from the cast on and knit down, *then* it jogs sideways a half stitch’s worth. Which is what I got at first–but it was quickly clear it was going to feel like knots across that pick-up row. I could just picture the baby doing a faceplant into that and crying. Not our baby! Only one chance to do it right. Do it right.

So I ripped that and did what I’d tried to get out of: I carefully undid that first row, unthreading the yarn woven through each stitch going that direction. And then, hey look, the loops connected beautifully. A little loose-looped along some parts of the pattern, but. I decided loose loops don’t sink WIPs.

Buenos Rios
Tuesday October 19th 2010, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Knit

So. On the knitting front.

One skein of the Rios had a knot almost exactly midway as the scale measures, its presence highly unusual in my Malabrigo experience. I snipped it right there, not wanting a princess and the pea effect, and knitted the baby afghan with the other five skeins in the two different dyelots I had, alternating them. (Note that the left side in the picture looks lighter because it’s the right side of the blanket while on the right is the back side.)

I didn’t start it with ribbing because ribbing eats yardage and at the time I didn’t know if the Webs dyelot on the way would work at all. So the starting end curls. Which bugs me even though I told myself it wasn’t allowed to.

I’m now at the far end, out of yarn besides those two half balls, finished with the last pattern repeat, and thinking I’ll just finish it off with a half-ball’s worth of ribbing and then pick up the beginning stitches and add the other half a ball in ribbing over at that end. That would work. There, no curling.

Except, in my dreams, I’d like to make that ribbing really big and go buy several more balls and add more ribbing to the sides too to match and to widen the blanket. Yes, it’s good enough as it is. But yes, I wish I could do that.

Fine. Go buy three or four more skeins, make this thing really big!  And hurry, the baby shower’s coming up.

All well and good–except one thing.

That means finding more Solis (that matches).

In Malabrigo Rios. Which has been on the market for a month or less.  The yarn stores have been standing in line, it’s like a first-year Toyota Prius, everybody wants it and with good reason. It is seriously nice, useful, supersoft, densely-spun machine-washable wool.

Imagiknit doesn’t even have the line on their website now, at least not for the moment. Not a single skein in a single color up there anymore.

On the mail order front, which I don’t have time for anyway, Webs is sold out of Solis. Jimmybeanz is sold out of Solis.

I’d rather shade-check in person anyway.

I could call Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco in the morning and Golden Fleece way down in Santa Cruz. Green Planet in Campbell, dunno if they ever got Rios in at all. Anyone got any other Bay Area leads?

Width, 32″ unstretched/42″ mildly stretched (the pattern tends to pull in on itself sideways) by about 46″ length, unstretched, before ribbing and definitely before water touches it.  I intend to wash it to get any (probably nonexistent) possibility of lingering dye away from the baby and knowing that laying it out to dry flat will give me a blocking effect, relaxing the pattern. That will give me a few more inches all around.

I think I should just be glad I’ve got those two half balls to go polish off those two ends (that knot actually turned out to be highly useful and in just the right place) and call it done.

De-moth-er of all angora
Monday October 18th 2010, 8:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,To dye for

I’m going to be a lazy blogger tonight and post here, with a touch of editing for clarity, what I put on Twinset Jan and Ellen’s blog.  Jan had made some baby socks and hat in a soft, soft angora yarn in a muted sunflower-yellow shade; scroll to the bottom of the post to see them.

I don’t usually comment at such length in someone else’s space, but her picture so grabbed me.


Oh. My. Goodness. That angora. That shade (you photographed it better than I did.) BOY, does that bring back memories!

My mom bought some pure angora that exact color on a trip to France before I was born, to knit for her little girls in anticipation of their being upstaged by the new one coming (me).

My oldest sister got a green sweater and she was highly allergic to it. The yellow…sat in a box for something like 45 years.

Until Mom and Dad packed up and moved out of the house they’d raised us in. I had coveted that angora all through my teens and beyond, the only one of the four girls to latch onto knitting like Mom, and Mom had always said, No, that’s not yours. I promised that to your big sister.

She out of the blue, just before the moving van came, mailed it to me after all, all these years later.

You see my blog header? That bit of yellow and those scarves?

That yarn was totally not protected, totally chewed up. I pieced it back together as best as humanly possible and then knitted it up: a scarf for my not-allergic older sister, one for my younger sister, and one each for my brothers’ wives. I dyed them partly on the grounds that no moth stages could survive the boiling water, partly on the grounds of felting together any slipping pieces beyond the splicing efforts.

And that is the story of how my blog top came to look like that. (Note that the ball of yarn has multiple ends.) After wanting that yarn for all those decades, I finally got to have it come to me–and after all that time, Mom was right: it wasn’t for me after all. It was for everybody else.


(Wow. I’d totally forgotten I got seven scarves out of that box!)

Sunday October 17th 2010, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Don’t stomp in the puddles! You’ll get your feet wet!

Well, yes; that’s what puddles are for, aren’t they?

One of the treasures of my childhood was all the times when, on returning from following the trails and climbing over the rocks and splashing around in nearby Cabin John Creek, my mother would look us over appraisingly with a big grin and pronounce, “You must have had FUN getting THAT dirty!”

If you remember, the peregrine falcons who fudged their fledge the first time got rescued by Glenn Stewart, the UCSC biologist in charge of the peregrine recovery project. He would scoop them off the ground, (like this time) put them in a box, and take them up the elevator back to the nest area–and before releasing them would give them a good soaking so they couldn’t try to get away from him in a panic till they’d dried off enough and recovered, by which time he’d be long out of sight.

So. Today, after their usual six months’ vacation, the clouds came back and started back to work. Rain! I remember rain… (My children do not believe in this myth of warm summer rains back East. Rain is never in summer. And it is always ocean-cold. Or so they say.)

With the new camera up on City Hall this year and its new views, there was one of our peregrine parents, EC, this afternoon. On the 18th floor louver. Spreading his wings open to the rain, then splashing across the louver to the other end, turning again, his wings wide to the sky still.  Puddles incoming! Catch me if you can! And he flew off into his game of tag with the raindrops.

And Clara flew from her tree to join him.