Backup plan
Sunday July 16th 2017, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Re this cowl: she thought the color was perfect and she loved it.

And then there was the one for Don’s wife.

My husband came home from a meeting recently with a nice and brand new pair of shoes–and quite surprised, I asked, Where did those come from?!

I had been trying to buy him a new pair for some time. Going shopping for shoes, online or in person, is absolutely not his thing. I had tried three times to order him some but he said the fit was wrong and they didn’t work. Back they went, one after another, and it had been kind of bugging me that his feet were beginning to look a bit sad. I was trying.

And then suddenly here was this beautiful pair of black Clark’s. They fit perfectly.

So I cornered Don at church. His wife’s not a Mormon and I don’t see her very often, but I have met her and I remember her wearing a denim skirt. I had some denim-ish colored yarn, and due to the recent Colourmart sales, it was a yarn one could brag about just by saying it.

I thanked him for those beautiful shoes as I fished through my purse and pulled out a cowl in a small ziploc. I asked if she would like the color?

He was slightly unsure at first glance: “Well, she usually wears brighter colors…” But when I said it was cashmere he was gobsmacked. (And like the Fluffball, the yarn had grown fairly thick in the pre-scouring.)

I told him I could overdye it to a darker shade of anything blue-based, or tell me what color to go for and I could knit something else.

But this one was growing on him fast. He couldn’t wait to give it to her.

And he told me, well, they’d bought the shoes in Vacaville. (I almost exclaimed out loud, You drove all the way to Vacaville?! I knew there was a big outlet mall there, but there’s another one in Gilroy and at an hour away it’s a whole lot closer. Although don’t ask me what the shoe stores currently are in either, I have no idea, so, never mind. And maybe it was on their way home from visiting grandkids, who knows.) So. When they really just didn’t fit no matter how much he’d wanted them to, there was no way they were going all the way back there, so he’d been looking for someone to give them to and was glad they’d worked out so well for us, even more so when I told him just why doing that right now was such an extra gift. (Richard told me after church that Don had been very pleased to see those shoes on his feet.)

Cashmere. Oh he was thinking now that that would most definitely do, and he loved that I’d knitted it for his beloved.

I have gray, brown, (thrills chills and excitement), an earthy purple and a dye-able white cashmere on hand in case it doesn’t, but he smiled and kind of waved all that away.

So how do you like them apples?
Saturday July 15th 2017, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

The acanthus. I’ve had good luck with using the vicious stabby flower stalks as guardians of my tomatoes, going two stalks deep on every side. Two, because last year a raccoon pulled the first one away in the night, got a pawful, there was still another in its way and it never went near again. And two, to make the squirrels decide a leap is not worth the landing. With all the rain this year, some were as much as eight feet long. This is useful. (Just don’t accidentally touch them when you reach in for a tomato.)

So, brilliant me, I thought hey, let’s try threading some of those stalks through the Fuji leaves to defend the plastic clamshells. I so much want to be able to have my grandkids pick their own apples at Grandma’s again.

And it worked. For two days.

Thursday evening I came outside and stopped right there speechless.

I didn’t even know I had that many clamshells. The squirrels had presented me a museum installation of them all over the ground beneath that tree and had named it The Inbox. Still with apples inside (except two that must have bounced just right.) There will be no apples from those fruit spurs next year, either.

All I can figure is, when they couldn’t stand on a branch next to the clamshells to try to pry them open, they simply leaped straight at them until they broke off and fell out of the tree–where they still couldn’t get at them, so they tried the next one. And the next. And the next.

I had two that were wedged in too hard and those were still up there.

Uh, today, not so much. Down too, with one branch inside, one whole branch outside. They even knocked down another I didn’t know I had because the leaves had filled in around it.

There is one, count’em, one, clamshell left in that whole tree. Today.

So… What on earth do you do with a whole lot of way-underripe apples? These were supposed to be picked in September and October.

Friday July 14th 2017, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Knit

I thought I would show you why I bother to hank and scour coned yarns rather than knitting straight from the cone and washing the dried-hair-mousse-y mill oils out later.

Usually I buy 150 gram cones, and that’s what the start of the baby blanket used up. This one, though, was 1050 grams of a cotton and cashmere blend and without a swift (or maybe even with), there was no way I was going to be able to do all that in one go. My niddy-noddy cried uncle at 360 grams.

The resulting hank, scoured, blow-dried and wound back up, is on the left–while there are still 690 grams on the cone on the right. Nearly twice.

The ball is solid, other than that little belly button from my thumb while I was winding it. The cone is a goodly amount of cardboard-and-air. That picture is taken straight on, and if there’s any distortion it’s that it quite understates how much bigger the ball is in every dimension–maybe I should take a side view shot, too.

Between the soapy water that was hotter than I could touch (I used the bottom of the Seventh Generation bottle to push it down in the sink there, and after rinsing spun it out in the washing machine) and the blow-drying afterwards because there was so. much. yarn, I like to think that any shrinkage that was going to happen has happened. There will be no surprises when I’m done knitting this, nor, hopefully, to the recipients when they wash their blanket.

There’s also this one other big reason for doing that extra work: the yarn on the cone is, eh. But washed! It’s so baby soft. I get to experience what they will with it.

(Second picture, for scale: placed on a well-loved 8″ x 9.5″ Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns.)

Thursday July 13th 2017, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I think knitting an entire Colourmart cone in 48 hours is probably a record for me.

I’ve never knit this lace pattern in anything heavier than fingering weight, so it was a complete surprise as I laid it down and patted it out on the floor to see how big it was so far (48″ wide by ~23″ long at, now, 9.5 repeats.) Not that this photo shows it well, but…

I’m knitting a bundt cake!

Still new at all this
Wednesday July 12th 2017, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

Another “this, now this” pair of pictures. July 4th to July 12th. The Alphonso mango tree is loving the summer sun and heat.

But it suddenly hit me today that by this time the last two years I’d carefully unwound the Christmas lights so that there would be no chance of the tree growing into the cord or becoming inextricably tangled.

Um. I think I need to wait until the new growths are hardened off a bit before I dare mess with them, and as long as they’re red they’re not done growing–and there are a whole bunch more just now popping out into view.

Maybe this year I just leave the lights be?

But I so love how the tree is filling out.

All in a good day
Tuesday July 11th 2017, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Done did got my hair did, after putting off the trim for too long. When it pins you in place when you try to look over your shoulder to change lanes and you have to lean forward first to let yourself free, it’s time. At least for me.

Gwyn does amazing work… Besides, it’s fun to see what I look like with straight hair with a little flip at the end, or at least while it lasts. I like it. So different, without having to cut off all my hair to enjoy the effects of the novelty.

Tomorrow morning the fog will roll in, the humidity will rise, and my hair will curl.

Well, so then we got a message from our older son that he was in town for the day on business and could we meet up for dinner? Cool!

I wondered if maybe still… And so we headed over to the restaurant where Sue worked and who had so adored our kids when they were little. The woman in the intro in my book. She’s a good one.

Sue herself welcomed us on back–she was still there!

Our 6’9″ Richard-the-younger arrived not long after.

I loved her laugh as she said, “Oh, he’s not little anymore!”

Meantime, Sam pinged a baby picture or two our way as if on cue, not knowing we were right there with her favorite waitress from her childhood, showing Mathias getting better and better at this smiling thing.

Sue thanked me again for the scarf I knit her, and I had been going to thank her again for the amaryllis she dropped off at Purlescence for me once, so let me do so here.

It still blooms every year. It’s perfect. Thank you!

After we got home, I texted Gwyn what Sue had said at the beginning, taking me in a moment: “You look fabulous!”

Only with help, honey, only with a lot of very talented help, and Gwyn deserved to hear every word of that.

And then I cast on a baby blanket for a friend. As one does.

Adjusting the picture
Monday July 10th 2017, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I was on what I’d decided was going to be the last repeat when the so-obvious smacked me upside the head: I know who wears turquoise. (Which this is in real life.) A lot. Like, does she ever wear anything that’s not? Her dad just passed away–you know she could use a good hug. And she’s a knitter!

I used 40 grams of the merino/silk and I have 90 g left. We’ll see how the length and fit of the thing looks once that lace is dried, and if I need to make a second on a larger scale to match her better, I certainly have plenty to do it with.

I’ve wanted to knit for her for a long time and at last I have a plan. And maybe even the cowl.

Meantime, this is how the back of the pattern that my Water Turtles shawl is done in looks like, and I just think it’s really cool.

Change of plans
Sunday July 09th 2017, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Thoughts during a summer full moon’s brightly lit and long, sleepless night:

Y’know? I have a lot of people I want to be knitting for right now for a lot of very good reasons.

If I put another day’s work into that afghan project I’ll have a really nice soft black scarf that the recipient will love just as much as any bigger object and would probably actually use it more. How much the yarn shrinks or blooms wouldn’t matter then: I could seam the ends for a doubled-over infinity scarf or leave them open, and I don’t even have to decide yet. I can knit it to the point where I’d cast off if I were doing that, leave it waiting, and if I find I want to and have the time I can keep going from there as I’d originally planned.

But right now is just not that time, no matter how much I might want it to be. I might even be able to pull off doing both from those cones–making the scarf a swatch. A really big swatch.

The moon finally went behind the camphor tree’s leaves, and at some time well after 2:00 am I fell asleep at last.

I cast on a turquoise cowl in the morning.

Faster faster
Saturday July 08th 2017, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Yardage times desired length divided by time…

And so I supplemented the 900 grams of heavy dk weight with 760 grams of a matching thinner 4-ply, even if it meant waiting for the second cone to arrive. It just came.

I swatched on the 10s–that would go fast for sure.

In your dreams, honey. I scoured it in hot water, hoping it would shrink enough. A little, maybe, but, c’mon.

I swatched on the 9s. Give it up, honey.

8s are as low as I’m going. It *will* shrink, but it will also bloom out when I wash the finished afghan. But I am not pre-scouring two pounds on that niddy-noddy at once. Okay, then, we’re on.

It’s a race to see which runs out first, the yarn or me. Me. There’s probably ~2500 yards on the dk and twice that on the 4-ply, and starting a black afghan in two strands of loosely-plied yarns was probably not my smartest move–it was the fifty bucks for two pounds of cashmere (the best bargains went fast) that did me in and here we are.

I’m figuring I need to do five inches a day to totally be on the safe side, time-wise. So far, I’ve done a whopping three. Which is actually not shabby at all.

(Edited to add: got it to 4,” we’ll say five if you stretch it. Meantime, someone’s setting off illegal fireworks outside and made a skunk mad, which is good for my asthma but probably not what they intended.)

Straight off the needles
Friday July 07th 2017, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Spinning

Bedtime. That satisfying snap as the last of the ball is broken away at last. Lights, action, camera!

I’m just really glad right now that I made two more skeins of this yarn, because it exactly matches a sweater I love. I’ll have plenty of time to knit another before it gets cold.


Thursday July 06th 2017, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life,Spinning,Wildlife

Dropped my glasses off the top of my head when I stood up to answer the phone and then I stepped on them.

It was bad. There was just no putting those back on. All I could do was wait for Richard to get home from work to drive me over to For Eyes.

A dozen feet away was close enough not to be too fuzzy when a Cooper’s hawk skidded to a stop on the concrete just on the other side of the glass door. It considered me a split second as a finch on its back flailed away wildly trying to right itself (its hard thwack on that window had snatched my attention) and he grabbed it and was off.

The younger employee went, “Wow, you really stepped on them,” and given their age (I’d reused the same lightweight metal frames through several prescription changes–I bought an extra pair eight years ago so I could) she was afraid she would break them; the more experienced middle-aged guy, the one I took a tumble in front of last week, was sure he could do it and she was sure he could if anybody could and handed them over.

At this point I’ve been in there enough times that they were not surprised to see me pull out the knitting project I started today (after I did indeed add a repeat to yesterday’s.)

He was glad to see me back and looking none the worse for that fall and made a point of getting those exactly right. He totally rescued me, and was very pleased to be able to make such a difference. I can see again. I can do things again. I have my life back.

They both adored the picture of Mathias in shades and even asked to see more pictures of the baby, and I thought, I really like you guys…!

(Yarn: two strands of a dusty purple-plum cashmere laceweight, a gift from Sherry in Idaho, and two strands of a brick red merino with a touch of sparkle to it, plied together on my spinning wheel.)

The three stages
Wednesday July 05th 2017, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Hank to ball to I’ll decide in the morning if it’s finished or if I want to add another repeat. Malabrigo Mechita in Whales Road colorway, and I’ve only used 32 of the 100g so far. That’s one very cost-effective hank of soft, washable merino yarn.

A confession: I was working on what I wanted to work on rather than the colors I think the next person in my mental queue would prefer, and that made me want to push on and try to get it all done by the end of the day. I didn’t, quite, but tomorrow I can get to hers instead of having this still in the way. (Much.)

Sometimes you just have to recharge your batteries by knitting what pleases you, and that’s okay.

Bring on the icepacks.


And the new leaves’ red glare, the fronds bursting in air
Tuesday July 04th 2017, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Wildlife

The last rays at sundown were coming through the window right on that drying merino/silk cowl (Scrumptious 4-ply yarn by Fyberspates), showing the radiant deep purple hiding in that dark navy. I ran for the camera, but in the steps it took me to go down the hall and back the light was gone.

You can almost see it.

The mango tree has sprouted like crazy just since two weeks ago.That top branch grew from ending at that last big green leaf to seven new branches popping out–and that’s just the one cluster. From this morning to this evening, it went from looking like a solid poof from inside the house to discernibly separate branches: they are stretching up and out at two to three inches a day.

All the flower stalks that had the tiniest suggestion of buds when we left town to help when Mathias was born–it got too cold for them while nobody was home to cover the tree at night and they gradually turned black, so I think there will be no crop this year. The rest of the tree is doing fine. And who knows, it might surprise me yet.

(Cute hat and matching socks–hey, they match the mango!– from longtime online knitting friend Susan Schutz.)


You gotta hand it to those mannequins
Monday July 03rd 2017, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Life,Politics

Blowing up mannequins on the Mall in DC as the traffic continues on by without a blink. Someone at the Consumer Products Safety Commission has a job that gets to be fun once a year: showing how not to be stupid with fireworks.

That bird (I’m guessing a pigeon) streaking past that blue canopy a split second early enough must have thought it had broken the sound barrier. Take *that*, raptors!

The full version beyond the gifs, here, from 2016. Watching the 2015 and 2017 versions (same demos), it’s amusing to watch the demo kitchen setup go from curtains on the window and potholders to potholders to, this year, oh forget it. Just the paper window.

Budget cuts.

Happy and safe Fourth-ing, everybody!

Down in there somewhere
Sunday July 02nd 2017, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Wildlife

We are foster fish parents for a month, trusted with someone’s children’s beloved black beta in a square goldfish bowl sitting inside a plastic modern-architecture of a holder. (We have it on a shelving unit, thus the metal wires below.)

After 24 hours it’s still swimming and it’s still coming out to eat. So far so good.

Those wispy fins waving in slow curling motion against the water are so elegant.

(I confess I did feel better about my chances of doing a decent job after its owner said what happened when they tipped a little water out to be able to transport it over here. It was an easy promise to make that I won’t have to fish it out of my disposal.)