The AI couldn’t get the math right
Monday February 22nd 2021, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

The leaves are getting bigger.

Four inches. Curious. At 1/4″ a day if it keeps that up it would be six feet tall by the time it drops its leaves for the winter.

Except that it would be pruned and shaped before that point and all the side branching will take up energy, too. Still. It’s feeling pretty good right now, watching it take off like this.

That one apricot seedling I kept last year possibly got overwatered and stopped growing and I’m waiting to see if it will leaf out at all this year, so it feels all the better to have a vigorous, healthy plant. Last year I gave away the vigorous one, thinking I’d have a more dwarf variant because the other grew slower.

Until it didn’t at all.

Meantime, someone tried to teach a machine how to write knitting patterns. “And it even began to give its patterns names, including Spinches Bottom Up, Squig Dyity, and Owls Punch.”

Interweave warned its readers, Don’t swatch this at home.



Random bits
Tuesday February 02nd 2021, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

Our own comic, grandma stereotyping and inverted needles aside. You do need a few more spiders if you want to create the golden Madagascar tapestry. (More details at Wired magazine.)

The pandas in DC sledding downhill backwards on their backs in the snowstorm.

And… I actually got some knitting done today. It felt great.



Stitches for stitches
Monday February 01st 2021, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Knit

The virtual Stitches West is this weekend. Anyone signed up for any classes? I’m trying to figure out how going to the market would be any different from simply shopping online.

I need my knitting mojo back and hanging around yarn and other people who love playing with it is the best way there is.

If only… And next year it’ll be held in Sacramento after all these years of being nearby.

If you’ve participated in one of the virtual fiber fests I’d love to know what you thought of it.

Meantime, Michelle has a co-worker who’s as hearing impaired as I am and who uses a captioning service for Zoom. Which Zoom ought to have built in but they don’t. It would be amazing to have that and worth the cost and we’re looking into it, with thanks to that co-worker for the mention.



Quarantine month ten
Monday December 28th 2020, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Knit

I cast on for a hat and did one row. So now I have a carry-around project at the ready; it’s a start.

I can’t wait till we can be around friends and strangers again: all those people out there who need to be knitted for and they don’t even know it, sparking that spark.



Happy Birthsday!
Sunday December 20th 2020, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Today my mom is 90 and our oldest grandson is 10.

Parker got a promise of one toy on the way that had gone late in the package crush out there, and one copy of Sibley’s new What It’s Like To Be A Bird. He plunked down with it and was reading it and showing us things from it by Zoom.

I asked him about loons, just so his daddy could tease me later, and he eagerly looked them up and showed me the large, detailed picture.

There was some surprise in my voice as I said, “That’s beautiful!”

For Mom, all her generations were invited to a family reunion by Zoom where we talked about our favorite memories of her.

I talked about studying her hands as a kid, fervently wishing mine could do what hers did as she knit an aran sweater for my older sister. Of her teaching me how to knit at ten on a car trip around the country and all my dropped stitches going back and forth between me in the far back of the station wagon and her in the front seat for help, and then at 16 when I picked something out of her knitting magazine and asked her to make it for me, she told me, “It’s not your turn. Go make it yourself!”

I was a teenager. I was not about to admit I didn’t remember how.

I did admit I couldn’t remember how to cast on, because there was no getting past that deficit, but after that I went in my room and tried to remember how her hands did it–surely I should know! I used to do this!–and fiddled around till I got it.

Having no idea I’d invented my own way that was completely different from hers–but that would serve my hands much better later in life in terms of arthritis and repetitive motions: I grab and drop the yarn with my right hand every single stitch. Open and close thumb and forefinger lightly, no wrist-twisting and less motioning.

If you’ve ever watched Stephanie Pearl-McPhee knit you know that any claim of my way being just as fast as anybody else’s is absolutely laughable–but against most knitters, I do a definitely respectable pace. But whatever, it’s what works for me to be able to keep going so I’m glad I didn’t ask for help way back when. I could never have known that then.

Mom never gave the slightest hint that I was doing it wrong or even that I was doing it differently because clearly it worked just fine.

Mom didn’t just teach me to knit.

She taught me to see a ball of plain string as all the things it could become–and then to narrow the choices to one, to put in the time and work to make that vision into a real thing and then to use the outcome to bless others.

She taught me that creativity requires perseverance to live up to its potential. That it both teaches and demands ever more learning. That it is worth ripping back to get it right and even that how easy that is depends on what you’re working with.

I’m thinking of her description of buying two sweaters’ worth of pure plucked angora yarn in postwar France, having no idea what that would have cost her back in the States, starting to knit my sister a sweater in the round, finding the yarn felting just from running through her hands and rustling around in her knitting bag–and then finding out she was knitting an inadvertent mobius strip. The world’s softest most incorrigible mobius strip. But she did it, she frogged it. It took her awhile. You see the little moth-eaten yellow ball at the top of this blog and the three scarves I knit out of its leftovers after boiling them in dye to kill the little monsters? That was the last of that angora, decades later. Turns out one of my sisters was allergic to her sweater.

I remember the January in high school when the school district decided to save money by turning off the heat. I had glommed onto Marian’s regretfully handed down (she loved it, she just couldn’t wear it) green angora sweater and walking around in a cloud puff of fur, marveling at how warm it was while everyone around me shivered.

Mom stormed the gates at district headquarters by phone and demanded they turn the heat back on in those schools–and they did!

To this day when joining stitches in the round, be it hat or sweater, I think, no rabbit-hair mobius strips, okay?

Mom looked around at all those gathered around their screens, her children (except one who was out of cellphone range), most of her grandchildren, some great grandchildren–Mathias waved hi uncertainly at all the strange faces and Lillian with cheerful certainty and charmed the socks off everyone for their few moments onscreen–and Mom marveled at how nice we all are. To her, to each other, to everyone. Nice, nice people.

Of course, Mom. You knit our lives together with love. You never said an unkind word about anyone. We’re still all hoping to be like you when we grow up. Happy Birthday!

And Happy Birthday, Parker! You can play some loony tunes on the piano next time we get to get together.



Splints
Saturday December 12th 2020, 8:38 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Lupus

I’ve mentioned a few times the hand splints I wear at night that gave me back the use of my hands when I was hit with an onset of what was at first assumed to be rheumatoid arthritis thirty years ago and that are still essential to my being able to knit. Custom made. But they wear out. That’s gotten hideously expensive.

There had to be something out there, there just had to be…

Flipping through the pages. Carpal tunnel. Nope. Or rather, yeah some but that’s not most of the problem, those are way too short. For broken hands. Nope. Don’t want it past the middle joints of my fingers but I do want it up to that point. For stroke. Nope nope nope.

Many Amazon search results later, I finally found some off-the-shelf ones that were what I was looking for, just about infinitely sizeable and with the functions I was going to that physical therapist for (details in the review), and my relief was so intense that I wrote the highest-praise review they could ever have asked for–but not till I’d tried them for several nights running to be sure. I’m sure.

These are better than my old ones. I did not know that was possible. That beanbag pouch!

If you knit (or even if you don’t) and have had any problems with your hands, these were $13.99 each and at the moment it says they’re almost sold out. Get a pair. You’ll be glad you did. Hopefully they’ll restock. Let’s talk them into it.

I’m still lining mine with old thin cotton socks with the heel and toe cut out, just like I did with my plastic ones for thirty years, because old habits and all that.

Edited to add, this one looks very close to it (even if the initial picture doesn’t) but I haven’t seen it in real life yet to tell for sure.

Edited 12/16: The ones I bought are being restocked now.



New issue
Wednesday December 02nd 2020, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Knit

You know, there are a few things in knitting that I admire greatly because the thing is gorgeous and it is a thing that I will never do.

The new Knitty (a free online knitting magazine) came out, and my friend Anne’s mittens are in there and those look like a ton of fun and if we ever needed mittens here I’d make a pair of those in a heartbeat.

But man. Those socks. Those knee socks. Wow.



If you give a raccoon a cookie
Tuesday November 24th 2020, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

They rescued the cute orphans.

His late wife made him promise to keep feeding them.

And now… I’m quite sure they didn’t rescue twenty-five of them. Twenty pounds of hot dogs a day plus grapes and cookies. They’re adorable and he’s clearly having a great time. (But yow.)

Moral of the story: don’t make your spouse promise to do dumb things in your blessed memory. But they do clearly keep her widower company.

And on the subject of wildlife, an adult male coyote was seen trotting in the road a few streets over from us this afternoon. There’s a tiny sliver of a park by the neighborhood pool there. We did not get a reverse-911 call telling us to bring small children inside, but we should have.

I’m calling it the Universe’s wry response to all the wrangling between neighbors on Nextdoor.com yesterday about whether it’s good to let your cats roam outside killing all the birds or not.

Oh. Yeah. Knitting. Here, I finished the last dragon scale today, let me show you a few pictures.

Kind of like someone cut all the cinnamon rolls in half to share and then a little kid emptied the sprinkles bottle all over the icing.

My choices are to i-cord in red all around the uneven edges, adding/not adding buttonholes as I do, or to try to join all those swirl ends together and hope it doesn’t look seamed (it would.) Either way, it makes a nice warmth on the sides and back of the neck without crowding the throat unless you want it to. It’s a dense fabric and the upper back layer wants to be upright like that.

The original pattern simply runs the ends in right here and calls it done. But it’s not yet.

Notes on the Jewel Dragon pattern: cast on loosely, because those stitches are going to have to stretch to be the outer part of the semi-circle. You do not want them tight. Leave a long tail because it will be exactly where you want it when you will really want to be using it later to, with the working red yarn, cast on a bunch of stitches upwards to begin the second band later: a longtail cast-on that way is far better than the e-wrap the pattern calls for. I was so glad I could do it that way. Looks much neater.

Malabrigo Rios, Diana and Cerise colorways, size 6 US needles, seven repeats, and it used up a fair bit more of the multicolor than the red. Both were nearly-full single skeins of leftovers from my ocean afghan. I’m sure I don’t have enough of the multicolor to do a third band of scales but for what it is I wouldn’t want one anyway. For a cowl-type scarf that scoops down a bit in front, this is just right. Also, where it says to break yarn B (the multicolor) to start the second band of scales over on the other side, DO SO. Do NOT carry it across the back all the way across all of those stitches like I did–getting the tension perfect everywhere stretching and non stretching the fabric is not worth the hassle and color-wise it shows in and out at the red edge later. (See bottom right.)

Although, that bothers me a lot less now than it did when I saw it.

Yeah, no, though, that’s not finished yet.



Grateful
Monday November 23rd 2020, 12:01 am
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

President Nelson, head of the Mormon Church, asked that we talk about what we’re grateful for, and trying to squish it all into words seems kind of overwhelming.

In no particular order: waking up every morning in this life.

The faith that requires that I be my best self towards all others in order to honor what I’ve been blessed with.

The doctors and nurses and blood donors and medical researchers and volunteer research guinea pigs all the way to the housecleaning staff at the hospital–everybody who helped save my life.

My family, in a million more ways than I could ever convey. So much love.

The fact that my three nephews who got covid survived it; a cousin’s working on it.

And this is going to sound weird, but…my lupus, and the Crohn’s that piled on nine years later. Because of all the ways that it constricted and confined my life: after reading Norman Cousin’s book, “Anatomy of an Illness,” I knew I needed a creative outlet and the smocked baby outfits I’d been embroidering were right out–my hands couldn’t hold that fine of a needle without intense pain.

I was at the library with my little kids one day and Kaffe Fassett’s Glorious Knits about fell off the bookshelf into my hands. It was that two-page spread with the models in those fabulous coats in an amaryllis field in the Netherlands that got to me–you know I love amaryllises. I could never in the world make anything like those designs with dozens of colors but I checked that book out again and again till I finally gave up and bought a copy.

That was the turning point. Turns out, my hands could knit. Thank you, Kaffe.

I had basically given up knitting in college when I couldn’t afford the yarn nor the time. I made up for those missing dozen+ years, I would say.

I made his Carpet Coat (“These are large but they drape beautifully on everyone”) and when I got done my husband glommed onto it and told me, “It fits me better than you, go make yourself another one.” I did.

And then I met Kaffe Fassett. I’m pretty sure he ducked to come through the doorway, just like my husband does. Richard’s coat has 68 different yarns, I collected more skeins to make mine 86 because if he was going to nab my coat mine was going to outdo his. I went with the large split triangles pattern.

And then a teen some friends were raising in foster care loved them, asked about them–“Mohair. MO hair. What kind of animal is a MO?”–and I felt in my bones I had to make him one. A vest, so as to not worry about the fit or running out of my leftover yarn, but, a large part of me argued within that I can’t possibly knit for every single person who admires what I do! I’d never stop!

Tim’s happily married with children now and his wife still wears that vest all these years later. Fits her better now.

But that project was an inner barometer: when I felt generous it was what I wanted to work on, complicated or not, and when I was getting wrapped up in illness or just too down to cope with it I had no desire to. I began from that to learn just how much better I could make myself feel by applying happy anticipation to my stitches towards someone else’s happiness. It made the lupus less–devouring. I don’t know how else to put it.

All the things I’ve made, all the privileges of being able to share what I can do–none of that would have happened had my circumstances been what I’d planned on. I was going to get my last kid in school and then go back to work. But for so long I was just hanging onto life by my fingernails day to day with my illness.

But I could knit in happy anticipation of seeing the look on someone’s face, I could make love tangible, and I can’t tell you how many times that has helped make the difference.

I’m so very grateful for every member of my family, too, but that would be an encyclopedia rather than a blog post.



Progress
Sunday November 22nd 2020, 12:05 am
Filed under: Knit

I finished the first row of scales!  (C’mon, camera, I want to show it off, it’s pretty! Update in the morning: there you go.)

So I looked at how to start the next row all the way at the other end: pick up lots of stitches across the top and go back the way you came.

Okay, I can do that.

Then it says, Just 27 more bands…

Shoot me now, I wince-guffawed.

I’m not using Mechita sock weight and no way would I be stacking that many without committing to afghan scale for both yarn and project–I’m doing seven across, not five, and plan to add two more bands above for the scarf. Twenty-one shells total. Every one is fairly rough on the hands but that’s doable.



There be dra–whoops
Friday November 20th 2020, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Knit

I was tired, it looked like I’d picked up too many stitches and knitted one early-on dragon scale all wrong, I ripped out the evening’s work and tossed it in the ziplock and then couldn’t make myself look at it all the next day. Which was yesterday.

I woke up this morning telling myself I was going to finish two whole scales. Maybe even three! Yes! (Yeah good luck with that.)

I pushed myself through doing one.

And when it was about done I realized how I’d seen it wrong and how I probably hadn’t made any mistake after all except for ripping out all that work.

It was a relief when I finally got past where I’d ripped it from.

I did get that second whole scale done after that, and it feels pretty good. Tomorrow’s the last one.

On that row, and then I get to make the entire piece over again above that. And then again above that. Not only for the warmth and the height but because sets of two jar the eye, which wants odd numbers.

Note to self: five repeats of Jewel Dragon in Malabrigo Rios on size 4mm/6US is the right amount for a not-tight hat brim. But at this point I’m got the tail going for a sixth. Y’know? You could make a really cool toy dragon with this.

Meantime, the neighbor’s oranges and our Meyer lemons are all definitely taking on color.



Cherries for Andy’s
Sunday November 15th 2020, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I wanted to go to Andy’s Orchard to pick up a few things, like their dried slab Blenheim apricots: “slab” because they were so perfectly ripe when picked that they could not be sliced in pretty halves like the others, they kinda went smush. Those are the ones you want. So good.

And their holiday season dried figs stuffed with a walnut inside peaches pureed with honey and topped with almond bits: worth the trip right there, and they affirmed that yes they had them in stock now.

And so Friday, I went.

There were the last fresh-picked plums of the year and one last two-pound box of random-variety ripe figs; how, after two freezing nights this past week I don’t know but they were wonderful and we finished them off today.

But before I took off for Morgan Hill, I went looking and found the deep red superwash wool hat I’d made. In the Cerise colorway, French for Cherry, and what could be more appropriate for someone at a stone-fruits farm? It had been so long since I’d been able to just gift someone with some knitting in person. Their season was almost ended and who knew if the clerk who’s run the shop for Andy these past many months will be back next year.

She was wearing a sweater that went really well with that hat.

It hit me afterwards that I hoped she didn’t worry about touching it and being exposed to covid–I’d have offered to open the bag and shake it out for her without touching it myself if I’d been thinking. I knitted it about a month ago, so it’s done its quarantine time.

I guess I’m still, after all this time, figuring out this pandemic thing.



Dragons indeed
Saturday November 14th 2020, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Knit

I was surprised how small 64 stitches of Malabrigo Rios came out–I had some doubts whether I could even turn it into a baby hat, even if nephew Benjamin’s a preemie. It’s dense and it’s warm–but it’s shaped kind of weird.

But I liked it, so I grabbed the innards of the yarn cake and cast on more stitches to attach, since you build up the rows and then go back down to the bottom and work your back up again in sections. Make it wider, make it useful.

Cast on, purl a row knit a row leave it ready for the oncoming picking-up-the-stitches.

I did it just exactly how it said and exactly how it had been begun.

When it was time to go past the picked-up stitches onto the new section I had a red row too many for it.

I spent about half an hour walking myself through every step of what it said and what I’d done and what it had, wishing fiercely for another knitter’s eyes on the thing. It made NO sense. Finally there was nothing for it but to rip out the excess row. So I did that. I then re-connected and started the next shell and ran a row of the red across the new part and back, etc etc. Following the directions exactly.

And there is still one row of red too many.

I’m stumped. Knitting does not usually stump me but I have no idea where the problem came in.

But at least in my frustration I find I knitted it tighter than the original so that the length of redness actually looks the same, and as the bottom border it curls up against the i-cord anyway so who could tell? I’m leaving it.

But what went wrong (?!!!). I don’t get it and it bugs me that I have no idea.

And in between that last sentence just now and this one I think maybe I finally, finally do: I must have accidentally skipped rows 1 and 2 those other times. That’s the only thing that makes sense.

Well then. Carry on.



With fronds like him who needs anemones
Friday November 13th 2020, 12:03 am
Filed under: Knit,Politics

I know, that’s an old one, but for Rudy it fits.

Meantime..

I fell in love with a pattern (Ravelry link) and bookmarked it months ago, then finally bought it, then did nothing about it for days till it finally bugged me enough because I wanted to know how to do that. Also I wanted to actually do that. I had plans, tentatively, but first I had to find out what it was like to work on and whether it could ever be a brainless carry-around project.

I got the first ridge of the first scale done last night if only because a thing started is easier to continue.

And now I’ve done a lot more. Nowhere near as much as I want (it was slow) but a goodly start.

Guys. It isn’t just tightening the red rows between, it’s sideways i-cord, and then you pick up along its sides while counting and trying to space right and not only that, you don’t just push the three stitches to the other end of the needle, you have to knit them and then move them onto the other needle repeat repeat repeat all the way across. And make new stitches with e-wraps, which have to be wound really tight or they create this growing loose flappy hanging stuff between stitches but, tight, it’s really hard to jab the needle tip into. I know, you already knew that. So did I.

Their photo says do it tight.

I am definitely not making an i-cord afghan at my house anytime soon–I’ve done my time-blowing project for the year.

But it is quite pretty. And absolutely ingenious on the part of the person who thought it up: who took the natural curl of i-cord and thought, y’know? That’s what the hide of a dragon should look like.

It’s a cross between Feather and Fan lace and pool noodles.

But while we’re waiting on my phone to cough up the photo (edit in the morning: here you go), I’ll mention the Four Seasons Landscaping (spoof) account. Because, yeah.



All wound up
Wednesday November 04th 2020, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knit

So on a completely different note.

This is a hand wound ball of yarn–done kind of artsy, like I like to do it.

For my non-knitting friends, yarn is sometimes sold in ready-to-use skeins but often in hanks: picture winding it around and around the back of a chair a hundred times or two, putting a few ties on to keep the strands from tangling or falling apart, and then you twist that big loop you’ve made up and tuck one end in at the other so that it looks like a twisted cruller in a doughnut shop. You don’t want to knit straight from that.

So why sell it that way? It shows off the yarn better and pretty yarn sells. It can be hung on display. It keeps your product from unwinding all over the shop via careless customers or their fascinated little kids.

Many a yarn shop has a ball winder on hand if you have time to wait for that to be done for you and if they’re not waiting on too many other people just then; Imagiknit lets you use theirs to wind it up yourself. A lot of shops will offer to let you come back later after they’ve had time to get to it. (Cottage Yarns is wonderful that way but they’re too far out for me to make the trip twice for the same purchase, hence either I wait, or, it’s the pretty hand-wound balls for me.) You put the hank on a swift–like the outer edge of an open umbrella–and crank away at the winder, jack-in-the-box style, till the yarn end goes floating off into the air at the last.

Once it’s wound, it can’t be returned, which is incentive for them to hand it off all ready to knit up from like that. Plus it’s nice of them to do, because it does take their time and attention.

Ball winders don’t make nice round balls, though: as the strand zig zags up and down while the stretched-out hank is being twirled, it comes out flat across the top and bottom and so is referred to as a yarn cake. Because everybody likes cake and some marketing genius made the visual connection in the shapes thereof. You’ll often see that last little bit simply given a quick wrap around the cake like this one was. (That one strand across the top makes it look rounded across there, but it’s not.)

And then there’s this.

We need the pandemic to be over, because I need to go to my local shop and share…

Whoever thought of this has to have been a knitter… (Scroll down their link just a bit.)

…That’s a yarn skein cake pan.

And yes, it’s angled to curl under at the bottom like that, you don’t have to piece two together.

I bought the last full size one on Amazon, at least at the moment, but they still have mini cakes. In answer to one review, they do say to chill for a bit before unmolding to help whatever you make keep its shape. Edit: of course it’s back in stock.

The only question is, do I have Richard make me wait till Christmas or my birthday for it. He says it’s up to me.

Maybe he can squirrel away some panna cotta size ones while I try this one out.