Sunday, October 29, 2006

Foodie Post; Scroll Down for Knit-Content

Despite the kitchen-makeover of the last month, I am still dreaming of my ultimate kitchen. In my ultimate kitchen, I will have a comfy couch. I will also have a tribute to Mr. S. and his all-time Triumphant Moments in Eating. I began this collection when his mother gave me a picture of him as a two month old infant, propped up next to the gleaming Thanksgiving turkey, with someone holding the giant turkey leg in his little hand. A particularly prescient and hilariously politically incorrect infant photo-op, it has grown into an annual Kids-With-the-Turkey photo-op.

Thanksgiving 2003

I have a picture of him eating a 4 pound lobster in Maine. The claw was as big as my hand (we took a picture of that too). There's also the grinning shot of him surrounded by giant wheels of cheese at Neal's Yard Dairy. I've saved postcards and match books from some of the fine-dining experiences we've had. I have a pen-and-ink picture of our favorite restaurant in Richmond, a going-away gift from a dear friend. And this weekend, I made an addition to the wall.

This is our menu from Vetri, a 15-table restaurant in Center City Philadelphia. It was handwritten, painted and signed by the chef, Mark Vetri.

Saturday night at Vetri is strictly Degustazione, the chef's menu. Mr S had eight courses, I stuck with six, and we went with the wine-pairing option as well. Thus, we had just about everything on the menu, and every dish was a swoon-worthy winner, and a perfect wine pairing for each course (small pours, though, half-glasses). The spinach gnocchi is light and flavorful, with just the right amount of garlic and parmesan. I generally do not like duck, but the cured duck was smoky and bacony, without that greasy, heavy texture I dislike. The zeppole were like the lightest beignets, sprnkled with light sugar. I am no food critic, but I will say, it was the best fine Italian I've had outside of Italy. The food was exquisite, the wine, incredible. The service was impeccable and the company was incomparable.


I managed to wrangle a trip to Loop once he heard (thanks, Wendy!) that there was a bar nearby. So off he went for a Bloody Mary, and here's what I bought:

Malabrigo. Gems Pearl.

And I finished my socks, just in time for the end of Socktoberfest!

Yarn: Socks that Rock, lightweight, color Marbles. OK, now I get it. It is a pleasure both knit and wear.
Pattern: Widdershins, Knitty, Summer 2006

I have found my toe-up simple stockinette sock pattern. I love this heel flap construction. You get a great gusset without having to pick up stitches. These socks began life as Pomatomi, then Jaywalkers, but I decided the yarn was best just as a simple stockinette.

Oh, and have I mentioned I'm knitting a sweater? More on that later this week.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Back to My Regularly Scheduled Knitting

Today I (sadly) missed THE pumpkin party to participate in our neighborhood fall festival. I had several felted purses, a bunch of felted stockings and hat ornaments, plus handful of scarves for sale. This little project allowed me to accomplish several things:
  • Stash busting -- Started during the Summer of Stash, almost all items were made with stash. Awesome!
  • Charity Knitting -- All proceeds from the sale go to Activate Richmond. Some items will go to the Art Karma auction for Art 180.
  • Christmas Knitting -- Anything left is fair game for holiday giving. Hello teacher gifts!
  • Halloween costume roll out -- Mouse and Rocket Boy got to strut their stuff in their mama-made costumes!
Now, I'm back to my one-armed CeCe Cardi!

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Professor Needs Your Help

Please go to our friend CurlyPurly's blog and consider purchasing her hat pattern, or consider just making a donation through PayPal. All proceeds go to help The Professor and his family.

The Professor's name is Nat. He is three and he has a brain tumor.

I know that knit bloggers are some generous souls, so please consider purchasing a pattern, and please, with Curly Purly's permission, help to spread the word on your blog.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Preparing for the Pumpkin Chaos

Here at the BackBou/XRK Richmond Outpost, things have been just a bit wacky. Downright nutsy-cuckoo. In the midst of volunteer committments (I swore I never would be the overscheduled insane mom, but here I am) and a birthday for the BackBou (who has not lost his password, but just can't find the time to blog ... what's up with that?), we are getting ready for our annual Pumpkin Carving Party.

The Pumpkin Carving Party is a huge affair and this year we're expecting over 150 people. What are we thinking? Well, I just don't know. Except that the BackBou used to work in busy restaurants serving between 150-200 a night and I used to work for a catering company. We never seem to realize that doing this in our own home by ourselves is distinctly, terrifyingly different. And then there are all those very sharp carving tools.

The BackBou prepares to carmelize some onions

But everyone seems to have a great time and the BackBou's pizza is really phenomenal. My lifeline this week has been to keep the music loud and make lots of tiny lists of things to do and paste them up around the house (sweep off the patio, paint the newel post, buy more beer, hide all the domestic detritus in the study and close the door, buy more beer, make dough, find the carving tools, buy more beer ...).

My Zepherine Droughin Rose is putting on her best for the party

Despite the whirlwind of party prep, I was able to knit up another newborn present (commissioned by a friend) in the delicious Blue Sky Organic Cotton.

Umbella Hat from One Skein

Looking Ahead ...
After two years of swearing that she doesn't want any knitted items from me, my mother has requested a pair of socks for Christmas. I am so thrilled!!! She has never in her life had socks that fit. She wears a size 10 1/2 shoe. When she saw my last pair of socks, how they hugged every unique curve of my foot, she was really beside herself. So ...

I need to knit my mother the most luxurious socks ever. I'm having her measure every inch of her foot. I am tempted to buy some Lorna's Laces (Liz, those Embossed Leaves socks may be perfect for my mom). Dearest readers, what is your favorite sock yarn? The most scrumptious foot dressing you have ever encountered? My mother needs only the best, so send me your recommendations!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Don't Fear the Zipper

Accordion is finished! After a marathon finishing session yesterday, I sewed in the zipper, added sleeves, seamed the sides of the sweater and wove in an absolutely enormous number of ends. After all that sturm und drang about the zipper, I have but one thing to say:

It's not that bad. Really. Don't fear the zippers.

But here's the secret. Remember those reverse stockinette rolly front bands I added to the sweater to neaten the edges of this sweater? It turns out that this was truly a flash of unwitting genius. These contrasting bands created a perfect straight line for me to line up the zipper. They also created the perfect hiding place for my horrid hand-sewing. Without them, the zipper would have been a much uglier proposition.

This is not to say that the zipper is perfect, but its imperfections are barely noticeable. I have a lot to learn about sewing, but I figure I did not emerge from the womb knowing how to knit cables either, so why would I know how to sew without learning and trying, making mistakes and trying again, asking more knowledgeable people and trying some more.

Accordion, as some readers may remember, was knitted with recycled yarn from a frogged sweater. What I didn't say is that this particular sweater happened to be my first sweater for me. I had returned to knitting about a year or so previous, and made mostly baby items, but after seeing Tempting, I knew that was my first sweater. So in December of 2003, I cast on. It was a piece of cake to knit, but I was meticulous about it. I learned about substituting yarns, about swatching in the round, and about making seamless garments. I was a beautiful, flawless finished knit, and I was so proud of it.

But, as I wrote before, it looked terrible on me. The knitting was well done, the design was lovely, the pattern was executed correctly, but the sweater itself was unflattering. I had a lesson to learn about what sweaters look good on me, how ribs behave on a, er, generous chest, especially in a light colored yarn. I had to learn to consider the bra that would go under the sweater. You can look here in my Flickr gallery if you dare.

But I have learned, and made better choices since. And now, in the yarn's second incarnation, I have learned more about knitting. I have learned to deviate from a pattern. I have learned to finish knits much better. I have learned that gauge is not as crucial on a ribbed garment for a kid as it is in a fitted garment for a curvy mom. I have learned not to let good yarn languish as an unworn garment.

I have learned how to install zippers.

And I have learned not to expect accolades from my son, who upon donning the sweater for the first time scrunched up his darling face, and said, "Mommy, let's take it off. It hurts me!"

He has since changed his mind. He likes it now. He now wants to know why I didn't make pockets or a hood.

Yarn: Maggi Knits Merino Aran. This very soft 100% merino yarn has held up very well, considering it has been knit, worn, washed, frogged, and knit again. We'll see what a three-year old does to it, if I can get him to wear it.
Pattern: Accordion, Knitty Fall 2003
Needles: US7, US4 for front bands.
Mods: Added front bands, and used a longer zipper, so that the collar can be zipped all the way closed.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I'm Scared of Sewing

The knitting for Pepe's Accordion has been done for weeks. But it has been lingering, marinating in self-doubt. The Inner-Knitter kept saying that the sweater fronts looked really bad. Like needing-to-be-frogged bad. Like no amount of blocking would help. The stitches were stretched and uneven and there were lots and lots of endsas yet unwoven. It was ugly.

And on top of that, this sweater requires a zipper. So take messy cardigan fronts, add that to my terrible hand sewing, and you are going to have one ugly, amateur-ish sweater for my sweet son.

So I've been sort of sitting on these doubts for a couple of weeks, getting up the courage to tackle whatever it would take to finish this sweater. I read up on zipper installation (not so encouraging when Monste Stanley's instructions begin by suggesting that you avoid zippers) and reminded myself that I was not performing brain surgery. And on the knitters-high that was the lace shawl, I decided to just do it. Carefully, meticulously. I would do my best.

I banished the children from the house, turned on the iPod and basted the sweater fronts and the zipper.

The sweater fronts did look truly horrid.


So I picked up stitches along the edge, did a reverse stockinette rolly band on both fronts, a vast improvement for sure, and certainly preferable to frogging.

Aaah. That's better.

I began to start the process of zipper installation again, and then I realized my zipper was not a separating zipper. Wrong zipper! Argh!!!

I received the new zipper yesterday, so surely in the next week, I will have time to install it and totally destroy a great piece of knitwear with my horrific sewing.

Or not.

But in the meantime, I did knit Pepe a matching hat. He likes it, but won't wear it for more than three minutes at a time.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Hard Lesson Learned

Here is the Aran that I knit for the BackBou about a year ago. Doesn't he look smashing in it? It wasn't perfect. Far from it. I was considering ripping out the bottom ribbing (which was pathetic and way too loose) and re-knitting a better bottom. The fit just wasn't right. The BackBou didn't suffer the imperfections silently either. He almost never wore it and the looseness of it bothered him constantly. He appreciated the effort and the yarn (bought on our Ireland trip on the island of Inishmore), but the sweater drove him crazy.

Well, I decided that I would block it. But I just never got around to it. So finally, my beloved BackBou took matters into his own hands.

Can I take a brief moment here to say how painful this is to me? Painful, not because of the results per se, but because I would like our readers to think of me as ... clever? ... well, at the very least, not dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Not handknit savvy in the least. So, if you would like to go on thinking that I am not the most idiotic knitter out there, close this webpage now. Navigate away gentle readers, or else be prepared to be aghast at my stupidity.

When he said that he was going to block the sweater, I may have been doing something else. I know I wasn't really focused on what he was saying. I think I said something like, "mmm, that's nice. Try cold water and the handwash setting." And then I went back to gardening, breaking up a sibling fight, folding laundry, paying bills, ... whatever.

I forgot about it. Forgot until that night when the BackBou yelled up from the basement, "Ann -- you have to come down here right now." It was this horrible, fuzzy, wild ... thing. The sweater is now 20 inches from shoulder to bottom with a 58 inch circumference. 58 inch. 58 inch. And really fuzzy. Lots of fuzz. This picture doesn't even begin to capture how awful the fuzz is.

I can't go on any more. Except to say, it will make great pillows.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Shawl Surprises

I know readers have been awaiting the modeled photos of the shawl in all its autumnal glory. I intended to show you pictures like this:

or like this:
or even this:

as I wore this shawl this weekend to my cousin's wedding. It was going to be a quick little entry, something like this:

Pattern: Forest Canopy Shawl by Susan Pierce Lawrence
Yarn: Schaefer Anne
Mods: none except for change in yarn weight in pattern.

I was going to tell you about how I would highly recommend this pattern to the beginning lace knitter, because in every row, you have two signposts to tell you if you have made a mistake. If you get to the YOs in the center, and your stitch count is off, you have made a mistake. If you get to the last YO stitches at the end of a row, and your stitch count is off, you made a mistake. There was very little frogging needed, and NO LIFE LINES necessary. I was going that thank Margene for recommending it and Susan for designing it, and I was going to urge everyone to knit it and I was going to take recommendations for my next lace shawl pattern. I was also going to wax on and on about Anne and just tell everyone to Get. Some. Anne. Now.

I was going to bitch a little about how no one even noticed my shawl, but my wonderful sisters (I include my sisters-in-law in the general term) all fawned over the shawl, looked covetously, and one sister-in-law (the one who managed to get my Regia socks) even told my brother when they were getting ready that she wished she had a shawl like mine. (Note to self: explore this further.)

But that is not what I am going to tell you about. Blog-friends, I got knit-spotted at my cousin's wedding. A wedding guest in a chic little black dress, whom I remembered as a reader at the ceremony, approached me and acknowledged (note: she didn't ask) that I was wearing a hand-knit. She asked me if it was Flower Basket. I told her it was Forest Canopy. Knitters met, having spied the pattern across this room. This was awesome! I mean, we were surrounded by Muggles, and she spotted the knit. It is one thing to sit next to someone at a Yarn Harlot reading who just-so-happens to be knitting the same sock pattern as you, but at a wedding? Crazy!

So we sought each other out at another time, and you'll never guess who it was...Ashley! Go check her out (if you don't already -- we have readers in common, as we discovered!) and view her lovely knits and her fantastic blog. We even came out of the knit blogger closet to my cousin, who very kindly told us that our nerdy hobby was really cool and hip.

What a pleasure it was to meet you, Ashley. It was a highlight of a night that was wonderful to begin with.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Socktober Housekeeping

I have finished my Embossed Leaves socks. They are imperfect, but truly lovely.

Pattern: Embossed Leaves Socks, IK Winter 2005
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, Cool. I have the great Grumperina to thank for these socks, as this is the yarn I won from her gallery contest. This yarn is everything it is cracked up to be. I could have knitted these socks for the rest of my life. The colors, the softness...I am truly a convert to Lorna's Laces, and WILL be buying more.

Notes: One of my seventh graders once said to me in the middle of English class, "You got yourself some biiiiig legs!" And he was right. I do have some ample calves. However, I have learned through the year that I like a snug sock. My Retro Ribs are so loose and floppy I am considering giving them away to the right big-footed person. So, my solution on the EL socks was to knit the cuff of US2s and the heel and foot of US1s. This has given me a really nice fit.

This is a lovely pattern, very well thought out, with nice touches and details. I did a regular round toe instead of the fancy one the pattern calls for, mostly because operator error on the gusset caused my stitch counts to be off on the foot of one sock. I almost always do the gussets wrong on my socks. Until...

Socks that Rocktoberfest!

Meet my Widdershins. Idiot-proof socks. More this week.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The First Trek of Trekking Blah

Please welcome a guest blogger, my sister. You may remember her from our discussion of whether one wears socks with sandals. Just in time for Socktoberfest, she has given us a non-knitter's view of the handknit socks. This is clearly someone who reads a knitblog or two. Isn't it time that we got her knitting???

Thanks for your contributions, LS!

The First Trek of Trekking Blah

Recently I became the very happy owner of my first pair of hand-knit socks, the infamous Trekking Blah, and I must confess, I wear them A LOT, just not for the reason they were made.

The first thing that struck me about these socks is that they actually fit around the toes - a rarity for Little Sister's very narrow feet. I also love their soothing zenlike pattern, their surprising softness, and of course the love with which they were made.

Since these socks were made for trekking, I started to feel a little silly about the amount of time they were logging in the home office (40+ hours a week) vs. on the trail (0 hours, 0 miles). This also meant that I hadn't been out for a proper hike recently enough, so
enough was enough. We were going hiking, and in fact, we were going full on camping.

And so it was that my pals and I spent the weekend camping in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area , in the far northeast corner of Pennsylvania. Arriving a bit late at night to a cold, dark camp site, Little Sister was very happy to have not only Trekking Blah on her feet, but also very happy to have a few of TB's friends along: the hat that inspires every subway rider in Philadelphia to quiz me about its origins, and the similarly jealousy-inducing Broad Street Mitten that I adore. Everywhere I go wearing either of these items, total strangers accost me and complement my knits. Philly hearts Big Sister's handiwork!

In fact as you can see, the knitting paparazzi found me huddled in my tent that night sporting said gear:

The next day I finally put TB to the test on the trail, first at Dingmans Falls (a wee stroll to a big waterfall), and then on the Tumbling Waters Trail (a three mile trail through woods, up and down ridges, alongside waterfalls, ponds and meadows) at the nearby Pocono Environmental Education Center . TB certainly got a workout.

And they are absolute champs. No blisters, no irritating rubbing, no extra material jammed into the toe area of my boots, no drooping or slippage, just absolute fit. Neither cold (which is usually my problem), nor hot and soupy (common trail sock issue). These socks are the bomb.

Official statistics for the first trek of TB:

160 miles round trip, 4 miles hiking, 2 nights in a
tent on the banks of the Delaware, 4 jealous hiking
companions and countless adventures to come.

And now for your moment of zen:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


This past week has kicked my butt. Between the Holiday Bazaar/Safety Group/Newsletter duties for N's school and room mother duties for R's school ... and having a nasty, nasty head cold ... I'm totally wiped out.

I have had some time for knitting, but mostly small things that don't take any concentration. Here's what's been cooking while the germies have had their way with me ...

A Petal Hat for my neighbor's new baby girl (made with stash Lamb's Pride Worsted Weight).

My new favorite socks in the whole wide world! Here they are helping to ease the pain of another Redskin's defeat at the hands of the Giants. Err.
Yarn: Claudia's Handpainted, Purple Midnight
Pattern: 56 stitch, stockinette, with a garter stitch heel (thanks for the tip, Jody! It is wonderfully cushy!)
Needles: US 2s

A Crown fit for a Queen!
Here is my dearest R, the most benevolent monarch, modeling the cute crown. I hope to crank these out for the Holiday Bazaar. The Blogless Amy will be sewing on doo-dads that sparkle and shine. The Nicholette Hoyer pattern for Interweave Knits is here and I used stash Lamb's Pride Worsted Weight.

I also have very sad news about the BackBou's sweater that I knit for him last year. But I can't deal with it this week. I'll tell more next week when I can bring myself to take pictures of the horror.

For now it's back to flushing the sinuses and trying to get some rest ...

And many thanks to Liz's little sis for all the great improvements around here! I hardly recognized the place ...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Will Program For Handknits

Perhaps you've noticed some improvements here at XRK. Those are thanks to my computer programmer sister, who has proven that she will work for knits. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, she is my absolute favorite knit-recipient.

You'll be hearing more from her this week, as she will be guest blogging about her hike with the Trekking Blah Sock.

That 70s Scarf
Pattern: Diamond Chevron Scarf, from Creative Knitting, Sept '06
Yarn: ArtYarns Supermerino in the most super-70s colors. I loved knitting with the yarn. It is super soft and sproingy. I will be buying more of this yarn.

She picked out the yarn herself and it is very autumnal. Kate mentioned that it is the same colors as our family room sofa throughout the 70s, you know, harvest gold and avocado green.

Thanks for the help with the blog. I'll knit for you anytime.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Stolen Moments Sock

Socktoberfest is not the best time to become obsessed with lace as all of my knitting energy has been dedicated to knitting the shawl. As the shawl grew to over 250 stitches across, it became a time commitment just to knit one row. Luckily, I always have multiple WIPs, so when throughout my day, I have little snatches of time here and there I can knit a few rows of something. In honor of Socktoberfest, I chose to take these moments and knit my second Embossed Leaves Sock, and capture the progress made daily.

Sunday: my wrists beagn to hurt after long knitting session with the shawl. Cast on and knit the cuff
Monday: a few moments of quiet after returning from the grocery but before making dinner.
Tuesday: Rosebud's SuperSports class at the YMCA is 45 minutes long.
Wednesday: no progress -- finished the shawl!
Thursday: kids are playing contendedly with their playdate friend

Friday: Pepe konked out while Rosebud was at kindergarten, make it through the heel and gussets.

This is one of the truly wonderful things about sock knitting. It is the ultimate on-the-go project, easily knit during your busiest times. This sock will be done soon!

Thursday, October 05, 2006


9 million pins later, the Forest Canopy Shawl is blocked.

Another knitter is overcome by the magic of blocking their first lace shawl.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

the Shedir and the Spider

I posted the Shedir hat as a finished object last week, but I wanted to tell its story a little bit. And in light of what Ann's post yesterday in response to the horrific events in Lancaster County, I wanted to share this now.

Pepe started preschool this year, and his teachers are an incredible team of warm, funny women, who enjoy their families, their three year old classes, and clearly enjoy each other. One of them, J, has been in treatment for breast cancer since March. She is finished with chemotherapy and is receiving radiation. Can you believe that this brave woman stood up in front of the parents gathered on back to school night to explain how her radiation therapy will not interfere with her being at school?? I think after radiation therapy, people earn the right to go home and pull the covers up over their head, but clearly, this is not J's style.

Of course, my response was to immediately go to the closest LYS and buy yarn for a chemo cap. I chose Berroco Ultra Silk, an incredibly soft yarn (I never thought I would be saying this about Berroco, but it's true. I loved it) in J's favorite pink, and I immediately whipped out the cable needle and began knitting Shedir.

As I began knitting, Mr S noticed how lovely and complicated this hat was. I think he said something like, "that's not an ordinary thing you are knitting there." It truly bordered on the exquisite, not the normal, stockinette-roll-brim-done-in-one-night kind of hat. I mean, this was one beautiful piece of knitting. If you ever want to impress yourself, knit this pattern.

But that's when the doubt started the creep in. I wondered if it seemed strange to give this truly exquisite, silk hat to a virtual stranger. And then I remembered one of my dear friends, S, a cancer survivor, who was an avowed scarf wearer. No chemo caps for her, thank you very much. And then several blogs began encouraging knitters to knit pink for October, and I thought that I could just anonymously donate to someone else. Maybe J liked her cotton caps just fine, and would think it was strange that I went to all this effort for someone. Or maybe it wouldn't fit...I had a million reasons to not give her that hat.

I gave it to her anyway. After class last week, I popped my head in, and offered it to her, wrapped in tissue paper. I tried to be as casual as possible. I told her that if she liked it, great, but if it wasn't "for her," or didn't fit, that she was under no obligation to keep it, my feelings would not be hurt. I told her that I had intended it for donation, but wanted to offer it to her with my best wishes for her recovery. If she didn't like it, I could donate it to any number of organizations that collect chemo caps. She seemed surprised and touched, and promised she would take it home and model it for her family and let me know.

I don't think I ever gave anyone a gift with so many caveats and explanations in my life, and I felt strange about the whole event. I really surprised myself by feeling strange about being kind to another woman, like somehow this would not be appropriate. I shared this story and all my doubts with the incredible SpiderWoman. If you do not read her blog, you really should. Her knits are beautiful, but it is her soul that I admire the most. And, as usual, she had the perfect thing to say (with her permission):

I think what you did was so wonderful. Knitters are so nurturing. So often I have a similar instinctual reaction to people I come in contact and honestly I just say go with your feelings. Think of it as a random act of kindness. I don't mean that to sound cheesy or new agey but I think we doubt our kindness more that we do our selfishness and I view that as a huge societal problem.

The way you offered her the cap and gave her an out if it wasn't her thing was fine. There are two possible outcomes that I can foresee. She loves the hat, is touched by your gesture, and uses it with joy. Or, it might not feel right on her, she might not know you well enough to give it back and she may not use it but I am sure that she will keep it. Even having it around will give her joy. The hat whether it is on her head or in her house will be a reminder that people acknowledge the challenge she faces and that they care enough to let her know they are thinking about it. That is a huge thing. People need their feelings validated. Having seen your friend go through treatment I am sure you know that. The hat you knit while useful takes on the symbol of communal care and that is it's most important function in my eyes.

I work with a lot of people from the Ivory Coast of Africa and the hardest adjustment they make coming to America is leaving their culture of care behind. Lucky for us they bring it with them. It wouldn't be unusual in some of the villages I have been told about to not only bring goods like your hat to someone you know is facing a challenge but you would also visit that person on a daily basis and check in to see if anything was needed. What a contrast to our culture where you just nod and wave at neighbors.

You know, it's really funny because I want to knit things for people I don't know so well all the time. There is a young farmer in my area who has started raising hogs and works really hard to provide the community with organically raised meat. He also sells chickens and eggs at the farmers market. Every time I see him I think, "He needs a watchman's cap". Last year I knit mittens for the couple who has an orchard in our area. They only know me as a customer but I wanted them to know I appreciate their work.

Don't doubt your gesture for a second. It was a beautiful thing to do.

At no point did I consider whether it was important if she actually wore it or not. As an obsessed knitter, I was too focused on the knit, on the actual use of the object and whether it pleased the receiver, not the feelings or the sentiment behind the gift. What was important is that she felt supported by her school community. What was important was my family's best wishes for her health, and for her to feel ackowledged during her ordeal.

So this week, J gave me a big hug, said that if she turns the brim up a little bit, it fits her great. She repeatedly called the hat "cute!" and said she loved it and so did everyone in her family. I don't think she saw the complicated twisted stitches, the luxurious yarn, the pages of instructions and days of knitting; she just saw a cute pink hat that a student's Mom made her when she needed one. In SpiderWoman's very wise words, it was a "symbol of communal care and that's its most important function."

I don't know if this has really anything to do with what happened in the Amish school. Is this kind of horror ever preventable? Mental illness is not cured by kindness and community. And what community cares more for each other than the Amish and their neighbors?

Maybe all I can do is counteract the violence and fear and indifference with a kind gesture. During times like this, it doesn't feel like enough.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Knitting and Some Thoughts on Peace

And the Pie Man progresses ...
Here is the finished back of Pie Man.

I ended it 5cm shorter than the pattern called for. The sizing seems okay on N and I am terribly worried about running out of yarn. This yarn is leftover from my sweater and was purchased in Clifden, Co. Galway, Ireland. I am planning on just doing the double moss for the sleeves rather than the cable pattern in order to have enough yarn. I think I'm going to start the sleeves next rather than the front so that if I'm running short, I can change it to a V-neck.

I'm almost done with the Claudia's Handpainted socks! Next post should bring a photo of the pair on my happy feet!

Courageous Optimism
I have been slammed once again by current events. I know that those of you in the Philly area are feeling this accutely right now. I've been meditating on how people choose their responses and actions. On how we can affect change in our lives. In our community. In our world. I've been thinking about optimism and peace. And the horrible violence and terror that infects our world. I've been searching for voices of courageous optimism.

This is from Louise Diamond's The Peace Book:108 Simple Ways to Create a More Peaceful World.

Practice the Four Principles of Peace
Realize we are all in this together.
Work together, rather than against
each other, for joint problem solving.
Practice civility in public discourse.
Refuse to support polarizing debate.
Engage in dialogue from
a place of inner peace,
honoring the values, opinions
and feelings of all parties.

This quote comes from Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning (thank you BackBou for this great piece of wisdom).

Between stimulus and reponse there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

May we all continue to search for peace in our lives.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ten Knitterly Things About Ann

Here you go!

1. My mother taught me how to knit when I was young (maybe 4th grade?), but I was bored with the red garter stitch scarf and quit.

2. The BackBou and I tried to teach ourselves how to knit when we lived in Charlottesville in the mid 90s (I was maybe around 25). There was a beautiful yarn store on the downtown mall (different from the beautiful one that is there now) and we fell under a fiber spell and walked out with needles, yarn, and a how-to book. We both loved it but were hopeless without any guidance. Also, there was that garter stitch scarf problem again. We both quit within the week.

3. I never even thought about knitting again until January of 2004, a friend called to tell me she was teaching a knitting class at the church one block away, did I want to join the class? At that point, I had a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old; I would have taken a taxidermy class just to get out of the house once a week.

4. I had no real desire to knit but I was hooked for life when I saw Susanna, my teacher, open up her needle roll. I love gadgets and equipment. Knitters have great equipment. I almost never lose my tools because part of the thrill for me is having places and compartments for all the needles, scissors, measuring tapes, markers, etc. It's all about the gadgets. Quite like a 13-year-old boy and stereo equipment. Or like me and stereo equipment. (I can't wait for a ball winder!)

5. The only reason that knitting stuck this time was because of Mo and Liz. They were the best teachers ever. Liz walked me through my first little sweater for N. She took me through the finishing step by step and then when I was done, said importantly, "Congratulations, you have made a garment!" It was so imperfect, but Mo and Liz just gushed. Thank you guys.

6. Although I've only knit two fair isle pieces, I love it. Love it.

7. I have never knit intarsia, but I think I will like it.

8. I am not a fast knitter, but I dig the rhythm of it and could knit all day.

9. I love charts. I love charting patterns. I love doing the math in order to alter a pattern. I was really good at math in High School but then just fell apart mathematically in college (showing up for class might have helped). It's good to be back using that part of my brain.

10. I really wish that I could say that my favorite knitting time is when I'm out in nature, enjoying the meditative calm. But in reality, I love knitting during a Redskins' game with a beer sitting beside me. It's a good 3 hours of guilt-free football and knit time (well, almost guilt-free -- the BackBou is not a fan and huffs around the house quite a bit).

That's it for me! Let's hear from more of you all out there!