Monday, December 31, 2007

Party More!

I can't say my slate is exactly clean; I'm having some neckline issues with my laceweight sweater, but still, I am content with my year's worth of knits.

Here's the final FO for 2007, then, Herringbone Mitts from Elliphantom.

I used Cascade 220 in cream and a tweedy brown and size 6 needles. This is my second attempt at colorwork, and this was the time that it clicked! I think the colorwork bug has bitten me badly, so look for more stranded goodness here at XRK in 2008. In fact, I've even begun major swatching for the next big project, the Sugarplum Pullover (Ravelry link) from Handknit Holidays.

Many New Year's Eve's ago, my family was celebrating together, and we made a series of lists: the 5 best things that happened to us that year, the 5 worst things that happened to us that year, and 5 New Year's Resolutions. It was the one and only year we made such lists, but there was one resolution I remember vividly. It was my sister-in-law, a senior in college, who resolved to "Party More!"

Party. More! I loved it. And I instantly adopted it as a go-to resolution. Now, as a thirty six year old mother of two, partying means something different than my then college-aged sister-in-law, but I love the attitude of wanting more celebration in life. So I resolve to Party More in my life, to celebrate life's precious moments more in 2008, and to look for ways to add more joy to my life and the life of my family.

Knitting remains a joy and a passion, and one of the ways I truly do party in my life. I resist rules and structure in my knitting, and allow whimsy to be my guide. I'll continue to follow the spirit of my inspirations this year, and knit what pleases me with yarn I love.

So from Ann, Mo, and me, we here and XRK wish you a Very Happy New Year and urge you to Party More too!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Clean Slate 2008

It has been the joy of family and the magic of Christmas with young children that has kept me from blogging. I did have a wonderfully blessed Christmas with my family and with Mr S's, and Santa was very good to all of us this year. And while I truly did read many of your wonderful Christmas messages and received all your wonderful wishes with a warm heart, I was just to busy to leave many comments on anyone else's blog. I do hope all of you had a lovely Christmas!

I don't know why I care, but I decided to try to finish all of the WIPs before the new year begins. I am generally not one to leave projects to linger, and am fairly disciplined about finishing or frogging. I have a lot of projects in the queue ready to be cast on, but I decided to just focus my energies for a couple of weeks to finish up, and I think I am going to reach my goal. My current sweater (which I haven't even mentioned on the blog) has about a quarter of the sleeve to go, my colorwork mittens are blocking, and my longest lingering project ever, my New England socks, are finally done!

Pattern: New England socks by Nancy Bush from Knitting on the Road
Yarn and Needles: Koigu KPM, Knit Picks US 1.5 (2.5mm) circular

Notes: These socks were my quiet vacation knitting, sitting on the front porch of our cabin in the Maine woods. They were a part of my summer dalliance with Nancy Bush, and the final remnant of my flirtation with the Single Sock Liberation Movement.

I got through the first sock this summer, but when I first made the second sock, I noticed I had gauge issues when I was about 80% finished. I had swapped out my Knit Picks 1.5 needle for my Addi Lace 1.5, and it really did make a noticeable difference in my gauge. These socks are not difficult to knit, but they do require you to refer to the chart for every other row, so it took my Clean Slate Resolution to muster up the urge to finally finish them. It's my first highly patterned sock pattern, and I'm not sure if you'll see many more in my future. I like to knit socks because they are portable and mindless, and these socks were neither.

They are a little bigger than I prefer, but I hope a few washes will shrink them slightly. I'll give you an update in 2008, for a newly planned feature on the blog, where I'll post updates and wear reports on various knitting projects.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Forecast Notes

As previously mentioned, my Forecast is finished and photographed.

Pattern: Forecast by Stefanie Japel, Knitty Winter 2005
Yarn & Needles: Brooks Farm FourPlay, US 7 & US 8
Mods: Like many Forecast knitters, I used Winnie's mods.

Since picking up the needles 6 years ago, I have learned a lot of techniques that have made me a better knitter, and really improved the look of my garments. I thought about this as I made this sweater, as I used combination knitting to make neat ribs, as I knit backwards to speed the bobble-making, as I cabled without a cable needle. A beginning knitter could easily make this sweater, but I was struck by how some of these simple tricks made the knitting of this sweater easier and neater, more professional looking.

But this sweater is also an example of how an experienced, technically proficient knitter can end up with so-so results. A top-down raglan is usually a no-fail method for me, and Stefanie Japel's patterns are well-written and designed to fit a woman's body. So why does my Forecast, an almost universally flattering pattern, look so freakin' boxy on me?

It's the yarn. Now, I have to say, unequivocally, that I love this yarn. This was one of the most pleasurable yarns to knit with, period. The color changes are so rich and saturated, and the smooth hand and easy knitting were just amazing. I love it so much that after making most of a loser sweater, I ripped it out and immediately cast on for Forecast. So I essentially knit two sweaters in a row with it! And loved it!

But this is a classic example of how you can combine a great pattern and a great yarn and get so-so results. Forecast is all about the structure, while Brooks Farm is all about the drape, which didn't become totally clear to me until I blocked this sweater (I used the steam-block method), and the horizontal ribbing flattened out and the sweater became a bit flabby and lifeless. The sweater sags (don't look too closely at the bottom of the button band) and is just a bit too big. The silk content overrides the merino's memory and springiness. This yarn would be great for a very drapey sweater, but I would definitely NOT recommend it for this one.

On the other hand, it feels divine, and the yarn does look great with this pattern. When I initially used it, I just loved how it looked in garter, but was not pleased with how it was striping in stockinette, so I figured that the combination of garter, cables, and bobbles would break up the color repeats to interrupt the striping, and I was right. Most finished Forecasts I've seen are in a solid or tweedy yarn, but I would not hesitate from using a tonal variegated yarn for this pattern.

Overall, I'm pleased with the sweater, but know that good old Cascade 220 would have served me better for this pattern than the yarn I chose. I still have a lot to learn, which is why I can't wait for my birthday present from Ann to arrive!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Am 36

Dinner with my husband followed by big rock show last week :: this post :: this post, 22 years later, and be sure to read it to the end :: flowers from Mom :: this mug from my sister from here :: dinner with my kids at the local pub :: morning coffee with Carol :: a new Lantern Moon needle case from Aileen :: a finished Forecast (details to follow)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Birthday Liz! (A day late)

How incredibly wonderful it is that you were born! I am so thankful that you are part of my life. It's hard to describe how you have enriched who I am. You are wicked smart. You are irreverent and hysterically funny while never turning away from the intense and deep emotions of love and pain. You are courageous. You are a brilliant, brilliant mother -- someone I use as an example for myself and others time and time again. And you are one of my best friends.

I hope you had a wonderful birthday Liz!

Leave a birthday wish for Liz in the comments!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gray Gray Gray

Besides the general busy-ness of being Primary Shopper, Chief Organizer and Head-Celebrator-in-Charge in a dual-holiday household, the gray weather has also kept me from my dutiful blogging. I've had a finished Forecast to show you for days, but cannot take a decent photo in this gray weather. When the sun did come out for a precious few hours yesterday, we threw themselves outside into the cold, muddy yard like something out of "All Summer in a Day." I was not about to change clothes and take pictures of my sweater.

Instead, I leave you with a picture of what ranks as one of the single most beautiful skeins of yarn I have ever owned, Sundara Yarn Sock in Fall Foliage. I'm not one to correct Sundara or her sense of color, but this red to me is more like sparkling rubies than autumn leaves. The photo doesn't even come close to capturing the rich reds of this yarn, as the colors in the picture are far more muted.

I've held onto this skein of yarn for over a year now, because I just couldn't imagine putting something this beautiful on my feet but I finally hit upon a worthy use for it in all its cranberry gorgeousness. It's currently being transformed into a Christmas present for Someone Who Reads This Blog, so no more details or pics until after the Big Day. I know I generally eschew holiday knitting, but just one thing won't send me over the edge of sanity, right?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I have been MIA in the knit world lately. No Ravelry, no blogging, and today was my first knitting group in almost a month. Unfortunate yet this is just what has to happen in order to keep the holidays sane for me. (I will be around much more in January!)

Along with the rest of the family, I've been purging the home of unused or unwanted toys (Diversity Thrift here we come!), cleaning in preparation for our tree and Christmas decorating this weekend, shopping for gifts, and enjoying the smaller holidays (St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia Day, Winter Soltice) that happen in December. And of course I am busy with holiday knitting!

Here are a few things so far ...

Pattern: Dashing by Cheryl Niamath
Yarn: Lamb's Pride Worsted, Cafe au Lait
Needles: US 7s
Notes: Great pattern. Easy. Fast. For my older brother. They are already in the mail. I loved knitting these! Isn't this yarn a great colorway?

Pattern: Coronet by Andrea Virgiel
Yarn: Malabrigo, Stone Blue
Needles: US 7s
Notes: Great yarn. Great pattern. I had the band knit for quite a while but had put it down for more than a month. Picked it up and finished it in a day. It was meant for my MIL, but then a neighbor had surgery that left her without any hair and I couldn't think of anything better than having Malabrigo warming her head. My MIL is now getting Koolhaas (I love the pattern and should be done soon!).

Back to my knitting and enjoying the unusually warm weather with a picnic in the park!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

When Mom's a Knitter... have conversations like this over the breakfast

Mom: It's going to be cold today. Wear that stripey sweater today.
Daughter: What stripey sweater?
Mom: They one I made you last year.
Daughter: Oh, you mean my Noro sweater? get a new hat just in time for the first snow of the winter

Pattern: the ubiquitous We Call Them Pirates
Yarn & Needles: Cascade 220 (red), Plymouth Encore (black), Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (lining) from (you guessed it!) the stash, US3 needles
Mods: To size down the hat, I knitted at a tighter gauge (about 7 spi) and only did two repeats of the skull motif.

I made a poor choice when I decided not to decrease in the lining. I thought the difference in the weight of the yarns (worsted vs. fingering) would make up for it, and I didn't want the lining to pucker. Well, it flares, dammit! It flares! I did EZ's sewn bind off for the lining for stretch, and then meticulously sewed it down beautifully. I was not about to pick it all out and redo it, so I threaded some elastic in the brim, and it snugged things nicely.

Notes: This was my first colorwork project ever, and it's some pretty craptacular knitting. However, this was knitted as a more of a learning and practice piece, so my expectations were pretty low. Plus, Pepe desperately needed a new hat. And despite some puckering and lack of crispness in the colorwork, Pepe has gotten tons of compliments on it, and I have managed to impress many non-knitters.

I am working on picking comfortably, and have some work to do keeping my floats even. Despite that, though, it was a relatively quick project, knitting up in a just a few afternoons.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Notes on the Calendar

I'm not kidding about the time crunch, people. I promised you details on the calendar for Sunday, and it's Tuesday morning when I get around to it.

Advent Calendar Project Notes:

Inspiration: This one from Garnet Hill was the perfect storm of advent calendars. Cute, but not cutesy. Handmade for the home in that Mason-Dixon sort of way, not the Stitchy McYarnpants sort of way. And knitted! My one and only craft! I am endlessly inspired by craft blogs like Blair's and Amanda's, and how they fill their home with their handwork. Let's face it, I have sewer's envy (Ashley, I'm looking at you), and wish I had the time and inclination to finally figure out how to run my machine.

And if you are looking for other inspiration, check out this flickr pool. I especially love this one. And while I am really impressed at the creative ideas for fillers, I am strictly for candy. And Twiglet Queen, Ann and I want to know more about your chocolate Johnny Depp advent calendar, because I am sure that one is way better. Chocolate AND Johnny Depp? Perfection.

Materials: Various worsted yarns, all from stash. Some Cascade 220. The pink is Patons Classic that I unraveled from a shrug that pilled so bad I never wore it. The last bits of some bargain blue Plymouth Encore. Leftover Lambs Pride and Baabajoe's from gifts knitted several years ago.

This project demonstrates the ultimate reason to embrace an inspiring stash. I was inspired, so I went to the stash. I made an heirloom and didn't spend a dime. I felt resourceful. Virtuous, even. And sentimental, too, since I could think about some of the special things I made from those yarns in their first life. I love you, Stash.

Process: I looked closely at the Garnet Hill picture, and selected my colors based on the ones they used. The appeal to me was the use of non-Christmas-y colors, along with more traditional reds and greens, which tempers the cute. And as the project evolved, I realized that choosing muted colors was key.

But this project was all about keeping things simple, or it would never get finished. Ever. I discarded nothing, as there was no time for ripping-and-redoing. The first hat I made (December 1st, left) was too small. Too round. I kept it. A red hat (December 11th, center) was rejected as too primary. Too Christmasy and obvious. Same with December 21st green mitten. I kept them, though, since this project was all about production.

Each hat or mitten took less than 30 minutes to knit, but the mittens took a little longer. Thus, I made more hats than mittens. I would try to crank out at least 4 in an evening, and if I had some time leftover, I would weave in the ends (very cursorily, I must admit, since this won't ever be worn, and its highly doubtful if it will ever be laundered. I saved all the embroidery for the end, since I wanted to be able to lay out each piece to make a pleasing color sequence. I got really good at duplicate stitch after a while!

Other special details: I wanted to customize this for our family, so one of the things I did was made a special hat for December 17th (coughmybirthdaycough). I included Hanukkah colors as well, since we are an interfaith family, but I was stumped with how to really represent the 8 nights of Hanukkah, since it is a moveable feast, sometimes before Christmas, sometimes after, sometimes straddling the holiday itself.

Mr S came up with a great solution: knit 8 white and blue un-numbered hats, embroidered with Hebrew letters or the Mogen David (next year!), and switch them out each year for the appropriate days. This year, gelt will go in the hats for Hanukkah, and that will just have to do.

In all, I am very satisfied with the way it all came out. And of course, the kids' reactions to it was totally worth the tedium and last minute sprint to the finish. They just adore it.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled knitting of hats, socks, and sweaters.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's Finished!

Details tomorrow.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Time Crunch

I am feeling the time crunch of the holidays already. I am still unpacking, doing laundry and generally rebooting our life from our Thanksgiving week in Florida, and already and my calendar is packed with commitments and I haven't even had time to draw up the first of many holiday to-do lists. To buy, to bake, to send, to order, to decorate, to schedule, to do....

I have a pair of finished socks to show you, but no time to plan a clever photo shoot, so you'll have to content yourself with these action shots, taken with the self-timer as I emptied the washing machine and unloaded the groceries. Luckily, they are simple stockinette socks, so they are hardly worth a post on their own anyway. They're knit with Austermann Step yarn, and yes, Ann, they are identical to the pair you made this summer.

There's not even much time to knit, but what little knitting time I do have is dedicated to these little mittens and hats for the advent calendar. Only 4 more to go, plus some sort of cord from which to hang them all. And then all 24 to embroider, to pom, to hang, to fill. By tomorrow night.

Will I make it?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Quick Surprise

At the end of the summer I got a surprise email forwarded to me from N's school -- a friend that I had met backpacking in Spain was trying to track me down and had found my name on the RWS website. We reconnected and it has been such a wonderful time getting to know her again and learning about her family and life.

And last week her family grew a bit ... one more life has joined it. So I will send off a little surprise in the mail tomorrow ...

Pattern: Baby Surprise Jacket by EZ (The Opinionated Knitter)
Needles: US 6s
Yarn: Louet Gems Fine/Sport Weight in Grape and Willow
Notes: I have been blessed with some mighty fine knitting projects lately and this was no exception. What an incredible pattern (my first BSJ) and what fabulous yarn (my first time with Louet Gems as well). I did not modify the pattern at all -- just wanted to knit it as it was written originally and see what happened. I am extremely happy with the results but wish my increases were a bit neater looking.

I changed colors randomly and love how the funky seaming turned out.

This yarn is just wonderful and I am going to use the remaining yarn for something for my girls (I used just about 1/2 skein of each color).

These excellent buttons are from The Yarn Lounge here in Richmond.

When I bought this yarn I had no idea it was from South Africa. Tomorrow I will be sending the BSJ to Cape Town where it will meet it's new little owner ...

Surprises all around!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll be taking the week off from blogging while I celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with my husband's family in sunny South Florida. Maybe by the time I post, I'll have sewed the buttons onto my Forecast sweater, finished my second New England sock, and who knows what else...

In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by loved ones, grateful for all your blessings. I know I will be.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rockin the Holiday Bazaar

I'm feeling more than a little overwhelmed here at Holiday Bazaar Central. The big event is on Saturday (from 10 to 3 at the Richmond Waldorf School, get yer butt down here and make some holiday cheer!).

I'm the co-chair and the BackBou is cooking lunch for about 250. But just so you know, all the stress of getting ready hasn't stopped the universe from hurling other things our way -- back problems for me, a heavy work load for the BackBou, and an unexpected MRI for N tomorrow.

I like having a handle on things. I have been called a control freak before. Many times before. Many times today. We're at the point where I need to trust my coordinators and surrender to the unexpected but I find this hard to do. Really, really hard to do. So instead, I will be popping some ibuprofen, cracking open a non-alcoholic beer, and staying up late getting my s@*# together.

I am going to get the vendor check-in clipboard ready, the set-up check-lists ready, the clean-up check-lists ready. I am going to schedule when we're packaging up the daffodil bulbs and making the peanut butter sandwiches. I will double-check our table requirements. I am going to figure out how to build temporary fencing for the pony rides. I am going to tell King Winter and Jack Frost that they must help hand out free CFLs as well as announce all the story times and the raffle drawing. And I will not forget trash bag liners. I'm in the last half of the marathon and I am not going to bonk.

I can do this. This Holiday Bazaar is going to ROCK.

Here are my knitted items to add to the RWS Craft Table ...

Patterns: Giant Jester Stocking and Chubby Stocking from Christmas Stockings
Yarn: O-Wool Classic
Needles: US 8s
Pattern Mods: The Giant Jester was fine until the toe. Here is N showing the stocking after I ripped out the toe. It was too tiny and looked ridiculous.

I actually ripped out all the way back to the gusset and decreased every 4 rows until the toe and then once every 4 rows and then every other row. With my gauge and yarn, it was more in proportion.

The Chubby Stocking was modified in that I used only two colors (using up stash my friends!) and I used a garter stitch instead of reverse stockinette.

I knit some Harry Potter Sweater ornaments from Charmed Knits. So delightful!! I'll be knitting more of these for family presents. I lost the ball band for the yarn -- it deeply discounted at The Yarn Lounge. Very scratchy and the dye came off in my hands. It was just fine for the ornaments. I'm sure I'll find the ball band as soon as I hit post ...

R felted some Cherry Tree Hill wool (they have just incredible colors) into ball ornaments.

And the BackBou and N worked hard to felt this beautiful Blue Bird ornament. Although the BackBou wanted to charge $200 for this, it will be sold for $3.50.

And don't forget those stocking ornaments from September that I knit ahead of time!

I am so ready.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Holiday Knits

I am one button band and 8 buttons away from having a completed Forecast, but I am too distracted by holiday knitting to settle down and finish it up.

I love December. We're a family that celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah and my birthday is the week before Christmas too. When you're the mom of small kids, you have a lot to do to pull it all off, between the shopping, baking, decorating, but for me, Christmas is not a chore at all. I love to decorate my home and make for a festive mood. I love that sense of excitement and anticipation, as do the return of beloved holiday traditions: decorating Christmas cookies, building a gingerbread house, cutting down the tree, opening the doors of the advent calendar every night before dinner.

I love doing the advent calendar, but have been ready to dispense with the 99 cent cardboard ones with the chocolates, mostly because the chocolate sucks. So I'd been on the lookout for a permanent, reusable one, but have rejected most that I have seen as too cutesy or too country or too juvenile for my taste. Until I saw this one from Garnet Hill, which was perfect!

I actually considered buying it, but decided to make it for several reasons. Besides knitting, I am not a crafty person, and cannot sew or paint or otherwise make things, but many of my most favorite holiday decorations have been handmade - the cross-stitched hand towel from Aunt Ruth, or the peg-doll ornaments from Aunt Kathleen. So I loved the idea of making a beloved family heirloom that also represents something special about me. I can customize it for our family, making a special one for my birthday on the 17th, and can include a nod to Hanukkah, by including blue and white in the color scheme. Besides, it is the perfect thing for using up leftover bits of yarn!

I have the first eight hats finished, except for the pom poms or embroidery. I am making things up as I go along, but both hats and mittens knit up in less than a hour. It's all going so quickly that I plan on finishing up Forecast before I knit any more!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Marigold Mitts

I am determined to warm the hands of all my friends and family. This makes the fourth pair of fingerless mitts I've knit this autumn!

Pattern: Fingerless Mitts by Ann Budd from Weekend Knitting
Yarn & Needles: Vermont Fibers Handspun Alpaca, US 9
Mods: None

This yarn should look familiar to you, Ann, since it was last summer's housewarming gift from you to me! And wow, Ann, this is some amazing stuff. The rustic texture of the yarn is the perfect thing for a garter stitch, and softness of the alpaca is a treat for the hands. This was my first experience in knitting with handspun, and I am officially hooked. I loved it.

But what intrigues me the most is that these are naturally dyed using marigolds and onion. Here's what the label says:

This yarn is made of fiber from Vermont's finest farms. It is hand processed and dyed with natural plant materials using traditional dye methods involving flowers, bark, lichens, and mushrooms.

Of course! I tried to describe the color to someone once, since it isn't a sunny yellow, or a mustardy yellow, or a greenish or brownish yellow. I should have explained that it is the color you would expect if yarn was dyed with marigolds and onion skins. This is exactly the color you'd imagine. Now I want yarn dyed from lichens. And mushrooms!

The tag also reveals that the yarn comes from an alpaca named Marigold! I love that! I have furiously searched online to learn more about this yarn, (and where I could get mushroom or lichen yarn) but it appears that having serious earth-cred also means having no online presence. Fiber Festival attendees and Vermonters, keep a sharp eye for Vermont Fibers from Plainfield, VT, and buy this yarn.

The individualness of the yarn made it especially hard to give these away, but while I love them, they are even more perfect for someone else who reads this blog. If she is at all paying attention, she'll notice right away that they match the scarf I made her last fall. And that they are super-natural and Earthy and green and eco-conscious, which might tweak this certain person's enthusiasm. And that having recently acquired a job that requires a commute, she might need some help in the handwarming department.*

* They're for my sister, my Favorite Person to Knit For, new commuter and all around enviro-woman.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Angel of Darkness Finished

There is not much to say about this project except I adore this yarn and I think Evelyn Clark is brilliant. First the project specs ...

Pattern: Angel Lace Shawl by Evelyn Clark
Yarn: Jo Sharp Alpaca Silk Georgette, Pewter
Needles: Knitpicks Options US6s
Finished size: 13 pattern repeats -- 63" wide and 30.5" deep
Notes: The yarn (40% Alpaca, 40% Merino, 20% Silk) is exquisite. I think it was just wonderful for this project (since I like a shawl that can provide a bit of warmth but have gorgeous drape). It was a joy to knit with, it just flowed perfectly. Wouldn't a snug fitting top knit with this be just luxurious?

The pattern is simple and fast to memorize as was my experience with the Leaf Lace Shawl. I was able to go from start to finish in 3 weeks with lots of other non-knitting things going on in my life. I think I want to knit an Evelyn Clark shawl at least once a year. It is just so gratifying.

My gauge was 6.5 spi so my finished shawl was larger than the pattern dictated. I used up about 4 skeins.

After I showed it off a bit here, I donated the shawl to Art 180 for its Art Karma Auction that happens on November 29th. Please tell your friends to come bid on this shawl! I'd love to have it bring in some money for this wonderful organization that brings art to children. I mean really, here in Virginia where standardized testing trumps all else, we need Art 180 desperately.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Prayer Quilt, Part Two

The quilt is finished. There will be a Blessing for the mother tonight where she will receive her gift from the school. She hopes to leave soon for Honduras in order to try some alternative treatments since the doctors here have nothing more to offer her. I hope that our intentions and prayers will help her in her journey.

The quilt was made with O-Wool Classic and knit on predominantly US 8s and 9s. The gauge for each square was wildly different, but adds to the dearness of the quilt.

The 1st graders (the mother's son's class), each knit a row or two in this square which is positioned so that it will rest over the mother's heart when she is wrapped in the quilt.

I do not know this woman personally, we only met once, but I was honored to be asked to work on this quilt. She is a tremendous woman and has touched so many lives in a positive way. I know that her spirit has touched mine. When I read a bit of this poem on Jen Lemen's blog, I thought of her ...

When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Three Things

1. My brother-in-law and his family's home survived the San Diego fires in tact. Their neighborhood is messy, but still standing, making them some of the lucky ones. They wisely left town for a planned trip to Chicago to get out of the smoky air and let things settle down, but should hopefully be getting back to normal soon. Thanks so much for your messages of concern and caring.

2. I made some kind of ugly socks. I love the yarn, I love the pattern, but the pooling! Ach! The pooling! I am pretty tolerant about pooling, but these socks pooled in a pretty ugly way.

I won't be frogging them, as they are innocuous enough when worn with jeans and shoes:
Hidden under jeans, tucked into the clogs.
Maybe an occasional flash of sock when the legs are crossed...

But, and prepare yourself here, when viewed on their own, you see what I mean. The slash of green across the foot. Ewww.


Pattern: Undulating Ribs by Ann Budd from Favorite Socks
Yarn: Claudia's Handpainted Yarns, Donna's Favorite
Needles: Addi Lace US 1.5/2.5mm

Notes: These socks were uneventful and simple, and the yarn is just wonderful to knit, but this is the perfect example of a really pretty, autumnally neutral colorway gone bad. Luckily, the ugly part is pretty much confined to the foot, so they are totally wearable with shoes. Thanks, Claudia's, for pooling where it won't be noticed!

This is my first time using Claudia's yarn, and I am really pleased so far. Of course, I'll have to see how they hold up to wear and washing, but I am really looking forward to using the other skeins I have in the stash.

3. Nova, I don't know whether to kiss you or curse you, but my family sincerely thanks you! That's some damn good pie.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Seasonal Forecast

This week has me thinking about seasons. The weirdly warm weather. The pitiful Eagles season. Wildfire season in Southern California has seen my dear brother-in-law and his family evacuated from their home, and the fires are frighteningly close. At this point, they believe their house is still there (the answering machine picked up!) but they have no idea when they will be able to return, and what conditions they and their neighbors in Rancho Bernardo will face.

For reasons beyond my understanding, my son calls any patterned sock I make him "Season Socks." When I knit him socks, I always use these printed Regias or Jawolls, which take only one ball for a little boy's feet. I finished these a few days ago, and he was so delighted to have another pair of Season Socks.

I know the calendar only ackowledges four seasons, but in our family, we have many seasons beyond the official four. Like Vermonters with their Mud Season in the Spring, we observe Nut Season in the Fall.

Every year, my husband haunts the produce departments of the grocery store, eagerly anticipating the return of the mixed, whole, in-the-shell nuts. From the end of October through January, The World's Ugliest Nut Bowl takes up permanent residence on our coffee table, and the couch is sprinkled with the leavings of his nightly nut-cracking sessions. With every nut he jauntily tosses into his maw, he is just in pure, hog heaven.

For a long time, I fought the nut bowl. It offended my sense of style, even though it was reproduced at Restoration Hardware. The nut dust everywhere drove me nuts (sorry), and my husband, for all his wonderful qualities, is not so good about the sweeping up. I purchased lovely nut bowl alternatives, rattan trays and little hand held vacuums to address the crumbles. But Mr S was attached to his vintage, bought-at-a-yard sale nut bowl. He really loved it! So, like lots of things as our marriage endures, I let it go. I embraced The Nut Bowl in all its messy glory into the family decor. I granted him total freedom from nagging and irritation as he enjoyed this simple pleasure, and we are both happier for it.

Last night, in celebration of the first night of Nut Season, we presented my husband with gift wrapped bag of mixed nuts inside, and after dinner, we conducted a taste test of all the different nuts (everyone seems to like filberts the best) and tried using all his different crackers. It made an ordinary Monday night feel like a celebration.

I couldn't help but think of my California family, leaving their home in the early morning, having been ordered to leave and immediately drive to safety. They took their family photos, their hard drive, their passports and insurance papers, blankies, teddy bears, all those irreplaceable things. They took my two nephews and drove to safety, leaving everything else behind. We're OK, they said. We have all that really matters. The rest of it is just stuff.

But as I fished the nut bowl out of the closet, I thought of all those other things, special things that you just couldn't save, for lack of time, space, and practicality. That nut bowl is a thing, yes, but it tells a small part of our love story for our children. It tells about compromise and accepting someone's quirks. Its about enjoying your spouse enjoying themselves. The nut bowl says something about who my husband is, someone who really likes his tacky stuff and doesn't care who thinks its tasteful.

My daughter and I regularly go up to my mom's attic and just root around up there. She loves to pick out books from my old collection of paperbacks, and she loves my old dolls. Even though I could just give her the whole lot, I let her pick just one each time. I love watching her look carefully at each one, carefully weighing which one she wants this time. It lets me relive each doll and its story, and she gets to learn something new about my life story each time.

I showed her my father's collection of goofy pants this weekend. She was so young when he died. She could see his holiday cords (you know, the pants with the turkeys embroidered on them? Penguins playing golf? Red lobsters on white chinos? My dad rocked them ALL!) and now, when she imagines her grandfather, she knows what kind of pants he wore. I got to tell her a little story about my dad, and I got to relive a cherished, happy memory.

I even found a poster that CurlyPurly made for me (check out the date) and she and I had a good laugh this week.
In my house, I have the clothes my kids wore home from the hospital. I have my husband's grandfather's kippah and tallit. I have my preserved wedding bouquet. I have a beautiful note my father wrote to my husband and a letter my daughter wrote to the tooth fairy. I have a painting my husband and I bought on our honeymoon from a street artist in Montmartre.

We all joke about saving our stash, but what about all these these things we lovingly knit? Our lace shawls? Our cashmere sweaters? Our handmade quilts or our heirloom linens? Is that just stuff?

So far, the news reports from California suggest that loss of human life has been gratefully minimal. And yes, it is just stuff. But as stashers, creators and collectors, we must not trivialize the monumental loss this represents. There are countless families that have lost their irreplaceable stuff, but they are holding onto each other, knowing that despite having lost everything, what really matters is each other.

I'm just deeply sad for all of them, and still fearful for my family out there. Please keep all the firefighters and families in Southern California in your hearts and prayers until these fires have been put out.