Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Living

We're born.  We live.  We die.

That's how I'm told it's supposed to work.  The cycle of life.

My father was born July 14, 1942.  He died October 15, 2010.  And, in between, he lived.

Now, I wasn't there for THE BEGINNING - he did have to get grown up and married and stuff before I came along, didn't he?

But I witnessed over 40 years of THE MIDDLE.  And I'm grateful.  I'm grateful to have known this man who really lived a life.  Every image I have of my father is an active image.  He worked hard.  He played hard.  He loved life, and it showed.

I remember many a time, as a child, waking up in the middle of the night to find him with work spread out all around him with some Coltrane or Miles Davis playing in the background.  My father (whose father was a jazz musician) loved jazz.  And soul, and funk, and classical, and rock.  He just loved music.  But, as with all things, he was not indiscriminate in his love.  It had to be good music.  Something to stimulate the mind and soul.

I will never forget the last time I saw my father dance.  It was at my brother's wedding in Hawaii just two years ago.  The man danced all night! With all the ladies.  And, as with everything he did, he looked good doing it.

Yes, my father was a handsome and stylish man.  He was super smart.  And charming.  All my life I was convinced he could do anything he set his mind to.  And I have seen nothing to disabuse me of that notion.  He was not as funny as he thought he was, but my father never ceased to entertain.  He was bitingly sarcastic, opinionated, stubborn.  No, really, this is all good stuff.

My father taught me to be curious.  To want to know why things are, and how things work.  He taught me to love the notion of a project.  I find that I can turn the simplest task into a full-blown project without much effort.  Thanks, Dad.

My father taught me to "work smart, not hard."  "Finish what you start" - okay, I didn't really internalize that one.  "Pick your battles."  And he taught me way more about mathematics than I ever wanted to know.

I am so thankful to have been a witness to, at least part of, my father's living.

And I'm grateful for being there at THE END.  My father had been suffering the assault of cancer for a few months.  He was diagnosed with stage IV cancer in August, and while we continued to hope and do the things they say you should do - vitality-sapping chemotherapy - we knew in September that he was not going to conquer this particular foe.  So, I spent a month with him in Utah during the time that he was still having "good" days.  I said "good-bye" to him then, while we could both still appreciate what was going on.  Then I, necessarily, returned to Atlanta.

When I returned to Utah, there had been no good days for a few weeks.  I entered the house to find him at the very end.  It was almost as if he were waiting for me.  I held his hand.  I thanked God, then asked Him to release Dad from suffering.  And I watched my father as he appeared to recede into his body, then release from it.

Dad, thank you for all the love.  We'll miss you.  Rest easy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Finally Done!

(Quite) some time ago, I blogged about the Inorganic Organic Knit-along of the Every Way Wrap.  Well, it's finally done!  I love this piece, but it sure was a long haul getting through it.  It's pretty easy, but a whooole lot of knitting.  Thank goodness the knit-along was "organic" - of the group, I'm only the second person to finish.  I can't wait to see what the other ladies' finished wraps look like (nudge, nudge).

Anyway,  here are the photos - with thanks to my super sassy, ever-joyful model, Cindy (of Lovin' Knit Studio in Marietta, GA).

Now, on to what's next.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


My father received another "get-well" card in the mail today.  The card read
"When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade!"

Sweet.  But, what do you make when life hands you stage IV cancer?  And it's all up in your gut.  And the pain is constant.  And you can't eat.  Or drink, even enough to wash down the 10 different pills that your doctor insists you take each day.  Some lemonade would be very welcome.  But it will just end up in the barf bucket that is constantly at your side.  

That's not to suggest that all of the sentiments - cards, calls, promises of prayer - are not appreciated.  They truly are.  I'm just highlighting that fact that it so difficult to know what to say in these situations.  Living here with Dad as he suffers through this evil thing (there, I said it: Cancer is evil), I'm finding myself knowing less and less what to say as the weeks wear on and he gets weaker and sicker and more frustrated.  

I don't want to say nothing.  That's not good.  But I don't want to be a nuisance by chatting him up too much.  I want to put a comforting hand on his shoulder when the  nausea racks him, and it seems that the next thing we're going to see in the bucket is a piece of some pretty useful organ.  But I don't want to cry in front of him (he doesn't allow it, anyway), so I often have to leave the room.  I want to be helpful, but I don't want to be patronizing.  I'm having trouble finding the balance.  So, I tread lightly, letting his wife handle most of the day to day stuff and just being here, at the ready, in case he needs anything.

K.N.I.T.  (because this is primarily a knitting blog)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Exhaling in Salt Lake City

Okay, maybe Utah is not all bad.  And maybe knitting for sanity is not all bullshit.

My dad was in the hospital again, for the third time in three weeks.  I had to drive down to Salt Lake City to take my cousin to the airport, so I decided I would take advantage of the free time and check out another SLC yarn shop.  When I picked her up from the airport almost a week ago, we visited Black Sheep Wool Company. It was small, serviceable shop.  But, nothing special.  I bought some beautiful balls of Mini Mochi to make some socks for my cousin.  And we left.

Fortunately, Black Sheep was not the end-all be-all of knit shops in Salt Lake City.  Blazing Needles (the name makes me want to "whip this thing out") is something special.  The shop is funky inside and out.  The house that is Blazing Needles sits on a corner in a pretty residential neighborhood.  There's cool fiber-related sculpture on the lawn and front porch.

As I entered I was immediately greeted by a friendly young woman who was eager to help me find what I needed, but content to answer some questions and let me browse after I told her I was an out-of-towner just trying to get a feel for the Salt Lake knitting scene.  The first thing I noticed inside was the large collection of yarns from Habu Textiles.  Just around the corner there was a full wall of Malabrigo of all types and another wall dedicated to the Cascade 220s - workhorse of all workhorse yarns.  At the back of the store there is a beautiful sun-filled room with a fireplace and French doors leading out to a lovely little garden.  There both the same young lady who greeted me and Cynthia, the shop's owner, offered water, coffee or iced tea.  So shweet!  And the yarns.  Beautiful luxury yarns.  Some handspun.  Some hand-dyed.  Tons of ShiBui!

There were a couple of women sitting around a big, beautiful farm table knitting and chatting.  Turns out they were also really friendly.  So, I decided to sit and knit a while.  Christy and Jane really made my day.  We talked about Utah - neither of them was a native.  Christy, who came to Utah 23 years ago, was originally from Seattle but had live for some time in Boston and North Carolina, and Jane was a fairly recent transplant from Austin.  We chatted about knitting, spinning, Christy's theory on the rudeness of Salt Lake drivers, the general lack of warmth of Utahns (particularly relative to Southerners), and, of course, sick parents.  And I was thankful for the company and the normalcy of it all.

So, maybe knitting for sanity in tough times is mostly bullshit.  But the comfort of the sisterhood of knitters is real.  Thanks for being there, Blazing Needles, Cynthia, Christy, and Jane.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Hate Utah

I know.  Sounds unfair.  I don't hate the people.  I don't hate "the Church."  I don't hate the treacherously beautiful desert and mountains.  I don't even hate the depressive pall that hangs heavy over the town I'm staying in.

My father has lived here for a few years now.  He moved to Utah to ski.  And ski he does - well over 100 days a year.  68 years old.  He's a machine.  Fittest of the fit.  He had invited me out to ski with him each of the past few years.  But I never had time.  I never had the money.  I just . . . never.

Well, now that my father has cancer, I'm finally here.  And I'm hating every minute of it.  I hate the fatigue, the weakness, the shortness of breath, the pain.  I hate the very modern, beautiful, award-winning medical facility carefully watched over by mountains.  The mountains are especially gorgeous between 8 and 8:15 pm when the setting sun gives the western face of the mountains a warm, pinkish hug goodnight.  Sometimes, for a moment during that time, I forget how much I hate Utah.  But just for a moment.  Then I remember the tubes, the monitors, the (wonderful) nurses, the fourteen pills he takes each morning.  In that moment, I forget the new gauntness of his face, his distended belly, his dry, pale hands and arms, and his, now, old-man shoulders.

But it's just a moment.  I brought plenty of knitting to Utah.  I knew it would help.  That it would distract me.  Help me swallow the tears that sit constantly, just in the bottom of my eyes.  Keeping my hands busy, focusing on something else.  Creating something.  I just knew this would keep me sane.  Hmph.  It's all bullshit.

I hate Utah.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Quick Promo

I have a friend who's mom is doing her thing in Loxahatchee, Florida.  Her thing is making beautiful jewelry from gold and stones.  I'm just giving her a little shout out, in the hopes that you will find the product of her passion as beautiful as I do.  

Visit her Etsy shop and show her some love!
Teal Paisley Jasper and Gold Long Wire Wrapped Necklace
Teal Paisley Jasper & Gold
Multi-Colored Gemstone & Gold

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On Knitting Socks

I'm feeling a little ambitious lately - knit-wise.  And I have a lot of time on my hands.  So, I've got a few projects going on, and I'm fixin' to start a couple more.

I just finished the Teddy Bear blanket.  It took much longer than I had planned, but I was in the process of relocating to another state during that one.  I am also still working on the Every Way Wrap.  It's an "organic" knit-along so, no rush there.

The Socks

Sunday Swing socks in some sort of Koigu
I have to say that I used to hate knitting socks.  I wasn't crazy about working with teeny-tiny needles and skinny yarn.  I really hated having to use 5 itty-bitty double-pointed needles to knit a little tube in the round.  Yes, I could have used just 4, but I preferred the symmetry of using 5. Either way, that's just too many needles. That little log cabin foundation came to be known by me as an instrument of torture.  So, a couple of pair of socks were knitted early in my knitting journey.  In fact I still have them to this day, and love pulling them on on a cold night or sporting them under boots.  But I took a looong break from sock knitting.  Just didn't get the appeal.

Some months ago, I finally decided to try the magic loop method of knitting in the round.  I love it.  So simple.  So genius.  No gaggle of pointy, little sticks.  And it makes it really easy to try on the socks as you knit.  A healthy relationship with sock knitting was born!  In fact, I've knit seven (or eight) pair of socks this year - including the ingenious Francie, Arch Shaped Sock, and yoga socks.

I even bought myself a couple of books about socks:

Toe-up Techniques for Hand-knit Socks
Janet Rehfeldt's Toe-up Techniques for Hand-knit Socks.  This is a great reference if you like to knit socks from the toe up.  Or if you want to learn how to do it.
So, I have a pair of toe-up socks in my own hand-dyed yarn on the needles.


The first sock was completed over a month ago, but I got distracted and haven't even started the second one yet.  I know I'm not the only one who does this.  Can I get a witness?  I know you're out there.

Anyway, they will be finished.  One day.  I think the problem is I'm not really crazy about them even though I really like the colourway and the super softness of the alpaca blend yarn.


 Sigh.  One day.

And Knitted Socks East and West . . . by Judy Sumner.
This book is really nifty.  The patterns are inspired by Japanese stitch patterns, with each sock bearing a Japanese-inspired name.  I have to admit that I have not actually knitted any of the socks found in this book - and I probably won't.  I like to keep things simple, and there's alot of fanciness going on in this book.  Really, I bought the book just for the stories and the photos of the socks.  They're all gorgeous.

I'm almost finished with the first of a pair of socks that I'm knitting in my own hand-dyed yarn.  I was just going to let the teal and magenta colourway do the work, but as I started knitting them, I thought they could use a little texture.
So, I added a couple of cable panels and a moss stitch column to the back of the sock.  I'm really digging these socks, but I'm pretty sure they're going to be a gift.

I also have a pair of Rebekkah Kerner's Vym socks on the needles.

I saw this pattern on Ravelry and was instantly moved to try some color work - something I have always been afraid to attempt because it looked like it involved a lot of work and more concentration than I was capable of.  

Also, I didn't like the idea of the associated "floats" on the wrong side of the work.  Philosopher's Wool's two-handed Fair Isle technique took care of that.  The result is a woven, floatless fabric. Fantastic!  

I never would have thought this could be so easy (of course, it's only two colors). 
Now, I'm imagining all sorts of color work in my future - including these Fiddle Head mittens.

Finally, I have some  Noro Kureyon Sock yarn that they were giving away at Knitch - in the Virginia-Highland area of Atlanta.

Okay, not exactly giving, but it was a steal - $20 for three skeins of yarn that ordinarily goes for $19 each.  I'm thinking that I should get started on my Christmas knitting.  Whether this sock yarn will actually become socks or something else remains to be seen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Knitting Along - Organically

The knit-along. A group of folks knitting the same thing. And comparing notes and stuff. It has always seemed a little keep-up-with-the-Joneses-y to me. And I find knitting to be a very personal thing. Do I really want to make the same thing as 5 or 10 or 20 of my closest friends? (FYI: that's funny because I call so few folks "friend".) At the same time?

Until recently my answer to that was, "Hell no." Until recently my only experience with kniting along had looked like this: my friend Dianne decides she wants to make something. She looks at the pattern and sees a chart.

Knotty Chart_150x150_p1
Chart for the Knotty glove - which we made

Because she cannot or will not read charts she says to me, "Let's make this." I look at the pattern and say, "Ooh, that's beautiful!" because it invariably is something really cool. "Okay!"

So we buy the yarn. We do our best to print the (hopefully) free pattern from the world wide interwebs (thank you again for this, Mr. Gore) because there is no better pattern than a free one - especially when you're unemployed. Then I figure out the pattern and explain it to her. Sometimes this means writing out the chart into words that she chooses to understand. But sometimes (breathe) it means sitting together for hours with me reading each line of the chart to her as we knit it. I'm sure this sounds much more fun that it actually is. Okay, maybe it doesn't sound fun at all. Which begs the question: "Why do you do it?" To which I can only answer: "She's the boss of me."

Back in June (or was it late May?) a group of us were at our regular Wednesday night knit-in at At Tangled Skein, and, on a whim, we decided to do a knit-along. But we wanted there to be no pressure. It was summer, afterall. That carefree season. We all already had multiple projects on our needles. And everyone was just busy with life.

The pattern we chose was Okmin Park's "Every Way Wrap" published in Interweave Knits' Fall 2009 issue.  The wrap is gorgeous.  The pattern is relatively easy. And the whole thing is reversible - which I really love in a cabled scarf - it really is just a giant scarf, isn't it?

So, we decided to make this an "organic" knit-along. Get started when you want. Finish when you want. Make all the mistakes you want. Don't fix 'em if you don't want. Feel the yarn. Feel the pattern. Feel the project. Feel the glow of the knitting sisterhood. Whoooo-saaaah . . .

Of course, it’s difficult to be completely organic when you’ve brought together a group of highly accomplished, perfectionist, knit-prolific women, so immediately we came up with some rules - or guidelines, if you will - that were made to be broken. The knit-a-long came to be known affectionately as the “Inorganic-Organic Knit-along.”

Every Way working
Every Way Wrap in progress 

We were, most of us, a little slow in getting started - which is just fine: organic - but once I wrote out the chart in words for Dianne and organically e-mailed it to the entire group, things really took off. Some of us were already nearly half done at that point. Many of us got started then. Some didn't. And that was okay.

Every Way working
This yarn is perfect for a nice, drapey wrap
Me, myself, personally, I am keeping it really organic. It will get done when it gets done. I’m not going to worry about the fact that I knitted the whole chart on the first repeat when I was supposed to stop at row 18. I didn’t even frog back, but rather just figured out a good row to start with to keep the pattern working. organic. It’s all good.

I may be about halfway done, but i’m not counting the chart repeats. I think there are supposed to be 16 total. But I'm just gonna keep on knitting until it’s the length my soul feels it should be. Organic.

Every Way working
My cable needle is getting a workout

I haven’t even thought about button choice yet. I figure that once my soul tells me I’m done, I’ll just saunter into an LYS - may this one, maybe not - with the wrap in hand and see which buttons it picks out. Organic.

Anywhoo, on with the wrap . . . or not . . . whatever.

Every Way working

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Teddy Bears and Munkies

So, my cousin's husband's daughter is having a baby. Yay! Sort of in the abstract, because I don't actually know her. But babies always merit a "yay."

My cousin asked me to make a blanket for said, unborn child. "I would love to! Are they having a boy or a girl?" I asked not because I would automatically make a cotton-candy-pink blanket for a little girl, or a baseball-on-a-summer-day-sky-blue one for a little boy. But, I would want the palette to reflect the gender somewhat, as with my moderne baby blanket - feminine, but not that's-what-little-girls-are-made-of girly.

"They don't know. They decided not to find out." Love it! That is so quaint. And so cool. I love the idea of having just one more thing to be uncertain about regarding the birth of one's child.

Afterall, the whole thing is kind of a crap shoot, isn't it? People often choose their mates with kids in mind. They wonder if the little ones will look like mom or dad? Whose sense of direction will they have? Will they be good in math like mom? Or gifted at the cello like dad?

"I love your honkin' schnoz!" she tells him as she plants a rough, playful kiss on the bulbous end of her man's nose - all the while silently, fervently, hoping that in the future she'll be planting butterfly kisses on little Emma's tiny version of her own button nose.

"Hmmm . . .," he muses not-aloud, "her feet would be great on a boy. He could do great tricks with two soccer balls at once, and they would really help his balance. But please, God, don't let my little girl end up wearing size 11 Birkenstocks."

So, what's one more thing? This does not mean, of course, that my cousin's husband's daughter and spouse are not planning. The nursery will be green and chocolate. Neutral. Hip. Chocolate brown - with pink, with yellow, with blue, with green - is all the rage in baby decor land.

Cousin wasn't sure what she wanted as far as design, so I scoured Ravelry and other internet sources for ideas for the blanket. There were lacey things and cables galore - you know, heirloom type stuff. Then there were the really cute things - baby motifs using ducks, sheep, teddy bears, monkeys - you name it. I, of course, was dying to do a monkey motif blanket, but Cousin went for the teddy bears. I had to keep reminding myself that I was just the knitter, not the mommy or even the gifter. So, I let the monkeys go, and embraced the teddy.

Teddy Blanket

The teddy motif I used came from Barbara Breiter's "Teddy Bear Merino 5 Baby Blanket" pattern. I added seed stitch borders between the teddy bear panels and finished with an applied i-cord border in the chocolate brown.

Teddy Blanket
See how it's done

I also knitted a single strand on US 9 needles, rather than the double strand on US 11s that the pattern calls for. This is a southern baby, and I didn't want the blanket to be too dense. Plus I love drape.

Teddy Blanket

The yarn, from Knit Picks, is a worsted weight cotton that is washable - let's make this easy on the new mommy and daddy. I was concerned about getting the color right. There are so many greens. So I picked the most neutral green I could find, in the hopes that it will work with the other stuff in the nursery.

Now, we wait. And hope, more than anything, that this new baby loves his/her blanket. Because that is, of course, the most important thing.

Teddy Blanket

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

East Berlin, PA

Yes, I know - it has been a very long time since I contributed to this blog.  And I'm probably taking the easy way out.  But I'm going to commence my return to blogging with a completely photo blog from a recent trip to The Mannings - knitting, spinning, and weaving mecca - in East Berlin, PA with a group of sister knitters - Sandra, Shelly, Dianne, Arthella, and Cici and Chelette of "2 sistahs knit together" blog fame.

The Mannings front porch

The Girls!

For the Birds

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Home Knits

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I typically don't do much fiber work during the summer months.  There, it's out.  This past summer, for instance, I did not knit or spin one single thing.  I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival in May.  Bought a bunch of fiber and yarn.  But I didn't work with any of it until September.  I say that I've been spinning yarn for a year but there was a good five months or so that my beloved wheel sat idle in a corner of my living room, glaring at me (in my mind) reproachfully.  There was one summer, years ago, that I did a fair amount of knitting (and teaching).  But I was in South Africa that summer.  And it was winter there.  It just fit.

In the summer I just want to be outside playing.  I am inspired to knit by the changing of the leaves, and the cool that sneaks into the air in autumn.  It's at this point that I start to think about hats, and scarves, and sweaters . . . and nesting.

Last year was the year of the hat for me.  This year is mostly the year of the handspun yarn, but I'm also feeling knitty-homey (I made that up).  If you search for "home knits" at Amazon, you'll find a bevy (I don't think that word is used enough) of books filled with nifty ideas for the home.  Years ago I purchased Erika Knight's "comforts of home" (that's right, no CAPS; the way I like it).  It's full of patterns for really simple knit items for the home.  I still love this book, in large part because the photos are really lovely.

Another favorite is the original "Mason Dixon Knitting" (ah, soon to be in paperback, I see).  This book contains a bunch of unabashedly country projects.  I love the felted boxes

and, of course, the moderne baby blanket. 

This year I started sewing.  I shared my first sewing project, which happened to be for the home.  And which also happened to be a knitting project, knit from my own handspun yarn.  Trifecta!  Nothing more satisfying (well, when it comes to fiber stuff, anyway - wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

The handspun, handknit, handsewn (well, parts of it) pillow experience was so cool, that I decided to give it another go.  The first pillow is for sale in my Etsy shop.  But this one is all mine.




Yup, that's suede(d fabric) on the back!  I love this pillow.  And it works so well with my other stuff.

And, then, there's the home spa.  Okay, the bathroom.  I'm pretty sure you can turn taking a shower into a special experience simply by crocheting some washcloths and calling them "exfoliating spa cloths."


These are made from a wonderful, scrubby little Elsebeth Lavold yarn called Bamboucle.  Each cloth (and the un-pictured bath mitt) used just under one ball (which I bought on super sale at A Tangled Skein - one of my favorite local yarn stores)  It also helps to use them with some all natural, organic, unscented body products like African black soap.
I buy this at a local African market for $5.99 a hunk (I'm not sure what else to call it).

For me that's at least a 2-month supply of soap that I use for body, face, and hair.  That's right - hair.  I can't remember the last time I bought shampoo.  I love this stuff.  It gets me super clean without leaving me feeling stripped.  Of course I do like to follow up with a slathering of shea butter - also bought at the local market on the cheap.  Both are said to have healing properties for all types of skin ailments.  Ah, the healing wisdom of Africa!

Anyhoo, I'm trying to decide what my home needs next.  I'm thinking some sort of throw.  We'll see . . .


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