Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The sock goes to camp

Since my last post, I finally got a chance to go camping. Over Memorial Day weekend, Caroline and I went to Ft. Custer with my brother and his family.

It was cold.

And I got to spend some quality time in the shower house with about 75 new friends. We were invited there by the tornado warning on Sunday.

The sock was shocked when we got back to the camper. And grateful that socks are not required attire for wading back into your campsite.

The sock and its mate were finished during this trip, and delivered to their new owner, who has assured them that they will never, ever have to go camping again. His idea of roughing it is a three-star hotel.
During the camping trip, my dear sister-in-law Dorsey took a break from knitting to crochet a scarf. Although I've never really taken to the process of crochet, the speed factor is certainly attractive. She finished the scarf in a day-and-a-half --

and then she gave it to me!!!

As my friend, the aforementioned sock recipient, would say, "She's the bestest!"

Next post -- new sock, warmer weather.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New York, New York ...

After the last few weeks, I really needed a break.
A change of scenery ....

And familiar faces ...I spent a few days in New York, visiting my sister and my son -- both of whom work and live there.

My travelling companion was, with a nod to Stephanie, the sock. The sock is a gift in progress for a friend who had foot surgery. What better celebration of recovery than handknit socks, right?

The sock enjoyed the sleeping compartment on the train ...
And brunch at The Farm on Adderley. The chocolate brioche with butter and sea salt was amazing and the Bloody Marys were the best I've ever had.

I dragged the sock to the Poetry House in Battery Park. For a word nerd, it is like a trip to Paradise. Books, journals, tapes, CDs -- all poetry, all the time.

The sock lit a candle at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

But wisely stayed far from the flame.

It walked across the Brooklyn Bridge -- with a little help.

And it found its dream bicycle parked under the bridge.

The sock visited yarny kin at La Casita and Knitty City. There was only one purchase, some gorgeous lace-weight in shades of red. Destined for a shawl, just have no idea which one.

And while the sock rested in its knitting bag, and I walked around a chilly New York in the sweater I'd made my brother 17 years ago, Cecelia and I remembered him with tears and with laughter. We talked about how family bonds are reconfigured around a gaping hole. We celebrated having each other and having time together.

We reminded ourselves that love really can see us through.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Knitting Memories

Thank you to those who wrote or posted comments to express sympathy on the death of my brother. It is much appreciated.

This has been a week of memories, some of them related to knitting.

At my brother's funeral, his partner gave me a bag that contained almost everything my brother owned -- a stuffed toy soldier my grandmother made him when he was 2, an afghan my mother had crocheted, and this --

an Aran cardigan I knitted 17 years ago.

He loved it, wore it often at his office and took really good care of it. It was in close-to-perfect shape -- after a quick bath in Eucalan, I've worn it twice.

It moved me to realize that a man who'd lost almost everything, who'd been through bankruptcy twice, who was living a life tormented by addiction and had few possessions kept these three handmade things. It speaks to me of the power of emotion and memory that can attach to the things we create.

When I look at this sweater, I remember what was going on in my life when I knitted it -- at that time, knitting was my refuge. I would stay up half the night knitting -- everything from a stuffed jellyfish for my daughter's kindergarten "under the sea" project to a knitted snapping turtle for my son's nature studies homework. Anything to keep my hands busy and my mind off the husband passed out in the next room, and the rum bottles hidden around the house.

It sounds as if this sweater should call up a host of bad memories, but it doesn't. When I see it, or wear it, what I remember most is the pleasure the knitting gave me more than the pain I was trying to escape.

Some knitting memories are simply happy -- no angst, no hidden sorrow. A couple of weeks ago, my nephew sent me a text message with this photo -- he was cleaning out his baby things. Or as he calls it, his "box of repressed memories." This is the very first sweater I ever knitted. It was from Vogue Knitting's premiere issue and I thought it was adorable. I still do.

But I'm glad the photo is taken from far enough away that I can't see the finishing. I'd probably want to take it apart and reseam everything.

As he prepares for his wedding, it makes me smile to think a child of his may wear this some day.

Also as promised, here is Mr. Greenjeans, which went from this --

to this --

This is one of those very few patterns that I know I'll be knitting again. Next time in wool, with long sleeves instead of bracelet length -- and a full complement of buttons instead of a single.

I wonder if I'll always look at this sweater and remember that I was finishing it on the day I got the phone call my brother had taken his own life. I hope that instead I remember better times -- when we were happy and life was filled with promise.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Today, I had planned to post something about Mr. Greenjeans. It's finished, it's blocked, it's lovely.

But I don't really care. Today, I received news that my brother David died during the night. Since my mother died a couple of years ago, David has been a lost soul. He attempted to soothe his hurts with alcohol and medications. Sadly, they are the things that took his life last night.

At one point, David and I talked every day. Although he's been in his own world for a while, I will miss him every single day.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Remember this?

We are almost there --

I have about 3/4 of a sleeve left to do before Easter. Because of course, for Easter I want to wear something springy -- like the cotton/silk blend of this yarn

But when I woke up this morning --

I wondered whether I need to dig Mom's fur coat out of the back of the closet instead.

I'm trying to keep a hopeful thought:


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April is Poetry Month

And so ... a poem about spinning --

A Spinner's List
The old woman whispers -- come to me
and I will tach you to make magic,
cast the spells of Gideon and Arachne.
She folds my fingers around a stick
of warm basswood with a maple whorl
and slides wool across my palm,
shows me how to draft each curl
into a feathered fan, and feel the balm
of thick fragrant grease
and breathe the incense of lanolin.
I flick the spindle and release
the fragile fibers into thin
air, where they embrace emptiness and make it whole.
Now, she murmurs, chant the spell --
qiviut, bombyx, tussah, merino,
rambouillet, jacob huacaya, suri.
She whispers again, be slow --
the spider at her web does not hurry.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wonderful weekend

There was a meeting of the Spinner's Flock --

I hadn't been there in a long time. I mean, a reaaallly long time. I was warmly welcomed -- and I got to show off my Irish Diamonds shawl during show and tell. The group is growing --we're at member number 800 and something.

And yesterday, it was 82 degrees. It was short-lived, but gave me hope that yes, indeed, somewhere out there is spring.

I'll know it's
really spring when there is a sighting of these --

fleece fair 031 by spinknitty

But best of all, I had both of these in my house this weekend --

Doesn't get better than that.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Not my grandmother's knitting

My grandmother didn't knit. But she did sew. If there was a scrap of fabric lying around, Grandma made into something beautiful or useful, or both. My Skipper doll (Mom didn't believe in Barbie) had the best outfits in the neighborhood. My favorite was her fully-lined red wool suit with bracelet-length sleeves -- it would have done Coco Chanel proud.

I think of my grandmother a lot around Easter -- a time of year that usually meant a new outfit from her Singer. I still have a few of the dresses, and a gorgeous designer suit. My daughter wore them on her own Easters, and, like my mother before me, all I had to provide was the round hat and patent-leather shoes.

I am sure my grandmother would have been thrilled if I had learned to sew. She tried -- but I was not only abysmally untalented with a needle -- I also loathed it. As a mother, I made sure my kids learned early how to sew on buttons, mostly so I could avoid it myself.

But mostly, Grandma was a maker. She took next-to-nothing and made it spectacularly "something." And she encouraged me to find my own way to be a maker too.

When I saw a neighbor girl knitting, and thought I'd like to give it a try, Grandma got me needles, cool flecked yarn, a pattern for two -needle mittens and a little workbag.

She knew enough to show me a backward-loop cast-on and the basic knit and purl stitches. And she knew enough not to nag me about my little project.

I didn't finish the mittens -- and I don't know what happened to them. I didn't take up knitting again for 20 years, when books taught me all the techniques and tricks my grandmother didn't know. And then you couldn't stop me from making things -- baby sweaters, Christmas stockings, Aran sweaters, intarsia, lace -- even the top to my wedding dress.

So, my grandmother didn't exactly teach me how to knit ...

But I still have at least one of the needles she gave me

and the pattern book -- somewhere.

and have acquired the love of making things that my grandmother passed on as her legacy.

For that, I am forever in her debt.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Starting over in the frog pond

I spent most of yesterday turning this, the Mirage pullover from More Big Girl Knits,

into this

and then this

and finally this

Now, it is becoming Mr. Greenjeans.

When I began the Mirage, I weighed 30 pounds more than I do today, so I knew it was no longer going to fit the way I'd originally envisioned. Not that that is a bad thing, you understand.

As the swift was spinning, and the sweater was raveling at my feet, Scott asked me if I had regrets about all those hours of work being undone.

Yes and no. I'm sorry to lose the work -- it does feel a bit as if it's time wasted. But I learned something from the process and I'm fired up with the vision for Mr. Greenjeans, so I'm looking ahead more than looking back.

I've done that a lot, I realized. With education, with work, with marriage. Once upon a time, I began each of those things with a vision for the finished product, the happy ending. Eventually, though, I looked at them and realized, "That just doesn't fit right." I pulled the loose thread and raveled. And then made something new -- I went back to school, I got a new job, I met Scott. I learned to take nothing in my new life for granted -- having experienced the worst, I am grateful every day for the best.

I had a vision for this sweater when I began. I knew what pants to pair with it, what jewelry I would wear. I could see myself wearing it. Then I couldn't.

Now I am imagining a new sweater--can't wait to try it on!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A yarn about yarn

Irish Diamonds is finished.

And it's huge.

It's more like a cape than a shawl. I think I love it.

I made this from Bartlettyarns 2-ply fisherman's wool in Blackberry. It's not the recommended yarn for this pattern. And it's not what I originally intended to make from the yarn. My plan was to knit an Aran sweater -- a twin to the one I made my brother almost 20 years ago, during the summer I really became a knitter.

My 3-year-old son and I had gone to a cottage in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. It belonged to my ex's aunt, and she wasn't using it that year. So we were blessed with a free stay in a home overlooking Boothbay Harbor, on a balsam-covered island, during a summer that was, at least in my memory, sunny every day.

My ex was supposed to join us after two weeks, and then we'd drive home together.

He "forgot" to get his plane ticket.

Which meant I had 11 weeks alone in Maine with a 3-year-old, no TV to speak of, and not enough to read.

But there was a yarn store in town. All she sold was Bartlettyarn from Harmony, Maine. It may not have been the softest, but it came in heathery colors and still smelled a little like sheep. Somehow, it went with the rocky coast. I bought enough to make a sweater from Maine Island Kids. It had a little sailboat and some fir trees on it.

Then I made two more -- with apple orchards and chickens.

I made a Christmas stocking for a new nephew.

I made a sweater with intarsia loons on the front for my then-husband. The irony does not escape me.

Then I began the Aran sweater.

It was for my brother, who was my best friend. He came to visit me in Maine and we shopped for just the right pattern. He wanted a cardigan, no collar, and classic creamy wool. The Bartlettyarn was perfect for this project, and the yarn store owner had the perfect, out-of-print pattern, which she gave me.

I cast on that summer, and knit about half of it -- but then life and other, smaller sweaters got in the way.

When I finally picked it up again, the pattern was gone -- tossed in the trash by my then-husband. I was not as yet proficient enough to carry on without a clear map, and thought I'd have to rip back. But, amazingly, I found the pattern in a tiny, old yarn store in Tecumseh.

I finished the sweater just in time for Christmas that year. My brother loved it, took it to work, and wore it often.

A couple of years ago, I was on a fiber and winery tour in the Fingerlakes region of New York and bought this yarn. I planned to make the exact same sweater as my brother's.

Then life intervened again. My mother died. My brother, who had struggled with alcohol for a long time, gave into grief in the most destructive ways. He survived, but our relationship has not. He no longer speaks to any of us, least of all to me.

When I picked up knitting again, I knew I wanted to do something with this yarn. It reminds me of when I first learned to knit. It is simple and warm and its smell takes me back to long quiet evenings in Maine -- when I knitted while my son slept.

I didn't have the heart to make the Aran, though -- and so I chose something else. I wanted to keep the Irish theme, and I wanted something warm enough for chilly Michigan or perhaps for visits to Maine. I also wanted something that would wrap around me like the hugs I miss from the people I have lost.

This will have to do.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mildly annoyed

I am almost finished with Irish Diamonds. I'll post photos tomorrow or the next day.

And there are things about this yarn I really love -- mostly having to do with the memories it holds -- more about that tomorrow or the next day as well.

But there is one thing about it that really irks me --

This skein alone has had at least four.

I have had a lot of practice untying them and grafting the yarn with the "Russian join." My mouth is getting dry.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A time for fiber fun

Friday, I drove to Grand Rapids to see my daughter's play. We stayed up until 2 a.m. talking, and then I hit the road at 7 a.m. so that I could get home in time to go to the Black Swamp Spinners Guild fiber event.

Scott chatted with the people who make spinning wheels and spindles.

I chatted with fiber and yarn.

Briar Rose was there --

I managed to resist the temptation at their booth, but I did buy a couple of skeins for felted slippers from Amazing Grace FarmsThey had other stuff, too --

I could not resist some gorgeous English Angora fiber from Prissy --one of Jan Vandenhout's lovely bunnies:

And what about the shawl?
I knitted in my hotel room before my daughter's play, and afterward, while we talked.
I knitted while Scott drove us to Bowling Green for the fiber fest.
I knitted last night.
I knitted this morning.

I started promising myself little rewards for completing a row -- like a couple of these:
or a trip to the bathroom.

I am on the last patterning row, followed by two rows of stockinette, an eyelet row, two more rows of stockinette, and then 12 rows of garter stitch -- which I am referring to as the Bataan Death March edging.

While knitting, I've been singing --
"This is the shawl that never ends; it goes on and on my friends;
some knitter started knitting it, not knowing what it was, and she'll continue knitting it forever
just because
this is the shawl that never ends ..."

You know the tune -- feel free to sing along.