Friday, August 30, 2013

Distraction

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The latest hat in my current series, entitled “Striped Hats:  Somebody Will Like Them”.  Looking at this, I worry about it sitting in a heap somewhere, picked over and disdained in favor of something store-bought.  I get too attached.  But, as Carolyn always says, somebody will like it, and somebody will love that it’s striped.  The pattern for this one is so easy—here it is:  Cast on 80 (I’m using chunky yarn) on a 16” circular needle, US size 9.  Work three garter ridges, or however many you want for a sufficient edging.  Switch to stockinette stitch and work in the round until when you try it on, the hole at the top is past the top of your head.  Make stripes as you please, or not, whatever.  Then begin decreasing as follows:  knit 8, knit 2 together.  Repeat, around.  Knit one round plain.  Next round:  knit 7, k2tog, around.  Knit one plain round.  And so on, decreasing in this fashion and changing to double pointed needles when it becomes necessary, until you have 16 stitches left.  Knit two together, around—8 stitches left.  K2tog, around—4 stitches left.  Cut yarn, run the tail through the remaining four loops, and weave in the ends.  Done. 

I knit frantically, in an attempt to distract myself from worrying about my poor, busted sewing machine, which came back from the repair shop not fixed.  You know how when they shut off the water to flush the hydrants or whatever, suddenly all you want is to take a bath?  You’d do anything for a bath?  You find yourself heating water in pots on the stove and hauling it to the tub like an old pioneer lady?  I caught myself wondering if I should go ahead and finish piecing this quilt by hand. 

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I could probably build a functioning sewing machine out of twigs from the yard in the time it would take me to piece this by hand, but the thought did cross my mind. 

Instead, I polished some silverware, and worried about Miss Kastner.  I found these and a whole bunch more like them in a wet ziploc bag at a yard sale for two bucks. I know, right? That little fork might be perfect for this.

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I did one time piece a bunch of quilt squares by hand, a Drunkard’s Path in black and cream, dang, that thing was pretty, and I can remember taking the workbasket on a camping trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and sitting beside the campfire stitching away on it.  It felt like the exact right thing to be doing.  I wanted to bake cornbread and smoke a pipe as Dean played the harmonica.  Somehow, away from the woods, that project got tabled, and now I can’t find it.  Don’t you hate it when that happens?  Somewhere out there in the storage bins is an almost-finished Drunkard’s Path quilt top, hand-pieced by me in the mountains of North Carolina.  If I weren’t so skeered of the snake, I might go look for it. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Color Two

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The Interminable, I mean, The Amazing Seed Stitch Wrap has reached a milestone:  the second color.  I thought this day would never come.  I can’t even think about the end of this insane project, because it is so far in the future as to be a teensy speck at the very distant and dark edge of the known universe.  I have knit 600 yards of seed stitch, in laceweight, and the thing has barely begun.  This light pink (Athena 100% Merino in color 202) is only the second color of, what, nine?  You want a project of such boring enormity that you will test the limits of your own ability to withstand ennui?  Friends, I am telling you, this is it.  I am enjoying knitting this on the same level one enjoys training for marathons or canning a hundred pounds of peaches.  That is, with a weird kind of peaceful and resigned happy suffering.  I panicked briefly when, upon joining the first row of the new pink to the last row of the old one (JaggerSpun Zephyr Silk/Wool) I noticed it was only about half as thick, was really about as thick as sewing thread for crying out loud, and as I considered banging my head on the table in despair, my dear friend Carolyn rescued me and suggested doubling up the new yarn.  Of course, it worked beautifully.  That’s not the first time she’s bailed me out, either.  Once, I broke the tip off one of my gorgeous vintage plastic straight needles, and before I could even finish my gasp of misery, she said, “Just put that in the pencil sharpener.”  I hope you all have a Carolyn, everybody needs one. 

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I am still abundant with hats, too.  One of these days, I’m going to find a willing human with a head and photograph all these hats for you. That’ll be a long post, whoo. Watch for it. These hats are what I do while we laze around watching American Pickers.  Finally, finally, there is some lazing around.  The past four months have been so jam-packed with (wonderful, happy) things to do that it feels like I have not had two spare minutes until now, and I see the leaves are starting to turn already, there are apples at the farm stand, and where did the time go?  Whatever happened with the cicadas?  I didn’t see them, did I miss it?   What a weird summer. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Granny Square Scarf and tomatoes

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We’re having a burst of summer weather here in my neighborhood and it is hot already today, even early this morning.  Nevertheless, I am making scarves and hats—really, why not?--and this one, this scarf, makes me feel as though I have hit upon it.  This is the scarf I want to wear, this is the one.  It might not work in the deep and frigid misery that is January in New York, but for those first really cold days, which will be here before long, this is perfect.  It’s colorful and crafty and granny-ish, and I love it so much.  It looks like me. 

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Even though I am mostly down to nothing, scrap-wise, I do still have a lot of yarn in the cupboard, so when I chanced on the prettiest granny square scarf ever, there was nothing to stop me from immediately sitting down and starting.  Which, honestly, is the biggest reason I ever get anything done.  If I already have all the stuff to make something, I’ll be making it right now, you bet.  Which is why I always have a ton of projects lying around half-finished.  I am so seduced by possibilities. 

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The yarns I used, mostly artifacts from the Great 70% Off Sale of 2012,  are Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in olive (340025), Debbie Bliss Rialto DK in dark orange (23032), Sublime Baby Cashmerino Silk DK in light orange (0219) and purple (0217), Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in light blue (ball band gone), a scrap of KnitPicks Comfy in light pink, and a teeny bit of yellow cotton something or other that I thrifted somewhere and can’t identify.  Oh, and the last round of each square and edging is Jo Sharp Soho Summer DK Cotton in pearl gray.  I used a US F hook for the whole thing.  There are ten squares of eight rounds, and I joined them as I went, using this method, which gave it a nice drape.  I added a round of single crochet all the way around, and then finished it with a row of shells at each end.

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Along with apples and bonfires and hot cider, a thing like this helps take the sting out of the end of summer.   Until then, I’ll just be over here, sweating.  And putting trays of Roma tomatoes into the oven for a sloooow roast, oh my goodness, have you tried this?  I cut the tomatoes in half (or in chunks if the tomatoes are big) spread them on a cookie sheet, dosing them generously with olive oil and salt.  They go into a 200 F oven for about eight to ten hours, until they are like tomato raisins, still soft, but shriveled and small, and absolutely teeming with flavor.  They are, in a way, reduced to their essence, and oh boy, their essence is something else, something wonderful you will want to just plop onto a piece of sourdough bread and devour.  Whatever doesn’t get eaten immediately goes into a big glass jar, and I sprinkle them with more salt, and cover them with oil, and refrigerate or freeze them until I’m ready to make sauce.  Try it, you will not believe how good your kitchen smells. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Scarf

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I don’t know what took me so long to get around to making a granny square scarf.  I love grannies so much, it seems like it would have jumped to the front before this, but anyway, oh my.  A granny square scarf.  Most satisfying.  More satisfying by far than the still-discombobulated sewing machine, which is defying all logic and thwarting even the most mechanically-minded among my tribe, and which is therefore going to visit the professional repairman this week.  Must crochet medicinally.  More scarves.  Yes, that’s the ticket. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Chevron Skirt, v 2.0

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As I said, I ran out of yarn.  With two rows left, I ran out, but the end of knitting this skirt is at the inside of the back waistband, so I improvised with something vaguely similar and called it good enough.  Nobody but me (well, and now you) will ever know. 

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I put it on, gave Dean the camera, and went out into the yard. 

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I always tell him that his job is to take photos of the project, not photos of me.  He is so good at literally everything, and thus, as usual, I like his pictures of the thing I made so much better than I like the project itself. 

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I also always tell him to make sure my bum doesn’t look too big, but there’s only so much a man can do. 

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This is my second crack at this pattern, shortened a lot this time, and with the stripe pattern improvised to accommodate my brown and gray leftovers.  The main color is one skein of Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool in oatmeal or natural or whatever, leftover from this.  If I’d added one more brown stripe somewhere, I wouldn’t have run out, but it didn’t matter in the end.  With boots and tights, I think this skirt will end up being kind of a uniform for fall and winter.  One of those wardrobe essentials you don’t even have to think about, because it goes with everything.  I love that. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

So Close

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I know it’s only August and so maybe this is wishful thinking on my part, but it sure does feel like Fall.  There is a certain tang in the air, a certain slant of the light.  A crispness, I suppose.  The apples are ripening.  The evenings are chilly.  I want to wear this skirt, I want it bad.  I worked on it this morning, beside the open window, watching a rabbit eat my tomatoes frolic in the garden. There was hot coffee, and carrot cake for breakfast.  The sky was a cloudless blue.  Life was good.  I noticed the yarn was running out.

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And then it did. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mechanics

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A long time ago, maybe 1988, we had a beat-up 1969 Volkswagen minibus.  It was (mostly) orange, with a green shag interior and no back seats.  Copious rust.  No heat.  A total hippie van, built for partying camping.  The whole thing was kind of rigged; as I recall, the brake lights were activated by a hand button on the steering wheel, and you had to park on a hill and then crawl underneath it with a screwdriver in order to get it started again.   

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The van’s name was Otis, which sprang forth in some moment of beer-infused poetic clarity from something Janis Joplin said once, which I can’t actually remember anymore.  We thought it was pretty clever at the time.  

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Otis needed to have some work done on his heads (cars have heads, did you know that?) and because we were in college and flat broke and everything, Dean opened up a greasy repair manual and delved into the engine himself, taking the entire contents of Otis and strewing them into a bunch of boxes in the garage.  I despaired when I saw that, because it looked to me like he had taken something that seemed to be a car and turned it into a bunch of useless junk.  But lo, he is in fact a genius, and in short order had reassembled Otis' innards and while you still had to start the thing by crawling up underneath the chassis with a screwdriver, Otis did chirp to life and function again.   A miracle.  Also, that’s when I sort of realized Dean would be a capable solver of all kinds of problems I hadn’t even thought up yet, problems of the grubby and of the household repair and of the otherwise expensive.  He was a keeper.

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In fact, after his total dissection and bionic rebuild, Otis was as good as new—well, as good as he’d been when we paid $900 for him in 1988, anyway.  I still had to defrost the inside of the windshield with a portable hairdryer plugged into the cigarette lighter, but that’s how you build character.  A few years later, Otis met his end when he burst into flames as we were driving down the road.  Good times. 

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Anyway, I mention this because my vintage Singer Slant-o-Matic, the beautiful Miss Kastner, is about to undergo the same treatment.  It is time for somebody to take her apart and see what’s wrong.  Her bobbin tension is in a bad way, nothing is working, and as you can see, I’m trying to make a quilt.  Cross your fingers for her, and let us hope she doesn’t burst into flames.