Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holiday

 

Secret knitting! I don't know how other people do this. He's always with me, which is exactly how I want to spend my days, but it means anything I knit for him has to be done frantically, on the sly, in the car in the parking lot at Starbucks. I don't mind it, and I love to knit for him, especially when he's going to look so good in the finished garment--dang, he's handsome:

...and this is a particularly good pattern, too. This is Brownstone, by Jared at Brooklyn Tweed. If you're knitting for a man and you want something well-fitted and stylish and manly, you really can't go wrong with BT. I made it without modifications, in Brown Heather Fisherman's Wool, purchased in a last-ditch panic as they were practically locking the door behind me at the yarn shop. The holiday knitting always sneaks up on me, I'm not sure why. It's not like I don't know which day it happens every year.

My beautiful daughter and handsome son and lovely mama all made their separate ways to me here in NY, and we got out all the cameras, because I realized recently that there were literally no photos at all of the four of us--the girl, the boy, the doc and me--in existence anywhere, other than the selfie we took with somebody's phone the day we took the girl to Hogwarts in 2009, and she was making fish lips in that one, and we were all crying and soggy-faced in it. We tried a bunch of different poses, stood over here beside that thing, and over there next to that shrubbery, and smiled and it was weird, until we just went ahead and took a family selfie, and suddenly everyone became themselves. We can't be serious around here. It is not our way.

Christmas Eve was warm and beautiful, and the sky turned pink and magic around the almost-full moon.

 
We lit candles and made egg nog and watched Elf and talked late into the starry night. I wish you all peace and love and joy. Thank you for being here with me. It means more than I can say. xoxo

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Medicine

 

Efforts to contain the yarn scraps have broken down. Things are out of hand. Also, I am a little bit sick of knitting right now, and wow, you guys, did you know that crochet is FAST? Seriously, this is a highly rewarding rabbit hole to fall down on a Saturday. This use-up-the-scraps scarf is appearing out of nowhere. I do love that about crochet. It's having a medicinal effect on me too, actually, being that I started it in an almost blind panic over worrying about the catdog...

...who is home from the hospital now and feeling more herself, after having eaten almost an entire POUND (gulp) of chocolate from underneath the christmas tree. Oh my goodness. There was a treacherous, hour-long, chocolate vomit-scented race to the doggie Emergency Room, followed by hospitalization and pacing and then me giving the doggie hospital all my nickels in eternal gratitude for having kept my beautiful catdog alive while the poison worked its way through her. She is now--how to describe this--looking a little road-weary, and a fair bit wiser around the eyes. Slightly blackened at the back end. Hungover. And you should see ME. [Gray and wasted-looking. Unwashed, sleep deprived, and burnt. Two blackened holes in a blanket, as my daddy would have said. Nap is imminent.] The need for something soothing and easy and very gently engaging was tremendous; thus, this scrappy scarf project. Sc, ch1, repeat. Change colors now and then. Weave in an end. Breathe. Keep going.

I doubt I'll be wanting to eat any chocolate any time soon, which is fine, because I have banned it from the house. Sweet, gorgeous Catdog. I'm so sorry. I love you so. Crochet, crochet, crochet.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Charms and Layers

 

Trending: Long chains, decked out with charms. Also, layering. The doctor said, "I know what you're doing there. You're layering your jewelry." If even he knows it's called layering, then it's a thing, ya'll. This appeals to me, all the charms and layers. It reminds me of my high school BFF, who has already done everything cool, way before anybody else even thought of it--she was layering and charming back in 1986, wearing all her jewelry all at once, even in gym class, letting it get all tangled up; she had moxie, let me tell you.

So last night I got out the beads and the pliers and the wire and the jump rings and with much squinting in the darkness [we are turning on the lamps at 12:30 here right now. Mr. Golden Sun, pleeeease shine down on me?] and spent an hour making all these. I used two gray pearls, a couple mother-of-pearl things, and that teardrop-shaped gem at the bottom, which may or may not be a Labradorite--Ethel, who is my handy gemstone expert, was not sure. It is gray-green, with black flecks and flashes of iridescence. It looks like something that might have magical properties.

It looks moody, like the sky outside the window. Trying to light up, a little bit, but ultimately gray and murky.

Don't you love it when things turn out just like you hoped they would, and you have all the right materials and you can even find them all without an extensive search, and nothing breaks or fails or anything? When it all hangs together just right, on the first try, which almost never happens? Oh, how I love that.

 

 

Monday, December 7, 2015

I Do Like This Hat. Really.

 

Maybe this is one of those things that would have been better off just disappearing into the trash. It does, I have to admit, give me more than one pang of regret just to look at it. I was sitting around last week, trying to wear my striped, faux-Milano, and it was bumming me out. It was too big in every direction, and was particularly saggy at the yoke, which is my personal albatross. Ach, the yokes, how I struggle. Anyway, it was accentuating the negative, if you know what I mean. I was feeling bad about it, feeling saggy inside and out, and the feeling made me bold, and itchy to toss it in the washing machine--just for a little while, right?--because I knew a couple things were true: I didn't like the finished pullover the way it was, and I wasn't going to wear it again. I had not the heart to rip it out a third time and knit it all up again [fingering weight yarn! Very small needles! Math!] and I just believed in my heart that a tiny bit of felting would save it. Hubris? Desperation? Self-destruction? I threw all caution to the wind and chucked it into the washing machine, and as I'm sure you've predicted, "just for a minute" turned into a few too many minutes, and by the time I thought about it again, it was too late.

Economics: I keep having to remind myself not to fall victim to the Sunk Cost Fallacy which in yarn-related terms means that a lot of time spent knitting something does not mean that more time must be spent continuing to knit it, and that just because I invested materials, money, and time in a project does not mean I have to keep ripping back and tinkering with something that isn't working, thus investing more, and that sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on. Thus I really wanted to just throw the misshapen and felted end result of this compounding disaster into the dumpster and forget about it, but I decided to make one last-ditch effort at salvage. I had to stop thinking of the pullover in terms of the costs I had already sunk into it. I had to see it only for what it currently was: a colorful, striped, piece of felt; raw materials. Well, that's something I like!

You may be surprised to hear that I would much rather wear this goofy little hat than I would the baggy and unflattering striped pullover it used to be. Naturally I could have just knit the hat in a day or two and saved a lot of time, money and angst, but that's not the way it went, and that's okay. I could have donated the (pre-felted) garment to the thrift store, but if I don't think it's wearable, why would somebody else? I loved knitting the sweater, which of course has its own value, and I learned a few things too: I have a prodigious upper body, one not always flattered by designs using yoke construction. Controlled felting is probably possible, but I'm going to get distracted and walk away from the washing machine and regret it. My handknits are not precious, and sometimes they are better off being something else.

I cut five panels according to a flawed tutorial, machine stitched them together, didn't like the result (which looked like one of those hats made of crochet and beer cans) cut them apart again, trimmed off the seams, re-cut the panels here and there so it would be the approximate size and shape of my head, and whipstitched it all together by hand using scrap yarn. It's weird and funny and silly, and I love it. The huge pompom really saved the day, in my opinion. Listen, speaking of pompoms, you probably know this already, but in case you don't, here's how you can make them yourself without help from plastic pompom makers. Check it out:

Draw two circles in approximately your desired size onto a piece of cardboard. I traced around a glass to get 4" circles. Cut out a circle in the center. Believe me when I say perfection does not matter here; just hack a couple circles out of cardboard, and cut holes in them. Put them together and start wrapping the yarn around, until it looks like a yarn doughnut. It'll take a LOT of yarn, probably more than you think, and it takes a little while, too. I tricked the doctor into doing this for me.

I (he) used up the KnitPicks Palette "Seafaring" leftovers, leaving and cutting off a tail about 15" long. Once you have a nice, fat yarn doughnut--and the more you wrap, the fuller your pompom will be--get out your scissors and cut around the outside edge of the doughnut, between the two circles, exposing the cardboard underneath, like this:

Then use the tail (I doubled mine for extra strength) to tie all the cut ends together by slipping it between the two circles of cardboard, pulling it and tying it tightly.

Pull the cardboard circles apart and off the tied pompom. Fluff it up and trim it into a neat ball. Use the long tail ends to sew it to your project.

Sometimes, things work out, and sometimes they don't. This one is complicated. It cost me a lot, in a lot of ways. I swore a bunch. I learned things. It would require me tricking the doctor into putting together some kind of geniusy algorithm thingy in order to figure out if it was worth it, but in the end, I have to say, I do really like this hat. That's enough.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Because it's dark

 

It is so dark in the fall. There's about five minutes of daylight, and about umpty hours of total darkness, and everything in between is just a general dimness. You can't see what you're doing. You can't start a new project because all the yarn and fabric looks gray. Everything seems like it might just have to wait until the weekend, but weekends have become lazy, too. I keep thinking, "Yeah, I should do that," and then I don't, because it always feels like it's almost time for bed. It makes a person tend to put down her knitting and crawl lazily onto the couch beside the most pampered dog in the universe:

This little catdog, I swear. I am wrapped around her little paw. She mooches up, pushes all the pillows into a little nest beside my leg, gives a rattly sigh, and the next thing I know, I'm tucking a blanket under her chin, and telling her again what a good girl she is, how cute she is, how much I love her. Her head is like velvet.

When I am able to resist the lure of her lovely popcorn-scented feet and gentle snoring; when I am able to focus on something besides competetive baking shows on television, and then wanting to bake all the cookies, I knit a little. I'm working on Old Town by Carol Sunday, and it is the opposite of plain knitting. It is origami knitting. You cast on here, knit some, put some stitches aside for awhile, pick up some more stitches somewhere else. Turn and go sideways. It is bristling with markers, and it's one of those projects where you have to kind of spread out your notes and draw upon your knowledge and stuff. It is nice, though, to follow someone else's map for awhile, instead of doing my usual making it up as I go. It might be awhile before I make much progress. There is the cutest dog, snoring away on the couch right now.