twittering in your lingerie

holy cow, i am having a morning!  it’s just “a morning” because i have to divide the “great” from the “crappy”; this morning is both.  you know about the crappy already, no need to reiterate.  the great part is that it seems like all the humor rises to the top like beer foam when i am feeling physically bad.  i say that with the greatest of endearment, as i love beer, having grown accustomed to it as an engineering student.  engineering at vanderbilt in the 70s had a great number of gi’s, and we didn’t have wine and cheese parties-we had beer and chips.  or just beer.  a cultured bunch we were, nothing like the stereotypical nerds and techies, but problem-solvers with robust humor and easy partnerships.

away from the beer!  today the today show tackled the topic of twitter.  stephen colbert  happened to be a guest, and when asked if he used twitter, he said “yes, i’ve twatted”.   that laugh picked me up off my pillows and propelled me into the sitting position.  a bit later, ellen degeneres began her daily dance, and i slid out of bed and danced with the crowd, shrilling “woot-woot” and shaking my hips.  hips seem to shake even when all the adjacent joints are stiff and unyielding.  especially if the music is right.  that wasn’t all the fun this morning.  an enewsletter called knitter’s review comes on thursdays, and today parker linked us to a video of extreme shepherding, one in which the sheep were wearing led lights and being coaxed into amazing patterns.  you can laugh too:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2FX9rviEhw.

today i’m continuing with a beautiful coral baby sweater that i started yesterday, a custom piece that will be done saturday.  it is trimmed in seed stitch, and made from a soft, soft, lofty yarn:  25% cashmere/25% angora/50% very fine merino.  i’m a firm believer in giving babies soft clothes.  life is hard enough without confronting rough, itchy, synthetic fibers in your first few years.  the washing issues don’t concern me.  what does a baby wear that is too big to pop in the sink for a 2-minute hand wash?  if mom can hand wash her fancy lingerie (her “privates” as ellen degeneres once called them), she can pop junior’s sweater in for a quick cleansing.  truth be told, the baby is going to spend most of its days swaddled in one of your t-shirts and a diaper, and only put on the cashmere sweater for church or a photo session.  just don’t spill your communion wine on the kid and it’ll be fine. 

i’ve got stuff to do today.  gotta go twitter, tweet, and wash my feet.

peace.

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Reading Cashmere

I’m in Georgia and I’m not sweating.  Thank God for fall, my favorite season.  The humidity has finally decreased down here, although overall it lags behind even the southeastern corner of Tennessee where I live.  Better weather and some easing of joint pain makes me feel like I’m cruising.  Knitting cashmere, eating Kashi cereal, visiting my girl…are there better things in this life?  Oh, and I’ve got avocados.  So yes, my life is good. 

 

Both my kids bent some fenders this week, and I’m still in a good mood.  Everything was minor (except the coming bills, I’m sure), they don’t make a habit of it, and someone pushed the mellow button in my brain, the one that won’t allow me to scream and go nuts unless it’s truly warranted.  The older I am, the less situations seem to warrant that.  I’m tired of commercials about middle age and how active and agile we can be.  They ought to be talking about growing into inner peace and a gentler nature and less craziness and chaos in our lives. 

 

I finished a book today.  It had very little action and lots of thinking.  Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox was my kind of story.  It was told primarily in the thoughts and memories of three characters, and it took hearing all three viewpoints to piece together the entirety of the important happenings.  I always admire clever construction, whether in writing or crafting, and this was a good example. 

 

My child just finished a weekend visit from her best girlfriend.  They have been close for eight years.  They have lots of similarities, some of which could be exasperating when they were younger.  I took them on many trips where I was the driver, and I invariably wound up feeling like I was traveling alone.  Early on, I’d be chattering away, only to realize that no one was responding.  When I’d peek in my mirror I’d find them in their own corners of the back seat, each deeply engrossed in a book.  My daughter tells me that they had to read before they went to bed last night.  Some things don’t change. 

 

I’m about ready for bed, and I think I’ll wind down with a little more knitting.  Nothing is more soothing than stroking cashmere.

Peace.

A Challenge

Today I went back to the original spoon theory article and read it, and I challenge you to read it too. It is the best description of living with lupus that I have ever seen. It is an analogy, not about the actual aches and pains, but about how one views their daily life. I am going to use the magic word-PLEASE go read this: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/the_spoon_theory/. If you have any desire to understand your friends with chronic illness, this is essential knowledge.

Yesterday was fun. I went out to dinner and a movie with friends and I wasn’t a depleted lump of fatigue and pain when I returned home.  A note to all my protective family members: Please don’t call to tell me that I need to slow down. I am better, and it’s ok for me to increase my activity when I’m better. It is frustrating to have a disease for 15 years and know that your siblings haven’t yet learned the scientific basics of what makes it better or worse. Instead, I get handed a corollary of our mother’s fallacious proclamation that “exercise causes polio”. (I swear on a stack of knitting guides! This is the wisdom that I was taught as a child.) My sisters preach to me about continuing to safely sit in one place and not go out and do normal things, afraid that shopping or driving or meeting friends for knitting adventures will push me back into a flare of lupus.In other words, they are saying to me that if I get sick, it’s my fault. I didn’t stay seated on the couch in my living room and hide from the vicious disease that is stalking outside my door.
Do I sound angry? Of course I am! Do I let these false pronouncements change my activities? Ummmm let me think….of course I don’t! But I do get tired of dealing with this ignorance.
On a lighter note, I came frighteningly close to causing a landslide of teenagers at the movies last night. I took my knitting. It helps me to stay seated in confined surroundings without fidgeting or concentrating on stiff, uncomfortable joints. I’m working with a new cashmere, Jade Sapphire 12-ply 100% Chinese cashmere, and it is lusciously soft. I started in the movie and knit about six inches of 1×1 rib while I laughed my butt off (and occasionally teared-up) at the story of pregnant teen Juno and her pre-adoption journey. It was wonderful. My friend and I were accompanied by our teen-age daughters, and we were unanimous in our love of this film. At the end of the movie, we all felt the ribbed piece I had knitted and agreed that it was sinfully soft and cuddly. I tucked it in my purse and headed down the stairs. At the landing, I felt a tug on my leg and realized that it was wrapped in my yarn.  Above me, on the stairs, people were saying “what is that?” and “wait, I’m caught in something”, and in the dim light I could see a meandering trail of yarn leading from my foot back up the stairs. Dayna was hissing at me “I told you not to bring your knitting”, but she ducked under the crowd and retrieved my precious ball of cashmere and we got out without anyone tripping and careening into a head injury. File this under Hazards of Knitting.
I found a good evaluation of the Jade Sapphire cashmere in Knitter’s Review at http://knittersreview.com/article_yarn.asp?article=/review/product/050120_a.asp and it reminds me that for an item that is a luxury, the subjective perception of pleasure and comfort should rule your decision. I am loving this yarn. I’ll show you a finished product soon.
Peace.

Knitting Obsession #1 (Because There Will Be More)

So this is how it works to be obsessed.  You reread an old post and realize that you promised a simple hat, not a simple ear warmer.  Right after breakfast you get your cashmere (sigh, moan, weak feeling in legs) and choose two colors and cast on the simple hat.  There is no exact design in mind, but you know you can put some stitches on the needle and start it, and the pleasure of working the cashmere will bring inspiration. 

Then, you’re knitting along and realize that it’s Monday morning, and you need to talk to your accounts person.  You call his cell phone and find that he’s not in the office, he’s in upstate New York.  (Duh, it’s the holidays!)  That sets off a frenzy of wondering how close he is to your favorite yarn store, Flying Fingers, in Irvington, New York.  You put down your knitting and log on to Mapquest.com to find the exact location of Irvington and your accounts person.  There’s not a chance in hell of putting the accounts person in your yarn store, but you have to know this information. 

Ten minutes later you realize that you have engaged your accounts person in a long conversation about knitting needles on planes and the radical knitting movement.  Fortunately, the accounts person is an old friend and is not charging for the minutes.   Nor is he thinking that you might soon need to do that Power of Attorney thingy to have a saner person  making the calls (or at least he doesn’t say those things out loud). 

Next, you’ve logged on to the computer and raced to your weblog to tell the whole world how sweet it is to be touching cashmere again.   The Debbie Bliss Pure Cashmere comes in these cute little 45 yard twists.  They are so smooth that you don’t have to ball them before you use them-you can just lay out the loop of yarn and pull from it.  If it gets tangled, you can prod them with your needle and pull and the offending snags fall apart.  Every few minutes you stop knitting and stroke the fabric that is coming off your needles.  It’s incredible.  I recently read the Knitter’s Review (www.knittersreview.com) forum on cashmere, and I think most felt that with cashmere you get what you pay for.  I agree completely.  I have sampled across the price range, and the less expensive cashmeres have a sort of fuzzy halo around them and are not as soft and smooth.  However, I must say that I still enjoyed working with them, and wouldn’t let that keep me from sampling the cashmere I could afford. 

Oh yeah, you also email one of your best friends to get the details about a knitting group she mentioned.  This could totally revitalize your social life. 

Finally, you rush to end your weblog because the cashmere fix is sitting right next to you, calling your name.  There’s an idea in your mind for how to form the top of the cap and it can’t wait any longer.  No matter if everyone in the world knows you are dorky.  Time to go knit!

Peace.

There’s nothing like writing 3/4 of a post on the wrong form and losing it completely when you try to transfer it to the correct form to make you get to the point.  Yesterday I knitted and this is what I made:lilaccashmerecap.jpg                         mosscashmerecapearflaps.jpg  Both caps are knit from Karabella Supercashmere (moan, drool) and I was totally taken with the finished products.The lilac cap is 65 stitches cast on very loosely to size 5, 40 cm long circular needles.  It is intended to work for women receiving chemotherapy, so it is a little more snug than I’d make an outdoor cap; loss of hair does decrease your hat size a good bit.  Starting at the brim, join your stitches to knit in the round, making sure not to twist them, and knit about 2 inches in stockinette stitch.  On circular needles this means knit every stitch of each round.  I don’t use markers to mark the joining because I can see the yarn tail there.  After you have 2 inches of stockinette (give or take – don’t obsess about this), make one complete round of purl.  Then we start the spiraling purl ridge pattern. Row 1:  (Purl 2 knit 11) repeat this 5 times and you’ve finished the rowRow 2:  Knit 1, (purl 2 knit 11) 4 times, then purl 2 knit 10 and you’ve finished the row.Row 3:  Knit 2, (purl 2 knit 11) 4 times, then purl 2 knit 9Row 4:  Knit 3, (purl 2 knit 11) 4 times, then purl 2 knit 8and so on.  You get the idea:  each row you move your purl stitches over by 1 stitch, so that they spiral up the hat instead of stacking right on top of each other.  You are making 5 evenly spaced spirals.  After 16 rows, it’s time to start decreasing to form the crown of the hat.  You will need to decrease 5 stitches every round, evenly spaced.  You have many choices on how to do that.  You can switch back to stockinette and do your evenly spaced decreases, you can continue your spirals and take the decrease either before or after each spiral purl ridge, you can switch to reverse stockinette stitch and take the decreases by purling 2 together five evenly spaced times…just have fun with it.  I continued to spiral but widened my ridge to purl 3 and took the decreases in or close to the ridge:  lilaccashmerecapc.jpgOf course at some point you will need to switch to double-pointed needles.  When there are about 10 stitches left on your needles, cut your yarn leaving an 8-inch tail, thread it through the remaining stitches, and pull tight.  Weave in the crown and brim tails and you’re done.  If you’re giving this for a Christmas gift, don’t forget to include a little note about the washing instructions:  hand wash gently in cool water, dry flat.For the moss hat you need size 6 straight needles.  I used Takumi (Clover) bamboo, and the blunter tip didn’t split this loosely-spun, many-plied yarn very readily.  The hat is knit from the brim up.  Cast on 70 stitches and work a knit 2, purl 2 rib for about an inch.  Keep the ribbing loose – it’s not meant to cinch the hat to the head, but just to keep the edge flat.  After the ribbing, we’re going to use a double seed stitch.  For our number of stitches, it consists of a four-row pattern:Row 1:  (Knit 2, purl 2) repeat across the rowRow 2:  (Purl 2, knit 2) repeat across the rowRow 3:  (Purl 2, knit 2) repeat across the rowRow 4:  (Knit 2, purl 2) repeat across the rowYou are making little four-stitch blocks of knit stitches next to four-stitch blocks of purl stitches, but in blocks this small they look less geometric and more rounded and lacy. mosscashmerecapearflapsc.jpgJust ignore those earflaps for now, we’re not there yet.  After your 28 rows of double seed stitch, switch to seed stitch, doing (knit 1, purl 1) across every other row alternating with (purl 1, knit 1) across the inbetween rows.  You are also ready to start decreasing for the crown of the hat.  You make your decreases evenly spaced, in every other row.  I planned to decrease 10 stitches in every decrease row.  To keep in the seed stitch pattern, make your decreases in pairs:  Knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1, knit 2 together, purl 2 together, knit 1, purl 1…etc.  At some point you’ll need your double-pointed needles.  When you get to about 10 stitches left on the needles, cut your yarn leaving an 18 inch tail.  Thread the tail through the 10 stitches and pull tight.  Use the same tail to seam up the back of the hat.Now we’re ready for ear flaps.  Most ears sit slightly closer to the center back seam than to the center front of the hat.  Turn your hat inside out.  Your ear flaps are going to connect to the junction of the ribbing and body of the hat.  Starting 4 inches from the center back seam, pick up and knit eight stitches.  Knit these in stockinette stitch for 8 rows.  Remember your stockinette needs to face out toward the right side of the cap.  On the 9th row, knit 2 together across, leaving 4 stitches.  Turn and purl 2 together, leaving 2 stitches.  Turn, knit the last 2 stitches together, cut the yarn and pull through.  Now, get out your size H (8) crochet hook.  Putting it through the edge of your brim ribbing at the spot where the ribbing and earflap overlap, pull your yarn through and chain 1.  Work a single crochet stitch all the way around the earflap, connecting it at the end to the edge of the hat ribbing with a slip stitch, then cutting the yarnwith a 6-inch tail.  Create an ear flap on the other side of the hat, again starting 4 inches from the center back seam.  Weave in all the earflap tails and the center back tail and you’re done. These two hats required the following skills:  cast on, bind off, decrease by knitting or purling 2 stitches together, using circular needles and double points to knit in the round, knit and purl stitches, and basic finishing work.  Next time I’ll show you a very simple hat using all basic techniques.  Just because you use a sophisticated luxury yarn doesn’t mean your patterns have to be complicated. Peace!

Let’s Get Ready to Ruuuuummmmmmmble!

charityhatsdec07c.jpgYeah, baby, I am so ready!  Important stuff is in the wind, and my preparation has started.  You know that I have my first Rituxan treatment on December 26, but I’ve not spent much time on the day before that.  Christmas is coming!  Reading my previous posts one would figure I had no interest in Christmas at all.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I adore the holiday and the whole season.  I look all year for things that are special for one person or another, grabbing items whenever and wherever I spot them.  I stay out of the malls and most of the brick and mortar stores and shop on the web, focusing on Etsy.com where you can find anything handmade, my favorite yarn stores, and book stores.  I add in little pieces that I pick up at art galleries and craft fairs.  I round it off with gift certificates from cool places where I think the recipient may not shop without a nudge.  I have parents, aunts, cousins, five sisters, eleven nieces and nephews, six great nieces and great nephews, my own dear daughter, any number of pseudo-adopted children, and friends.  Not to mention the postlady and part-time housekeeper and my doctor…you get the picture.  I make a long gift list. 

Right about now the last things are being delivered to the house, and this weekend I must sort them and repack the out of town stuff so it can go to the post Monday.  To all of you who get boxes in the mail:  do not open until Christmas!  Santa and Jesus and karma will all impact you if you should disobey.  And I will call you a greedy heifer! 

Given my enthusiasm, you might think we were all decorated and decked out.  Not!  The folding, predecorated cheapo tree is still in its bag in the garage.  The new inflatable of those famous icons, the Christmas penguins, is still in its box.  We never have jumped up from the Thanksgiving table and begun decorating.  However, once we have decorations up, they stay up!  We may still be displaying them in February.

One part of Christmas prep has been in effect for six weeks.  When the church that I claim to belong to announced its plans for the annual Angel Tree, where members bring in warm outerwear for the kids at a local elementary school, I started knitting.  I’ve got a pile of hats to take in, and I found a half-dozen puffy jackets on sale to go with them.  I asked Dayna to photograph the hats because hats for kids are so much fun.  She made them more fun, placing them in Christmas tree formation!

charityhatsdec07.jpg

I think we have 15 completed hats, but it started with a basket that I put in the living room, and every now and then I’d make a hat and toss it in.  In the end we had a stack of hats like you see in the top photo.  I love making children’s hats.  I try not to make them too sweet.  Sometimes I think kids need antennae and extra eyeballs and ear flaps more than cables and ruffles!  They are my experimentation ground for fierce, fun hats. 

I started a hat last night out of – you guessed it – cashmere.  Pulled out the moss green and cast 60 stitches onto four size 7 double points and ribbed for several rounds, then I looked at it and decided my ribbing looked like a bunch of flat ladders.  I pulled it all off (ribit, ribit, that’s the sound of me frogging my hat) and started over with straight needles, size 6.  I like the look of this one and if it makes it to the finish line I’ll share the pattern.  There is absolutely no significance to me starting over on straight needles.  There was a pair right beside the bed.  I’m not averse to a little seaming at the end. 

So I’m off to attend to my favorites:  coffee, Christmas and cashmere.  Peace!

Cashmere One

cashmere-fingerless-mitts.jpg

 Today’s name started out as “Cashmere I”, but I thought it looked too much like the word “I” and I didn’t want anyone to be mistaken that this was the first in a series of nauseatingly loving posts about cashmere.  I did not grow up with cashmere.  A military family with six children is not the place to get a taste for luxury.  I found cashmere as a 50 year old woman, shopping a tempting sale at my lys (local yarn store), the not-really-local Flying Fingers in New York.  They had Karabella Supercashmere in special Flying Fingers colours at half price!  Previously $50 a ball, the highest quality cashmere suddenly seemed within reach.  My yarn was delivered by the UPS angel and I had a religious experience.  Those chubby balls of yarn felt like baby cotton and the strands were so lush and plump that I couldn’t stop feeling them. 

Initially, I couldn’t bear to knit with the new yarn.  I stalked online store ads looking for more cashmere, and I began to stockpile it.  Finally, this fall, I felt like I had an idea worth working in cashmere.  I took out some of the moss green yarn and began to knit fingerless mitts.  I worked out a pattern of eyelet that snaked its way up the length of the mitt in an alluring curve, batching my yarnovers and k2t’s.  I tried them on to customize the decreases for my wrist and increases for the base of my hand and the thumb position.  These were going to be mine.  My first cashmere creation could not leave my possession.  It was a first in every way–first cashmere, first pair of fingerless mitts, first thing I’d intentionally knit for myself as an adult.  I know that last statistic is pathetic.  For two years I had been knitting for sale and knitting to give away, but none of my modern day knitting spree had been for me.  I kept a few things that couldn’t be sold (a contest winner, something so artsy there didn’t seem to be a market) but they weren’t initially intended to be mine.  Anyway, you can see them here, along with a nice shot of my belly and unmanicured hands.  Remind me to dress up a little and hold my stomach in for photos in the future.  cashmere-fingerless-mittsb.jpg

 Unfortunately, Tennessee weather has been its changeable best-highs ranging from 65 to 78 this week.  It will be colder in January and February and I’ll be able to wear my mitts for something other than display photos.

I am going to warn you now that making a derogatory comment about these mitts could lose you your comment privileges ’til hell freezes over or they transplant me a kinder heart.  Just saying.

You don’t have to wait for Flying Fingers to have a cashmere sale.  Other stores stock cashmere yarns, too.  One of them (www.littleknits.com) sent me an email about a sale yesterday morning and at 5:30 a.m. I was choosing colours of Debbie Bliss Cashmere.  I bought a bag (10 skeins) of black, a bag of amethyst (I am a purple freak) and some individual skeins of a light spring green and a delicate pale yellow.  Can’t wait for them to come.  You know I’ll be talking about it.

Now that I have enough cashmere stashed to part with some, I’m going to implement my “cashmere for the masses” plan.  All those trendy stores have their skinny little cashmere knits that don’t begin to give you the feel for the real thing.  I’m going to make nice thick caps and scarves in simple patterns, a lesson in fiber appreciation.  I might start with a moss green cap for me.

Well, I did it.  I talked about just one topic without too much digression.  I think that’s a good stopping point.  I’ve got a huge mug of coffee here and I’m ready to sip and knit.

Peace!