Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Home from the Hospital, or Random Beauty from Thailand

Another post full of pictures from Thailand. (The first one with the elephants? I had to delete it to get this one to the top of my blog. If you didn't see it, Thai baby elephants are extremely cute.)

The update from here is that I'm home from the hospital! Yeah for my own bed and my own food. Boo for when the dog wants to come in from the backyard just as I've finally gotten comfortable on the couch.
What I'm needing most now is tons and tons of quiet. When I'm not fully up to snuff, I go into hibernation mode: plenty of laying on the couch, no television except for terribly bad reality t.v. great old children's novels, tea, and a cat or dog lying beside me. For the first time ever, this cat prefers me to my husband. While I was away, she slept in the girls' rooms. As soon as I came home yesterday afternoon, she jumped up on the bed, reclined on the comforter, and kept me company. He's a bit jealous, and I'm a bit puffed up about it. Knitting-wise, I'm onto the sleeves of the Bianca's Jacket. The back is a smaller gauge than the fronts; size 6 needles produce a better fabric but size 7 needles were much more comfortable to work with. Next project, I'm coming up with a way to swatch sufficiently to work the bugs out, while, at the same time, actually making Something. Tiny shawls anyone?

Now, for the random beauty. The Reclining Buddha, from my husband's trip to Thailand. Lying on his side here, you can get a sense of perspective by noticing how small the man in the foreground is in relation to the figure of the Buddha. And the ornamentation on the pillars, the gold leaf, the umber's and russet tones.
A detail of the face. And the ceiling. Even looking up is beautiful.
The hair. The elegant long fingers. The angle and shape of the arm and elbow.
The feet. This picture gives new meaning to my yoga teachers' instructions to spread and lengthen our toes. One hundred and eight symbols for the Buddha inscribed on the soles of the feet.

Rachel Naomi Remen's "Feely" Heart

Before class on Sunday morning, the last yoga class that I'll teach for the next four to six weeks, one of my students told me that she had something to give me. After class, she brought forth a large plastic bag of small, fuzzy, heart-shaped pillows. Tie-dyed and purple and I can't remember what else. She told me to pick one. And for a moment, I was paralyzed with indecision.

Should I choose by closing my eyes and just letting fate rule my selection? Should I choose one of the neon-hued, tie-dyed hearts, seeing as I often feel like a child of the 60s? Or should I take home the purple one in the corner of the bag, with the mishapen seam and the stitches uneven and showing? I'm not sure how to choose, I admitted. My student, who is a pediatrician and a faculty member of a Chicago medical school and a healer and a writer, said that I could choose any way that I wanted, but that I had to be the one to pick. And I knew right away that I wanted to take custody of the slightly lumpy purple heart with the stitches showing. I reached in and chose it, and immediately, it felt right. It nestled into the palm of my hand, cozy and a bit lumpy and just right.
It's called a "feely" heart, and is an idea gleaned from Rachel Naomi Remen, an incredible doctor whose work is about narrative and the healer's art. The idea is that the heart is small enough to be held, carried with you wherever you go, as it fits right into the palm of your hand or a pocket.

It's going to the hospital with me, along with a sky-blue shawl, favorite socks, my Ipod, and my knitting. I'm too distracted to concentrate on lace, so I'll make inroads, hopefully, on the Bianca's Jacket. My plan is to imagine that the hospital trip will be a spa vacation, with plenty of time and quiet for reading and knitting and listening to music.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Cabled Bolero with Modifications

Another look at the cabled bolero. Lots of modifications, which I'm hoping that I can persuade Linda to pass along.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Help needed with Bianca's Jacket

Swatch for Bianca's Jacket.
Before I start in and wander blindly through the corridors of another sweater, I could use some advice.
The plan: Bianca's Jacket from Interweave Knits Fall 2006. The yarn is the called for Sir Galli, a silk tweed in a butterscotch color, found at LittleKnits (thank you Joan) for a really good price.

If you've made this sweater, does the pattern run small or large?
And if you haven't, how do you deal with not getting the same gauge as the pattern calls for? Keep swatching? Stick with your gauge and change the size that you'll knit?

And, for any knitters out there, how do you know when your gauge is close enough? Do you go by the pattern, or by the way that the swatch feels in your hand? My swatch feels a bit loose and is coming out at 16 stitches to 4 inches, but it feels as if the structure of the fabric is too squishy. So, if I regauge and get more stitches to the inch, then where do I go with size? In stores, I'm usually an XS or S, and if you really must know my bust size, it's a 32.

Hmm. Notice that the swatch sort of matches the cat?
Does it show that this is a stressful week. I'm having surgery Thursday, and clearly much of my anxiety is being funneled into my knitting. Must Control Something, is what my brain is saying. Here's how I'm feeling:
The Cabled Bolero is going on extended rest for now, until I meet up with my sister or someone that it will fit, and can make some adaptations to the fit and the design of the collar.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Progress on the Cabled Bolero

Both sleeves seamed. Still a mystery as far as fit. It's an intellectual challenge: how to get my sweater to look like the cover of Vogue Knitting? Even with Norah Gaughan's assurances, I still want to believe that there's some modifications going on here.

My sweater: strange pentagons hanging off the front. Model: not so. My sweater: not so much a portrait neckline as a billboard neckline. Model: nicely fitted. My sweater: a strange relationship between the length of the sleeves and the fit across the bodice. Model: perfect.
On Project Runway, the designer literally sews the model into the garment much of the time. Not a realistic option here, as I'm on the last stages of the piece, but making me think that I should be stopping more often along the way, basting pieces together, and trying the sweater on as I'm working. Seamstresses do this all the time, why not knitters?

Some thoughts for the next go-around: go down at least one size in the pattern; use a finer yarn, something without the flying fuzz factor of angora and something that is not intended to keep you warm, because this sweater knits up very densely and will keep almost anyone warm just by virtue of the design (even me, and I'm always cold); decrease the number of pentagons, perhaps even doing away with the two at the front that seem unrelated to the horizontal effect of the rest of the pattern; lengthen the sleeves so that they really are elbow-length or even three-quarter; perhaps sew up side seams and then pick up for the sleeve, so that the fit through the shoulder and armhole is more tailored. Just some ideas, not gospel. But if they work for you, let me know before I start the second attempt.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Advice from Norah Gaughan about the Cabled Bolero

I'm convinced that there is a way to make this sweater work, or more accurately, work better. Because it has so much going for it: innovation, ease of knitting, great surface texture, a sense of fun, and because I set ridiculously high standards for myself, and why should my knitting be any different than everything else that I do? (Full disclosure: okay, I honestly haven't put that same effort into housekeeping, but I like to think that is a signature of my feminism. Or laziness.)

So I wrote to Norah Gaughan, the designer, hoping that she might be able to steer me in the right direction. In particular, I was wondering if the cover photo was styled so that the sleeves appeared to be more fitted than they actually are, and if the pattern has a mistake, in that I can't find anyplace where it specifies seaming the sleeves and sides.

Norah Gaughan is a very talented and a very gracious person. And she allowed me to post her advice about the cabled bolero on my blog, so here it is:

Dear Janet,

Thanks for your question. The smallest size is the one shown on the model she’s very small and as far as I know no pinning was necessary. The yarn you are using may give different results from the Berroco Pure Merino I used. This is not a tight garment – it’s a shrug like garment. If you need each pentagon to be smaller you could start with 2 fewer stitches per side. The staff at Vogue Knitting edited my instructions so any questions need to go to them. Here’s the link:
Best Regards,

Hope this helps any other knitters playing with this pattern. I haven't emailed the staff, yet, because this morning is going to be for knitting and watching a DVD of Project Runway, Season 2, and not falling into the black hole of blogging and email.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Odds and Ends Swallowtail Shawl

Just because I need some color:
Odds and ends of Blue Sky Alpaca sport-weight, on a size 8 circular needle. My kind of shawl: almost a sweater, yet still a shawl, and lacey and pretty and practical.
The colors? A green not so limey in person for the Budding Lace sections, a hot pink for the Lily charts and nupps, and a scarlet red for the edging. I rarely wear green, and this seems a bit ChicKnits and a bit spring to me.
And thank you to Bradyphenia, recipient of the Helen's Lace from Lorna's Laces that I offered up a few posts ago. I'm looking forward to seeing what it turns into. Over at her blog, lots more color and dyeing of yarn, one of my favorite I-have-untold-amount-of-time activities that hasn't happened around here since summer.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Wuggie Norple Story

The Wuggie Norple Story. Story by the great Daniel Pinkwater. Illustrations by the equally great Tomie dePaola, whose Strega Nona was another favorite book to read aloud. Thanks to my friend Marcia for retrieving the title, which was lost forever in my brain in a mirror image memory as Nuggie Worple.
Surprising. Usually my brain refuses to reverse things. In class, I'm forever mixing up whether we're on the left or right leg. Worst is when I try to mirror my yoga students who are doing a pose right leg forward, and I, who am facing them, need to put my left leg forward so that I'm demonstrating what looks like the same side. Then, I try to give verbal directions that match the side that they're working on: extend the right leg, bring the left foot into the crook of your elbow and gently rock the hip, then place the sole of the left foot against the inner right leg, and so on. It's as though a garage door comes down in my mind, separating the question "which leg next" from the part of the brain that can supply the answer.

So, say it with me: The Wuggie Norple Story. And here, a blog about books and movies and more. A very good blog. I like to think that it reveals, in part, the indirect results of giving a baby a book by Daniel Pinkwater about a cat who grows and grows to gigantic proportions.

Knitting getting done: the first section of the Swallowtail Shawl out of Blue Sky Alpaca odds and ends in my laundry-basket stash. You can get a lot of knitting done as you sit in airports, waiting to fly to Cleveland on the same day that a Delta plane slips off the runway. No one hurt, but an entire airport brought to a full stop. And no more Continental Airlines for me. The ticket agent there could only offer a flight seven hours later, or suggest that we start driving. Not an appealing option, as we were attempting to reconnoiter with our daughters before driving to Akron for a memorial service the next morning. Not so at the United counter, where the ticket agent put us on a standby at 430 pm and a flight at 530 pm. Thank you, Ebony Parker at the United counter at O'Hare. I promise to send in a letter of appreciation for your kindness and efficiency and calm.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Good. Now go to bed!

A post just because I like the title:

We had a very odd book that we would read to our daughters when they were young. Not the oddest children's book that I've encountered, which would be either The Lonely Doll or a book that I remembered being titled Nuggy Worple, though a search through Google comes up with nothing close. What I do know is that I purchased this eccentric picture book as a baby shower present for a friend. The baby who received it? Now a very smart librarian, writer, and traveler.
But this little book, almost as eccentric as Nuggy Worple. Illustrated with photographs of cats wearing clothes. Very vintage-style pictures, and an antique-looking typeface. The plot escapes me at the moment, though I do recall an authoritative parent figure and some misbehaving young cats. But what we all remember about this book was the last page. There, declared, in large black type, were these sentences: "Did you like this book? Good. Now, go to bed!"

The scary thing: all four of us can recite not only the conclusion to this book, but the opening lines of I am a Bunny. (I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.) And honest, I knew that before I found the link. Which also quotes the first three lines. As does the reference in Google. Just think what we could all be doing with the collective brain space occupied throughout civilization by the first three lines of I am a Bunny.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Noro Kureyon and Swallowtail Shawl

The beginning of a second Swallowtail Shawl. This time in Noro Kureyon. A bit of a change, not quite revolutionary, but perhaps an unusual choice for a lace shawl. But I love the colors, and I kept coming back to the thought of trying this pattern with this yarn.
I started on a size 8 Bryspun circular, and graduated to a size 10.5 after the first ten rows. I'm thinking that even a size 11 or 13 might be better, but I'm not sure if I have anything in those sizes longer than a 20 inch circular. And after rooting through the Tupperware shoe box where my circulars reside three times this morning before work, I'm trying to commit to the 10.5.

One of those forays into the box was for another stab at Swallowtail, with the Lorna's Lace laceweight yarn that I bought for my trip to Louisiana. I was seduced by the colors. Beautiful, huh?
But, oh so difficult to work with. I sat at the dining room table this morning, sure that this time, with quiet and no yoga distractions, that I could make my way forward. But soon I was gripping the needles, feeling my shoulders hunch up, wrestling with this incredibly airy yarn. Just not for me. At least not now, not this project. In the spirit of recycling: please let me know if you would like to have this yarn. About 1200 yards, a silk and wool blend. Perfect for lace, or you could double it up with something else for a larger gauge. Just email me at, and I'll be glad to send it along.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Perseverance and the Cabled Bolero

Someone who shall go unnamed, unless she wants to identify herself, said a very nice thing about my blog: that it's more stitchin' and less bitchin'. So, no more whining about this lovely sweater. Instead, a few reasons why you should try it:
  • it knits up fast, fast, fast; even I, who takes a year to weave four napkins, could have finished it in a few weeks if I'd focused
  • there's something glorious about the way that the cabling spirals in a continuous line from pentagon to pentagon
  • it's good to reroute occasionally from the expected journey of knitting back, then front(s), then sleeves, then seaming, then finishing; with this pattern, you move sideways, then up and down, then squeeze a sleeve in between four pentagons, and at no time does the fabric that you've knitted resemble anything like the finished product
  • this is knitting yoga: the frustrations and missteps are the very times when your most ingrained, irritating personality habits come to the fore (full disclosure: for me, lack of patience, too much affection for product and not enough for process, perfectionism, especially with regard to fit) - and then you can marvel at the silliness of your reaction, and hopefully spend a bit less time in those doldrums on the next time around

And my favorite: If it doesn't fit, give it away.

Postscript: here's a link or two to two very different takes on Norah Gaughan's Cabled Bolero. Tomorrow, when there's light banking off the snow drifts about my house, I'll post a picture of my progress.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Navy May Deploy Anti-terrorism Dolphins


The Democrats are definitely assured the next election.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Left Sleeve of the Cabled Bolero

I'm working on the left sleeve of the bolero. All good. Into the ribbing section, K2,P2, even possible to execute while watching Sunday night television. ("Brothers and Sisters." And when Ken Olin's name flashed across the screen as a producer, I got the casting. Ron Rifkin. Olin's wife with the uncanny blue eyes, whose name I can't recall right now. And the plot? "Thirtysomething" uprooted and replanted in the first decade of the 21st century.)

But where are the directions for closing the sleeve and the side of the sweater? Or, is this why the designer gave it the odd name of a "capecho"? Is it more cape on the side than I realized, and thus, no need for directions to sew a side seam or a sleeve seam?

The camera should be in flight right about now, on its way back from Thailand. When it returns, I can perhaps illustrate the dilemna I'm facing. In the meantime, if you're making this sweater, advice is welcomed!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Every (Interweave Knits Spring 2007) Change is Yoga

My lovely Interweave Knits, what has happened to thee?

I was just getting over the news that Yoga Journal has been sucked into the maelstrom of women's fashion magazines, since its purchase by Redbook. I still have a subscription, which comes as a freebie with the yoga insurance that I purchase through a California health and fitness insurance company. But they lost me when they added a fashion section, weight-loss articles, and spa treatments in a higher proportion than yoga articles. The magazine arrives in the mailbox and now travels almost directly to the recycling bin. Now poor little Knits is taking on the appearance of every other knitting-fashion magazine on the market.

Didn't you appreciate the calm of this magazine? Nothing flashy in the way of typeface or layouts. Good, large, clear pictures of the designs, on models close enough to real women but beautiful enough to make you want to spend some time with their make-up person or stylist. Consistency in presentation, tone, lay-out. Real settings. Cafes, coffee shops, sidewalks, but in some romantic, seaside-ish place, where you could imagine having time enough to knit, wander, sip a cup of tea and watch the waves break on the beach.

And one design, one designer, one pattern per page. Large, lucid pictures. Often, a pattern that fit onto two pages. Easy to read, easy to follow. And once you finished gazing at that design, reading through its instructions, deciding whether to place it in the mental to-do category or on the not-me list, you could go on to the next pattern with a clear mind. No distracting advertisements, no competing pictures of other designs jostling for attention. A mindful experience of reading a knitting magazine.

At first glance, the Spring 2007 issue seems so much more a cousin to every other knitting magazine, with themed lay outs and patterns relegated to the back of the book. I'm prepared to back down on this. I've only skimmed the magazine, as I was on an afternoon escape out of the house, going to sit at a coffee shop and read The Heart of Yoga. I'm more than willing to take a closer look. And I did love the designs. Is it possible that I'm becoming a groupie? But, as Fig and Plum notes, Must. Make. Bonsai.

And I love the look of Wenlan Chia's incredible piece, and could imagine knitting it for someone.

And even the knitted thong, that is sure to become the darling of all internet chatter on knitting blogs, intrigued me, mainly as concept rather than execution. You gotta hand it to someone who knits a lace thong, then displays it for the world to see.

But, oh, I did love the quiet focus of the old design. "Every change is yoga," says Desikachar in The Heart of Yoga, meaning that everything, everywhere, changes. And when we manage to accept the change, we are doing yoga, in the sense that we're finding ourselves someplace new, someplace where we couldn't have expected to be. You could be touching your toes, or learning to accept the design of your favorite knitting magazine.

Random Beauty from Cyprus

A traditional basket from Cyprus. Makes me think olive oil, sun, oranges, even though I've never been there.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Sartorialist


This is How Cold it Is in Chicago

I wore fleece-lined jeans, my fleece jacket, my husband's fleece jacket, his L.L.Bean down coat (rated to something like 300 below zero), his fleece-lined earflap hat, and lined boots to walk the dog. (See, my daughters, I am an equal-opportunity borrower of my family's clothes. I have this habit of wearing their coats, too.) And I was starting to get cold after about 3/4 of a block.

The downstairs part of the house wouldn't warm up to more than 61 degrees for several hours after the heat went down for the night.

My brilliant idea: jury-rigging coverings over the many windows in my old house. In the living room 13 (it's a sunroom and living room) and dining room (3). No draperies, but instead levelors to let the sun and outside in. Not so helpful when the temperature is below zero several days in a row. I nailed three nails into the molding above the windows in the living room and dining room. Then strung twine from nail to nail. Clothes-pinned quilts and embroidered tablecloths to the lines. Martha Stewart, look out.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Warning about Sizing the Cabled Bolero

I'm still loving this pattern. But I'm not the only one discovering that it is far from"close-fitting." Here's Elizabeth, at the fourth pentagon stage, debating whether to go back and start over. In her case, she's getting the right gauge but is finding that the pentagons stretch. And Joan, I believe at the second or third pentagon mark, is having the same dilemma.

A comment on Elizabeth's blog advised her that the sweater definitely grows. The writer had tried the bolero on at her LYS, which was hosting a trunk show for Vogue Knitting.

I'm still loving the ease of the pattern, and the defined edges and lovely cabling and the soft halo of angora. But if you decide to try it, I'd warn you to go down a size and to work with a yarn that has little or no stretch in it. I'm thinking about doing another one, smaller, for me, in a summer yarn, perhaps a linen with some rayon content.

Random Beauty from Cyprus

Presents from my daughter's host "mom in Cyprus.

I think that they might be coasters, but I've set them on the ledge above the dining room entry for some color and surprise.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Balance Sheet

On the plus side:
  1. an amazing present from Joan, including the most beautiful yarn, chocolate, and what looks to me like an antique, handpainted, candle holder - the old kind with the little opening for you to put your thumb through as you carry it up the stairs
  2. there's a pastoral scene of a house and a tree on the delicate piece, which reminds me of my dissertation
  3. my luggage, which did not make it onto the plane as I raced through the Houston airport to go standby on an earlier flight, just arrived at my front door
  4. The ticket agent at the service center in Houston, who found me an earlier flight in less than 30 seconds, booked my standby status, and kept me on the later flight in case I didn't make it. The agent at the gate who called my name first on the standby list.
  5. I didn't lose the notebooks full of pages and pages of notes from my yoga training
  6. the pipes did not freeze while I was away and the house was empty
  7. a great training session, sightseeing in Louisiana a bit, mainly doing a lot of eating and talking and listening and note-taking, with some yoga and knitting thrown in every once in a while

On the negative side:

  1. the high today in Chicago was 2 degrees. That's above zero.
  2. the digital camera is in Thailand, so I can't post a picture of my wonderful new yarn
  3. I worried that my notebooks were forever lost. And that's because I didn't listen to myself when I decided to carry them on in my knapsack. At the last minute, I wavered and chose to lighten the load, and threw them into the duffel that I checked through.
  4. The ticket agent in New Orleans, the agent at a gate in the New Orleans airport, the representative who met the flight in Houston. They all insisted that there were no flights possible other than the one that would have led me to sit in the Houston airport for 2 hours. More importantly, I'd miss most of the SuperBowl.
  5. Seeing all the luggage going around and around. I decided I'd wait for the mammoth pink suitcase to come around one more time, and then I'd know for sure that my luggage was out there in the ether somewhere.

My work here is done. The plus side wins. Yeah! At least someone in Chicago had a win today . . .

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Ninth Pentagon

Yesterday we did more hands-on work and less, drone-like taking of notes during sessions. And while everything that I'm learning this week has been fascinating, smart, insightful, literary and literate, it was good to have a day when I could knit and listen.

And still sightseers of my knitting, but that was during the breaks. I wish that I had a copy of the cover of Vogue Knitting so that I could show off what it will be. Right now, as a long strip of pentagons, it mainly draws "that's beautiful. . .what is it going to be?" comments. I then drape it about my neck, try to dramatize its evolution into a sweater, and not become too tangled up in the ends that had not been darned in as yet.

Prime times for knitting: before and after lunch, when we're brain dead and need some time for questions, discussion, and general relaxation of the brain. Also good for darning in all the trailing pieces that catch me and the working yarn up.

And I'm trying to maintain my faith in the pattern. With each successive pentagon, the piece becomes more and more Huge. I did borrow a tape measure and a calculator from the other knitter in the room. And damn it, my gauge is wrong. Each pentagon has crept up anywhere from a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch. But, the pattern describes the final result as close-fitting, and I want something stylin' but not fitted. In Sanskrit terms, my bhavana, or goal, was a shorter sweater, a bit different, but not too tight. I chose one size up from my chest size to allow for ease, but now, with the incipient growth of each pentagon, am anticipating something gigantic.

Any solace and kind words would be appreciated. To be honest, it's been a very long week, I'm missing home and family, and now the knitting is misbehaving. Another yoga parallel: I'm trying to practice detachment from the final result. I've prepared, I've worked, and now I will see the results of my efforts. It's a continual process: plan, try, learn, plan, try, learn. I'm holding on to the potential for this to be a present for someone, and then I'll redo it for myself in a lighter-weight yarn, perhaps even something for spring.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Seafood Gumbo

We are not living an ascetic life at this yoga conference. Continental dining almost every night. Not really the way you want to roll into bed when you are waking up at 545 am every morning.

This evening, dinner at Etoile, a funky, filled-with-art and lots of old, paned-glass windows separating tables. Mussels in a white wine and cream sauce, sweet potato fries and a salad. And wine, a Sancerre ordered by a fellow student whose son apparently has had sommelier training at the only good restaurant in Iowa.

Yesterday, my favorite meal. I scoped out the place when I was in Madisonville a few days ago, taking a walk and getting away a bit. Sign outside the restaurant: "Fresh Boiled Seafood. When Sign is Lit." No lights blinking, but a group of people walking out of the place. I asked them how the food was. The women looked at me as though I was a different life form. But the man with them was friendly, and told me over and over, "The gumbo's great." So, between the sign and the gumbo, I had to go back.

The only truly Louisiana-style meal I've had since I arrived. Amazing seafood gumbo, dark and rich and plenty of shrimp and rice and whitefish. Crusty bread. Hot tea with milk and sugar. My lunch partner also had an oyster Po'Boy: basically an excuse for eating fried oysters, but sandwiching them between crusty bread, mayo and tomato. As we left the place, I walked by a table where a woman was tucking in to a large platter of just-opened oysters. "That looks great," I told her, "and I don't even like oysters."

I'm hoping to go back, just to try a po'boy. Maybe I'll break out tomorrow on my own. Take a book, have dinner, read, and look out at the river that runs beside the restaurant.