Friday, August 31, 2007

September is the cruelest month

T.S. Eliot says that April is the cruellest month. I think that it's September.
The spider who comes every night to our back porch furiously respins her web every evening. She is tremendously fast, the web intricately woven. She speeds around and around, using one set of legs to secure the thread to each diagonal, another set to maintain her movement around the circle. Most mornings, the web is gone, except for this one, when someone in the house caught a picture.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Now that's a Tomato

Let's have a vegetable competition. My tomato against your tomato.
Seriously, my tomato would whomp any other tomato on the block. And it's one of those heirloom tomatoes, which have a higher pedigree cause they've survived all the blights and fungai and have been nurtured and protected by seed-lovers the world over. And it tastes really, really good.
Mmmm. Garlic and olive oil over pasta.
And herbs, also from Angelic Organics, drying over the kitchen sink. Summer savory and lavender? I never know what to do with fresh herbs other than basil or parsley, but they look pretty. The sage from last week's box. I feel a certain weight on my shoulders to use everything that comes from the farm, but the herbs keep slipping through the cracks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Virtual Yarns

Wool from Alice and Jade Starmore's Virtual Yarns.

It's worth scoping out the site just to see the colors. Hebridean 3-ply and 2-ply. Above is Selkie. Below is a group shot of three of the four skeins that I ordered. Wonderful customer service, too. I'd ordered two different colors of yarn, to swatch for a fisherman's sweater for my husband. They emailed me to let me know that I could order two more skeins, receive free shipping, and end up paying less than I would have for only two skeins.

This is Kelpie. Aren't the names great? And each color has a story about its origins.
And this is Spindrift.
I'm somewhat leery about taking on a project of this size. It will require lots and lots of yarn and will take a very long time to knit, and the last time that I made a sweater for my husband (a gansey from a Jo Sharp pattern), it came out roughly the size of a king-size bed. This time, I'm going to measure as I go, check my gauge, and expect that it may be done sometime in 2010. As of now, I've done nothing but wind one of the hanks into a ball.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Things that I learned today about Brooklyn

Today I flew roundtrip from Chicago to Brooklyn, and learned a few things:
  • you can't get back to LaGuardia by flagging down a cab. You know that iconic image of New York City in every television show and movie, where the main character steps out into the street, waves down a cab, and takes off for the airport? Not in Brooklyn. You have to call a service, or try to flag down a fairly nondescript black sedan that looks like every other car on the street, and hope that it's the limo.
  • a cheap manicure-pedicure shop is a good place to hang out while you're trying to figure out how to get back to LaGuardia. And those pedicure chairs lined up next to one another? An even better place to ask folks for help. The young woman in the chair next to mine, who was busy texting throughout her pedicure, was so helpful. She had two numbers for car services, and patiently waited while I laboriously typed the name and number into my cell phone and finally saved it.
  • In Chicago, they give you a pair of flip-flops made out of the same Styrofoam as take-out containers to wear home. Not so in Brooklyn: you can't wear the flip-flops out of the pedicure places in Brooklyn, at least not Cindy's on Flatbush Avenue, which I otherwise recommend for the $10 pedicure. I walked toward the door to check the address, and people leaped out of their chairs in order to stop me from making off with the flip-flops.
  • people in Brooklyn. Everyone - families leaving after attending church in one of the many storefront churches on Flatbush Avenue, the ladies in the pedicure shop, the limo driver, the taxicab driver, the young woman sitting next to me on the airplane who asked about my knitting - was kind and helpful and very willing to stop and answer my questions. I learned that New York is the same as Chicago, just bigger. So much for New Yorker stereotypes.
  • and they call it the Brooklyn Bridge because it connects Brooklyn to Manhattan. I know, it seems obvious. But you know how a famous building or landmark, like the Statue of Liberty or the Brooklyn Bridge or the Eiffel Tower or the pyramids, seems to exist in a special zone, isolated in space and memory, unrelated to real surroundings? Today I actually looked at the Brooklyn Bridge instead of seeing it in a book or movie. And I noticed that it's timeworn, and surrounded by expressways, and there are your typical green overhead signs announcing which exit to take for the bridge, and suddenly it struck me: the bridge is there to connect two pieces of land so that people can travel from one place to another. And that realization made me feel better about leaving my younger daughter in Brooklyn, starting her first job after college, because it made everything seem more ordinary and all right.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Progress on the Shibori Felted Scarf

Not the best photograph, but you get the point. A long length of knitted wool. Using up of several analogous colors of Lamb's Pride (a mohair and wool blend) from my laundry basket of left-over yarn. Some sections stockinette, some sections garter stitch, some sections a combination. Doing whatever I could to entertain myself as I trudged through the knitting process.
More fun here: after you knit the long strip of wool, you take some shapes (in this case, round wooden balls in sizes from tiny to super-ball size) and create texture. Place the shape (it could be a smooth stone or a coin or these Shibori balls from Knitche) on the underside of the scarf. Gather the fabric around it, then tie a piece of cotton yarn around the "neck" of the shape. If you're organized, you can create a planned pattern. If you're me, you go for semi-balance and call it a day.
Closeup. A bit scary, no?
Next step: felt the scarf in a washing machine of hot water and detergent and lots of agitation. That part needs to wait for my next day off, when I have time to sit in the basement beside the washer, reading while monitoring felting/shrinking until it's just right.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Not Quite Beyonce

Lots going on in Chicago this past weekend. The Air and Water Show. Beyonce at the United Center on Saturday night. My birthday weekend with my two oldest friends.

On Sunday, this was the conversation at the reception desk at the W hotel.
Very Clean-Cut Young Man from flyer squadron that was grounded because of fog and rain Sunday: Beyonce came in Saturday.
Us: Beyonce was staying here?!
Him: Yes. (Quizzical look at three 50-year-old women.)
Us: We figured that she was staying with Oprah!
Him: No. She was staying here. (Another quizzical look, verging on frightened. Please note that this conversation occurred after I found out that he and his buddies might not be able to get out on their small, radar-less planes, socked in by the rain, and I'd offered my house if they couldn't get rooms for the night. I never do this, but he was so polite, and I felt compassionate.)
Us: Really? Beyonce was here? We were wondering where she was staying. I wonder why we didn't notice! (Very excited.)
Him: Yes, my fiancee was staying here.
Us: Fiancee? We thought you said Beyonce.

After that, we all went on retreat. We were laughing. He was hoping to book rooms and escape from these three strange women, I'm sure.

And Angelina and Brad and children were at the Peninsula Hotel, in town for Angelina to film a movie. We missed them, too. No wonder the spa there was all booked up. But we had Garrett's popcorn (see the line? a near religious experience definitely worth the wait, and you want to order some caramel and some cheese, and eat a little bit of each at the same time), walking along the lake Sunday morning, had amazing facials and a massage at the Bliss spa at the W, and lots of gabbing and laughing and walking.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bianca's Jacket

Pattern: Bianca's Jacket
Source: Interweave Knits Fall 2006
Designer: Michele Rose Orne
Yarn: Sir Galli by Muench, 104 yd/skein - used about 8 skeins
Source: LittleKnits, on sale, 10 skein bag for $44
Needles: size 7 circular bamboo, size 8 straight (for lace sections)
Gauge: 16 st and 22 rows to 4" (after blocking)
Size shown: XS

A successful effort, wonderful results. Easy to work, but enough variety in the pattern to keep you awake and stimulated. Every once in a while, in the midst of the stockinette, a decrease or a lace detail or a sloping edge. And a very pleasant yarn: 100% silk; a dry "hand," meaning that it feels a bit rough and textured; rarely split, despite being made up of several strands of silk. Very similar to Rowan Summer Tweed, at a much more reasonable cost, though without the color choices. The Sir Galli reminds me of tussah silk: golden-colored, like honey, and a bit exotic looking.

A detail of the sleeve below. If you like bell sleeves and a long sleeve that you can tuck your cold hands up into, this is a perfect pattern for you.
I bailed on making button holes. Though I love love the buttons that I found at Stitches, I'd actually become impatient the night before the show and cast this off at about 2 a.m. I've been having trouble sleeping, which is rare for me, and felt the need to Finish Something. So I'm going with kismet and using one of my favorite finds from a resale shop to close the cardigan. The pin is probably the reason that I fell in love with the buttons, so maybe it's fitting that the precursor gets honored place on this sweater and the buttons wait for the right, next project.
A neckline detail. Just enough scoopiness to allow for wearing a necklace or long earrings. The kind of neckline that emphasizes the collarbone, which I think is one of the most attractive parts of a woman's body. (Okay, you may be thinking that I've missed the boat here, but take a look around a room of women and see what you think. Or notice that the mirrors in jewelry and cosmetic departments are jusssst big enough so that you can see no more than your necklace resting on your clavicle or the earring beside your cheekbone. No accident. Same principle as shoe stores, where the mirrors are small and low to the ground so that the view is restricted to only the foot and new shoe. These are moments to focus down and say to yourself, "I am so cute.")
If I Had It to Do Over Again: Next time, I'd lengthen the body of the sweater. For summer, this is a good length. It will work fine over a t-shirt with a skirt or cropped pants, or with a tank and jeans. For winter, I'd keep everything the same (the sleeves are the best of any pattern that I've tried) but make the fronts and back 2-3 inches longer, say, hip-length. Otherwise, good instructions, a sweater that can be executed while watching television or, for some of you, while having a conversation. Big enough gauge to move along but small enough gauge to have drape and a fit to the final result.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.

The mind is a house, with plenty of rooms not entered for years and years.

Today, I was thinking of this phrase: I have measured out my life with coffee spoons. I googled it, and came (back) to simply an amazing poem by T.S. Eliot. Resist the urge to skim. Read every word. Don't worry if it doesn't immediately make much sense. Just try to get to know the speaker, the voice in this poem. Appreciate the plucky but lonely tone, the everyday Britishness against the mythical imagery. Marvel at the language. (And ignore the numbers, which are line numbers from the site I made my copy of the poem from.)

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). Prufrock and Other Observations. 1917.

1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

LET us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time

For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,

Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time

To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—

[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I know the voices dying with a dying fall

Beneath the music from a farther room.

So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin

To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—

Arms that are braceleted and white and bare

[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]

It is perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?

Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.

And should I then presume?

And how should I begin? . . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes

Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. . . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,

Asleep … tired … or it malingers,

Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,

Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,

Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,

I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,

After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,

Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,

Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,

To have squeezed the universe into a ball

To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,

Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.

That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,

Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,

After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—

And this, and so much more?—

It is impossible to say just what I mean!

But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while

If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,

And turning toward the window, should say:

“That is not it at all,

That is not what I meant, at all.” . . . . .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

Am an attendant lord, one that will do

To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;

Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—

Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Best Bagel in the World

I know. You're thinking, it's a picture of a bagel. But not just any bagel. This is the best bagel in the entire world. It's from the Common Roots Cafe in St. Paul.

Baked every night, starting at 2 a.m. Lots of spritzing with water. Cornmeal on the bottom. I'll have to check any other details with my daughter, who worked there this summer. Our name for her job title: community activitist/barista. Because this is an amazing place that is committed to organic, sustainable produce; environmentally-sound materials; local foodways; and creating a space for community groups to gather. The owners invested in two weeks of training for the staff, including sending them out to meet the farmer and see the land where some of the produce would come from.
The underside of the bagel. Crusty and gnarly and chewy.
These bagels are so pure that my established theory that a single onion bagel will infect the whole lot did not hold true. My daughter, against her mother's judgement, brought home the onion bagel in the very same bag as the sesame and poppyseed bagels. And these bagels are so friendly, so concerned with community, that they co-existed without any onion-infection of the lot.

And the cream cheese? From an organic dairy. Sold in a container made from corn and 100% compostable.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Yarnival Carnival!

I'm proud. Got myself named in Yarnival, a blog carnival for knitting bloggers. Immediately, I was thinking BOOK DEAL! Or, as my younger daughter noted, at least a call from the New York Times. It's good to be king, right?

And good news also today regarding Knitting for Compassion. I opened an email from my contact in the corporate office, and my little scarf project is going to be a test, with hopes to have the entire company participate next year. So get those scarves rollin', rollin', rollin', folks. Remember, you don't have to knit it or even make it by hand, though that would be great. We're happy to accept donations of gently-worn scarves, scarves that you purchased, or scarves that a friend or neighbor or relative made as well as yarn and needles so that there's also gifts for those who are knitters or crocheters. (See how I keep throwing in the crochet aside? I'm trying hard not to be leave you out.) My partner on the project has her mom hard at work, and today, my assistant brought in the first scarf that she's crocheted in years, and you know what, it was beautiful!

And we'll be gathering at a great knitting shop, the Knitche in Downers Grove, Illinois, for two charity knit nights. Put the evenings of Thursday, September 13th and Thursday, October 11th on your calendar. Please. Now. Come knit with us, see a truly wonderful knitting shop, meet some kindred spirits, drink Intelligentsia coffee and Gale Gand's root beer. As they say in the Poconos, what's not to like?

Our goal is to collect 300 scarves for the clients of Housing Opportunities for Women, an organization in Chicago that helps women and children transition from the shelter system into independent housing. That would be the number of scarves needed to give every family a gift for their mom at the holidays. Deadline is end of October 2007, and when we get a bit closer, I'll post an address to send them to. In the meantime, I'd love to get an update from anyone working, or collecting, and even better would be pictures emailed to me at, so that we can all enjoy the beauty.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thistle Lace

Pretty. The yarn is Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool, which is on sale over at WEBS at a great price.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Color Tutorial: A Quick View of Complemntary Colors

Two pairs of complementary colors against a single background of hot pink.

Complementary colors are opposites on the color wheel. In this case, red and green are one complementary pair. The other is orange and blue.

Also at play here are differences in intensity. The orange and blue have high intensity values: they are "pop" colors which have a brightness, almost a neon, quality to their coloration. The red and green are low intensity colors: dull, matte, very steady in feeling.

One other way to look at this square is through the lens of tint, tone, and shade. Going from lightest to darkest in a single color: 1) a tint is the color + white 2) a tone is the color + grey and 3) a shade is the color + black. In addition, there is the pure color: that is the color, without any other color added to it.

Here, the beet red and the forest green are shades. The dark red is the result of adding black to pure red. The forest green results from a mixture of pure green and black. In contrast, the orange and blue are pure colors: the clearest version of what orange and blue are, without anything added.

We'll see how it works when I finish the last square, which is the pink - a very intense tint - and the pure blue.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Stitches Midwest 2007

If there had been a bar at Stitches Midwest's market, I would have bellied up and ordered a whiskey. Around about the end of my third aisle, I was overcome by anxiety. About yarn. About crowds. About color. Really, about too many choices, and a feeding frenzy of knitters swarming around bins of sale yarns in oversize bags, at discount prices. The energy of the place was frantic. People stepping in front of one another to get to the Koigu. Constant debate over choices. A million and one options: hand-dyed and woolen spun and cotton and silk and wool. Understandably, not the best in customer service, so that, if you did find someone to help you, she typically wandered away to help another customer as you were waiting for the answer to your question.

It was at this point that I decided to take a mental health break. I'd already made the decision to create my own little bubble of privacy by listening to my Ipod. I don't do that in public much; I think that we're way over-stimulated as a culture and should allow ourselves to notice what's going on around us. But I just felt that I needed a force field, and Vivaldi's Four Seasons was it. Eccentric choice, perhaps, but calming. I took myself and Vivaldi over to the lunch counter, bought a tray of nachos with cheese and had a snack. Then bought a bag of M&M's, because chocolate was called for. Then I plunged back into the fray.

The rest of the afternoon went much the same. Habu Textiles was surrounded by confused knitters, trying to imagine what the tiny skeins of stainless steel and linen paper and kasuri silk could be made into. There was Koigu everywhere else, and I began to see it as a metaphor for multiple-personality disorder. Am I the pink with orange variegation's? Am I the sky blue with tones of purples and green? Am I the jewel tones or the pastels or the crazy skein with a bit of everything in it? I started detouring whenever I saw a booth with Koigu in it. At Rovings, which I love, no swatches for any of the yarns that I was interested in. And I wanted to buy. I kept fondling the Polworth Wool and Silk, which has a beautiful hand and makes a perfect, light-weight shawl. But last year I purchased the brown shade (undyed - a beautiful rich brown from the fleece), and the very light grey (the rep called it pewter but I wasn't seeing it) and the ivory weren't ringing any bells.

Here's what I brought home: Evelyn A. Clark's new book on shawl design, Knitting Lace Triangles. (Not available for purchase on the Internet, yet, as far as I can tell, but here's a blog posting by Jessica of Rose-Kim Knits, showing her handpainted example.) It was the first thing that I saw when I walked into the market hall. Sitting on the corner of the Yarn Barn of Kansas' display tables, just waiting for me. (Because very little other than coincidence and conch shells make me believe that there is some higher order in the universe, I thought it was interesting that I came home from Stitches to find an email from Joan, recommending the book to me.) So, that one was meant to be. I also purchased a copy of Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Volume I, because I lost/misplaced/buried Volume 2 somewhere on Tuesday. I had it when I left the house to go to the yoga studio, and did not have it when I arrived home. I'm hoping that the Luna Lovegood principle of all things eventually returning brings it back home to me.
And a copy of Alice Starmore's Fishermen's Sweaters. The designs remind me of the Magic Sweater that my husband loaned to me when I was pregnant with our older daughter. Hmm. Let me try that again. The Magic Sweater - a warm, itchy, traditional Irish fisherman's sweater - that I took out of my husand's dresser and made my own while I was pregnant, which also traveled to Outward Bound with my older daughter, is either with her or on its last legs. I'm going to try to knit a sweater for my husband from Starmore's very traditional yet comfy and intricate-looking designs, and I have already warned him that it will be a long time before the sweater is finished. (Decision made: Inishmaan. My favorite, too, when I was skimming the book at the show. Here's one actually finished. My estimated time for completion: 2 years.)
And buttons.
A detail of Bianca's Jacket.

Even though I'd cast off the edge of Bianca's Jacket at 2 am the other night when I could not sleep. I'll have to play with a way to get them to attach one side of the sweater to the other. Maybe add a button band?

Next year, no Stitches. Or perhaps they'll consider a helpful suggestion of adding an open bar to the list of vendors.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Angelic Organics

Our first boxes of fruits and vegetables from Angelic Organics. Corn and kale and summer savory and carrots and a little white eggplant and two patty pan squash and a purple eggplant and a bag of mesclun and more.
Interesting question: why is our household destined to be the recipients of onions bigger than the state of Nebraska? My husband used to bring home gargantuan heads of garlic and onions from the oil change place in town. Don't ask why, but they gave out a free vegetable with every oil change.
The fruit box. Not local, like the vegetables, but that's okay. Organic mangoes from Mexico, two kinds of pluots (Flavor King and Sweet Treat), Summer Fire nectarines, Black Emerald grapes, Valencia oranges, and Bartlett pears.
Any suggestions on what to do with kale? Plenty of other folks were stumped, apparently, because that was the dominant vegetable left in the swap box at the pick-up site.

Dinner is corn on the cob; tomatoes sliced and layered with mozzarella and basil, some salt and freshly ground pepper and olive oil; bread; and a handful of the grapes that fell off the stem. Yum.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Yoga Tag

Here's how you play: you find a buddy. Send off three Sanskrit words. Your friend tries to figure those words out and sends the meanings back to you. Then he picks three words and tag, you're it.

Nerdy enough? But it works, and it's fun, at least for a yoga nerd. Part of the goal of our yoga therapy training is to build a community, a sanga. My study partner had suggested discussions, i n real time, with one of those camera gizmos and instant messaging. I'm not ready for that, so my counter-suggestion was tag. He agreed, and tagged me with samskara, viparyaya and tapas. Now I've got the difference between vikalpa (imagination) and viparyaya (misperception or false understanding) separated in my mind. And samskara (behaviors or patterns that are ingrained, either good stuff or stuff that causes agitation) I could remember, because my teacher hear uses the word enough that it had a pre-arranged little shelf in my mind to hold the meaning when we went over it in New Orleans and San Francisco.

But tapas? Not a series of small plates, with sherry flight, at Emilio's Meson Sabika, my favorite Spanish restaurant in the Chicago suburbs, I'm guessing. Dug through three notebooks and found it. One of the three steps in kriya yoga, with the other two being self-inquiry (svadhya) and faith in your own choice of a higher power (isvara pranidhana) (meaning that it might be nature or it might be a god figure or it might be science or something else altogether). Tapas is the hard work, the intentional effort that you make when you want to change. The idea here is that tapas allow the beneficial samskaras, or patterns or behaviors, to become more predominant, until the negative samskaras go dormant.

It's his turn now. Avidya, klesas and something else. It's astounding the things that can amuse a person.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


This is how I feel. Tangled up, ends all over the place, sort of a plan but all up for grabs at the next moment. Must my knitting mirror my interior state? But that's me, right now. New store, new people, new place, new commute. I woke up this morning, drank a cup of coffee, tried to concentrate on the New York Times Arts and Leisure section of the Sunday paper, sat for a few minutes trying to meditate. Then I gave up and allowed myself to obsess about the Mitered Square Blanket. This is what I do when I feel stress: I try to wrestle a problem to the ground with my mind. And I organize, which usually translates as throwing stuff out. There's nothing as restorative as filling a big garbage bag with stuff that you no longer use.
This morning, I settled for dumping all the Tahki Cotton Classic yarn that I've been piling into a big wooden bowl onto the living room floor so that I could separate it into piles by color.
It was a mess. Lots of skeins heaped into a pile. Some wound into balls, some still in wrappers. My needle constantly hidden under the mess. A stew of color before. Now I could see what I had and how much of each color I have left.

Next, and this all went much faster than the time it is taking me to download the pictures and describe the process, I photographed my three favorite squares. I'm only going to show one of them, because I'd hate to see Blogger crash from the number of photos I'm stuffing into this post. This is the blue-green/red-violet square. I think that it's the first one that I made, and still one of the best.
I can call it blue-green and red-violet because my Staedtler color wheel from Office Depot (around two dollars and fifty cents, thank you very much) tells me so. And using my color wheel, I now came to the intellect-dominating-the-problem part of the exercise, as I tried to figure out what the relationship of these colors is.
Here's what I discovered: my favorite squares are the ones that use colors based on a triadic relationship. What that means in plain language, still using the square above as the example, is this: Imagine a triangle. At the top point is that strong blue-green that you see in the square. At the lower right hand corner is red-violet (we'll come back to that in a moment). At the bottom left corner is yellow-orange. What I've done in this square is to pit one point of the triad (or three-part relationship) against another point. Or, to be honest, I've fudged a bit, because this square really contrasts blue-green with violet (a deep purple) instead of red-violet (a pinkish purple). But close enough, and the rule seemed to hold for the other two squares that I studied. Oh, what the hell. Here's another example. If the stock market and world media crash at 9:27 a.m., it is only due to too many knitting pictures on one poor slob's blog.
Here we have a square with a predominantly yellow-blue triadic relationship. The neon yellow is the top point of the triangle, the bright blue is the lower right hand corner, and the absent third point would be red. In this picture, you can see the triad symbol: it's the pale gray, wider triangle beneath the more narrow white triangle at the "top" of the pile in the center of the wheel. With me still? If so, the last thing that I'm going to say is that the triad stuff is all theory. In real life, I'm dealing with the yarn that I own and the colors that I've purchased, so I'm trying to come as close as I can with what I have. One could become very particular about this project, but as we can see, I'm just all about going with the flow.

And, finally, plans for the next three squares. All bagged up, having residence in the wooden bowl while the rest of the yarn, bagged by color families, goes into the wicker laundry basket where I keep my small stash. (Honest. Aside from the Tahki for the blanket, I own very little yarn).

Here's a square based on a yellow-blue triad, using tints and shades. (That's a post for another day.) This one looks interesting: red-orange and blue-violet.
And what I always think of as the Dr. Seuss color family: a complementary relationship - also a triangle but further apart on the color wheel - of reds and yellow-greens. If you look back to our color wheel above, the complementary symbol is the narrow white triangle at the very "top" of the pile in the center of the wheel.

More Color

I'm back to the Mitered Square Blanket. My mantra: one background color. Analagous colors, maybe, for the contrast color in each of the four squares that makes up one larger square. Try, in spite, of myself, not to think too hard about the choices. If I forget, I'm going here to Cara's notes and pictures, to remind myself that this project is about playing with color.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Thursday, August 02, 2007

LOVE it!

I love my new yoga practice. Can I say that? My teacher is so smart. She listened to me pouring out all the ups and downs of the practice, my work, my teaching, my concerns about having yet another this-is-real-life interference with my training that will cause me to arrive about a day and a half late to the session in September, and various other ramblings. Then she cut the practice in half and removed my least favorite poses as well as a few that aren't feeling that great on my just-had-surgery -a few-months-ago-body.

Gone is lying on my back and extending one foot above my hip, pointing and flexing. Gone is the reclining spinal twist. For some reason, I dreaded both of those. Not that they were the most difficult poses in the practice. But for some reason they created some mental fuming, and the general rule, in yoga, is that if it causes agitation, it's counter-productive, since one of the measures that your yoga is working is that you feel less worked-up, less agitated. You don't suddenly become this goddess of all things peaceful. More likely, you can sit in traffic without losing your mind, or notice a baby crying during the climax of the movie without needing to tell the parents off for bringing an infant to the theater.

Now, I do about a 20-minute practice in the morning, with the option to remove poses if I really need to move fast. If I have time, I sit for about 5 minutes, focusing on my breath. It's a very simple, quiet, sitting-still meditation. In the evening, the practice takes about 15 minutes, including one of my all-time favorites: viparita karani. While I lay on the floor with my legs propped up against the wall, I do a nyasam, or gesture, sort of a finger play in which the movement of my thumb and fingers is coordinated to my breath. It helps to slow my mind down and relax. I do 3 and 4 rounds, then just lie there, open my arms wide, open my chest, and breathe with my eyes closed. Ahhh.

Done. That's it. Much more efficient than my previous practice, which was taking from an hour to an hour and a half. And I wasn't doing it, because I didn't make the time or I resented how much my mind was measuring as I worked through it. Now I'm at this pose. . .wow, only 1/3 done. Now I'm here. . .I have so much to go. Now I'm here. . .I hate this pose, it makes me feel old and stiff and did I say old? Now I get to flip the page to the rest of the practice. Oh my god, so many poses to go. Much better now. I'm making the time to practice, which is different than having the time. And I'm less agitated, more willing to try and see what happens, even looking forward to doing the second half at the end of the day.

I started out saying that I LOVE the practice. Maybe what I should say is that I LOVE that I have two great, great teachers (my first teacher, who knows me so well and opened the door to me becoming a teacher and my newer teacher who's guiding me through my study of yoga therapy).
And look here to see Joan's beautiful Bee Fields shawl, designed by Anne Hanson of Knitspot. I've been resisting the temptation to order the pattern, but I may have to give in.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Learning to Design Lace

My supplies and workspace as I attempt to crack the code on designing a lace shawl.

What I need:

  1. one of those fake mechanical pencils in yellow plastic, designed to look like a No. 2 Eberhard, which never need to be sharpened because you can just twist the end and get a new point
  2. graph paper from some crazy free web dealie that lets you mandate how many squares and how many rows to the page: 20 x 20, not for the mature lace designer, 10x10 about right for rough drafts, and 14x14 just right for a final version, which gives you about 40 squares across and about 28 rows up if you use the paper horizontally. Got that?
  3. clear plastic sleeves from Office Depot. The thick, more expensive kind. Don't waste your money on the flimsy, cheaper ones. You can always recycle these from project to project. I use them to hold the notes and the swatch.
  4. a copy of Barbara Walker's Treasury, volume 2, so I can crib lace designs, I mean, inspiration (next summer will be about original designs, maybe - right now, I know that I'm in good company in using Walker as the source)
  5. a copy of Interweave Knits Fall 2006, so that I can study Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail Shawl design and crib help from her methodology
  6. my reading glasses with rhinestones on the frame, because if you have to wear reading glasses, let them be fun, please.
  7. oh, and Post-It notes, for "underlining" the row on the pattern that I'm working on, for keeping a note of what the next row is, and for holding my place as I convert the written instructions in Walker into a chart.

My workspace: the dining room table. I've always studied at a dining-room table,through elemtary school and high school and years and years of graduate schools. I love the space to spread out in, the windows to look out of, and the proximity to the tea kettle and cups of tea.

Here's the goal: try to design a triangular lace shawl. The body of the shawl will be a small motif, repeated several times. Then a swoopy-style border. Then a basic Peaked Edging so that the shawl, when blocked, has that great scalloped border that you see in Clark's and other designers' shawls. So far, I've played with the Twin Leaf pattern from Walker. Here's a view of the blocked swatch. Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool. Size 7 bamboo circular needle. Garter edge border of 4 stitches on each side and garter stitch in 5 rows at beginning and end. 30 stitches. 4 pattern repeats. Gauge over lace section: about 18 st and 14 rows to 4". I like it, but it isn't as dramatic as I'd expected. Maybe drop down a needle size? Advantages: the definition of the leaves, the symmetry, only 8 rows to one repeat, with purling on all wrong side rows. In other words, only 4 rows of pattern to memorize, and only 26 stitches across a row, with most stitches either knit or purl. Disadvantages: just didn't excite me once I knit it up. Even after blocking.
Effort #2: Thistle Leaf Pattern, also from Walker, volume 2. a 10 stitch + 1 repeat. (If you know what that + 1 business means, can you let me know?) Also in Silky Wool, but this time on a size 6 bamboo circular. 25 stitches, including borders of 2 garter stitches on each side. Hmm. This is better.
Advantages: geometrical, symmetrical, a small motif (suggested by Clark's Budding Lace in her Swallowtail Shawl), purling across all wrong side rows instead of having pattern to count on right side and wrong side rows (as in Twin Leaf). Disadvantages: 28 rows in one repeat, difficult to memorize. Hey, that's not so bad. I could try this.

Next up: trying to configure the pattern so that the shawl increases 4 stitches every other row, and that the pattern looks right as the shawl widens. And finding a good, quick-to-read book on designing lace shawls. Don't try to find it at your big-box bookstore. Even if you could concentrate while the soundtrack of Hairspray plays overhead, you'll find not much but the latest, sexiest knitting books along with a good selection of the Yarn Harlot's books, which are great, but also meet the measure of a sure-fire seller for a bookstore trying to appease the masses.