Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween, Mr. Rogers




I grew up in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood.

Honestly. Right up the street from his house. I never saw him, even though we were always outside when we were kids, riding our skateboards down the hill (I lost mine in the sewer at the bottom of the street. Twice.) or playing Hide 'n Go Seek or turtle hopscotch. Every Halloween, we would go trick or treating at his house. But he never answered the door. In my memory, the house is dark and empty, but I think that I must not be remembering correctly, because I can't believe that there would have been no one home to hand out candy.

Most years, it was cold and rainy. We would collect as much as we could, and then go home, dump our pillow cases of loot out on the floor in the living room, and admire our collection while drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire. If I had some Bonamo Taffy, I could smack the bar on the tiles of the hearth so that it would break into tiny shards of banana-flavored taffy, chewy and more than ready to pull your fillings out.

In honor of Halloween and Mr. Rogers, here are some pictures of the Mr. Rogers display at the airport in Pittsburgh. I think of it as a shrine to the man, and I visit it every time I pass through this airport. I admire Mr. Rogers for his gentle persona and his work (I have a friend who has a theory that Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was for the parents and not for the kids, giving moms and dads a few moments of peace and calm amidst the furor of raising a family) and I think that a world where kindness and compassion and friends and knitting are foregrounded would be a very good world indeed. Our favorite character is Daniel Tiger, but I love the tennis shoes and the other puppets and the trolley, too. Somehow, I didn't take a picture of Mr. Rogers' sweater, but it's a grey-blue cardigan with, I think, wooden buttons, and knit by his mom.




Monday, October 29, 2007

Update on Knitting for Compassion

Another box from the Knitche. Amazing! We're at 154 scarves and still collecting. Thank you, everyone! Keep knitting. Keep sending. We can reach the goal of 300 by mid-November, can't we? And wouldn't it be cool if knitters/readers from Uganda and Hawaii and every place that you see a little dot on the map section of SiteMeter sent in a scarf, so that this was a global project? Just email me at pegotty@att.net for details.

One of my favorite scarves. Simple but colorful.

A scarf knit by a little boy.

My den. My life. I'm a slob, but a slob who likes fiber and color.

Vicarious Knitting

Color! The Runcible Bin. (I wish that every blog this great would come with a disclaimer, in which the blogger/knitter/artist explains how he or she finds time to get all this knitting done.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Job

Today a strange little woman in my store, wearing a purple coat and a black velvet hat that reminded me of Carol Channing, beckoned me toward her and then whispered, "Have you eaten salami today?"
Ah. . .no.
"Because you smell like salami."
What can you say to that? "Well, thank you for pointing that out," I answered, then turned away in hopes that my body language would halt any further conversation.
"That's a compliment," she insisted.
Ah. . .no. And I don't even eat meat, let alone salami.
My other mistake today: not warning everyone else on the sales floor about Salami Woman. One of my sales associates, in good faith, offered to help her and the little strange person lost her temper.
Is it a full moon?

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Magic Loop Method

Felted mitten. Don't worry. There's another one. And a suggestion: take your Malabrigo felted mittens out of the washing machine while they are still a bit bigger than you want them to end up. They continue to shrink and puff up as they dry, so that the end result is smaller than the soggy, floppy, huge-looking mitten in felting process.
Before felting. Turned inside out, per directions, so that the pair are less likely to felt together into one giant unusable mitten.
The Magic Loop method illustrated on the Knit Picks' website: This looks like the ticket for finishing my felted mittens. Be gone, you double-pointed needles, which wander about the house and my knitting bags and the undersides of the sofa cushions, so that I never have more than three of the five of a set at any one moment. And maybe it's me, but it's very tricky to hold three or four needles in a circle while wrapping the yarn around the needle holding the stitches being worked while holding onto the needle doing the work while not dropping any stitches off the other three or four needles.
A visual demonstration of why it may be tricky for me to hold four needles at one time. Picture to scale. Don't snicker, please.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Skinny Scarf #2

A scarf for Linda, for helping.

Pattern: Scarf#2, Three Skinny Scarves

Designer: St. Seraphina Knits

Yarn: Katia Azteca, color 7803 (50% wool, 50% acrylic), 197 yd/skein

Needles: Size 10 Bryspun circulars

Size after blocking: 6" by 62"

Notes: a great pattern, what Vicki Square, author of Knit Kimono, calls "coma knitting." Four rows, with rows 1 and 4 all knit, row 2 almost all purl, and row 3 a very easy lace repeat. Quick and easy to knit. And I'm becoming a fan of Bryspun needles. I knit loosely and am usually struggling to get the correct gauge without going down to a needle so small that it will take me eons to finish the project. The Bryspun has just enough resistance to slow me down and tighten up my stitches, but feels better - in terms of being more flexible as well as smoother - than a bamboo circular. And there's no joint between the needle tip and the wire for the yarn to get caught on, so that I can knit with a better rhythmn and enhanced mindlessness.

What I would do differently Next Time: perhaps buy less expensive yarn. One skein of the Azteca cost $16.80, and it worked up and felt almost identical to Patons SWS from Michael's, which runs about $6 for 110 yds. On the other hand, what you get with the more high-end yarn is color selection, and the Azteca perfectly suited my need for a yarn that would match a dark green coat with a black lining. The problem with the discount yarns, for me, is the choice of either neon or pastel shades, with not much in the way of sophisticated colorways.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Things to Recommend about My First Scuba Diving Lesson

  • doing something that I've wanted to do for years.
  • finding a great teacher. Michelle is patient, thorough, fun, reassuring, and she noticed that I was cold and found me a wet suit to put on so that I could enjoy the lesson. And she had a platform in the pool so that all of us short divers could comfortably stand while listening to instructions instead of bobbing at the surface, trying to keep our ears above water.
  • putting on a wet suit for the first time. Think girdle, but covering your entire body. It took all my strength to get the suit up to my knees, and from there on, the going got tougher. And I'm little. And the zipper's in the back, so that, theoretically, you can reach behind your back and zip the suit up. But since we'd already proven in the water, yet again, that I have short arms (the reach behind your back to recover your respirator was much more challenging than the sweep along your sides version), I had to ask for help, as though I was wearing an evening gown instead of black and bright blue neoprene.
  • learning the silly but vital hand signals. I'm good at languages, and now I can add Scuba to Sanskrit and French and Spanish and a tiny bit of Hebrew. I'm not fluent in any, but knowing at least a few words is satisfying.
  • swimming at the bottom of the deep pool, not even noticing that I was breathing with a tank. I love the water, and to be able to stay underneath for longer than I can hold my breath, was just amazing.
  • the feeling of every part of yourself being relaxed and happy. What is about swimming that makes a person feel so good?

Next lesson is a week from tomorrow. We made our way through the first module (buddy breathing, clearing your mask, entering the water, recovering your respirator, signaling the amount of air left in your tank, descending and ascending, and more). I'm already thinking/hoping to go someplace warm and beautiful and dive-friendly when Chicago hits the doldrums in February or March.

On the knitting front, a bit of a stall. I decided to make the Minimalist Cardigan longer than the pattern called for, and instead of cute and fitted, I have a giant black sweater in process. The moss stitch is a killer, too, so I may decide to rip it out and start something different. But not tonight. Now it's time for The Bachelor.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bhavana

My bhavana for tonight: watch the Bulls and work on my to-be-felted, Malabrigo-beautiful mittens.

A bhavana is an intention or a goal. Let me state for the record that I mentally fuss when I'm told, in yoga class, to "set an intention." I'm standing there, breathing, trying to focus my mind for more than a millisecond on one thought, relaxing my stance and my muscles and maybe even my brain, and then I'm asked to figure out what my intention is? And what does it mean to "set" that intention?

Maybe it's a language problem. Instead of intention or goal, how about wish, or hope, or plan? And the teacher at the workshop that I attended today - on bhavana - kept drilling this into us. You need to be concrete. You need to be specific. You need to cast the goal in positive terms, what he called remembering into the future. Not "I'll be sorry if I don't have ice cream after dinner tonight," but "I enjoyed the ice cream that I had for desert." Not "I want to travel the world," but "I plan to celebrate my 51st birthday with seven best friends in Paris."

He also talked me down from The Secret ledge. I made a deal with my hairdresser that, if she stopped shopping at Wal-mart, that I would read The Secret. And I tried. I really did. I listened to half of a disc of the Books on CD version, with the author melodiously leading her listeners through the magic of positive thinking. But honestly, I gave up. As much as I believe in the wonders of a positive attitude and the importance of problem-solving your way out of almost any dilemna, I fall squarely in the camp of believing that there are random forces, and there is evil in the world. And no matter how much you wish for something, it may not happen. Life is not fair, as the poster in my daughter's fifth-grade classroom said.

What I did like about this workshop is that the teacher did not promise a one-to-one correspondence of intention to result. Yoga is about how you feel, and a bhavana is attained if you create more happiness and clarity in your life. Because you are more satisfied, more content, more clear about what is working and not working in your behavior and your relationships and your work.

I came home, told my husband about the workshop, then gathered my courage to tell him that I'd heard about a scuba class starting tomorrow, and that I was hoping that we both could go. Specific. Positive. Concrete. And he said that he thought it was a good idea. My bhavana for tomorrow: learn to scuba dive.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mitered Beauty

Proof again that the key to mitered blankets is playing around with color and enjoying yourself.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Train Knitting

My scarf and I took the train to work today.

How nice. I walked from the house to the train station in perfect fall weather this morning. Leaves turning orange, sun out, a bit of a breeze. Caught the train, rode a few stops, and then a mere 10-minute walk from the station to the store. Far enough to get some fresh air and stretch my legs, but not so far that it was a chore.

The way home was a bit trickier, but only because, in over 20 years of living in Chicago, I've never taken the train from a suburb west of me to my town. I thought that I was on the right side of the tracks to go east, but then one commuter train stopped at the station going west, and then another, extremely long commuter train pulled in, also going west, but letting people out on the people going east side of the track. Using my best if-I-ever-get-a-chance-to-go-on-The Amazing Race skills, I found a kindly and portly conductor who verified that I was on the correct side to go east, but that the new train had so many cars that it had to pull in on the other side of the tracks. I don't know where they find these guys, but I always feel like I'm going back in time when I talk to a train conductor. Do little boys dream, still, of becoming conductors, and wearing the same uniform that they wore in the '40s?

I must have looked like I knew what I was doing, because one man waiting on the next bench asked when the train reached Union Station (I knew the answer because I had my trusty Aurora to Chicago train schedule) and a woman asked if this was the right side of the tracks to go into Chicago. It must have my black raincoat, the Ipod, and my knitting. And capping the illusion that I'm a commuter, I was met when I got off the train by my husband and my dog. We walked back in the dark, the dog dawdling and moseying along.

This is proper train knitting. Scarf #2 from Three Skinny Scarves from St. Seraphina knits.
I was thinking about knitting as a measure of time. What if knitters chose not to carry watches, and instead, interpreted time as a reflection of knitting accomplished? The left hand section is the time it takes to watch one hour of The Bachelor. The right hand section is my commute to work, 30 minutes waiting for the train to come home, and the trip home

This scarf goes to a manager who helped me out several times last month, and whipped my stockroom into shape for me. She has an army-green winter coat with a black fur lining, and at my prompting for what she wanted, asked for a long scarf that would match to the green and black.

Monday, October 15, 2007

No Rest for the Weary

I never stopped moving today. From the moment that I unlocked the front door of the store and turned off the alarm until I headed out the door at the end of my day, I was never not doing something.

Between 9:30 am and 1 pm, I counted down the registers, wrote out a zone chart, read and printed and hole-punched and filed the email, answered the phone at least 20 times, scheduled a cleaning of the store, carried the 8-foot ladder to the floor to change a poster, carried a mannequin out to the floor for the window change, carried new arms out for the mannequin, carried the mannequin back because the arms had been manufactured upside down and would have caused the mannequin to wave in a grotesque fashion rather than stand and pose, hand-removed seven very large dust bunnies from under the desk where we didn't dust mop yesterday, carried the ladder back to the stockroom, moved and climbed another ladder to search for a receipt for my corporate office, unwound a roll of tape by hand because I couldn't find the tape dispenser so that I could tape the receipt to a piece of paper and put it through the fax machine, tried to use the hole-punch in the office but failed because the last hole-punch part is screwed down against the plate of the hole-punch and I could not loosen it, filed paperwork, printed out mailing labels and packed up three different packets for my corporate office, taped together a carton only to discover that the bottom was torn to shreds, taped another carton and packed up another delivery to my corporate office, emailed for a follow-up on two maintenance requests and missing packaging and AWOL pegs for the accessory fixtures, responded to the emails sent regarding those issues, responded again, took a call from the supply person about the packaging at the same time that the UPS guy was delivering the packaging. Oh, and waited on customers, and talked to my associate about her vacation, and called the management office about holiday hours, and took a conference call, and talked to anew employee about her schedule, and heard my favorite story of the day about the dinner dance that one of my employees wnet to last week and how she was dancing so madly that she danced her slip right off and then stepped out of it without missing a beat, and then tried to make order out of chaos on the sales floor.

If you want to help, please tell me what you would like to have for a snack at our holiday kick-off meeting this weekend. It's in the evening, and we have a few dollars per person to spend. Desert? Pizza? Something resembling something alcoholic but not alcoholic? Pretend that you're invited and help my poor brain to come up with something celebratory yet simple.

Now, I'm going to watch The Bachelor. And I don't want to hear any snickers out there, because I deserve a moment of really inane reality t.v.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Prfectionism

Okay, my favorite part of yesterday's post on perfectionism is that I misspelled both "perfectionist" and "soap" opera. Another mental slap upside the head, as Stephanie Plum would say. And I don't know how Janet Evanovich spells Stephanie, and I'm not Googling to check. Because it's time to observe scarves.

Here's an update on our scarf prject, hmm, project. Eighty-five scarves so far - we're nearing the 100 marl. That's mark. . .If you have any pity for me, you'll send me a scarf. One of my most cherished talents is my ability to spell (second only to my ability to parallel park in large urban settings such as Chicago), and if that is going, something is seriously amiss.

Flamestitch:
Purple and chartreuse. My favorite color combination:
Tina's scarf:
Remember, the scarves, which are being donated to the families of Housing Opportunities for Women so that each mom can receive a holiday gift of something warm and cozy, can be hand-made or purchased (I hear that the dollar store has them on sale for, yep, a dollar) or gently worn or can even be the raw materials for one of the clients of HOW in Evanston to make her own scarf. Email me at pegotty@att.net and I'll provide a mailing address. Or call me if you're local and know my phone number, and I'll stop by and pick them up. I'm hoping to collect at least a round 100, but 300 would be even better, so that every client receives a scarf.

And thanks to all those who've sent or donated or come to the Knitche to knit. We still have our unpublicized competition of the Knitche versus my mom's sisterhood, and the sisterhood is winning. We may do another night of charity knitting of scarves at the Knitche; I'll post the information if it happens.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Perfectionist Knitting

It's a no-knitting day. I tried this, then this, then this, then this. Tried watching a DVD of Gilmore Girls, then tried listening to a recording of an Elizabeth Peters novel. Knitting and control do not go together. You just can't know what the result will be. You can't guarantee that the size that you need is the size that you'll knit. You can't be assured that you will love the result of all of this time and work invested. Control and knitting do not go together. The result of perectionist knitting is no knitting at all.

Gonna watch a sopa opera, run some errands, and have dinner with friends.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Enough with the Guilt, Woman!

This is my new favorite mantra.


Sent to me by my friend Marcia, who I met when I was first dating my husband, because she and her husband Rick had taken my husband under their wing and I was taken to meet them early on, sort of a family approval kind of thing. (This is the dinner where I flipped the butter out of the butter dish as I was carving off a piece to butter Rick's home-made French bread, from Julia Child, and then picked the stick of butter up in my fingers and put it back on the dish.) Marcia has been a mentor of sorts to me. She was a weaver before me, and a mom before me, and a grad student before me. Long before anyone had heard of Martha Stewart, we laid on her bed on Thanksgiving Day and watched one of the first Martha Stewart holiday specials. I still recall us chortling at the sight of Martha's perfectly organized china closet. And like some of my favorite people, Marcia has an eye for stuff. She had Fiestaware way before it was collectible, and she was estate-saling before it was the thing to do, and her home is beautiful and tasteful and most of all, welcoming.



So I was supposed to meet Marcia for dinner a few weeks ago, when she came to town for a meeting. And I messed up and scheduled myself to work that evening. I sent an email to see if we could reschedule, but no luck. So I emailed and apology. No answer. Then I sent a handwritten note, again apologizing. No answer.


Then, the day before yesterday, a card and a belated birthday present from Marcia. And some perfect advice. It went somewhat like this:

Enough with the guilt, woman! I know that you're busy! I'm busy, too. We'll get together another time - don't worry.


Perfect advice. I've been using this phrase repeatedly the last few days. You will learn that it comes in handy for a multitude of situations. And so on point: aren't we all more than ready to either beat ourselves up, metaphorically, or take the victim's role and toss the guilt to someone else? Plus, it's fun to say. Go ahead, try it.


Enough with the guilt, woman! See what I mean? I'm just sorry that, in a rare moment of cleaning frenzy, I threw the card out. It would have been nice to frame it.


And just because it's Sunday, pictures of the cat, progress on the Minimalist cardigan, and scarves donated from the Knitche knitters for the Knitting for Compassion project.




Thursday, October 04, 2007

Vindicated!

"Though it flies in the face of almost universally accepted wisdom, moderately disorganized people, institutions and systems frequently turn out to be more efficient, more resilient, more creative, and in general more effective than highly organized ones."

Thank you, Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman, authors of A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder. As someone who would love to hire an employee whose full-time job is remembering where I put things that I can't find, I find hope in this statement. Even if they tried to hedge their bets with the back-peddling conditional "moderately disorganized."

It's gonna be hard to retire my favorite quotation (the first line of Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" ), but I'm not sure that it would it be overkill to put the new quote over my desk and in my car and on my bathroom mirror and in the garden and the store and the living room and every other place in the universe where I've lost things.

Now and Then, a free scarf pattern


Pattern: Now and Then
Designer: my own design
Yarn: Berroco Foliage, color 5947 (53% new wool/47% acrylic), 100 yds/skein
Amount used: 2 skeins or 200 yds.
Needle: size 11 Addi Turbo metal circular
Gauge: not critical - what you want is a fabric open enough to drape but closed enough to have some structure - in this case, 11 stitches and 16 rows to 4"
Finished Size: 6 inches wide by 70 inches long (note: I did not block my scarf; it will probably grow some the first time it is washed. I know, Christine, I should have blocked it, but I was moving on to the next thing!)

This scarf has a difficulty level of medium easy. (It's my first pattern, I'm allowed to waffle.) If you know how to make a knit stitch, you're almost there. The only other two stitches used are a yarnover (abbreviated YO) and worked by wrapping the yarn around the right hand needle and working the next stitch on the left needle from that position, thus creating a hole in the fabric and K2tog (the same as the knit stitch, but working two stitches instead of one). Find a teacher or take yourself to KnittingHelp.com for some clear instructions and video. Here's the link for yarnover. And the link for K2tog.

The only other thing you'll need to do before getting started is to choose the color in your variegated (that means the colors change along the length of the yarn) yarn that signals Lace Rows Here. In this case, I chose orange. It was my least favorite color as well as the most intense, so that I couldn't fail to notice it when it arrived. You could try working your scarf this way, or choose the most subtle shade, or even select more than one color for your lace sections. The point is that, Now and Then, when the color reaches your needles, you'll know that it's time to shift from garter stitch to this easy lacework.

Skills needed: cast on, knit stitch, YO (yarnover), K2tog (knit two stitches together)

Stitches:
  • garter stitch - knit every row
  • lace pattern - K1, YO, K2tog

Instructions:

  1. Cast on 18 stitches.
  2. Work first three rows in garter stitch.
  3. Continue working in garter stitch until you reach the first of your chosen contrast color.
  4. Work the contrast color in the lace pattern until the contrast color is used up.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have about 2 yards of yarn remaining.
  6. Work 3 rows in garter stitch.
  7. Bind off all stitches. Finish loose ends by weaving into scarf with duplicate stitch. Clip ends, leaving about 1/4" of yarn that will work itself into the fabric.

That's it. I choose to resist all opportunistic puns deriving from the name of this scarf, except to point out that I do like its implication of rhythm, of something going away and coming back at irregular intervals.

Enjoy. Send a picture along if you decide to make it; I'd be pleased to post it.



Monday, October 01, 2007

this yoga stuff works

Symptoms: Achy lower back. Sciatica-like symptoms shooting up my right leg. Sore hips, in protest even about climbing onto my very high, old-fashioned bed.

Treatment: lots of deep hip openers, held for several breaths. Things like lunges on each leg, a lunge with the foot stepped way to the side so that the pose accesses the hamstring and inner thigh muscles, a reclining backbend with one leg tucked under and the other extended, and my most favorite, Pigeon pose.

Result: feeling much better. Backache is gone, hips feel more relaxed, feet don't hurt.

This yoga stuff really works.

Note of caution: please see a good yoga teacher in your area for relief from any symptoms; he or she will know what is right for you and what should be avoided. Remember Western medical culture's admonition: first, do no harm.