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Archive for December, 2003

New Year’s Eve Day

Wednesday, December 31st, 2003

Well, what a blessing it has been today, we have had full sun and it is so encouraging. I’m such an optimist when the sun shines. I’m listening to my Tiny Tim CD again, something that is just plain optimism as well, and the sun is shining through my two cut lead crystal pieces that hang in my office window. I have rainbows circling on the walls as I type this. How wonderful!

I’m still really frustrated with my allergies, I woke up with a headache so I first went back to bed and then when I got up I took a long hot bath with epsom salts. Hopefully that got me re-set so to speak, to get the headache out. It didn’t hurt me to put all that steam in the air, I expect.

But now even with a little headache remaining, I’m an optimist listening to this incredible music and watching the rainbows circle around me.

Buy your Blackeyed Peas Now!
Tomorrow is New Year’s Day. In the southern states of the US, it is tradition to eat blackeyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck. I love blackeyes, I think eating them any day is good luck, but I like the tradition. Make sure to get your blackeyes so you can join me in the good-luck, good-taste festivities. (By the way, blackeyed peas are actually a bean, not a pea. They are pretty small and somehow are called peas by tradition, not by science.)

I make something called Hoppin’ John at this time of year. There are as many ways to make it as there are people making it, but basically you combine cooked blackeyes (I buy them already cooked in a can, they are excellent this way and much easier), and cooked rice, then you add seasonings. In the south you would put bacon or ham or some other salty, smoked, high-grease-content pork meat in it to flavor it. I have found that adding olive oil to replace the pork fat, and soy sauce to replace the smoke and salt, makes it just as flavorful without the meat.

I also like to add whatever vegetables I have in the house, often red bell peppers and carrots. In the south you are most likely to see onions added and not necessarily much more. When I worked at Black Child and Family Institute I brought in my version of vegetarian Blackeyes, and one woman I worked with (from Mississippi) was just amazed that I put all those veggies in there… she liked it a lot, but had never imagined to do that herself. (And oooh, what a cook she was… she brought me fried cabbage and hot-water cornbread one day and it was pure heaven.)

So here is an approximate recipe for my version of Hoppin’ John:

LynnH’s Hoppin’ John
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh vegetables, chopped (red bell peppers or celery or carrots or a combination)
1 clove garlic, minced, optional
1 can cooked vegetarian blackeyed peas (or purplehull beans or crowder peas)
3 cups cooked rice (I prefer brown rice but use what you have)
3/4 cup boiling water
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped fine (or chopped tops of one bunch of green onions), optional
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce (Or Bragg’s Aminos, a non-fermented Soy Sauce)
1/4 tsp coarsely-ground black pepper
Red pepper southern hot sauce to taste, if you like it. Brian likes it and I don’t, so he adds it at the table.

In a medium-sized saucepan, place 1 Tbsp of olive oil and saute the onions and vegetables (and garlic, if used) until tender. Drain and rinse the beans well, and add to pot, along with rice. Add all the remaining ingredients. Simmer and let it boil down (stirring occasionally) to a thick, casserole-like texture

Please feel free to adjust anything according to your whim. I don’t ever measure, I just sort of use whatever I happen to have in the house. It is pretty hard to put these ingredients together in any odd combination and not have something wonderful.

This can be a main dish, as we do it at our house. Once an elegant professor friend (raised in the south) invited me to her house for New Year’s Day. She had a whole feast with just a small cut-glass dish of Hoppin’ John for a side dish of good luck.

As with anything of this type, it is even better the second day!

May all goodness, health and contentment come to you this coming year. May gentleness abound and may your loved ones flourish.

Tony is Back (& CityKidz Knit)

Tuesday, December 30th, 2003

I got to see my friend Tony today for the first time in a while. He had visited a sister out of state for Christmas. I have been missing him a lot. It was just great to see him.

He said that his knitted gifts went over well with his sisters and nieces. I am sure they did, they were very fine pieces. He’s a good knitter and he really does think about what the recipient likes.

I played some Tiny Tim for Tony on the way home from the airport. It’s pretty amazing music in any case, but my lovely New Beetle has a very good stereo so it is particularly amazing to listen in the car. We laughed and listened and talked a bit about unusual but brilliant performers. I tell you, Tony is good company.

We are going to get together on Friday morning. I am not sure if we’ll just sip tea in my kitchen or if we will be on the road doing a yarn crawl. I need to find 1) sport weight or DK weight yarn 2)preferably in non-wool blends, or if wool a very soft superwash. I’m doing some sox for a publication in sportweight, plus I am trying out my Singer HK100 knitting frame as a possible tool to make a bunch of socks for a friend who is sensitive to many wools.

I put fingering/sock weight yarn on the HK100 at the smallest setting and it came out to 6.33 stitches an inch. Now, this is a bulky machine so that is pretty amazing… but it is not a firm enough gauge for socknitting. It would make great baby clothes, perhaps.

So now I want some yarns a little thicker than fingering to try at that same smallest tension. I want to see what gauge I can get there, and then I can start (in January that is) try some sox on the machine with those yarns. I know my friend really does well with alpaca, so I’ll be looking for at least one nice alpaca either in my stash or at a yarn shop sometime soon. And anything else I can find that will make a good gauge on the machine.

My Kidz
Oh, another cool thing… I went to a local discount store (Value City) today looking for a pink slip or nightgown for underneath my upcoming mohair dress. (Thanks to Irene of Mid Michigan Knitting Guild who suggested that a nightgown might work if I can’t find a slip.) I had no luck finding a slip, but I found some other great items at great prices. The kids in line in front of me were fascinated about my socknitting (I get a lot of knitting done in lines, I tell you). The boy looked about 3rd grade and he kept saying it looked hard. I told him it wasn’t hard if someone explained it to you in just the right words so you could understand. That I’d taught kids as young as 5 to knit. And that he was welcome to come to my program at Foster Center.

Then the cashier piped up. She said her son learned to knit at Foster this summer, and then this Christmas he had made mittens for his baby brother. How cool is that? It turns out that she had a 5 yr old boy and a 9 yr old girl in my program this summer. The boy had some difficulty at first, as kids that age do. But the sister learned and helped the brother. And he figured out how to make mittens. How adorable is that? I encouraged her to send me a photograph so that I could put it on my wall by my room, where I have several of the pictures of my kidz that you guys see here on my blog.

Today I had 7 kids knitting. I taught two new kiddos how to knit for the first time. One didn’t get it enough to take hers home but she seemed to enjoy being there. The girl who made the wonderful purse last week was there, but she and several others left before I got a picture. The ones who stuck it out sure look pleased with their tiny bits of loopy fabric, don’t they? I think “my children” are absolutely beautiful! I’m sure you must agree.

Cover Grrrl!

Monday, December 29th, 2003

Elderly Instruments Catalog 2003Well, I neglected to tell you all some cool news. Brian and I, as “The Fabulous Heftones,” are on the front cover of the current Elderly Instruments catalog. I’m holding a very beautiful guitar rather than my usual Heftone Bass… because Elderly sells guitars and doesn’t sell Heftones. But hey, being on the cover allows for some flexibility.

Many people don’t recognize me in this photo. For one thing, I nearly always wear my hair back in a braid when I’m being my normal self. When I’m “Lynn Heftone” I often wear it down, but many people in my regular life have never seen me that way. Also, I’m wearing some earrings that have long white dangles and with the angle of my head it makes my neck look like someone else’s, somehow. Again, I figure Brian looks great and he’s friends with the photographer and catalog production department. They loved the photo because they were looking at the big picture, not whether Lynn would look like Lynn to her friends.

It is pretty cool news, don’t you think? Cover Grrl! I like it.

By the way, if you love music and have never checked out Elderly Instruments, you may want to do so. They are a large mail order house which among other things does a great job with used acoustical stringed instruments and lots of music, mostly of the “unplugged”/acoustical department. They have some great world music (I get middle eastern and african CDs there) as well.

If you either want to be on their mailing list, or want to see the picture larger, go to the Elderly Instruments Catalog Page. If you click on the small photo on that page you will be taken to a very large, 800×600 pixel image of Brian and I… if you are inclined to wait that long. Do seriously consider ordering a catalog… it is full of musical goodies you certainly need to know about!

Elderly is a good karma place, housed in Old Town of Lansing, on Washington Avenue a few blocks North from Oakland. It’s funny, people in other countries know the place sometimes more than people in Lansing. I remember buying guitar capos from them in the late ’70s when they were one room in a basement on Grand River in East Lansing. Now they are in an old Oddfellows hall, a wonderful red brick building with its architectural integrity intact. Check it out. (OK, disclaimer: Brian works there… but I don’t and I’ve been a customer for about 25 years, longer than Brian’s been in Lansing.)

Sharon P. Has a New Blog

Sunday, December 28th, 2003

KnitknacksWell, I just got a very exciting announcement. Sharon P., knitter, contradancer and she-who-also-teaches-kids-to-knit, now has a weblog called Knitknacks. Do please check it out. She has lots of pictures of projects, both hers and those of others.

One of the kids that Sharon and I both work with, was the girl who made the excellent dark blue bag last Tuesday as a Christmas gift for a favorite adult. Sharon and I have now shared two knitters. I’m sure we will discover more as time goes on.

Two Days Off!

Saturday, December 27th, 2003

Wow. I have two days off in a row, and they make a standard weekend. Imagine that! I did get a call from JoAnn today to ask if I’d come in, but for once I declined the offer. I need to do some work of my own, and I’ve ignored that too long. I have a publication deadline for January 1 and I am still working on my last 3 gifts. That’s enough!

Tomorrow Brian and I will be busy together, but today he’s at work and I’m alone at home. I just love my alone time at the house (I used to get a lot of these days but they are rare now). I’m listening to Tiny Tim over and over, and I vacuumed (unbelievable I know). It is 45 degrees F outside right now, but snow is covering the nasty mildewy leaves that bother my voice, so the air is very fresh and clean. I turned the furnace off and opened doors and windows to air out the dust in the house after vacuuming. I am hoping this will help me fight the cold as well.

I have my extra heavy handknit September-to-September sweater on, and longjohns (not wool, unfortunately) and legwarmers and heavy sox plus bedsox and a hat and earmuffs, and a scarf around my neck. Indoors! I actually had my wristwarmers on but I got them horribly dusty when I changed the vacuum cleaner bag and had to wash them, so my hands are bare as is my face. the rest of me is bundled up like crazy! I must look a sight. But hey, the house is about 60 degrees inside now… with pristeen air. I’m loving it. (My allergy nurse encourages me to do this a few times each heating season… I always have liked doing this but wasn’t sure if it was smart. She gave the A-OK… but I can only do it when Brian’s out to be fair to him.)

Happy Music
Tiny Tim is amazing. I’m just so happy listening to this music! If his aim was to help people be happy, it worked. I smile half the time listening to this.

New Fiber
I got surprise package today when I went to the Post Office. I had ordered dyes and superwash roving a few months ago. I got the dyes right away and I sure thought they cancelled the roving… but today I got it. Cool biz! It feels soooo soft!

I’ll be very interested to see how this dyes up and whether folks will want to buy it for sock yarn spinning. We’ll see. It will be a while before I get a dyeing day unless something changes this week. I have so many plans for my dyeing it will take several sessions to get through them all.

A Balancing Act, Different Routine
I tell you, the holidays are a nice time to celebrate our loved ones, but it really messes with getting things done. I mean, I don’t get vacation pay when I don’t work. I need to have work hours or I don’t pay the bills. The last few weeks of the year are a real stress that way, because I lose work days for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s eve/day. I’ll just do my best to appreciate my friends while I’m unable to work. I do love my friends… I’m really missing Tony but he’s coming home very soon and then I can make him a pot of tea and we can sip tea and knit and chat again. Soon! Very soon, I hope.

I realized the other day when I had some yummy goodies to share, that four of my favorite friends to share food with were out of state. My friend Anne is still here but she is the mommy of a 1-1/2 year old and quite busy with holiday stuff of her own. So I had to find other ways to enjoy the goodies, without a buddy other than Brian. That was OK. I just felt sort of alone when I realized my first FOUR choices of friends were gone. Boo hoo. We’ll get away this year sometime. Mom always issues an invitation to come visit in Florida, and I usually get down there. This year we may go play music in San Diego but heck, maybe I could still work in a weekend with Mommy. It’s a long time to go without her company if I don’t go down there.

New Sox Started
I started a new pair of sox for myself in Trampoline, a stretch fingering weight yarn, today when waiting in line at a zillion places (pharmacy, grocery, Staples, post office). I got it not realizing it was stretch. I’d heard of Trampoline when Dawn Brocco did an article last year in Heels and Toes Gazette on stretch yarns, but I had not seen it at that time. This one is mostly dark blue/purple/gray but with nice bright bits of purple, grass green and a very nice blue-turquoise. I thik I will really enjoy wearing them. However, now I’m home so I have more businesslike creative work to do. Home is where I can actually think when I knit, rather than knitting around and around in circles meditatively as I do in public.

A Beautiful Day
I’m really loving the mostly-sunny day today! I may even go for a short walk around the block. I’m just trying to keep those windows open in the house as long as possible, I really need fresh and clean air to breathe. The cold seems to be better this afternoon, so I hope that is a good sign. I could barely get to sleep last night with the coughing. I’m ready to feel a little better.

I hope you all are enjoying this Saturday as much as I am. Music and sunshine, what else could a person want? And tonight we jam with the Abbott Brothers! Perfect, I say.

Christmas Gifts

Friday, December 26th, 2003

Well, we had a simple and lovely Christmas holiday. We stayed home all day, ate food I bought at Aladdins which was wonderful, and listened to music.

We have been doing simple gifts lately, and it pleases me. It seems that simple gifts can be so perfect, there is no need for fancy. Maybe I’m an idealist… after all, if someone gave me a trip to a faraway country, I’d love it. But I think it is great to take pleasure in small things that are really about the recipient.

Brian got me two CD’s. (I love how he created bows when there were none in the house, don’t you?) This is great because for some reason I never seem to get myself CD’s even though I listen to them at home most of the time I’m alone there (which can be a lot some weeks). He knows I really have an interest in African music but I mostly know South African bands. He got me King Sunny Ade, a Nigerian musician who plays a style called JuJu. I like it very much. Sometimes the only music I can handle while I’m working, is music in a language I do not know. Words get in my way sometimes. Yet I really don’t enjoy music that is just instrumental, I really love the instrument that is the human voice. So this will be one more great choice for those times that I’m working alone at home.

The second CD he got me was Tiny Tim Live! at the Royal Albert Hall. It is a live concert from 1968. I have been playing the cassette “Got Bless Tiny Tim” in my car nonstop for weeks now. I am delighted to have this new CD to add to my small collection. There is something about Tiny Tim. He was an oddity, no question about it. He would sing duets and trios with himself, doing different voices (my all-time favorite is his version of “I Got You, Babe” on the God Bless Tiny Tim album). He was dead serious about it, musically. I mean, he went at this thing head-on, doing incredibly unexpected and almost embarrassing things but doing them full-out. The thing he wanted most was to make people happy with his music.

He did a lot of tunes from Vaudeville. Well, vaudeville happened with no amplification. It required excess to get the point across. Many things were extreme and full-out. It is as if Tiny was decades too late. Except he brought some great tunes to this generation because he came along when he did.

Here’s a quote excerpted from the album notes:

“I have been singing ever since I can remember, years ago appearing in amateur shows in Brooklyn, and just all over the place. I sang in hospitals, and for the poor in the streets. I even sang in back alleys and subway trains, just to sing whatever the people wanted to hear. All I wanted to do was spread joy all over. I always bring my little ukelele along in my shopping bag which my dear sweet father bought me. After all, you just never know when a song might come along.”

I am really adoring this CD. It’s funny, the only thing most people know about Tiny Tim is that he sang “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” Well, that is a most wonderful song indeed (although Tiny consistently did it without the introduction and with several lyrics quite incorrect). But he did other things and it is the big picture that makes me respect this very unusual man. He was who he was. Totally. Without apology or regret. How many of us every achieve that?

It was hard to meet that gift’s greatness, really… but I gave Brian a set of fake fireplace logs for our inoperable fireplace we have had for several years. Up until now I’ve had two strings of hot pepper lights in there, which looked a lot like hot coals on the grate. But we always thought it would be great to find a 1960’s-era set of fake logs if it were possible. We know that many “retro” things cost a pretty penny if you can find them at all, but hey, you can wish.

Well, I recently joined an email list in the Lansing area called a Freecycle list. People post things they own and don’t want anymore but don’t want to put into the dumpster. Other people post what they are looking to find. And when it works, it is a wonderful thing.

So not long after I joined the freecycle list, someone posted they had fake fireplace logs. Woohoo! They have a red lightbulb behind a grating covered with something looking approximately like coals. The logs in this set are actually wood logs, just cut away for the glow to come through. And when you turn it on, a little motor in the back spins a small metal brush that rubs against a little plastic grate to create crackling noises and also change the light reflecting, so it looks a bit like flickering firelight. Very cool. And that was Brian’s gift.

All it cost me was a 50-mile round trip to a town where I used to live for a dozen years. A most pleasant drive. And now we have the perfect setup in our fake fireplace… and this man in Williamston doesn’t have an unwanted thing in his basement anymore. We all came out ahead, didn’t we?

My wish for this season is that we find bits of gentleness in the bustle of it all. I had a bit of that gentleness on the 25th.

Finished Some Socks!

Thursday, December 25th, 2003

Well, I’ve been a slow socknitter lately. The last pair I finished was Brian’s Halloween Socks, which I finished October 31. I did finish a pair of legwarmers since then.

I finally finished a pair of handknit socks, for myself, last night. They desperately need blocking, a result of knitting them waiting in line and at doctor’s offices… each time I pick them up I knit a slightly different gauge. Thank goodness that washing and blocking really evens out a lot of that. Wool is such a gift! A little blocking and they will look great.

I also finished one child’s sock, the first I’ve ever done on a knitting frame/machine. I used a free pattern on the internet intended as a pattern to crank out socks for the charity Children In Common (CIC) which sends warm clothing including vests, hats and socks, to children’s orphanages in Russia and nearby areas. These orphanages are barely heated, about 60 degrees&nbspF indoors, so good, warm wool really makes a difference in the quality of life for the kids.

I had tried this pattern before, but I just couldn’t follow the instructions at that point. Machine Knitting (MK) has a whole new language and way of doing things, that makes a competent and intelligent person feel incompetent trying to figure it out. I have had my machines since August and I finally was able to follow a pattern to do socks… the thing I understand best when handknitting! Amazing.

I made the sock in what I think is Plymouth Encore (75% acrylic/25% wool). It is left over from the batch of yarns I got for knitting a charity hat for my Mid Michigan Knitting Guild in 2002. I figure I’ll make charity socks with the leftovers. If it is Encore, it’s only 25% wool which isn’t up to the standards of CIC (they want at least 50% wool if I remember right) but I’ll find some way to give this to a child in need.

I don’t like how the very top of the sock was done. It uses a mock ribbing and a cast on that is very loose. At the bottom of the mock ribbing there is a hole (like a yarn over or one-stitch buttonhole) for every “purl” column. It’s not at all attractive, but it sure was fast to knit if the point is to crank out a bunch of socks fast for charity.

It’s just that I don’t like that mock rib. It’s a sort of hassle to make ribbing on a basic knitting frame because it only makes knit stitches, so you have to go in and re-form any stitch that should be a purl. Now, I don’t mind doing this… I actually do it even on my handknit socks at times. You just let go of a stitch and pull to run it down as far as you want, and then you chain it back up with a crochet hook (or a latch tool if you are a machine knitter, but I just can’t make friends with the latch since I’ve done it with a crochet hook for decades).

The heel is really great, it is what a handknitter would call a Dutch heel. This is the basis for my LynnH No-Purl Heel that I prefer when hanknitting. Most MK socks I’ve seen have what is called a “short row” heel in Hand Knitting circles (odd, since most heels have short rows unless they are afterthought heels). I like the Dutch heel a lot, so this is great to learn on the machine.

Overall, the pattern worked out just fine and was quick compared to handknitting. The next time I do a pair, I’ll cast on a different way and I’ll definitely make a real rib by chaining up purl stitches.

The sock is knit flat, but I sewed the side seam with a mattress stitch. You can not tell from the outside that it was seamed (see picture which shows seam side of sock). I see that on the home page of the Knitting Anyway website by Catherine Goodwin she has a picture of seaming using a latch hook and the edge stitches (without sewing with a threaded needle). I like this idea, so I’ll try that on the next pair I knit with the frame.

The sock I did from the CIC pattern has this beautiful mattress-stitched seam, invisible on the outside *but* it is a ridge that can be felt on the inside. I would like to make a week’s worth of sox for my sister in law who has hard to fit feet and only two pair of sox I’ve knit her (which fit better than any other sox she owns). It would be so cool if I could knit her a whole “suite” of sox on the machine. I just can’t do that if I handknit them. I’m really willing but hey, it took me almost 2 months to finish the pair I finished last night.

I guess I’m really slowing down on handknitting for fun while I’m stepping up my fiberart business and temporarily working the retail job. I have made what seems like zillions of boa scarves as gifts and for sale. I guess that is what has taken all my knitting time lately. And now I have a publication deadline of January 1 on top of all this. A high-class problem for sure… but it will keep me from knitting for myself a little longer.

I was just sure I would crank out most of a mohair dress on the frame today but this cold is really in my way. I slept until 11am and then after our late lunch I took a long nap. I need it, but I’m really bummed I didn’t get a day for creating. I guess I got a day for resting. I’m sure other people would give anything for that sort of day, so I’ll do my best to be thankful.

I guess it’s better to get a sick day at home than to have to work when I feel crummy. It won’t last long, this is day 3 of the cold and usually the worst of it lasts merely 5 or so days with another 5-7 that are much easier to take. I guess resting will probably help me get to the second phase of the cold sooner… I hope. And if I have a cold, I might as well be home with Brian listening to good music and napping. That’s sort of a perfect day, really.

Well, I’m off to heat up a salmon dinner, with hummous and tabbouli and vegetables and rice. I got this at New Aladdins’ restaurant yesterday. We usually eat Altu’s food on holidays but by the time I got out of JoAnn, Altu’s was already closed. I love Aladdin’s so this is a grand treat. I was thinking about making a pumpkin pie, but I don’t have any brown sugar and am not in the mood to go get some, much less make it when I get home. We’ll have soy ice cream for a treat, instead.

White Christmas in Lansing, Michigan

Thursday, December 25th, 2003

Well, it is a white Christmas today. Here’s a picture I took out of my side window. It was fun to watch the teenager shovel the snow. He has long arms and legs, and lots of energy. He was not at all efficient at how he went about the task of shoveling, but it got done pretty quickly because of his youth. The only time I move that fast is when I’m dancing!

I’m pretty lucky, though… Brian almost always does the shoveling for us. We have a corner lot so there is more shoveling than normal for a small house. Brian takes pretty much everything in stride, doing what must be done. I shovel but it’s a lot of work and I usually do it in two phases, with a break in the middle. It isn’t very cold actually, it is just sitting at the freezing point right now, but that makes for wet and heavy snow.

We do get cold weather this time of year but it goes up and down. We have had two days of rain in the last week, so this was a nice treat for the kiddos to get snow on Christmas morning. Last night we had s slight dusting but right now it is coming down slowly and steadily. It is very pretty, other than taking most of the color from the outside world.

Fiber Plans for the Holiday
I have really planned to make my mohair dress today, for a long time. However, I just am not happy with my choices right now and I’m going to sit on the problem until I get a good solution. I really wanted to do the pink floaty mohair but it definitely needs a lining or slip because it is so transparent. I looked around JoAnn for slip fabric and didn’t like anything I could find. The best I found was stretchy swimming suit fabric but that is thick synthetic. It would stretch well and keep it from sticking to me but it would also feel like wearing a plastic bag. So I’m still thinking on that.

I dug a coned wool/nylon fingering yarn out of the stash that is the same color as the hot pink mohair. I did a swatch using them held together as one, on the largest setting on my HK100 frame. It ended up more opaque but not very floaty at all, and the stitch count went up so the gauge would require a lot of refiguring. I didn’t like it enough to do the math, although it is amazing how the colors are nearly identical.

The turquoise mohair I have in stash comes up with the right gauge and is not transparent. However, it is a blue-turquoise that doesn’t go with the greenish-teal/turquoise yarns I chose for the suit coat.

I have the gift certificates to Yarn for Ewe which I could use to buy yet another mohair but the colors available aren’t what I want. There is one purple which is sort of on the side of a redddish/plum purple and I prefer a blue purple for this. There is also a mohair which is very pretty but I don’t know if it would work out. one strand is a sort of light pinky-raspberry and another strand is a bluish purple. That may work out, but it’s not as electric-color as I had wanted. Boo Hoo.

The book (The Purl Stitch, Sally Melville) calls for LaGran Mohair by Classic Elite. I saw a very wonderful purple in this yarn, at Old Mill Yarns in Eaton Rapids several months ago and considered it for a hat. Looking online they also have a turquoise which may be more warm (turquoise is very hard to duplicate on a monitor so I would have to order some to know). I could get it from Threadbear Fiberarts also, but I really a) wanted hot pink and b) don’t want to buy more yarn without the gift certificate.

So this idealist is stuck. The problem is that I allow myself idealism when I am creating visual art including knitting. I know I can’t have perfect everything in other parts of my life, but I do control my visual output.

CityKidz Don’t Knit!

Wednesday, December 24th, 2003

This week I had a two-hour special session of CityKidz Knit! I always have a different crowd on holiday weeks and this was a mixture of a bunch of kids I knew (one new one) but some who don’t come around if school is in session. I had one flit in and out but had four stick it out for pretty much the whole time.

About a year ago a wonderful soul on one of my email lists donated a box of shetland wool sweaters to be intentionally shrunk/fulled in the washer and dryer, as a project for my kids. At first I was sure we would make slippers but I did one sample on my own sweater and found it hard to make them fit, and very slippery. Not a good idea, huh?

I also had a problem with trying to get a special time with the kidz. Summer is so changeable, I have different kids every day and as I mentioned before I had 32 kids who came merely one time to my knitting program. I wanted the kids who did somehow come more than once or twice, to actually get practice knitting. So this has been the first time I could work it out with Foster’s schedule and some more stable kids, to do this project.

I started the day with a black sweater that I thought the kids would not pick as a first choice, to make a sample. I cut out two mittens (three pieces each) and blanket-stitched one together with some bright turquoise sock yarn. The mitten turned out just HUGE. It looked more like a potholder than a mitten, but the sweater had not really shrunk fully so once I sew both mittens I will throw them in the washer again. It might even make the seams more strong that way. My intent is to sew bright colored buttons on the back of the mitten as decoration, as well. I will show you when it is done. Right now it is at Foster Center which is locked for the holiday, and I’m at home.

I realized that for me, it was not hard to make a mitten in a reasonable time. However, with some of the kids’ attention spans and relatively coarse sewing skills, I was afraid they would end up with unuseable or unfinished mittens.

But what we figured out quickly is that the sweaters that really shrunk down tightly and were really small, made great bags if you cut them straight across from one armpit to the other. For two of the kids (three made bags) we folded and tucked the edges in a little to create some shaping, and then they turned their sweater inside out to sew a strong seam with sockyarn at the bottom. They used the overhand whipstitch, the natural stitch a child will use if not taught otherwise.

One girl finished her navy blue bag for a special adult. She was determined to finish in the two hours we had. In fact, she called home to be sure they would let her stay until the very end of my session. Once she sewed the bag shut, I found some blue cotton yarn (sort of denim) and we cut nine lengths of it, and she braided it with three strands held together as one, into one large braid. We knotted each end and she sewed the handle to the seams for strength, and she turned the bag inside out. I might have liked a button closure but it did close up pretty well with the ribbing at the top all by itself. She was very pleased, and left with a gift ready to wrap.

A boy who came, chose a heather cream/green and sewed the same way with hot green yarn I had. He finished the bottom seam but did not make a handle before he had to leave. He asked to take the rest of “his sweater” with him and I said he could. He hugged it!

A girl I think is in 4th grade, does a lot of handwork already at home, and was quite confident in her decisions. She chose a very heavily shrunken natural gray cabled sweater, about the size of a handbag. She chose some light blue embroidery thread for her sewing. By the time I was ready to get her started, she had sewn halfway across the piece already. She liked it flat rather than tucked for shape, and she really wanted her blue stitching to show on the outside. She finished her sewing before leaving, but did not finish a handle. I sent her home with the rest of her sweater, if I remember right. Her mom will help her finish the project, I’m sure (I know the mom).

Another girl sort of dove in to her project while I was distracted. First she found a pretty heathered purple sweater that had shrunk about to her own size. She cut the sleeves off and then cut the cuffs off of those. She put the cuffs on her ankles as ankle warmers and the sleeves as wrist/arm warmers. She cut a line up the front (a steek without reinforcing sewing, that even made *me* nervous and I have done that before… but of course this was shrunken/fulled fabric and it worked fine). She thought as she left that she might like to make a sewn beret of the sweater if not a short sleeved cardigan. I’m thinking about how best to help her if she really wants it to be a cardigan. I do have a pattern for a polar fleece hat I picked up at JoAnn today (they were on sale for $.99, perfect timing) in case she still likes that idea. We’ll see.

A last girl had not seen me since summertime. She has clearly been knitting at home. She can figure out how to knit but not how to bind off. I showed her how to bind off by knitting two together when she asked how to end the knitting. She got going on what she wanted to be a scarf, and took home three smallish skeins so that she could make it. It was good to see her again, in a less distracting environment than she had in the summer. (By the way, I’m not describing the children in the order of the photos, and two of the kids are not pictured at all.)

I did have one more girl flit in and out. Some days she sits well and some days she just can not sit still at all. I figure this week with all the changes in routine and food, probably makes it even harder for kids like that. She found a yellow cabled vest, very small, and cut it preparing to make a bag. Then she left the room and did not return. She comes to the center every week so she will eventually finish hers.

But hey, it was extra cool that my newest person finished a project and took it home ready to wrap it! I’m proud.

Longer Days…

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2003

Yesterday was the winter solstice. Today we have a bit more sunshine than yesterday, and I am soooo ready for that!

I took four boa scarves to the charity this morning. They seemed genuinely delighted. Either they are just as cool as I remembered they were, or they act well. I think it is the former. They also went on and on about the stole I was wearing. I loved it. I do hope that the people who get my scarves like them as much as I do.

My voice was doing well for the handful of days we had snow on the ground. It started melting again a few days ago, however. Now not only do I have a weak voice again, but I appear to have caught a cold. Ugh. At least I can talk. I can’t talk very loudly and I can’t sing, but I have a voice.

I worked with the kids at Foster today and they did a nice job, but I’ll talk about that another time. Right now I’m going to eat a nutritious dinner and then get horizontal as much as possible. Tonight I had planned to go to a knit-in but I need to be quiet and restful here at home. I have tried to be good to myself as much as possible during this crazy-busy season, but working retail is a very physical job and it has changed my routine, both meals and to a lesser extent my sleep.

Hey, everybody… remember that no matter what the songs say (It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, yadda yadda), it’s a time when we try to do too much and we can easily stress out our emotions or bodies. Please be gentle with yourselves out there!

Bow-tie pasta with red tomato sauce for dinner tonight. Comfort food! See you tomorrow with pictures of my knitting kids.

The Last of the Scarves?

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2003

Well, I have now given all my holiday gifts except for three, those for my godchildren and their mother. It feels good to be that close, especially with all the work I’m doing out of the house these days. I have little time for knitting.

Last night after JoAnn Fabrics closed, I went to Barbara’s house for our annual Abbott Brothers band jam session and holiday party. I chose to do “gifts lite” this year, and give food items that can be actually used and enjoyed without the “where does it go” issue.

I gave Bob a box of Kukicha tea, my favorite tea in the world. It’s roasted twigs from tea bushes, and it is sort of smoky and rich but it has very little caffeine. Yum. Bob likes tea a lot, so we share that appreciation and I wanted to get him this tea.

Larry got roasted red bell peppers in a glass jar. These are wonderful, somewhat smoky. They are great in a sandwich, pita or rollup… with hummous, or refried beans, or flavored baked tofu (yes I really love that stuff), and no doubt people who like meat would like it with ham or turkey. I am thinking it would also like a slice of avocado or some black olives, mmmm.

Edna was there with us last night, although she doesn’t perform with Abbott Brothers (she jams with us occasionally). She was the one who first started inviting me to concerts in the folk community in Lansing, back when I was a sad and different person (around 1990). I feel in part she is responsible for me finding Brian and I will ever be grateful. She got a jar of Michigan cherry butter. Michigan raises a lot of the world’s cherries. Cherry butter is soooo good, on good bread or elsewhere. I like it with almond butter rolled up on a flour tortilla.

Barbara got some Indian cuisine that comes ready to eat in a boiling pouch. It was Rajma, kidney beans, in a sauce. This actually tastes a bit like chili… but I definitely wanted her to know about these wonderful Indian “fast food” items that can be purchased at a few places in town. Barbara has been a vegetarian for many years, and Indian food has some of the best vegetarian food there is. She was intrigued. I hope she really enjoys it.

I also gifted Barbara with the blue striped boa you see here above on the right. It was sapphire fun fur and a sort of periwinkle microspun (from Lion Brand, also) for the smooth areas. I wasn’t absolutely sure she’d like it, but the colors were certainly right and I just had to give her one of these scarves. So she got a second gift. As it turned out, she just loved it! How cool is that! I’m pretty good at giving and then letting go of the results… but it is always gratifying when I get it right.

The other two scarves you see here I did so that my client Jennifer would have a few to choose from today. I went to her office Friday with gifts for the group but she was out. I went back today so she could pick a scarf. There were two red scarves and a pastel one left from last week. Then I did these two so she’d have more to choose from (the right side one is a lot like the one I made for Sara). I knew the whole time I was knitting, that Jennifer would choose the one with purple stripes, on the left. I just knew it. The yarn is Patons Cha Cha curly eyelash and Lion Brand microspun purple for the smooth stirpes. She loved it. I’ve known her a while, and I figured she would!

Tomorrow (well, later today… I’m writing this after midnight), the four scarves I have left (two red, the gold/copper, and the pastel/hot green) are going to a local charity I know fairly well. This organization does excellent work serving their clients (and families of clients) with health issues, and I have done a few things with/for them in the past. This year what I can do is give them a few scarves so that folks don’t go without gifts this holiday. And people do genuinely love these scarves, they feel good and just make you feel special. I hope the recipients love them as I do.

Hot, Hot, Hot-Toe-Mitty!

Monday, December 22nd, 2003

I didn’t get a chance to show you a picture of Saturday’s group at Altu’s, Hot-Toe-Mitty. This was a special treat, because this band tours the region and was just too busy this summer to play here. However, Brandon and I kept on corresponding all summer and finally, they were able to play this last weekend.

Unfortunately, I had to work at JoAnn’s from 3pm to close, which was after Altu’s closes. I was worried I would miss the whole thing, after all that work getting them in. Luckily, my supervisor gave me my “lunch” break (which is merely 30 minutes) during the two hours they were playing. I rushed to my car and drove the half-mile to the restaurant, listened to maybe three songs, and then had to rush back and work again.

It was totally worth the effort to get there! The band is made up of five excellent young musicians, who play mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass and flute. They also have superb harmony vocals. I was lucky because one song they did was a waltz, so Brian and I got up and waltzed about one verse just before I had to go. I just love waltzing with Brian.

I am so pleased that the group was able to make it out to Altu’s. It sure was one highlight of our musical year there!

Musing on Dreams, Process and Product

Sunday, December 21st, 2003

I’m at the point where I really have a need to FINISH and FINISH and FINISH things. I know I’ve been finishing scarves, but those are not for me. I knit because I love knitted items. I love to touch them, wear them, dream about more of them.

I am pretty close to finishing a pair of sox for me, so maybe that will actually happen in the dribs and drabs of time I have. I have a lot of partly done projects, and normally that doesn’t bother me. However, when I spend time knitting a good handful of items partway and then stop, I sure spend a lot of time knitting but not finishing. I hope I will have some time to finish things soon.

You know, Sally Melville talks about process and product as the two elements of knitting. I say that for me, there is another one and it comes before the two. The Dream is big for me. I touch and plan and scheme and Dream. I pick things, I start. Then I am into the process part. I like that just fine, but the Dream keeps me going. When I finish, I sort of see my Dream come true. That is the fuel for the next Dream, and the cycle continues. Of course I have a lot of these things going at the same time, but I tend to do a lot of starting all at once and a lot of finishing all at once. I think that is about the space in my life to ream. If I can Dream a project, I can get going.

When I don’t have a dream, I grab a few balls of sockyarn and some sock needles, and I just do process. Typically, these would be socks for Brian. I pick out yarns that I know I’ll enjoy knitting and he would enjoy wearing, and I just sort of do meditative loop-making.

Maybe my need to finish is my need to touch the dream again. These days I’m doing more knitting without thinking than I am planning. I do enjoy the legwarmers a lot but that was mostly Sally Melville dreaming for me. I had to pick the two yarns, but she already indicated Noro Kureyon so I just had to pick 2 colorways. I really love wearing them, by the way.

I’m thinking about that Cascade Indulgence I got from Rob and Matt this fall. I have two skeins each of both purple and hot pink. That stuff is warmth and softness, times ten! Yummy stuff. Maybe a hat and wristwarmers? Maybe really warm and exotic bedsocks? It’s so incredible it intimidates me. I would LOVE a beret of the stuff but it has to be the perfect beret and I don’t think I have one mapped out for that large gauge. We’ll see what happens here. Tune in again, same channel…

Tony’s Knitting

Saturday, December 20th, 2003

Today I’ll show you some knitting Tony did for the holidays. Since his family doesn’t know me (they are all out of state), it’s unlikely that they will see these photos so it’s OK for me to show you now.

He made two hats for his neices. These are just wonderful knitting. He washed them and so they fluffed up just great. One is Ballybrae yarn and the rest I can’t remember what he said they were. Super cool and very well executed, don’t you think?

He also did three scarves. This Noro Kureyon scarf was knit on the diagonal, a favorite pattern for Tony. The yarn just looks wonderful fluffed up after washing! He actually used two different colorways but you can’t really tell, they were related enough to just look variegated in long repeats. I love this scarf. I don’t love knitting with this yarn, but I must admit it feels a lot nicer after it has been washed a few times.

Tony also did two diagonally-knit chenille scarves that just did not photgraph well. They were the same pattern but very skinny as fashion accessories rather than warmth-creators. One was in three colors, mostly a purple-blue with some warm green and one other color. The yarn was just beautiful. I think he said he got this from Sarah Peasley somehow, maybe at our guild’s year-end yarn swap perhaps.

The second scarf was a really dark purple (eggplant, on the brown side) in Touch Me yarn, a mostly wool chenille that just feels like heaven. I always want to buy some when I am in yarn shops, but since I don’t wear scarves I just can’t bring myself to spend what it takes to make something bigger with it. The stuff is sort of in the splurge department as far as price, and I haven’t justified that splurge yet. If it was just the right gift for someone (my mom is my primary gift-splurge recipient, she got cashmerino this year) then I’d consider it, but the stuff just doesn’t fit my lifestyle.

The chenille scarves will be elegant and beautiful. Why not have a stylish and soft skinny scarf, you know? I hope his recipient likes the gift as much as I think she might.

He washed the chenille scarves once as per Sally Melville’s instructions, but at least the Touch Me was still worming a little (worms are little bits of yarn that stick out of the fabric, and it happens a lot with chenille yarns). He said she indicated that sometimes you have to wash it two or three times to eliminate the worms. It was sort of a hassle for him because he was going to leave the next day after I took these pictures and didn’t really have a lot of time to wash and dry a scarf three times. I think he was figuring he might have to do the last wash when he got to his destination.

I already miss Tony’s company. I do get to pick him up at the airport when he gets back, so I’m looking forward to that. It seems many of my good friends are away for the holidays. I’m counting four of the people I regularly see and hang out with, two in Florida, one in Costa Rica and one in Hawaii. I don’t really mind being here, but I miss my friends. I do hope they have great trips. I get to pick up two of the friends so I can get the first-hand storytelling as soon as they get home. That will be great fun!

Meanwhile, I’m working a lot at the store until the holiday. I’ve been at JoAnn on Friday and Saturday, will also be there full shifts Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday I don’t work at the store but I have four hours at Foster Center. Wednesday I’m back for a long shift at the store and then we have Thursday off because the store is closed. Then I work again cutting fabric on Friday. I’ve got Sat/Sunday off that weekend. I may not know what to do with myself! If I get my mohair dress figured out, I maybe can work on that on the 25th and 27th (on the 28th we have social obligations part of the day).