Thursday, March 29, 2007

Silk, Cashmere, and Lace

It's an embarrassment of riches over here on State Street. Today the owls brought lace patterns and skeins of purple cashmere and red and olive silk. I spent a good hour in the playground while E played with her pals, alternately staring and staring at my goods, and forcing my friend to feel the sumptuousity of the cashmere. "Go ahead! touch it! It's 100%!" Now I'm in the throes of indecision over which threads and pattern to use for my International Scarf Exchanger. It really goes against all sense and reason how peculiar I become over nice yarn. And to make things even sillier, I already had a secret cache of silks. Now I remove their shroud:

I "invested" in these slowly over the last two years, and have not for the life of me been able to figure out what to do with them. Little sachets? Nah. I did use a few yards of the pearl and lavender to make a tiny tooth bag for E--her first tooth fell out this past week, and rather than relinquishing the precious to the tooth fairy, she wants to keep it safe for herself. I now have a crazy fantasy of a silk ripple afghan. It would only cost, oh, say 1500 dollars in materials...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Every Last Bit

I'm always worried about how much of everything I waste--food, paper, consumer electronics, you name it, my garbage is shameful! That's one of the reasons my ripple/granny project appeals so much to me. I think people used to horde their yarn as precious. Waste was not only immoral, but just plain impractical. I read in one of my vintage pattern repro books that even cabling was sparing in wartime patterns--it used up too much yarn--and was only used for embellishment. The ripple afghan is a way for you to use up your stash for something useful. And even more wonderful, the little bits left over from the color runs can be used for the grannie squares!

I have found that, with some planning, this is all I am left with from a skein of yarn after it yields several ripples and pieces of a granny or two:

Now what on earth can be done with these scraps? It doesn't really make a difference in the world, I guess, but at least it's mindful...

When I think about my yarn exercise, I remember that we're in wartime right now, but who could tell? It's so easy to forget the soldiers and their families, I'm so removed from it--there's no rationing, little news, I'm not uncomfortable or worried (well, any more than usual). This is probably the time to send something overseas through a program like My Soldier. My friend told me about this lovely kit. I wonder if a soldier would like a pair of handknitted socks...probably too impractical...but it's certainly alluring!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Just Before the Green

It's true that spring has come to Brooklyn, but in its earliest, most hesitant form...the trees have little knobs all over, the windows are open at least a few hours to the fresh day, and Passover is nearly here! One of my favorite parts of our holiday cycle. The seder always feels like taking a deep breath after a long winter.

I am still rippling:

and thinking about a spring cleaning. All the dust on surfaces. The little piles of things. Oy. I'd much rather knit.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Two years gone now. My dad, Alexander:

One summer a long time ago, dad, inspired I think by this little Japanese owl

made this:

from a stone he found at our lake house. And then made more and more of these, now scattered from house to house in New York City and the Adirondacks. As are so many reminders of our Al, our dad.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I waited and waited for spring, and it has arrived. Now I nervously await more colors for my Ripple and Grannies from Purl Soho, my most favoritest knitting store. Why nervously? I'm not sure. Why was I nervous about spring's arrival? It would come no matter what, and come it did. My joy can now only be increased by a box of Rowan cotton glace.

I also expect soon a pattern and yarn for my scarf pal's scarf--it will be lace, knit up in pure cashmere, in a color called Hydrangea, also from Purl:

Yarn! It's practically all I can think about. I'm escaping into a world of fancy yarn...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Tomorrow is the vernal equinox, and I have a feeling of delight that borders on dread... while waiting, and in between chores, I'm adding ripples to my afghan and using the scraps for granny squares:

I've made so many of these over the years, sort of joylessly, but I joined the granny-along , and now something about the affirmation of so many others has made me a fan for the first time. Although maybe homely, they're so jolly and quick to make, and so satisfying in their little stacks.

Here's the Waldorf doll I made, from a Magic Cabin kit, for my mom's birthday:

Something about grannies, afghans, and dollies--they inhabit a gentle space outside of this mean world.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Requiem for Max

Last night, in a glittering snowstorm, Sgt. Pepper and I went out to Avery Fisher Hall to hear the Mozart Requiem. Sitting in the worn gold velour seats, Row M center, made me think as I knew it would of my grandparents Eva and Max. They took me quite often to the Met as a child and adolescent, to hear opera and oratorio. I always loved being there with them. Grandma would snooze in the dim light, despite the cacaphony. But Grandpa Max would always stay awake.

He was an extraordinary, charismatic, and eccentric person,

a photographer who made a living taking pictures of all manner of mishaps, injuries, and mayhem around New York City for use in civil lawsuits. But he also liked to design unusual mechanical solutions to various household dilemmas. And he loved to tie knots. He paid me a quarter for every knot I learned to tie properly.

Grandpa Max's father, my great-grandpa Benny, was a tailor:

I can hardly sew a stitch, though I'm handy in other ways.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More and More

The Ripple is proving to be a major project, but really fun. I love the look and feel of the Cotton Glace--so crisp and clean. And the crazy, senseless, inexorable march of colors:

It reminds me that spring is nearly here. It will cheer our bedroom for the warm seasons.

This is my favorite project in quite awhile. I'd forgotten how much I like to crochet. It was my first thing, before knitting, and it has its place in the world. Maybe it doesn't give the drape of knitting, and the patterns are more scarce, but it's really the only thing, in my opinion, for a bedspread.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Ancestors, Part One of Several

Some of my favorite ancestors, may they rest in peace, were very good at the needle arts. My aunt Abby, for instance:

She taught me to knit, and was very good at it. She made me and my sister, when we were little, a pair of handmade cardigans, one dark red, one blue, with zippers and cables and machine washable. What could be better for little girls? We wore them out completely with love.

Abby also introduced me to the idea of really expensive yarn--she loved luxury in general! If it felt nice to touch and cost a lot, it was for her. I've come to realize how good for a person's morale it is to work with nice materials. I realize this more and more as I get older. As a result, my stash has become quite a bit fancier over the years.

My Great-Aunt Libby was memorable for her own talents:

In her later years, she began making miniskirts for me and my sister, all a simple pattern (straight side seam, gathered elasticized waist), but every kind of fabric the mind could know. Our favorite was a faux fur leopard print.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


I've been rippling--the pattern is so simple; the challenge is the color progression:

I started out with such a gorgeous array of colors, but I'm not sure how they're linking up with each other.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Grandma Eva's Crochet Hooks

Here's Grandma Eva:

I did begin my Ripple with Grandma's hooks, but gave up on that in favor of an old steel size E. I love Grandma's, though:

Are they plastic? Bone? Ivory? I think I vote plastic. But they do evoke something...maybe frivolous needle arts, done leisurely and for aesthetic fulfillment, rather than basic needful things (like socks!).

Here is Ripple. I'm not certain about the colors, but will keep going. In the end maybe it'll be nice. Or not. The surprise of ugly or lovely will be fun. Or not.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Socks and Ripples

I finished the first of my Socks that Rock sock, and liked it so well that after trying it on I couldn't bear to remove it--so stumped around the house in one sock and one bare foot. My husband worried about the sock, his exact words when I moved to try it on were "you'll ruin it!" and I must admit that this was always my impulse with handmade socks, that they needed to be cherished in monklike solitude, unsullied by the profane foot. Now I know that they are definitely meant to be worn. Anyway, here's the sock of love:

Also pending is my Ripple afghan; I have been staring at my little pile of delightful colors...

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Avoidance Thy Name is Knitter

I spent the day on and off on my new sock kit from the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin' Sock Club. It really is pretty rockin', as far as these things go. I got to try for the first time a toe-up pattern, and think it's unbelievably clever. The yarn, a colorway called "Monsoon," is so imaginative. I've been using Koigu PM exclusively for socks, but this is even better, softer, richer, delivers crisp clean stitches. Just feels nicer to the touch.

And my poor hands--I'm reminded of a passage from "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder, where at the end of a brutal winter of dark blizzards and endlessly grinding wheat to keep from starving, Laura is given as a late Christmas gift some beautiful colorful silk thread. She describes it as catching against her rough hands, and thinks of a time when she'll be able to create lovely frivolous things again, not just rough bread, and sticks to burn for warmth. Okay, well, admittedly I'm living in comfort in Brooklyn, having "suffered" through a mere couple of 20 degree days with the radiators on full-blast...but still, my hands are quite rough! And beautiful fibers only make this more apparent. I have finally dipped into a pot of Fresh balm (how I love Fresh, that overpriced fomenter of greed and scent-addled purchases) that smells like sugary lemony tea...Once again, Laura, I apologize...

In the background, waiting for the completion of Sock Number One (I like to take a break between socks, or it does honestly get tired), is my darling Ripple afghan. I am "repurposing" (silly but efficient term) a sweater for my sis, lavender Rowan cotton glace. Also dipped into the stash for some skeins of purple CG left over from a cardigan for my girl, and a skein of red that I used to make hats for some knitted gnomes:

...gnome hats being teeny-tiny, there is more than enough left for a nice long red ripple...I await in the mail more colors to get on with...

Just a p.s.: The gnome comes from a wonderful book called "The Gnome Craft Book" by Thomas and Petra Berger. This little guy (or lady, as the case may be) is a simple and clever pattern, just perfect for using up odd bits of sock yarn. The actual doll is only a few inches tall. Be warned, though, you might become addicted and end up with a tiny horde.

Monday, March 5, 2007

So Very Many Projects

I'm, guiltily, in between housework and tending a coldy six-year-old and procrastinating on my intellectual life, at work on no less than six knit and crochet projects: a ripple afghan, a Lizard Ridge afghan (from Winter Knitty), a Victorian silk purse (Piecework magazine), Koigu Premium Merino socks for sis of my own devising, Socks that Rock socks, and the bitter end of a rather misshapen sweater for husband...