Ba-baaai, summer! Bwah!

Published on Tuesday September 27th, 2011

Time to say goodbye, Ada style, with a vigorous kiss blown at the end, to the briefest summer in my memory. All night, dozing lightly with one ear cocked upstairs for baby sounds — the only way I seem to know how to sleep anymore — I heard rain on the pavement. This morning I put on a wool sweater (Pas de Valse), a wool hat (“Mama HA’!” exclaims my small one, reaching to pull it off my head and flop it over her face for peekaboo), and wool socks. (Darned if those aren’t still the best-looking socks in the drawer, despite having been knit in 2005. My admiration for Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock grows annually.) Ada is in her reversible brioche cardigan (blue side out today) and her new boots. The boot leather squeaks and she steps tentatively in them, unaccustomed to the stiff soles.

We replenished the bird feeders this morning and discovered a mouse had moved into the seed bin on the back porch. I spotted the evidence right away, but didn’t expect to see Mouse herself peeping up at me from a hole in the bag, all sleek fur, bright eyes, and quivery whiskers. Ada, having been recently enchanted by a pet rat at the tea shop, thought we should pick her up and get to know her properly, but we didn’t. I am tenderhearted about mice, although I sincerely hope this one’s family isn’t expecting to move in with us for the winter. (The cat should be an effective deterrent. For all his faults, he’s a competent hunter and also pulls his weight when it comes to chores like dispatching house centipedes with alarming legs. (Don’t google them. If you don’t know what they look like from personal experience, thank the appropriate deity and go on your blissfully ignorant way.) And while the dog is useless against the creepy crawlies, she’d be thrilled to go all buddy-cop with Mingus on a mouse if he wouldn’t end her for cramping his style. So I’m not too worried about a rodent invasion.) But I’ll be devising a way to lock down the bin lid more securely. In the mean time, the finches seem untroubled to have shared some of their sunflower seeds. I’ve never seen a handful of birds tuck in with more vigor. They must realize summer is fading, too.

While the featheries are plumping up for winter, I’m feeling ready to turn my attention back to the thickest and warmest projects in my knitting basket. If you’re a knitter, there’s an excellent chance you already know what this is…

MiteredCross (1 of 1)

… but don’t tell, okay? Here be secret knitting. And speaking of miters, I’ve nearly finished my Mitered Cardigan: a seam to graft, buttons to attach, ends to weave, and then I cross my fingers and block this sweater like the dickens and, if all else fails, maybe take up running in case there’s a spare inch or so that could come off my middle.

Signal flags

Published on Sunday October 1st, 2006

Readers of long memory may recall that I began a sort of Mason-Dixon-Gee’s Bend-Log Cabin blanket this summer. Knowing how apt I am to jump from project to project when the mood strikes, it probably doesn’t even surprise you that I haven’t mentioned it since. But progress has been made, of which I offer the following proof:


I’ve been stealthily knitting these at night, during movies and episodes of 24 (I’m still catching up with Season 5). Garter stitch on #9 needles makes for ideal television knitting. Hung against my chimney, they remind me of nautical signal flags. I’m not sure what I’m saying with this arrangement, but had I been a knitter in my childhood, I’m sure I would have found a way to use squares like these to communicate secrets to my friends. We loved codes and ciphers. The intended recipients of this blanket number among those early companions, and I hope they’ll read my affection for them in these bright squares. I owe them a super-awesome wedding present, because their gift to me on the occasion of my own wedding was an incredible design of cranes under the moon, each bird itself entirely composed of hundreds of tiny origami cranes. We received many lovely and generous wedding presents, but that took first prize in terms of hours of loving work, and I couldn’t do less than repay them in kind.

quiltsquares2.jpg    quiltsquares3.jpg

The blanket is, I estimate, half done. I have no idea how it will look in the end: I’ve played with different arrangements of squares, and when I’ve completed a few more motifs I may take pictures of the various layout possibilities and have you vote for the winner. Then I’ll have to do some fancy work on connector parts, since I haven’t paid a whit of attention to the size of the squares and how they might cozy up to each other.

Tomorrow: Socktoberfest is on! My socks are already underway (and yes, so is Retro Rib, which is punishing my long neglect by striping in columns like a freak).


Published on Sunday July 23rd, 2006

Knit bloggers everywhere are dropping like flies to Log Cabin Fever these days. Of course, Ann and Kay are the original source of infection. But Cara hit upon the source of my first exposure to the madness: the Gee’s Bend Quilters. I went on a whim to see their show at the Whitney in New York. Afterwards I wrote in my diary that it was the single most inspiring collection I’d ever seen. I love museums – I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some of the greatest in the world – and I deeply admire art in many forms. But I’ve yet to come across anything that made me want to rush home and MAKE SOMETHING as badly as that exhibit did. I sat with those quilts and I scribbled, sketching out sections of the women’s work that sang with color or the glory of unexpected composition. The security woman had to warn me that the museum was closing. I bought the giant expensive book in the museum shop, something I’ve never done before or since. Those colors, that raw artistry, that incredible alchemy of ragged work clothes made beautiful – I needed to keep it close to me, to see if it could help me unlock something creative in myself. But here’s the thing: it was early 2003. And I didn’t know how to knit.

But now I do. I realized more than a year ago that this was my avenue of approach to those folk art quilts. Kay and Ann kindly passed the toolbox with their book, and now you can count me among the stricken. Warm up a hospital cot for me, because I’m in the grips of the fever:


The quilts influenced the colors I chose, although I wasn’t conscious of it when I bought the yarn. And what I’m up to is not exactly Log Cabin knitting. It’s more along the lines of Mad Architect with Lincoln Logs. I’m using whatever technique will most efficiently produce the shapes and patterns I want: sometimes it’s Log Cabin, sometimes it’s mitered squares, sometimes it’s just plain striped blocks with regular seaming, and usually it’s some combination of the lot. I’ve begun with some direct representations of Gee’s Bend motifs, just to prime the pumps. There are two or three quilt blocks that work really well in the colors I’ve chosen, and I think the uneven quality of the Manos complements the abandon of the original designs. And then I’ll be off-book, and we’ll see what my imagination can produce. I’ve already got some promising sketches. It’s not the tightly structured design project I’d intended to do this month. But it’s a wedding present for friends, and so different from most of my projects that I’m really enjoying myself.

Of course, the squares you see here were finished before the heat became really oppressive. Not even my intense fascination with this blanket is enough to draw me to work with bulky wool right now. Plus it’s too much material to try to hold out of the cold water in the tub. (The tub is the place for Prairie camisole or similar light cotton knitting, though! Try it today!) But the heat should diminish in the next few days, and then I’ll be right back at it. Two more squares cousin to the blue-and-tans will complete that motif, and I’ve also started a Courthouse Steps section. I’ve set myself an October deadline for completion, since I’m looking at a very busy August and blanket squares don’t seem like quite the right project to take via pack horse up to 12,000 feet… but more on that later.

Meanwhile, cross your fingers for a temperature adjustment so I can get some pictures of the Viennese shrug – she’s rather purty, if I say so myself!