Lhude sing cuccu

Published on Thursday April 3rd, 2008

Last week was my spring break, but the glorious weather was reserved for this week. Our vacation saw some beautiful sunbreaks, but we were precipitated upon in every possible manner, too: rain, hail, sleet, and snow each made forceful appearances. But this week has brought sun to bask in, and the first spontaneous neighborhood gathering of the season despite chilly temperatures after sunset. Four families sat on our northerly neighbors’ front steps for wine and chat and baby squeezing: this camaraderie is one of the chief reasons I love living on my street.

The garden is stirring, the lilac is leafing out, and I’m sowing hollyhock and sweet pea seeds in my meager patches of full sun. (I had to try with the hollyhocks, because I’ve always wanted some, and because these are called Outhouse hollyhocks. How could I resist? My friend Betsy, who tends the school gardens, shares my fascination for plants with charming names. You should have heard us exulting over the seeds for French Breakfast radishes (which we decided are probably what Anais Nin liked to eat before a productive morning’s work writing her erotica), Bloody Butcher corn, Moon and Stars watermelons, and some lettuce with a German name that allegedly means “speckled like the back of a trout.”)

Spring felt so irresistible this week that I went on a little spree, thanks to last year’s birthday generosity from friends:

Whee, fabric! I have a cute (and easy, Vogue promises) summer dress pattern for this. I’m going to practice on the Alexander Henry in the middle, and once I’ve honed my skills (invisible zippers, yikes!), make a second in the beautiful Japanese Kokko at left. I also picked up Bend-the-Rules Sewing, of which I have read much good on the blogs. And that yarn lurking in the background? It’s Classic Elite Soft Linen, and it’s for an Indigo Ripples skirt. Katrin and I have been promising each other a two-woman knitalong for this pattern, and when I saw Clara Parkes’s review of the Soft Linen, I knew I’d found my skirt yarn. All the wool and alpaca content means it won’t be a true hot-weather garment, but there’s plenty of ventilation in that peek-a-boo lace, and in Portland I’ll get more wear out of a skirt that I can pair with tights when the temperatures are lower.

Oh, and the post title? If it looks like gobbledygook, you may not have been nourished on enough medieval English rounds in your childhood. This is the best Spring song I know.

Ana and Edna anew

Published on Monday March 24th, 2008

Remember this hat from last October? I knit it as a store sample, and a lot of you liked it, so I thought I’d send out a public service announcement: I was in Knit/Purl this afternoon and saw that the kits are in at last! They aren’t up on the website yet, but I know that Jenni will be glad to send you one if you call them up.

How did I come to be at the yarn store on a Monday afternoon, you might like to know? It’s Spring Break, my friends. And I’ve got a few days of blissful relaxation up on the island planned. There’s all kinds of knitting on the lace stole to accomplish, but a girl can’t go cross-eyed over lace for too many hours a day. And I want to make serious progress on poor neglected Victoria, but if I can’t block the bias out of the top, I’ll need a Plan B. So I’ll be taking this:



Yes, I had to snag a new Ana hat kit for myself! I adored the Fleece Artist Woolie Silk 3-Ply, and this is just my color green. Plus it was surprisingly cold today, and I even heard a rumor of snow on the horizon. It probably won’t fall down at sea level, but it’s always nice to have a stylish hat to pull on just in case!

The Woolie Silk is special stuff, and so I found it worthy of reclining on my new treasure:


A shipment of things from my grandmother’s apartment in Connecticut arrived last week. We scored a fold-out couch for the library/guest room and an extra bureau, but the chief delight was a first edition of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Huntsman, What Quarry? It’s inscribed Rufus from Tad 1939 – a gift to my grandmother from my grandfather in the year they were married. (The endpapers, in a charming non sequitur, bear a genealogy of French kings from Louis XIII to Louis XVIII in my grandmother’s pencil.) My grandparents were always so removed from me in years and geography that I get a particular charge from discovering tastes I have in common with them. I knew they both liked poetry; I didn’t know they admired Millay. Of course she was a celebrity in New York during their youth – somehow Millay’s bohemian Village life never dovetailed in my mind with the G-rated family stories playing out in the East 30s and 40s. But these same grandparents also danced to Artie Shaw, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, and other titans of the jazz scene all through their courtship. How I wish I could have known them then.

Leafing through Huntsman, I see that Gram made historical notes after poems that spoke to current events like “Say That We Saw Spain Die” (“Spain’s Civil War between the Loyalists and the Rebels has come to an end – 1939”) and the third Sonnet in Tetrameter (“Japan is warring against China – 1939. The peace yet in sight.”) What made her do this? Did she have some sense that her unborn children and grandchildren might read this book of poems, and her schoolteacher’s habits dictated that she pass along her understanding of its original context? Or did she seize an opportunity to preserve a moment in history, hoping to look back at this little book from the other side of the gathering storm of war and remember the world on the brink? She was 97 last September; dusk is drawing down on her at last. I won’t be able to ask her what this book meant to her. But I’ll keep it always, and wonder.

Secret Train Order 11 now in effect

Published on Monday March 3rd, 2008

A day of March sunshine in Portland is rare as red sea glass, and not to be wasted. Katrin and I knit in one of the urban parks, took refreshment at the Tea Zone (they serve a creditable English scone with Devonshire cream and lemon curd, joy), and swung by Knit/Purl to ogle her beautiful finished Autumn Cardigan (a beautiful Ruth Sorenson design in the Kauni yarn you’ve read so much about) and to drool over a new shipment of Pear Tree merino. This was a perfect cap to a lovely half-weekend with my husband and pup at the beach (we did a nine-mile hike on Cascade Head, now officially one of our favorite places in the world). The weekend may also have included a few moments of weakness in Nestucca Bay Yarns:


Really, can you believe I’ve been to Lincoln City all these times and I’ve never set foot in the shop until now? Turns out it is admirably stocked with Rowan, Jamieson’s, and Cascade. I heartily approve. And I approved of this luscious, tweedy, foxy Silk & Lambswool too much not to bring home four skeins for some sort of cute, cabled, button-up vest. Sinful stash enhancement was offset by virtuous work on the Ivy stole, at the beach and in town on Sunday:


I think it’s two-thirds of the necessary length. I think I also made my first mistake in the pattern yesterday, but I believe I tickled a fix out of it that will make it invisible to the masses. If I look at it again with a more critical eye, I may have to do some surgery. We’ll see. That’s what I get for trying to knit fiddly lace in the park in the sunshine with my friend while chatting and scoping out knitwear on other park-goers.

At last it was time to make my way home, and I took the train, as I so often do. Sometimes you can faintly hear over the loudspeaker the messages meant only for the drivers, and just as we were pulling into my station, I was treated to this: “All red and blue lines, Secret Train Order 11 is now in effect. Secret Train Order 11 now in effect.” What felicity to catch such an absurd and amusing directive! Seriously, they have Secret Train Orders, and that’s what they call them? Anyway, now that I have to live with the vexation of not knowing what Secret Train Order 11 is, I thought I’d be an equal tease to you, dear readers. I’m working on a new sock pattern, and I’m very pleased with Sock the First:


I have concealed its most alluring features, although that picot cuff is darn cute, though I say it myself. For now we’ll just call it the Secret Train Order 11 sock, although I’m rather chuffed to have finally thought of a good real name for it the other night. I won’t be able to unveil these officially until the fall, but secret knitting is so dull if nobody knows you’re doing it, don’t you agree?


Published on Wednesday January 2nd, 2008

It’s no secret that I love wool. Bring me your Shetland, your Cormo, your Wensleydale yearning to breathe free. Wool is warmth, comfort, tradition, balm. My favorite soothing music? Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” from Cantata No. 208.

I see a lot of wool in my job at the yarn store (and in my closet at home, for that matter). I don’t get jaded about it — I still pet my favorites and fuss over arranging them in their tidy towers. I carry them to the natural light by the door to better admire their beauty and surreptitiously sniff them when the customers aren’t watching. And still, once in a while, a new woolen yarn comes along and knocks me arse over teakettle. It was love at first sight with the Garthenor Organic Blue-Faced Leicester, and love all over again a few milliseconds later when I cradled a plump ball of it in my two hands. Months passed, and still it haunted my dreams. I leaked it through the appropriate channels that I would not be at all averse to receiving some under the Christmas tree. And lo, five fat sheepy angels of the Lord descended!


Pure and minimally processed from the good sheep of Wales, my friends. This is honest wool, earnest wool quivering to serve the appreciative knitter. It’s woolen spun, soft and lofty, beautiful in being not quite perfectly even, in the way that your loved-ones’ faces are not quite perfectly symmetrical. The stitches link arms companionably and hold firm and trusty, each proudly taking its place in the knitted fabric before you’ve even slipped it off the needle. I love this wool.


It likes a 3.25mm needle, the dear little pet. And it deserves a whole fine-gauge sweater that I’ll wear for the next sixty years until I’m dribbling my soup down the front in the nursing home. Although I sometimes balk at knitting the Project of the Moment, Tangled Yoke might just be classic enough for it.

I have no doubt that every stitch of this precious stuff will be gratifying. In fact, stop me if I contemplate ripping out the completed sweater so I can knit it again, okay? But in case I get the urge to knit something to wear now, like, oh, say, Brooklyn Tweed’s scrumptious new EZ cardigan, and since I always feel I need to support the yarn shop in my wee hometown, I picked up this:


Chuckanut Bay Bulky Perendale wool from New Zealand. I’ve got 660 yards, which means I’m seriously flirting with a shortage if I try to bang out a slim-fitting feminine version of Jared’s cardi. It was all the shop had in this luscious cinnabar, my new favorite color. I decided to live dangerously. You’ve got to burn the candle at both ends while you’re still young, right? (On a wild tangent, I feel it’s my duty to remind you all that yon tired cliché is from a brilliant Millay poem: My candle burns at both ends / It will not last the night / But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends / It gives a lovely light!)

Next time, more luscious cinnabar. It’s time to show you not one, but 1.25 Drifting Pleats scarves!