January 15, 2009

Knitters Without Borders and Farewell

For those of you who frequent the Yarn Harlot‘s blog, you’ll know that I have promised to provide a sack of soap to three people who have donated to Doctors Without Borders.

I just want to let everyone know that I will be making soaps in the next week to ten days.  My life has become rather busy at the moment, as my mother died Dec. 26 and I am caught up in all the ramifications of settling the estate and handling the finances.  As soon as I can carve out a day without demands, soaps will be made and sent to the three lucky winners!

Also, this is my notice that I will be letting this blog pass into history as well.  I realized last year that I really didn’t have the desire to be a regular blogger, and that time spent trying to take photos and write about my knitting was taking away time from the actual production of knitted goods, as well as from other things in my life that requred actual human-to-human interaction.

Add to this the fact that, after a traumatic head injury that severely affected my memory and ability to write, it was really a struggle to try to put together a coherent and readable post.

So I’m going back to being a blog-less person as of this post.  I’d much rather spend my internet time reading really good and entertaining posts instead of struggling to produce a less than satisfying (at least to me) product here.

So, go – knit, help someone, give some time to an effort that needs your support.  Get involved in your community, grow a garden, share your bounty, and be thankful for every day!

July 18, 2008

Taos Rocks!

The 12th was an “off duty” day for me, and I set out to explore what I could of Taos. I had addresses for several pushers (aka LYS’s), and the Taos Pueblo was having a big pow wow this past weekend, so I hoped to spend a few hours enjoying frybread and watching dancers once I had “taken off the edge” with some fiber fondling.

My first stop was Taos Sunflower in Arroyo Seco (mentioned in the prior post),

where I was greeted by the lovely and very helpful Connie (backed by the sunflower painting that corresponds to the name of the shop.)

The store is tucked behind a courtyard off the main drag (all one block of it!) and is bright, airy, cheerful, and gloriously tempting. They specialize in artisan fibers, be the artisan spinning or dying or whatever else you might think of, and the colors and combinations are, in a word, stunning.

The shawls show off some of the wonderful combinations that can be found at Sunflower, and that wall of yarn is all Malabrigo. Of course, you can find them online and order up all kinds of wonderful stuff to amuse yourself!

I came out with two skeins of complementary blues that are going to become baby garb of some sort for a new cyber-friend, Logan in NJ, whose grandma passed away a short time ago. Logan had mentioned this loss in a comment on the Yarn Harlot, and I was moved to contact her and offer to be a surrogate grandma-knitter. It may be a Baby Surprise, or it might be a tiny hoodie – but since they’ve decided not to learn the baby’s gender, I wanted something that was suitable no matter what popped out. And I have until February to come up with something that will be just right!

Then I headed down into Taos proper, seeking out further enrichment. The first thing I saw was this fantabulous fish – I do love me some yard art (no plastic flamingos for me) and if it hadn’t been bigger than my patio, I would have been hard-pressed to not have it shipped to me! The colors, the vibrancy, and the slightly bemused expression just made me giggle!

Strolling around the few blocks of downtown Taos is wonderful – the people are friendly, the weather was just right, and it made me feel very much at home. After some meandering, I located La Lana Wools just off the Plaza (the center of any small Spanish-influenced Southwest Town) and was overcome by the wool fumes.

“Overwhelming” doesn’t begin to describe the incredible variety of yarn and fiber and garments and implements and tchotchkes imported from all over. (Click on the tiny pix to enlarge and enjoy.) When I came to, I’d managed to grab three skeins of a multi-blue and one of a yellow/green/blue; I think the yellow skein will be the trim or edging on a sweater for the adorable Kira. I won’t trouble you with the sticker shock, but I’ll be counting on a goodly amount of babysitting to cover that little “oops!”

Almost as good as all the fibery wonders was Lynn (holding my bag o’ swag), who was one of those people who immediately felt like a sister.

She had a wonderful tale of leaving her high-end design job in NYC after a spirit quest, coming to Taos, and finding exactly the niche that was right for her. If I had to describe her, I’d say she is pragmatically joyous about life. And absolutely unabashed at pushing good fiber, too.

After blowing the yarn budget, I still wanted to spend a few hours at the pow wow, so headed for Taos Pueblo; what I didn’t realize was that the pow wow was not at the pueblo proper (it’s a historic site and certainly couldn’t handle the traffic of a major gathering). After discovering my error, I got back to the car and a fellow in the parking lot showed me that the right rear tire on our rental was ready to blow out the sidewall.

Off I went in search of a place that would change the tire. I knew there was a gas station at the intersection of the pueblo road and the main highway, but there was no service available – just the cheapest gas in town. So I headed up the road, and there on my left was a tire shop. I pulled in, only to find a “Closed” sign in the window. Now what? I’m in a city where I don’t know anyone or anything (not counting the nice lady in the yarn store) and am sitting in front of this sign without a clue when a nice young man walks up. He’d just closed the store, but sent me through to the other end of town where there was a chain tire store open on a Saturday afternoon.

I made it there about 1:30, and they closed at 3:00; the fellow at the front desk asked if the rental place would cover it, but I had no idea. So I call the Hertz office at Albuquerque airport to try to figure out what to do. A new tire was going to run about $120, and the guy on the phone couldn’t approve it without a supervisor’s OK. I ended up spending about 20 minutes on and off hold (on my cell and with roaming charges – what joy!) before I finally got an answer and an approval to buy the new tire, which would be taken off our rental charge when we returned the car. Then it was only another 45 minutes before they were able to get to my car. Apparently everyone in Taos needed something tire-related done to their car this afternoon – when I walked in, there was no one there, but by the time I got the answer I needed, there was a family of four, two different men, and one young lady all ahead of me.

So to pass the time I took pictures of the sky outside the tire store – scenic Taos indeed! But by the time I’d finished with that chore, I would only have had about an hour to spend at the pow wow, so that outing was put aside and instead I did go purchase some small yard art – one for me and one for a friend’s birthday that is coming up.

Sunday was a slow day for Lesley, so we did get back down the mountain to the pow wow in time to see the grand entry, hear some drumming and singing, and eat frybread tostadas – YUM! Sadly, my camera chose that moment to wear out its batteries, so only a few pix were taken before its demise.

This is the dance ground; I was a bit south of the western point, and you can see the entry at the eastern point. Right in front of us was one of 22 drum circles; they were spaced evenly around the ground.

This is the beginning of the Grand Entry, with the flagbearers carrying the US, New Mexico, and Taos Pueblo flags, followed by the two head dancers (one man, one woman) barely visible behind the standing crowds.

Here’s the male lead dancer (the woman is behind him in this shot, but I think she was a grass dancer – the ones with all the silver cones jingling on their dresses) followed by one of the elder warriors. In this and the previous picture, you can get a glimpse of some of the dancers as they begin to enter the dance ground. The parade was awesome – I would guess about 300 dancers from all over; I could recognize fancy dancers, grass dancers, shawl dancers, and what I think was Kiowa men doing a bird dance – but that was only about a quarter of the groups on display.

Pow Wows are very moving experiences for me; my great-grandmother was from the tribes that were forced onto the Trail of Tears, and I remember visiting a great-aunt on an Oklahoma reservation when I was about 5 years old. Though I look completely North European, thanks to both Swedish and Scotch/Irish blood, when I hear the drums, I hear them with my whole body and soul. It was hard to tear myself away and come back up the mountain for the evening sit-time.

Today (Friday) was another slow day so I went back into town, and traded the La Lana yarns; Lesley picked some lovely vibrant purples (plain and heathered) at Taos Sunflower for Kira’s sweater, so I wanted to trade the wool for something else – about 350 years of a silk boucle that will become a shell of some sort for me instead.

By Monday afternoon, I’ll be back in California. I do love the travel, and Taos has been a very special experience for me. Part of me wants to just stay forever, part of me wants to go home, and another part (the small rational part) insists that I really need to make a plan if I’m going to do a major move like that! We’ll see which part wins out…

July 10, 2008

A Room with a View

That there picture is what I am seeing out the dining room sliding glass door of a condo in Taos Ski Valley, a small alpine desert enclave about 40 minutes (along a winding mountain road) outside of Taos proper, where I’m doing another travel nanny stint with the charming Kira and her mum Lesley. We arrived Monday and will be here until the 21st, when I return to California and they head to Maine for another chamber music festival. Still having some altitude adjustment issues – we’re over 9000 feet – but every day is better, and you can’t beat the scenery!

This is the river running right outside our deck, burbling along happily. Since this is New Mexico, I don’t know the plants, but this gorgeous flower is growing alongside our unit.

It reminds me of passion flower, but whatever it is, it’s a glorious addition to the setting.

Tuesday evening the chamber workshop students, faculty and support staff went for a picnic along the rim of the Rio Grande canyon; Lesley caught me in action.

Beautiful views, amazing sky (did you know that it actually goes on forever? That’s not something you can really appreciate when you live in an urban area) but the picnic was curtailed as an enormous black cloud covered the western sky, and we hightailed it back to the village before there was a chance to get mired in sticky adobe mud on the climb out of the canyon. 10 minutes into the drive, we were in a downpour, but we made it home safe and sound.

Of course, one part of travel preparation is checking for yarn pushers. I found three shops in Taos, but since we’re a bit out of town, it’s not that easy to get to them. But when I went to look for food, I found Sol Foods in Arroyo Seco, which is just out of the valley we are staying in, and noticed that there’s a yarn shop there! Arroyo Seco is only a block long little business district, and the shop is off the main drag, but I went to look and discovered they’re open Thursday – Sunday, so I am planning to get in there tomorrow if I can. And I will certainly get into the Taos shops (at least 2 of them) before leaving, so there will be another post soon to show off more swag and report on the status of yarnaholics in New Mexico.

Before I left California to meet the girls here in New Mexico, my friend Pam came by to get the skinny on the new microwave and meet the resident foster-cat before she settled in for two weeks of house- and cat-sitting at my place. I pulled out the sweater I’d spent so many hours on that came out too big, and she tried it on. Presto, a perfect fit!

Doesn’t she look great in it? She looks so poised you would have no idea it’s about 85º. So rather than frog the entire body from the armholes down, I sold it to her for enough money to buy another sweater’s worth of yarn. She gets a sweater that looks like it was made for her and I get to knit some more. Now I just have to pick a new yarn to play with, and decide what it’s going to be. I’m determined that I will have a sweater for myself by the time cold weather comes back to the Bay Area.

One of the reasons there’s been little knitting to post is that fruit is at its peak season right now. The first Saturday of July, my friend Dianne and I trekked out to Brentwood to go picking. Brentwood used to be a farming community, and then the housing crisis meant that a lot of land was taken over by housing – giant McMansions that were bought by a lot of people who couldn’t afford housing closer to the Bay, which are now standing vacant as the mortgage crisis forced people out. It’s quite sad, as the communities never really had a chance to form, and now will probably disappear. However, the picking was good and I came home with pounds of peaches, apricots, and nectaries, which became jam!

Here’s what I did with the week of the Fourth – five batches of (from left to right) Double Nectarine (white and orange fleshed fruit), White Nectarine/Strawberry, my much-admired PAN (peach/apricot/nectarine with cinnamon), the last and partial jar of Olallieberry, and GingA Peachy (mostly peach, a quarter apricot, and fresh ginger). Sweet work!

And here’s one last beauty shot – this is what I see when I look up in my backyard, a growing young redwood and the clear blue sky. Sometimes the color and vibrancy is so much it almost brings tears to my eyes, and I realize all over again how fortunate I am to live in such glorious surroundings!

June 6, 2008

Fixin’ to Die (of boredom)

It’s been dismal on the knitting front recently. After finishing my socks, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and do some reworking on Noah’s Cobblestone before I started anything else. Well, almost anything else – I did a couple of quick dishcloths to rest my hands from tiny needles, and cast on another pair of socks for Noah, but I am trying hard to discipline myself and get the sweater redone before I do anything major.

Two cloths, two toes!

The Cobblestone needed to have a higher neck, and as long as I had the sweater, we decided I should just re-knit the sleeves to fit a bit better; the problem with a “surprise” knitting project like this is that I couldn’t fit as I went, which means I’ve spent several hours frogging the sleeves, and with a mohair/wool mix there were plenty of places that I had to break the yarn to make progress. At least I had thought ahead in panic and bought more yarn than was called for, so have another skein or two to patch these up.

Just the edging left!

The neck’s done (it went 2.5″ higher) except for an I-cord trim and replacing the buttons, but if you look closely at the sleeve pic below, you’ll see I managed to get the working yarn on opposite sides of the needles, so I’ll be struggling with that over the weekend in hopes of getting some progress done, as there are other things (besides the socks) that I want to get to work on.

The case of the mismatched sleeves

And in service of doing my best to ignore the sweater issue for about two weeks, I whipped up a quick costume for my friend Georgia, who is a marvelous soprano with a huge career ahead of her. She and another friend of mine, Rebecca, were starring last weekend in a student, partially-staged production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. Ten days before they opened, I was taking Georgia to the airport (to go to New York for a singing contest) and she mentioned that she wasn’t happy with what costume she had pulled together from her wardrobe, so I volunteered to throw something together for her. That was Friday, and Saturday I went to the fabric store, found some stuff that would work, and emailed her photos to check the color. After she sang Saturday, she checked in to say it was OK, so Sunday I started working, hoping to get it done by her dress rehearsal Monday night. Luckily, it was a holiday weekend so I had two days to get things done. She stopped in for a fitting Monday mid-day, and I made the changes and delivered it that afternoon. But after rehearsal, it was decided that the blouse she’d picked wasn’t working either, so the next day I made her an underdress that served as both blouse and petticoat. And voila – here’s Gretel and Hansel after the second show:

Georgia and Rebecca

Given that this wasn’t a professional production, no scenery, and little done from memory, with only a 4-person orchestra (piano, cello, French horn, and flute) I was wowed with what they had done. The singing was right on (for the most part, and certainly much better quality than one might expect in the situation), the acting was effective and convincing, and they got a standing ovation the evening I attended. Georgia was my student assistant for several years when I worked at Stanford, and seeing her develop over the last 5 years or so has been such a joy! Rebecca worked for me in my last year there, so I don’t know her as well as Georgia, but we do have one important thing in common – she’s also a knitter! I showed her my new socks and she was duly impressed.

I hope my next post will be the refinished Cobblestone, modeled by a most handsome and charming son. Now if I can just figure out that problem with the sleeves…. and manage to ignore my teal sweater that needs the entire body re-knit smaller (I’m wondering if I should put ribbing in on the sides to snug it up a bit.)

May 23, 2008

The pitter-patter of little feet

There are six new feet at Villa Incognito this week! Though one might be led to believe that this means I have adopted triplets, think again. Here’s one pair:

My favorite colors

The long-delayed socks that I started in March are finally a reality! My knitting process seems to be very much a start and start-over methodology. I cast on, get a few rows done, realize I’ve goofed something up, and frog it all and begin again. In the case of these particular items of footwear, I started (several times) and managed to get to the heel after a number of false starts that caused me to frog back to the toe at least twice. We last saw these at the heel, where my first idea was to do an afterthought heel; the color changes in the yarn meant that, had I decided to continue with the main yarn, the front of the sock would have had a noticeable jump in the progression of the colors.

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May 3, 2008

Little girls, big fun

I confess, I’m a multi-craft person. Sure, I knit (or this blog would be non-existent) but I also sew, make masks and costumes, and do art projects. So when I went to my local JoAnn’s for some small purchase, and saw that cottons were 40% off that day, I decided to do a little sewing project for some friends.

In my “real” life, I have a home business doing baby-tending, errands, shopping and the like. All of the people I tend babies for are connected through music (most are faculty at Stanford, where I used to work) and there are two lovely, and very lively young ladies upon whom I dote unmercifully. Marie’s mum teaches collaborative piano and diction (in German, French and Italian) and Kira’s mum is the violist with the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

I found two lovely butterfly-design fabrics in lavender shades, a simple sundress pattern, and went to work. Each dress took about 4 hours including cutting time, and I found a pattern on the Internets for a six-section sun hat with a ruffle to round out the outfits. Here’s Kira’s version, which has a 2″ hem take-up that will allow her to grow a bit and still enjoy the dress next summer. Marie’s legs are longer, so her dress didn’t have that feature.

Last week, both girls and their mums got together for a play date and to show off their new duds. Continue reading

April 20, 2008

The thrill of victory, the agony of de feet

At last, I have achieved a hard-won victory over the insidious Victorian Lace Today‘s Lilac Scarf! My first cast-on was with a bamboo 4-ply; a month later, that was ripped out and I attempted it in a hand-painted mohair. I just couldn’t get my mind around the pattern, which was probably due partly to some permanent brain damage from being hit by a bus, but more so to the horrendous amount of stress I was under two years ago. No matter how I tried, I managed to mangle the first border section in at least three more attempts, and frankly, I was getting just a wee bit discouraged. Maybe I was never going to be able to knit lace – and this was the simplest introductory pattern in the book – and I was almost resigned to being a few yards short of a full skein forever.

Then I was browsing the sale racks at Full Thread Ahead and grabbed eight balls of Tahki Dream – four green, two each of purple and black – thinking that this might be the solution to my dilemma. I cast on last summer, I think (you could check my Ravelry pages for the exact time) and managed to get the first border done after only three tries! Then it was the tedium of row after row of a 2-row pattern; true to form, I managed to screw this up a number of times as well. I’d be going along thinking it was working fine and suddenly realize that I was either one stitch over or one stitch under, and rip it back to the border again.

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March 28, 2008

Where I knit

Since I haven’t been able to knit or spin much because I smashed my left forefinger with a hammer a couple of weeks ago, I don’t have any WIPs or FOs to show off, and didn’t want to just let the blog lay here idle. A bit of thinking about what I could regale you with led me to remember this bit. Before I began blogging, there was a rash of posts on the Internets showing where people knit. Since I missed out on that flurry, I thought I’d introduce you to my knitting place and what I use. So here’s my regular knitting corner:


This is the corner of my living room, which has full-length windows on both walls. IKEA provided the up/down halogen floor lamp (there’s also a high-intensity magnifying lamp that’s at the other end of the couch) so that I can actually see what I’m doing most of the time. That there couch is my very first grown-up couch (or chesterfield, for the Canadians among you), bought brand-spankin’ new three years ago. It may tell you something about my maturity level when I say that I was well over 50 when I bought this! Firm cushions, deep enough to curl up in the corner or sit in lotus without any problems. A handy table to prop feet up when necessary.

Close to hand, where I can grab and browse as needed, is what I think of as my “fix-it” bookshelf:


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March 17, 2008

The Most Wonderful Cat in the Universe

For the past several years, Zinah has been on kidney meds, and was doing well, but in the last month she had lost a lot of weight, and it was obvious she was in decline. Last Thursday, it was evident that she was ready to go, as she’d stopped eating and was having difficulty moving and was in some pain. She went to the great catnip fields in the sky Thursday morning.


Eighteen years ago in March, I went to the SF SPCA and knew from the moment I saw her that we were meant to be together. She was just a “catolescent” when she came home with me at the age of 8 months, and delighted in chasing her treats from one end of the house to the other. Every evening she would meet me at the door to say hello. She loved to chase her catnip mice, delighted in sunning herself in the studio, and enjoyed meeting all the dancers who came to classes on Francisco Street. All of us got a great laugh when she walked into the studio as we were all practicing one-footed shimmies and holding onto the walls – she saw what we were doing, and obligingly propped her little front paws on the mirror and started wagging her tail in time to the music!

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March 7, 2008

I Can’t Believe I’m Spinning!

No, I’m not writing another of those cheesy how-to books. But last night I took my first “real” drop-spindle class! I say “real” because I did get an introduction to the craft from Lynn at Mad About Ewes when I visited Lewisburg PA last October. Lynn generously ushered me into spinning when I stopped in to get some DPNs for a project that was on the needles, and by the time I left a couple of hours later, I had my own spindle, a lovely bag of roving, and a copy of Hands On Spinning to get me started.

Because the holiday knitting was totally consuming my time and energy, the spinning didn’t get a glance until a couple of weeks ago. I pulled out the book and supplies, but couldn’t seem to get into the groove, so started checking out the various LYSes and found that Purlescence had a spinning night! I made the short trek to Sunnyvale that very evening, about 2 weeks before Stitches West, and Sandi kindly gave me a bit of attention. But because of SW, there was a lot going on, and Sandy said she’d be doing a spinning class in March.

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