Monday, December 14, 2009


For 12 years, I was a civilian member of the Seattle Police Department, first, as a Crime Prevention Coordinator organizing Business Watches in the City, then as a Community Service Officer for 10 years. Those years gave me the rare opportunity to be on the inside of the closed world of blue in the City of Seattle. The human beings who volunteer to put themselves in the sometimes reviled profession are varied in their backgrounds and goals, yet they are mostly unified in their quest for justice, their desire to protect the public.

While we were in Savannah, the terrible murder of SPD's Officer Timothy Brenton rocked the City and the region. As we landed back in Seattle, the memorial was just ending and the shooter was identified and hospitalized after his failed attempt to murder yet another officer as he was being taken into custody. There is no doubt in my mind that the detective who heard the gun click at his head will hear that click for the rest of his life, and will feel thankful with each memory. I saw that detective recently, and just felt grateful he is alive.

On Sunday, November 29th, Naomi and Melinda and I met for breakfast, and when I arrived, they gave me the news about the Lakewood police officers killed at the coffee shop. During the next days, George and I spent tense time awaiting the capture of the shooter. I hoped the shooter's wound from the dying officer would be fatal, and that the shooter would not have another opportunity to kill. Thankfully, the next officer the shooter encountered was vigilant and able to protect himself, and the terror of not knowing where the shooter was came to an end.

The preparations and finally the memorial for the officers on Tuesday was so moving that many I've spoken with chose to not watch because it was so painful. The overwhelming response from law enforcement throughout the continent was inspiring and humbling. Every single member of law enforcement has a new reminder - a new awareness - of the randomness of the criminal mind, and of mental illness. While it was clear that the shooter had mental health issues, the family and friends of the shooter who assisted him with the plan, his wound, and his escape have no such excuse, and I'm looking forward to their prosecutions to the full extent of the law.

My George is a 20 year veteran Seattle police officer. During this time, I've been thinking about him and his safety, and have been comforting myself with the fact that he is a good patrol officer with excellent skills. I've watched his shock and emotional turmoil over all five of these senseless deaths, and his incomprehension that anyone could plan and carry out such acts. He goes to work each day intending to uphold the law and believing that it is the right thing to do, so random murder because of the uniform he wears puts him beyond understanding. I asked him if it helps to see the outpouring of support from the public - the expression of appreciation for police officers and the work they do, and he gave an emphatic yes.

We are both touched by the blue lights on homes this season, and he's had and heard of heartwarming Starbucks experiences involving gift cards left at the counter for any police officer's beverage. He (and I too) truly appreciated his captain's choice to have no officer patroling alone while the Lakewood shooter was at large; he said that some departments, such as Los Angeles, have that rule at all times. I was horrified to learn that the shooter was ultimately confronted by a lone officer in the middle of the night.

George has worked other units at SPD and considered leaving patrol. He likes being a patrol officer, and is doing this work by choice. I am now hopeful that Seattle Police commanders will take this opportunity to learn from these tragedies to adjust some of their procedures permanently. The ones that give me chills are the afore mentioned one-officer patrol cars, and the policy of assigning laptop computers to each officer so they can be "on the streets" and "available to the community" while writing their long reports required by the latest reporting system. I know budgets are tight, especially this year. But our officers need to get as good as what they give every day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Southern connection

George and I don't often travel far from home together. The dogs and George's dislike of flying can be impediments to scheduling, even when the trip is one we really want to take.

My cousin, Cindy, sent an e-mail asking when we were planning to visit my brother in Georgia, saying that her husband was scheduling his vacation, and they would like to meet us in the South. That was the seed of our October 30th trip to Savannah. It took some weeks to get George's commitment, then he was a full contributor to a wonderful vacation!

First step after the reservations was to secure good lodging for the dogs, and rather than asking friends or hiring a house-sitter, George toured Roscoe's Ranch and loved how they care for their "guests". We realized that the cost would be the same as PetsHotel, but at the Ranch, they would get more individual care and attention. Although the accommodations were full on Halloween weekend, they figured out a way to keep Poppy and Maverick during our 9-day absence. (The Ranch even sent us e-mail photos of the dogs playing.) George arranged everything from parking at the airport to the car rental while I arranged our hotel and touring plans.

The short review of our vacation is that the time with my brother's family and with my cousin and her husband was full and more fun than I dared imagine. My brother, Stan, and his wife, Susan, are wonderful hosts and tour guides with much knowledge and information to share about their adopted region. Cindy and her husband have a fresh and interested approach to life and were a joy as companions for spending time and seeing new things. I hope I get to see all of them more frequently as a result of this trip. A detailed version with photos follows, with only one knitting reference, so feel free to skim or just stop here, and I'll see you next time. My brother, Stan, moved about 8 years ago from Renton, WA to Richmond Hill, GA, about 20 minutes from Savannah. He and his wife, Susan, have a beautiful home there, and they have put in a lot of work to create charming interiors and gardens - staying with them for several nights was something like a bed & breakfast, including the food. Stan loves to cook, and since he works from his home, he was able to provide delicious meals.
We arrived late on Friday evening; Cindy & Danny at midday on Halloween Saturday. For dinner, Stan planned to roast the leg of a wild boar he had hunted, and needed to go to the local flea market for fresh produce. After introductions, we piled into cars and headed for the flea market in spite of the 85 degree heat - big change for us Seattleites. What an assortment of things! I bought homegrown, cracked pecans to bring home and Stan bought a 10lb squash that he and George traded off carrying back to the car. We found treasures in the antiques section, Cindy stopped at each handbag booth, and we all got hung up for awhile in the puppy wing - however opposed I am to backyard breeding, puppies are puppies once they are in the world!

The roasted wild pig and the huge squash were delicious - we headed to our hotel completely full. We awoke quite hungry on Sunday morning and, with Danny & Cindy, decided to try Waffle House - they were everywhere, so we thought Why not? I'm pretty sure that Waffle House was the original definition of "greasy spoon" eating establishments; at least the one we chose. Anyway, we now know "why not!"
Stan & Susan first took us to see Civil War's Fort Pulaski - it was where the lessons about massive structures vs. modern naval weaponry were learned. We toured the perimeter, saw the quarters, learned about the Confederate uniforms (the hat was also a food collection bag) and saw a musket demonstration - the only downside was the no-see-ems that anonymously bite any exposed body parts not thoroughly doused with bug spray.
We went next to Tybee Island and saw Cindy's first lighthouse ever - then all climbed the 179 steps to the top. We were told that Sandra Bullock has a house on the island (lucky her!), but we couldn't spot which one. We hoped we would run into her during our visit since we are all fans, but no luck.
We ate at the nearby Crab Shack - another Southern institution, apparently. Famous for the grotto of alligators that can be fed by customers as well as the "boil" dumped onto the tables for consumption with hands, I was conscious of the great waste in the form of styrofoam serving dishes and plastic utensils. Cindy noted the huge bags of garbage just outside the entrance, resulting in fairly small appetites.

Monday turned out to be the chilliest day - in the low 60's - for our trolley tour of Savannah. We saw the museum, walked some, toured a couple of grand houses while listening to interesting stories, and got a sense of the city. Susan recommended this way of touring, and we thought it was great. I'd do it again on a future visit. Yes, we saw Paula Deen's restaurant, and no, we didn't go there. Our dinner was at Corleone's Trattoria after meeting up with my nephew at the new Bohemian Hotel above River Street. Back at Stan's Cindy shared her amazing scrapbooks of family history on our mom's side, and Stan was completely overwhelmed by the time we left for our hotel. I joined Cindy and Danny in their hotel room to watch Dancing with the Stars while Cindy and I wrote postcards to our cousins and moms.
Tuesday we piled into one car, picked up Stan, and drove to St. Simon's Island. Temperatures were back up to the mid 70's and the tourist season was over so it was lovely and uncrowded. We each had a wonderful lunch - all different menu items! Mine was a fresh wild Atlantic salmon club sandwich... YUM! Here I am on the beach wearing my Louisa Harding cabled aran sweater vest for the first time (it was blocking when we packed for our trip, so I packed it flat in a plastic bag and dried it after we arrived).
We put our hands in the Atlantic Ocean...

and climbed the St. Simon's light house (128 steps), then found many shopping treasures. It's a charming island community.

When we returned to Richmond Hill, Susan had made a delicious stew of the leftover boar leg, squash, and other savory ingredients - it was perfect after our day. George & I and Cindy & Danny left after dinner for our getaway night staying at the Mansion on Forsyth Park in downtown Savannah.
After seeing our rooms, we were like curious children tumbling over one another as we roamed all over the luxury hotel to see what there was to see. The antique hat display and the outdoor pool were both memorable - I love how Savanna folks seem to embrace their history and keep it as part of their identity.

We had a decadent breakfast at the hotel the following morning, then Stan & Susan met us for some shopping before saying goodbye to Cindy & Danny as they left for their six-hour drive home to Birmingham AL.

I was determined to see Wild Fibres, the only yarn store listed in Savannah. The store was in a lovely old building with a marble facade, had a great name, and didn't live up to the vision both suggested. (I'm a little puzzled about how a city with such size and cultural history has only one yarn store besides Michael's and JoAnn.)There were two people outside the door and a handwritten sign saying closed from 2:15 - 3:15pm. It was 3:25. Both young people waiting were SCAD students waiting to buy materials for their art projects - Wilma for a felted project and Josh for a fiber sculpture. We all chatted until the proprietor returned at 3:50, apologizing that she had to pick up her child after school. I did not find the Addi lace needles I was looking for, and no fiber products tempted me. Josh did not find his batting, but Wilma, at least, was thrilled to find what she needed.

Stan & Susan dropped us at the parking lot to get our car and as we pulled up to the exit kiosk to pay, there was another handwritten note saying the cashier would be right back, and indeed, she returned after 10 minutes or so. George is still amazed at this way of doing business - he wondered if it is a southern thing. We're convinced that leaving a business unattended would result in some truly bad customer behaviors here in Seattle.
Thursday, Stan & Susan wanted us to see Fort McAllister since it was nearby and held out for four years before it fell and Union soldiers took Savannah. It is an underground fort which is, again, largely intact. The self-tour visitors can take by reading the handout as they walk from point to point is quite informative, and we had a real sense of what it might have been like to live there. Although my interest in the Civil War is limited, I had a real sense of history through the tours and the museums... it was a terrible time.We drove back to Jacksonville, Florida, to fly home (we liked the graphics on the window above at our gate), and agreed that it was a wonderful vacation. George has been describing Savannah to anyone who will listen as a great place where the houses have character and it was warm in November.

I loved visiting with my brother and his family, and finally getting to spend time with my cousin and meet her husband after all these years. I was crazy about her when we met at 16, then life and distance kept us from maintaining our friendship. Danny and George are also well matched; Cindy and I laughed when we noticed them naturally speaking boy-code, and liking many of the same things. George is interested in another visit to the Southeast, and Cindy & Danny are considering a trip to Seattle in spring of 2010. We'll be happy to see them any time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Notes from the past couple of months...

August 9, 2009 My dear friend Naomi (in photo with me at Ray's boathouse last March, before she got her new, short hair), likes to keep up with her many friends on Facebook. Although I was fearful of having one more thing to neglect, I decided to try it out several months ago. Within minutes, my niece, daughter-in-law, and step-son friended me, and over several days, friends found me too. I still don't know how to use all the nuances, so I might read something and I might message. I used a "wall" once, but don't really like to be so... public, I guess.
Sometime in July, a message from junior high appeared in my inbox. Well, it might have been from junior high since that was when I was in a close-knit group of girls with Laurie. Although we knew each other through high school, we had evolved past the intimacy of our early teens, and later, were so caught up in our adult lives, we were sort of at a loss for words when we met at class reunions. Laurie now lives in Boston after living all around the world, and asked about meeting when she was to be in Seattle in early August. I thought seeing her would be nice, and called Stephanie, another friend from that time, to see if she wanted to meet too. She said sure, and mentioned she had just returned from the wedding of the daughter of another friend from junior high / high school days. Laurie ended up arranging a large gathering, and we couldn't work out the logistics to meet (it was Sock Summit weekend, after all!). The entire week of conversations back and forth reminded me of junior high angst: discussion of old rivalries and loyalties, remembering what life was like when we didn't know who we would become, before we knew what our futures would hold. I hope I get to see Laurie on one of her future visits in a one on one or small group rather than large gathering women from our pasts.

August 30, 2009 I've been tussling with a summer cold that will not let go! It began 13 days ago today, and I'm still trying to stop coughing and to get my energy back. My voice sounds so much worse than I'm feeling by now - I'm so happy to have my sense of smell and taste returning. There's not much point in eating good food when I can't smell or taste anything.

Knitwise, Ellen kindly gave me two hours of her time and I relearned her short-row heel! It really goes so much faster than the heel flap, and I wrote it down this time, so am convinced I can do it on my own. I'm also planning to try the short-row heel from Melinda's tutorial just so I can begin to be fully informed on types of heels. In any case, the Gryffindor socks will be done this week. I was planning to do the heel flap on the Baby Cable Rib socks, but went ahead with the heel flap.

September 1, 2009 My Veronique turned out to be lovely! I chose to knit the sleeves in the round and used a purl stitch for a faux seam. I went with a bracelet length on the sleeves - a couple of inches above my wrist bone. My biggest challenge was pulling out the provisional cast-on since I foolishly used a sock wool and it took over an hour to get the edges on the circular needle.. USE SOMETHING SLIPPERY so it doesn't catch the mohair cloud! I looked at all the Veronique projects on ravelry and decided on the eyelet edging without beads - with this variegated yarn, I wanted to give it some style while keeping it simple. I find that while wearing it, the edges still somewhat do the stockinette roll, but it hasn't been a major bother. I'm glad someone else mentioned finding a dropped stitch a few inches back - it happened to me several times so that I got a little crazed and checked for dropped stitches all the time. I was excited to show this one off, and wore it to work and class right away. The first person at work to see me in it came rushing over and began to pull it down on me to smooth it out to see the detail... she stretched the mohair down a couple of inches! I appreciated the admiration even while I worried that I'd have to re-block it back to my size.

September-October - We have enjoyed garden bounty during all of the fall season, including our first-ever grape harvest. Fruit was prolific everywhere this year, and we had bountiful amounts of raspberries, zucchini, yellow squash, pineapple strawberries, and blueberries. We even got two large red Bartlett pears on our espaliered small pear tree (they were delicious too). But we couldn't help being excited about our small bunches of Red Flame grapes. They are delicious, and the vine will only get better with age. I'm taking cuttings in hopes of rooting them to gift to family and friends next spring. I know they take a long time to fruit, but they are absolutely worth the wait! Last, but not least, we tried growing San Marzano tomatoes - plants from seeds from Italy. Anyone who likes to cook Italian food will recognize the name. We think they are a great success, and will grow them again next year - not for slicing and eating, but for cooking in sauces and soups. They were prolific and are still ripening in October.October: I've been working on my next project: Louisa Harding's Bette cabled vest in ivory Silky Wool. I first worked a small swatch to determine the neede size and got pretty excited. The back and fronts are complete, with only the neck and armhole ribbing to add. The pattern is a pleaure, and I'm loving the results! I chose to go up a size in order to try to get a similar fit to the photo in the book. I'll photograph it for next time - and won't be so long between!

Friday, August 14, 2009

August already?

Summer has actually felt like summer in the Pacific Northwest this year, although July weather nearly melted us here in the Pacific Northwest. We opted to not add air conditioning when we had a new furnace installed after purchasing our house five years ago, and two weeks ago we were questioning our sanity in making that decision. Before the heat wave even started, I arrived home on Monday to let the dogs out and the temperature inside was 90 degrees. George stayed home with them on Tuesday and Wednesday as the temperatures rose, and I came home early and Thursday and Friday. Our strategy was wetting them down from time to time from a tub of water on the patio, and doing our best to keep them quiet. They came through just fine, although some of our plants were sort of incinerated. Thank heaven for neighbors with air conditioning and friends with a pool and air conditioning for inviting us to visit with our dogs. Here's my friend Cherie in her pool with Poppy on a float. That sort of kindness touches my heart! (Speaking of that, thank you for your comments and e-mails about my pups - there are lots of us dog people around!)

The cooler temperatures are a relief, and the rain has felt like a gift (since we are a little bit afraid of what our water bill will be). I admit that I like being hot during the day, but not being able to cool down at night was like smothering. The feeling of moving slow motion through thick air gave me a real understanding of stifling heat. It didn't stop me from knitting though - it's how I relaxed without moving enough to sweat.

Well, it seems there's something about making a commitment in writing - I have stayed on track with my knitting for a bit. Here are my promised Pure & Simple socks, and the idea of socks in this cooler weather is not so out of the question. I love the colors, and I enjoyed switching to 2.25mm needles from my usual US 0's so that they knit up faster.

The baby hoodie for Kansas cousin Roxie's grandson is finished - he'll be a year old in October, so I'm hoping he'll still be able to wear it by the time the weather there is cold. I only have to choose a pair of toggle buttons from my button stash!

My next pair of socks are on the needles; my first Tofutsies, from Naomi, in pink granite. The yarn sent me back to my US 0's, and tinkering (starting over three times - so far) with the number of stitches was required to get the right fit for the baby cable rib pattern from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Socks. This is my "touchstone" sock book for the basics and for different stitch designs for socks. Although the cabling doesn't really pop out in this yarn, I love this sort of understated detail, like you have to be an insider to know to look for it.

In the sweater category, I read the Veronique pattern in French Girl Knits before casting on the variegated Kid Seta. It's an interesting construction technique, and since thinking about it takes me back to my sewing and flat pattern design classes, it will be fun to see it develop. I'm not a fast knitter in any case, and seem to be even slower with this delicate yarn. It knits up beautifully texturewise, and I'm watching for pooling. Does anyone else think that variegated yarn often looks better in the ball or skein than it does knitted up? The sort of fluorescent coral color wasn't apparent to me in the ball, but it sure shows up in the knitted fabric. Still, I love the blue/purple parts and think it will be a warm and elegant foil for jeans as well as a more formal accessory. I just completed the gathering for the back and have cast on for the next step - and so far it's going well. The directions are clear and giving the desired result, and I'm still excited to see what's next!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dog days

This was our first look at our our newest canine addition, Poppy. She is a 10lb rescue dog from the Seattle Animal Shelter, and we adopted her in April. She proved to be the best match for Maverick after introductions to several dogs. She was a year old in July, and while still exhibiting puppy traits, she is learning from Maverick about how to be a gentle, sweet dog. We were told she is a chihuahua mix - we think with a terrier breed of some kind. She has that sort of terrier energy and fearlessness in place of the quivering timidity and yapping found with some chihuahuas. Don't get me wrong: she barks! As a watchdog and fierce protector, which is not what we expected from this little scamp who likes to sleep in our laps and eat raspberries off the vines.
Maverick wasn't quite sure whether he should be miffed by her arrival in April, but she didn't give up on him, moving onto his bed within the first couple of weeks (he then slept on the small bed we got for her - it was a riot), and trying to cuddle with him. The first time he rested his head on her while waiting for something, we knew she had him.

Pound for pound, Poppy may be faster than 70lb Maverick, and he's FAST. He gets down on the ground to play with her, and she chases him for all she is worth in the back yard, with some success. She hasn't yet learned to be gentle, so he cries out frequently because she's bitten him too hard. Their white markings are similar, then where he is dark and handsome, she is strawberry blonde, light eyed, and pink nosed. She squints in the bright sun and starts to doze when her head and ears are being massaged. He loves to chase the ball, rolls on us if we get down on the floor, leans on us and puts his head in our laps for affection. He still likes to get in my lap when allowed - especially since Poppy gets lap time.

She is learning a little about cuddling, but mostly likes to jump to whatever high summit she can reach to defy her diminuitive size. This includes tabletops and finishing off what's left on plates, so we still have much training to do. I caught her on the table the other night and startled her - she nearly jumped out of her skin and was off the table in a flash, so we know she knows better and just can't yet resist temptation.
Recently, we celebrated "sit" and "stay" - she's not perfect yet, but she's Maverick's little mimic so I have high hopes. I'm talking about my dogs today because of our unusual Northwest heat wave. I'm happy that they are both short-haired since our house is not air-conditioned. They do fairly well, but we still coordinated our schedules to get them some air and wet them down to keep them from overheating. Maverick still wants to go chase the ball and run around - and doesn't understand why it doesn't work very well.

Both dogs get chilled in cold weather - they are fortunate to be mixes, or they would be even less insulated. Maverick has a red & black fleece jacket (he inherited it from Cherie's beloved boxer, Beano) that is perfect for the snow - I expect to sew him another one or two. Poppy, however, is small enough that knitting for her won't be a major project, so I thought I'd give it a try. I was looking at books about knitting for dogs, and ordered three of them.
OK, three books may not have been absolutely necessary, but if I like knitting dog sweaters, I'll be prepared, right? And how often have I been known to pass up a good book? I'm thinking both dogs would look good in an aran knit. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What's next...

... is something we all face, in life, and of course, in knitting!

For me, small projects keep me from feeling overwhelmed by the challenges posed with the sweaters requiring a major time commitment. This summer, smaller projects have been my entire knitting output. Fortunately, there are things to be learned from small projects as well as the major ones!
I'm not a real romantic about babies, and am not often moved to create a handmade gift for a baby shower. I'm more likely to wait until the little one will be able to wear a garment more than once before they grow out of it. One of our bunco gals, Sarah, is pregnant for the first time. The members of our bunco group are an over-the-top sort, so when I received the invitation to the shower, I decided to go ahead and knit a baby-something. I chose the Knitting Pure & Simple Easy Baby Cardigan / Hoodie in the 6 month size. Instead of the usual baby pastels in the gauge called for, I found an Encore in Northwesty tones (Color #7118), and reduced the # of stitches by 20% due to the difference in stitch gauge. I didn't have to worry about row gauge since the instructions only called for measurement. My biggest challenge was knowing so little about baby sizing that the hood seemed like a balloon and the sleeves seemed shockingly long, but my BYS class assured me it was right on. I sent it to the shower with a friend and was later told it was a hit. I was also assured that even the knitter-sister-in-law closely examined the construction and was impressed. Little Daniel is not scheduled to arrive until August, so I won't have a photo of him in the hoodie for some time to come. This is a project that is easy, quick, adorable, and I am already knitting another one in a larger size for cousin Roxie's, grandson and the cold, Kansas winter.The hoodie was cast on while I was in Missouri with my cousins. My cousin, Debbie, had made quilts for each of us with our Doggette name right on it. I was amazed at her generosity, with her time and her skill. I wrote to her to tell her that and she said that her mom did quilts in the same way, and that Debbie and her sister were allowed to tie the pieces of yarn to help with the quilts, so sewing these for us gave her a way to be with and remember her mom. Well, my mom is not a knitter, but I was moved to do something handmade for each cousin too. Back to my bath mitts!
I wanted to use the black&red colors (the green is for Aunt Louise and her love of frog designs), but found it limiting so didn't mind the variagation in the Peaches & Cream cotton yarns. I've added a ribbed cuff to the pattern from the paper label, and I increase the sizes according to the size of the hand. The result is 9 bath mitts, bath salts or handmade soap for each Doggette, and a
Scottie dog luggage tag from local Linnea Designs for each cousin's future travels.
At the same time, I've picked up my long-neglected Forest Canopy shawl. I started it in summer of 2007, and took it out so many times, I finally just put it down for awhile... which stretched into nearly two years. When I stretched it out to see it after so long, a funny thing happened: I actually could see the stitches and read them. To be sure, I took it to class and asked Rebecca to refresh me, and I was correct. I plan to make it larger than a shoulder shawl, but we'll see how it goes!

So what's next for me is another pair of basic Pure & Simple socks from an old On-Line sock yarn in a beautiful colorway (I have the heel flap technique down, thank you!), completing the 2nd baby hoodie and Forest Canopy shawl, and swatching some fabulous variegated Kid Seta for the Veronique shrug from French Girl Knits. I'm also following Rebecca's suggestion to actually write a list of the patterns I have on my wish list, and the yarns I already have for them. Going through them mentally leaves me in a quandary, so looking at the patterns matched with the yarns I have brings things clear more quickly. I fully expect to be shocked with myself for buying so much yarn in a sort of "what was I thinking?" moment... then I'll go to my BYS class to hear that we ALL have stashes, and that stash shopping is a good thing!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lazy days of summer?

I've been feeling a little unproductive - worrying that I'm taking on small, easy projects instead of facing up to some of the challenges bouncing around in my mind. I'm actually talking about my knitting, although it may be true for other facets of my life as well. My recent family history excavations are affecting some of how I think about things, and I don't know exactly where my thoughts will lead - perhaps being preoccupied has affected my knitting output so far this year. To get back in stride with my personal expectations, how about joining me in a look at the completed projects besides George's sweater?My pink "Knit for the Cure" socks were challenging due to the very small gauge of the yarn. That the socks are built like iron is due to using Addi size 0, and that they are warm as can be is due to the lovely Twin Rib stitch from Sensational Knitted Socks. I love them - and will wear them as soon as the weather is cool enough that my feet won't sweat in them.

I also love my Gryffindor socks from Sunshine Yarn's Harry Potter collection. This yarn is also quite a fine gauge, so I increased the number of stitches and decided on a 4x2 rib. Ellen showed me a short row heel and it turned out so well, I'm thrilled! Or I was, right up until I tried to do the same heel on the second sock and forgot how. My learning style seems to be "show me," as reading instructions doesn't seem to be enough, and Ellen hasn't been available to lead me through it again. Well, Ellen will be back from Denmark before too long, and I'll be requesting her time to refresh my memory! There are other ways to do a short row heel, I know, but I thought the heels on this pair should match... I felt like a real beginner when I started the pink socks over several times, it affected my attitude and I was afraid I was not going to want to finish them. And the Gryffindor socks are like a beacon of failure at the moment - I'll be unhappy until they are finished, then I'll love them.

My second completed lace project (the first was the February Lady cardi) turned out beautifully - I used the gorgeous Merino-Qiviut from Naomi to knit a smoke-ring pattern recommended by Melinda. It was fun to knit the bottom band then pick up stitches for the neck/hood. I took it slow and loved knitting with this yarn. I'll welcome the cold weather just so I can feel the warmth of such a luxurious embrace. And it feels like quite an accomplishment to complete these details, including the blocking process.My third completed lace project was the Lace Shaped Tee (also known as Krista) from Knitting Lingerie Style by Joan McGowan-Michael. Since I chose Cascade's Pima-Tencel yarn, which gave a decidedly different gauge and drape from what the pattern indicated, I was uncertain whether I would like the finished product on me. I knitted in fits and starts instead of straight through. I even ran into a serious problem with gauge when I picked it up again and was knitting tighter than previously. I thought I had somehow switched needle sizes. I extended the length of the sleeves from the cap sleeves, and now like it very much. I'm starting to get how people have this fascination with knitted lace!This is a good way to gain perspective: already, I've been more productive than I thought, so maybe I don't actually have knitter's block. I'll catch up to now next time!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Have you ever not known something was missing in your life until it wasn't missing any more? That's what has been impacting my life - with questions, confusion, the desire to know more, and joy. What a wonderful gift to add new relatives to my life! Well, they have always been out there, I just didn't know them and have access to them in the same way many families do.
Mom is the eighth of nine siblings from a small town in Kansas. There is no photograph with all of them together. When they left home, they scattered across the country, and as I grew up, I knew my Dad's parents and of his sister and her children. I remember meeting my mom's mother and a cousin named Roxie when I was 5 or 6, but little about the meeting. At 16, I went with Mom to visit her older brother in Kansas, and became close friends with my cousin, Cindy for the few days we were there... we wrote for a while, but didn't see each other again. I remember the phone call Mom got when her mom died, and I remember asking Mom if she was an orphan now. I met her younger brother, and her oldest sister, but didn't really know any of her siblings as they began to pass away. I thought that contact among them was inconsistent as they pursued careers and raised families. Mom is now the only sister (of four), and there is one brother (of five) still living.
In the last decade, Mom has connected two of my cousins who were interested in family history, and they each shared with their sisters. Together with Mom, they located a fifth (the very same Roxie) and a drew in a sixth cousin, and I learned about all of this with a jolt when Roxie came to Seattle for a visit last fall. She told of the cousins' work on the family tree and their annual research trip to accomplish the various searches. My brother and I were stunned to realize that we have 28 or so first cousins across the country, that there have been some family reunions, and that they have been getting to know each other.
Meeting Roxie again was the open door for me - an e-mail to Cindy and to Debbie (a cousin I didn't remember since we met as toddlers) to indicate my interest in family roots was all it took. I began receiving e-mail pieces of their extensive research, Cindy and I renewed our friendship, and I learned that Mom, two of her sisters, and one of her brothers had baby girls the same year: Debbie, Roxie, Cindy... and me. These three, with Cindy's sister, Jeanne, and Debbie's sister, Judi, along with a younger cousin, Lisa, make up (to varying degrees, as their lives allow) the search party looking for family roots. They have fun at it, having organized a sort of girl gang and referring to themselves as the Black Doggettes after the "Black Dog" gang that Cindy's dad was in when he was a teen. They wear red and black, named a Scottie dog as their mascot, and it turns out all of us are more dog people than cat people. In June, I met all but Lisa at Cindy & Jeanne's mother's house in Oklahoma. We drove from there to the town in Missouri where our maternal Grandmother was born and raised. We bonded with laughter and shared memories of our parents' stories - I'm the only one with a living parent from their family. I knew the least of all, so my trip was filled with revelations, new understanding, new old friends, questions, and surprises. By sharing what our parents had told about family events and memories, we were filling in gaps and giving more perspective, so the search is more than academic. We feel like we are building a glimpse of personalities, and the best part is doing it together. The trip culminated in an unplanned visit on my way to the airport to the town where our parents grew up. It is on Route 66, and has diminished over the years as the freeways changed the travel patterns. Our interest was less about the town and more about meeting our sole living uncle, who purchased a house and moved back to this town earlier this year. At 83, Uncle Harold is spry, determined in the restoration of his house, and has a million stories to tell. For me, meeting another of my Mom's older brothers for the first time, and having three of my cousins to introduce me, was a thrill, like living our history. Lucky me!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Building Skills

My weekly Build Your Skills class at Village Yarn & Tea with Rebecca DeGaris (here, coaching Gina) is for me like membership in a club. The membership grows and the attendance shifts according to schedules of work, family, vacations, and so on - it's the thread of spirit that keeps me week after week. I joined the class when I returned to serious knitting after periodic long breaks from the skill (sport?), and my techniques have been improving ever since. The class, wonderful "fiber friends", and visiting stores and websites give me insights and inspiration - I'm in real awe of my good fortune when I stop to think about it.

So let me tell you about some members!

Joanne was in the class when I signed up in March of 2007, and she, like me, shows up for "un-knitting class" even on the weeks there are no classes scheduled. Joanne has never seen a pattern she doesn't have a great idea to alter, and she's courageous about just doing it. She teaches needle felting at Village and has a gift for charming whimsy, an eye for lively color, and the good-natured generosity to share her creative ideas with us every week. I think the colorful pullover she's working on is like looking at a Monet pond.

Charlie is a knitter for whom no project is daunting. She knitted afghans before joining the class, then her first project was the February lady sweater. It was beautifully done, and she promptly gave it to a family member who admired it. She next knit an Un-pattern top-down, long-sleeved, v-neck - she still has that one as far as I know. Now Charlie is working on a beaded lace shawl of tencel yarn in darker Monet tones. She has experimented with lifelines and markers, including some frogging to begin again, after identifying a mistake in the pattern she is making beautiful progress and we're waiting to see what she will take on next.
Gina found herself knitting dozens of hats for each student in her pre-school, so she decided to expand her knitting skills. Her first adult-size project is the February Lady sweater, and she has patiently learned to purl, count stitches, frog when there are errors, and she is working on the lace portion. When she was nervous about knitting lace, she decided to do a lace swatch. Then a lace scarf. Then the lace scarf over again. Turns out she loves knitting lace. It's going to be a lovely sweater.This serious expression hides Kathie's fun-loving and adventurous nature, and her laughter rings throughout the store frequently during class. She often brings out of stock items from the toy store where she works and gives them to Gina for her pre-school. Kathie is learning about matching patterns with yarn, and is knitting a classic T in a soft charcoal yarn, and has chosen some sock patterns to become adept on two circular needles next.Terry has been knitting Cat Bordhi socks from her own handspun yarn. The yarns are beautiful - she's quite a skilled spinner - and she likes the way the swirl of the sock design fits her tiny feet (she was previously a shoe model at Nordstrom). Terry's always up on the newest knitting accessories and is here with her travel pack. She's now working on a shimmering summer shawl knit from yarn she had in her stash - she's preparing for a trip with her husband.
Joelle is a quietly "monogamous knitter" - committed to one project at a time. She decided on her first stranded project and ended up with a beautiful Selbu modern hat - it made me want to knit one too! Recently, she's had fun knitting this beautiful baby cardigan for a new granddaughter - she chooses beautiful, elegant colors, even for babies! Marguerite has been doing a lot of traveling and recently had foot surgery, and she comes to class when she can. She likes to knit gift projects - this scarf is from cashmere yarn - she has lucky family and friends!
And me? I'll be sharing my recent creations and triumphs next time, along with the latest movies and books I've enjoyed. The yard has been taking large chunks of time, and I'm picking up my Adirondack chair today so I can sit outside with my knitting through the summer.
As for my class/club, there will be new folks coming in and some of our current members will need to take time away. The constant is the inspiration, the sharing, and the learning of new-to-us techniques and experiences.
We're so lucky to be in the Pacific Northwest where we have so many options to feed our knitting passion!