Treasures

Almost three years after Mom’s death, I continue to find things she — and Dad — saved.  Yesterday was a day of days as I tackled cobwebs.   Mom feared open windows and closed doors:  open windows meant drafts, and closed doors signified  secrets.  So of course all the spider places are along window tracks she never used, behind open doors she never closed.  As I crawled around cleaning, I was distracted by cabinet doors Mom never dusted — but then, who wipes down cupboard doors, or any other doors, these days?

I found her sewing box in a wet bar cabinet.  It is a plastic multi-tiered affair of avocado green, and inside I found a mostly unused spool of lime green thread.  Mom bought that thread for the  pants I made in my 7th grade sewing class.  The pants were indeed lime green, high-waisted, flare-bottomed, with a zipper at the back.  I remember getting an A on the project; I was so proud of that zipper!  Mom, on the other hand, had nothing good to say about my pants:  she hated the color, the fabric, the cut.   A few years ago, Mom and I were talking about something to do with sewing, and I said I was too scared of zippers, and she said she remembered that I did a good job on the pants zipper.  I am sure in her memory, she liked the pants too!

In the wet bar, in a drawer that is a repository of obsolete remote controls and cordless phone sets, I found a small ziplock bag with a few bits of broken shells and rocks.  When  the College Student was 8 or 9, we stopped at a beach in Santa Barbara on our way to a family reunion.  The College Student forgot the bag when she packed to come home, then she forgot about the shells entirely.  Mom saved it, because she’s Mom.  She would  not have wanted to tell her granddaughter that she tossed her little treasures.

Kiri's shells

 

 

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The Train to Somewhere

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One year on . . . .

When the Human Stain took office, I decided to unplug from “current events.”  There are enough things to worry about without also worrying about things I have ZERO control over.  My resistance:  for a year I have avoided anything to do with the Stain.  No pictures, no news, no tweets . . . .  It is amazing, really, how easy it is to delete one particular person from MY human-electronic interface.

Which brings me to The Train — the California Zephyr, to be precise.  If you read the reviews, a major complaint from passengers is that Amtrak does not provide WiFi on this train.  How to stay connected?!?  Perhaps if more people were willing to disconnect, we can stop feeding the troll in the White House.  Sheesh.

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Union Station, Denver

I arrived (via bus, no less) at dawn, and rather liked the Christmas green and red illumination.  The train station was completely restored a few years ago, and the vast hall is one fabulous waiting room.  The interesting (or stupid, depending on one’s viewpoint) thing about Amtrak at Denver is that they do not announce the arrival of the California Zephyr, nor do they tell you when you can board.  So, I eventually wander out to the platform, hoping that the train had in fact arrived on time.  And it was there!!  I saw the line for Coach passengers, but did not see a line for Sleeper Car passengers.  As it turned out, there was indeed a sign for Sleeper passengers at the head of the Coach line, but you couldn’t see it because of the line of waiting people.  Anyway, one perk of being a Sleeper passenger is that you do not have to wait in line, and I got my ticket scanned immediately.

My roomette was not ready, so the sleeping car attendant sent me off to breakfast in the dining car.  People complain about the food, but really, what were they expecting?  I thought the food was fine, the company of strangers interesting, and the scenery spectacular.

Gross Reservoir and Dam:  Impressive, but how much water can Denver suck out of the poor Colorado River?  I guess we will all find out if and when the expansion goes through.

27 tunnels in 30 minutes, and all before the Moffat Tunnel!  And what do you know, the water in the creeks really do flow in the opposite direction after the Continental Divide!

Climate change?  What climate change?  Well, it has been a warm late fall-early winter thus far, and while the ski resorts had snow, Winter Park was making snow when we trundled by.

Ruby Canyon, accessible by rafting, otherwise fantastic views by rail.  By dumb luck my roomette was river-side, so I had beautiful sunset views.  In my book, definitely a “E” ticket ride.

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Ruby Canyon, Colorado River
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Ruby Canyon

And on to Salt Lake City, where the Church knows how to put on a show:

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Temple Square, Salt Lake City

And so I keep going, ready to keep resisting, year two.

Knitting in the Fall: Bedford Redux

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Bedford

Pattern:   Bedford by Michele Wang, from Brooklyn Tweed Fall 2011

Yarn:  About 10 years ago I went to a wool market and got sucked into buying this hand-dyed silk and kid mohair yarn. The yarn was absolutely gorgeous, and I had visions of knitting something luxuriously fabulous with it.  It didn’t matter at the time that I really dislike mohair.  I really thought if I had just the right project, I would LOVE mohair.  It never happened.  The yarn became three different sweaters, and this is the fourth and final incarnation, because of course mohair should not be frogged, ever, let alone three times.

Modifications:  This is the second version of Bedford; I didn’t wear the first version  because while there wasn’t anything wrong with it, it was just a tad too thin to wear a shirt underneath.  And at some point I needed the yarn for a new version of Bryn Mawr dress . . . .  For this Bedford, I knitted the raglan two stitches wide instead of four, made the body longer and the sleeves shorter.

Thoughts:  For such a detailed (over-written, as I think BT patterns tend to be), the directions for the neck shaping doesn’t work.  It is a good thing that I haven’t followed neck or sleeve instructions — for ANY pattern — for at least a couple of decades, mainly because I am a small woman and I routinely modify patterns to suit my dimensions and preferences.  But back to the instructions:  Michele Wang really should have done a better editing job with the directions for neck shaping.  Her buyers, and Brooklyn Tweed  fans in general, deserve better.

As for the finished sweater . . . .  I don’t love variegated yarn, I don’t love mohair, so I am pretty sure I will not be wearing this top much.  On the other hand, I do like how the sleeves turned out:  even though I also don’t like reverse stocking stitch in general, the purl fabric works well for this variegated yarn.  Maybe some day, someone will see me wearing this sweater and love it so much that I will just give it to her!

Knitting in the Fall: Svalbard Redux

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Svalbard
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Svalbard

Pattern:   Svalbard, by Bristol Ivy, from Brooklyn Tweed Wool People 6.

Yarn:  Laramie, a hand-dyed merino wool in worsted weight from Mountain Meadow Wool (Buffalo, Wyoming), in color Prairie.  The yarn is rustic but soft, in a color that is outside my comfort zone — but the ladies at the yarn shop convinced me that it goes with my complexion . . . .

Modifications:  I knitted this cardigan a few years ago but never liked the Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool yarn: it had almost no memory and was unaccountably itchy around the neck.  Svalbard 1 became one of the few sweaters I never frogged, and I gave it away without regret.  But I liked the pattern itself, hence Svalbard 2.  The only modifications I made were shorter sleeves.

Thoughts:  It was a fun knit four years ago, and it was a fun knit this time around.  I like this version much better, I even like the colour!  It is a big long on me, but now that I am solidly middle-aged, coverage is a good thing.

Knitting in the Fall: Stonecutter


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Stonecutter

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Pattern:  Stonecutter by Michele Wang, from BT Fall 2013.

Yarn:  Merino wool/silk/cashmere blend yarn from Lambspun.  I recycled the yarn from a cardigan I knitted for Mom about 10 years ago.  Green was her favorite color, and though she loved the cardigan, she didn’t wear it much because she thought it too nice for everyday wear.  I found it neatly stored away in her closet, brought it home, took it apart, and waited for inspiration to strike.

Modifications:  I made it pretty much according to pattern but with usual adjustments for length of sleeves.  The sweater grew with blocking, but I don’t mind the extra room.

Thoughts:  I like Michele Wang’s patterns; she does interesting designs that are aesthetically pleasing and fun to knit.  Having said that, today’s knitters seem to expect over-written patterns, and this one is no exception.  I continue to be surprised by 16 pages of instruction:  does anyone really need 4 paragraphs on how to wash and block knitting?

On to specifics:  I also continue to be surprised by many knitters’ enthusiasm for the tubular cast on, particularly the perception that the tubular cast on gives a sweater a more “professional” finish.  I have not seen too many hand-knit sweaters where the tubular cast on looked truly polished, and the model for this pattern is NOT one of them.  The cast on looks very bulbous to me and does not flow into the ribbing.  Obviously, the cast on is a design choice, and I prefer the traditional long-tail cast on for an edge that is flexible, clean, and does not draw attention to itself.

The designer also spent too much bandwidth on the selvedge:  I personally do not find the “wrapped chain stitch selvedge” particularly neat or structured.  In my experience, careful sewing together of edges can correct pretty much any minor imperfections in the knitted flat pieces.  This is another area, as with the cast on, that knitters should be able to figure out on their own.

Finally, I must comment on the Elizabeth Zimmerman “sewn bind off” recommended by Michele Wang.  Clearly I did not use this method:  it is fiddly, and for this particular neckline, unwarranted.  The usual bind off gives a neat and flexible finish that disappears into the gentle roll of the reverse stockinette neckband.

I am not against designers having their personal preferences, but there are many knitters tackling these patterns who are not experienced, and who may think that because a designer says to do this or that, that these methods are in fact the best.  The best, of course, is whatever works and produces the result desired.

Gravity!

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Gravity

This is the Gravity quilt by Jaybird Quilts: it is the first time I have ever bought a kit, as well as the first time I used all solids — I loved the pattern that much!  If you are as compulsive as I am, this is THE quilt to piece:  I marked every piece, check every angle before and after cutting — and it was the funnest quilt I have ever made.  The directions are precise, the templates and specialty ruler work, and of course the color wheel palette is spectacular.

I made the quilt smaller than the original by leaving off 10 inches of background on each side.  I just could not face wrestling with a 90″ x 90″ quilt, and I knew I would be hanging this on a limited wall space in my living room.  I wish I could have afforded custom quilting, but I think the edge-to-edge pattern I chose at Jukebox Quilts complements the geometric nature of the quilt.