Monday, December 24, 2012

merry everything!

Friends, I hope you're snuggled up someplace with a warm cup of tea, a pile of knitting or a good book, and making merry with those you love. Perhaps you're even lucky enough to have a cat on your lap!

See you in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


I'm not really up for Christmas this year.

This will be the first Christmas without my Dad. He was a big kid at heart, and he was the keeper of all our family holiday traditions, from the Chinese almond cookies to the Nat King Cole Christmas album. The thought of trying to celebrate this holiday without him makes me absolutely miserable.

My mom and sister are wisely just opting out. They're going to take a long weekend away, and then lay low on the holiday itself. We've decided on no gifts, except for the kiddos.

I wish I could do the same, but the other 3/4 of my household very much want to celebrate Christmas, and as one of them is 3-1/2 years old, it seems we don't have much choice in the matter.

So I have to grin and bear it, I guess. But with a newborn baby in the house, nobody seems to be expecting much of me, and so I think I will be able to live up to their expectations quite well.

My goal is: Spend no money. I can't go crazy on hand-made crafts without spending money. I can't put pressure on myself to decorate the house festively, or bake amazing things, without spending money. The truth is, I don't want to do these things. So for the folks I absolutely must exchange gifts with, they're getting something from the Use What You Have stash. The Ghost of Christmas Present predicts a lot of little felted items coming from me this year. And I'm halfway through a pair of EZ Mocassin Socks, so someone will get those. And I think that's going to be the extent of it. Thank goodness I still enjoy knitting, with or without a holiday attached to it.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

late fall

We escaped the hurricane that brought such terrifying storms to our coast and mountains. All we got here in central North Carolina was some much-needed rain. I feel almost guilty enjoying some beautiful fall weather while my relatives on the Jersey Shore struggle though yet another storm knocking out their power and disrupting their lives.

But Nature is glorious around us right now, so I will take her on those terms and be grateful.

The other day HWWLLB cut down all the faded, raggedy-looking summer flowers from our front yard - mostly zinnias and gomphrena - and stuffed them into the yard waste bin. The Little Pea took the nicest of them to school for their flower-arranging activity. We've got several this-might-be-the-last-bouquet bouquets of salvia and asters all over the place. Every time I pick a green pepper or a stalk of basil, I say a little thank-you for the harvest, in the recognition that this might be the last of it.

At the same time, the greens and lettuce are sweetening with every cold night. Now that it's generally too cold for insects, I don't have to worry about the caterpillars munching on my baby broccoli and cauliflower plants. All I have to do is pull the occasional weed and fantasize about the delicious meals they will make soon. We have enough fresh salad greens for a much larger family, and a nice selection of dark leafy greens to round out any meal.

I'm awful at cleaning out the garden. I cling to the memory of the summer bounty, even if it is a hazy memory of what I wanted it to be, rather than a clear picture what it actually was. Once the stalks are spent and the disheveled vines are everywhere, you could forget that the cucumbers never produced or the squash were all mutilated by vine borers. It was a glorious summer garden. Now it's spent. I hate clearing away the debris afterwards, even though I know it would mean fewer disappointments next year from over-wintering marauders.

Right now my eye is on the leafy green things, wondering which of them will be sweet and tasty and abundant enough to grace our Thanksgiving table. There will be plenty of mustard greens, Chinese cabbage, Russian kale and red sails lettuce. The tatsoi will be my own little treasure that I keep just for myself (and the Little Pea), my very favorite green and one that I never seem to be able to grow very much of. In the freezer are two big tubs of roasted pumpkin, the surprise harvest from the volunteer pie pumpkin plant that came up in the middle of a vegetable bed and braved the vine borers to give us several adorable, perfectly round, bright orange pumpkins.

Surprises, disappointments, bitter and sweet. I'm giving thanks for a little garden that helps me ride out life's storms every season.

Friday, October 12, 2012

free pattern friday :: apiary jumper

This little sweater dress is all about the yarn. Choose a variegated yarn in bold colors with medium-to-long color changes – the stitch patterns in this dress will really show them off. And choose superwash if this garment is going to be a gift! The jumper is designed to be worn over a top and pants or leggings. The straps are adjustable, so your child can get 2 years of wear out of this sweet three-season tunic.
Yarn suggestions: Malabrigo Ríos, Brooks Farm Solana, Creatively Dyed Yarn Woodbrook, or Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted. The dress shown was knit in Malabrigo Ríos in color #103, Archangel.

sizes: 12-18 mos (2-3 years, 4-5 years, 6-7 years)

12-18 mos size: chest circumference: 20 inches.  overall length: 16 inches.
2-3 years size: chest circumference: 24 inches. overall length: 18 inches.
4-5 years size: chest circumference: 26 inches. overall length: 19.5 inches.
6-7 years size: chest circumference: 28 inches. overall length: 21 inches.

Malabrigo Ríos, 2 (2, 3, 3) skeins
Size 8 (US) circular needle, 24 inches
Size 6 (US) circular needle, any length
2 buttons, about 1-1/8 to 1-3/8 inches / 28 to 34mm
Tapestry needle
Sewing needle
Sewing thread to match

gauge:  20 stitches / 4 inches on size 6 needles in stockinette stitch

slipped honeycomb stitch
work over an odd number of stitches
R1 (RS): Knit
R2 (WS): K1, *Slip 1 with yarn in back, K1. Repeat from * to end.
R3: Knit
R4: K1, *K1, Slip 1 with yarn in back. Repeat from * to end.

You will begin this dress at the lower edge and knit in the round on circular needles.
Note to the purl-averse: The first 14 rounds are based on garter stitch, so if you’re one of those people who can’t stand purling, knit the first 14 rounds flat and sew them up later.

Using larger needles, cast on 125 (151, 163, 175) stitches, place a stitch marker, and join to knit in the round. Knit the first 6 rounds in garter stitch (alternating knit and purl rounds).
Round 7: K1. Knit, wrapping three times for each stitch, to end.
Round 8: Purl, dropping all the extra wraps.
Knit 6 more rounds in garter stitch.
Change to stockinette stitch. Continue knitting in the round until dress measures 9 (10, 10, 11) inches from cast-on edge.

Decrease for bodice:
Change to smaller needles. *Knit 7, work a centered double decrease. Repeat from * to end. As you come to the last 5 (2, 3, 5) stitches, K2tog, K to end. 100 (120, 130, 140) st remain.

Centered double decrease:
Slip 2 stitches together knitwise. K1. Pass the slipped stitches over the knit stitch. 2 stitches decreased.

You will now divide the front and the back of the dress, and knit each side of the bodice flat in Slipped Honeycomb stitch. Just hold the back half of the dress on scrap yarn while you work the front.

R1: K 51 (61, 65, 71) place the remaining 49 (59, 65, 69) stitches on scrap yarn to hold. Turn, work row 2 of Slipped Honeycomb stitch.
Continue knitting this section in the stitch pattern for 2 (2, 3.5, 3.5) inches.

Make armholes

Note: Through the rest of the bodice and the straps, you will begin every row with a slipped stitch, with the yarn held in front (WYIF). This creates a very tidy, even edge for any garter stitch-based stitch pattern and eliminates the need for a border to be picked up & knit or sewn on later.

Note also: Throughout the remainder of the bodice, you will continue to work the honeycomb stitch pattern as established. Because of decreases at many row ends, you will sometimes need to work row 2 instead of row 4 of the honeycomb stitch, or vice-versa. The important thing is to keep the slipped stitches staggered as established when you began working the pattern – this is easy to follow with your eye.

Decrease row (RS): Slip 1 WYIF, SSK, SSK, K to the last 5 stitches. K2tog, K2tog, K1 (4 st decreased).
Next row (WS): Slip 1 WYIF, K to end (maintaining pattern).

Repeat the last two rows 2 (4, 4, 5) more times, until 37 (41, 45, 47) stitches remain on the needles.

Sizes 12-18 mos, 4-5 years:
Next RS row: Slip 1 WYIF, SSK, K to last 3 stitches. K2tog, K1. (2 st decreased)

35, (41, 43, 47) st remain.

Continue working in patt until the bodice section measures 3.5 (3.5, 5, 5) inches.

Work neckline:
* *You will still slip the first stitch of every row (RS and WS) with yarn held in front!**
Next RS row: K16, BO 3 (9, 11, 15), K16.

Right front:
Keeping the first section on a holder, work the second section of 16 stitches, maintaining the honeycomb stitch pattern and the first stitch slipped every row.
WS: Knit in patt to end of row (neckline).
RS: Slip 1 WYIF, SSK, SSK, patt to end. (2 st dec).
WS: Turn, patt to end of row (neckline).
Repeat these last 2 rows til 10 stitches remain.
Next RS row: Slip 1 WYIF, SSK, patt to end. 9 stitches remain.
Continue working these 9 st in honeycomb stitch pattern for 3 more rows.
Next RS row, work buttonhole: K3, BO 3, K3.
Turn, patt 3, cast on 3 st using backwards loop cast on, patt 3.
Work 2 more rows in patt.
RS: Bind off all stitches as follows: Slip 1 WYIF, SSK, BO all stitches to last 3, K2tog, BO.

Left front:
Join yarn to held stitches at the neckline to work the left side.
WS: Knit in patt to end of row.
RS: Slip 1 WYIF, patt to last 5 stitches, K2tog, K2tog, K1.
You will work the left front just as you did for the right, but working your neckline-edge decreases as K2tog’s (as instructed for previous 2 rows).
Work buttonhole and bind off as you did for the right front.

Join yarn and work the back as you did for the front, right up through the armholes. Work the armhole decreases until 35, (41, 43, 47) st remain.

When the back bodice measures 4.5 (4.5, 6, 6) inches, work the back neckline exactly as you did the front.
However, once 9 stitches remain on each side, do not work a buttonhole.
Instead, work these 9 st in patt until each shoulder strap measures 3.5 (4, 4.5, 5) inches from the point where you separated out the two sides. Bind off on the RS, using decreases to shape the ends just as you did on the front side.

Sew up the sides below the armhole.
Weave in all ends.

Button placement:
Wash and block the garment before sewing on buttons. Try the dress on the intended recipient if you possibly can, using safety pins to mark where you want the buttons to go. If you can’t try it on the child first, the default setting is to sew on the buttons such that the finished armholes measure about 5 (6, 6, 6.5) inches. Stretch the straps gently as you measure, since these straps will stretch a bit lengthwise during wear.

If the dress is to be given as a gift, wind a generous length of sewing yarn around a small card and present it with the dress, so that the buttons may be moved down the strap as the child grows (you may wish to offer to provide this service to the recipient’s parent, since many people today are unfamiliar with domestic arts like button-sewing).

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

new free pattern coming friday!

One thing about being at home with a new baby: I have time for knitting.

Not for sitting in a cozy chair for hours with yarn, This American Life and a cup of tea knitting, but for ten minutes snatched here and there. That's certainly enough time to make progress on hats, socks, mittens and baby gear.

Anyway, I've been working on a hat for the Little Bee to serve as her Halloween costume. Based on the available yarn in my stash, she is going to be a fish. I'm having fun adapting this little bonnet pattern into a fishy-looking headpiece. Hopefully it will be worth the effort!

And some truly amazing news: I have a new Free Pattern Friday coming! I designed and knit this dress (pictured above) for the Pea and for our friend Vee months ago, and have been way behind on silly things like sewing on buttons and proofreading the pattern... but it's finally just about ready! Just need to add photos to the pattern.

I hope it will make some fun fall knitting for someone with a little girl in their life. Til Friday!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

build a backyard sand table

The Little Pea loves to dig in the sand. When we go to the playground, she often spends the whole time sprawled barefoot in the sandbox, happily building and destroying towns, castles and farms.

With a new baby on the way, we decided we needed to make our backyard more fun, since trips to the playground and the museum might slow down a bit this fall. So we built our own sand table. It was really easy and cost us less than $20 total. A retail sand table starts at $30 for a very small & chintzy model, and I've seen them sell for more than $100. I think the Pea especially loves hers because she helped us build it.   

Here's what you'll need:

- An under-the-bed storage box with a lid (about $7 at the store, or you might already have one).
- A wooden crate or small coffee table to mount it on (we had one sitting in the garage).
- Four large, flat screws with washers (about $1.50 from the hardware store).
- An electric drill with a small drill bit (we used a 1/16-inch bit).
- Two 50-lb bags of play sand ($5 each at the hardware store).
- Assorted sand toys (repurposed yogurt containers work great if you don't have beach toys).

Mount the storage box on the crate or table

First I positioned the storage box on the crate just the way I wanted it to go, and then drilled holes for each of the four screws. 

Then I screwed each one in place with a washer in between, which I thought might help the plastic last longer without cracking.

Drill some small drainage holes

I drilled lots of tiny drainage holes all over the bottom of the storage box so that if (when) the Pea dumped water into the sand table, it would have a way to drain out. I wanted the holes to be large enough to let water through, but not so large that sand would leak out. We used a 1/16-inch drill bit. If I had it to do over, I would probably go one size larger.

Fill the play table with sand

This part was fun for all of us! Two big bags of sand were plenty. The storage box was quite full, but that's okay because it wasn't long before sand started migrating all over our yard.

Keep it covered

We were sure to get a box with a tight-fitting lid to keep out the rain. Make sure to cover it up whenever your child is done playing - nothing worse than an unexpected thunderstorm to turn your sand table into a mud pit. If it does get very wet, just leaving the lid off on a couple of sunny days dries it out pretty well.

Have fun!

The Little Pea and her friends spend a lot of time at this table. It's fun to watch how they combine the sand play with other activities in the backyard, like garden digging, restaurant, and "beach" play with the wading pool. I'm looking forward to seeing what else they do with it, with the onset of lovely fall weather and more time outside.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

welcome, little bee

The newest member of the Pea family arrived last week. This is the Little Bee.

It was a wonderful day for our family. Bee was born on September 27th, my father's birthday. He would have been 63 - we gave her his name to celebrate. He was very much with us throughout the anticipation and the arrival.

It has been indescribably sweet to see my family so full of joy. I feel a deep, contented, peaceful happiness that I've never quite experienced before. It's wonderful.

The Little Pea (not so little anymore) is a terrific big sister. She loves the baby and is all about helping her parents care for her. She's also on emotional high gear as she adjusts to sharing us with her sister, which has been a bit of a roller coaster. Luckily the breastfeeding hormones are keeping me happy and spacey, which helps a lot with toddler management.

Looking forward to knitting itty bitty things again. Next up I think will be a funky animal hat for Hallowen. The Pea is going as a parrot. What should the Bee wear?

Monday, September 24, 2012

tutorial :: sewing a button very very securely

So you've made a beautiful little baby cardigan and all it needs is five adorable buttons to finish the job.  But buttons are a choking hazard on baby clothes! Oh dear. One good solution is to use a zipper or ties instead, but if buttons are your closure of choice, you need to make sure that you sew them on for dear life (Find more tips for making great baby gifts here).

You may also be one of those knitters who loves buttons, as I do, and invests real time and money in finding beautiful and vintage buttons and buckles to finish your projects. The last thing you want is for them to fall off in the wash!

There are just as many right ways to sew buttons as there are wrong ways. This is my favorite. I begin with a visualization: the wearer of this sweater has just fallen off a cliff. The button catches on a branch, and that one little button is the only thing standing between the wearer and the abyss. Will the button hold?? The outcome is entirely up to you. Now start sewing:

Thread the needle

This may be a completely obvious step, but choose a short, thin, sharp sewing needle. Tapestry needles are much too thick to fit through most button eyes. Pull a length of thread about the length of your arm (I use polyester/cotton blend thread). Thread the needle, and pull the thread length until the two ends meet - so that your thread is doubled. 

Set up and positioning

Find the right spot for your button by laying out the garment and lining up the button bands. Then flip to the wrong side of the garment and run the needle through a short length of garment to hide your ends. I like a little extra thread end beyond a knot, but you need to hide it inside some knit stitches so that it's not hanging loose (I don't leave long ends hanging like in the example photo above - that's just to make it easier to see). 

Now knot your thread twice. To sew a knot, put the needle through a small amount of garment to make a tiny loop. Stick the needle through the loop and gently pull taut. Voila! A nice secure knot. Once you've made two of these, put your thread through to the front side. On the front side, get your position just right by running the thread through a couple of knit stitches once or twice. Then put the button into place. When you sew the button on, you will take the thread all the way through to the wrong side of the garment, and then bring it back to the front through the button's eye. 

If your button has only two eyes, then take the thread back & forth through the garment & button eyes at least 8-10 times, or more if you still have room and it doesn't look too wonky. 

If your button has four eyes, then take the thread through 6-8 times for the first half of the cross, then another 6-8 times for the second half of the cross. 

Wrapping the button firmly

Once your button is sewn into place, you will wrap it up tightly with the remaining length of thread. Bring the thread from the wrong side to the front of the button band through the button eye one last time. Now take the needle back through the button eye, but not the garment. Your thread should be sticking out from under the button, on the right side of the garment.  Wrap the thread firmly around your stitch-work about ten times. Now take the needle through to the wrong side of the garment again. On the wrong side, knot it twice and then run your needle through a few stitches to hide the thread ends.

Trim your thread ends (don't leave long tails like in my example photo), and admire your tidy, life-saving button work. I like to button up the garment after every button just to super-duper double-check the position before moving on to the next one.

Hopefully this little tutorial will make you a more confident knitter of baby garments. Do you have other tips and tricks for button sewing? Please share them in the comments! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

back on the knitwagon!

For the last six months, I haven't touched any knitting. Haven't even thought about it (except occasional pangs of guilt). It was like I left it behind in the cold hospital room where I spent so many hours worrying over my yarn by my Dad's bedside.

In June we drove 10+ hours each way to New Jersey and back. I packed some knitting and glanced at it once or twice, but never even picked it up.

I remember that I had a hard time knitting during my last pregnancy, particularly the first trimester. I think this time, the combination of pregnancy and mourning basically obliterated my creative energy.

But now, full-term baby aboard, the urge to work the yarn is back in my fingers. I guess this is nesting?

I started working my way through a tower of UFO's perched on top of my knitting & crafts cabinet. It felt really good to wrap up some of those projects - especially the ones that needed no more than a button sewn on, or to be washed and blocked!

Once the backlog was clear, I wanted a little organic cotton cap for the new baby to wear when she's born. It went quickly and I decided to make another for a friend's new baby.

That done, I found an indecipherable pile of half-begun knitting in a project bag, frogged it and got to work on a beret and mitten set made from some utterly scrumptious Misti Alpaca handpaint sock yarn. It was supposed to be for me, but the beret is turning out rather small and it may wind up being a nice surprise for the Little Pea.

This was all in the last week. I wonder what next week holds??

Thursday, July 05, 2012

recipe::pasta salad with roasted corn & fresh herbs

This tasty pasta salad was a Fourth of July invention that seemed worth sharing. Just about everything in it should be available at your local farmer's market right now - if not in your own garden! This is great to make while you're cooking some other things on the grill. It's also wonderful made a day ahead - the flavors intensify and meld nicely overnight in the fridge.

pasta salad with roasted corn & fresh herbs

prep time: about 20 minutes
feeds 3-5 people as a side dish (doubles easily)

1/2 lb pasta of your choice (we used tricolor fusilli)
2 ears of sweet corn, shucked & cleaned
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 of one small red onion, minced
about 1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh basil, minced
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin seed
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your grill.

While the pasta cooks, roast the corn. Brush each ear lightly with olive oil, and then place directly on the grill. Use tongs to turn the ears frequently until they are beginning to brown lightly all over, about 5 minutes.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, drizzle on some olive oil to keep it from sticking, and put it into a bowl & into the fridge to cool.  While the pasta and the corn cool, prepare the rest of your ingredients: halve the tomatoes and mince the onion and the fresh herbs.

Mix up the dressing: in a small bowl combine 1/4 cup of olive oil, all the lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Once the corn is cool, use a knife to cut the kernels from the cob. Put the corn, onion and herbs into the bowl with the pasta. Pour over the dressing, and toss well to mix and thoroughly coat everything. If the pasta seems a bit dry, drizzle in a little more olive oil til it looks right to you.

You can serve this right away, but the longer it chills in the fridge before serving, the tastier it is!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Dad and me, 1977. In this photo, I am just about the age that my daughter is now. 

This week, we made a family pilgrimage to the place where I grew up - where my Mom and Dad grew up and met and got married and had us.

We're spending time with family and friends and re-living a lot of good memories. The Little Pea is getting to see so much of what made my childhood here so happy, and we're surrounded with the love and support of wonderful people who make this place special.

Today my family piled into my Uncle Jeff's boat the way we did on so many summer afternoons when I was growing up. But instead of fishing poles and crab traps and a cooler full of snacks and beer, we had a mission to carry out. We took my Dad's ashes out to the tip of Brigantine Inlet where he had told his brother many years ago that he wanted his ashes to be spread one day. The same spot where they had spread their father's ashes together.

We sped out through a calm bay, holding on to each other and wondering what we would find, finally becoming aware of the anxiety that had been gripping us, as we felt it falling away with the salt spray. Laughing at the beauty around us, laughing at the Little Pea's delight in the boat ride. "The wind is taking my words away!" she yelled to Uncle Jeff.

It was beautiful. The late-day sunshine warmed us, slanting across the marshes, and as we approached the inlet we began to rock over ocean swells, rolling into the protected bay. Uncle Jeff slowed the boat down to a crawl as we passed under the pilings of the Brigantine Bridge, which he and my grandfather had both helped to build so many years ago. He sped back up as we tooled along the jetty my grandfather had been part of building. Out to the tip of the land, and just beyond, to the spot where the bay spills into the Atlantic Ocean through Brigantine Inlet.

Our boat rocking gently on the swells, we each spoke a few words of goodbye. Some out loud, some silently. The Little Pea cried a little, unsure about what we were doing, but certainly feeling all the emotions around her. We all hugged each other. We all felt a bit better.

The little boat turned around and we sped back in towards the shelter of Absecon Bay again. The breeze dried the tears on my face before I could wipe them away with the back of my hand, and my heart felt lighter than it has in many months.

We passed several pairs of nesting osprey. I watched one papa osprey feeding his chicks as we approached the last turn towards the dock where our short trip would come to an end.    

This week has really just begun, but the moments I most longed for - and dreaded at the same time - have come and gone. As we planned for this trip, a shell of tension and grief has been ossifying around me. It is broken now. I hope that as we spend the rest of this week lounging on the beach, taking long walks, playing together, the pieces keep falling off so that I can breathe again. I have so much grieving and healing to do. We all do. I think this trip was the first step.

Me & Little Sis, Brigantine beach, around 1984

Saturday, May 05, 2012

i want to say something, but

I can't type the words. That makes it hard to say what I want to get off my chest.

I would like to be able to write about knitting, spinning, gardening, the doings of small children and the other day-to-day niceties that I am habituated to writing about in this blog. I can't seem to write about those things - as much as they bring me comfort in tough times - because I am weighed down by grief.  I really don't want to write about grief.

So instead, I have been saying nothing.

Many weeks of nothing.

Losing my Dad to cancer was by far the greatest loss that I have ever experienced. And even as I say that, I know it was the first of many, because a life that is full of love will inevitably have many painful losses. That knowledge is like a lead weight around my neck.

It's been 6 weeks and just typing these words is pretty crushing. So, I think that this is all that I will say about it.

Because I want to get back to writing about fiber and color and fresh peas from the garden, posting designs and sharing random enthusiasms. I want those things to seem like they matter again.

I don't want to fool myself that writing about knitting again is getting back to normal. There won't be a back to normal. This is normal now.

A friend shared this graphic with me. It represents grief as experienced over time.

My little container is a bit overwhelmed right now. There is only a tiny, tiny bit of room for happiness, or fun, or for anything much really. I hope that this graphic is right, that I will continue to grow enough - even with this big dark hole inside me - that there will be lots of room again for the small joys.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

There is nothing good to say about cancer.

It's been tough times lately in the Pea household. I haven't had much to say about knitting or my garden, so I haven't been posting here.

But I do have a lot of other stuff on my mind, and probably none of it is foreign to any of you, so maybe I will say something about it.

This is my first up-close experience with cancer treatment. Going through this yourself, or with a loved one, is the last thing that anyone should ever have to do.

I hate that my Dad has to go through this. I hate what it does to my poor Mom. I hate cancer. I hate chemotherapy. I'm angry at the whole world. I'm especially angry at industries who pump cancer-causing pollutants into our air and water and say it's too expensive to do things differently. You know what's really too expensive? Cancer treatment. In every conceivable way. Too expensive.

So I am full of anger and frustration.

I'm also full of sadness, as you can imagine. I can't say more about that now, because I don't feel like crying in public and I'm writing this post on the train.

Here's something good that I have to say: If you have lived a good life and been kind and generous with others, it is amazing how kind and generous they will be with you when you need it.

My Dad is my hero. I have always admired and emulated him. He is one of the kindest, funniest, most generous people you could meet. And now that he's going through the trial of his life, I am just overwhelmed at the kindness and generosity of our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, old acquaintances... frankly, of the whole world. Karma is an amazing thing.

In the darkest moments, at the worst times, I feel spiritually and almost physically lifted up and buoyed along by the love of everyone around us. I have never experienced anything like this before. It reminds me of stories of drowning people pushed up to the surface by dolphins and somehow carried safely to shore. It's so beautiful and sustaining. I can't imagine how we (or anyone) could make it through a time like this without the support of friends.

All the same, I would rather not be experiencing it. I would rather be enjoying this beautiful spring, which is somehow bursting with life and beauty even though it seems more like the world should be ending right now. I would rather be building new garden beds, working with my Dad on home fixer-up projects, or learning to use the spinning wheel that a dear friend lent me recently. I would rather be taking the Little Pea on visits to the playground, instead of the hospital.

When people write stuff about cancer, I think they usually are supposed to put a positive spin on the whole thing, like about the amazing life lessons that cancer taught them. Or what they learned about themselves while going through hell. I have learned a lot of stuff that on the whole, I think I'd be just as well off without knowing. I didn't want to know what I know now about chemo, and all its various complications. I don't have anything good to say about cancer. Not one good thing.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

knit through it

an old picture of my home knitting nest, circa 2007. today's nest is sadly lacking in feline companionship.

I'm not sure what exactly I want to say about things right now.

I am blessed, that's for sure. I have a roof over my head, a loving companion and a sweet healthy child. We have enough food. We have jobs. We have friends and family. It's important to remind myself of these things, to keep everything in perspective.

As my sister said, it could be a lot worse. Some families have much worse to deal with. Abuse. Neglect. Nobody who loves them.

We have lots of love. We are lucky.

My dad is sick. My dad is 62. My dad was the picture of health until very recently. Now he is sick. Now we are spending too many long, boring days in the hospital waiting for the next test, the next update, the next procedure.

The knitting nest on my couch is frequently transformed into a bed for my mom, since our house is so much closer to the hospital. The Little Pea is so happy to see more of her grandmother, but bewildered by the absence of her buddy, my mom's other half, her grandfather.

He is at home right now. He is waiting... we're all waiting... waiting to find out what the course of treatment will be. Waiting to know what the prognosis is. Waiting to find out what to expect.

There is certainly lots of time for knitting. Miles and miles of stockinette stitch, acres of repeating patterns... I could be knitting afghans or men's sweaters, or many many pairs of warm socks. I am struggling a bit right now with what project to pick up and take for these long hours of waiting. As if something in the choice I make will tell us something about the future.

Monday, January 09, 2012

winter catch-up

January: finally there's time to stop and sit down and clear one's head.

It's a mad dash through December. I knitted like a madwoman from the middle of November until the week after Christmas when I was still furiously finishing gifts for visiting relatives (one right under the recipient's nose!). I knitted so much and so fast that I didn't manage to snap a picture of any of it, which is kind of pathetic for Ravelry addict like me.

Above are a pair of mittens I made for myself in November when I realized one day that my hands were cold, and I did in fact have the power to do something about it. I fished out some wonderful Noro Kureyon Sock that I'd bought specifically for mitten-making, from a clearance bin at a yarn store in Vermont during our summer vacation (I think this yarn has been discontinued). I rocked through them in a few days, picked up the needles again and started powering through holiday gifts.

Here's what I made in December: three pairs of mittens, a little birdie, a lovely hat, four twisty cuffs, and a Christmas stocking (which was actually mostly knitted in November). I can't believe I finished all that in a month. I am generally a slow, plodding knitter, but in December I was a machine.

But it has left me wanting to do more creative knitting this winter - having fun making things for me, or maybe not exactly for me, maybe for someone else to have in the end, but because it's a particular technique or color or something that I want to explore. Not just because I think that maybe someone else will like it.

So I'm working on a design for a little girl's jumper in Malabrigo Ríos (UK and Aussie readers, I mean a little dress thingy, not a pullover). And I'm getting ready to write up a fun post on some of my learnings about mitten knitting, since I've done rather a lot of it lately and feel like maybe I have a nugget or two to share about it.

But most of all, I'm dreaming of knitting myself a big, warm snuggly old-fashioned-looking sweater with the wonderful yarn I got in Vermont over the summer. And I'd like to have it ready rather soonish so that I can wear it in this winter weather... but I'm not exactly a speedy knitter. So maybe it will be for next winter. Maybe it will be one of the spectacular fishermen's sweaters from the book I got for Christmas: Patterns for Jerseys, Guernseys and Arans: Fishermen's Sweaters from the British Isles, by Gladys Thompson. What a wonderful book! I am snuggling up with it when I go to bed at night, leafing through wonderful historic photos and reading about the author's anthropological ramblings through the British Isles in the first half of the last century. It's as good as a Henry James novel for transporting you to another time and place.