Archive for the 'Heavy sweaters' Category

The Godfather of Viruses

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Maybe it was the comforting and creative turkey recipes you all sent, or perhaps it was five straight days rest (okay, there was that madcap codeine run to Harvard Square yesterday, but that is a nutty story of narcotics hi-jinks for another day), but I am thrilled, thrilled (!) to report that I was able to walk the dog for her usual three miles this morning.

And I am still awake to talk about it!

She, however, is fast asleep.
Don’t wake me, monkey.

You might think I’m kind of making a lot of a case of bronchitis, and I suppose it would appear that way if you didn’t know that seven years ago when I still lived in NYC, I came down with a case of bronchitis at the end of October, but I kept going to work, to the gym, to Halloween parties…I just kept up my usual schedule, albeit while hacking and coughing up alveoli everywhere I went. By November 2nd, I couldn’t walk around the block. From then until early December, I did not leave my apartment.

By this I mean I did not even go down the hall.

Long story short, the virus caused lung inflammation, I lost half my lung capacity, at the worst of it I could not raise my arms above my head because that movement compressed my lungs too much for me to breathe, and a good day was when I could sit up in bed for an hour or two. I didn’t resume anything resembling a normal schedule for six months. As ailments go, the excruciatingly slow progress of this was maddeningly like something out of the 19th century, except that I was not sent to “take the waters” for six months. Which was a shame.

At the time, the pulmonologist gave me a two-year horizon for full recovery and I have minor, but apparently permanent lung damage.

What was my mistake? I didn’t respect the virus. I didn’t understand that I was dealing with the Godfather of Viruses. By the time I got the picture, the Godfather of Viruses was saying, “You come here and ask me to leave you alone, but you don’t show respect, you don’t show friendship.”

That’s when you know you’re gonna get whacked.

I haven’t had bronchitis in the intervening seven years (thanks be to God!) and this virus seems far less virulent than the one I had in 2000, but then again, I know now. I respect the virus, children. I don’t push my luck. I don’t go out in public coughing and hacking and flipping off the virus in a whole variety of ways that makes it very, very angry. Because I know what happens.

You end up as a character in The Magic Mountain.

So that’s why bronchitis is a big, ole, hairy deal Chez Mad Dog. That’s why we’re hunkering down and knitting The Sick Socks and doing crossword puzzles.

I’m also making the Superior Ruffled Pullover, which looks like this so far:
If you don’t knit, this yarn will make you want to learn. 70% cashmere, 30% silk. Superior. Ask for it at your LYS.

And I’m slowly re-entering the world. But this time, I’m showing respect.

The awful truth

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

Finishing Minnie (yes, it’s true!) has put me in the mind of that genre of jokes in the good news/bad news form, my favorite of which is this:

Mr. Jones goes to the doctor to get the results of some recent tests. When the doctor comes in, he looks at his patient’s chart and he shakes his head. He says, “Mr. Jones, I have some good news and some bad news. Which would you like first?”

Jones says, “Well, let’s bite the bullet. I’ll take the bad news first.”

The doctor says, “Okay. The bad news is that you’ve got pancreatic cancer and the prognosis is not good. I’d give you six months to live.”

Jones says, “Wow. Um. That’s pretty bad. So what’s the good news?”

The doctor brightens and he says, “The good news is that my son got into Harvard!”

By the way, if you ever find yourself working as a college counselor at a high-test private school attended primarily by the children of NYC’s wealthiest people, don’t try to tell that joke at a parent meeting. Unless you enjoy stony silence.

Believe me, I know from whence I speak.

But I digress…

So the good news first in this case: Minnie is done.
Here’s the back. Fairly pretty, I think.

I’ve begun with the photo of the back because full frontal shots can only point us toward the awful truth—Minnie is not a flattering sweater on me. Maybe on someone, but not me. That, my dear, dear friends, is the bad news. After all that work. One could simply weep.
Knitter or Mack Truck? I have even worse pictures, but to post them? The shame is too great!

What have we here? Why, it looks like an unflattering handknit sweater that was furthermore a hellish thing to knit and caused its creator nothing but grief. Woe be she who picks the wrong garment!

Chez Mad Dog is a dark, dark place today.

And in fact, I must run. Alex has offered to take me to see Eastern Promises, the new Viggo Mortensen film in which my man Viggo appears buck naked but for his tattoos.

Apparently, there is a feeling in some quarters Chez Mad Dog that there is nothing like Viggo Mortensen naked to cure what ails a girl and make her feel like her sunny self again.

I cannot, I fear, argue with that logic.

Last gasp

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Fourteen rows left to go:
Never has a sweater been so anticipated, and yet never has the urge to quit and make Tangled Yoke instead been so great…

The only thing that is keeping me going is your encouragement and the appreciative remarks of customers at the yarn shop who keep popping in when I am working on her and who are kind enough to say, “Oh, that’s so beautiful.”

This is, I imagine, just like being the frazzled mother of an adorable-looking three-year-old who has been throwing tantrums all afternoon, but has calmed down just in time for a neighbor to drop by and say, “Oh, isn’t she just an angel! What a cutie pie!”

Besides, I think people are primarily seduced by the beads. But then again, given that I am now knitting this sleeve for the excruciating second time, I’ll take what I can get.

I gets weary, and sick of tryin’…

Back to the needles, my friends. And if I know what’s good for me, I won’t look up until those fourteen rows are done…

On deck circle

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Way-ell, folks, it’s late in the game, bottom of the ninth inning, and Minnie is up to bat:
We’re counting on her to take ’em one day at a time, give 150% every game, and do everything she can to help the ball club. Even if she has made a lot of mistakes this season, on and off the ball field.

Meanwhile, in the on deck circle, we have Alpaca with a Twist’s Highlander (shown here in colors #4011 Lady Fern and #4010 Lichen), just waiting for his big chance to show us that he can be a contributor to this outstanding fall team of yarns:
He drinks a lot of beer when he’s not on the diamond and chews tobacco and spits, but he’s so soft, lofty, squeezable, and lovable that we forgive him.

And waiting in the dugout, Reynolds Whiskey (in color #86 Deep Raspberry), a yarn that has just been brought up from the minors:
But has already been slated for Eunny’s Tangled Yoke Cardigan in this fall’s IK.

Meanwhile, Minnie is still up there facing some nasty heat and a pitcher whose attitude has turned surly. Twenty-nine excruciating rows to go, sports fans.

If you ask me, it’s time to bring in a pinch knitter.

Bond girl

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Remember this?
Minnie with misbegotten, accursed right sleeve and the beginnings of a reasonable left sleeve.

Now the left sleeve looks like this:
A left sleeve I can stand behind.

And the formerly misbegotten, accursed right sleeve currently looks like this:
I believe in second chances.

So now you know how I spent Saturday night. Frogging.

Don’t say it. I know what you are thinking: this woman lives a life of constant danger, thrills, and excitement!

The name’s Bond. Jane Bond.


Friday, September 7th, 2007

Sometimes you have to take what you can get in this life. If you are an American, like me, you will probably take it in large, even bulk, quantities (Oh, CostCo! Mon amour! How great is mine love for thee, with thy ample 50 lb. bags of sugar, thy voluptuous barrels of velvety ketchup, thy shapely buckets of golden canola oil…more, more! I’m still not satisfied!) and hoard it in your basement or garage.

Apparently, even my dog has absorbed this received idea of American existence. Here’s the story.

Alex’s birthday started with his traditional greeting from Shelley,
Gettin’ up, birthday boy?

and progressed inexorably, in the way a birthday should, toward dinner at our favorite restaurant, Chez Henri. Eating at Chez Henri is a genuinely special occasion for us because we only venture through its inviting portals when we have been gifted with large sums of birthday cash.

To do so more frequently would surely lead to bankruptcy and ruin. But what a way to be ruined!

The food is excellent and so is the service.

Shelley meanwhile had been left in charge of home and yard security. Since we moved to the new house, Shelley’s affection for the new backyard has been plainly evident, not least because we have an apple tree that has been dropping its fruits all summer.

Windfall! I may never have mentioned this, but my dog loves fruits and vegetables, and much though I have attempted to toss out these apples (some of which aren’t in the best of condition by the time they hit the ground) in a timely fashion, she has nonetheless eaten several.

By “several” I mean about forty or fifty. Over the course of the summer, of course.

The tossing of the apples is a Sisyphean task. Toss out ten or twelve in dubious shape, find fifteen more on the ground when you come home. Roll that boulder up, watch it roll back down.

Watch your dog gnawing on a windfall apple. Again. Go slowly mad.

That said, she paces herself. I’ve never seen her eat more than half an apple at once. Lately however, having observed my futile yet dutiful attempts to dispose of the apples, she has taken to digging holes for the half-eaten ones and burying them in the yard.

Even a dog begins to see the inherent problems with this method pretty quickly.
Hey, I may have a shallow brain pan, but dirty, rotted apples are a no-go.

So we arrive home from Alex’s birthday dinner to find the living room in some disarray. Most notably, the corner piece of the sectional, which normally looks like this:

Looks instead like this:

Yes, that is what you see, tucked quite deeply into the very corner of the sofa cushions:
A windfall apple. I ask you now to contemplate the effort required to BURY an apple in a sofa when you don’t have an opposable thumb.

Hoarding behavior. Now where did she learn that?

In knitting news, the reconceived sleeve for Minnie is very nearly done:
Here’s how it looks fairly close.

Now attached to the sweater.

I am pleased with this progress. When I finish this sleeve, I shall face the grim business of frogging the other one.

Stay tuned…

Here’s how

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

When you receive a handknit gift…
Such as, for example, an Elephant Baby Sweater

…from a friend or loved one, you may find yourself wondering, “How should I respond? What does etiquette dictate? How can I express my gratitude in such a way as to receive further handknit gifts in the future?”

Wonder no more!

Below please find a superior response model. Feel free to adapt and modify for your own purposes, but be sure to retain a similar tone of unfettered enthusiasm and unbridled gratitude:

Ellen!!!! Thank you so, so, much for the adorable sweater for A.!

I am almost at a loss for words—such a kind and generous thing to do. I know how much work goes into a hand knit sweater like that and I am just speechless. A. saw it and yelled “ant”!! Which is her word for elephant right now and I held it up to her and she looked very proud 😉 I will take a picture as soon as I get it on her.

Oh, just thank you so much – I am so touched. I have such deep admiration for people who can do fine hand crafts like knitting, needlework, etc. and feel very lucky that people I know do them.

Ellen, just a truly wonderful thing for you to do and I send this with a million thank you’s and I’m just very overwhelmed. Thank you, thank you!!

I’m filled with gratitude and send my warmest thoughts,

Now that’s the way it’s done.

A spate of finishing, or “The Plan”

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

There was in fact, more to my D.C. experience last week than just this:
An assortment of scriveners toiling away at the National Archives.

Although sitting in front of a computer with a musty box (or twenty-four) at my side did account for the vast majority of my time.

But the beauty of archives is that they close on weekends. What is a hard-working historian to do but…
…go to the National Gallery and see some rather impressive Calders?

My uncle took me, bless his heart. He is a physicist and probably not in truth that enthused about art, but he went to oblige me.
Uncle is shown here, however, taking a call from his mechanic explaining that my aunt’s car needed some expensive repairs. I frankly thought my uncle was going to pass out from the shock. He does not enjoy spending money. Unlike some of us, who enjoy it rather too much. Particularly given the paltry amount we earn. But let’s not dwell on that, shall we not?

There were traditional D.C. photo ops:
Here’s where it all happens. Or not, depending on the particular Congress.

And then the weekend was over and I went back to the archive. Some historians are what we call “archive rats,” the history version of the “gym rat” of the physical culture world. I am not, however, one of those historians. Once I’m out of the archive, I get great enjoyment out of using my documents and sources toward some bigger analytical point, but I do not particularly enjoy the process of procuring those documents and sources, which involves sitting there hour after hour going through vast reams of paper, most of it totally irrelevant to your topic.

It’s about as enjoyable as working in a zinc mine. But with better lighting. And usually better ventilation, although that is not guaranteed.

Thankfully, I am now home and the fun part of the work can begin.

In knitting news, I sent the Elephant Baby Sweater to its intended recipient on Thursday; she should receive it today. I stopped short of demanding that the child’s mother take a photo of the child wearing the sweater and send it to me immediately, but I was tempted. They are lovely people and they will probably think of it anyway.

I hope.

I also held back from demanding that the child’s mother produce another baby in short order so that the sweater could get double use. That seemed just a tad rude and presumptuous. I mean, just a tad. But it would make me very, very happy if two babies wore that sweater… I’m just sayin’, is all.

I have also decided that this fall will be “The Fall of Finishing.” Some of the more loyal and astute readers may have noticed that there are several items that have been introduced on the blog, but never unveiled as finished objects.

There’s a reason for that.

But now them U.F.O.s are going to land!

First, Minnie. Remember Minnie?
Her lovely beaded front.

Green beads and green buttons.

The back.

Fortunately, I am still feeling the love for Minnie and I am very nearly done. Although not quite as done as it looks, unhappily, because once I finish this second sleeve, I am going to frog most of the first:
Respectable in its way, but there’s no way around the ugly fact that I made it too short. I had some goofy idea about how I was going to accidentally drag the bell sleeve in my soup or some such nonsense and I got carried away with this notion and now the sleeve is grievously stunted and there is only one solution. Ribbit.

Horrifically, I also did this at the underarm:
Blech. Too much stockinette where I should have continued the lacy pattern. What was I thinking?

All by way of saying, the completed sleeve leaves much to be desired.

We can rebuild it. We have the technology. We also have the motivation. And plenty of extra yarn, something I bet the Six Million Dollar Man never had.

Minnie completion is my immediate goal. Then I’m going to tackle my version of Bristow, which has a back and two fronts, but has never been seamed or sleeved, and return at long last to Rogue, another sweater for which I am still feeling the love, but which is another material reminder that love is not all you need.

You need sleeves.

The pilgrimage

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

It has pained me to be so long gone from the blog. I was in the D.C. area, working at the National Archive:
Here we have the Reading Room for Textual Records. Feast your eyes, oh ye sons and daughters of man, for truly it is a wondrous place! Lo, a place of pilgrimage for all lowly historians and all the wretched of the Earth, for surely there is no woman so wretched as she who must slog through 600 unsorted boxes of EPA records. Oh Lord, hear her lament about archival work!

I was looking at these:
Only there were many, many carts just like this, chock-a-block with boxes full of musty old documents. Weep, weep, for there is nothing else for it!

There was not, however, internet access. The suffering was very great.

In the evenings, however, I finished the Elephant Baby Sweater.
I am so proud!

Rowan Pure Wool DK and Debbie Bliss Rialto, comin’ at ya! I did this on U.S. Size 3 and 5 needles, the new Addi Turbo lace needles in fact. It was great fun. I even followed the pattern for once. Well, more or less.

More when we return tomorrow about D.C. and my adventures there…

Glad to be back!

And the celebration continues…

Monday, August 20th, 2007

I am pleased to report that the Elephant Baby Sweater is no longer just a vest, but is growing a sleeve:
This was the state of things last night at 6 p.m. Sleeve fashioned from the top down on two circular needles—same method I use for socks.

And growing and growing and growing:
Around 7:15 last night. Visible progress!

I love doing sleeves from the top down (and these are particularly easy because they’re just a drop sleeve, no sleeve cap, no short rows, no fuss, no muss), not least because the sleeves get smaller and smaller as you go down. In this case, I started out with only a few more stitches than would be involved in your average sock and before you could say “Is that a trunk you got there or are you just happy to see me?” I was down in the neighborhood of 40 stitches or so.

And then you can just fly along.

For a project that involves the dreaded intarsia, the Elephant Baby has really given me absolutely no trouble at all. In an unusual move, I have actually followed the pattern, improvising only in the area of assembly, where I have done as I damn well pleased, thank you very much. (Mainly, I’ve saved myself from the awful fate of seaming up the sleeves, an activity I find preferable only to eating live worms.)

All this knitting was done on our sunporch in the most gorgeous weather imaginable,

more like mid-September than mid-August. The quality of the light was wonderful—not quite Napa Valley, but for Eastern Massachusetts, about as good as it gets.

Shelley and I were keeping the celebration going,
Still life with champagne flute, cell phone, mechanical pencil and Saturday crossword.

and really, well and truly, relaxing.
And let’s face it, people, it’s not like she’s the most relaxed person OR I’m the most relaxed dog you’ll ever meet.

Alex later joined us for a somewhat peculiar dinner of chicken (cooked on the grill), blue corn chips, guacamole, and bing cherries. It remains unclear what unifies those foods or how they complement each other, but sometimes that’s the way it is Chez Mad Dog. I learned as a child that one is meant to be grateful for even peculiar dinners, and so I am. Especially those of which I myself am the author.

And so concluded another delightful weekend Chez Mad Dog, where the celebration never ends.

Oh, except for one thing: Shelley came in from the yard on Saturday night with just the tiniest flecks of blood on her paws and muzzle. Not a lot of blood, just a little. After I made the nervous-dog-mother’s full body check to ascertain that my adorable little pup was not herself bleeding (she was completely sound and unhurt), I concluded that she must have, well, killed some very small animal in the backyard.

In subsequent searches, no body was found. (As an aside, this raises an inevitable question: did Jimmy Hoffa have any enemies who were…dogs?)

Shelley claims that she was just doing her job.

Me? I’m committed to keeping the celebration going. My dog is my hero because…when she kills a small animal, she’s smart enough to think to hide the corpse.

Bless her little canine heart.