Dear France, I Love You

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This right here was my first real craft. In sixth grade, my math teacher, who was also my social studies teacher, assigned this project to the class, as a combined exercise in using graph paper and studying geography. We each selected a country we were interested in, then drew it out on graph paper. then learned to cross-stitch. The local newspaper came and did a story on it, and they included a picture of me stitching away on France. It was my very first craft of any kind, and my mother framed it and saved it for me.

It’s clear to me now that I used threads from different dye lots and I crossed some of my x-es the wrong way, but I still love this project. The colors I chose (I’ve always loved purple, and do you see the little blue x representing Paris?), the earnest 11 year-old efforts represented in the stitches, my little block letter initials and date), the creativity of the teacher, but most of all, the subject matter. I can remember how, as I stitched, I dreamed of going there some day. In first grade, I went to a school where learning French was part of the curriculum for all students, and ever since then, France has held a special place in my heart. As a sixth grade girl, the idea of France filled me with visions of culture, and art, and music, and fashion, and cafes, and, of course, romance. Now, one of my own sixth graders is taking French, and I can see the beginnings of a love of language and of travel taking root in his heart. As a family, we have been dreaming together of a trip to France; we have every hope and intention of getting there some day.

But today, there is only longing, and sadness, and prayers. Dear France, dear Paris, I love you.

Once in a Blue Moon (Handspun Rosa Sweater)

Once in a blue moon, I write a post exactly when I intended to write it. This is not that time. I’ve been trying to write this post for three months.

I’ve written a little about the difficult summer my family went through this year, which culminated devastatingly in the sudden, unexpected death of my mother 10 weeks ago. As horrible as losing her has been, things actually could have been even worse. Because a little more than a month before my mom died, my father almost died.

It’s a long and unusual story that I don’t have the emotional energy (or hand dexterity) to tell now. But the upshot is that, on the evening of July 29, I found myself speeding up the road from the panhandle of Florida (where I had been vacationing with my husband, kids, and husband’s kids) to Atlanta, where my dad was being rushed (from a hospital two hours away) for emergency surgery for an aortic dissection that had gone undetected for 10 days. I made it to his bedside literally five minutes before he was wheeled away (at 12:45am), and my brother and I spent a fretful night alone in the waiting room, calling our mom with updates (my mom, a paraplegic, was unable to travel to be there herself). At 6:30 the next morning, the surgeon came to tell us that not only had the surgery been successful, but it looked like my dad might regain kidney function (he had been in kidney failure for several days at that point and, going into the surgery, we thought the best outcome was that they would save his life and he would be on life-long dialysis). To get to see my dad awake, alert, and okay following the harrowing events of the previous several days was one of the happiest experiences of my life.

After spending several more relief-filled hours in Atlanta, I drove back to my parents’ house to spend an unexpected evening with my mom. It was a wonderful evening together, as we celebrated my dad’s remarkable survival. We went to bed with such relief. The next day, I drove back to the beach to spend a final night with my family there before packing up to leave there the next morning. When I had left them two nights earlier to head to Atlanta, we had never expected that I would make it back to the beach. But I did, and that night, we had a picnic down by the water, and we saw this:

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A blue moon, that happened to be orange.

It felt to me like a harbinger of hope. My heart felt exactly like that moon – big and luminous. We went back to the beach house and, later that night, I cast on for something out of some handspun I had finished a week earlier. It was the first I’d been able to knit in days, and I did it out of such a sense of joy and relief.

I started with this:

Into the Whirled, "Death," on Superwash Merino

Into the Whirled, “Death,” on Superwash Merino

And though it was only four ounces, I decided to attempt something I thought might be impossible – an adult-sized top. I just cast on and went for it. We went from the beach back to Georgia, where I enjoyed more time with my mom (while my dad continued to recover in the hospital). There is so much conversation with my mom knit into these stitches. And the knitting just breezed by – I finished in three days. It was my last completed project that my mom got to see.

Once in a blue moon, fiber goes from bag to wheel to needles to body in a flash.

And then, the day after I took the modeled shots, I got to drive back to Atlanta and pick my father up. He was discharged and sent home, not only having survived the aortic dissection and emergency surgery, but having unexpectedly recovered full kidney function.

Once in a blue moon, the impossible thing becomes possible, and life happens where death was meant to be, and celebration and relief take the place of fear and grief.

When I tried on this piece, I was disappointed, as I often am. I had to finish knitting before i wanted it to be done, because I only had so much yarn. So it’s shorter than I’d prefer. And the stress of this summer took its toll on me. so I’m also heavier than I’d prefer. Even so, I put the thing on and went out in the Georgia heat to take pictures.

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The pattern is called the Rosa Cardi (I don’t know why, because there’s no cardiganized version). As originally written, it has points on both sides of the hem, but many people have knit it with just one point, which is obviously what I did, too.

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I really like this fast and easy pattern a lot, even though it may not currently be the most flattering piece I own. It is really fun to knit, and I think it’s cute in handspun.

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But I’m very unlikely to wear it without something underneath it (and in fact, I think it’s intended as a layering piece).

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So after these photos, I put it away for awhile. Then my life slid sideways and I kind of forgot about it altogether. Then a few weeks ago, I saw it in my closet, and I felt a lot of pain, remembering how happy my mom and I were during the time I made this sweater, and how hopeful. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever feel like wearing it.

But this week, I did. The day I had to go to the orthopedist about my hand, I suddenly felt an unexpected and very strong desire to wear the sweater. So I put it on, over a long-sleeved t-shirt, and I wore it to the doctor’s office.

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taking a picture in the doctor’s office bathroom, as one does

And despite the look on my face, I was really pleased to be wearing it, and actually got multiple compliments.

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I like it a lot better as a layering piece, and I already have plans for making another.

When I got out of the doctor’s office with my new splint, my very first impulse was to call my mom. Which is not much different from every other day, honestly. So that was hard. But there’s something about wearing this sweater – and I know this sounds woo-woo or mystical or maudlin or whatever – but … I mean, there’s a piece of her in it. Her happiness, as we celebrated my dad’s remarkable survival; her companionship, as we watched baseball and true crime; her encouragement, as she saw me model it; her love, which stills wraps me up, and covers me.

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Once in a blue moon, something that was too painful to do (like wearing this sweater) becomes an unexpected door to some kind of solace (like feeling her love when I wear it), and the difficult becomes good, and the stitches become some kind of healing.

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My Own Personal Tour de Fleece

Thanks for all the sympathy and support regarding my broken hand. It is a depressing and discouraging development, especially after everything else that has happened in my life in the last six months, but it should be only a temporary setback. It’s definitely disappointing not to be able to knit (I have tried, and it is so clumsy, cumbersome, and slow, that it gives me almost no pleasure or relaxation to do so). Fortunately, there is no shortage of other activities I enjoy that don’t require two fully functional hands.

Happily, spinning is one of those. My right hand is mostly stuck in exactly the correct position for how I like to spin:

perfect!

perfect!

So I am going to treat these next four weeks as my own personal tour de fleece. Let’s see how many yarns I can make, shall we?

I finished Yarn #1 Tuesday night:

Look at those colors!

Look at those colors!

How delicious is that?! It’s Hello Yarn Falkland (one of my fave fibers) in “Mignardises.”

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Look how plump!

Spun as a a light worsted 2-ply with an attempt to line up colors as much as possible. 4 ounces, 218 yards.

I got the next fiber on the wheel yesterday morning:

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Southern Cross Fibre Shetland, “Beltane.” I’m going to chain-ply this for socks for one of my kiddos. Shetland will be okay for socks, won’t it? If Shetland is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

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The greens, blues, and golds in this fiber are so yummy. I hope to finish up the spinning tonight and ply tomorrow!

How I Broke My Hamate (a video entry)

Here’s everything you could possibly want to know about how I broke my hand (and then some).

(Also, I obviously need a haircut.)

  
He’s too cute to be mad at.

It’s a Pity Party, and You’re Invited!

It’s broken.

  
I’m pretty bummed out about it.

(Broken hamate, wearing a splint 23.5 hours a day for the next four weeks. I’ll write more later.)

At least I can still spin…

  
It’s a long, stupid story, but the upshot is I messed up my hand and I’m in a splint and a lot of things hurt, including knitting. I’m seeing the orthopedist in the morning, and I hope to know more then. But tonight, I’ll just keep spinning….

Sunday Spinning

Sundays are so full and busy for me, in a good way, but it means they spin away from me so quickly. Today is spinning by especially fast. But I’m helped by the fact that I started the day by doing all the things that ground me, including some spinning.

  
Finished the first two ounces of Hello Yarn Falkland, “Mignardises” (June 2014 fiber club). I love it and plan to make a little time for more spinning tonight.

I hope your Sunday is beautiful, and that you are able to make a little time for whatever fills you with joy.

A Few Things for Friday

1 – I made some yarn.

Hello Yarn Extra Fine Merino, “Damp Earth”

I like it! It’s not for me, though. It’s Jessica’s prize from the giveaway I held in … July. (Sorry for my delay, Jessica!)


She said she likes earthy, autumnal colors and I think this “Damp Earth,” with its ochre, tan, chocolate, vanilla, and bits of mossy green, fits the bill. It’s 180 yards of aran weight fluff that feels like kittens.

2 – I changed course on the hat I was making.

It wasn’t quite turning out the way I wanted, so I frogged and started over from the top (literally), revisiting one of my all-time favorite patterns (details when I’m done).

3 – I picked out my next spin:

Hello Yarn Falkland, “Mignardises”

I’m pretty excited about it.

How about you? What’s on your finery docket this Friday?

The Best Part

In your opinion, what is the best part of knitting? Is it the planning – considering patterns, comparing yarn options, making purchases, making a decision? Is it the start? Is it the soothing nature of picking up something you’ve been working on for awhile? Is it the renewed energy and commitment that come from picking up an old project out of hibernation? Is it the ability to fix almost any mistake you’ve made (unlike real life)? Is it the finish? The blocking? The wearing? The gifting?

I love them all. But today I think the best part might be casting on.

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Handspun Southern Cross Fibre South African Superfine, “Nobby”

This will become a hat, and it’s long overdue for its recipient, but now I have cast on, and the new beginning has been begun. And it feels good.

Lying and Plying

I accidentally lied to you yesterday. I said that when I spun that Hello Yarn Polwarth/Silk “Slumber” that it was one of those cases when I knew exactly what I wanted the fiber to eventually become and then I spun it that way. Later yesterday, I reread my original notes (i.e., looked back at my blog posts from a year ago), and discovered that no, it was exactly the opposite of that. I spun the fiber the way I felt like spinning it, and then as soon as it came off the wheel, I was like, This has got to be a Pi Shawl! And then I became obsessed with knitting it. So yeah, sorry about the lying.

But THANK YOU for the nice comments here and elsewhere about my Pi Shawl. And to answer a question in the comments: I spun the yarn into light fingering-to-laceweightish singles. I ended up with close to 800 yards. Even so, that was only 4 ounces, and that meant a slightly smaller shawl than the shawls my friends brought to Rhinebeck. I am already plotting my next Pi Shawl, and am thinking towards something bigger.

In the meantime, I did another kind of lying yesterday – and that was lying all the way down to ply. That’s right, I am exactly that lazy. To wit:

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(I made a gif, y’all! I’ve never done that before. I’m playing with the Live Photos on my new phone and used a new app to convert this one into a gif. I hope it comes through right).

That’s me, lying all the way down on the couch to watch Jon Oliver and ply some yarn (that’s my sweet puppy hanging out on the floor). I’ve certainly put my feet up before while plying with my new Hansen e-spinner, but I’ve never gone into a full on lie-down – I didn’t realize I was that lazy and/or tired. But apparently I am. And I’ll be honest, I actually did snooze a little while plying – crazy but true.

And when I woke up, I’d made this:

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It’s still drying from its bath, but I’ll be back tomorrow with better shots and more details. I’m excited to think I might be really back to spinning at last.