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September 2003
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Happy Halloween! No, I didn't

Happy Halloween!

No, I didn't make the costume, but I did stitch a plastic spider to the pumpkin's face, I swear. Her arm's hiding it. Meanwhile, we've purchased some pumpkin nail decals to add to the mix, if they're not too big for her tiny fingers. And I think I'll don the green wings I made a few years ago for a Midsummer Night's Dream wedding party -- stitched a few beads on those, too. My day job's a crunch scene till the end of next week, but I have finished the first pair of booties. Two feet down, two to go!

My project of the weekend

My project of the weekend (and until there are four) was Koigu baby booties for the twin daughters of my friend Catherine. The pattern comes from Knitting for Baby by Melianie Falick & Kristin Nicholas, where they knit them up in solid merino. I barely knew Koigu came in solids, and chose instead a couple happy skeins of Painter's Palette (from the Threadbears, natch). I'll post the color numbers when I do the finished-object shot. The graphic excerpted at right is the baby announcement designed by our mutual friend John, who also has a happening new line of greeting cards and wrapping paper. Watch for the latter to be used soon a bathroom wall on Trading Spaces! I've knit about a bootie and a half so far -- my smallest garment ever. I hope Nathalie & Olivia have not outgrown them before they're even finished . . .

Glow Just in time for


Just in time for Halloween, Daily Candy today turns us on to this fiber item, recommending that we "sew or embroider a little marker onto a sweater or scarf, or braid some into your hair, dangle some from your purse." At $6.95 for an 80-yard spool, we could also string this along when knitting some socks, gloves, or just about anything that a pink or green glow might enhance. From the vendor's website: "NiteLite ExtraGlow polyester glow-in-the-dark thread glows for up to 8 hours. Polyester threads have much higher heat tolerance than nylon threads, which means NiteLite is dryer- and iron-safe. Available in five pastel shades: Yellow, Green, Blue, Pink, and White. The pink color actually glows pink and the other colors glow a light fluorescent green." (How 'bout that hyphen usage, Avengers?)

Notice the celeb in my birthday box? Alas, I don't know Mr. Kline personally. But with nary a birthday in sight until Monday, I Googled and discovered today's his day -- and found that Farrah Fawcett shares mine, along with the writerly Jameses (Dickey and Joyce) I already knew about.

Scarfarama I'm just back from


I'm just back from a taco run during which I handed over four more scarves for the ART 180 fundraiser. The one on the left is the mate to the patchwork one I already turned in, velvet and printed fleece, embellished with seed beads and fringe. (The beading reinforces like topstitching since this stuff's not too iron-friendly.) My special PhD'd English-teaching gal pals Elizabeth (Lizzi of the quilt, Caroline's godmother) and Debbie stitched the one on the right when they met up in Muncie of late. I'm itching to buy that one for myself.

And then we have these wacky ribbon ones, based on this free pattern from Crystal Palace Yarns. (I remembered the concept from when Rob had referred us to all their free scarf patterns, but I never referred back to the details; seeing the page now, mine are quite a bit more freeform . . .) The invisible key -- because it's been torn away -- is the water-soluble stabilizer to which the ribbons are initially sewn. I experienced a learning curve here, pinning all the ribbons on the blue/green one first and then trying to sew, while on the pink/white one (which I consider more successful) I placed and stitched as I went along. I don't think you can see it, but the scarf on the left includes bits of the boucle' yarn left over from the Tropical Rib scarf, the first one I donated -- the same yarn Greta is knitting up for Pancho.

Very Berry, Baby! Just like

Very Berry, Baby!

Just like Mariko, I whipped up an Ann Norling fruit cap this weekend. I had purchased the pattern, plus red & green skeins of Knitaly washable wool ages ago from eknitting (before Patternworks bought them, which itself then moved under the Keepsake Quilting umbrella). I think it took me all this time of learning and gaining confidence to give the pattern a try -- and then it was super easy! There are more of these in my future, for sure -- but not one for Caroline, who confessed, when pressed, that, NO, if I made one for her she wouldn't wear it.

But I am going to take a chance that she'll sport a Bucket O'Chic, which the amazing and prolific Bonne Marie has just sized to fit every head. That's another pattern I bought before I was ready to knit it, having yet to experience circular knitting and picking up stitches. But I'm ready and rarin' to go, now -- thinking of a red topper to coordinate with her poncho -- which the wee one eagerly donned yesterday morning, and didn't want to remove when we reached the sitter's!

As I mentioned in the last post, my mom prompted me to add booties and make this gift a set, so I searched the free patterns section of the knitlist site for one that would match the yarn's gauge and the one set of needles I had along. I printed out three, then went with one called Santa Booties, meant to be knit in red and white. I changed the colors and some of the stitches, twisted the drawstring solid instead of candy-cane striped, and duplicate stitched a smattering of seed bumps with the green tails. The recipient is due this week. I hope he'll like strawberries.

Finally, since I'll do just about anything to be like Bonne Marie, here I am modeling the delicious not-so-secret hat created by Greta from a yummy, airy handspun. I'm keeping the thermostat dialed down and wishing for an extra-chilly winter ~

How 'bout them labels?

How 'bout them labels? [note: I see now that a photo might have been better than trying an actual scan. oh well.] I ordered them back in the summer after I saw Becky's; put the first one in the Cutie Patootie sweater, which matched perfectly, being equally lavender. I'm not so sure how this one will look in the strawberry cap I completed yesterday, but what the heck. I had a moment's hesitation that I shouldn't use it on an item that was not of my own design, but, hey, them's still my stitches making it up. Photo tomorrow, of the cap and its matching booties, stitched after my mama suggested a set. I ran right to the computer and searched up a free pattern or three, trying to entice her with the wonders of the internet, since she's recently returned home from rehab with reduced mobility. (You should have heard Caroline this afternoon, when she saw Mom's stump: "You have to get a new leg," she remarked, quite matter-of-factly.)

Speaking of getting things new, I have a new hat. Look familiar? I cannot begin to tell you how soft and beautiful this "thinking cap" is, and how honored I am to have been named "someone special" when it premiered in the blog world this weekend. Details to come when I'm less road-weary and have imagery (and permission) to enhance the telling. Thank you, DG!

Startitis I was only going


I was only going to write of a number of starts, but, what the H, I'll start with this.

1. Name five things in your refrigerator.
That appliance has much more open space than it did before the hurricane cleared all; I've yet to return its surfeit of pickles and olives. Let's just consider some beverages: organic whole milk, plain soy milk, chocolate soy milk, Northern Neck ginger ale, & Tab.

2. Name five things in your freezer.
Again, plenty of real estate up there at present. SKYY vodka, ground decaf (Starbucks and Ukrop's) coffee, veggie corndogs, cinnamon bagels, & ice in trays.

3. Name five things under your kitchen sink.
Green rubber gloves, plastic grocery bags, silver polish, replacement PUR water filters, Easter egg dyeing kits (that I may use for wool!).

4. Name five things around your computer.
Alterna-battery for when the digital camera's rechargeable gives up, a purple/pink/black mother&child candle that I've never lit, a circular tin of cool spiral paper clips from my friend Paula, and two Rowan sweater (Mary & Tom ) patterns I received via email that I've printed but not put into my pattern notebook.

5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet.
I don't have a medicine cabinet. Really. So those kinds of items are in drawers.

And now. those starts:

Last night I started an Ann Norling strawberry cap for my friend Annette's son who's due next week.

I started reading The Secret Life of Bees the other night, and I'll continue because it seems a quick read, but it isn't grabbing me much, perhaps because I feel like I've been there so many times before, young Southern protagonist in crisis . . . Will hope to be pleasantly surprised; I'll wait to check the Knitbloggers' reading group comments.

The cold Caroline coughed into me has started to reside in my chest. Here's hoping a weekend of R&R at my parents' will clear it out.

I'm hoping to start my mother knitting again, as she's expressed an interest.

The painters started refreshing the trim on our house today.

And my friend Dana starts her fifth decade. Happy 40th, reverend!

Kitch'ing Kitty Ethan coached me

Kitch'ing Kitty

Ethan coached me in last night's second attempt to close the toes of the second Santa Fe sock. Must've been just what I needed, because I got it right and can now proudly sport my first completed pair of hand-knit socks -- when the weather cools a bit more, that is.

I also completed the third pattern repeat on my wave&shell scarf, lagging way behind my cohort that includes finishers Greta and Rachael. I switched back to the straights because the bamboo circular's tips were too blunt for me and this lacy stuff, plus I have some lefthander difficulty when I knit back and forth on circular needles. Unfortunately, the US5s I have are close in color to this pale blue yarn (that appears rather white in the camera's flash against the lavender pillow), making this squinty knitting that requires attention. Looks like it'll be worth it, although I still don't know if I'll make the Christmas due date with this one, since I also now want to start a Koigu shawl for my mom's gift.

The Stitch is Mighty as the Word

Recently Pioneer Melissa, in one of her thoughtful posts about writing and creativity, reminded me that a decade ago, after seeing a poem I'd written about making a panel for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, a teacher in North Carolina wrote reqesting my participation in a unit in which her seventh-grade students were studying "the parallels in quilting and the writing process." I made a note to myself in Melissa's comments suggesting I share this story in the blog. I have a feeling this will be my longest post thus far; consider yourself warned.

In my 20s I belonged to the Fancy Club, an unorthodox social group of which anyone could be a member, where I found many of my dearest friends (including the poet who urged me to attend graduate school in creative writing). The Fancy Club sponsored three themed parties that recurred annually: Pajama Party, the Serendipity Ball and Continuous Cocktails. While this is not the place to detail their delights, ephemera from these events figure into the story.

One autumn evening we met for a planning dinner at Richard's house, and I discovered his artistic pursuits extended beyond the culinary. As soon as I saw the turquoise velvet he'd embellished with paint, I knew I wanted to create from it a dress for the next Serendipity Ball. A year later, I had my dress, and Richard had died from AIDS. I wore the dress in his honor among his friends, sharing its origin and raising a glass to his sprit we felt was with us.

That was November 1986. The NAMES Project began in 1987. An unaware precursor, I had honored a life with needle and thread before the accumulation of 3' x 6' panels had begun -- panels that now number more than 44,000, too many to be displayed simultaneously in one place. Not long after, I wrote a poem entitled "The Painted Dress," an elegy that acknowledged the catharsis that can come via creativity. And then I volunteered for a NAMES Project display that came to my grad school in 1991. I'd attended a local panel dedication ceremony the prior year, and even visited the Project's San Francisco headquarters, my attention grabbed by this unique use of the stitched medium -- not to mention my growing concern about the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

As the week-long display continued and I spent hours getting to know those hundred or so individuals honored in words and pictures and fabric and thread, I realized that I wanted to join its contributors by turning the painted dress into a quilt panel. Securing the approval of my fellow Fancy Clubbers, I got to work. I attached the dress to another piece of taffeta, and used its buttons to "tie" the layers together. I included the ephemera mentioned above -- pins, invitations -- and incorporated the Fancy Club's martini emblem. Finally, I also attached a copy of my poem. I drove to Washington to dedicate the panel at another display so Damien, an FC friend and founder, could join me.

Here's Richard's panel sewn into a larger NAMES Project square. Here's Damien's; he died three years later. When I attended the last full display of the entire Quilt on the DC Mall in 1996, I took the second section of the revised poem and pinned it to the panel. I hope it made it into the Archives. At least it was published, twice, in a small literary journal and in a tiny AIDS-related anthology. I think the teacher read it in the former, when attending a creativity conference in the city where the journal was published. She must've used the contributor notes to contact me at the university where I was an adjunct instructor teaching composition.

I received her letter of request just as I was leaving to attend the 1992 Virginia Festival of American Film. My brother, who lived in Charlottesville at the time, worked for a video production company there, so we prepared a videotaped response to the teacher, in which I affirmed that writing and quilting share many similarities, and provided some details about Richard and the poem. I wasn't actually much of a quilter myself at that point, but I've always sewn, and as a writer (and an adult) the metaphoric connections were obvious to me. And I had a battered quilt in my car for a swell visual prop to relieve me from being a talking head.

I cherish the thank-you notes I received from the seventh graders. What writer doesn't want to hear, I could really see what you were saying like a picture you painted in my head and You have a way of writing that makes it neat to read? What poet isn't at least somewhat pleased by Your poem is the only one in the world I like? Ever the student, I love reading, If I had to grade you on you poem, dress, and quilt as well a bravory you would get an A+. And to the extent that I felt like an AIDS educator, I was heartened by this: I admire you from the way you still treated Richard as a person even though he had AIDS. She also sent me their essays, which contain more jewels than I can reprint here. I'm so curious as to where these kids are now. Eleven years after seventh grade, they are making their way in the world. Are there writers among them still?

I knit now more than I write, or at least more than I write poems. I write for my job, and I write this blog (and another about my daughter). Most of my energy is devoted to raising the Wee One in this most formative time of her young life. The urge to create remains, and I pull out the needles. One of my fellow poets and dear friends calls each finished object a "knitty poem." I love her for that.

A final PS: The Quilt came to their city, and the students got to visit the display. My packet from the teacher included some of their reaction comments, transcribed. One student was prompted to pen a letter to the editor of the local paper, noting that the media's focus on grief neglected to acknowledge the educational value of the NAMES Project. As much as I wished to join them at the display, I was in the midst of semester-end grading frenzy. So I sent a substitute. And the teacher also wrote how much she enjoyed meeting my mother.

Sock It to Me Last

Sock It to Me

Last night I attended my final sock-knitting class with Ute the Terrific, pictured at left above, guiding Patty the Laptop Librarian. I turned the heel on Santa Fe #2 (there's #1 on the table) and am now cruising down the foot. Don't tell Caroline, but I fear there won't be sufficient leftover yarn for her matching pair. I'm hoping for enough to make at least a sibling set for her tiny feet.

Of the eight women in the class, four have agreed to re-up for another round together, same time, same LYS place, with projects of their choosing. I decided I'll just pop in and visit them, since one of the Thursdays falls during a conference my work organization is hosting. Kathy, at the right in red, will be there -- she was into her second pair of socks last night, and selected a swell hooded sweater for her next project. One of these glas made it to S&B on Tuesday, so I'll hope to keep up with them that way, as well -- or we'll just make a plan to meet at the Market and knit in public!