totally autumn

casting on for a new blanket…

I guess I’m in the middle of the road, in the scheme of numbers of works-in-progress. Some knitters are relatively monogamous (or so I hear), focusing on one or two projects until they are completed, before starting another. And obviously, other knitters seem kind of addicted to casting on new projects (I totally get this, and am usually trying to resist the urge). I have a few projects on the needles now, for different purposes:

  1. the secret wedding shawl, secret only in its final appearance
  2. my 2nd Kai-Mei sock, which is in my category ‘subway knitting’
  3. the green lace-weight Ishbel, languishing in my beautiful Shaker box until I finish the shawl
  4. my mondo cable cardigan, languishing because I’m afraid I won’t have enough yarn to finish it but I tell myself I’m not working on it until I finish the shawl

The shawl is my most important project, but you know how it goes. There are times when you feel kind of shaky, or kind of exhausted, and don’t have the necessary focus and calm required to knit cobweb-weight yarn on tiny needles….and yet you really want to knit and veg with some mindless tv. I could just pick up the sock and work on it, but that’s so perfect for subway knitting, I want to save it for my commute.

SO! Last night I cast on a new project. I’m sure, if you’re a knitter, you are aware of the huge yarn sale that Webs has been advertising. I bought six skeins of Cascade 220 with this project in mind; it’s a heathered yarn, in rich chocolate. It perfectly matches my brown leather sofa, so that’ll be sweet and warm in winter.

This is my first Anne Hanson pattern, and there will be many more. I always enjoy her work, and have several of her shawls, sweaters, and socks in my faves and queue. I’m knitting the Totally Autumn throw, from Knitty. In this rich, heavy, brown wool it will have a very different look than you see on the Knitty pattern page, but it will be perfect for me:

look at the dimensionality!

Now, though, I’ve piddled long enough, finished 3 cups of coffee, read all the items in my google reader, checked all my daily sites, and knitted a couple of rows on this project. I’m off to get dressed and start sewing the lovely wedding dress for Marnie. Pics to come, I hope!

it’s just who we are

New Yorkers are friendly, we really are!

Well….it’s who a great many of us are, a good deal of the time. Last night on the subway, I saw something happen that is pretty ordinary, but I’ll bet it doesn’t fit with most people’s ideas about New Yorkers. I didn’t know any of the people involved, but for the purposes of telling the story, I’m going to randomly assign names to the primary people involved. It’ll make the story much easier to follow than if they’re called “the guy” or “the other guy.” So here goes:

The train is packed, like it has been lately. People are jammed against the doors, those in the center of the aisle are reaching their hands up to touch the ceiling in order to stabilize themselves a little bit since they can’t reach a pole (though, it’s probably true that they couldn’t fall if they wanted to, given the crowd). People are mostly patient, even if someone else’s bag was poking their back, or touching their face. Mostly patient. When the train is crowded like this, it can be hard to get out at your stop if you’re not standing right by the door. So anyway, we come to one of the major stops, the doors open, and Bob, a somewhat older guy, gets up from his seat and pushes through the crowd to exit the train. Jim, who was sitting next to Bob, sees a folded piece of paper that Bob apparently dropped. Jim picks it up and starts waving it and shouting at Bob, trying to get his attention and return the paper. But Bob is already out of the train and in the crowd on the platform. The crowd in the train just relays the dropped paper, person to person, out of the car and into the crowd on the platform, where it finally makes its way to Jim, who looks surprised. I saw him smile as the doors closed and we pulled out of the station.

It’s really not unusual. When I was first visiting New York before I moved here, I was often lost or confused and I always received kind help from complete strangers. Once, a woman overheard me talking about my destination and told me that I was on the wrong train, how to get to the right one, and when we got to the appropriate stop, she got off the train and escorted me through a huge station to the right train. That one still floors me – I’m always happy to give people directions, or steer them in the right way if they’re confused, but even I wouldn’t do that, mostly because I don’t have that kind of time to spare. When a tourist asks someone for directions in the subway, other people standing around are likely to chime in and suggest different/better routes, if appropriate.  What I typically see is an open willingness to give directions, but not gushy overt friendliness – after giving directions, New Yorkers immediately turn back to what they were doing, reading the paper, talking, thinking, playing a game on their iPhones, whatever. So it may not be the kind of friendliness you’ll see in the southern states, but it is just the kind you need in New York.


what does your music list say about you? Mine? I love disco.

I just finished a long run of music that made me so happy, and I realized it was a mishmash of genres, probably a lot like yours. Right?

three times a lady – the commodores
crazy train – ozzy osbourne
jesus just left chicago – zz top
let’s get it on – marvin gaye
the world at large – modest mouse
seems like old times (from annie hall) – diane keaton
sugar daddy (soundtrack to hedwig & the angry inch) – john cameron mitchell
wilkommon (sountrack to cabaret) – alan cumming
blue grass breakdown – bill monroe
keep living – jean grae
ode to billy joe – bobby gentry
believe – cher
yellow dog blues – geoff muldaur & the texas sheiks
cello suite V in c minor – rostropovich
hablame – gipsy kings
light & day – polyphonic spree
souvenirs – john prine
liquid dance – a r rahman
sing – annie lennox
bang bang – sara schiralli
boogie shoes – k c and the sunshine band

One of my friends from graduate school did a lot of research on personality and what we know about others from their “behavioral residue” – i.e., how their rooms or offices look, their amazon wishlists, their iPod music lists, etc. So you see a photo of someone’s dorm room and you have a really good sense of them, right? He’s not very neat, he has travel posters on his walls, CDs scattered on his desk, a black leather jacket hung on the chair, and a dead plant. Based on nothing more than that information, it turns out that your description of his personality would be a very good match to a description offered by his friends, by people who know him quite well.

Of course we all know this and operate on it in the world. When you go to someone’s house for the first time, don’t you look at their bookshelves? Their music collection? You probably do it to find points of connection, but you’re also looking for more information about them. You scroll through a friend’s iPod for the same reasons.

What does my recent list of music say about me? If I’d jotted down more, you’d have thought “wow, she really loves disco.” 🙂

meet Kai-Mei

look at kai-mei!

How do you think you pronounce that name, Kai-Mei? In my mind it’s always Ky-May. Anyway, here’s sock number 1, started and finished in subway rides:

top view of the foot
close-up of the lace detail, very neat to do!
and outside of the foot

Doing the other sock involves working in reverse – this pair has a right sock and a left sock, which is kind of fun.

bits and pieces

news about a sunny weekend – probably similar to yours if yours involved bonnets

It was a gorgeous weekend, wasn’t it. I ate my annual box of Peeps (I am a traditionalist and don’t cotton to Halloween and Christmas peeps….the horror!). I trucked out to Astoria to have Sunday mid-afternoon lunch at my favorite Greek restaurant, only to find it closed, for Easter, I assume. Shoulda thought about that one. But who cares, it was a beautiful drive, and a very nice walk. And when I came home, I had Greek salad.

Saturday brought the annual pillow fight, in Union Square —

pillow fight with an ironic arched eyebrow and cameras everywhere

And Sunday brought the annual Easter Parade up Fifth Avenue —

so very dandy!

I got out and about, in Riverside Park and then back up Broadway – so beautiful, gauzy springy blossomy yumminess:

Riverside Park, coming back to life
tulip tree in bloom, Broadway & ~107th

And I saw this Saturday – maybe you’ve already seen it, but it was new to me. I always thought Mary Poppins was just a little bit creepy:

And I’ll leave you with a musical recommendation: Honey Honey, by Feist. Eerie and beautiful, and the video is kind of awesome. I can’t get unstuck from Telephone – Gaga strikes me again – but this song is such a different mood it does have its moments in my earworm list.

Homing in on the toe of my Kai-Mei sock, will post a pic when it’s done. I have to say, that Cookie A is one clever sock designer. Her patterns are such fun, and make you feel like a clever knitter.

today’s mission(s):

spring has sprung and the air is sweet (and yeasty!)

Baking some bread

Making pizza for tonight’s dinner


Since I’ve been dying for cake: yellow cake with chocolate frosting

AND cutting out a linen dress, cleaning the floors, doing some knitting — because it’s so springy outside, and tomorrow we’re heading out to Astoria, to our favorite Greek restaurant for a leisurely afternoon.

Happy happy spring!

sticks and stones

is it aaaaart? or craft?

Back in the years when I was sewing all the time, making my and my kids’ clothes and sewing quilts, that’s what I said. I sew. Yeah, I sew. Now, apparently, I’d refer to myself as a sewist. The first time I read that online, it hit my ear so badly I couldn’t read further. I thought, “sewist? that’s dumb.” But what’s the alternative? Sewer? oops. You’d have to put a hyphen in there so people didn’t think you were describing yourself as a receptacle for human waste. Sew-er. But that just looks dumb.

It’s not dumb, finding a way to transfer something to an identity statement. For physical health, it represents an important psychologist shift to move from “I have diabetes” to “I am a diabetic.” The American Psychological Association requires researchers to name the participants in their experiments as “people with X” so as not to reduce them to a condition. So it’s not dumb! I get it!

But sewist?

And then this morning I read a post on that described specific people as makers.  “On the front cover appears the work of three makers…”  Some of those featured are called stitchers, and of course there are quilters and knitters and artists. The word crafters has something of a shoddy reputation (maybe that’s just me, part of my generation, speaking to glue guns and large plastic canvas stitched with gaudy acrylic yarn fashioned into kleenex box holders hello my dear former mother-in-law).

Which then, inexorably, leads to the debate between art and craft. And by craft, I mean very fine craft, not the plastic canvas craft. Craft as in American Craft. Craft that overlaps quite heavily with art. One of my pet phrases seems to be “overlapping Venn diagrams” — I’ve noticed I say it at least a few times a week, for one reason or another. There is clearly a category of handwork that stays on the crafty side of craft, whose practitioners like to shop at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, and who undoubtedly get so much pleasure from their handwork….and that’s the point! And there is another clear category of work that stays on the art side of art – work that’s about expressing an idea, presenting a project. Work that can’t exist without highly skilled specific talents, but that is much more about expressing an idea. I adore that category. (And have you seen Art:21 on PBS? YOU SHOULD! Right! Away! You can watch it online, too, for free. I just stumbled upon it last night on streaming Netflix, already in its 5th season.)

And then there’s the larger category of the muddy middle. I adore that category too. The category of breathtaking skill and care. The category that encompasses very fine handwork in quilts, woodworking, needlework, glass, metalwork, printmaking. The category that would include Kellie Wulfsohn‘s quilts:

amazing - double-click to see the detail

The category that would include handmade chairs and tables made with the most incredible attention to detail – I’m blanking on the name of a man who recently died, one of the very best there was. Dang it. Getting old is the pits.  The category also includes this: a toilet made of horse dung:

created by Virginia Gardiner

It’s not accidental that she uses poop to make a toilet – it’s part of her project. Is it art? No, but it sure isn’t craft(y) either.

Anyway. Names matter, even if they represent very slippery and porous categories. I have a daughter who is an artist – I’m not an artist. I aspire to Craft. BUT p.s., I am not a sewist. I sew.

To close on a different and hilarious note, this ad from the 1950s:

double-click to see it full size

Here’s what it says in the copy:

Does any man really understand you?
Who knows you as you really are? Does he?
Who knows the secret hopes that warm your heart?
Who knows the dreams you dream, the words you’ve left unspoken?
Who knows the black-lace thoughts you think while shopping in a gingham frock?
Who knows you sometimes long to sleep in pure-silk sheets?
Who knows you’d love to meet a man who’d hold your hand and listen … while you say nothing at all?
Who knows there was a morning when your orange juice sparkled like champagne? [what?]
Who knows the secret, siren side of you that’s female as a silken cat?