Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A New Relationship

Last year, I was all about the lace. This winter, apparently, I'm all about Fair Isle. As you may recall, when last I visited the Isle of Fair, I was dithering between Eunny Jang's Autumn Rose and the Venezia Pullover. After much hemming and hawing (and many hours on Ravelry), I settled on a 2 colored version of the Venezia sweater (I would link to a picture in Ravelry, but I just can't put out a tease like that to those of you who haven't gotten your invites yet). Having picked a project, I thought, hmm, maybe I'd better learn how to do it - piece o' cake, right?

On Sunday, I sat in on a Fair Isle class at Rosie's. I kind of bucked the swatch, and worked on my End Paper Mitts. I don't have a photo - but the top of the Mitts look significantly different than the bottom. The bottom is tight - like someone who has a pole up their butt. The top is loose, relaxed, like someone who's just had a delicious cocktail, like a pear martini. And for me to loosen up, not stress over every stitch, not pull my floats tight, secure - that's huge. When I get my nails done, the manicurist is always tapping the back of my wrist - relax. Believe it or not, when it comes to potty humor, I bristle - I HATED BORAT. Yes, I'm a stiff. So, I am delighted with my new found lack of tension. I've got gauge, my friends, and it feels good.

So, before undertaking an entire sweater in stranded knitting, I decided to start small, with mittens. I don't wear mittens, I've never worn mittens. I've knit gloves, but after I lost the second pair of Koigu gloves I knit, I said, enough - I don't deserve them if I'm going to lose them. I just figured it would be good practice, without feeling like I was simply swatching. And then a strange thing happened (thanks to Ravelry, again), I am OBSESSED with mittens. I can't stop looking at them. Tiny little masterpieces of art - a different canvas on the palm and on the back of the hand. I love the charts. I love the teeny needles. Each stitch is dainty, and watching the pattern emerge is so satisfying. What I thought was practice, has turned into something much more. The endpaper mitts were kind of like a first date - eh, I'm not so sure this is going to take. A second date, a third, and all of sudden, familiarity, comfort, and the next thing you know - you have a boyfriend. These Eunny Jang Anemoi Mittens are my latest affair, and I love love love them - and no one could be more surprised than I.

I guess this Yom Kippur I'm going to have to atone to lace, for our apparent breakup. Have no fear, my laceweight stash -- I'm sure we won't be separated for long.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Year

My dad was born on Rosh Hashona. His calendar year birthday is September 20th, and in the year he was born, it turned out that that he was a New Year's baby. There's a picture of him as a baby in my parents' dining room. It's in black and white, but you can still tell that the smiling baby is perched on the carpet that up until Monday, covered my living room floor.

The carpet was a Persian, I guess. My grandmother was born in Rovno, a small town on the border of Russia and Poland. When people ask us what we "are," the answer has to be, well, we're Jewish - because we're certainly not Russian, nor are we Polish. They lived on a shtetl; it was a small community. Someone, a cousin perhaps, had the audacity to marry a Russian, and the Yakira's became soiled goods in the matchmaking business. So, the only option was to marry each other - my greatgrandparents are second cousins. They had three children, and at some point, when my grandmother was a toddler, my greatgrandfather set off to New York, with a wave and a smile - don't worry, I'll send for you. Well, the call never came, and my greatgrandmother got tired of waiting. She packed up her three kids, and rolled all of her possessions in this large Persian rug, boarded a train, and began her journey. There's a story out there about how picky an eater my grandmother was, and that my greatgrandmother forced the train to stop somewhere in Siberia, where she commandeered a chicken, killed it, and cooked it so that my grandmother would eat with satisfaction.

So, the carpet crossed Siberia, had a layover in Japan for several months, crossed the Pacific, entered the country through San Francisco, crossed the United States, and made it's way to the Bronx, where my greatgrandfather was hiding, er, living. The wife, the kids, the carpet moved in - my greatgrandmother's house, then my grandmother's apartment. My dad often waxes poetic about his days in the Bronx - comparing it to shtetl life (although there hardly seems anything remotely attractive about living on a shtetl, but whatever). And, in pictures through the years, family gatherings, there's the carpet. Passover dinner, the dining room table, the carpet. A new baby, toys on the carpet. It's amazing to watch the decor change around the carpet - the barebones of the early tenenments, the kitschy 70's decor of my grandmother's New Rochelle apartment, the mixture of old and new in her retirement home in Bricktown, New Jersey.

My grandmother eventually had to go into an assisted living care facility. When she did, the place required her to cut the fringe off the carpet. Much discussion took place - it would destroy any value to the rug - but the value, to my grandmother, was having the rug with her.

After she passed away, the rug sat in my parent's garage, until I bought my house. I think it was the first thing I moved into my house. It made my house a home. Over the 12 years I've owned the house, this rug - this rug that crossed Siberia, was waylaid in Japan, had more than a dozen babies play on it - has been destroyed. Between the moths, the accident prone dog, the foot traffic, the parties, etc. I had managed to ruin what had been kept pristine for at least 100 years.

Recently, I started dating this guy. I knew right away he was a neatnik -- he has a 10 year old son, which means, you know - his car should look like he has a child. Nope - spotless - 2 years later, it still even smells like a new car. I'm not dirty (you've all heard about my shoe stealing cleaning lady), but I am messy messy messy. About 2 weeks ago, he told me that he couldn't be with me if I continued to keep my house in such dissarray, that he spent more time thinking about how I kept my house than about the time he spent with me. At first, I was like, fuck that. But, then I talked to my brother, and his response was "well, fuck that guy, but do it because it's the right thing to do - you can't continue to live the way you do, you're a grownup. I'm stressed when I'm in your house, too." I mulled it over, and talked to my friends. All of them were so excited about the prospect of me cleaning up my act, so to speak. So, over the past week, the beginnings of Operation Clean Up are underway.

So, on Monday, I went home because I forgot my cellphone. It was lunchtime. When I went to leave to go back to work, my deadbolt was busted. I had to call the locksmith - he said it would be about 2 hours. So, I sat down on my couch. I had already rehabbed the kitchen (isn't Target great???). It was time to start the living room. Without much thought, as if I was possessed, a copmlete frenzy! - I started rolling the carpet up - quite the feat - I had to move the t.v., the couch, everything in the room myself. Not only was it hard physical work, the smell of the thing itself made the job tough. But it was trashnight, it was an opportunity - and I tossed it out onto the street. My back was killing me, I was covered in filth - but all of a sudden, the room looked so much bigger. The musty smell was already floating right out the door behind the carpet. I cleaned up, and went back to work. By the time I got back to my house at 6:00, the carpet was gone. There's probably some homeless guy sleeping under the el wrapped in my grandmother's rug.

I stared at the sidewalk - it was really gone. I called my brother - he reassured me, said it had to be done. I went in my house, sat on the couch. And, all of a sudden, my living room had such potential - fresh - a new start - the hardwood that was hidden under that rug is truly beautiful. I saw a new rug in my head, smaller, lighter. And a valance over the window. Perhaps new pillows for the couch.

Some people talk about spring cleaning - but New Year's cleaning seems appropriate, too. I don't know how I'm going to tell my dad that that carpet is gone, but someone born on New Year's should understand new beginnings, and a fresh clean start better than anyone, right?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Repeat

I pretty much said everything I wanted to say about 9/11 last year - and the feelings are still the same - so I'm just rerunning last year's blogpost from 9/11/06 -

When I was a kid, four or five, my parents both participated in a floating mah jong game, or in my dad's case, a floating pinochle game. Once a month, it was at our house, I was summarily banished to my room. I would hover around the staircase, and eavesdrop on the grown-up talk. There was smoking, there was a wee bit of drinking, there was Sinatra on the radio, and a lot of reminiscing - what were you doing the day Kennedy was shot? I'm not sure I knew who Kennedy was (those were the days that I thought Walter Kronkite was the President), or what it actually meant to get shot, but I remember being afraid - of the quiet, the stillness, the sense of sadness - - the sound of clicking tiles would stop, a card would remain dangling at someone's fingertips, and it was if the moment were just yesterday.

I didn't understand - this notion of a moment in time, where everyone shared a collective grief -- and, now, it's impossible not to - and it won't matter if its the fifth year anniversary, the sixth year anniversary, or the 20th anniversary -- the moment becomes today.

We walked to the courthouse, like we always did. My friend, we'll call her E, was telling a story. E was known around the courthouse as the fast talker, never stopping for air, and certainly offering no room for interruption. So, when I got a call on my cell phone, I burried it, and tried to keep up with what she was saying. We walked into the courthouse, and went our separate ways. I checked my voicemail, it was my friend Sue, at the gym, watching t.v. from the treadmill - I think I heard something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center - I don't know if it's true, it sounds like bullshit - let me know if you hear anything.

I went upstairs to the courtroom. Between bitching and moaning about our every day trials and traumas - where's the judge, where's the sheriff, can you get my client up? can you believe I have to try this stupid weed case? I have fifty billion things to do - oh, did you hear something about the Trade Center.

I was at the Trade Center once, in 2000, to buy 1/2 price Broadway tickets in the lobby. After buying tickets, my friend Kathryn and I stood in line for maybe five minutes, to ride the elevator to the top, but I was impatient to get our New York day started - Century 21 was across the street, there was serious shopping to be done. So I said, eh, I'll come back some other day . . .

The rumors were flying. The Judge wasn't on the bench, I needed coffee. I went to the Public Defender's office on the 4th floor of the courthouse. The t.v. was on, the picture was grainy, we didn't have cable. I picked up the coffee pot, and turned to the t.v., and the building went down. Did that building just go down? We all got closer to the t.v., our noses practically up to the glass, between the graininess, the smoke, we said, nah, that can't be . . .

The courthouse closed. We all went back to the office. My office was around the corner from E's - I went in her office, and her officemate, Lee, was in a panic. He had just gotten off the phone with his best friend, who was on the trading floor - get out, he told her - get out. Luckily, she was on the 11th floor, and she did get out.

Lee went to NYC the next week, and he and his friend took the ferry, and went to a firefighter's funeral - on the ferry ride back, they met a group of fire fighters who had made the trip from the mid West - they invited them to dinner. Friends from all over the city migrated to the restaurant, until they had a group of maybe 20 people. At the end of dinner, Lee went to pay the bill - the waitress told him - it's been taken care of - did you see the couple sitting next to you? They heard they were firefighters, and they picked up the bill.

E wasn't so lucky. Her sister worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. I regretted not picking up my cell phone -- that regret is today - would that have been the time difference between one last phone call if she had only known sooner? We know that she was on the phone with her boyfriend much of the time - the smoke, they couldn't see, they couldn't get out . . . E and I aren't close anymore. She works in a different office, but I hear about her occasionally. I thought of her today, and I know, that for her and her family, tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary, plus one day.

E left, and I went to my office. I called my best friend Kathryn, who I knew worked near the Trade Center. Why I was able to get through to NY, when so many other people needed to, I don't know. Kathryn was fine - her company had moved out of the World Trade Center complex the month before, she was on her way home, but she couldn't reach her parents in Kentucky - could I call her parents? I took down the number, and dialed the phone - and I found myself telling perfect strangers that their daughter was fine, that she would call when the phones were working - not to worry. I could hear the relief in her mother's voice - and that moment, too, is again today.

As more news trickled in, I began to worry about my own parents. My parents are retired, and travel often - 3-4 times a year. I lose track - it's a cruise, it's a bus tour, but I always know what day they're getting back, because the obligatory phone call must be made, or the guilt trip that follows will be unavoidable. I knew they were flying, I knew they were flying from the West Coast, and that's all I knew. Luckily, my brother had their itinerary - and, they had gotten grounded on the runway, in Canada. My parents spent the next night in the Canadian airport, but on the next day, families from the area began arriving at the airport, and "adopting" the stranded Americans. And, I know, that my parents will always be grateful for the kindess they received from these strangers, the Canadians.

After four days, my parents, after talk of renting a car, or perhaps taking a train, managed to get a few connecting flights to Harrisburg. My brother and I drove to Harrisburg, and met the plane on the runway, literally. Harrisburg is a small airport, and at the time, it was still an airport where they wheeled a staircase up to the plane, you got your luggage from under the belly of the plane, and your family could wait on the runway. My parents deboarded, and grabbed us - the smell of them is still very much today.

At the time, I was dating a bartender, an army veteran. When I spoke to him, he was throwing his gear in his truck, and heading to Fort Dix. What are you going to do when you get there? I asked, you're not in the army anymore. But, he went, and he was told to go home. In the week that followed, he tried to reenlist, but was told that he couldn't because he was a single parent. The only way to reenlist was for him to get married. He spoke of a distant cousin who might be willing, or an old friend. There was something unspoken in the air between us - my patriotism just could not go that far - I was not going to marry a stranger in an act of craziness brought on by an insane act. And, that was for the best. He's now married to the perfectly right person for him, and instead of reenlisting in the army, he became a fireman.

Sometimes, I'm conflicted - about just who I am, how I identify myself. Of course, on this blog, it's easy - I'm a knitter. But so often, being Jewish and being an American does not equate to being a Jewish American - it's harder than that, complicated. Growing up, I was one of four Jews in my class. I sat out of chorus, or any other overtly religious school activities. I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood, and our house was the house on the block the priest would skip. We were sore thumbs, and we were other.

9/11 was a few days before Rosh Hashona. Services were solemn, and they were packed. Some wanted the comfort of a congregation. Some, to pray, to be embraced by faith. Some, wanted answers. The Rabbi approached the podium. Would we say the shema early? Would there be a special prayer for peace? Is this a moment of silence? He motioned for us to rise, and he played the national anthem.

And that feeling, is also today.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

War, What is it Good For?

This shawl from Victorian Lace Today is my nemesis. Every Saturday, there it is in the window. I unlock the door to the shop, and there it is, staring at me, laughing at me, taunting me. Every Saturday someone comes in and asks, "Is that pattern hard?" I grit my teeth, and say yes, it's hard, and I can't do it. Every week my animosity towards that shawl grows, yet my desire for a rematch is forefront in my mind. You see, this shawl kicked my ass.

How many times have I cast on? I don't know. How many times have I ended up with a knotted, tangled mess? Too many times to count. But this past weekend, I said to myself, this is it - you're going down.

I readied the battlefield. I armed myself with the new Addi Lace Turbo needles, a weapon I did not have in my aresenal when the book was first published, and Circular Shawl and I first went to war. And scrap yarn - I don't care how many times I have to rip this out, I'm gonna get you sucka. T.V. - off! Radio - silence! It was time to get to work.
To defeat your enemy, you must know his/her "tell" - at least that's what poker players say - that little twitch or gesture that says, I'm bluffing, you got me. After four or five more tries, I discovered Circular Shawl's secret - and I am about to share. Here it is - Circular Shawl is a Merengue, not a waltz.

Remember Dirty Dancing - Patrick Swayze is trying to teach Jennifer Grey the Meringue. The music starts - the steps begin on the second beat - 2,3,4 - not the first beat. She keeps putting her foot down (on his), on the 1. We all know how that worked out - WIPEOUT! as she slinks along, practicing her moves all over the Catskills. Her feet keep doing a waltz - 1 - 2- 3, 1-2-3, and then all of a sudden it clicks - and she can even do the lift.

And, it was a moment of beauty, when I finally abandoned that 1, 2, 3 rhythm, and realized that the pattern started on the 2nd beat, not the first. The first line of the pattern is basically, Yarn Over, Knit 3, Yarn Over - and that Yarn Over is the first beat on the second side - that lone stitch is going to be the only marker in the circular blobs you're making.

One of the things that makes this pattern so hard is that you can't possibly use stitch markers. You're adding a stitch every row. There's an additional repeat every four rows. And the usually built in markers - double decreases - really don't mark anything - the circles are formed from the right side - the knit three together is off centered, like you were forming a circle at a "corner." It just doesn't look right, but it is. And the other pattern row on the right side - yarn over, knit 2tog, yarn over, knit 3 tog, yarn over, knit 1. 2-3-1, 2-3-1. Not a waltz, a merengue.
Alright, so I sound like a crazy person - but here it is! I'm using the Pastttimes Soy Silk. This is about five or six repeats of the 12 row chart - and I've got it! Ok, not quite as sexy as doing the lift with Patrick Swayze in the lake - but I'm excited, nonetheless.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

And now, on a much lighter note (courtesy of Rosie's digital camera), here is the beginnings of my Tangled Yoke Cardigan. As you can see, kind of, I have the body done, and since the picture was taken, one sleeve. I'm using the recommended yarn, Rowan Felted Tweed. This is not my first encounter with Felted Tweed. Several years back, I cast on a Rowan sweater that had a Kid Silk Haze ruffle. I finished the fronts of the cardigan, and then the back, and then it was time to tackle the sleeve ruffle. What was I thinking? The ruffle was actually three ruffles, sewn together - so there were ruffles on the sleeves, and a ruffle on around the buttonband, neck, etc, all at least 300 stitches - knit three times over - uch! So, rather than poke my eyes out, I put the cardigan down, and when I picked it up the next season, ready to tackle the Kid Crack ruffles, the cardigan had fallen prey to the Great Moth Debacle of 2005. Lost forever, and I was secretly relieved.

But, I am happy to revisit the Felted Tweed. I had heard things about it splitting, but I'm loving it. I love the color, Avocado, and the light blue flecks. And, I love the long ribbing on the sleeves. Hopefully, I won't loose steam when it comes to the cabled yoke . . .

Also on my needles is this completely pettable - CASHMERE - scarf/wrap. I never did blog about Maryland Sheep and Wool - but if I had, you would have seen the stash of Hunt Valley cashmere I came home with. I had planned my knitting around Koigu scraps, and then as we all found out, the Koigu women didn't make the trip, and there were no mill ends to be had (although, some did find their way into Rosie's later on, and I have an endless project started in that - the Koigu madness I referred to a few posts back - no it wasn't limited to Charolotte's Web) This is a Hunt Valley pattern - it's just Frost Flowers and Leaves with a little edging thing on the bottom. I can't even tell you how soft it is - I just can't believe goats are this soft. If they really are this soft, why don't we have them as like, lap goats?

And in off the needles news, the Brooks Farm Ribbi Pullover is finished - I just have to weave in the ends, and lug it to Rosie's for a photo session.

And, thanks for everyone's kind thoughts about my home invasion. All is well, I'm good - and no yarn was taken, thank goodness!