Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Donegal Debacle

Have you ever found a yarn that just reached out to you from the shelf?  I have.  It was a beautiful wool in soft colors of tan and light grey.  Enhancing it further were little bitty donegals -- those tiny bits of yarn that excite the senses, and cause all kinds of possibilities to dance through your knitty brain.  I had a pretty good idea which pattern I would use: A cardigan with strips of elm leaf going the whole way down the fronts and from top to cuff of the sleeves.  I already knew the gauge was right because I had had this pattern circling the mental listings for quite some time now.  So I bought all that was on the shelf.

Still pleased with my selection and pattern being perfect for one another, I quickly finished up a couple of things that were going on my needles already.  Casting on excitement was making me giddy, but I knew there was still a long way to go.  So I settled comfortably into the lovely elm leaf instructions (not as easy for me as a chart, but I was willing to challenge myself for the beauty of the end result.)  

The two fronts being laid nicely on my bed, pride was tickling my knitty heart.  Yes, you heard it right -- I just couldn't wade through the plain stockinette on the back, and chose the more immediate satisfaction of working the fronts first.

Now the back.  Cast on, k1p1 rib, and noodling along in stockinette -- all is well in sweaterland.  Wait.  Can it be?  I couldn't, no, I wouldn't do that!  Does that label really have a slightly not-so-matching little number on the label?  AAAAACK!  A different dye lot?  How could this happen to me, an experienced knitter who loves my craft more than almost anything else?  But, there it is, halfway up the back of my sweater, the slightest delineation in shades of grey and tan!  What can I do?

Well, not to be outsmarted by a fluffy sheep's seasonal fashion change, or a dyer's bad hair day, I pressed on.  I finished the back and sleeves in the new dye lot.  The sleeves just look like there's a bit of a shadow on them, but the back begged for a creative answer.  I cast on a few stitches in k1p1 rib, and made two belt sections to overlap.  I sewed them into the side seams and tacked them down right over the dye lot line.  Then I placed two buttons, matching those on the front of the cardigan, to tack the "belt" into place.  No one has ever guessed the seriousness of the mistake or the fix I managed for it.

Nice ending, huh?  But wait, there's more...  I soaked the cardi in a nice sweater compatible wash and laid it out to dry.  Now I was really cruising down the last lap to a scrumptiously-woolly finish.  Time to try on my lovely labor of love.  The only way I can say this, with all the tact I can muster, is that it was scratchy.  Scratchy!  How could this be?  You see the models in knitting magazines wearing garments made from these yarns and cuddling up to them like it was their beloved Yorkie.  Can the yarn companies really get away with selling wool that is scratchy?  Or did the guy in the yarn plant responsible for spinning their luscious yarns get the hiccups and accidentally lose a steel wool pad in the loom?  Maybe it was plying those darn tiny bits into the mix that caused the donegal debacle?

Whatever the case, I refuse not to wear something that cost so much in time and effort.  I just wear something soft underneath it and still get the oohs and aahs over the finished product.

Some of our relationships can have scritchy little bits that keep things from going smoothly.  And some actually have a great chasm of differences difficult to overcome.  I think I may be stubborn, because I work hard to keep the relationships, especially family, that have hiccups and prickles working.  Sometimes it takes drastic action to overcome flaws that cause pain to us, but the more creative we can be in finding ways to cover over problems with love, the more we can enjoy the beauty in the 'beast'.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014


My mother suffered a long, debilitating illness and finally passed away in October.  I've been very sad considering the pain and loss of function she suffered.  But I am also content in another part of my heart, knowing I said and did what I should have while she was still alive.  Some of those things include knitting a matching bed jacket and slipper set to wear in the hospital and creating a hooded scarf she could wear during the cold months.  I also have done a lot of sewing for my mother over the years.  I used to trim her hair, set her hair in curlers, tweeze her eyebrows, drive her wherever she wanted to go, run errands after work, etc.  But mostly, I was there when she needed a hearing ear or a shoulder to cry on.

We bind off when we're finished knitting a project, and that's another accomplishment in our creative lives.  The warm feelings we experience, especially while knitting for those we love, will stay with us.  But how many of us just lay our needles down and stop?  No, we're ready to cast on again -- to make another garment, accessory or toy for friends and loved ones.  I'll keep casting on with no regrets but only the good memories of my mother.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


... or to Frog or not to Frog?

All was going well as I zipped along on my Soy Mocha Cabled Cardi. I did the bind off for the armholes and put the front portions on holders to work the back. The pattern says, "Bind off 3 sts at beg of next 2 rows. Dec 1 st each side on next row, then every other row 5 times more..." So, I did. Now I am 2" up the back, enjoying the reverse stockinette stitch, because, after all, it is comfortably automatic.

Then it hit me, I was actually making my decreases on the edge. You know the mental gymnastics we all go through, "Does it matter? Will anyone really notice? I mean, it is rev st st; it's not like it was frontwise st st, and the decreases would show that much. And I was just following the pattern..."

Like mindless stockinette stitch, we can go through days, weeks, months, virtually on automatic. The things we do or say to the people in our lives just fly by and everybody moves on, right? Those we profess to love should just know to take us for who we are and not "sweat the small stuff". If someone is hurt in the process, well, those are the lumps of life that we all have to swallow. But what if we have the opportunity for a "do over"? To go back and do the things that make our loved ones feel more valued, or say something in a less destructive way -- would we?

We create the relationships we have. And even those blood connections that we had no choice in creating, are ours to nurture or ravage, to knit into something serviceable or hide away in a dark closet like dimestore acrylic. When it's up to me, what words will I allow to fall on the ears of those around me? Caustic or kind, it's my choice. And if I learn that something I have done has caused pain to someone, what will I do? Will I leave it "as is", thinking maybe it wouldn't really be noticed? Or will I go back and do everything in my power to make it right?

My choice? I'm going to ribbit, ribbit, ribbit...

Friday, October 23, 2009


A friend recently brought over a beautiful intarsia wool sweater her parents had given her as a graduation present some years ago. As you can imagine, the little wooly bugs had had a snack on it and she asked if I could fix it. As I searched through my stash for just the right colors and types of yarns, I thought of the sad conversation we had of her family struggles.

As I carefully threaded my needle with the purplish-navy, knowing I could never match the original mohair exactly, I began the mending process. This was the largest hole, and as I was closing it up, I dearly wished that the widening gap between her husband and her could be drawn back together as well.

Moving to the two cream-colored holes, one in the neck ribbing and one in the sleeve (for which I had an almost exact match of wool), my thoughts turned to her two children. They are both teens with individual needs of their own. My friend is an excellent mother and has worked diligently to provide the most loving environment any child could ask for. I want more than anything to mend these two places so that the damage is undetectable.

As knitters, when we create something new for our family, friends and those in need, so much love and kind thoughts are connected with every stitch. But mending holes in a much-loved garment that bridges a person's more contented past with their tumultuous present, can play it's own small part in healing some of the wounds life can inflict.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Another sleepless night melts away, like a surreal painting, to the sound of overfull gutters disgorging copious waterfalls. Strange how rain can sound very similarly to the crackling of a fire, when it's drippling hits the ground just right. Both can be very soothing, especially when you know you're safe. As thick as the fogs of depression may lie at times, I am comforted in the recurring realization that "I am not homeless." An adequate, if at it's 30-year limits, roof casts its protection overhead, and an aging furnace continues to ignite natural gas, warming those who sleep underneath. And, as someone recently indicated on a knitting forum, one's yarn stash aptly performs double duty as insulation in our homes!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fall is officially here in the Willamette Valley. The air is cool, but not too cold. The trees have burst into their brilliant colors, swaddling the valley in a multicolored quilt, stitched through with green mounds of blackberry briers. We've entered into our late autumn/early winter weather pattern a bit early this year: Cloudy, rainy off/on, 65 degrees daytime, 45 at night. Wood smoke trails from chimneys and brush piles, making asthmatics cringe -- but I digress.

At this time of year the wools feel softer to the hand, their shades more pleasing to the eye. The oak leaf tans and taupes, maple golds and crimsons, and the sweet gum burnished violets and reds, all beckon to be cast onto my needles. As much as I love their singular beauty, sometimes the crazy patchwork garment of the pin oak catches my fancy and I strand two or three colors together.

But all this planning can become tiring. Then all I want to do is curl up in my chair with a steaming cup of Colombian Supremo, ala splash of canned milk, a couple of oatmeal raisin cookies, my latest sock autopiloting on the needles, and gaze out the window at the autumn leaves.