Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Suggestions, please!

I learned just today that my chiropractor and his wife are adopting a baby girl, due to be born any day now. They are over the moon with happiness. My husband and I have known them for years and I'd like to knit a little gift for the new girl. But I don't have time to do something big like a blanket.

So I need ideas. What is a relatively fast and easy baby gift that's also useful to the new parents. I've seen cute patterns for booties and hats, but do those really get used?

Next, what are your favorite patterns and yarns for baby items?


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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

And the Cascade Fixation winner is....

Sorry not to pick a winner sooner but I was in Barbados with my family for winter break. It was gorgeous: snow-white sand, turquoise water that was like warm silk to loll in, temperatures in the mid-80s with a gentle breeze, pina coladas by the pool...ouch! Okay, you can stop throwing knitting needles at me now!

For you, Barbara, these are the sun conyers we saw in the nature preserve in Barbados. They're not native to the island but they sure are pretty.

Drum roll please! The winner of the Cascade Fixation yarn from my failed sock knitting experiment is:

******KRISTIN (with the pretty pink flower picture)*****

Please send your full name and snail mail address to I will happily send the yarn along to you.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

HAPPY ENDING: The Top Down Sweater Is Finished!

I am so excited that I am actually jumping up and down here in central NJ.
See that sweater? That is my FINISHED top-down. Actally, it's Goldisox's finished top-down sweater. I managed to pry it off him for this occasion and posed it on a dressmaker's dummy that had been suitably padded to hide her curvaceous torso.
I knitted the last stich and wove the last errant thread on Valentine's Day which made it all the sweeter.
Am I proud of myself? Are you kidding? You're talking to the woman who had trouble with a washcloth!
I am delighted, over the moon, ridiculously excited, and inordinately proud every time I see Goldisox put it on. I always wondered if I was a process or a product kind of girl. Well, I found out. Knitting this was great fun but it was nothing compared to the thrill of seeing someone I love actually wear it.
Details: Knitting Plain and Simple pattern
Elann Peruvian Highland Chunky in Mocha Heather (around 25 skeins)
#6 and #9 US
Top down in the round
Raglan sleeves
Started: around 1/15/2007
Finished: 2/14/2007
Pure bliss!!

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Dance With the Dolly With The Hole In Her Sock

See that holey sock? It's mine. Or at least it was mine. Half of a pair of my favorites. Well, boo-hoo ... I no longer have a red-and-blue striped pair of socks because of that hole. It's too big to fix, so I'm going to toss it and its mate. But for the future, I'm asking for advice on avoiding holes in the heels of my socks.

One suggestion I received was to switch to smaller needles when I do the heels.

Another was:

Right side - slip the first stitch as if to purl, with the yarn in back, then knit 1, slip 1 across the row;

Wrong side - slip first stitch as if to purl, but with yarn in front, and then purl across row.

I'm actually thinking of combining those two methods. Switch to smaller needles and follow the right side/wrong side pattern.

You know what's coming next. What are your suggestions for keeping the heels of your socks hole-free?

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Sunday, February 25, 2007


Yes, I'm thinning the woolly herd over here in central New Jersey.

Available: 1 100-gram skein of Plymouth Sockotta from the Italian Collection. 45% cotton; 40% superwash; 15% nylon. 100% gorgeousness.

The picture absolutely does it NO JUSTICE at all. It's a deeper blue with green tones in it, almost marled. Lovely lovely stuff. It's just I've been there, knitted that, and it's time to try new things. (When I buy yarn again, that is.)

414 yards. Machine washable. Color #8.

You know the drill. Stake your claim in the Comments section and a "winner" will be announced March 1st.

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STASHBUSTER GIVEAWAY: Regia Cotton sock yarn

Because it's February and most normal people don't like February (I happen to love it: it's short, it's cold, it's grey -- what's not to like?) I'm offering a 100 gram ball of Regia Cotton Surf Color. Made in Italy. 41% wool; 34% cotton; 25% Polyamide. (Yum.) 400 meters -- around 420 yards or thereabouts.

It's much prettier than the photo.

All you have to do is stake your claim in the Comments section and I'll use my randon number generator (stop laughing, Nancy!) on March 1st to select a winner.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Parade of Bad Hats

"Hats are easy!" Everyone told me that. Want to learn how to use dpns or circs? Try a hat. Nobody can screw up a hat. Hats are bulletproof knitting for the nervous novice knitter.

You think? I can screw up any hat, anytime, anywhere. I can screw up a hat with one needle tied behind my back. I present the following exhibits in defense of my position. (They are all circa 2003.)

See that pathetic grey pancake over there? That's a sad, sad attempt at making a hat from Berroco's (happily) discontinued X-Press, ten hideously splitty plies of wool blend yarn that knitted up into a dead pile of fiber. No spring. No sproing. No nothin'. And don't you love that garter stitch cuff? That was one bad idea. No stretch. Poor Goldisox put it on and--well, it wasn't pretty. I tried crocheting an edging around it so it would hang on a little better but let's face it: this is the kind of hat you pray blows away in a stiff wind.

But I am The World's Most Stubborn Knitter. If it doesn't work, I do it again. Even if it's clear to everyone with a brain that it will never work. Fortunately I ran out of X-Press before I could do myself permanent damage.

Then I moved onto Berroco Uxbridge Tweed. A nice simple watch cap. There was absolutely no way I could screw up a watch cap?

Watch me!

There wasn't enough wool in the blend of fibers to provide any elasticity at al. Even with an overall 1/1 ribbing. Way too much cotton and other inert fibers. This hat became the place where Uxbridge Tweed went to die.

So what did I do? I tried again. Same needles. Same pattern. Same yarn. Same result. And yes I was surprised. (The definition of insanity, right?)

And my last attempt: Uxbridge Tweed Bad hat and X-Press bad scarf. Hey, if why not go out in a blaze of Bad Hat glory?

Why, I ask you, did I keep beating my head against the same brick wall? Is this a normal part of the learning process or did I go temporarily insane there for awhile? Goldisox said he figured I was high on acrylic fumes from the stash of Red Heart in the basement . . .

The Berroco Chinchilla chemo caps turned out a little better but I still wasn't terribly thrilled with them. I tried knitting hats. I tried crocheting hats. I swear to you I couldn't make a normal, decently fitting hat if my life depended on it. I scoured the web for patterns, printed out a binder of them. Other people made them with great success. Me? I destroyed every hat my needles came in contact with. (I know some of them don't look so bad in the photos but trust me. On a human head, they were complete disasters.)

Things improved when I discovered a Sally Melville pattern in (I think) her Purl book. I must have made eight of these for Christmas 2005 and tortured those nearest and dearest to me with the results. It's supposed to have a flattish crown and deep -- what would you call it? My hat vocabulary isn't all it could be.

After that I retired from millinery and moved on to socks where I stayed happily knitting for a long time. The hat bug, however, reemerged last week after I finished the Top Down Raglan for Goldisox. (Pictures soon as he takes it off long enough for me to block it.) I had leftover Elann Peruvian Highland Chunky and my Denise Interchangeables at the ready so I cast on 80 stitches and started knitting a K1P1 ribbing. I knitted up 11 inches, did the requisite decreases for the crown and ended up with A Good Hat! A simple hat, yes. A beginner's hat. A baby knitter's hat. But a good warm attractive hat that Goldisox might actually wear on the one day a year when he actually wears/needs a hat.

Yes, I'm aware that it's a crappy photo. But trust me, it's a completely functional and attractive (within the limitations of a watch cap which really makes us all look . . . well, not all that terrific) on the human head. I tried to get Goldisox to pose for me but dignity won out. (Don't you hate when that happens?)

So what did this long miserable knitting nightmare of mine teach me? Mostly that I am an unreasonably stubborn knitter when it comes to everything but knitting lace. If something stinks the first time around, I will make it stink two or three or even four more times before I give up the ghost. (This is not necessarily a good or wise character trait. It might border on a form of knitting dementia.) It taught me that wool makes a difference, that gauge makes a difference, and that ribbing is your hat's best friend. I learned that hats are deceptive projects, fraught with hidden dangers. I learned to respect a good, warm, serviceable hat as the crafty work of art it is.

And I wouldn't be caught dead wearing one of mine!

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Stashbuster Giveaway: Cascade Fixation

Here is the shameful evidence of my dismal failure at knitting socks. It's beautiful yarn but I just can't bear to see it in my stash; the memories are too painful.

Here are the specs:

Two balls, one with only a tiny bit of frogged yarn, the other unopened, of Cascade Fixation color #9862 (gorgeous rust, green, lavender, and taupe). Each 50 grams of 98.3% cotton, 1.7% elastic which translates to 186 yards (spandex) or 100 yards (relaxed) per ball. Made in Brazil.

If anyone wants it, let me know in the comments and it's yours for free. If more than one person wants it, I'll use the very scientific method of writing your names on pieces of paper and letting my son draw one out of a hat. Only Barbara uses random number generators.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The End!

Finished at last...almost. The knitting's done, but I do still need to weave in the tails. That'll have to wait until my wrist finishes healing. Grr. Grr. Grumble!
So why is my wrist out of commission and my fine motor skills missing? Ice. Ice. Ice. It's nearly gone now, but until yesterday I still couldn't get from house to barn without crossing a long nasty slick patch. For nearly a month this winter, I've skated about in my barn boots. I nearly always stayed upright - my statistics of safe steps are impressive, given how many steps I take going about my daily outdoor routine. Still, a slip here, a slide there, and whoops! A little entertainment for the farmer who just brought his big tractor over to move the big hay bales for me. Another bruise for my collection. The wrist gave out after the third fall in three days where I flung out my arms to catch myself and ease the impact. The damage isn't serious, just inconvenient. I'm not known for my patience though.
Anyway, about the shawl in the picture --
The yarn - 6 balls Tahki Sable, dark teal
The pattern - Children of Lir Rectangular Stole from Alice Waterman's book 'Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls'
I wanted a shawl long enough to wrap around me with an end tossed comfortably over my shoulder, so I added a few extra repeats of the pattern. Now...if the wrist will just heal so I can do the last little I can start the wrist warmers I promised my I can stop wearing this annoying brace. Which is doubly annoying when in the middle of the night I aim to flip a tickling tendril of hair away from my nose and end up whacking myself with the reinforced steel side of the brace. Grr. Grr. Grumble.
With motor skills like this, it's wise to leave the needles alone for a while, don't you think?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Nifty notions, gadgets and gewgaws

The rather stern-looking fellow in the photograph is Rupert Everett playing Inspector Gadget in the movie of the same name.
Seeing the sock forms Barbara was using to block her Highlander socks made me envious. I know there are all kinds of cool accessories like that for knitters, but I have none of them. Don't ask me why. Maybe it's because the few times I have bought knitting gadgets, I end up not using them.

Take stitch markers. I have a couple of different kinds. Yet I don't care for them. Invariably, I just use safety pins or a piece of contrasting yarn. Same with stitch holders. I had one I used when knitting socks, then I lost it and have since just been stringing the idle stitches on an extra piece of yarn.

Yarn winders look cool, but since most yarn comes in skeins already, how useful are they? The few times I don't get yarn in a skein, I wind it in a ball by hand.

About the only gadget I use on a consistent basis in a stitch counter. I have one that's shaped like a small cylinder and slips onto the knitting needle. This is really helpful when knitting patterns -- as long as I remember to turn the little dial at the end of each row.

So -- what gadgets do you love and use?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Lunch Break

See that pan over there? That's a healthy lunch. That's a pan filled with zucchini, carrots, onions, celery, red pepper, and bean sprouts.

That is also the reason why, less than forty-five minutes later, both Goldisox and I are growling at each other and ready to eat wallpaper if you could just pour a little chocolate sauce over it and add whipped cream.

Yes, it's that time of year. Yes, we're paying the price for those hot fudge sundaes we indulged in over the Christmas holidays. We are now of an age where you have to pay the piper for every single good-tasting bit of food that passes your middle-aged lips.

I would kill for cookies right now. If you walked in front of me carrying a bag of Chips Ahoy, you would be in serious danger.

See those socks? I forgot to post a photo of them around Christmas time. They're made from leftover Sirdar Highlander that I'd used for Goldisox's socks. Toe up. Knitty's Magic Cast-on. The really cool heel from Socks Socks Socks. One cast-off was a little tighter than the other and it bugs me. So far not enough to rip it out and redo it but I just might.

See that pirate? Did I forget to mention he'll hand-deliver your $100 WEBS gift certificate if you're the lucky winner of my contest? I thought that would get your attention. I'm lying of course but only about the pirate. The $100 WEBS gift cert is very real and all you have to do is scroll down to my February 14th post and find out how to enter.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

FO: Flip-top Mittings

I’m done! I’m done! Mitting #2 is complete! No more projects requiring DPNs until I’ve forgotten how difficult wrestling with an octopus is!

Actually, thanks to all the good advice from you guys and my Lovely Yarn Lady, I am no longer openly hostile toward double-pointed needles. In fact, I might even be somewhat comfortable with them. I’ve come a long way, baby!

Here are the flip-top mittings fulfilling their destiny: warming the trumpet-playing hands of my Darling Daughter. She’s delighted with her new mitts; she even wore them to sell pancake breakfast tickets for the band. In fact, it’s so cold here that she wears them IN school since they allow her to write and keep warm at the same time.

Jamie, you asked for the pattern. Elizabeth, a.k.a. our own Lizard Knits, found this one for me. She suggested several very nice patterns but this happened to use the right weight yarn. (The yarn I used, BTW, is Malabrigo Bobby Blue, nice and soft and warm.)

Here’s the link to a whole mitten wardrobe and it’s free:

WARNING: There is one mistake—I’m sure a typo—in the cast-on instructions for the cuff (Step 1). You are told to cast on 32 stitches (which did seem a bit small to me but I always follow instructions the first time around). Then you are supposed to increase 6 stitches so the total count reaches 42 stitches. I’m embarrassed to say that I did this without question and then recounted my stitches about four times wondering where I had gone wrong before I figured out this was a mathematical impossibility. Once I cast on 36 stitches everything worked out.

SUGGESTION: I added a little bit of length to most parts of the instructions (cuff, flip-top, thumb). My daughter may have slightly longer fingers than average but the first mitting was somewhat skimpy on her wrist and hand. If you have small hands, the proportions might be fine for you.

Monica, you were right about the dangers of knitting something handy for the band. DD’s best friend, a piccolo player, has already requested a pair of mittings. I just smiled and made no promises.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Psst! Wanna win a $100 gift certificate to WEBS?

That's right. To celebrate the release (escape??) of my latest book, Just Like Heaven, I'm holding a special contest here at Romancing the Yarn. The lucky winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to WEBS, that wonderful online resource for all things fiber and a few surprises as well!

What do you have to do to win? Not a whole lot. Just send an email to me at JustLikeHeaven2007 with WEBS in the subject header and I'll do the rest.

The winner will be chosen March 1st via (you know the drill) my handy-dandy online random number generator and announced right here.

There's another contest going on at my website as well and I invite you to drop by and enter. You might win some goodies and an iPod for your trouble. (While you're there, feel free to read the first two chapters of Just Like Heaven.)

And a reminder to visit my esteemed knitting/writing colleagues at their websites. There's lots of great reading, great prizes, and fun to be found there too. There's Cindy and Nancy and Fran and Terey and Laura and Dallas and Jamie and Elizabeth (who doesn't have a website now but may in the future.)

Good luck and Happy Valentine's Day!

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Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

First sweater

I finally finished the sweater I started before Christmas. I'm very pleased with the way it turned out. The pattern is "Very Cool V-Neck" from Better Homes and Gardens' hipknits. It's knit in Brown Sheep Cotton Chenille in Columbine Blue. Nice easy pattern. hipknits is full of fun, easy designs.

Technically, this is not my first sweater. I knit two others years ago and was never happy with either of them. I was afraid to attempt another sweater for a long time, but this group inspired me to try again. I'm glad I did!

And now a question: Is anyone familiar with KnitPicks Shine Sport yarn? I have a sweater pattern that calls for sport weight cotton yarn and this stuff comes in great colors and is easy on the budget. Any comments?

Barbara's Snow-Jones

When I saw that Barbara was resorting to old photos to feed her Snow-Jones, I realized it was time for drastic action.

That meant putting on the hat, coat, gloves and boots and going outside to take a new picture. Besides, the mail had arrived. (See that strange, spaceship-looking object at the end of the yard? That's the locked mailbox that serves our court.) Anyway, this is for Barbara, a pic of my front yard before I tromped through all that pristine snow to grab the mail and run back inside.

And here is part of my backyard in all its white, untrampled glory. The front garden is the tomato bed, all tucked in for the winter. Just beyond it is where my Knockout Roses bloom in the summer. They're a gorgeous deep red color, and I underplant them with lots of yellow and pink dahlias. (Oh, hurry summer!)

Now, having done my good deed for the day, I'm going back to work. No, not on the Never-Ending Baby Blanket, but on my new book. The N-EBB will get my attention this evening, while my DH lounges in front of the tube.

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Monday, February 12, 2007


Here's the baby blanket I'm making for my friend's first grandbaby. This is the Never-Ending Eyelet, Never To Be Made Again Baby Blanket. Now, I love my friend dearly. And I hope she has the healthiest, happiest grandgirlie in the world. But enough already! This blanket is taking forever. Oh, but it's so soft and will, I hope, become Little Lulu's favorite. Sort of a Linus blanket that she drags everywhere. Even to kindergarten!

Okay, I couldn't help myself. I got sick of knitting the Never-Ending Baby Blanket and grabbed some white and red yarn out of my stash to make Little Lulu a sweater. A big sweater, to be sure. One that she should be able to wear, oh, next Christmas. Maybe even next Valentine's Day.

And speaking of Valentine's Day ... happy, happy, one and all. And just between us, what's the best Valentine's Day gift you ever gave or received? (Mine was a baby. A 6 lb., 8 oz boy who just missed arriving on Mom's/my February 11 birthday.)

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Thing About Men

So I finished sleeve #1 on the top-down and did exactly what any knitter with her brain cells still functioning would do: I made Goldisox try the sweater on.

Here is what happened.

ME: I finished the first sleeve!

HIM: Great!

ME: Now you have to try it on.

HIM: It only has one sleeve.

ME: (practically levitating with excitement) I already said that. Come on! Try it on.

HIM: (looking both puzzled and perplexed) I can't try it on.

ME: Why not?

HIM: (with a definite "duh" in his tone) Because it only has one sleeve.

ME: (trying to keep the #*@*^# out of my tone) Don't you want to make sure the first sleeve is long enough before I start the second one?

Now that bit of logic apparently satisfied the engineer in him (and here's a factoid you might not know: a high percentage of romance writers are married to or partnered with a high percentage of engineer/scientist types) and he grudgingly rose from the couch and pulled on the sweater.

Picture him standing there, all 6'3" of him scrunched down to about five-ten, bent over and hunched like Quasimodo with cramps.

ME: Stand up straight! What's wrong with you?

HIM: (my brilliant, multi-degreed spouse) It only has one sleeve.

This affects equilibrium? This affects posture?

ME: Will you quit with the one sleeve thing. Just pretend it has two sleeves and let me see how it fits.

It fit. It fit perfectly. The lone sleeve was exactly the right length.

It's been two days or so and I swear to you he's still recovering from the trauma.

The man has an imagination. I know he has. I've seen it in action. He loves science fiction and fantasy. It wouldn't surprise him if we had Martian ancestors. But ask him to try on a one-sleeved sweater and I swear to you his brain was one paired decrease away from imploding.

A woman can hold a dress STILL ON THE HANGER in front of her and know if it'll work. The man I live with can't tell you if he likes a sweater if--

Wait. Here's how that particular drama played out back when I was trying to settle on which sweater pattern to use.

ME: So what do you think about this sweater?

HIM: (taking a look) It's green.

ME: (waving away the comment) I know it's green. What do you think about the pattern?

HIM: I don't know. I can't get past all that green.

ME: (who should know better; we've been married since we were children) Forget the green. Pretend it's [insert appropriately dull, unobtrusive, manly color here].

HIM: I can't.

ME: You can't pretend away the green?

HIM: Nope.

I've seen him work complex problems that would make my brain implode but the man couldn't (not even if his life depended on it) see the forest for the trees. The green trees.

Are we alone out here in Crazy Land or do we have company?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Top Down Sweater: Progress Report

The topdown sweater experiment continues and I continue to absolutely love the process.

I snapped the photo ten minutes ago so it's about as current as I can manage.

1. I am about to start the cuff on sleeve #1.

2. The markers on the sleeve are keeping track of decreases so I can correctly match up sleeve #2.

3. The stitches for sleeve #2 are patiently waiting on a length of bright yellow Tahki Cotton Classic.

4. The neckband looks wonderful in person but all clumpy in the photo.

5. No, I don't know why it looks like there's a red splotch in the middle of the sweater. It isn't there in real life.

6. This is being worked up on Denises, #s 6 and 9US; Elann Highland Chunky in Mocha Heather.

7. Yes, I need to take antihistamines to do it but it's been 100% worth it. I love the yarn. I love the Knitting Pure & Simple pattern. I'm loving the result.

8. I'm terrified about blocking it.

Actually, there's my question of the day. It's been 20 years since I made a sweater for an adult and I'm starting to freak out. The finishing is almost non-existent on this since it's top down and I've been spit-splicing. But the blocking--yikes! Do I soak it then dry it flat? Should I pin it on my space board and spritz it with warm water? Any and all suggestions gratefully received. No, let me correct that statement. I'll be pathetically grateful for your help!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

<==My handwritten playbill after seeing The Beatles at Forest Hills in August 1964. Ringo for President? Somehow it doesn't sound half bad . . .

So where were you on February 7, 1964? (Okay, okay. I know some of you weren't born yet but bear with me.)

I know exactly where I was and so, it seems, do many of the other girls who attended (were trapped in) St. Bartholomew's at the time.

So now I know how I'm going to be remembered by the people I went to school with back in Queens: as the crazy girl who cut class so she could see the Beatles arrive at JFK on a cold February day in 1964.

Of course, the truth is I didn't cut class. It was Monsignor O'Dwyer's birthday and he always gave us the day off after Mass . . . and after he climbed up into the tower and played "Give My Regards to Broadway" on the church organ. But I have to admit that cutting class makes a better story.

But every year around this time someone from back in the day finds me on the web and sends me a note: "Hey, do you remember the time you cut school and went to the airport to meet the Beatles?" They don't remember the Spelling Bee or the Speech Contest or even the National Honor Society. They remember the day I went to meet the Beatles.

Where was I on Friday, February 7, 1964? At Kennedy Airport, welcoming the Beatles to the U.S. This is how I described it (Verbatim, I’m sorry to say; please be kind! I was only 13.) on February 14, 1964 in my diary.


In case you don’t know it, there are four Beatles. They are Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison. To all American girls and girls all over the world, they are the young gods of pop music. Born in war-time in a scruffy English seaport called Liverpool where my grandmother was born, they lived a hard life, searching for success. Their giddy spiral rise to fame began with their first hit song, “Love Me Do,” which sold 100,000 copies in 1962. This was followed by a slew of consecutive #1 hits, rounded off with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” a million-seller BEFORE release! Already the rage of Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa, the Beatles sought to conquer the United States the way the Redcoats hadn’t been able to do.

So, on Friday February 7 1964, at 1:20 pm on Pan-American Flight 101 from London at Kennedy International Airport (which used to be Idlewild before JFK was killed in November), at the International Arrivals Building, the Beatles landed to the accompanying screams of 6,000 Beatlemaniac girls.

And I was there!!!!! It was a regular school day for us. Danielle and Kathy Cusack and Linda Z and Marita and Eileen Blaser and I went to school per usual but then Monsignor Dwyer got on the loudspeaker and gave us the day off for his birthday! We were so happy! He even climbed up into the tower and played “Give My Regards to Broadway” on the organ so the whole neighborhood could hear it. We got out of school at ten in the morning and decided to take the bus to the airport. We didn’t really know where we were going and lost Cusack when we changed buses. But we got there! All you had to do was follow the crowds. And, believe it or not, we got all the way up front. We were so lucky! Everyone screamed and screamed when the plane landed. And then we saw these four little people get out and we screamed some more, even thought we didn’t really know who was who yet. Suddenly the Beatles disappeared and everyone started running into the International Arrivals Building. I started running too but one of my shoes fell off and I nearly got trampled. But I’m okay now.

It was scary in the building watching them go through Customs. Everyone was pressed up against the glass window and screaming. But I saw the tops of their heads and I even saw Paul’s face! He is SOOOO beautiful. We saw two boys with Beatles haircuts in the cafeteria and we talked to them. So we sort of talked to a Beatle, maybe.

Right after that the Fab Four were taken in separate limousines to the plush Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue and given the whole 12th floor! For their whole visit, the Plaza was barraged by 1000s of crazy girls (but not me) trying to catch a glimpse of the English idols who occasionally waved from their windows, causing hordes of girls to faint! On their first night here, George Harrison was stricken with a bad cold and was bedridden. Beatlenuts mourned! Saturday morning, February 8, the three healthy singers went to Central Park to pose for pictures. Perhaps their most memorable day was Sunday February 9 1964. The Beatles appeared live on the coast-to-coast Ed Sullivan Show before their first American audience. They were greeted with roof-raising shrieks which were music to their English ears. They sang: 1) All My Loving (Paul!!!!) - 2) Till There Was You (Paul!!!!!) - 3) She Loves You - 4) I Saw Her Standing There - 5) I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

They celebrated their victory at the Peppermint Lounge where Ringo twisted it up with Twist Captain Marlene Klaire. Her verdict? “Gear!” Mine, too!

It was a different time and place. I wish I could find the words that would bring alive the sweetness of that moment. (I've often wondered if The Beatles would have been as big a success over here if we weren't still numb with shock from JFK's assassination. After months of grieving, maybe we needed what they had to offer.)
When I told my mother we were going to the airport to see the Beatles arrive, she said, "If you get to talk to them, why don't you invite them over for dinner? I can borrow extra chairs from Aunt Betty."
That's the world I lived in circa 1964.
OKC: 12" completed on sleeve #1 - top down sweater. I love love love this pattern.

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One down, one to go

Ta-da! I finished one mitten, not without stress, as you know! I think the flip-top has a slightly fishy shape but my Darling Daughter doesn’t seem to mind.

(That's my hand modeling the mitten.)

The good news is that with all your helpful hints about how to stay on track with circular needles, I have almost finished the SECOND mitten. Look at this baby!

I only had to restart the flip-top once and that was after just a few stitches because I almost instantly recognized I was going the wrong way. A big thanks to everyone on this blog for keeping me on the straight and narrow! I appreciated not only the practical advice but the moral support: I felt I was never knitting alone.

Which brings me to the concept of community in knitting. Even though it would appear to be rather an individual craft, it seems to bring folks together in wonderful ways. Many of you talked about the pleasure of your Local Yarn Store not just for purchasing yarn but for inspiration and assistance.

I’m not an especially outgoing person and yet in my LYS, I find myself addressing total strangers when they’re buying cool yarn. I ask them what the yarn is called and what they’re making with it. Oddly enough, I run into people from my own very little town there (although the store is located in a much larger neighboring town). In some cases, I’ve heard their names but never actually met them face-to-face. Everyone seems to be friendlier when they’re hanging out in a yarn store.

In addition, knitters are very generous to others with time, expertise, and materials. My LYS most recently recruited knitters to make squares for blankets for those who can’t afford to buy them. I’ve also seen all sorts of such projects on knitting blogs: socks, baby blankets, mittens, and more.

That got me to speculating about why knitters are this way. What do you think? Why does the craft of knitting create such a strong sense of community?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Turkey Tracks In The Snow

I love snow. I’ve entertained myself this past month with snow-themed colorway names. Cardinals in the Snow. Frosty Morning Glitter. Sunrise on Snow. Winter Grasses. Shadowed Snow Tracks. Winter Woods. Blood on the Snow…ugh. Sorry. It’s been a challenging week here at the farm. In the dead of winter, the wild things move closer, driven by hunger to hunt even at the edge of my yard. Their activity has eaten into my writing time, my knitting time…and fed my imagination.

I stare at the computer screen, note that it’s as white as the snow-covered fields outside and the next thing I know, I’m staring out the window. The dogs bark, and I seize the excuse to suit up in warm layers and follow them across the fields to see what they’ve discovered. An armadillo this afternoon, an injured duck yesterday that barely escaped the clutches of a bobcat. We’ve a cougar in the area, too, though thus far I’ve found no sign of it hunting on my land. Believe me, I’ve looked. I wander in the company of my dogs for hours, studying the snow, imagining myself in wilder times and places, straddling the line between reality and the fiction I’ll write when I return to the warmth of my office. Time rolls by, and I don’t even mind that the list of to-do’s isn’t getting done. It’s not that I’m not doing…I am. Stuff happens and I deal with it. I’m in reactive mode, though, in process.

Winter is my thinking time, my time of restoration and renewal. Much like the land around me, I rest. I wait . . . and watch, and consider, and gather what I need to prepare myself for the season to come. I learn, plan, and figure out how to do better this year than I did last year.

I knit and frog, knit and frog. I’m not satisfied with the selvedges on the swatches I’m making for the Masters II class. So I’ve been practicing. Knit and rip, knit and rip, and with each attempt, the selvedges look a bit better. I started a new aran sweater pattern and haven’t quite figured out a slipped stich sequence at the center back – it actually looks a lot like my selvedges, and that’s not good. And so again, I knit and rip, but that’s okay. Each attempt looks better than the one before.

It’s the same with my writing. I’m trying on a new genre and feeling my way. I’m not sure yet how the pieces will fit together, and what parts I’ve written aren’t pretty or elegant. Those long rambles through the snow with the dogs knock loose the cobwebs in my mind, and each return translates to pages written after dark. The day’s adventures weave themselves into the fabric of this new story, for good or ill. Patterns in the snow, patterns in the knit fabric, patterns in the story I’m weaving. It’ll all come together and make sense eventually. I hope.

Still Under House Arrest

<--Our side fence, circa 2004 snowstorm. (I have to walk down memory lane to find snow this year.)

My banishment from the world continues. I haven't picked up my needles for two days and I miss them terribly. I'm all ready to start sleeve #1 -- stitches have been picked up, yarn's all nicely wound into a center-pull ball -- but I just haven't been able to justify the time away from writing.

This is why I stopped keeping a daily journal. My life is too boring for words. Get up. Get to work. Get lunch. Get back to work. Get dinner. Get back to work. Get some sleep. Get up. Get to work--you get the picture. This does not a scintillating blog entry make.

Anyone who ever thought writing for a living is a glamorous occupation seriously needs to visit a working writer when she isn't expecting company. Right now I'm wearing the toe-up Wendy pattern socks I made for the Sock Hop, a pair of furry slipper-boots, grey sweat pants, two long sleeved cotton shirts, one 15 year old bright red zip-front sweater in a kind of faux cable design (not handmade.) My hair is in a Pebble Flintstone top knot. I'm wearing my favorite Balinese dancing girl earrings. No rings. No watch. No necklace. No makeup. I'm drinking buckets of tea and munching pistachio nuts while I watch my characters (a mother and her fourteen year old daughter) argue over lasagna at Olive Garden.

Last night I slept in a different pair of sweatpants, a heavy long-sleeved t-shirt from The Vermont Country Store catalog, a floor-length hooded zip-front robe (yes, I used the hood), two pair of fleecy socks, cotton gloves, and the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran wristers I "designed" around Christmastime.

The Cashmerino Aran pills terribly. It feels great. It keeps me warm. But man oh man does it ever pill. Anyone else have that happen?

And in case you were wondering, yes we do have central heating and yes we are using it. It's just that we're a corner house and it was below zero last night.

So what are you up to? Are you reading? Knitting? Watching bad TV? Good TV?

Better yet: What are you wearing? Right now. This very minute. This is a come-as-you-are party and it's no fair changing into your best outfit before you answer the question.

Oh, and there's this: I haven't purchased any yarn since December 31, 2006!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Somebody Help the Poor Boy

Okay. So I told you I was a Beatlemaniac. I told you that I ran around Manhattan after Gerry & The Packemakers, the Stones, and the Searchers (among others.)

I've admitted my troubles with provisional cast-ons, forgotten stitch markers, and wool that makes my skin turn into a festival of hives.

But when I read yesterday's (or was it the day before yesterday's) FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE (which happens to be my favorite comic strip and, in my most unhumble opinion, a better example of great character development and storytelling than most books out there)(mine included) I found myself talking not just to my computer screen but to a cartoon person.

I'll pause while you consider a psychiatric intervention.

If you're not a fan of FBoFW (and I don't know how that's possible) Michael Patterson is the eldest child of Elly and John Patterson. Michael is married to Deanna and the father of Meredith and Robin. Michael is also a writer. He's been freelancing for a few years and finally decided to carve time from his already overpacked days and write a book.

Well, he sold the book. That's the good news. (It's always great news when someone [even an imginary someone] sells a first book.) The bad news? The acceptance letter arrived with a check for $25,000 AND a contract. (Artistic license. I know that. The check doesn't arrive with the acceptance letter.) (Sometimes it doesn't even arrive during that calendar year but I digress . . . )

So there Michael was, all excited and shellshocked, with a letter, a check, and a contract and that's when I found myself shrieking at the screen, "Get an agent! Don't sign that check until you have somebody vet that contract right down to the last semicolon."

I'm telling you I haven't been this worked up about a fictional book sale since 1963 when Mr. Ed sold his memoirs for $500 and became a best-seller. (I saw it on TVLand so it must be true.)

Yes, I'm up to my eyeballs in the book in progress. Yes, I'm struggling with my imaginary friends. Yes, I'd like to remove my brain, have the cobwebs vacuumed out, then return it to its cranial home all shiny new and filled with clever thoughts.

And yes I'm almost finished with the ribbing on the top-down sweater and will probably tackle the neckband tonight.

Famous last words.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Click here

See that bit of embarrassing memorabilia? I compiled that list in March 1964 when I was 13 years old and engaged to marry Paul McCartney.

Yes, there was a bit of an age gap but I was certain he'd wait for me . . . true love being what it is and all that.

Who knew that I'd actually marry before he did?

Yes, for a brief period in time I was a crazy, screaming, head-over-heels-in-love-with-a-total-stranger Beatlemaniac. A fangrrl, although we spelled it g i r l back then. (What's with those double Rs anyway? Power? Strength? A variation on the outbreak of e e cummings-itis that's all over the web?)

I pretty much went temporarily insane from February 1964 to February 1965 and loved every second of it. I saw the Beatles perform at Forest Hills. Chased after the Rolling Stones. Went to more dress rehearsals of the Ed Sullivan Show than I can count and saw Gerry & The Pacemakers, the Dave Clark Five, The Searchers (be still my heart at the merest memory of drummer Chris Curtis), The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles -- I pretty much saw everyone.

And then I grew up. Sort of. Kind of. Maybe a little. Singers were . . . singers. Rock groups were terrific and I loved them but my friends and I no longer haunted the streets of Manhattan praying for random sightings of Really Famous People.

So imagine my shock when I came back into the knitting fold and discovered that my latent fangrrl gene had reawakened and turned its energies toward Knitting Goddesses.

And imagine my excitement when some of those Knitting Goddesses turned up in our comments section right here.

THE Wendy! I mean, this is THE Wendy of the amazing lacework and fab toe-up socks and clear beautifully elegant instructions and her book and Lucy. I don't have to tell you why you want to read THE Wendy. You already know why.

Dawn Brocco of the incredible baby blankets, sweaters, and scrumptious shagged socks. (Not to mention Pickles.)

And, in case you missed it, Bonne Marie of ChicKnits stopped by and I swear to you I actually hyperventilated. Bonne Marie is one of the very first Knitting Goddesses I read and if you want the world's clearest description of how to attach a zipper to a knitted garment, Bonne Marie has a fantastic tutorial on her site. (Lots of fantastic tutorials, btw.) You've seen her work in Knitty (the famous Voodoo Wrist Warmers, for example) and there are more terrific, beautifully designed patterns available for purchase on her site.

Which leads me to the other two Chicago knitbloggers I read and love:

Theresa, aka The Keyboard Biologist, who not only writes wonderful blog entries, her tutorial on applied I-cord is prizeworthy.

And Franklin, The Panopticon. For the knitting, the laughter . . . and Dolores. Sheep on a Plane is classic.

(Is it the water in Chicago, the pizza, the snow? They seem to have more blogworthy knitters per square foot than any other geographical area.)

And I can't forget Liz at House Arrest who proves knitting is alive and well in Brooklyn.

Those are my Blogs of Choice. I love 'em. Absolutely love 'em.

In fact I love them enough to say something I never thought I'd say (something my Jets-loving Goldisox better not hear): "Go, Bears!"

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Gone But Not Forgotten - My Favorite LYS

When I was a kid, there were two places to buy yarn in my neighborhood. Either way you had to walk from Elmhurst to Jackson Heights (maybe fifteen minutes from door to door)(in the summer we'd walk through the subway station because it was cooler--pop down at the Chase Manhattan entrance then pop up again at the corner of Broadway and Layton Street where my Aunt Dede lived.)

Anyway, if you were a knitter or crocheter and you didn't want to take the subway into Manhattan, your choices were limited to Woolworth's on 82nd Street or a teeny tiny hole-in-the-wall at the corner of 82nd and Roosevelt Avenue called Ackerman's. Now I was a kid and that meant I was basically broke for the first fourteen years of my life so Woolworth's was pretty much where I did my yarn crawls. But every now and then my mother would start a project that required a trip to Ackerman's, AKA as close to yarn nirvana as you could get in that time and place.

Ackerman's was about as big as my downstairs bathroom here in central NJ. Maybe twenty by twenty feet. Windowless. Pretty much airless. Situated right under the IRT or "el" as we called it. (Elevated part of the subway.) It was noisy, smelly, cramped, and pretty much paradise. The walls were lined with shelves and the shelves were filled with cardboard boxes labeled Columbia-Minerva, Spinnerin, Red Heart, Pinguoin, and other names I've long forgotten. The boxes were, of course, covered in a fine layer of dust. They sold metal needles, metal stitch holders, metal cable needles, cloth tape measures, pattern booklets, and attitude. (Hey, this is New York City we're talkin' about.) Customers were viewed as screaming three year olds on a crowded plane in mid-flight over the Atlantic.

I loved the place.

The idea of being able to buy all the yarn you'd need for a project AT THE SAME TIME seemed like an impossible dream. (Which probably explained the number of UFOs in my mother's workbasket at any one time.) I assumed rich people could afford to buy all the yarn they needed for a sweater in one wild, free-spending visit to their local LYS but even that sounded like I was pushing the fiber envelope. (Besides, did wealthy women knit in 1960 or thereabouts? It sounds a little too loving-hands-at-home for the way I remember that time and place.)

Ackerman's smelled of soot, train tracks, hot dogs from the bus station that backed up to the shop. The lighting sucked. The counter was barely visible, covered by invoices, a big old-fashioned cash register, a cold cup of coffee and half a Danish from across the street. You couldn't hear yourself think when the el roared by overhead. But when you actually managed to get the sales person to open one of those dust-covered cardboard boxes, I'm here to tell you diamonds and rubies and emeralds and fairy dust and magic spilled out all over the counter.

When I started high school, we had a long 90 minute commute to Mater Christi in Astoria. Three buses, lots of waiting. Guess where we waited for the second of those three buses? Yep. Right across 82nd Street from Ackerman's. One day near the end of senior year I popped in and plopped down a big chunk of earnings from my part-time job at Macy's Queens and bought up a pile of Red Heart Wool (it was 100% wool in 1967) to make my boyfriend (soon to be husband) a Fair Isle sweater. Yale Blue. Cadet Blue. Cream. And a deep blue whose name escapes me. I jumped into it with both feet (with the happy ignorant confidence you only have at 16) and whizzed right along on it. I remember finishing the front and half of the back, and then -- who knows? Life happened, I guess. He went into the Air Force and what used to be knitting time became letter writing time and going to work time and getting ready to be married time.

I married the boyfriend. I don't know what happened to that sweater in progress. Ackerman's closed its doors sometime in the 1970s. I'm not sure anyone else on the planet even remembers it.

What can I say? It will always be my favorite LYS.

Circular Thinking

I have serious issues with double-pointed needles.

(I have serious issues with Blogger too: I tried multiple times to upload photos and it claims they're "Done" but nothing shows up on my blog. Argh!)

First, there are the ladders. My socks had them. My mittens have them. The rungs are perfectly straight and beautifully consistent and I CAN'T GET RID OF THEM. I went to my LYS and begged them to fix my problem. The lovely Yarn Lady told me to pull the last stitch on the previous needle tight and the first two stitches on the next needle tight. I did that (I had BEEN doing that) and I still got a ladder. She suggested a few other fine tunings that failed to collapse my ladders. Finally, she had me shift beginning and ending stitches back and forth between needles on each round so the ladder's rungs got moved around which made it less obvious.

Second, there's, well, circular thinking. As my New Yarn Resolution #5 indicated, I think in rectangles. Maybe that makes me two-dimensional. I'm making this convertible mitten (which as I mentioned in a previous blog is WAY too much like a sock) and I managed to bumble my way through until I tried knitting the flap that flips over the fingers. My first attempt flipped the wrong way. My second attempt ended up inside out. My third attempt...well, the less said the better.

I went back to my LYS to seek more help. (Pretty soon they're going to charge me rent.) The Yarn Lady looked at my work and said that somehow I was reversing direction and knitting on the inside instead of the outside. She made me start over (mind you, I had frogged the *$&#%#@ thing three times already). She patiently showed me the proper orientation and explained about always knitting on the outside of the tube. Then another customer arrived and she left me alone with my knitting. Big mistake! By the time she returned I was inside out again.

So we started over. Two more customers came in and I was cast adrift on the stormy sea of DPNs. You guessed it. Once again, despite my total concentration, I got reversed. What amazes me is that I don't even know how I do it.

I ended up spending two hours in the LYS until finally the lovely Yarn Lady gave up and simply started the tube for me so I could see which side was in and which was out. Now I'm happily decreasing away. However, I face the next mitten with fear and trembling.

Please, please, PLEASE, if you have any suggestions as to how to keep track of which direction you're supposed to be going on DPNs, clue me in! I'm verging on suicidal here.