Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Area 51

The other day I thought I was just another normal Knitter.

You know -- closet full of yarn. A number of airtight plastic tubs full of yarn tucked under the bed and stacked in corners. A handful (okay, King Kong's hand) of harmless-looking tote bags of various sizes tucked discreetly into corners, inside the TV cabinet, in the storage closet, and under the futon.


In the car, a couple of projects in case I get stuck waiting somewhere a really, really long time.

Socks in my daily tote bag for the same reason. And then there's always a pet cozy on the needles in my desk drawer at work -- just in case I get a lunch break -- and a couple of 5-gallon plastic kitty litter buckets full of small projects at Mom's house. Only two. Honest. Gotta have something to keep my hands busy when I visit.

In my sock drawer here at home, you'll find a few random skeins of sock yarn to inspire me.

Oh, and two projects in that clever storage ottoman in the living room. I like that ottoman. It is a plain, beige ottoman. It looks like something you just put your feet on. Who would think it has yarn in it? It's like having stealth stash.


You know. Just the usual.

So I tried to do a little Spring Stash Organizing.

MISTAKE.

I now realize that either I am in a Stephen Spielberg movie, or I have been transported to Area 51, because there are more UFOs flying around this house than I ever thought possible.


Recent UFOs:

Two projects, gifts, and so nearly done that they are almost ... and I mean they are THISCLOSE to being ... FOs.


Here, look at this kid's poncho. We're talking ten ends to tuck in, then the Fringe Fairy needs to get off her tookas, and then a little blocking:






Okay, a lot of blocking. And ...

There is also a lace baby blanket, in cotton, needle size US6, for the first-born of our nephew and his wife. However ... praise the ancient gods of Scotland ... this baby-to-be is a Crawford. I can have absolute confidence in the fact that the wee wane will be late.

Quite late.

Also, for Crawford reasons, it's being done in a soft, natural, cotton which can be yarked upon by baby, merrily slobbered on by happy dogs, and washed with complete disregard for fiber-mercy of any kind.

And all I have to do is block it.

Other recent UFOs:

Koigu KPPPM merino sweater for me, in yarn from Stitches West 2006. Yum.

Koigu lace merino shawl for me, also from Stitches.

Saints socks. New Orleans Saints team color socks. Exactly 1.75 New Orleans Saints socks, to be exact. The Saints Socks were to be among Dad's 2005 Xmas gifts, but Dad passed away and then Katrina hit. I have not been able to deal with these socks yet.

Inca Alpaca gansey for me in an amazing shade of cat-eye green. Yum again. Needles: US5.

Another funfunfun kid's poncho for a dear friends' daughter. Can't show it because it is a surprise. This was also supposed to be for Xmas 2005, but Katrina derailed me. This one is crayon-box stripes in Unger sportweight Utopia done serape-style for an 8-year-old. One skein, assembly and finishing left on that one. This, along with the red poncho shown above, resides in the ottoman in the living room. Shiny, happy, mindless TV knitting.

One gauntlet, in my own handspun, on size three needles.

Matching hat, half done, in my own bulky handspun, size nine needles.

Sweater for Dave, also pre-Katrina, just a casual pullover sweater from washable wool-blend oddballs. Size 7 needles.

Newly cast-on sweater for Dave, in luscious, soft, sweet-smelling Forever Random from La Lana Wools, purchased at Stitches West. Dave met Luisa and picked out his own sweater yarn, so this will be a significant sweater.

Einstein for Mom, for this Xmas. Four inches of an Einstein, anyway. This is being done in a rosy-tweed bulky yarn, a washable acrylic/wool blend, from Michael's craft store's "Passport" yarns.


Middle-aged UFOs:

Socks:

1.5 socks in Opal variegated ocean blues and greens, size two needles.

Half a sock in Lion Magic Stripes, shades of blue, size three needles

Quite nearly two green socks in a vintage Fortissima ragg yarn, size two needles

Almost one whole sock in Opal Bumblebee, size two needles

One sock cuff in my own handspun from a very nice sheep named Sabrina.


Non-socks:

Two hats in my handspun, on size 4 and 6 needles.

1.25 slippers in Lopi, to be felted, on size 11 needles (car project)

One third of a stole in various glam yarns in shades of blue, green, and purple on size 10 needles.

Half a French-style string net shopping bag, in crochet cotton, color natural (also a car project).


Vintage UFOs:

I have been knitting for 40 years.

OK, I admit that Grandma started teaching me when I was in kindergarten. But still and all ... I have been knitting for so long that I don't just have vintage clothes, I have vintage projects, incomplete garments which will become instantly vintage the very moment they are new.

Torso (sewn together, even) of tailored jacket, to be part of skirted suit, knitted in perle crochet cotton on size three needles. Vintage: 1989. The problem is not the needle size. I like size three needles. I would much rather knit on needles in the size range of US one through five than any other size. But the whole thing is in heel stitch. In cotton. The resulting fabric has a terrific drape, resembles good corduroy, is lustrous, and weighs about as much as a deisel locomotive. It looks elegant, even. But heel stitch....miles and miles of heel stitch. In cotton. What was I thinking? If I can only get past the sleeves, I know I can summon the will to cast on for the skirt and just go round and round and round and round and round and round until I run out of yarn. But ... heel stitch ....? Round and round and round in heel stitch? In cotton? What was I thinking ... or drinking ... when I had this idea?


Was tequila involved in this decision?

Kimono sweater of my own design, in Rowan Donegal Brights sportweight wool, also on size 3 needles. Vintage: 1994. Yarn bought on clearance sale in mad, random colors. I was inspired by Kaffe Fasset at the time. Still am. But I am completing the long, skinny strips of this sampler sweater by doing some "challenging" stitch work like Barbara Walker's cable spider. At the geologic speed of completing one strip per year, I should finish it in 2013.

Beret in Lang Vera Stretch Wool (navy) on size 6 needles. Of course, this purchase of this yarn was a Magpie Moment, and I bought only one skein. Of course, I ran out of yarn 2/3 of the way through, with a hole the size of a yarmulke needed to complete the top of the beret. Of course, this yarn has been discontinued. What ungodly force made me think that one baseball-sized skein would make a beret? It's soooooooooo soft, I do want to finish it someday. Does anyone happen to have even a golf-ball sized oddball of this stuff laying around in Navy? Any dye lot will do. Otherwise, I am stuck with the choice of either ripping it out, or wearing a hat that resembles a fuzzy, dark - blue tire. Hmmmm .... maybe I should start a cult?

And these are just the UFOs I can find.

Help.

--Mambocat

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Bet You Thought I Forgot.

Back in April I had a mini-contest for the five strangest places you've ever knitted, with a deadline for submissions of May 12.


Prize for the strangest places was to be a skein of Gomer Pyle ("surprise, surprise, surprise") yarn.


But here it is, June 25. I didn't forget to announce the winner, of course. I just hadn't gotten around to organizing stash yet.

Fib-O-Meter Translation: Mambocat couldn't find the yarn

Everyone's submissions were good, so I drew a name at random.

Method: write each name on a slip of paper, fold it, drop all folded slips on floor, then pick up the first one batted in my direction by a cat.

The winner is: lornajay!


And, here is the yarn, being modeled by "Seven," who has found the absolutely comfortablest place on top of the pile of blankets on the futon:

















Not one but two skeins (you really can't make anything with just one skein, now, can you?) of Passport Yarn "Dublin", a machine washable blend of 51% washable wool and 49% Courtelle acrylic. This yarn is a chunky weight with a very nice feel -- I'm using it to make an Einstein coat for Mom for this Christmas -- and I hope you enjoy it, Lornajay. Passport is made for Michael's craft stores in the United States and to my knowledge it has been discontinued.

To visit Lornajay's list (and everyone else's) of strangest places ever knitted in, please visit my April 27 post in the Archives.

On to other strange places.

I returned from my seminar in Gulfport., Mississippi, a little bit east of where Katrina made landfall. Ten months after Katrina, a large portion of the shore road, Highway 90, remains closed in the area of landfall, around Waveland and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, near the Louisiana border.

Actually, closing the highway in that area was not really necessary.

The coastal highway is gone.

In eastern coastal Mississippi, where Highway 90 isn't gone ... just about everything else is.


Can you guess what the vertical white things are, in the midground of the next picture?

And what's that stuff in the grass, in the foreground?

To enlarge the picture, click on the picture, then click on the lower right-hand corner.

The white things are pilings (foundations) of several houses which sat high up off the ground in hopes of avoiding the storm surge. The houses are now gone. The trees you see are mostly very tall pines which have been stripped of most of their branches. The green, weedy places in the foreground are lots where other houses with concrete-slab foundations stood, less than a year ago.

And the stuff in the grass?

That's the beach. Katrina decided to move the beach a quarter-mile inland.

This was once a fairly dense coastal neighborhood, full of houses and businesses. And now?

Well. You can see.

This is where it's "not so bad" in Mississippi. Gulfport is pretty much gone within 1200 feet of the beach, and badly damaged inland, but non-beachfront Gulfport is still mostly recognizable as a town, and is trying to recover.

The entire town of Waveland -- back where the highway is gone -- has simply been scoured off the face of the earth.

--Mambocat

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

This Cannot Be Good.

Today is June 21st. I have in this very room, right here with me, a complete, ends-woven-in baby blanket. I brought the blankie with me to do the finishing touches and weaving in of ends so I would have something to do at the hotel where I am staying for a seminar. I wanted to post to my blog before I go home today.

The blankie needs only to be blocked, so please ignore the waviness and rumpliness: Also please ignore the hotel bedspread. I shouldn't complain, however. This hotel is in Gulfport, Mississippi, and was badly affected by Hurricane Katrina, and they are making do with oddments of furnishings as they repair the building and re-open one floor at a time.

I also brought along a copy of Yarn Harlot's latest book, Knitting Rules!, for bedtime reading. The only thing I had in my possession to make the blankie look cutesy and baby-ish was Meezer the Car Cat, who was a gift from my student worker a few years ago who noted that I had pets everywhere except in my car. Meezer usually rides around in the ashtray.


The blankie was knitted center-out as a part of a study of several garments using variations of the same lace pattern. I may just possibly include this in my pattern book.

Hopefully you are not snorting coffee out through your nose. Hopefully, you are saying something along the lines of, "hey, even in its unblocked state, that's a halfway-decent looking blankie that any self-respecting baby would be delighted to yark her peas and carrots on."

So why, you may ask, do I say that this cannot be good?

I will tell you:

I have a complete, full-size blankie on June 21st and my niece's baby is not due until September.

This can only mean one thing:

It's twins.

There is another baby in there that we don't know about.

I'd better tell the mother.

--Mambocat

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Supermodel Brawl

I ordinarily love using public statuary as garment models. Although it is often difficult to locate public sculptures of reasonably normal bodily proportions, it's always easy to find them again whenever I need them -- after all, it's not like they can run off to Italy with their boyfriends. Besides, they are quite good at standing still, I don't have to pay them anything (I don't even have to be nice to them), and the most temperamental thing I have to deal with on the average photo shoot is the weather.

But I suppose even bronze statues have their limits.

As soon as I draped these two models, who have worked for me for years, and who are usually quite cooperative with things like scarves and hats, all hell broke loose:


















It started with a few testosterone-laden insults:

Model on left: "You like like a flamin' ninny in that shawl!"

Model on right: "Oh yeah? Well, you look like central casting for Queer Eye, and at least my shawl won't show your blood!"

KAPOW!!!!

And then it just went straight to fisticuffs, and there I was, darting around with my silly little camera, trying to stay out of the way, and wondering how I was going to explain all this to the perplexed people at the nearby bus stop, and possibly the police as well.

I decided just to let them duke it out ... get it out of their systems, ya know?

Besides, you just don't try to break up a brawl between a couple of enraged bronze statues if you have any sense about you.
















The pale green one is the shawl I knitted during jury duty awhile back, a worsted weight five-skeiner done in GCH Samoa yarn, the GCH being for Garn GroBhandel-Hamburg GmbH, which is hopefully German for "cotton-wool blend made in Hamburg." I am worried, though, because something else on the label says, "Beanstandungen konnen nur bearbeitet werden, sofern alle Banderolen deises Garnen vorgelegt werden." I'm pretty confident this means either that the knitter can handwash the resulting garment, or that somebody is required to stand on a sack of beans in a dungeon near a bear who is beating up on a game warden, while the Rolling Stones douse someone named Garnen (probably the game warden) with vodka.

Anyway, regardless of the language barrier, this Samoa stuff is just as soft and cushy as a baby bunny's butt. It is a wonderful shade of the palest green, a green just barely past white, which the camera doesn't do justice to. The yarn was a gift from my dear friend Diann. She has a special word for this color, and describes it as the first hint of green in the heart of a white lily where the green ends down there deep inside the trumpet of the flower, and the white begins.

I was very happy with the shawl when it was finished, but it is such a pale green, so subtle, that I thought it required a border, something ribbony and pale, something to embellish the shawl and give it some movement, but without overpowering it. Being worsted weight, it also was asking me for a border to help lighten it up a little around the edges.

It is embellished with Trendsetter Pepita ribbon yarn. Pepita is an 86% polyamid, 14% polyester yarn. It is delightful and fun and translucent and weightless and slightly sparkly. It is expensive -- 14 US dollars a skein -- but one skein was enough to embellish a border and add some fringe on the pale, cotton-wool Samoa that needed to lose just a bit of its meekness so that it can be a terrific gift for a dear friend.

This is one of those great situations where a single skein of glitzy stuff is the perfect touch for fringe or a border, without hemorrhaging your piggy bank.

Knitting with Pepita is like knitting with fairy wings. It's a treat. Knit it on slightly blunt-tipped needles, though, if you try it. I started on narrow-point nylons -- my favorite for lace -- but they kept piercing the yarn, so I switched to my Pony Pearls which were perfect for this delicate, soft ribbon yarn.

I would love to make an entire shawl out of Pepita. I would also like to have a suitable place to wear an entire shawl made out of it, like on the beach at sunset somewhere in Hawaii, with the wind blowing, so all the delicate hints of sparkly stuff and all the subtle and translucent ocean hues could light up in the sunshine and all the ribbony fringe could dance in the breeze...

***
Oh, yes ... where was I?

And here's a rear view of the red shawl:





















The blood-red shawl is also a gift for a friend. Yes, you are quite right -- it is the same stitch pattern as the pale green one done in Samoa. I used the same yarn for both versions of a shawl pattern I am working up for the book I am working on.

I wish I could tell you more about the cotton yarn. I wish I could tell you anything about the cotton yarn. It is a nameless sport-weight 2-ply perle cotton I bought on closeout at a New Orleans LYS (the Persian Cat) a number of years ago, and the fringe is a rainbow-colored ladder yarn of synthetic fibers.

Unfortunately, the fringe yarn is also anonymous, having been donated to me by a friend who had lost both the label and her patience, having thrown up her hands regarding the act of untangling it.

Oh, and one more thing...

Happy 64th birthday, Paul McCartney...





















...yes, we still need you.

--Mambocat

Sunday, June 11, 2006

It's More Than A Ceiling ....






















It is a ceiling with the lights turned on.

If you live in, say, Los Angeles or Denver or Cleveland Heights, having a light that actually turns on so you can see what you are painting in the bathroom is rather unremarkable, assuming you have paid your utility bill.

However, in New Orleans, nine months after Katrina, finally having electricity at your Mom's house is something to celebrate.

To celebrate this event, the functioning light fixture gets a post of its very own. The light fixture wants you to know that it is delighted to finally be able to do its job -- and, being a new light fixture, it wants to prove itself worthy. It's helping me see what I'm doing in the bathroom, which will come in handy when I get out the fine brush to fill in the blue paint up to the ceiling, to fill in that gap you see there and have a nice, crisp edge.

Light. How wonderful. There has been no light for so long we have to remember to flip switches instead of reaching for a flashlight.

Wherever you are, go in your bathroom, turn on the light, rejoice and do a happy dance. Not for me, not for Mom, but for the fact that you have lights in your house anytime you want them.

There are still a couple of hundred thousand folks in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast who don't.


--Mambocat

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Fifth Season

Today, June First, marks the official beginning of Hurricane Season
for the year 2006.

Where was I, one year ago today?

One year ago, I was getting ready for an animal sheltering conference in Arizona, and looking forward to my husband, Dave, tagging along with me on a "working vacation."

One year ago, I was worried about my 87-year-old Dad getting a new pacemaker and wondering how to celebrate Father's Day.

One year ago, I had a nice, steady job that I liked a great deal, managing a large public animal shelter.

One year ago, I didn't cry easily.

One year ago, at the beginning of Hurricane Season 2005, the photos on my digital camera consisted predominantly of family, friends, pets and knitting projects.

One year ago today, a benign and amorphous thing that would later grow monstrous and take the name Katrina, was just a little warm spot on the ocean someplace off the coast of Africa. Her sister, Rita, was also in an embryonic and sun-kissed state of being. No one but sharks could tell if there was any significance whatsoever to those two warm spots in the sun-drenched tropical sea.

But today is the first day of Hurricane Season, 2006.

Today, I have no conference to attend.

Dad is gone, so I have no plans for Father's Day. This hurts hugely, so much more deeply than I can possibly begin to describe. There is a bag of cocoa-colored wool in the bedroom closet. It was supposed to be Dad's Christmas sweater for 2005.

It remains un-knitted. It is still just yarn.

Today, I am unanchored in the animal sheltering community, at least for the moment.

Today, while I still have photos of pets and knitting and family on my digital camera, I mostly have pictures of shattered houses, dead animals, and devastation so vast and raw with pain that I almost feel foolish trying to convey its enormity and ongoing urgency on this little bitty knitting blog floating around out there in the ether, amidst a million other public diaries.

Today, I cry at the drop of a hat. This is new for me. I used to cry only when someone extremely dear to me died -- a family member, a pet, or a human friend. In extremely rare instances, I would squeeze out a tear or two during the last scene of Casablanca, or if I heard "Teach Your Children" on the radio. When I wept openly at the end of Philadelphia Story, I was astounded. So was my husband.

I was a tough kid. I wasn't one to cry. Ever. Sissies cried. I didn't cry when I skinned my knees, needed stitches, fell out of a treehouse or had to go to the doctor for vaccinations. I hid in the doctor's closet or under the exam table, but I didn't cry.

I wasn't afraid of the dark. I wasn't scared of snakes and lizards and spiders -- in fact, I liked them, and still do.

I wasnt afraid of storms, and I didn't believe in monsters. Halloween was my favorite holiday. I thought it was great fun to terrify other kids with elaborate ghost stories.

I would always be the one to do scary things on a dare.

Climb on the roof. Look over the edge. I dare you.

Climb way up on the second floor roof of your friend's house and stand there, teetering over the edge. I could do that.

As I got older, I was the one who friends came to lean on -- Dez is tough. Dez will know what to do.

I kept myself glued together when one of my dearest friends was murdered for her purse, when beloved ones died from AIDs, commited suicide, succumbed to breast cancer, or died from heart attacks at ridiculously early ages. I kept plugging along through my husband's strokes and, two weeks before Katrina hit, I got through my Dad's eulogy with a strong, clear voice.

I thought I had grown into a tough adult.

Life in general, years of work in animal rescue and the tough reality of animal sheltering work made me think I thought I could deal with anything.

But now I start into the boo-hoos when I hear Dr. John sing "Such A Night" on a New Orleans radio station. I cry sometimes when I drive through Audubon Park in the early morning, or when I see a row of ancient shotgun houses in the light of the setting sun. I weep when I see an elderly black lady planting bright, springtime flowers in the tiny front yard of her storm-battered home.

And tears run down my face uncontrollably when I hear Randy Newman sing to remind us that "they're trying to wash us away... they're trying to wash us away... Louisiana..."

No one particular thing caused this change. But many, many things combined to fracture my foundations -- the pitiful rasping sound made by starved and dehydrated dogs and cats who had barked and meowed themselves voiceless in their desperate appeals for salvation ... the shattered houses of the Ninth Ward, New Orleans East, Gentilly and Lakeview ... the bloated carcasses of horses caught in the few massive oaks left standing in Plaquemines Parish ... the unforgettable stench of New Orleans in the first weeks after Katrina .... a human skeleton lying in the narrow side yard of a Ninth Ward home ... the spray-painted and multicolored messages and X's on half a million front doors which announce the safety status of each home and the presence or absence of human or animal remains within ... the overturned public transit busses ... and the devastated faces of the brave New Orleanians I met in those first days, people who arrived at the massive emergency public animal shelters in Baton Rouge and Gonzales with nothing but the reeking clothes on their backs and a terrified and filthy dog or cat desperately clutched in their arms.

No human or animal should ever have to experience such horror as they did.

For months, my job kept me going, and did not allow me to feel very much. There was too much urgency, too many in need of help from us, the Helpers. So much for us, the Helpers, to do.

So much to do. So much comforting of others in much greater need than ourselves. No time to experience our own grief.

And now the urgency of rescue has passed. There is work to be done ... much work ... work for decades... but no desperate work related to the immediate matter of rescue from death in the aftermath of the storm.

At least, not today.

Not again, not yet.

Not on this brilliant first day of June.

I do not know what this summer will bring.

I hope it brings nothing newsworthy or noteworthy at all. I want us all to be bored this summer. Very, very bored.

But in the meanwhile, I cannot stop. I cannot stop talking about it, writing about it, waking up in the middle of the night about it.

And now I am knitting about it. Knitting about it, and writing about it, and writing about how knitting has gotten me through this so far and may continue to get myself and others through this.

What I really never thought was that something as simple as a blog, an online diary -- just a place to blab, when you think about it -- could be so helpful. So cathartic.

Thank you all for reading my blog.

--Mambocat

Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: