Friday, April 27, 2007


(doo wah doo)

Do you want to know a secret?

(doo wah doo)

Do you promise not to tell?

(oh ... oh ... oh ... oh)

(doo wah doo)

Let me whisper in your ear...

Say the words you want to hear....

This shawl will be completed and up for auction, soon, for a very good cause.
Upon completion, the shawl will be auctioned on Ebay as a fundraiser for the
Kagyu Thubten Choling Monastery
in memory of
the mother and sister
of knitwear designer Lily Chin,
both of whom died
earlier this year.
Pattern: Voodoo Shawl by Dez Crawford (soon to be available)
Knitted by: Dez Crawford and Lisa Louie
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts -- Socks that Rock -- lightweight -- 360 yards -- 4.5 oz. -- "Chapman Springs" colorway
Funds donated in memory of Lily's mother (Linda) and sister (Mabel) will be contributed to the construction fund for a prayer hall and cultural center at the monastery.
Stay tuned to this blog for the announcement of the auction.
Private donations can also be sent to:
Kagyu Thubten Choling Monastery
245 Sheafe Road
Wappingers Falls, NY
Lisa Louie and I have embarked on this project together. We will each knit half of the shawl. I completed my half the other day, and put the shawl and yarn in the mail to Lisa. She will finish, photograph and block the completed shawl, set up the auction on Ebay, and mail the shawl to the winner.
While I was knitting my share of the shawl, I gave a lot of thought to the Buddhist concept of the "Field of Merit." Put simply, this is the idea that all of our actions, however great or small, affect others, and that no being exists in this world without an entire network of other beings who work in ways, large and small, for the benefit of one another.
I meditated on the yarn going through my hands. There were people who raised, nourished and cared for the sheep. Someone sheared the wool, which was then carded and spun into yarn. Dye was produced, and the dyers at Blue Moon Fiber Arts then infused this yarn with their energy, which then came into my hands, and passed across fingers and needles, and which now is in route to Lisa in Hawaii, who will infuse it with her own energy.
Many people have been involved in smaller, but no less important ways: the people who tend the machines at the yarn mill, the people who manufactured the needles, the many people who carried packages so that yarn and wool could travel to and fro, and Tom the mail carrier who put the box in my hands.
And then there is Lily Chin,
who has given us all so much beauty, and her mother and sister, who gave beauty to her, and all of their interactions, which played their part in making Lily the person she is.
And so we want to remember these two women, and we think this is the best way to honor them, and to honor Lily as well for all she has given to us in the world of knitting.
there is also the person who will win the bid on this shawl,
perhaps as a present to celebrate a joyful occasion,
perhaps to give as a comfort to a grieving friend,
or maybe simply for the pleasure of having a good shawl, and the satisfaction of donating money
to people who,
in their turn, do good for others.
Stay tuned for updates on the progress of the shawl,
more information about the monastery,
the opening date of the auction,
and for the introduction of Pineapple Gumbo, the collaborated knitting efforts
of Dez Crawford and Lisa Louie.
p.s. --my apologies for the odd spacing; I will try to correct it on Blogger.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

My Split-Leaf Philodendron

Is Bigger Than

Your Split-Leaf Philodendron

If you live in Canada, and you have a split-leaf philodendron, it lives in a pot, and it is about as big as a basketball, and you bring it indoors during the winter, carefully protecting it from drafts and placing it so that it is not near a window through which it can even see snow.

We, however, have a split-leaf philodendron the size of a Volkswagen. See? At the base, it is wider than the Golf is long, and it's considerably taller. I considered, and rejected, an idea to park the Golf lengthwise in front of it to prove this point, as there is a weak spot in the concrete directly in the center-front of the philodendron.

That would not have been a good idea, for reasons which shall be disclosed later in this post. But. I did measure the frond-span of the thing, and it is indeed about 20 inches (roughly half a metre) wider than the Golf is long.

It's so good to have my dear little VW Golf all shiny and repaired again, what with great, huge dents last autumn caused by uninsured strippers, and little-bitty dents caused by road debris in the months after Katrina. It's amazing to me, that some people actually do not believe in either physics in general or gravity in particular, and these people heap unsecured cinderblocks and scrap metal on flimsy lawn trailers, which they then drive down the Interstate at alarming speeds, merrily spilling their contents on the road to entertain other drivers.

But I digress. Back to the split-leaf philodendron. We didn't have any freezes cold enough or long enough in duration to kill it back to the trunk this past winter, so it has started into spring with a decided advantage. Some tropical plants, like banana trees, survive in this manner in moderate climates, in our bi-polar weather that ranges from tropically steamy to pond-freezin' cold. They can die back to the trunk and start over in the spring if they need to.

If you wander back to one of my posts from the summer of 2005 regarding the Big Shawl For Me, you will see a close-up photo of the same plant. This is possibly the largest split-leaf philodendron in captivity outside of its native habitat (and no, I do not know where that is), but this is not because I am a talented gardener. Far from it. I am rather skilled at taking care of animals and people, but any plant that manages to survive anywhere within range of my lethal gaze does so out of sheer botanical luck. Our plants have been known to uproot themselves and crawl to the neighbors, like the French Foreign Legion lost in the desert, pleading for water.

Since last summer, while Plantzilla thrived in spite of the fact that the rest of our yard was barely suriving the searing August heat, and later during the winter, in which it remained robust despite freezing rain and also being sleeted upon, I considered the possibility that perhaps, long ago, I may have sprinkled Special Miracle-Gro Fairy Dust in the soil in the planting bed in which resides the split-leaf phildendron.

Magic Dirt or something. Fairy Fertilizer.

But noooooo.....

It turns out that the philodendron is so lush and ginormous because we had a leaky sewer line, and this particular piece of foliage sits directly on top of the leak.


The leak, in fact, is so prodigious that it has washed away the dirt under part of the pavement there and caused some subsidence, and there is also an alarming crack in the concrete -- thus, the inadvisability of providing a lengthwise comparison photo of Das Golf.

But back to knitting. I have been up to my ears in grants and proposals lately, and my knitting mojo has gone just a little south-by-southwest in the past several weeks while I relocated office space and buried myself in paperwork.

I have also been trying to help my friend Joan Hamer a bit by guest-blogging now and then while she recovers from surgery, and I have a highly classified project going on with Lisa Louie for a charitable benefit, which shall be revealed over the course of the next week.

lately I have taken a break from re-knitting the yoke of my green fisherman's sweater, which I keep putting aside to knit things for other people, so I could finish a shawl I started a long while back. It's a complete idiot's delight triangle, in garter stitch on fat needles in Lion Brand ribbon yarn in the City Lights colorway. No technical accomplishment whatsoever, just fun with color, something utterly mindless to tote around in the car for Knitting While Waiting. I also made fringe. See?

I sprawled the thing across an ancient butterfly chair frame. I had to dispose of the old canvas seats, as they had rotted. Does anybody know if there is a sensible manufacturer our there who makes butterfly chair covers out of some rot-resistant material like ballistic nylon?

I mean, these things sit outside. They are patio furniture. It rains here. It rains a lot. Butterfly chairs have bucket seats. They make little ponds. Little ponds rot fabric. Anybody awake out there in seat-manufacturing land? Not everybody lives in the desert, dudes.

On the needles: less than two hours away from completion -- gotta find the two hours first -- a tank top, with a lace hem, in blue Unger Cotton Plantation. Yes, this is almost exactly like the one I made my Mom, but I finished hers first, so it would be in time for Christmas.

Early this morning, Shamu, who is employed as a Tactile Assessment Engineer here at the Knitting Asylum, inspected my work for softness and even stitchery:

I like the design, but I feel very ambivalent about this particular shade of blue on me. It looks great on my Mom, who is ultra-fair-skinned, but I inherited my Dad's olive complexion, so I tend to look seasick in "dusty" shades. Later this spring, I plan to prowl the local creekbeds in search of enough wild indigo to overdye the garment. If I can't find enough, I will use a commerical dye in either indigo or deep purple.

Although the color shown is not the best possible shade of blue for me to wear, Unger Plantation is my favorite cotton yarn, and it's out of production, so I take what I can get and occasionally have a little dyeing adventure. If I finish it while the weather is such that it still gets cool in the evening, I can always top it off with a shawl.

While Shamu was inspecting the tank-top-to-be, I heard the familiar sound of chainsaws next door. Normally, I don't pay much attention to the chainsaws, because I have heard them for about seventy-five weekends in a row, but this morning, the sawing was interrupted by a resounding whump.


During Hurricane Katrina, the neighbors lost a 90-foot, multi-ton red oak, which fell katty-corner across their yard and the adjacent neighbors, flattening the cedar fence between them on its way down. Dave and I have admired our neighbors' persistence weekend after weekend as they have chipped away at this gargantuan heap of botany.

Because the tree did not fall directly upon a dwelling, their insurance company did not want to pay the many-thousand dollars necessary to remove the tree, so the neighbors took on the job themselves. For a year and a half, they have whacked away at the monster almost every Saturday morning. Then they chainsaw each weekend's efforts -- usually half a cord or so -- into fireplace-sized pieces, and stack them neatly at the curb ... and by Sunday morning, all the wood is gone, thanks to firewood scavengers (including ourselves).

Not a bad little urban ecosystem, I think.

Why do they cut it up and put it out so nicely, so other people can have free firewood? "We have to cut it up anyway," says the neighbor. "And it's easier to manage small pieces in the wheelbarrow. Why not let somebody get some use out of it?"

Gotta love that.

This weekend marked a milestone in Project Tree: until today, the fallen tree had, of course, rested in the horizonal position while the major trunk was chipped away by our industrious neighbors. But this morning, amidst the usual whining chainsaw sounds, we heard a loud "WHOOSH," followed by a house-shaking "THUMP." Investigation of the noises revealed that the wide root base had had enough of the major trunk chipped away to fall naturally back into its accustomed postion.

Here, the neighbor's father-in-law (a regular participant in the weekly, year-and-a-half-long, oak-sawing marathon) is seen walking away from the stump, which sits against the back property line. I wasn't fast enough with the camera to get a shot while he was still standing next to it. The stump is about six feet high and ... well ... wider than a Volkswagen is long.

It's probably wider than an SUV is long, really.

This is not the forest primeval. This is the backyard in a perfectly ordinary Baton Rouge subdivision, in a heavily trafficked part of the city, within sight of the Interstate.

Oh, and the hazy look in this photo? There is nothing wrong with my camera. That's the ... um ... air.


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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Would you knit this hat?

I thought so.

You can do it in grownup size too -- picture not yet available.

I bet the urge to knit this hat would be even stronger if you knew that knitting this hat could help impoverished people find economic independence and dignity through Heifer International.

This remarkable hat was designed by Knitting Asylum correspondent Mary Lou Egan.

I like the fact that this particular animal hat looks much more realistic than the stuck-on-ears look which is so typical of the animal-hat genre. I like the fact that the contrasting stitching on the ears quite nicely mimics the guard hairs on a real tiger's fur, and the ear structure seems to be organic.

But this hat is remarkable in other ways, too. Mary Lou wants the sales of her hat pattern to benefit Heifer International. I am trying to help her in that end, and I believe the most direct way for me to help is to start by giving the hat a review here on my blog, urging you knitters to buy the pattern, and encouraging yarn stores to sell the pattern and forward the proceeds to Heifer International.

My review of the pattern assures you that it is well-written and easy to follow. It's all easy stranded work too, for those of you who fear intarsia in the round.

To purchase this pattern directly, contact Mary Lou at:

marylou DOT egan AT gmail DOT com.

Of course, substitute periods for "DOT" and @ for "AT."

This is a fun hat to knit and a fantastic charity. I hope you give it your most serious consideration. Christmas is only nine months away.

P.S. - No, patterns for the ridiculously adorable kids are not available yet. Mary Lou is damn good at charting tiger stripes, but I think it would take her a while to chart the human genome.


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Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: