Edited to add deadline for comments! Comment by March 16 for a chance to win the yarn below.
Oh, hello, people. Obviously, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, partly because I am having some nerve problems in my right arm (the nerve! ha.). But if I can’t actually knit, I can dream about knitting…and keep an eye out for other people’s work. [Yes, I am an addict: all roads lead to knitting.] So perhaps that is where this blog is headed for a while: compendium of knitting observations, plus giveaways. [Scroll down, people.]
Yesterday, I came across these fabulous tea cozies in Oxford’s The Jam Factory:
Aren’t they great? According to the sign, they’re made by the owners’ mother:
I can see this being a nice mother’s day gift (UK Mother’s Day is March 10. US readers, you still have some time). They’re selling them with the teapot, even!
Or you can say it with flowers, as one of these two does:
It has never occurred to me to make a tea cozy, but then I have never before lived in a place where one was necessary. In the winter, one really does want hot tea, and a pot really can cool down depressingly quickly.
Mr. Trask got me this knit kit for Christmas, as a bit of a joke, but hey – maybe tea cozies are the new Clapotis. Who knows.
Right! Giveaway time. In keeping with spring and a feeling of abundance, I am letting go of more yarn these days. First up is an old friend:
So! How the heck have you been? Ever knit a tea cozy? If so, what are your favo(u)rite patterns?
Some of you may remember that my mother, Jane Lawton, passed away five years ago today.
[Newcomers, many apologies - a few times a year I subject you to an essay that includes a few memories of my mother. If you want to catch up, previous posts include The Lady Loved Pink, Begin Again, Live Like You Mean It, and Beautiful Things, Mothers. But do feel free to go somewhere else for your bloggy reading today. Catherine has an important style question for you, while Ann is giving away yarn. And Franklin always makes me glad to be a knitter.]
I missed Mom a lot last night, as I sat in bed with the fabulous Alexandra Jane and wondered what Mom would have thought of her namesake. [Answer: she would have adored her, especially Alex's first joke -- the funny deep growl she makes because she knows we'll laugh at it.]
It’s hard to have this baby and know that she’ll never know my mother. I wish there were a way to capture Mom’s essence for Alex, but there isn’t. There are just stories. Last night, I worried that I couldn’t remember enough about Mom. With every day that goes by, a little more of a person who has died slips away. One just has to hope to hold on to enough of them to be able to honor their memory.
So the story I’m remembering today is about the tree in the front yard of the house in which I grew up. It was a nice tree, a cherry tree, that blossomed each spring the way the ones down on the mall do. And, when I was a kid, I liked to sit in the fork of the tree and read. It was outside, it offered a nice view, it was a sort of whimsical thing to do, and it gave me a little privacy.
Technically, the tree belonged to the Town of Chevy Chase, where we lived. And one day some guys from the town tried to cut it down.
I’m not blaming them, you understand; according to them, the tree was diseased and they had to get rid of it. They just had a job to do, etc. I’m sure they successfully cut down a few trees that day and saved the town from whatever blight those trees had. Unfortunately for them, they came across Jane Lawton next.
She didn’t want the tree cut down, so she did what any rational woman would do: she brought her daughter, age 6 or 7, out to the tree and had her sit in it until the men went away.
“This is my daughter’s tree,” she explained (as I remember it). “She loves this tree. You aren’t cutting it down.”
They left eventually. The tree lived through whatever was ailing it, and the last time I checked was still in the yard, although the house doesn’t belong to us any more. And, as those of you who have met my mother might have guessed, she ended up being friends with one of the men later on. Because she liked everyone, and Mark was a pretty nice guy. Heck, he didn’t cut down the tree.
Here’s the fun thing about this story: Alex absolutely loves trees right now. Especially while the leaves were changing, she would just stare and stare at them. The day I brought her a leaf was a high point in both of our lives. And, a couple of weeks ago, when Mr. Trask took her to Christ Church Meadow and let her touch some trees, he says she looked at him like he had introduced her to The Beatles, or Sting, or whoever it is the kids are listening to these days. I got to come along on the next tree-hugging excursion, when we let her sit in her first tree.
People, you would have thought she had died and gone to heaven. It was the exact opposite of the swimming lessons debacle. She didn’t even mind wearing the fuzzy suit, for a little while. And as I took this photo of her sitting in the tree, I suddenly remembered my reading tree, and the day Mom and I saved it.
So last night I told Alex the story of how Mom outwitted the tree surgeons. And maybe someday she’ll remember Mom, when she’s sitting in a tree with flowers all around her. For today, that’s more than enough.
Thanks again, Mom.
- Jack: So we’re looking for a homicidal Granny, right?
- Georgie: Have you ever heard of Knit and Natter?
- J: No. What the hell’s that?
- G: People get together in groups and they chat and they knit.
- J: That’s a thing?
- G: Lots of celebrities do it, so apparently it’s a cool thing.
- J: I thought it was just grannies wanting to get back at their relatives for not visiting more often.
- G: Julia Roberts does it; Madonna does it.
- J: Yeah. Like I said, we’re looking for a homicidal Granny.
BBC Series Vexed offers us a different take on our favorite craft: knitting needle as murder weapon. Now, we’ve seen this before — most notably in Ian Fleming’s novel From Russia With Love, in which (spoiler alert!) a Soviet agent attacks James Bond with a knitting needle, and in the Chevy Chase / Goldie Hawn movie Foul Play, which (again, spoilers!) gives us Hawn killing a man with her knitting needles. So it’s not original, and again mass media gives us the “hey, knitting is hip; who knew?” trope, but I enjoyed this episode nonetheless.
While Vexed Series 2 isn’t as consistently good as Series 1 was, it does hum along nicely. This episode sees Jack trying to infiltrate a mothers’ knitting group to solve the murder of the headmaster at their school. We get to hear Toby Stephens say that he’s knitting his mother an egg cozy, while getting tangled up in yarn and needles. I’d say the best moment of the show is when Naz, the crime scene tech, notices that the knitting needles with which the headmaster was killed are handmade and expensive. Is Naz a closet knitter? Only Series 3 will tell us.
Unfortunately, due to baby-related delays (how long until that excuse is worn out?), I am posting this too late for UK residents to watch the full episode on BBC iPlayer. If you’re in the United Kingdom, you can watch a clip from the episode on the BBC website, and people on both sides of the pond can get Series 1 on DVD. [You can also see Goldie Hawn kill her attacker using a knitting needle at the very end of this YouTube clip.]
While we’re waiting for this episode to rerun, why not tell us in the comments what mainstream media depiction of knitting you’ve enjoyed most?
It’s getting cold here in Oxford, and back on the East Coast of the US where Mr. Trask and I are from. One’s thoughts naturally turn to knit hats, mittens, scarves, and sweaters – and, sometimes, to those who might not have anyone to knit for them.
In the past three weeks, I have received information on two different charity knitting projects, one here in England and one back in the U.S. It seems appropriate to post about both of them here, and suggest that you choose one of these worthy endeavors and add a hat or scarf for them to your winter knitting queue. Both are small, home-grown ideas, and I think that’s appropriate as well since this is a small blog and you can get information about the big movements like The Big Knit or The Big Knitathon elsewhere (man, do those two have a Google problem).
As an added incentive (and because I have missed doing giveaways), I’m offering yarn to one lucky knitter of a hat for either of these groups. Just knit your hat and send me a photograph of the package you send, and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win the yarn pictured at the end of this post.
First up, Catherine is organizing the knitting of warm hats for Veterans Aid. This group looks after former members of the British armed forces (not just soldiers, but support workers including medical staff and administrators) who have fallen ill or had other difficulties and need help to avoid being homeless. Catherine and her compatriots have already made six; surely you and I, dear readers, can come up with six more.
The other group, Knits for New York and New Jersey, is making hats, scarves, and other warm bits for those displaced by Hurricane Sandy. I lived in New York City after college and while I was getting my master’s degree, more than 10 years ago. I loved the city, and some people I love still live both in and around the area. More importantly, there are people living there now who have had to leave their homes and who need a little warmth in their lives. This group is just getting started, but they’ve already linked up with some folks who are holding a Crafting for A Cause event in Brooklyn. If you’re nearby, go and report back to the rest of us! You can donate knitting supplies to the Brooklyn event, too.
Will a warm hat change someone’s life? It won’t find them a place to stay if they don’t have one; it won’t give them food if they don’t have it. But a handknit hat will let a person in trouble know that someone was thinking of them and wishing them well. That’s often why we knit, especially for the holidays; we want our relatives and friends to know that we love them and are thinking of them. As the days get shorter and the weather colder, I think it’s more than nice – more than important – I think it’s crucial to remember that we all are a part of the human family, that we have more in common than we think, and that a little love sent to a stranger can help, not just them, but us as well.
So that’s my pitch for a random act of kindness, either in the U.K. or the U.S. Would anyone like to join me?
- If you’re interested, post your ideas for hat patterns below. I’ll start – how about A Hat Fit for a Boyfriend, or the Hurricane Hat? Both free, both quick, both fun. What do the rest of you think?
- If you want to send your hat/woolly thing to me to send along to the charity with my hat(s), you can – just write me and let me know it’s coming. [The only situation in which I'd recommend you not do this is if you're in the U.S. and making something for those affected by Sandy...in which case you'd be mailing it to the U.K. for me to send it back to the U.S.]
- Plus, here’s some yarn you might enjoy. One lucky hat knitter (chosen, as always, by the Random Number Generator) will receive this yarn from me, free of charge or any other strings. As I said above, to enter just send me a photo of your package with the hat you’re sending to either organization. Deadline for the drawing is Dec. 15, but of course you can keep knitting hats long after that.
So, people did tell me that it would be difficult to knit after I’d had a baby, and they were right. No, no, this isn’t some hidden physical consequence of labor; it’s just that I’ve got this baby on my hands and, often, in my arms. I do a lot of baby-wearing, and a lot of walking her around in our super-duper buggy, but still it’s a challenge to have two hands and my brain free, all at once.So I don’t quite know what I’ve been doing, planning all these new projects. I put it down partly to the inspiration of P3 2012, partly to the startitis many of us knitters get in the fall, and partly to wishful thinking. I’ll be lucky if I get half of what’s in my mind done. But a girl can dream, right?
First, I have a couple of design projects in mind. I won’t tell you much about them, but I’ll show you the yarn for one of them:
It’s The Bluefaced Baron from Countess Ablaze, whom we met in Wales earlier this month. Look at those colors! Ooh, aah. DK Weight Superwash Bluefaced Leicester yarn. I’m thinking a cute little striped sweater for Alex.
I also want to knit Color Affection (also known as Color Addiction, or Affliction, or Infection, for its viral qualities), and to that end I bought some gorgeous Nimu Isel (Superwash BFL, Silk, and Cashmere) at P3. I even cast on for it there (as you saw in my last post):
This is a good project in that it’s garter stitch and so can be done pretty brainlessly. But I did choose this dark navy blue yarn for the beginning, which means I can’t knit it in semi-lit rooms. [Right now I'm doing a certain amount of sitting in our semi-lit bedroom, next to Alex's co-sleeper, hoping for her to fall asleep.] But, hey, I was able to do a little knitting on this today while Little Miss Feisty took her morning nap. This pattern is so fun, and a really good use for sock yarn. Since I seem to have a lot of sock yarn in my stash, I’m considering making more than one. Is that crazy?
Meanwhile, the fabulous Rachel of Porpoise Fur has released a pattern: the Leaf Peeper Cowl. This looks so fun. I can’t spin, and learning to do so would probably lead to more fiber in the house (untenable right now), but I have some bulky yarn in my stash that would look gorgeous in this…and, hey, a quick knit seems like it would be pleasing.
Anyway, I’ll let you all know how I get along. In the meantime, what’s on your needles? What would you love to knit, but you don’t have the time?
You folks may remember our trip to Wales last year – a little matriculation, a little dash to the train, a little knitting in Pembrokeshire with the amazing Amy Singer and the super-fantastic Brenda Dayne. Well, we did it again, crazy people that we are, and Alex came along:
Yes, there she is, in her little hand-knit hat, on her way to Plug & Play Pembrokeshire 2012.
The theme word for P3 this year was Cariad, a Welsh term of endearment, and I certainly felt loved in Wales. Way back when we signed up for this, I was happily pregnant, Mr. Trask’s book was due to the publisher just before my due date, and we thought we could easily go to Wales with a three-month-old baby.
I hear all you parents out there laughing. I do. And you are right. Because, when it came to it, not only did we have a three-month-old baby, and not only is it folly to think that travel with a three-month-old is easy, but but we had just returned from our Grand Tour of the United States, and Mr. Trask’s book deadline had been moved to just after the retreat.
There was no way it was going to work. I thought about going alone with Alex; I thought about going with a friend; I e-mailed Amy and Brenda and told them we just couldn’t do it. They were disappointed; I was disappointed; but it made sense.
And then…then Amy wrote and pointed out that there would be 30 other women there (and one man – hi, knitting Andy from The Netherlands!), and that several of them would probably be interested in holding a baby from time to time. They would take care of Alex and me, she said, and they would love to see me. Oh, it was so tempting.
I thought about it. I imagined going alone. I had almost convinced myself that I could do it…and then Mr. Trask stepped in and said he would go, too. He worked out a brief extension of his deadline, and we committed to sharing Alex, so he could edit his book a bit, and I could knit a bit.
Readers, we went.
It is a testament to the generosity of all the knitters there that we – all three of us – had a wonderful time. Mr. Trask got time to write and edit, and time to nap with Alex, and I got time to sit with knitters (though I often had a baby on my lap), and Alex got to sleep and socialize and receive flattery from one and all. [I am still getting used to the idea that other people might actually want to hold the baby for a little while.] The other attendees were incredibly generous, offering to hold Alex so that Mr. Trask and I could eat at the same time for once, or so that we could chat with people, or so that I could knit. I didn’t get as much real class time as a “normal” attendee, but I got to see a lot of this:
Last year, this retreat blew me away because everyone was so friendly and Brenda and Amy were so accessible and welcoming. It helped me to settle into life in England and it made me braver about travel. This year, the retreat reminded me how truly generous and enthusiastic knitters are. Not just with regard to Alex, of course – but with their time, their knowledge, and their yarn. We had the most amazing goodie bags with donations from Blue Moon, The Kangaroo Dyer, Dye for Yarn, and Nimu (who did two custom colorways just for P3). It’s a sign of the general ethos of the retreat that we easily traded with each other until everyone had yarn s/he wanted.
But wait! There’s more. Jennifer of The Purple Purl joined us for the weekend, helping Brenda and Amy teach and generally cheering us on. When I decided that I wanted to make a Color Affection shawl (check out Brenda’s), she and fellow Crazy Canadian Alli encouraged me, approved my colo(u)rs, and gave me advice gleaned from their own shawls. Then Jennifer taught me a new way to do M1R and M1L, and re-knit the beginning of the shawl when I was ready to throw in the towel:You see what I mean? Generosity personified.
Like last year’s, this year’s workshops used Amy’s “Plug and Play” design method and Brenda’s unique way of approaching raglan sweaters to teach design work. Last year, we worked with lace patterns; this year, with texture. We also had a nifty class by Amy on improvising cables, a very cool presentation by Brenda on knitting and memory, and a surprise class the last day in which we drafted silk hankies and knit the resulting roving into woven cuffs. Alli’s post on the retreat has details of each day, and gorgeous photos to boot; Catherine’s has lovely prose on the weekend and a photo essay of our silk hankie adventure.
Aside from class time, we had:
- delightful meals (and great conversation at those meals)
- madcap downtime in the various lounges, parlo(u)rs, and messuages of the Inn
- a fabulous mini-market where I discovered the wonder that is Countess Ablaze
- a pajama party with Minstrels (yum!) and Downton Abbey (dramatic!), and even
- a little yarn-bombing.
So – it wasn’t easy, and we’ll be taking a little break from travel for a while. But it sure was fun.