Monday, June 27, 2011

Goodbyes & Endings

It's Monday morning, I have an oh-so-lovely cup of my special home brewed coffee (3tbsp Folger's French Roast, 2tbsp Folger's Vanilla Biscotti) and the rain is coming down slow and steady. I'm newly home as of last night and can say with some certainty that sleeping in your own bed is an underrated joy. What was supposed to be a 5-day romp through Chicago ended up being a whirlwind tour of the northern Midwest, some good spots, some low spots...but altogether an experience not to have been missed.

You see, my Grandma is dying. At 83 years old, they discovered metastasized lung cancer in her brain, a tumor, which by all accounts, occupies the whole left of her brain. In the course of one week, she went from being cogent, conscious and responsive to...not so much. Resting comfortably at the moment in a long-term care facility adjacent to the hospital, she's napping quite a bit these days.

Allow me to give you some context, dear readers. The woman in question, Mrs. Frances Brickner, is the person who first taught me to crochet when I was about 9 years old. I consider it to have been my gateway drug into craftiness. With some of what I'm sure must have been some truly crappy yarn, I learned how to chain and single crochet and proceeded to hook myself a square that was so tightly worked, it promptly rolled up into a fiber burrito.

While we were growing up, my sister and I had our favorite grandparents to spend weekends with. For me, it was Grandma Tammy, aka Mrs. Frances Brickner. We grandkids called them Grandma & Grandpa Tammy due to a cocker spaniel, named Tammy, they once had when we were young. Somehow, it stuck. They lived out in the country...dirt roads, corn fields...mostly I went for the craftiness. Her influence on me during my early years has, I believe, led me to become the knitter I am today.

Changes were made to the trip and I headed north, to return to my hometown. When I arrived, my sister was kind enough to come with me to the care facility. This was advantageous not only for the support but also because it had been so long since my last trip home that I no longer remembered where the hospital was. We grabbed some breakfast at the local McD's and I grabbed a cup of coffee for Grandma. Sure, I knew she wouldn't be able to drink it...but I know if I were in her position, I'd probably enjoy the smell of some fresh coffee in my room. Am I right?

Sis took up position at the foot of the bed. I pulled up a chair right up along side. I spread the Sock Yarn Blanket out over her and gently placed her hands on top of it, moving them back and a forth a bit so that she might better feel the texture. We knit four squares together that day, my Grandma and me...and I stayed for as long as I needed to, 8 hours. At the end of which I gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek and I told her, "You were always my favorite."

"All good things...," right? Actually, just "all things." Everything ends, eventually, inevitably...life is a flowing river that segues from one event to another. We move, we marry, we die...people divorce, friends take jobs in faraway places, lovers come and go and sometimes stay. The whole of humanity is an undulating sea of connections in perpetual and persistent change. When the time comes, you have to be able to let go...for no one connection can last forever. A lifetime, perhaps...but not forever.

Live simply.
Be at peace.

And go call your damn grandma...right now.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Todd's Tri-Force Skull Cap

My intarsia most certainly did not look fine, Peter, though I appreciate you saying so.

The mini-saga that is the Tri-Force Skull cap, a lil' project assumed at the behest of my friend Todd in Chicago. Not a problem, really...just a simple stocking cap with some comparatively simple geometrical colorwork. Though I'm not intimately familiar with all the tricks of the colorwork trade, I have done one or two clever color things in my day:

...and compared to Mario there, some little gold triangles should be a snap, I was thinking to myself. And then, when it came time to knit them into the hat, I realized where I was most short-sided: I was knitting the hat in the round, not flat. For those of you not in the know, knitting in the round in one way of constructing a three-dimensional tube of fabric, like a sock, sleeves or a hat. Normally, it works great and it's normally my preferred choice of techniques. If what you're knitting is round, knit it IN the round.

With intarsia or Fair Ilse knitting, color is added as a separate strand of yarn, twisted and looped together with the main color to pull it all into one solid piece of fabric...which is when knitting flat. The strands can be carried up to the next row as you turn your work and knit back...

But when knitting in the round, the color strand actually has to come up and ALL the way back by itself, with no options otherwise, unless you carry it all the way around the circumferance of the the hat, which would just be madness. Instead, you get a WS that looks like this:

...which doesn't work so hot because the hat needs to be stretchy to fit over someone's head and still be snug. This means those diagonal strands you see need to longer, to accommodate the stretch. Unfortunately, this also means greater risk for snags and such. So, I did the hat over a second time, this time opting to NOT knit with the color, but rather add it after the fact using duplicate stitch, a technique I heretofore thought slight of as cheating, in much the same way I think a lifeline in lace knitting a little bit of a cheat.

But as of this Sunday morning, I admit I am now a convert to the wonders of duplicate stitch. Sure, it's more needlepoint thank knitting, though you are working with your own knitted fabric AND you're following the strands as they knit themselves together...but really the clincher to the whole thing is the finished result: a smoother, flawless graphic with a much cleaner WS:

...all in all, the damn thing turned out splendidly! I'm quite please with myself at the moment...and in a couple of weekends, I'll give this to Todd and pray it fits his head.

What else? I celebrated my thirty-something birthday in May...this little bird was a gift to myself. He just looked so ready for a party, what with his little hat and everything, so I brought him home, where he promptly started hanging out with the Cylon. I told him to be careful but you just can't talk any sense into felted birthday birds these days...

In other news, I recently acquired an iPod Touch and have come to really enjoy the Instagram app, wherein you snap quick shots of stuff, apply a filter and post, not only to the online community that is Instagram (I currently have 52 followers), but I can also simutaneously post to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr! Just like Twitter sapped a little of my blogging juice away when I started it, I find Instagram has sapped some of my Twitter juice...which means actual blog posts like this one might become a rarity (as if they're not already) and I would LOVE for you to follow me elsewhere, too!

Fin me on Flickr HERE and you can find me on Twitter HERE. What will you see? Check it:

That's all for now. My parents are headed into the city. We're going to lunch and then, for my Dad's birthday, he wants to go to Trader Joe's. He's never been there, ever...