Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What if we had to stay home?

What if the gas-driven economy truly, permanently lead to a back-to-basics, only the deeply wealthy can afford to travel, eat out, etc. etc. daily reality? When my grandmother was a girl, a trip to the beach was a once-in-a-lifetime event, even though she lived just six hours away by car. The cost was just inconceivable. A family had to be able to own a car, afford time off from work, able to pay the cost of a hotel as well as meals out.

Now, nearly every family around me has a beach condo or lake house or mountain cabin where they spend vast amounts of the summer, driving happily back and forth to enjoy their "second home." Yes, Dunwoody is atypical, quite a bit more affluent than your average community. But still.

What if we had to stay home?

What if the food we prepared had to come from someplace local, since transportation costs are so high? What if the clothes we wear had to last beyond trendiness because runways and magazines and malls and other sources of fashion-itis once again became the province of the elite? What if a family had just ONE car, more for work and special occasions and emergencies than every-other-hour errand-running? What if the most desirable homes became those within walking distance of a grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store, post office, library, and bank? What if children raised to fear the outdoors had to learn, with their parents, how to grow food and repair things around the house and play without batteries?

The cost of gas has made me appreciate our walkable life here in Dunwoody. I can walk to the Nature Center as well as Dunwoody Village (bank, Publix, Walgreens, library, Ace Hardware, etc.), and do so regularly. The MARTA station is just two miles away. The swimming pool is in the neighborhood, and most of the kids' friends live nearby. The internet brings textbooks, swimsuits, and yarn so I don't drive around checking out prices and selection. Now that we're in summer mode, we can cut way back on driving and unnecessary purchases. Shorts and t-shirts rule! I've cut out prepackaged snacks and prepared convenience foods in favor of homemade everything since it's cheaper to prepare and serve.

These are small steps, and likely the first steps in a changed life-as-we-know-it. Pragmatically, cost is the primary catalyst. But the narcissism that prevails in my corner of the world is hastening the waste of limited resources in the demands of the me-me-me to get it all now.

What if we had to stay home? Maybe we'd all grow up.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I don't know how to relax. Actually, I just don't enjoy complete relaxation, or at least the way most people like to relax. I don't like to sleep late, eat a bowl of cereal for lunch and call it done, and idle away the hours.

I like to relax by DOING, having the luxury of time to focus on backlogged house chores, cooking elaborate meals, knitting something complicated, reading a book from start to finish without stopping, moving around the furniture to give rooms a new vitality, and walk miles and miles. This long holiday weekend has been frustrating in the relaxation department thanks to an ill-timed cold.

The Knitternall Clan did manage some spontaneous relaxation last night. We rented National Treasure: Book of Secrets and I prepared a buffet of appetizers for supper from whatever was in the pantry and fridge. (Way cheaper than eating out - we had chicken tenders with three dipping sauces, carrots and celery with homemade bleu cheese dip, peanuts in the shell, a thin crust California Pizza Kitchen barbecue chicken pizza cut into small squares, and homemade chocolate-oatmeal cookies. Way yum.)

All four of us totally got into the movie and, despite the usual kibbitzing from T (illogic and lack of reality bug him), enjoyed ourselves completely. It's so rare to relax together since the four of us have four very different definitions of "fun."

As soon as the movie ended, A went back to his cave for private gaming time, T wandered back to his office for bill-paying and poking around his favorite business and technical sites on the internet, AG grabbed a book, and I headed upstairs, having depleted my cold-inhibited reserves.

This morning is shining bright, and I'm getting ready to cut the grass. The cold isn't gone, but there's something so satisfying about getting grimy and sweaty, then heading to the pool. AG and I have a date at Wynterhall Swim & Tennis Club, and the weather is perfect for some time by the pool.

And, to make it really relaxing, I'll take along a new book and the blasted Vogue Sideways Cardigan pattern I've been procrastinating with. I WILL get past the pattern confusion today.

Back to the Nature Center tomorrow. The Summer Camp program begins with the arrival of 30+ darling little ones!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sniff. What does a knitter do when she has a cold?

I loathe being sick. I'll deny it until my head is so stuffed it feels like it could implode and coughing interrupts every other word.

I have a cold.

I can't think. I can't pretend patience for more than two minutes at a time. I can't read and keep track of the story. I definitely can't knit anything requiring counting.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hey knitter knitter, hey knitter knitter, PURL!

AG's softball team is in the playoffs and they've advanced to the championship game tonight. This 8U team is fun to watch - a bunch of cute girls with flyaway hair, big grins, and knobby knees all bouncing Tigger-like around the field makes for an enjoyable season. The parents have been sympatico as well - no overachiever parents screaming at their daughters to SWING! CATCH IT! AW, COME ON! We've enjoyed our daughters and valued their time on the field and in the dugout. Thanks, Coach McKnight!

(We watched the 12U championship game before we played. Way more serious. Much less about having fun and more about the rules of the game. Lots of loud debates between parents and officials. AG isn't sure that's going to be a good thing when she moves up next year. I'm not, either, but then I'm not that competitive about sports. If, however, there was a playoff among knitters, I'd likely be the one contesting any call against my particular method of long-tail cast-on or the option of ripping out what I just bungled. So I guess I should just live and let live with those very heated folks on the sidelines!)

Tonight is also AG's "graduation" from 5th Grade at Austin Elementary School. (It's the Knitternall family's 9th year at Austin - as she moves on to Peachtree Charter Middle School, I'm leaving Austin with happy memories and gratitude.) She'll march with her classmates in the Dunwoody United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, deliver the closing address, then run with me to the car for a quick change en route to Murphy Candler Park. The guys will follow as soon as T drops off A at home to continue studying for tomorrow's Geography and Latin finals at DHS.

Hoo, boy.

It's a big night in the Knitternall family.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Walk a mile (or three) in my chic flip-flops

Last night, as the kids were showering, we heard a loud "BOOM!" and the house shook. It felt like a tree hit the house. I ran outside, walked all around the house and found . . . nothing. I called the neighbors to see if they'd heard it. Nope. I checked the basement, attic, every room in the house to see if something fell. Nada.

This morning, AG and I headed out for school. I hit the garage door opening and there was a CLUNK.

Eureka. The massive spring thingy that lifts and lowers the door had a catastrophic failure and snapped last night. The garage door was sealed shut thanks to the dead weight without the spring.

  • T's in New York on business.
  • AG is in her finest 1970's togs for today's Decades Project and dance.
  • AG and A have to be at their SEPARATE schools by 8.
  • And I have a full workload at the Nature Center.
Well, this is fun.

So I march-stepped AG to Austin on foot, turned around and called a neighbor to get A to Dunwoody High at the same time. I called the ever-wonderful Dunwoody Door to come fix the garage (Mr. DD said he'd be at the house by 11, hurray!). I walked to work via one of the social trails connecting Wyntercreek to the park, then walked back in time to meet Mr. DD.

This entire time, traversing 3+ miles, I was wearing my favorite hand-dyed linen skirt and flippy flops. Because I was dressed. I looked good. And I didn't want to change.

(The photo to the right is of our wetlands boardwalk, the only "paved" trail in the park. I was flippy-flopping on MULCHED, rooty, terraced trails.)

Yeah, I'm crazy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dream Knitting Tour

This weekend is the annual Dream Gardens Tour of Dunwoody. I'll be manning the desk at the Nature Center to support the wonderful volunteers who make this popular event possible.

What if there was a Dream Knitting Tour of Dunwoody? We'd highlight the knitting rooms, stashes, and samples of five fabulous knitters, a rare peek inside the rarified world of knitting excellence.

Stop 1: The Knitting Room of Fair Isle Expert JW: See the plush rocker where JW knits intricate fair isle patterns into sweaters for her extended family and friends. Watch JW work row after row as the charted design reveals itself in 100% worsted weight wool.

Stop 2: The Knitting Stash of LW, Revealed to the Public for Three Days Only! Two rooms filled with baskets, bins, and cupboards brimming with silks,
cashmeres, wools, handspun, handdyed, linens, and bamboo in a cacophony of color, weight, and rarity. Note that the knitter's spouse is out of town, hence the unexpected revelation of this remarkable stash.

Stop 3: A New-Age Spinning Room. No knitter's home is complete without a spinning room! Explore the decorating possibilities of this beautiful and functional space. The homeowner showcases her array of spinning equipment, from hand-carved pieces to state of the art foot-powered units. Handspun samples are arrayed throughout the room.

Stop 4: Charity Knitting at St. Luke's Presbyterian Church. Join the circle for inspirational knitting ideas, patterns, and samples. You can choose from several projects: scarves and hats for homeless men, layettes for stillborns, prayer shawls, and 9" squares for lapghans and blankets. Each goes to those in need in our own community. The St. Luke's ROCKers (Reaching Out through Crocheting & Knitting) like to chat as much as they enjoy plying their needles and hooks!

Stop 5: Knitter's Boutique. A knitting shopper's delight! You'll find handspun and handyed one-of-a-kind yarns, handcrafted needles, markers, and hooks as well as unique buttons, purse handles, and shawl pins. Exclusive knitting totes and cases are also available. Bring your cash and add to your stash!

What a brilliant idea! I'd buy tickets to this one . . .

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The best part of the day

I've always loved the early morning. I know I should sleep in, considering all the rush of the week. But I'm awake anyway, long before 7, so I head downstairs.

It's quiet. The kids are asleep, T's at church for a training session for the newly elected officers, and I have at least a couple of hours to indulge in . . . whatever. Peanut butter toast and tea, a slow reading of the newspaper, a visit to Ravelry and the blog to see what's happening, and a bit of tidying. I love the glint of sunlight blinking through the front windows and the dance of leaves in the back woods. Best of all, I'm enjoying the absence of "have-to" at this very moment.

That'll change before long. We have softball playoffs at Murphy Candler Park, a costume to put together for A's Decades project, and supplies to pick up for a knitting lesson I'm giving to a mom hospitalized with pre-term labor. I'm happy to get her started. If I'd had knitting when I was in the hospital for the same thing 15 years ago, it would have made the time pass much more peacefully.

If I let myself think about the coming week too much, I'll get wound up. So I'm going to turn on NPR, tidy some more, and enjoy the peace.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I've got nothing.

Once again, yet again . . . wait for it . . . again. The word is right on the tip of my tongue, but AWOL when I need it. My daughter stares patiently as I stammer, desperately search for the word I NEED, only to finally use a random word that comes as close as I'm capable of producing at that very moment.

Yep. It's mush-mouth time for Mom.

Thinking through the alphabet ultimately brings the missing word to mind, but by that time I'm mortified at yet another sign of hormone- and age- induced brain freeze.

Research says that logic-based play improves memory and keeps the mind sharp well into the senior years. Knitting falls into the category of good-for-you for its patterns, counting, organization, and envisioning.

But it isn't working. Or is it? Does this mean that without knitting I'd be a complete idiot rather than a random sputterer?

Oh, dear.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Dear, I'll knit you a car

My son is reluctant to get his driver's license. Prudently, he's aware of the heavy toll on teenage lives this frantic Atlanta traffic levies. While he could get his license next December, he's chosen to wait to take the study program until the summer following his 16th birthday. I am grateful to have a prudent teenager. Living with Crohn's Disease means facing the fragility of life, a lesson I'm so sorry he's had to learn at such an early age.

My daughter, on the other hand, is already checking out vehicle options. At just 11, she's imagining the freedom and the fashion coordination possibilities of various models. I envision her pleading for some hot little number as soon as she gets her license.

I love my kids and want to indulge their every whim. So it isn't unreasonable to offer her a red Ferrari.
She just has to knit it.
Does that make me a cool Mom or what?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Headbutting frenzy?

Police Investigate Alleged Amy Winehouse Headbutt Frenzy

April 25th, 2008 at 11:30 by Stuart Heritage

Some drug addicts only get clean by transferring their addiction to other pursuits - you know, like religion or drunkenly headbutting men or knitting.

One moment we're grannies clicking away on tissue box covers. Next we're in the same company as Amy Winehouse. I must protest. I would never headbutt men. Unless they were blocking my access to a sale bin filled with half-priced cashmere. Then . . . maybe so.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Sox Shawl

I admit that miles of repeats and stockinette bore me. Then my overachiever nature kicks in and I obsessively knit until the project that is boring me is completed. When I started this shawl, I knew I wanted to knit it for any mom whose child is in the ICU at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. (The nurses present shawls where they see a need.) But the mitered squares lost their appeal after just three were completed. So I crocheted for a while. When that wasn't fun anymore, I tried stockinette. And so on. Miraculously, the shawl turned out to be quite nice and has drawn oohs and aahs from non-knitters who have seen me compulsively knitting on it for the past week or so.

So here's my latest pattern:

The Sox Shawl!
A knit and crochet pattern

Note: gauge, stitch count, etc. are highly flexible in this pattern.

Finished Size: 60" wide at widest points; 30" deep from neck to middle point.

6 skeins Bernat Sox, Hot Tamale (40713) (any similar weight sock yarn can be substituted)

Size 8 (5mm) straight needles

F5 (3.75mm) crochet hook

Section 1

Knit 3 mitered squares in stockinette as follows.

Knit and decrease on the right side.

Purl across on the wrong side.

Cast on 70 stitches. Knit 35, place market, knit 35.

WS: Purl across.

RS: Knit to 2 stitches before marker. K2tog. Slip marker. K2tog. Knit across to end of row.

Continue in pattern until 4 stitches remain.

K2tog. K2tog.

Last row, K2tog and fasten off.

Join three mitered squares with single crochet. The center square will become a diamond, with squares to the right and left. The single crochet chain creates a ridge between the squares.

Section 2
Beginning with a slipknot and the WS of the mitered squares and using an F5 crochet hook, work single crochet pattern along bases of three squares. As you get to one of the points created by the mitered squares, work three single crochets in one stitch to enhance the corner. Work back and forth for approximately 5 inches. Fasten off. Note: starting with the WS helps correct the curling nature of the stockinette.

Section 3
With WS facing you and using size 8 needles, pick up stitches along the side section of the shawl, from the edge to the first point. On my shawl, this was 60 stitches. Picking up stitches on the WS creates a nice ridge between the crocheted section and the knitted stockinette section that follows.

In this section, with the RS facing, you will knit straight on the right edge of the shawl and add a stitch on every knit row on the left edge, creating an angle that follows the angle of the point and which will be grafted to the next section later on.

RS: Knit across to last stitch; knit front and back to increase 1.

WS: Purl across.

Continue in pattern for 32 rows. Bind off.

Sections 4 & 5
With WS facing, pick up stitches along base of section 4 (see schematic) – Section 4 section is located directly to the left of Section 3; Section 5 is located directly to the left of Section 4. Sections 4 and 5 are the largest segments of the shawl.

In this section, with the RS facing, you will add a stitch at the beginning and end of every knit row.

RS: Knit front and back to increase 1; knit across to last stitch, knit front and back to increase 1.

WS: Purl across.

Continue in pattern for 32 rows. Bind off.

Repeat for Section 5.

Section 6

With WS facing, pick up stitches along the left side section of the shawl.

In this section, with the RS facing, you will add a stitch on every knit row at the beginning, then knit across to the edge.

RS: Knit front and back in first stitch, knit across.

WS: Purl across.

Continue in pattern for 32 rows. Bind off.

Single crochet to join the edges between Sections 3 & 4, 4&5, and 5&6, creating a raised ridge in each section.

Section 7
With the WS facing and beginning with a slipknot and using an F5 crochet hook, work single crochet pattern along bases of Sections 3-6. As you get to one of the points, work three single crochets in one stitch to enhance the corner. Work back and forth for approximately 1 inch. Fasten off. Note: starting with the WS helps correct the curling nature of the stockinette.


Single crochet at least one row around the entire shawl to help any curled edges lie down. I single crocheted two rows all the way around. Fasten off.


Section 1: Blue
Section 2: Yellow
Sections 3-6: Green
Section 7: Purple

The long straight lines indicate the general angles of the shawl. Note that this schematic is NOT an accurate reflection of the shawl's proportions.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I didn't know you knit!

I love those moments when you discover that someone you just met - or have known forever - or admired for something else entirely - is a knitter. It's a eureka! feeling, an instant connection, and a quantum shift in your perception of that person. Discovering someone is a knitter validates that sense of connection you were already feeling.

My neighbor across the street is a knitter. After ten years of waves and random greetings, we're neighborly, nothing more, because she and her husband have a busy medical practice and I have . . . well, the juggling-act-that-never-ends. At a neighborhood potluck, she admired my Pyramid Cardigan and asked about the miters. Aha! Only a knitter would ask for that information! She's been knitting for decades and I didn't know.

At Dunwoody Nature Center, knitting is a connection among two of the staff, one of our most dedicated volunteers, and a past volunteer who has since moved to California. I "met" TangleGirl through Ravelry and the nature center's executive director.

The amazing Eleanor Roosevelt was a knitter. She led a wave of knitters during World War II that spanned all generations. (There's a great article at HistoryLink.) I've always admired ER - her knitting is simply an extra lump of sugar in the cup of tea.

Audrey Hepburn knitted. She remains, for me, the personification of grace and poised stoicism. Of course, she knitted!

Celebrities are adding glamour to knitting, though I'm not sure how much Russell Crowe and Brad Pitt really knit (I can just hear their publicists saying, "here's something that'll get you in the press and broaden your demographic reach!"). If I walked into a LYS and discovered Tracey Ullman or Felicity Huffman sitting there, knitting merrily away, I'd happily join them and indulge in a nice chat about our WIPs. Knitting takes icons off their pedestals and places them firmly in the real world.

What's really intriguing to me is how many high energy, Type A personalities are or were knitters. Katherine Hepburn, Madeline Albright, Martha Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, Dumbledore (yes, Harry Potter's fearless leader), and Papa Berenstain Bear (that's right - check out He Bear, She Bear) . . . all knit, and all likely have benefitted from the meditative, relaxing qualities of knitting.

So while I'm sitting there in the airport, waiting room, bleachers, train station, or amusement park, knitting contentedly and listening to unsolicited discussions about grandma's experiments with ugly acrylics and how the speaker wishes he/she had "time" to knit, I think about the company I'm REALLY keeping.

The more there is to do, the more I get done. Just like knitters who happen to have very public careers.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Torn between two . . . knitters

In the alternate universe that is the UK, knitting is a mating dance - everyone dresses up for the occasion.

Evidently, Latin machismo doesn't preclude knitting.

And here in America, even dapper Cary Grant picked up the needles from time to time.

Knitters are everywhere. We're infiltrating all genders, all ages. And we're insidious.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"It's like knitting fog."

Googling again while researching a writing assignment, I came across this intriguing gem: "It's like knitting fog." A guy in the UK has been butting heads with the utilities (gee, that sounds familiar) and describes the experience with an amazingly apt image.

Can you imagine knitting fog? You knit row after row after row, and get nowhere.

I've felt that way in the between time between casting on and binding off miles of stockinette. Many Vogue patterns feel like fog . . . the directions require huge measures of brain drain to figure out how to get from Row 2 to Row 88. (Note to Vogue: before you tell me to "knit in pattern," make darned sure there's a direct connection to the blasted pattern. The sideways cardigan is going to be lovely, but it's a bear to start. Yarn Gal agrees - check out her blog on the pattern.)

But I'm going to persevere. Because I really like the design. That's how stubborn we knitters can be - full of hope in the face of poorly worded patterns, exasperating sizing, and thin models wearing prototypes that are probably clipped in the back where we can't see the bunching.