valentine’s day

I am married to the man I have loved for more than 30 years. And what romantic things do we do for Valentine’s Day? Absolutely nothing. Well, we exchange cards. But we agreed a long time ago that it’s what happens ALL 365 days of the year, not just on February 14, that matters. Knowing that this man loves me and will never leave me and that I feel the same way about him; that we have raised two wonderful children together; that we have made countless memories; that we not only love each other but are still IN love with each other is worth more than all the flowers, balloons, and teddy bears on the planet.

In knitting, as well as love, you need a partner.  I have four.  Here is one of them.

This is Sophia, or Sophie for short — or when she’s being exceptionally silly, Fifi (which is what my daughter christened her when I brought her home because she was too small for a big name like Sophie. Some students found her in the bus loading zone and brought her to me so that she wouldn’t get abused or hurt. I didn’t need a fourth cat, but she was (and is) such an endearing little thing, that I got one. She is much younger (and more exasperating) than the other cats, but they have adjusted pretty well. Except my son’s cat, who cannot accept that there are any other cats on the planet. Miss Sophie is very interested in the qualities which yarn possesses.

As you can see, she is supervising the winding of 100% merino handspun by my daughter. I taught my daughter to knit several years ago, but she announced that knitting just wasn’t for her. I tried not to hyperventilate. After all, you cannot live your children’s lives for them and part of being a mother is knowing when to let go. Then, I began reading the Yarn Harlot’s blog and I showed Brenna the pictures of the socks that Stephanie always seems to be knitting. She was completely and utterly fascinated by the “really cool socks.” Then Stephanie posted a link to the arrrrrgyle socks at Moth Heaven, and she was hooked. Now, you have to understand that my delicate, feminine daughter simply adores anything with skulls on it (go figure) and the only way to get arrrrgyle socks is to knit them. And her mother doesn’t (or hasn’t yet) knit socks. So that left her with only one resource — her own self. The yarn in her lap is actually part of a scarf, and her next project is a ribbed sleeveless turtleneck, but I am confident that she will get to the socks. Once Miss Sophie (who has become Brenna’s cat) finishes helping with the scarf, that is. In that way that only an attentive and loving helpmate can.

Frankly, I don’t know how you knit without a cat. Who else will bat your ball of yarn across the room, effectively unwinding most of it? Or chew the tips off of your bamboo needles, thus rendering them useless? Or get cat hair all over your new creation? And let us not speak of the serene knitting moments ruined by the sudden realization that the mysterious dampness on your yarn is undoubtedly kitty spit. How do knitters who only own loyal, faithful, dependable dogs do it? Where’s the excitiment?

the ghost of christmas past

When I made the Mickey Mouse sweater for Beverly, I also made a Winnie-the-Pooh sweater for Josie. The three of us worked together at the Fresno County Health Department for 10 years. I wouldn’t wade through that much stockinette stitch for just anybody. I know that a lot of people get into the “zen” of knitting stockinette, but I generally like something with a wee bit more character. Although stockinette is great if you’re watching TV or just need something straightforward to work on. There is a soothing calmness to stockinette.

Somehow when I looked for the yarns for the Mickey Mouse intarsia, it was a no brainer — everything just fell into place. I ordered a peach yarn for the face and it was the right shade of peach. When I started this one, however, it was another story. I looked and looked for the right shade for Pooh. One yarn was too yellow, one yarn was too gold. Finally, on my way home from San Jose, I pulled over at the Michael’s in Gilroy on an impulse. I was wandering the aisles and it was the same thing: too yellow, too gold. Then I spotted a rug kit called Pooh and Friends by Caron. If they made rug yarn in the right Pooh shade, they just had to make knitting yarn; so I narrowed my focus. There it was. I pounced. I learned pouncing skills from my cats and I know pouncing. Huzzah! I could do the sweater. I’m actually quite pleased with how he turned out and he is exactly the right shade.

Since it’s a black sweater, the details don’t show up, but it’s knit in TLC’s Amore. Usually, I don’t like acrylic, but this yarn is incredibly soft and it worked for both sweaters. All three of us are in our 50s, but Beverly and Josie are HUGE Disney fans and I love them dearly, so they got character sweaters.

After I finished these two sweaters, I made my first scarf. Yep. Been knitting for 40 years and I had never made a scarf. I started with sweaters and I stuck with sweaters. In fact, I started with a white sweater, which was a really bad choice for a 12-year-old. By the time I finished it, it was more of a sweatshirt grey. But my mother got it clean and I wore it proudly for many years.

The Orphan Foundation of America was looking for red scarves for their February packages and I just happened to have red yarn left over from the Mickey sweater, so I did a basketweave. I didn’t photograph it, though. Beverly (she of the Mickey sweater) was raised in foster homes, so I thought it was a good cause.

why am I here?

I learned to knit when I was 12 and have been plodding along ever since. My sins are many — I ignored the yarn suggestions in patterns, trying to knit with whatever was available, I never knit swatches to check gauge, and so on. I love this art, but I was never really serious about it.

Since the yarns of my youth were usually hard to come by in the Great Central Valley of California and the ones I did find were usually acrylic in rather startling colors — I wonder if receiving a “loving hands at home” sweater knit by some well-meaning relative who clearly has no idea how cool you are is a rite of passage? Hasn’t it happened to everyone? If not a sweater, then it’s a horrible afghan knit in acrylic variegated yarn and a ripple stitch. But, I digress. The yarns were not inspiring and I drifted away — having frogged back virtually everything I tried to a ball of yarn stuck in a cupboard.

Then Katie introduced me to The Yarn Harlot and, while Katie foolishly describes me as a good knitter (hey! she’s my friend), I saw at once how short I fell of the mark. I began devotedly reading Stepanie Pearl-McPhee’s posts, including her archives. I began reading her books. I went and heard her speak in Los Altos. My eyes were opened. I needed to get back into yarn and I needed to do it right. Through Stephanie’s blog,, I met Lene Alve, a beautifully serene and brilliant knitter in Finland. How could I even call what I did knitting? I knew nothing.

As proof that life is filled with irony, I am suddenly being approached by all and sundry to teach them how to knit. Excuse me? I am not worthy and suddenly I am the resident expert? Well, I suppose I can teach a group of teenage girls how to do a knit stitch at least, but let’s not make any further claims. However, it has given me a use for all those rolled up mistakes — Club Chic can use them for practice. It is odd how even an adequate knitter like myself appears knowledgeable to the uninitiated.

I am currently reading Sally Melville’s book, The Knit Stitch. I owe Ms. Melville an apology for when I first saw her book, my response was an arrogant, “How can you do an entire book on one stitch?” I was foolish. I admit I was wrong. I do not know if I will ever knit anything from the book because I am not overly fond of garter stitch, but it is full of valuable insight and information. In my humbled condition, it has much to teach me.

I hope this will be a year of learning. I want to try new projects and do them well. To show you that I am not completely useless, this is the sweater that I made for my friend Beverly for Christmas last. Yes, we are both too old for this sort of nonsense, but who cares?