Rewards

Clouds above South Mountain

The monsoon has rolled over Phoenix like a giant slug, stifling us with icky damp humidity that rarely turns into rain. Our only reward is the cloudy mornings, which give a short break from the bright, sticky days. Although now that I’ve taken that picture and noticed how all the smog is nicely sandwiched between the clouds and the Valley, I will be slightly less enthused about breathing huge lungfuls of morning air.

Unfinished green cabled vest on a white chair

My creativity failed on this one and I arranged it in the “lumpy half-finished garment” pose

In knitting news, I sat myself down last night with Midnight in Paris and two bags of knitting: the Baby Thing and my Sexxxy Librarian vest (Click the link and check out how the pictures in that post are almost exactly the same as in this. I am feeling really, really unoriginal right now.) Somehow, the vest, my only project without a deadline, came out of its bag.

Knitting a mostly-finished project, off of a real pattern (not one I’m making up as I go along), while watching a movie I’d already seen before, was a lovely brain break. I will get back to deadline work later, but taking time off from that all, like our little breaks from glaring sunshine, was quite a reward.

Little Critters

Woman with red nail polish holding gray knitting

But what is it? No worries, something suitably strange.

There is a little baby coming in our circle of friends, and I am knitting it something so it can be strollered about in style. Well, probably not a little baby: both its parents are tall. I have bought yarn accordingly. More to come very soon, because worsted-weight yarn after weeks of lace is giddyingly fast.

Volcanoes and High Seas

Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments on the blanket! After the dazedness that comes right after finishing a big project, I am feeling very pleased. I have another FO too, and I am absolutely dying to show you, but I can’t…because it’s a Christmas gift.

Haboob over north central Phoenix

Pretty pink clouds in the sky, but look at the one touching the ground.

I know–Christmas is eons away. It certainly feels like it, with the monsoon just hitting Arizona (exhibit 1, haboob, above), and highs around 110º turning soupy with humidity. But my usual crazed Christmas-gift-making time will be crazed wedding-planning time this winter, so I am hoping to get a jump on things and not (totally) lose my mind here.

Seaking of not losing one’s mind, Querido and I escaped the heat this past weekend quite literally, driving up north to explore Wupatki National Monument.

Mousie Does Wupatki

Destination: Wupatki National Monument. Although it’s only about an hour past Flagstaff, I had never been.

Horizon at Wupatki National Monument

It was absolutely gorgeous, but also sad: several families whose ancestors had been living at the ruin for centuries were chased off park land when their presence was deemed too destructive. Living in the Southwest, where the nasty bits of history are closer to the surface, these uncomfortable moments happen pretty frequently. Although I’d like to say I came to some happy resolution on this point, I didn’t. Querido and I tromped around the park, where damaging residents and sheep had been removed so damaging tourists could take their place, and off we drove to Sunset Crater.

High Seas shawl in front of a cinder cone volcano

High Seas and volcanoes

Thankfully, knitting is just knitting, and I got a lot of it done. I completed 70 rows of High Seas (lots of car time!), which *fingers crossed* puts me at the halfway point!

Curtain of rain half-covering the sky

The storm came to us.

A short drive, a passing rainstorm, and here we are again, back in the muggy heat. What’s your favorite summer escape?

A Long Time Coming

Hello again, dear readers–I have resurfaced! Thanks for your patience as I knitted, sewed, and crocheted like a fiend. Objective: finish my longest-running UFO.

Seven years ago, I made my mom the first squares for a patchwork blanket for Mummy. Why? I’m not sure. I don’t like seaming, and patchwork = seaming. But I had some super nice, wooly yarn, and after receiving the first few squares, Mummy was excited about the prospect of a whole blanket.

Um. Yeah.

For about a year, I worked steadily on squares, delivering a new installment at each holiday, until there were enough to warrant a Box of Squares. The yarn was quite nice: Harrisville Designs’ Orchid Line, bought on my 18th-birthday trip to Flagstaff. Along the line, I added in some Lite-Lopi squares in purple, knitted together with one strand of Classic Elite’s Sea.

(Notice how all those yarns are discontinued)

Then I lost steam, getting distracted by anything and everything more interesting than knitting squares and sewing them together. This lasted a year or so. Although the blog shows no evidence of it, there was a short period where my interest was revived. I laid out all the knitted squares, arranged them in a nice design, and in an amazing moment of foresight, graphed out which squares went where, which squares were knitted, and which had not been knitted. I think that was one of my best moments as a knitter, because the enthusiasm that I was so sure would stay me through the long, long process of seaming an entire blanket shriveled and died after twelve squares had been seamed into two strips. Two strips, out of five.

Once again, more interesting things that did not involve seaming took precedence, and the stack of squares went into hiding in their box at the back of the armoire.

Insert a few more years, in which two more squares were unenthusiastically knitted, and we finally arrive at the past year. The box of squares was unearthed: first, when I moved out and my room was redone, and then again when Monita moved out and was collecting things she’d stored in the space I vacated. Guilt began nibbling away at me, but oh how that stack of squares looked like an awful lot of sewing. Especially because all the squares were different gauges, with different stitch counts. Mummy swore she still wanted the blanket, and I wanted it to be finished…but I still didn’t want to finish it. I didn’t want to finish it so much that I offered to pay Hermanita to do that mountain of sewing. She declined, and I was left with no alternative but to finish what I’d started. The unfairness, right?

Very, very reluctantly, I packed all the blanket bits up and took them to my place. Mummy’s birthday was coming up, so I had a hard deadline, and it had occurred to me that it might be nice to not have this massive UFO hanging over my head. I got all the squares–and the two strips–out, marveled at my one instance of project documentation, and realized how wise Hermanita had been to turn down the sewing. There was a lot of it.

White cat sitting on a blanket

This is what it looked like every time I tried to start working on the blanket

A new challenge presented itself: the kittens were obsessed with the blanket. There was not just the interest that all cats have in things laid out on flat surfaces, or things that are occupying your attention when you should be petting them. No, this was full-on obsession. The second the blanket came out, Eloise was on top of it, snuggled into the rough wool and purring her heart out.

White cat playing with a straight knitting needle

It was a great place to play with my knitting needles

White cat cleaning her paws on a blanket

And a great place to wash one’s toes

Tabby cat asleep on strips of knitted fabric

Even the less-snuggly Malthus got in on Blanket Time

Fast-forward though much time spent chasing away kittens, mattress-stitching boring seams on different-sized squares, and a weekend of crocheting.

Knitted Patchwork Blanket spread out on a bed

Taken last-minute, before I rushed out of the door to celebrate Mummy’s birthday with her

I finished it in time. My presentation was totally lacking: I didn’t block it, and a few stray ends remained on the back. But it turned out all right: a nice size, with a crab-stitch crocheted edging that is so much nicer than a single crochet edge.

And most importantly? It. Is. Done.

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Two Years and Four Days

Brown and white dog sitting on a bed

Melba works the camera

Many apologies, dear readers: this is going to be a flyby post. I have been so busy making things that I have not had the time to tell you about what I’ve been making. Hopefully that post will come soon.

Right now it’s time for a post about my best girl, Melba. Two years (and four days–I’m having trouble keeping on top of lots of things) ago, I brought Melba home from the pound.

Brown and white dog on grass with tongue hanging out

We were both a little freaked out when we got back from the pound

Last year I was simply amazed I had a dog. This year, I am amazed that Melba has only been with me two years. I wish she could be mine forever.

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In Another Life

Mousie under the mosaic ceiling at the Library of Congress

This is what my brain looks like when I think about librarianship. (Sans mouse, of course)

Thanks everyone for your happy thoughts on all the little fuzzies. They were extra cute this weekend–I think they could feel the good karma.

Today we are not going to have a post about knitting (I know, sad sniffles from me too). In one life, I am a slightly mad knitter with lots of pets and more yarn. In my other life, I am a librarian. There’s a blog to go with that life, too, and I am in the process of turning it into a portfolio.

It’s a scary process, holding up one’s work for the world to see. There are no flashy smoke-and-mirror shows here: what I know is what I know, and I can only hope it’s enough.

We’ll recoup with some knitting soon.

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The Smell of Dawn

A gray and white kitten snuggled together among towels

One year ago (give or take a few days), Querido texted me a picture of kittens. Not just any kittens–kittens that a friend of a coworker had found in a box by his car. They were about three weeks old: their eyes had opened but they were otherwise totally and completely helpless. The friend of the coworker couldn’t take them, and neither could Querido.

I text-shouted SOMEONE MUST SAVE THE KITTENS and that was my last coherent thought until I was sitting in the car with an Ikea tub on my lap, looking down at two squirming, mewing little alien kittens (like very new babies, very new kittens look like aliens). My thought at that point was “Holy cow this was not a good idea.”

That thought lasted through the entire drive home, the hour and a half spent delousing them and bathing them with foaming Dawn dish soap, and their first feeding (kitten formula stinks to high heaven). The kittens are saved! briefly resurrected itself as I put them to bed in a fresh nest of clean towels, but that is definitely not what I was thinking when I had to wake up at two in the morning to feed them again.

Tabby kitten sleeping on a person's stomach

Bathe, sleep, repeat

So many things I didn’t know about kittens. Like how the litter-box instinct doesn’t kick in until they are more than three weeks old. And how they mew constantly, a tiny, high-pitched sound that will drive you right out of your mind. Malthus wouldn’t eat if the bottle wasn’t held at the right angle, or if the formula wasn’t the right temperature. Nor would she eat when Eloise was clambering up my chest to get at the bottle, using her little needle-sharp claws as crampons.

Angelic kitten

Thank goodness Querido was there, to ooh and aah and marvel at their tininess and show me my text to remind me I was the one who shouted SOMEONE MUST SAVE THE KITTENS. During the twenty minutes a day they weren’t crying because their bottle wasn’t right, getting bathed, or shivering and crying under a towel post-bath, they were pretty cute.

Small white kitten with formula on her face

Eloise’s first attempts at eating

Sometimes they were even cute when I knew a bath was imminent.

Small tabby kitten chewing on a woman's finger

Early instinct to kick in: chewing

And when I was sacrificing my hand to make sure they got practice gnawing apart prey.

Two kittens sitting on the carpet

Practicing sitting like big kitties

After three weeks of a trial-by-fire introduction to kitten-keeping, suddenly their cat instincts started switching on. Litterbox switch–on. Do not swim through food, eat it–on. Walk, turn, climb–on. Suddenly they weren’t little mewing alien kittens, they were big playing destructo-kittens. At one year, Querido says they’re not even kittens any more, not really.

Two young cats playing

I WHACK YOU ON THE HEAD AND THEN YOU WHACK ME ON THE HEAD AND IT WILL BE THE BEST GAME EVER!!!!!

Maybe, but the smell of foaming Dawn soap still reminds me of kittens.

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In Which I Don’t Actually Save the Planet

Untidy darning on a gray sweater

Messy, but it’s held.

After eight years, it finally happened: my beloved Black Arrow cardigan got a hole. I made up the pattern off a vintage Shetland argyle cardigan purchased at our next door neighbor’s garage sale nearly 20 years ago and knitted it in Dalegarn Baby Ull. The button bands are too narrow, the back of the neck is stretched out, and the sleeves two different lengths. But I love this thing and have worn it incessantly since its completion in 2006.

Darning up the elbow, I started thinking about the factors that must co-occur for mending to happen. There is thrift or cheapness: I spent maybe $40 on yarn for my Black Arrow cardigan, but the hours that went into designing and knitting it come dearer to me now than they did when I was an undergrad working part-time. There is sentiment, as when Laura Chau mended her boyfriend’s jacket. Then there is creativity, amply embodied by the Visible Mending of Tom van Deijnen. For crafters like Felicity Ford and Ysolda Teague, clothing production has an intensely political component, and their efforts to mend sustainably produced clothes and remake old items hanging at the back of the closet reflect their big-picture approach to clothing.

I was thinking about all these factors as I took off on a deep cleaning kick this past week. A Me-Made May would have ended very quickly, unless of course I spent the entire month wearing my romper. Ditto a slow wardrobe. I can’t sew very well, and have neither the time nor equipment to invest in getting better. As much as these über crafters have taught me about the lifecycle of clothes, and as much as they inspire me with their ambition and skill, I simply don’t have the karma to claim their level of sustainability.

But there were some things I noticed as I tore through my closet. A little bit of thrift. For as often as I go to the mall, a decent chunk of my wardrobe originated in a thrift shop. Regardless of origin, all items are worn to death, and I am grateful to my mother that I can repair a popped seam and sew on buttons, even if the workmanship won’t land me any prizes at the county fair.

Large gray tam

This thing was ginormous

Gray scarf with a lace pattern

This one always curled

A lot of sentimentality. Clothes I just don’t wear anymore head off to Goodwill, and my first few sweaters got shipped there too, but sometimes, I need the yarn. The scarf and hat above just weren’t well executed, but my best friend brought me the yarn from Ecuador the same summer I was in Mexico finishing my Black Arrow cardigan. I can’t part with it, so zip-zip, I unraveled the ill-fated accessories and am dreaming of fantastic worsted-weight hats.

Lip gloss box into needle case

Lip gloss box into needle case

And of course, creativity. My deep-cleaning kick unearthed this cardboard case from a tube of lip gloss, saved for many, many years because it *had* to be useful for something. Does anyone else do this with the interesting odds and ends they come across? Having just put away my darning needles in the sad little package in which they were sold, I finally had a new use for this nifty little piece of packaging. New needle case! It even holds the teeny-tiny handmade wooden case for my little sewing needles.

These fits and starts and unexpected instances of thrift won’t save the planet or shift the tide of forces driving worldwide clothing production. But I do enjoy the challenge of making the stuff that floats around with me last a little longer. It’s a way for me to save favorite items with special stories, and when I get really creative, I come up with crafting accoutrements and outfits that don’t make me look like a crazy person (most days).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to figure out how to repair today’s thrift-shop blouse.

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Watching Me Clean is *Exhausting*

Sleepy dog on a chair

After frantically following me around as I cleaned, the puppy zonked out on a chair

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