I promised a sneak peek at the vintage buttons that will finally find a home on the Guinevere Evening Cardigan, my March NaKniSweMoDo work in progress.

And because I’ve always been terrible at keeping secrets (except when it comes to surprise parties; ask my husband about that sometime…), here they are: These three are metal-backed, domed shank buttons with faceted iridescent rhinestones set in all around. They glint and sparkle with shades of green and turquoise that are set off by the green yarn.

I’ve been holding onto these buttons for years, waiting patiently for the right project to come along. And when I received this yarn (Green Tea Aran Silky Merino) from Sundara as the first installation of her 2009 Sweater Collection yarn subscription, I knew the right yarn had at last arrived. And since I’d been sketching an idea for a new design and waiting until the right yarn for THAT came into my life, it was pretty much a triple whammy of perfection: right yarn, right design, right buttons.

At the top of the button band will be one button that is different from the dome-shaped rhinestone trio; it is vibrant turquoise enamel on brass and equally gorgeous.

This one will be stitched onto the front of the button band, which will be closed underneath by way of a large single snap. This will help prevent the button’s metal edges from fraying the yarn, and the button can be secured in a way that will keep it flat against the body of the cardigan, preventing the dreaded button droop.

I am so excited! Now to finish the cardigan.


While outside weeding on this 65-degree, sunny day (Oh, so that’s what sunshine feels like… it has been raining so long, I’d forgotten how lovely the sun feels upon the pallid skin in early spring), I noticed all kinds of new growth around the garden.

Weeding efforts focused on the California poppies that, living up to their name, are doing their best to “pop” up all over the front garden, in and around the roses and deep inside the protective camouflage of the ground covers where they doubtless hope to proliferate unnoticed. Of course, one doesn’t want to eradicate them completely. They do add a certain wild, cheerful – even hedonistic – element to the sedate roses around them. And in recent years we have had large swaths of not only the classic brilliant orange poppies, but delicate pink and white ones as well. So we want to encourage those varieties.

While pulling the worst poppy offenders, I discovered another incipient arrival; this arum variety with its enormous flower spike. That flower, when it blooms, will be nearly black in color, and of a rich, velvety texture that is both unusually gorgeous and gorgeously unusual.

Sadly, the orchids in their gigantic pots on the back terrace did not fare well this winter. Several hard frosts in January and early February killed off most of the new growth, leaving me only one surviving specimen – and as you can see, even this one doesn’t look too healthy.

Too much frost, not enough sun… we droop in protest.

Finally, along the back fence is a clematis planted three years ago as a tiny rooting. It didn’t do much to impress me during either its first or its second year in the garden. This year, however, I see hopeful signs that it has finally settled in and will produce some of the spectacular white blooms it is known for.

Is Anybody Else Freaked Out By This (In a Good Way)?

Do you realize what is happening on Sunday? (Actually, Saturday night if your household is like mine.) Here’s what is happening… we will all – except for residents of Arizona, of course – move our clocks forward an hour as we launch into Daylight Savings Time. Which gets longer and longer every couple of years.

First, Ronald Reagan moved up the start of Daylight Savings Time from the end of April to early April, and in my opinion it was one of the precious few GOOD things he accomplished during his presidency. Then Dubya moved it up again, from the first Sunday in April to the second Sunday in March. The return in the fall to Standard Time moves out concurrently, getting a few weeks later each time one of our pitiful Republican presidents (realizing belatedly that most of the country despises him and thinks less than favorably of his “accomplishments” while in office) feels the need to do something memorable – something that will jog people to think, “Well, at least he did THAT. At least I can drive home from work in October and it’s still light outside when I get there.” Like that. Woo-hoo!

I’m not complaining. I LIKE it when the days feel longer. It makes it seem that summer can’t be that far off. I like it even when I find myself outside weeding at 7 o’clock (instead of making dinner like I should be) because the persistent sunshine got me all disoriented. The only thing I don’t like about it is that for several weeks it is still totally dark outside when I get up in the morning. Seriously, at 6 am in northern California in late March, it is still pitch black outside. The moon is still hanging around in the sky, not even coming in off the night shift yet, as if to say, “What the heck are you doing out of bed already?”

But I digress. In fact, rereading this I realize I’m starting to sound like Andy Rooney at the end of 60 Minutes, when he rambles on about something circuitous and pointless for the 60 seconds he now gets – before they fade to black and hustle him off the air. Will that guy ever retire? (Andy, just between us – time to call it a day, my friend. Your curmudgeonly schtick was cute – often even entertaining – for the first thirty or so years, but now, like you, it’s just old hat. Sorry about that. Accuse me of ageism if you must, but I think millions of Americans would agree with me on this.)

Vision (Camera) Quest

In addition to its broken lens cover that shuts the lens down if it is so much as tapped, even when especially when I am in the midst of taking photos, now my camera’s flash has gone on strike as well. So now I can take photos only outside, and only when the sun is shining. Which is all well and good for the garden photos, but definitely terrible for photographing my knitting.

How gorgeous am I? You can call me “Queen of the Night” Hellebore.

I had a great hat to show off, too – a slouchy cap knit in the same happy striped colorway as the V-Neck sweater (Now where is that sweater? Oh, yeah – my daughter is hiding/hoarding “borrowing” it, and it’s somewhere in the bowels of her darkened teenage bedroom.). The hat had already been sent off to my mom in New York by the time I realized that those photos did not come out. Take a picture, Mom!

Meanwhile, a new project is in the works: the March NaKniSweMoDo project. Here is a sneak peek at the yarn. It is Sundara’s amazing Aran Silky Merino, 50% silk and 50% merino wool. Between the lovely drape and the silky sheen, the saturated color with its subtle striations and the soft hand, I am totally head over heels for this yarn.

This particular colorway is “Green Tea,” one of the colors available during her Sweater Club offering. This yarn collection was my holiday gift last year, and it is definitely a gift that keeps on giving.

When I have a flash available, I’ll photograph the fabulous vintage buttons that will fasten this sweater; they were given to me by a friend years ago, when her grandmother died and my friend inherited the button box. Now that’s an inheritance worth having! It was full of special buttons for which my friend had no use, so she gifted them to me and I’ve been saving them for projects that are equally special… such as this one.

Tah-Dah! February NaKniSweMoDo #2

Blush-colored flowering quince, fresh out of the shower.

I did it! Though it took nearly a week to dry on the blocking board, the Stripey Noro V-Neck sweater officially joined the ranks of my finished objects by the end of February. After watching those glorious colors snake through my fingers for the better part of three weeks, I am as much in love with them as ever. And after blocking, the combination of Cash Iroha and Silk Garden is even softer and more delicious next to the skin: the ultimate cozy wearable.

And guess who has oh-so-casually hinted that she just might adopt it as her own, despite my determination to keep this one for myself?

This looks so much better on me than it does on my mom!

Just take a good look at the smiling teenaged model above and you’ll have your answer. Sigh…

Spent yesterday all day at Stitches West, sadly camera-less, but absolutely gobsmacked at the variety and loveliness of the yarn and notions available. I kept a fairly tight rein on my wallet, but even so I did end up succumbing to a couple of irresistible stash enhancing purchases. Now that I am in the market for a new camera – my heretofore trusty Canon PowerShot S70 suddenly and quickly declined in function from merely “quirky” to “unsalvageable” – posts for the first part of March will unfortunately suffer from either a total absence of photos or a replay of the last batches I was able to eke out of the camera before it went kaput.

The Bloom(berg) Report

So the rain let up, just for today, and the sun came out. A reminder that in a couple of months, we will look back on the deluge of the last couple of weeks and wish we’d gotten still more rain. Meanwhile, taking advantage of the golden light while the sun shines, I hurried outside with camera in hand.

There’s a corner of the garden in the back where the daphne and hellebores are in full, gloriously perfumed, flower. And where the violets have formed a carpet of delicate color under the still-bare branches of the old pear tree. The fragrance is sublime, refined (unlike the heavy scent of a few renegade hyacinths around the corner), tantalizing and then fading each time the breeze picks up to disperse it throughout the garden. I spotted these double – make that triple – violets, just a little patch of them off by themselves, their frilly petticoat petals the palest shade of lavender blushed with cream. Where they came from is anybody’s guess.

And these little lanterns, waxy cascades against the brilliant green of their leaves. Lovely.

February Showers


It has been raining non-stop here all week. Even last week. And with every passing storm, I’d find myself glancing up at the sky to see if there were any rainbows. It took me years to figure out that if the sun came out while it was still raining, all one had to do was look in the opposite direction from the sun, and there would be the rainbow. Try it sometime; it works. Anyway, I finally saw my first 2009 rainbow on Monday, while driving in my car. Mostly, I saw it from my rearview mirror, which is definitely not the most satisfying way to admire a rainbow. This was a really intense one, too, with all those brilliant colors in sharp relief against the graphite skies. As I had no camera in hand with which to capture its magnificence, I could only make a mental note. But I saw it, I really did. And it was gorgeous.


By the time I reached home ten minutes later, it was gone. Evaporated. Ephemeral. So I grabbed my camera and ran outside as soon as the next storm passed through, and captured some additional ephemera on an otherwise dreary day.


Flowering quince.

So Excited I Can Hardly Stand It

At least two years ago (and possibly three) I planted some helleborus rootings that were supposed to have double flowers. And for at least two years (and possibly three) absolutely nothing happened. I forgot all about them, and concentrated on admiring the reliable performers among my single-flowering hellebores that bloom late every winter, like these:

Spectacular in their own right, I didn’t want them to get an inferiority complex even though I felt gypped out of my monetary investment (these mail-order nurseries…) on the double-flowering variety. Then, while I was out rambling around the garden, I noticed this:

And this:

Worth waiting for.


My latest NaKniSweMoDo project, the Stripey Noro V-neck, is moving swiftly along. Yes, I know that will be two sweaters completed in February and that makes me sound like an obnoxious over-achiever, but the Lotus cardigan was already a WIP when I picked it up again, with only the bottom half of the body left to complete. Now for the truly new project, the V-neck sweater body is done (goodness, I love circular needles!) and the first sleeve is well underway.

I hoped to have it ready to wear during my upcoming trip to NY, but suspect it will be my plane project instead. I just don’t knit that fast; with three hand and finger surgeries behind me, it will always be necessary to take frequent stretching breaks. As it is, my fingers are already depressingly uncooperative when I first wake up in the morning.

Still, an hour working on a project like this is almost as good (and not nearly as caloric) as a bar of my favorite chocolate. The colors literally make me smile, gloriously sherbet and sunset-toned as they are.

Using a slightly smaller needle size than Silk Garden and Cash Iroha usually call for seems to be helping the pieces retain their shape. I’ve been warned by many knitting friends that these two Noro yarns have a terrible tendency to stretch, so going down a needle size seems like a prudent precaution. I’ve also made several pattern modifications to tighten things up, sleeve and body hem ribbing chief among them. OK, back to my needles and yarn!


At this time of year, it’s easy to understand why landscapers refer to this kind of retaining wall as “moss rock.”

I counted at least four, and possibly six different varieties of moss and lichen growing on these rocks that line our front walk, all of which have appeared as a result of the torrential rains we’ve had for the last week or so.

It’s really as if these rocks have come alive: their contours shift and blur, and their newfound green brilliance makes a stunning contrast to the dark mulched ground.

Be Still, My Heart

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

I wish you abundant love and all the chocolate you can eat.

Tenacious Little Bugger

Hi – I’m a flowering quince.
Please ignore my lethally sharp thorns
while you admire my sculptural branchy beauty.

I’ve already extolled the perennial cuteness of the Hardenburgia vine that climbs up our side fence every February. But have I also mentioned its pernicious persistent clamouring up every vertical surface that offers the possibility of adherence?

Hardenburgia resembles, I’ve come to realize (even though I wait expectantly for its first blooms every winter during the coldest rainiest days), a hyper-horny mutt of indeterminate origins, climbing the leg of every stick of furniture and every human it can reach in the attempt to spread its genes around.

That’s what the Hardenburgia vines do, but at least they don’t poke their noses into places where they don’t belong, and at least they don’t lick you, leaving a residue of dog breath behind (can you tell I’m more of a cat person?).

The English violet is another plant that pokes itself into places you might think it doesn’t belong, but once it insinuates itself there, it looks so right it’s as if it had been there all along. What began as a six-pack of tiny little violet seedlings from the local nursery several springs ago has spread into a carpet of sweetly scented violets under the ancient pear tree in our back garden. Another plant for which I search every spring, for while the leaves are often evergreen in our climate, the temperature has to reach a certain comforting warmth before the blooms begin.

Warm and Woolly Lotus

Just a reminder that Spring is right around the corner
despite all evidence to the contrary!

God forbid I should ever have a hot flash while wearing the Lotus cardigan – it is so thick and hairy (but in an attractive halo’d way, not in an unshaven, unkempt way) – because I swear it might just melt onto my skin.
The shaping is just weird enough to work, and I really like the fit from the side view. From the front view, however, I look like an extremely well-padded protege of Batman.
As long as I keep moving, you can’t tell exactly how unflattering a garment this is, so maybe I’ll even wear it out in public sometime (perhaps to collect the newspapers from the top of the driveway very early on cold mornings when my neighbors are still asleep – that counts, right?). And did I mention the colors? Really lovely and subtle. I do like the colors. Really.
But the colors I really, REALLY like are these:

About which I promise to have much more to say soon!

Pajama Day

The pajama day is vastly under-rated for its medicinal value. I’ve had a nasty case of flu for the last few days, and spent most of Saturday curled miserably on the family room sofa, shivering under four layers of quilts while my fever soared, sticking my wobbly head out only when the wracking coughs got so bad I couldn’t breathe inside my little cocoon. It wasn’t pretty.

So today I spent almost the entire day in bed, having what my family calls a “pajama day.” If you’ve guessed that this means I never got dressed, you’re absolutely right.
Under ordinary circumstances, the pajamas come off and the “real” clothes go on almost as soon as I get out of bed in the morning, and definitely within minutes of brushing my teeth. I’ve never been good at lounging around in a state of deshabille (I love that word – deshabille – but don’t think I’ve ever had a chance to use it before now!), but today I succumbed and stayed put. Aside from the slothfulness that is a natural corollary of feeling residually crappy, my husband, bless him, brought me a cup of tea fixed exactly the way I like it AND the Sunday newspaper. I spent the next several hours reading leisurely – in other words, spending Sunday exactly as it should be spent! And after that, I made the I-cord and stitched the button onto my Lotus cardigan.
See how pale and sickly I look?
And after that, I finished a book I’ve really enjoyed: Lost Hearts In Italy, by Andrea Lee. And then I started a new knitting project, about which more later. And you know what? I actually feel so much better now.
After subsisting all day on nothing (lack of appetite is for me a sure sign that something is seriously wrong!) but cups of hot tea and glasses of cool orange juice that both felt good going down my raw throat, I think I might just have a little appetite for dinner. Is that pizza I smell?

Lotus Cardigan Almost-FO

Here it is, a cardi in a hurry. It took some rummaging around in my stash to locate the sleeves, fronts, and back that were completed late last year, but eventually I did find them. Spent yesterday evening pinning the pieces into place, stitching the shoulder, sleeve and body seams, then easing the skirt onto the bodice and working the little neck band as a finishing touch.

Now that this baby is on the blocking board, I could use a little advice on the choice of buttons. What do you think? Should I go with the single large shell button that reflects the blues and greens in the sweater?

I always like the organic feel of a shell button, and the sheen of its iridescence plays nicely off the incredible loft of the yarn.

Or should I go with the two smaller coppery ones that pick up the browns and grays? I can’t decide, and would appreciate some help on this. Feel free to weigh in here in the comments section.

Here they are up close so you can see their embossed design.

Even as I admire the unique shaping of this garment, I realize it may turn out to be one of those projects that languishes in my closet, unworn and unloved, until finally I give it away. I tried it on for fit before soaking it, and although the fit is pretty much as perfect as it gets, I’m still deciding whether I like the rippling effect of the “skirt.” Let’s just say this is not a slimming sweater, but it will certainly be warm.