Have You Any Wool?

Well, we all know I’ve got plenty. But that didn’t stop me from venturing north with a friend on the last day of October to the Yolo Wool Mill near Sacramento, for their annual sheep shearing festival. I had never seen mill equipment in action, let alone yarn in so many of its formative stages, so the carding and spinning operation tour appealed to my nerd side.

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It was fascinating – and these were old machines from New England that had been shipped out to California when the owner decided to get into the wool milling business many years ago. Can you imagine the detective work that would be required to figure out what went wrong if this machine suddenly stopped in mid-cycle?

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This wool waiting to be spun was gossamer soft, plush and airy.

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This odd couple met us upon our arrival; at first I thought the rabbit must be terrified of the dog, who kept nosing at its cage. But as it turned out, far from cringing in fear, the rabbit pressed its own nose right up against the mesh cage with equal enthusiasm. The two turned out to be buddies, strangely enough. But the rabbit could not be counted on not to run away, unlike the dog, which explains why one is caged and the other not.

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Not surprisingly, there were flocks of sheep pastured all around the mill and farm. These two darling little guys lay patiently as children petted them. Not a lot of yarn for sale at the little booths that were set up on the grounds, which was a bit disappointing.

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My favorite sight occurred on our way back home, when we took a wrong turn and wound up on a dead-end road traversing a marshy wetland. Suddenly, there rose up from the reeds and cattails this majestic bird – wingspan approximately four feet. The air was so still, and had that particular brackish smell of still water mixed with dried grasses. I don’t know if this was a heron or some other variety, but he was stunning.

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In Every End, A Beginning

One of the eternally perplexing mysteries of California to this East Coast native is the change of seasons. I simply have to give up my inclination to measure it out by the calendar, because after nine years here I know, at least, that the calendar has nothing to do with the seasons as I know them. The waning of long, white-bright summer days into short, brilliant autumn days, that in turn give way early to indigo evenings, is a pattern that has become part of my DNA. So I can’t help being disappointed by the absence of traditional fall foliage, although I’ve learned to enjoy the occasional perfect red or golden tree that I see in my travels.

This coral bark maple outside our front door is a showstopper, especially against the vivid blue of the fall sky. Almost overnight, its leaves go from a flash of chartreuse to the color and texture of dry straw, so I always pause to appreciate its brief show.

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No more artichokes until next spring, but those that are allowed to bloom on the stalk are spectacular in their own way. Enormous. Sculptural. Inedible but glorious.

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Highly edible, however, are the delicate lettuces in the vegetable garden, where already I cannot seem to pick them fast enough.

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In addition to the last of the figs, the citrus trees are loaded with unripe fruit. Our lime tree is already starting to drop the early ones, and I try not to let a single one go to waste. Often I just squeeze them and pour the juice into ice cube trays for later use. A couple of those cubes with a splash of Sour Cherry Syrup and seltzer makes a divinely refreshing drink.

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By rights, the dahlias should be done by now. The first hard freeze will definitely turn the remaining stems into limp and slimy straws. But not yet. Nope. For now, there are still fat buds on those stems…

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… as well as the occasional ripe bloom that invites the local moth population to settle down for a visit.

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What really makes me catch my breath are sights like this remontant iris. Although I’d read that certain iris varieties MAY bloom twice in a single season if the conditions are exactly right, I never expect mine to perform as advertised. As with many other things in life, there’s no guarantee from the iris catalogue company that a second bloom cycle will occur. Cynic that I am, I wonder how often, then, could it really happen? So this is a rare treat, and one I won’t take for granted.

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What surprises me the most about Fall is how much rebirth surrounds me. Back east, it was the rare, robust rose that could survive and continue blooming into late October, yet the ones in my garden show no intention of fading away.

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If anything, those last blooms of autumn have an intensity and lushness that suggests they know on some cellular level that their days are numbered.

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No, that’s not my age or my house number. Rather, it was the temperature inside my house when I awoke this morning. Fortunately for me, I had gone to bed wearing pajamas and gym socks. Only around midnight, when I just couldn’t seem to muster enough body heat to fall asleep, did I roll reluctantly out of bed to don a sweatshirt as well. But I did not – no, I did NOT – turn on the heat. The thought never even occurred to me, even after the cat had insinuated herself under the covers to lie pressed against my side in an effort to warm herself. It was only October 28th, after all.

 You see, when we first moved to California we made a rule that has stuck with us even nine years later when our blood has thinned out and we have pathetically low somewhat reduced tolerance for the early morning chill and the raw rainy days of Bay area winters. Even now that we have become self-professed “delicate California flowers,” our rule prevails. That rule is: we don’t turn on the heat before November first.

Despite the cooling off, or perhaps because of it, the camellias are starting to bloom in the garden:

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All I have to add is this: thank goodness Sunday is November first!

Our Nation’s Capitol

I have not been a tourist in Washington, DC in many years. Although I lived in and around that city for a total of seventeen years in the ’80s and ’90s, I have not had reason to return until recently, when a dear friend had one of those big birthdays that deserve to be celebrated. This has been a banner year for our friendship, in that we’ve seen each other three times, after many years when all we managed to do was exchange letters, emails, and the occasional phone call.

The first time we got together this year was after she had a brain tumor removed. Florence Nightingale that I am, I went to help out for a week. Then, this spring, I was stranded overnight in DC due to bad weather (thanks so very much, Continental Airlines!) on my way up to a tiny regional airport in NY… the perfect excuse to couch-surf in her cozy apartment and share an impromptu visit. But this time, we were able to walk everywhere, playing tourist in the cool but humid October days.  Ate some fabulous meals, chiefly at the Old Ebbitt Grill (where, among other delicacies, I had some wondrously fresh raw oysters) and Sequoia down at the Washington harbour – the latter of which was the site of the Big Birthday Dinner:

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These chandeliers at Sequoia had to be twenty feet tall, managing to be both sculptural and illuminating:

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The leaves were changing dramatically enough to thrill my autumn-color-starved eyes:

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The White House is more barricaded than ever but just as lovely and impressive once you slip your camera between the iron fence rails for an unimpeded photo opportunity:

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We also toured the National Holocaust Museum, which I found extremely difficult to see, yet unforgettably moving. While certainly not a cheerful way to spend two hours, the Holocaust remains arguably the most compelling historical event of the 20th century. An entire museum dedicated to preserving its memory is not too much to ask. Even the busloads of schoolkids touring it with us seemed to take it seriously. The United States behaved shamefully during the war, I am sorry to say; our government’s leaders knew full well what was happening to the European Jews, yet did almost nothing to help them until it was too late.

An antidote was to be found at the public garden at Dumbarton Oaks. It was a breathtaking place to spend an afternoon, tramping through the wild yet manicured grounds. We had the place practically to ourselves – and around every corner was another wonder of casually calculated “natural” beauty:

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By the end of the weekend, I was ready to move back.

Color and Couture

Where have I been? On a very long Amtrak ride from San Jose to Santa Barbara, to take part in the first-time-ever Color and Couture knitting workshop! Long train rides, like long flights, are premium knitting opportunities, and our group took full advantage of the time. Our train was incredibly comfortable – far more so than the economy section of any plane I’ve ever been on. The seats were enormous, leg room was generous, and there were wide pull-out footrests to ensure total traveling comfort. The train had an observation car with floor to ceiling windows and swivel chairs, the better to appreciate the landscape shifts outside:

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We passed through the Central Valley:

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Lots of farms, some with cattle grazing on the hillsides, some with vineyards marching as far as the eye could see, and some with fields planted with strawberries and other colorful crops. What a way to see the California countryside! And about an hour outside of Santa Barbara we reached the coastal tracks, where it got a bit nerve-wracking as we traversed bridges that appeared to be cantilevered over the ocean cliffs.

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My good friend Sandy accompanied me for the weekend, so it was a girlfriends’ road trip as much as a knitting retreat. Sandy moved away from the Bay area about four years ago, and our town has never been the same. She works at Jimmy Beans Wool in Reno, so she has the inside track on all the new yarns and pattern books coming out each season.

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Here are two of our instructors (and the coordinators) for the retreat, Susan Schlesinger (L) of  Bonita Knitting Store near San Diego and Erin McGee (R) of Bobbin’s Nest Studio in Santa Clara. They did an incredible job with their workshops on Color Theory and Updating Your Knitting Repertoire. In addition, the take-aways from this retreat were outstanding! I came home with several free skeins of luscious yarn (and that’s not even including the ones I purchased at the “boutique” set up in our conference room), at least a dozen free patterns and a couple of new books, as well as a fabulous assortment of knitting notions, needles, and more. It was a challenge to zip up my suitcase, to be honest, even after I opened up the expandable section!

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If you’ve never had an opportunity to take a pattern fitting workshop with Joan McGowan-Michael of White Lies Designs, I encourage you to seek her out. Her seminar on achieving the perfect “couture” fit for any hand-knitted garment was masterful. Joan has a comprehensive design background, and is the author of Knitting Lingerie Style, one of the books I refer to often in my knitting library.

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Here is Joan’s trunk show featuring just a handful of her original designs… every single one of them is gorgeous; beautifully finished and outrageously feminine.

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Not everybody made it into this group photo – there were about 30 of us altogether. Lots of different knitting skill levels, but everyone benefited. A great group of women from both northern and southern California, brought together for one glorious weekend.

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For me, the high point of the weekend was that I finished re-knitting and re-assembling my striped Noro V-neck sweater. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but it really does fit me much better. My mods were to add 2 x 2 ribbing to the hem, and long ribbed sleeves (wrist to mid-forearm), as well as a 2 x 2 ribbed neck band. These small touches gave the garment just a bit more of a finished look.

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The Eyebrows Have It

Among the vicissitudes of aging, I was prepared for the AARP membership invitation that recently hit my mailbox. As prepared as I could ever be, I guess, for the sample AARP magazine issue on newsprint-quality paper that practically begs you to lick a finger before turning each page. I’ve embraced my laugh lines with good grace, mostly, although the aches and pains that follow my gym workouts, somewhat less so.

What I never expected was that once I hit fifty, my light brown eyebrows would fade into a nearly invisible shade of white-blonde.


Or is that simply white? It never occurred to me that I might finish out my days with a look of perpetual astonishment on my face, but that is exactly the expression looking back at me in the mirror. For if eyes are the windows of the soul, then eyebrows are definitely the bold signposts of the emotions. Summon a mental image of the great screen actresses from the 1940s like Joan Crawford or Claudette Colbert, and which defining feature comes to mind? That’s right! Whether arched in surprise, cocked in skepticism, or furrowed in anger, for those femmes fatales their eyebrows were the most emphatic punctuation on their beautiful faces. And I’m not talking about the current high fashion trend seen on the runways for painted-on “eyebrows” that are too thin, too high, and too dark to have even a fraction of the assertive grace of their forebears’ eyebrows. 

The disappearance of my own eyebrows into a state of pallid neutrality has rendered mute an integral feature of my expressive repertoire. Now I’m beginning to appreciate why eyebrow restoration, coloring, and even false eyebrow sales are a multi-million-dollar component of the cosmetics industry. I’ve realized why my elderly parents – eyebrow-less like me – seem to regard the world’s craziness with nothing stronger than mild amusement. And why my octogenarian neighbor – the one with eyebrows so bushy, so lush, that they hang like silver awnings over the tops of his glasses – seems so fierce in comparison.

It’s all in the eyebrows, and given the choice I’ll take fierce over mild. So as soon as I pop that AARP membership form into the mail, I’ll head out in search of an eyebrow pencil that can restore the faded focal point of my emotions to their former eloquence.

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Shadow quite likes her eyebrows, just as they are.

Warm and Dry

Aside from the alarming fact that our pool is in danger of overflowing (seriously, the water level has risen a good four inches since last night), today’s downpour, high winds, and flash flood warnings have kept me happily indoors where I am working, knitting, reading, and fortifying my labors with cups of hot tea. My appointments for the day have all called to cancel – a sure sign that I was meant to stay inside.

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Which is not to say I am unappreciative of my good fortune. All I had to do was look out the window to see what I might have been up against had I ventured out into the storm. These little guys are perched within spitting distance of the bird feeder, but under the eaves they are protected from the rain. They’ve been drying and grooming themselves for hours, intermittently, then fly off only to get soaked again.

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I’ll stay put for the duration, although I thought I’d be meeting the knitting machine dealer this afternoon; she cancelled. I thought I’d be getting a back X-ray this morning (don’t ask), but they were running so behind schedule due to the weather that I postponed it. I thought I’d have to run to the post office and the grocery store, but a cursory look in the fridge and the pantry convinced me that there are plenty of options to choose from for tonight’s dinner. And the world won’t end if I buy postage stamps tomorrow. In other words, I’ve given myself permission to put off until tomorrow what I could do today – and I’m fine with that choice even though it’s a weird feeling not to HAVE to go out in this terrible weather. My raincoat and hat are at the ready by the back door, but now, suddenly, I don’t have to put them on.

Today is a gift, pure and simple. A gift of time in which to make slow, steady progress on re-knitting my striped sweater. I’ve worked a solid 6″ of the back, and have only 2″ to go. I take a break every 15 minutes to massage my hand, keep it warm, loosen the finger joints. The deep V-neck front should by rights take less time than the back, and then I’ll just have to reassemble the pieces and work the ribbed neck band. The end is not yet in sight, but not so very far away, either, thanks to this rainy day.

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To Err Is Human…

… on the other hand, when you follow a seemingly straightforward pattern that appears to make perfect sense, and seems as if it will result in a good fit, only to have the finished garment appear better suited to a linebacker or other broad-shouldered wearer (not you), much gnashing of the teeth is sure to result.

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After the gnashing has been completed to one’s satisfaction (right up there with whining and a high volume selection of colorful curses), the only viable option is to deconstruct the entire garment and then rip-it, rip-it, rip-it. Which I have done. CD cases make excellent yarn holders, I discovered, especially since you can mist the yarn to relax it as you go, and no harm is done to the plastic case.

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But because I am constitutionally unable to follow a pattern as written, I worked this Noro pattern in the round to the armholes, and it is to this point that I frogged back in search of Better Fit. With armholes too deep and shoulders too wide, my path seemed clear and I am reworking both with the elimination of these problems in mind. I also knit the sleeves in the round from cuff to armhole, and may have just a bit of tinking to do at the shoulder to achieve the perfect ease.

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With my hands in less than optimal condition (PT was most unpleasant today… Ouch!) it has been slow going. Still, even if I re-knit only a couple of inches each day I should have plenty of opportunity to wear the sweater this winter. In fact, starting tonight we have severe storms in the forecast for the next couple of days. Nothing like grim, gray days to inspire me to keep chugging along on rows of vividly-colored yarn. Makes me happy just to look at it.

A Final Flourish of Figs

This year’s fig harvest has been outstanding. I think this year’s harvest is the largest we’ve ever had, and the tree has been productive for a longer period than in earlier years. This, even though our single dwarf fig tree shows no signs of dramatic growth that might account for its prolific output. The tree is still pumping them out, and I’ve been fortunate to beat the local squirrel population to most of them. These small triumphs over our ever-growing furry rodent population are as satisfying as they are silly.

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 Having made two different batches of fig jam (one with vanilla bean, one with pears), and the requisite variety of fig tarts, figs with cheese, and even a surprisingly easy dinner of chicken stuffed with chopped figs and goat cheese (from Marie Simmons’ highly recommended and absolutely lovely book Fig Heaven), my imagination is flagging. Deborah Madison to the rescue! Her book Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from Farmers Markets gets top marks for using farmers market produce in new and delicious ways. A couple of her fig recipes captured my fancy:

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And then, with flights of fig fancy filling my fervid imagination (not to mention, apparently, a profound fascination with the letter “F”), I found my figgiest hand-dyed yarns for a fig-inspired still life. This period of not being able to knit (during my recovery from hand surgery a month ago) must be getting to me.

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Any excuse to play with yarn, right?  The brown on top of the pile is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Heavyweight in Meet Brown, Joe. On the left, the indigo lace weight is Nature’s Palette Silk/Wool in Lupine, and the heavier variegated on the bottom right of the photo is from Fleece Artist, Blue Face Leicester DK in a riot of gorgeous violets the exact name of which I can’t remember. If yarn was edible, I’d have these for dessert with a dollop of creme fraiche.

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BNK? Bink? Is that some new acronym for ripping out one’s knitting? Yes, it does sound a lot like “tink,” but you’re not even close. BNK is Brave New Knits , the title of my knitting book due out next year from inestimable publisher Rodale, Inc. The last few posts, I’ve mentioned my recent trip to New York, during which I had the unparalleled experience of trying to keep out from underfoot  making myself useful during the photo shoot of the knitted projects.

Although I am actually frogging part of a sweater that I knit up in the early days of my optimistic ambitions for the National Knit a Sweater a Month Dodecahedron, there’s nothing very photogenic about the way that sweater (a boyfriend-ish V-neck in Noro Silk Garden and Cash Iroha, two rows of each to create narrow stripes – I posted photos of it several months ago) looks right now.

Although I’ve been able to salvage the sleeves, I’m having to frog and reknit the sweater’s back and front from the shoulder bind-off down to the beginning of the armhole shaping. And with my hand still recuperating from surgery, frogging has proven much easier than the reknitting is likely to be. In fact, frogging – in a perverse way – has turned out to be a reasonably pleasurable fix as long as knitting remains verboten. I still get to fondle the yarn, even though it is for the express purpose of ripping back something I’d already labored over for many hours. But never mind. At the moment, frogging is the closest I can get to knitting. How ironic.

Instead of sharing images of that pile of crinkled Noro yarn, allow me to offer up a couple of teeny-tiny details from BNK projects, details that merely hint at the knitterly loveliness within the pages of this book (not that I’m biased or anything)  just to whet your appetite. 

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High on the High Line

Anyone visiting New York City this fall will undoubtedly be urged to fit in a visit to the High Line, the elevated park (and former rail line) that runs from Gansevoort St. up to 20th . It will eventually continue up to 34th St. as funding and time allow, to be completed in 2011 if all goes according to plan. I’m here to tell you those urgings should be heeded, even if all you have is an hour to spare.


With a free morning during my visit a couple of weeks ago, I headed straight over to the West side without having any idea what to expect. I climbed the stairs at the 20th St. access point and when I reached the High Line my first thought was, “This is it? This is what all the fuss is about?” Because there is a walkway with plantings on either side, and railings over which one can see varying street views. The old rail lines have been left in place, where they now form ground-hugging industrial sculpture that snakes around the plantings in wonderful patterns.


As I began my stroll south along the wide path, I began to focus on those plantings that had at first seemed so pedestrian; no different, really, than the weeds one would find in any abandoned lot anywhere in the city. Gradually, though, I began to appreciate the incredible variety of the plant life all around me… yet all of it seemed to be native to the area – or at least it could be if cared for and allowed to thrive. And then I became aware of a delicious fragrance that reminded me of my herb garden at home… only better. Birds, bees, and butterflies were flitting around among the flowers and grasses.


Not only was the plant life captivating, but the architectural details were equally noteworthy. Especially remarkable were the colored glass panels that represented all the colors of the river…. done by an artist who had blown up photographs of different sections of the river and isolated a single pixel of each, until he was able to assemble a collage of colors, and light, and mood – and then transpose them all to glass panes.


There were uniformed, hatted employees working throughout the park, weeding, watering, and fertilizing the plants. When I inquired about the fragrance, I was told that it was the “drop seed grass,” which smells similar to the herb cilantro. Ahhh, yes. Every once in a while, I’d pull over to the railing to see what I could see. And the views were wonderfully diverse: road, overpass.


Water, boats. Parks, skyscrapers. People, people everywhere. It was the the life of the city from a quietly fantastic, more-serene-than-usual perspective, and I could easily have spent all day taking it all in.


And I was not alone in that. Although when I first arrived I felt almost as if I had the place to myself, by the end of my visit there were many other people enjoying it with me, strolling along the path, sitting on the benches that had been placed thoughtfully about the park, leaning up against the railings to admire a particular view, taking photos. Lots of tourists speaking French, German, and other languages, but just as many New Yorkers taking a breather from the energy of the city. I can’t wait to return at a different time of year to see how the High Line’s atmosphere and views change with the seasons.   


Every curve in the walkway seemed designed to provide a different angle, to offer a new perspective on the park, and all of its geometry was softened by the thriving, fragrant plants. In its own subtle, quiet way, it was quite thrilling.

Good-Bye September, Hello October

How did it get to be October already? And when did I realize I am oh-so-ready for fall? Maybe it was that final day last weekend, on my DD’s college campus, when the weather suddenly turned from sunny and in the 70’s to raw, rainy, and in the 50’s. Having brought nothing but sandals and short-sleeved tops on the trip with me, I was ill-prepared for the change. But if nothing else, I developed a new understanding for how the university sells all those unlovely navy and screaming orange sweatshirts (yes, those are the school colors) in the campus bookstore. I, too, added one to my wardrobe that day, and wore it gratefully as the temperature continued to drop. 

Even returning home to the Bay area, I was struck by the decidedly autumnal shift in the air. Mornings are dark now when I awake, and dusk comes much earlier. The official first day of fall has come and gone. Seeing my daughter so happily ensconced on her college campus reminded me of Rod Stewart’s bittersweet song, Maggie May. It was late September, and I really did feel as if I should be back at school.

Maybe it was picking the last of the figs from our tree, and realizing that fig jam and desserts are over for the season – although I did take some of these and combine them with Braeburn apples and dried Montmorency cherries to make a delicious fall crisp for dessert last night.

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 Maybe it was that enormous pot of Tuscan kale and bean soup I recently made, stirring it with images of cozy winter dinners in mind.

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Back at home after last week’s travels, I picked the last of the tomatoes and started harvesting the first fragile lettuce leaves from the fall planting a few weeks back. Radishes and beets are still weeks away, but the baby greens are a tender addition to salads. The large tomatoes are ripening on sheets of newspaper, and a few last pounds of the cherry tomatoes ended up on a puff pastry and parmesan tart for dinner the other night.


There’s nothing I’d love to do more right now that knit, and it has been incredibly frustrating not to be able to. I sit and watch TV in the evenings, and it feels strange (not in a good way, either) to have no knitting in hand. I suppose I could hold my last WIP in my lap and fondle it while the programs unfold before me, but it just wouldn’t be the same. I’ve been dreaming for weeks about new sweater designs I want to make, and once my bandage came off I even sketched them into my design notebook. But recuperation from my hand surgery continues slowly (and working on the computer does nothing to aid my convalescence, I admit), with my hand still swollen and somewhat weak. I can’t make a fist because the scar tissue is still tender. However, between that  “Oh, it’s September – time to learn something new” mindset and my growing acceptance of the limitations I may continue to have post-hand surgery, I’ve made what feels like a very big decision. 

I’m going to invest in a knitting machine and in the lessons to learn to use it properly. Although it will never take the place of hand-knitting, it will give me a fighting chance of creating all the new designs I’ve had in mind. And it just may save me from further surgeries. And that, I’ve gotta say, would be really nice.

Alert: Yarn Pron

No trip to New York would be complete without a visit to School Products, one of my favorite yarn shops, located on Broadway around 29th St. And so with an hour to spare one afternoon, I made my way there. In addition to a range of Karabella yarns, they stock gorgeous cashmere and other luxury mill ends from Europe. Berta Karapetyan, the owner, was there that afternoon – she is the author of Runway Knits, and is a gifted hand-knitter and designer. I never leave School Products empty-handed, as you can see.


 This rustic-looking, Italian-milled charcoal tweed wool demanded to go home with me, and with roughly 2,000 yards on the cone it will probably end up as a new sweater for DH, who supports my yarn and knitting addiction so graciously. The surprising thing about this yarn is that considering its slightly rough and nubby appearance, it is deliciously soft. 


 Two skeins of this plied 80% cashmere/20% silk blend hand-dye amounts to about 300 yards. It also feels wonderful to the touch with a slightly dry hand from the silk content, and the steely blue-gray color with sparks of light (again from the silk) is truly a winner.


 A final indulgence – and I really do mean indulgence – is this 100% cashmere. Hand-dyed in the U.S., it is the richest possible shade of garnet (quite a bit deeper than my photos would suggest) and is divinely lofty and soft. I took home three skeins, enough for a hat and mitts, or possibly a hat and cowl. Bliss, pure bliss. I think we need to see this one close up, don’t you? (Wipe that drool off your chin, please…)

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Brave New Knits Update

I was in New York City last week for a specific, very exciting reason: the photo shoot for my upcoming knitting book, Brave New Knits . Never having participated in such an event, I was not about to miss the chance. And since my hand surgery a month ago has required a depressingly long hiatus from actual knitting, this was two days of blissful compensation. 

What an amazing experience it was! Everyone from the models to the photographer (that’s you, Jared),

from the stylist and make-up artist to Rodale’s art director and editor, were on hand in the studio to make sure the shoot went smoothly. Having a stylist and models with experience modeling knitwear made a huge difference; they really understood the need to make the knitted projects the focus of each shot. 

I can’t show you much, but I can give you a peek:



      It’s all in the details, right?

Travelocity in the City

Much as I enjoy an opportunity to travel, by the last day or two of any trip I am itching to get back home. And in my travels, I’ve never found a place I’d rather stay forever (except maybe Paris). The last week was a travel bonanza; a quick visit to my parents, leaving them with a freezer full of quart containers of split pea soup with ham (a winter lunch favorite); a work trip to New York City, and a weekend in rural (VERY rural!) Pennsylvania for Family Weekend at my daughter’s university.


This is the athletic center, home to an Olympic sized pool and a fitness center that would make any gym rat exceedingly jealous. There is also an indoor-track (those long, cold Pennsylvania winters must have had something do to with that) and basketball court, as well as other training facilities for the athletic teams.

The highlight was seeing my DD so settled and happy in her new home-away-from-home. She is intellectually engaged – hallelujah! – making friends, and getting involved in several campus activities. The weekend was so different from that of a month ago, when we moved her into her freshman dorm. Just one month later, she is the campus expert, showing us around the athletic center, taking us to brunch at one of her favorite campus spots, taking us to an a cappella concert one night and an on-campus ballet performance in the university’s gorgeous performing arts center the next night. We treated her to dinners off-campus – although the cafeteria food is surprisingly varied, fresh, and good.


Only one event that weekend left a bad taste in my mouth – and this one had nothing to do with the cafeteria food. On Saturday morning, we went to what was billed as a Parents’ Organization Leadership Breakfast, at which the university president delivered a short talk. And then – I felt so naïve not to have seen this coming! – the Parents’ Organization president got up to speak, and hit us up for donations to the university.


Let me remind you that everyone in that room was the parent of a freshman. So for the next four years, we will be writing checks that represent a substantial portion of our incomes to the university for the privilege of having our children spend what amounts to seven short months a year in the temple of learning. Yes, this is a private university – so you can guess what those tuition checks look like. So how rude and inappropriate was it for these people to request additional donations? I was first just taken aback, but once I’d had time to think about it I became, shall we say, incensed. To put it mildly. I know universities all over the country have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and that their endowments have taken a serious hit. But this was barely one month into our childrens’ first year of college!