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.

Lotus Entertain You

Walks around the house with camera in hand allow me to notice the continuing raptures of early spring late winter in the garden: in my opinion nothing, but nothing, can equal the fragrance of daphne in bloom…

except perhaps the upturned faces of crocuses in full flower, the soft sheen of their petals reminiscent of buttercups – remember as a child holding a buttercup under the chin of your best friend to ascertain whether she “liked butter”? I mean, come on! Who doesn’t like butter? Most of us can no longer afford to lavish it into our baked potatoes, pour it melted over our bowls of popcorn, or use the full amount called for in cookie recipes, but that doesn’t mean we have ever stopped liking it. I’m just sayin’.

Progress continues on the Lotus cardigan. The “skirt” is growing in leaps and bounds (well, okay, rows and rows) and as the number of stitches per row is decreased, my knitting speed increases. I’m down to 198 stitches per row, and that is MUCH faster than the 422 stitches per row at the beginning. My hands and fingers are much less tired at the end of an evening’s work, thankfully.

This baby has quite a wingspan by now, and is getting a bit unwieldy to stuff into my most capacious knitting bag. And as I labor away, I have the creeping suspicion that the finished cardigan will most likely go off to college with my daughter in the fall. She keeps oohing over the yarn colors and patting the soft fabric with a covetous gleam in her eye. C’est la vie!

The Freckled Face of February

With a random but welcome Friday the 13th (the anniversary of my first official date with my husband), Valentine’s day, and my actual wedding anniversary this month, it is difficult to be cowed by the additional month of winter promised by that simple word “February” on the calendar. Add to these red letter days the fact that February is also a big month for family birthdays – my father’s (88 and counting – Go, Herbie!) my youngest sister’s (Ok, so maybe we won’t bandy about any specific numbers for that one), and my aunt’s, and we find ourselves skipping from one celebration to the next all month.

Finally, February is the month when Stitches West happens, and I will most certainly be there.

You expect ME to believe it’s February?!
It’s none too soon to get to work on my February project for NaKniSweMoDo – a resurrection of the Lotus Cardigan I started early last year and then put aside for reasons that seemed perfectly logical at the time but which I can no longer remember. You think that’s bad… this morning on a walk with a friend I blanked – suddenly and totally – on both her husband’s name (Bob), and where I had been just two weeks ago (Washington, DC). Both were momentary lapses, but startling and dismaying nonetheless. But I digress.

I’ve cast on for what the pattern calls the “skirt” of the Lotus Cardigan. Four HUNDRED and twenty-two stitches, knit in K2-P2 ribbing for 1 1/2 inches that I thought would never materialize. On size 9 needles with the bulky Noro Kochoran yarn, you’d think this would go pretty fast, but my fingers were cramping by the time I completed that step and could finally begin the first decreases AND switch over to stockinette. This is what it looks like so far:

I am the Lotus serpent…

I absolutely love the soft blues and greens in this Kochoran yarn, but briefly considered cutting out the runs of gray and brown that streak through the skeins. Then it occurred to me that those cooler, more muted colors have the effect of warming and brightening the blues and greens and making them all the more appealing for the contrast. Take a closer look. See what I mean?


Before I forget (again), allow me to introduce my adorable niece and nephew, Tess (14) and Moses (10), who obligingly modeled the Thorpe hats I made them for Chrismukkah. Thanks, Jen, for sharing the photo. They both look so cute, and their heads look so warm!