When Life Throws You Snow Storms...

... knit last-minute holiday mitts!

We've been snowed in for a week (more on that later). Unfortunately, we became house-bound before doing our Christmas shopping for C. All the nieces' and nephews' presents were bought and wrapped, but we had only three little things for C when the storms descended. When it looked like we really wouldn't be able to get out at all before Christmas, I started to panic, so I whipped up these fingerless mitts. As you may recall, I'd been planning to make them for awhile. The new job had prevented me from getting all the Christmas knitting done I'd hoped, though.

Pattern: 11th-Hour Fingerless Mitts by me (size: youth)
Materials: My Handspun, 2-ply worsted (83 yds), Green Goes With Orange
Needles: US 5 / 3.75 mm
Started: December 22, 2008
Completed: December 23, 2008

I worked them both at once using Magic Loop and a mere 83 yards of fantabulously soft and springy wool you first saw me handspinning on my amazing Katherine's Cup spindle by Greensleeves. Because I wanted to show off the yarn, I kept the pattern very simple:

They're constructed from the finger(less-ness) to the cuff, with a reverse gusset for the thumbs to provide architectural interest. Knit mostly in stockinette, they do feature a 1x1 ribbed cuff and two rows of single crochet at the finger(less)s.

The crochet rows are more than a pretty detail—they're also functional. Without these rows, I could not have worked the entire body of the mitt in stockinette without having the edge roll. I really didn't want to put ribbing at the fingertips, so this was a great solution.

For the cuff, I used the Russian bind-off.

See that little bit of twist? After knitting the first two stitches and returning them to the left needle, I knit them together through the front loop rather than through the back loop to make a more braided look.

I'm so pleased with how they turned out, and words can't express what a pleasure this yarn was to knit.

And because I worked these top-down, I could use up every last scrap of the yarn making the cuff a healthy 2 inches.

Back to the reason for this last-minute present panic: Snow. Snow. Snow.

But not just ANY snow... we're talking about snow in Seattle, the city where whatever minor accumulation we might get in a year usually melts off within a day... this snow's been with us for a week, and we just keep getting more. This morning I was shocked to wake up to this:

Unimpressive for many of you, I know, but you should know that the snow on that planter (the middle blob at right) was only half that high when I went to bed last night. And look at the weight of the snow on the evergreen boughs!

Go on, you snow bunnies, laugh—I was once like you! As a young person growing up in Ohio's Snow Belt, I had no fear. Not rain nor sleet nor snow nor blizzard could keep me down! I drove in it all.

But in Seattle—where municipal snow removal consists of a handful of plow trucks (equipped not with the sharp steel blades that clear streets so nicely in Ohio but, rather, with rubber blades so as not to damage the roads), where streets are sanded rather than salted (so as not to burn plantlife or cause damage to the Puget Sound waterways), where winter temps usually hover just a degree or two above freezing, and where hills are the new flat—even a prediction of snow strikes fear in everyone's hearts!

This is straight-down snowfall, mind you. Not drifting. Check out the bench!

So we have lousy snow removal. No salt on the streets. Native Seattlites who don't have a clue how to drive in the snow. Hills. And milder climates. That's the real killer... the milder temperatures. That means the snow falls, and everything's nice and cold—and as we all know, it's not so bad driving on snow. But during the day, the temperature usually pops back up just above freezing... so we get a little thaw. And if it's not enough to thaw all the snow off, then when the temps dip below freezing again in the evening, that thaw becomes ice on top of snow. We've had that process for 7 days—with the exception of one day that never popped up above freezing because it just kept snowing.

The ice can be beautiful. But it's terrifying when it's 6 inches thick under the wheels of your tires and there's a thin layer of water between you and the ice.

Even the mail wasn't making it to our area. Think about that in the context of "we had no presents for C" and "packages from family weren't being delivered."

As it turns out, we had enough thaw late this afternoon for J to be willing to brave taking the car out. He had a harrowing trip (we live in a geological formation that is, essentially, a bowl—you have to go uphill to get out and uphill to get back in), but he did come back with some presents for C and some fixings for Christmas dinner. Not how we'd hoped the shopping would go. Still, we can't complain: C will not feel like Santa forgot her!

I promise to post the pattern for the mitts—just not tonight. I couldn't write it up with C hovering over my shoulder today, and now I need to go help J with some wrapping!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


One Day More

I don't generally like mixing business with pleasure—and I do view this blog as pleasure—but I thought this merited mention: Olympic Fiber Arts' holiday sale ends Christmas Day.

All items are 40%-70% off for one day more. So if you want to pick up some amazing yarn (check out the customer feedback) for amazing prices, now would be the time.

After Christmas, the sale banner comes down and the new banner goes up. Gorgeous, isn't it?!

Tomorrow: Notes on a last-minute gift I whipped up last night. I'll even share the pattern!


Twenty Years

This post has nothing to do with knitting and everything to do with remembering.

Miriam Luby Wolfe
September 26, 1968 - December 21, 1988
Severna Park, Maryland

Twenty years ago my friend, Miriam Luby Wolfe, was murdered in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above Lockerbie, Scotland. She was 20 years old—a junior at Syracuse University. We met the summer before, when we both worked at Darian Lake, a theme park outside of Buffalo, New York, where we sang and danced in shows produced by Showbiz International. I had turned 19 just before rehearsals began; she would turn 20 just after we ended the summer. I performed in the mainstage show; Miriam performed in the outside show with one of my summer housemates, Deb. Anyone who's performed in theme park shows knows how close everyone becomes, even those who don't particularly like each other... and often that's just because of the closeness. Although we weren't in the same show, I was around Miriam quite a bit through Deb, and I liked her very much. She projected life, with a powerfully optimistic personality and a contagious enthusiasm. And she had the most amazing hair! Gorgeous, red, springy curls. They seemed to symbolize her very spirit, bouncing high upon her head. We exchanged addresses at summer's end and vowed to stay in touch. Along with some others, we talked of having a get-together during the holidays, after she returned from her study-abroad semester in London.

I will never forget receiving the voice message, just days before Christmas, saying Miriam had been on that flight. Shock. Tears. Grief. Deep sadness. The weather was terrible that year. I was lucky to make the drive home for Christmas from college; it simply wasn't safe enough to drive to Maryland for the memorial service—and I wasn't getting on a plane. At my family home, I poured through every bit of news about the tragedy I could find, eagerly looking for something yet also sorely dreading that (worse) I might actually see something.

In my video library, I have a tape from that summer filmed by one of the guys from our show. There is video of both shows, as well as a little walk around the area where we worked. I've always turned it off when it gets to the headshots of the outside show performers. It's still hard to think about seeing Miriam performing... but perhaps that's the best way to see her: singing and dancing in that upbeat show, her curls keeping their own, lofty rhythm, her joy visible in every moment.

Twenty years have passed. In many ways, I don't feel the time, but I can't deny that it's passed. Miriam's mother, Rosemary Mild, found a way through her grief to write a book titled Miriam's Gift: A Mother's Blessing—Then and Now, which was published in 2000, the same year my daugther was born. I'd like very much to read her book.

To Miriam's mother, Rosemary: I am very sorry I could not make the trip to Maryland for the memorial service. That has always bothered me. I knew your daughter a relatively short time, but I remember her well—and not only in those moments when I am reminded by newscasts of the anniversary. I admire your strength and perseverance in the face of the unimaginable. Thank you for the gift that was your daughter.

Many Happy Returns

Oh, my—it's been two months since I posted! We can mark the beginning of my long silence to my return to full-time work, which has been quite an adjustment after a couple years' dissertation writing. (This is not to say that the dissertation is finished, just to say that it's no longer my full-time focus—which underlines the extremity of my lack of blog time.) I have continued to knit, though, plus I taught two classes and have developed another original design for one of the classes I will teach this winter.

I thought it would be nice to mark my return to blogging with a return to the Pagewood MUMTU socks I made in conjunction with the sock class I taught over three sessions in October. When last I wrote, I was thoroughly enamored with the Pagewood Farm Denali Hand Dyed Sock Yarn. Seriously enamored with it... just look at the subtle sophistication of the gorgeous Butterfly colorway!

When I returned home from the final class—where I had let two of the students practice Elizabeth Zimmerman's stretchy cast-off on my socks because they hadn't quite finished the cuffs on their own—I couldn't wait to pop them straight in the Eucalan.

If you haven't tried this soak for your woolens, I highly recommend it. I just swish a few drops into my favorite mixing bowl (which also happens to be the perfect size for soaking hand-knits), drop the socks in, let them sit for about 15 minutes, pull them out, and block/dry them. No rinsing required—it's great!

I love the way the reinforced Eye of Partridge heel looks. If you scan the above picture up to the cuffs, you can see how pretty the twisted rib looks in this yarn and how nicely it harmonizes with the heel stitch. And the yarn continues to woo me with its squishy goodness.

Some of the ladies in my class said they would not reinforce their toes or heels again because they thought it made the fabric too stiff. This was before they actually finished their socks. So I brought in several pairs with reinforced toes and heels as a demonstration: Even though it may seem like you've crafted your socks in Teflon while you're knitting, the yarns full together during washing and soften so much that you never notice the reinforcing thread when you wear them. (But they still wear like iron!)

As for this particular finished pair... and the wearing...

The socks are very pretty. As predicted, nobody else notices that they're two different colors, which I pointed out in my previous post. I'm not sure I'll knit another pair for myself in this Pagewood yarn, though. My reason has less to do with appearance than wear. These socks may actually be a little too soft. That sounds whiny and way over-privileged, so hear me out:

Remember how surprised I was that my primary stitch count was 60 for these, when I normally use 64 PSC for MUMTUs on fingering weight yarn? Well, the resulting fabric is much less dense than I prefer:you don't get the same stable feel from the fabric. And this means that while the socks are still thick and cushy feeling when I hold them in my hands, the fabric shifts and stretches so much when I put them on my feet (and into my shoes) that I worry they won't wear well over time.

Finally, they're a little thicker inside my shoes than I usually need in Seattle. If I still lived in Ohio's snow belt, they'd be much more necessary. But for Seattle's usually milder climate—I say "usually" because I've been snow-bound at home four days thanks to two storms that dumped more than 5 inches in my yard and frosted our hilly streets with a thick sheet of ice, making them completely impassable given our lack of municipal infrastructure for snow removal—for Seattle's usually milder climate, the socks aren't all that comfortable.