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Bowie

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I didn’t find out from Facebook that David Bowie had died — I found out from friends texting me: Bowie dead, cancer, not a hoax, not wanting me to find out from Facebook.

It’s not like I was totally unprepared. I’ve been a fan since I was 14; I knew he’d outlive me and that the day would come up eventually. I guess I thought I’d be older and more prepared when it happened, but the day finally came, and I was just older.

I could draw some long, complicated link between Bowie and making and knitting and art and fulfillment and some kind of personal creative ethos, but but honestly right now it still feels like that stage of grief where you don’t feel properly sad yet because you’re still trying to puzzle out how it feels to have a chunk of your personal landscape go missing on no notice. I never met the guy but having someone along secondhand for so much of your life, for so many highs and lows, you end up feeling like they’re a part of it.

Bowie, man. If I couldn’t have forever, I’m glad I got what I got.

Sometimes in spring, Oakland smells like the desert

What’s it been, six months? Then it’s about time for an update!

Still knitting, but not much of my own. I do have a dozen sketches for patterns inspired by my city, Oakland. I’m also in the extremely initial, awkward stages of sketching some designs based on Joshua Tree, California.

Well, sorta. See, it started out as “Oooh, designing from places is fun. I should pick more places! Where else do I love?” but after a week, when I should’ve been spilling over with ideas, all I had was a couple of doodles of the spiny ends of yucca plants, drawn from memory. I pored over photos on Flickr of the Mojave and faved some glorious sunrises, but still … eh. Nothin’. I summoned memories of sitting in a deck chair under a lavender sky listening to coyotes howl up the sun; swimming in the pool at the Joshua Tree Inn and poking at the empty airplane bottles of tequila on Gram Parson’s shrine; seeing bands play under the stars at Pappy and Harriet’s; the edges of a pond swarming with tiny frogs an inch long.

Aaaaand … more nothin’.

I tried to remember some of my own Joshua Tree photos, but all that jumped out at me was one of the Simi Dabah sculptures that line Highway 62:

Reach
This one's my favorite.

So I drew that.

And then I remembered the art of Noah Purifoy, who built bizarre castles out of cast-offs and plywood, and the way the white house paint fades in the unremitting desert sun, and the circles and circles and circles Purifoy built over and over again:

Tray star
Everything about this place is amazing.

I thought about how Purifoy might make a shawl, and I drew that.

So I guess I’m not drawing based on Joshua Tree, but the art and people of Joshua Tree. Which makes sense, since the last couple times I’ve been there, I haven’t made it into the park at all. I was too busy downing margaritas, seeing bands, getting stuffed French toast at the Crossroads Cafe, going to the swap meet and hanging out with my friends. And admiring the art that lines the walls of cafes, fills galleries, creeps up buildings, climbs straight up out of backyards and stretches out along sandy shoulders along Highway 62.

(If you’re interested in the idea of designing clothes and don’t know where to start, I recommend this book. It walks you through how to immerse yourself in a topic and come up with designs. I had grabbed an armload of books at the library to beef up my sketching skills, including this one, and spent the entire time I was reading this one impatiently nodding and muttering “I know, I know,” because it pretty much exactly described how I capture ideas and turn them into sketches.)

A new knitting record

I appear to have broken a knitting record: casting off a project and misplacing it in less than a single day.

Less than an hour, even.

Honestly? It didn’t even last five minutes.

I’m retooling and rewriting one of my hat patterns, and made yet another hat from the pattern to make sure everything worked. I painstakingly grafted together the edges of the tubular bind-off, wove in the ends, and with a huge wave of satisfaction, declared it done. Then, in a move I really ought to know by now never ends well, I put it somewhere special to make sure I wouldn’t lose it.

Now, the problem with “somewhere special” is that “somewhere special” isn’t a certain place; it roughly translates as “somewhere that isn’t one of my usual places, and I’ll remember where because it’s special.” If only my brain worked like that. Instead, as I firmly think to myself this is where I am putting this thing right now in case I need it, my brain nods its metaphorical head, solemnly promises to cherish this information forever, and immediately jettisons it overboard, leaving only a tiny sensory trace in its wake. Very many clothes, drugs and important papers have disappeared this way, only to surface months or weeks later when they’re no longer needed.

So no, I don’t remember where the hat is. I only know that it’s somewhere special, it’s in my room, it was nighttime when I put it away, and that the place I jammed it so I wouldn’t lose it was soft and felt like fabric. Which is why I was up at 1 a.m. the other night, emptying my entire clothes drawer onto the floor and sifting fruitlessly through my million t-shirts, hoping that maybe, just this once, I hadn’t outsmarted myself again.

No dice, of course. I didn’t find it. I think maybe I scared it away.

We meet again, intarsia

I’m the kind of person who’ll try anything twice. Just once isn’t enough; the discomfort involved in doing something new keeps you from making a fair judgment, so: twice it is.

I am doing intarsia again. It’s exactly as not-fun as I remember.

Garter-stitch intarsia, a.k.a. kill me now.
Garter-stitch intarsia, a.k.a. what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.

When I first started knitting, I got a copy of “Stitch ‘n’ Bitch” and plowed right through it. I think I only made one actual pattern from it, but I threw myself at every technique in the book. Cables? Sure. Knitting in the round? No problem. Full-fashioned increasing and decreasing? Absolutely. Fair Isle, lace double knitting — I took on whatever it could throw at me. The only one that seemed like more effort than it was worth was intarsia: lots of adjusting tension, endless tweaking and fifty bazillionty-eleven horrible little bobbins to keep untangled, all for a blocky, 8-bit picture of a ’80s-looking sheep? PASS.

Well, sort of. I only decided to give it a pass after I soldiered my way though a handful of swatches and proved to myself that I could make neat, even intarsia designs on demand. I needed to prove that if I wasn’t doing intarsia, it was from lack of interest, not lack of ability.

Continue reading We meet again, intarsia

AUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGHHHH

MOTHS MOTHS MOTHS MOTHS

AAAUUUUUUUUUUGGGHHHHHH

I’d been seeing the occasional lost-looking moth in my room for the last month or so and idly wondering where they might be camping out.

The answer: IN MY YARN STASH.

There are four skeins (one relatively pricey, the others a gift) of Snow Leopard Trust handspun camel yarn in my stash that are bitten into pieces, crawling with tiny larvae, embedded with little moth corpses and shedding tiny sand-like crumbs of moth crap.

AAAAUUUUUUGH

Fortunately, the other items in that bin are mostly stored in plastic bags and seem untouched. I guess the moths were so enamored with the twig-laden, gloriously unprocessed and still slightly musty camel yarn that they didn’t notice anything else.

OK, I’m gonna go run to the closet and start tearing everything apart RIGHT NOW.

More lace

Making another shawl
Making another shawl

I am knitting a shawl. Again.

I finished a small Laminaria shawl for myself and, incredibly, wanted to knit another. Right now it’s taking a back seat because I have more time-sensitive projects in the works, but goddammit this thing is gonna be done for my mom’s birthday. Or else. It’s in her favorite (and my favorite) fire engine red, and since it’s washable, she can spill on it as much as she likes without ruining it.

Only thing I can’t protect it from is the inevitable snags and catches it’ll run into. My mom, like me, is a hurricane in motion, and the constant dropping, snagging, tangling and general clumsiness are just a fact of life for the both of us.

Masquerading as a minimalist

Aww, hell. I had to run to catch the bus this morning — it was a minute early, when the hell does that ever happen? — and it wasn’t until I was on the bus that I realized my backpack wasn’t zipped up all the way. Everything was stowed pretty tightly, except the Selbu Modern beret I just finished last week in my two favoritest colors. It was gone! Damn! I hadn’t even gotten a photo of it yet!

I was deeply upset for all of three seconds. If I’d bought that beret, I would’ve been distraught: it was the perfect design and colors! It was soft and warm and amazing to look at! But as soon as the initial pang was over, I was already planning the sequel in my head. It was the perfect hat, true, but the next one could be even more perfect: less fuzzy, with more even colorwork, and a little tighter in the ribbing so it wouldn’t relax right off my head by the end of the day.

I haven’t met many people who think the same way. Whether they’re knitters or non-knitters, most focus on the amount of work that goes into a pattern. But for me, it’s not the work. It’s all knitting. That’s why I never balked at learning new stuff. Continental knitting, two-color knitting, double knitting, two-color and two-handed brioche stitch, knitting backward, knowing seven or eight left- and right-leaning decreases and as many ways to cast on: they’re all, y’know, knitting. And the stuff I make? Just knitting. I’m always knitting, so what’s one more thing? Especially if I can do it even better the next time.

Of course, I can’t help feeling like an insufferable, more-ascetic-than-thou prat when I say things like that, but whatever! My yarn stash is way too big for me to start throwing “you should own less stuff” stones. All I know is, I get to knit an awesome hat all over again, and it could’ve been far worse: I could’ve lost my knitting bag instead of my hat!

For some reason, losing an unfinished project deeply irritates me: the potential of a project, the feeling of progress, is far more dear to me than an actual hat. I lost a knitting bag on the bus a week ago and it’s been driving me crazy. There were some decent earbud headphones in there, a Denise circular needle and a half-finished project for a pattern I have backed up on my computer. All the pieces are replaceable, but I think about that stupid bag at least twice a day and it hurts, dammit!

An internal conversation on the bus

“Don’t be ridiculous. Just ’cause they’re speaking French doesn’t mean they’ll notice you knitting. You’re just hyper-aware of two interests of yours — knitting and French — and just ’cause those two girls over there are speaking French doesn’t mean they’ll notice your knitting and start talking about it in French at full volume because they assume nobody will understand them, just like how Mom shit-talks in French because she knows she can get away with it around Americans. You’re being ridiculous, and besides it’s not like they would expect someone to understand them, so just sit and be quiet until the bus gets back to the East Bay and you can finally get to bed after that Ra Ra Riot show got out so late. Just sit and knit and ignore that thing that sounded like ‘I wonder what she’s making’ and —

“Oh, come on, did she really just say ‘My grandmother used to do that?!'”