Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category


Okay! So there is a word for it! That makes me extremely happy, because it means I have something I can use to replace “freak.”

Source: Urban Dictionary

Source: Urban Dictionary


Now, before anyone gets their fur up, I want to be clear that I am not criticizing my sun-loving fellow humans in any way.  Like a lot of people in this world, I just want to be understood.  Dry, warm, light-infused days are extremely useful, I agree.  What I want to convey is a mysterious phenomenon that I cannot even explain.

“…who finds joy and peace of mind…”

Joy and peace of mind. Why?  I really don’t know.  But we band of pluves (known to each other by secret handshake, aka manic happiness when clouds are present) just seem to thrive when the month names start ending with “ber” and “brr” is on our lips.

I take that back; it’s not really about temperature.  I think it’s about light.  For me, anyway, it has nothing to do with getting cold, or wet for that matter.  (Though, speaking as an avid knitter, I can’t wait to wear sweaters again.) I think the light is more beautiful to us, like the way film directors want to shoot outdoor scenes on overcast days to get more vivid colors.

My other theory is that it is linked to eye color. We blue/green eyed folks have Northern climes in our blood, and perhaps an instinctive sense of comfort in low light.  Moreover, there is a practical matter: bright sunlight hurts us.  It hurts.  I must have half a dozen pairs of sunglasses, and keep 2 emergency pairs in my car. And if the brightness doesn’t get you, there is the dreaded Sunlight Squint Headache.  When I encounter someone who has blue or green eyes and doesn’t suffer like this, I cling to my little theory by wondering if they are a medical aberration, or possibly in denial, having been brainwashed by the peer pressure of brown eyed friends.

Then there is the romance of storms: the coziness of a good book by the fire, the lovely sound of rainfall, and the grand finale – rainbows (just enough sun, but not so much to ruin a perfectly good cloud cover).


The first year we lived here in the Snoqualmie Valley, where we have 80 inches of rain per year instead of the 35 we had in Seattle, we bought a treadmill.  That winter it rained and rained (and snowed) and I clung desperately to that treadmill while the blizzards and torrents leered at the window.  At first, that is.  By the end of that first winter I felt like I never wanted to pound that rubber track again. The Dreadmill.  In all the winters that have followed, two words have saved me: proper gear. It’s only water after all.  If I cannot run in all weathers, I don’t want to run at all.  Only two weather conditions will make me cancel a run: lightening and ice.  Learned those the hard way.  Nowadays I have a harder time running in summer heat than I ever did in storms.

In praise of tempests, I guess I should be noble and include a chat about how beneficial rain is to growing food, not to mention the beautiful green trees here. (Bill Murray, “…up there in the Pacific Northwest…” -first 15 seconds:)

But we are talking about joy and peace of mind rather than practical applications like pretty trees and good crops.

Joy and peace of mind. It is the reverse of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Away goes the sun, and suddenly we pluviophiles are electrified with energy, ideas, confidence, a sense of well being, and goodwill towards most everyone… even the sun lovers, who shake their heads at our joy and long for California.


P.S. What I knit when it’s too hot for a half a sweater on your lap. Fingerless mitts. 🙂



P.P.S  It rained yesterday. 😀



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“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
-Alice in Wonderland.

I have little use for the impossible, being a very practical sort of person. And six is a difficult number when what you are counting might flutter by only every 15 minutes or so, over the course of hours.

So I count Five Beautiful Things sometimes. Mostly, I count them when I am running.  It is a marvelous distraction from ugly things (trash), annoying things (bad drivers, off-leash dogs), and discouraging things (“When will this summer heat ever end?”).

Wow. This really makes me sound like a new-age, lavender scented, dance-in-the-meadows kind of dreamer. Which I am not.  I like to rant and I hold grudges. I get very cranky about all kinds of things. Sometimes I laugh out loud at perverse or dark humor.  (To wit, have you listened to Welcome To Nightvale? It’s Twilight Zone meets Monty Python. So funny. )

But I have a very restless mind, and sometimes it likes the challenge of a counting game.  Moreover, there is a sort possessive urge in me to put things on lists.  For instance, if I list:  mist in a forest, orange tabby cat sitting on a white fence, Mt. Si with new snow, trellis with vines, pink cloud… I feel like I own them in a way.   And dammit, it feels nice. Who couldn’t use a little more Nice in their lives?

Pink Cloud

Number 5, a pink cloud.


Harp at the Black Dog went really well.  Knowing I was playing for a cause energized me and changed the way I was playing.  If you live in the area, I’ll be there every 2nd Sunday, 10:30-noon to raise money for animal rescue and shelter.

Fundraiser at The Black Dog


Knitting – Feels like I’m stuck in the mud.  I make progress, but there are too many projects on the needles! (Three cardigans, two pair socks, and a lace shawl.)  Unable (or unwilling) to set some aside and just finish a project, I rotate through them, changing every week.  Never again, Cynthia!  Bad, bad, bad!  Limits and boundaries are your friend! Here it is in writing in case I need to refer back: ONE stockinette project, ONE lace, texture or color-work project, and ONE pair of socks. That’s what I can handle.  Sheesh, what was I thinking?

Running – In spite of the hottest, most humid summer I can remember as a runner, I have stuck to my marathon plan fairly closely. I am not 100% sure that has been a healthy thing to do.  There have been long runs when I really felt ill from the heat but forced myself to finish. I hate that, because I cannot get a good idea of my real fitness when I feel that bad.  My last really long run before Marathon Day is this weekend, then we’ll see in two weeks. I might really be in miserable shape, or I might find it was all an illusion if the weather cools off on race day.



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I feel like the Grinch in Ron Howard’s movie, wondering if he should go to the Cheermeister festivities: “yes! no! yes! no! yes!no!yes!no!yes!no! –aaarrrgh!”  — as the dog pulls the cord to the chute under Grinch’s feet.   So, at least for now, I’m back in the slippery chute of blogging.  Whether I will survive the Chair of Cheer is yet to be seen.


When last we left our harpist-blogger, she was fed up with the time-sucking vortex of all things Social Media and needed a break.  The thing is, I keep thinking of blog topics, and I miss writing.

Besides the time-sucking thing, there is also a nagging issue in my mind about topics: this is “supposed to be a harp blog.”  I’m afraid it really is destined to be more like a variety show.  So the blog will have to continue to include news about my running, my knitting, the weather, and my endless, strong opinions about food, the economy, children’s rights, and other stuff that very well may piss you off.  Sorry.

Let’s talk about what I’ve been up to.

  • Parenting/homeschooling: It’s awesome, rewarding, worth every minute. I would talk more about this but must respect my daughter’s privacy. (How many of us would have liked our mother to blog every detail of our teenage life? Right.)
  • Running: I am building up my long runs and it is going well. I’m up to 20 miles now, with a goal of 24 before my fall marathon (yes! I’m finally doing another marathon after a 3 year hiatus).
  • Knitting: The sweater drafting experience has been very successful. I’m flying solo now, having completed my lessons and my learning projects.  On the drafting table: yet another plain, British-looking cardigan (can’t have too many). On the needles: 2 pairs of socks, a scarf, a fair isle sweater, and a pullover.  More on these in a future post. 🙂
  • Music: the 2013 Memorization Project is proceeding slowly; I have committed only 3 pieces of my repertoire to memory since January, but they are pretty solid! (Sheep May Safely Graze; Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered; and Ashokan Farewell) There is a Bach Andante that is giving me grief (to memorize), but Dawn (from Pride & Prejudice) is sounding good.  I really hope to make some more YouTube videos this summer. For me filming is a bit like cleaning the garage – so hard, but so rewarding.
  • Also in harp news…

As resurrections go, The Bramble Band does pretty well. This is the now-defunct Scottish Country Dance band in which I met my husband, back in the 80s. Somehow, we manage to pull together enough band members once or twice a year to play for a function.  Last weekend the corpse was revived once again for the Northwest Folklife Festival, in which we played for a dance session.  Someone took this picture of us:

bramble band folklife 2013

To prove that this is an actual resurrection, I would like to point out that you cannot see any clear faces except the ghostly reflection of our pianist on the piano… The stuff of Poe, don’t you think?

With all the music and excitement of the festival, I managed to come home with only one poor photo of… baskets.  I get a bit overwhelmed in big crowds.


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I got it into my head to make some homemade holiday gifts this year.  Not a complete DIY-Fest, but just a few “supplemental” gifts.  I cannot say what they are just yet, since a few of my readers are on Santa’s list.

But let me just say this: there always seems to be a significant gap between the quality and classiness of the imagined gift…


…and the actual end product.


Parents, I would like to urge you to think good and hard about encouraging youngsters to make handmade gifts. Some of us never get it out of our heads that we can produce a treasured object, and even decades later we are foisting our hand-mades on friends, family, our favorite cashier at the grocery store, the UPS man…


It’s all harmless, I know. But it’s quite time consuming. The time-spent-to-quality-achieved-ratio is way out of whack. And worst of all, we never learn from the past. We go on crafting gifts year after year, leaving a trail of dreadful projects in our wake as we cling to our belief that the next one is really going to shine.

I think the real trouble is The Gift Balance phenomenon.  Even if you are giving a gift that will not be reciprocated, there is a certain equality involved. “You were kind to me this year, so I made you this lovely cake.”  It’s a nobler version of “we’re even.”  A citizen’s take on the Naughty And Nice List.

The problem is that the things I make that are really worth having (i.e. hand-knits) take hours and hours to create.  A pair of socks takes about 25-35 hours, for example. If I stuck to the sure winner, not only would it be impossible to get through my gift list, but my gifts would be overqualified for the job in most cases.


“Just buy something!” …I know. I assure you I’m not being cheap. My time is my most precious asset.  Unfortunately the training of early childhood, which maintains that homemade gifts contain more love, is deeply ingrained in my holiday consciousness.

Friends, please accept (and forgive) my wonky gifts. Go ahead and throw them away when I’m not looking. But don’t discard the wrapping: my deepest regard and warm wishes for a happy holiday.


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Things are finally starting to cool down a bit. I was so excited about the rain last weekend that I celebrated by starting a little scarf in autumn colors. Here’s to crisp nights, pretty trees, and all things pumpkin-flavored.

The stitch pattern is “seafoam,” though I’ve seen it called other things.  The yarn is Malabrigo Rios.

I am ready to put the ridiculously dry “Indian summer” behind me, forgive Mother Nature for her cruelty, and move on. Let’s do Autumn now.  And if Mother Nature wants to make it up to me, she will make this season last “too long” as well. 🙂

Fall colors on Gilman Blvd. in Issaquah WA, 2011

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“Oh, there you are, Albus,” he said. “You’ve been a very long time. Upset stomach?” 
“No, I was merely reading the Muggle magazines,” said Dumbledore. “I do love knitting patterns…”
from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling

I do too.  Especially the ones with the good photography and the elegant, slender models. There is just one teensy problem.  If it’s some kind of sweater garment you want to knit (as opposed to a scarf, hat or socks), the chances of it actually fitting are slimmer than that cute model.  And I don’t have a magic wand to wish it into shape.

For years, I’ve done what I suspect thousands of other knitters have done: follow the pattern as best as you can, and ignore the ill-fitting bodice, the too-long sleeves, or the odd bulges of fabric where heaven-knows-what was supposed to fit in.

Occasionally, we “do a mod.”  (Slang for modification.) Oh, the daring knitter that strays from the pattern, in hopes of waist shaping that matches her own!

If doing a mod is like your dog sneaking a treat off the table, what I’ve been doing lately is more like the dog who gets out of the house altogether and is running madly throughout the neighborhood in a giddy revelry of freedom.

I… am… drafting! From scratch! From measurements!  With cool tools! And math calculations! And special paper!

I am learning how to draft my own patterns from a friend who is taking multi-year course called Nihon Vogue (Japanese knitwear design and finishing techniques).   My own lessons are just a fraction of what she has learned, but it’s enough to wonder if I’ll ever use commercial garment patterns again.  If I do use patterns, I’ll probably “mod” them beyond recognition.  Transfiguration a la Hogwarts.

How is it going?  I couldn’t be happier.  It is not “easy.” …I have dozens of pages of notes, which must be consulted constantly for all the details, but everything I’ve made so far is lovely and fits perfectly.  No more wonky sweaters! So far I’ve made a vest, a pullover, and a tank-top. On the needles: a cardigan. On the drafting table: a pullover for the Mr.

In Weather News…

We may get back up to the 80’s this week, as summer hangs on like a pit bull.  It “always rains in Seattle”? Today is the 44th straight day without measurable rainfall.  Although we are flirting with the record (51 days), this dry, warm spell is typical for July-Sept. Being a lover of all things cloudy and foggy, I struggle to get through this every year.  At least the nights are cooling off.  Temperature at the start of my run this morning: 46F.  Ahh….

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First, can we all agree that the dude who plays the piano sometimes at Nordstrom is not human? Actually, I haven’t seen him for a while; either he returned to his own planet, or the recession has mandated a cut in Nordstrom’s Alien Pianist budget.  Or maybe I just don’t shop as much as I used to.

But you could tell he was not human because he used to look like playing the piano was no more taxing to his mental abilities than brushing his hair. Looking almost bored, he seemed to long for a little chat – with anyone at all, on any subject, and without any break in the music.  “Hey. How you doin’ today? Thank you, thank you very much…”

I am not that kind of harpist. Ok, maybe calling the Nordstrom guy an alien was a bit harsh, but you cannot exactly blame me for being sensitive about this.  I have tried and tried to connect the brain wires that control talking while I’m playing the harp. My results are always the same: both harp playing and coherent speech dissolve in a puddle of mush.

I used to attempt an exercise where you just say your name while playing music, and then build up from there.  I never progressed beyond good intentions. The music always fell apart immediately, and what came out of my mouth was something like, “sssnnoonthp kmrrfauiill…”

I don’t mean to dwell on it and bring everybody down. Actually, I’ve accepted this as my own charming mental defect and can even laugh about it when it is not actually happening.   But what am I supposed to do when the friendly, well-meaning listener approaches me mid-tune and, mistaking me for a Nordstrom Alien Pianist, exclaims, “That is so lovely! So, how long have you been playing?”

There isn’t much I can do, beyond smiling and trying to nod a bit. Whether it is the kind and friendly listener, or the host’s inebriate uncle who wants to sing along with “Embraceable You,” I mostly have to just ignore people.  It seems rude, but I figure it is preferable to hanging a sign on the harp that says, “Verbal Interaction With Harpist May Give Her Seizures.”

By contrast, if I take out my knitting in public, people seem to think I cannot possibly talk to them at the same time. They start to speak, I look up, and they say, “Oh, sorry. You’re busy…”  No! Try me! I can cross a cable, do a centered-double-decrease, and keep cranking out this sock, all while telling you about the guy who insisted on singing along with “Embraceable You” last night. I can talk to you.  It’s not like I’m trying to play a harp.

In a doctor’s waiting room one day, some ladies apparently didn’t even believe I could knit and hear at the same time.  Less than ten feet away I heard them speaking at normal volume: “Is she knitting? I think she’s knitting. What is it? …I don’t know.”  So I looked up and smiled, expecting to hear, “Oh, we were just wondering what you were knitting there…”  But they just looked away.  As if to say, “We’d better stop before she hears us.”


1. I am so very sorry, but I cannot talk to you while I’m playing this harp.   (Let’s not start anything that could lead to a 9-1-1 call.)

2. I would love to tell you what I’m knitting, and I can definitely hear you and hold these needles at the same time.  I’m gifted that way.

3. Nordstrom should stop hiring extraterrestrials and give us earthlings, flawed as we are, a chance.

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I love knitting. It was bound to come out sooner or later.  In certain circles (for example, any places/activities where I take my daughter and have to wait around for her), I am “that lady who is always knitting.”  Right now I have five projects in progress. I’ve been “on Ravelry” since 2008.  What I’m trying to say is, I’m dedicated.

However… (is there any way to say this nicely?) …some knitters get so wrapped up in our cult hobby that they lose perspective and start knitting insane garments.  Let me be clear about this, I do not mind that they knit insane garments, I mind that they believe these are normal things to wear.

I used to only notice this Loss Of Perspective with regard to sock knitting. Sock yarn and sock knitting is very popular right now (non-knitters, trust me — this is an industry to be reckoned with; this is huge).  As far as I can tell, there is no recession in the sock yarn business.

What happens is this: the abundant availability of sock yarn creates a competitive atmosphere among vendors, in which more and more vivid colors serve to increase market share in a sort of fiber orgy of wool fumes.

Did I mention that all these hand dyed yarns make some kind of stripe pattern when they are knit up into socks? It is the easiest thing in the world to get sucked into the color hypnosis and start knitting crazy striped socks, and then proceed to put those high decibel monstrosities on one’s feet, go out in public, and not know one is wearing something bizarre.  It has happened to the best of us, including me.

Loss of Perspective – it can happen to anyone.

If any knitters of wildly colored striped socks are reading, please do not think I am morally or aesthetically opposed to wildly colored striped socks.  But one day (while wearing the very socks pictured here), I suddenly realized that what I saw as  casual day wear, others saw as: Clown Outfit.

Feel free to declare, “I don’t care what others think!” Feel free to see yourself as the artist that you are. Just don’t feel free to cross your legs in public and expect not to be stared at.

Well, just as we were told in 7th grade that marijuana use would lead to heroine, it turns out that the Loss of Perspective is a slippery slope.  One day it is loud socks, the next it is…  

All names and yarn company identities were omitted to protect artistic freedom.

Knitters, keep on being creative and breaking new ground. Non-knitters, be patient. We love our yarn.

(They’re holding sock yarn, by the way.)

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