Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wish List

As promised, I'm keeping the History on Two Needles work as open and transparent as I can. If it's good enough for Barack ...

I just posted my "Wish List" of artworks. I'm talking to a freelance permissions group to see if they feel we can work together to track down the rights to publish these artworks in my book, and which pieces may be impossible to get or just too expensive. (Thank you, Deb!)

I've set a budget for permissions, I have no idea if it's way out of line, I'm figuring this as I go along! It's scary to jump into a project that doesn't have a guarantee of pay.

The book could tank, I could get to a point where I can't finish it, a lot of stuff could happen. But I've felt for at least four years that it's a very good idea, and I want to fund it. So - with my own work and my own funds, I will.

I'm tweeting now - I'm modeknit! Follow me...

UK in 2009?
I've sent out a couple of emails to some shops you blog readers have mentioned to me as possible venues for classes. I'd love to be able to set up a teaching trip in the UK this year, in the Summer would be lovely (unless that's an absurd time frame because of vacation schedules over there, etc.) If you know of a shop that might like to host me, please let me know - or have them email me - and we'll see what we can set up.

I'm toying with the idea of cashing in more of my frequent flier miles (yes, I have so many more!) and taking the family along. That may be stupid, or it may be inspired, but Gerry's never been out of the country (except for Canada) and he really wants to go someplace. I'd like to make that happen while his mobility makes the whole idea feasible. It may turn out that this means the trip won't pay, but if I break even with it I'll consider it a great success for the chance to create such an amazing family trip. We'll see...

Audio Book
I may have very big news about the audio book of Knit With Courage - it's out and will be ready to purchase in a few days, but it may also be up at Audible if all goes well. Cross your fingers - this is a big one, and will mean a lot to have the book available to their subscribers!

In addition to my website, perhaps Audible and the Holton House website, the book will also be available on Amazon. If you'd like to see the book at Audible (and who wouldn't...?) please let Audible know - it will help quite a bit!
Book: Knit with Courage, Live with Hope
Author: Annie Modesitt
ISBN: 978-0975421925
Audio Producer: Holton House
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Full, Full Day

Yesterday I got to do something I seldom get to do - I got to take a class! A knitting class! From Susanna Hanson!

It was an exceptional day, so much fun, and a delight for me to be part of a class - almost like a little vacation.

In addition to meeting Susanna, who'd I'd heard so much about from Vivian Hoxbro a few years ago, I also got to see Wendy Johnson (who shot the photographs for a little booklet associated with the exhibit at the Swedish American Institute in Minneapolis) and to have lunch with Ruth Sybers of Knitter's Treat and a lovely woman in my class who's name I have forgotten. ( I'm so sorry! Please let me know and I'll correct the above!)

I knew the angora content of the yarn used in the class would be a problem (angora gives me asthma attacks), so Susanna kindly sent me a sample of the yarn colors we would be using and I brought a fine merino in similar colors so I could work a bit more easily. My own partially finished "blue shimmer-esque" cuff is in the photo above - the colors obviously aren't the same as the kit, but they were still pretty nice!

Unfortunately even with my merino precaution, all of the bunny yarn in the class and in the beautiful bohus sweaters on display did a major number on my breathing. I was up a good part of the night with my old friend, Mr. Nebulizer.

I always forget how strong a reaction I can have to some of this stuff.

But I wouldn't have missed the class or the day, even if I'd known I'd be wheezing a bit later on. It was a delight! The class was wonderful, it was very nice to see so many friends that I rarely see (I'm a hermit.)

Hearing a talk by Mary Jo Burke of Stagecoach Yarns on Bohus knitting in the US and all of the work involved in matching the original colors with ever-changing dye compounds and different waters was quite interesting, but the story of how her small rural community is at the mercy of a large Mega Dairy Farm developer - and how they're fighting back - was both moving and terrifying.

In light of the whole ethos of the Bohus movement - empowerment of the small householders through their own hard labor - the situation Mary Jo is facing seems a sad and modern metaphor for how easily the smaller farmer can be shoved out of the way by a larger entity. The WalMartization of farming. It's not new, that's for sure, and it's disturbing every time I hear about it.

Mary Jo said something very interesting after the movie as she, my friend Karen and I were chatting. A friend of hers has commented that The Omnivore's Dilemma will be the Silent Spring of our generation. Please let it be so.

For me one of the highlights of the day was an exceptional, sweet and quite funny documentary on the Bohus phenomenon, Bohus Knitting From Relief Work to World Success. introduced by the filmaker, Kjell Andersson and featuring the last Bohus designer, Kerstin Olsson. I introduced myself to her later and had her sign my Poems of Color book - it was very exciting for me!

I appreciate and enjoy the beauty of the Bohus sweaters, but I can't see myself knitting many of them (the same way that I love hand knit socks, and appreciate sock knitters more than anyone I know, but I'm just not a big sock knitter myself...)

I would love to try to introduce some of the feeling of the sweaters in some work, but there's a fine line between inspiration & reverence and lifting a design.

I wondered on the way home if anyone's done any Bohus inspired crochet work - that might be fun to try!

I returned home to find the most beautiful cat in the world posing on the dog bed (from Men Who Knit) with her little Christmas toy, an Ikea white rat I colored in to match her own black and white coloring. She LOVES that rat, and carries him all over the place, it's very sweet.

She tosses him in the air, and catches him - joyful rat.

It might be the cold I've been fighting off, or the asthma episode last night, but I feel so danged blue. And it's sunny and lovely out - just beautiful, so I have no good reason! Is it habit? Am I just falling into a pattern? I hope not. The best way to avoid a pattern is to see it, admit it, and make a move to change it.

To that end I took the kids treasure hunting after school today (wouldn't it be a kick if we found the prize!) Every year during the Winter Carnival in St. Paul there's a hunt for a medallion. The winner gets $10,000! (A brother/sister team who'd been looking for the medallion every year since they were kids won last year - very sweet!)
So since I was up last night I used my time wisely by going over all of the clues and I think I may have a handle on where it is. How on earth can we resist when a poodle is mentioned in the clues?

We probably have no chance - we had no luck this afternoon and had to leave before we froze off our toes - but with two dedicated red-headed helpers and the aforementioned poodle, how can we miss?

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Saturday, January 24, 2009


One of the delights of TNNA is seeing yarns with which I'm not currently familiar.

As a hand knit designer, I have several yarn companies that I work with over and over again and some that I just do a project with once or twice every few years. The reasons for this are many and varied, they include:
  • The yarns a company offers doesn't fit well with my current designs
  • I just lose sight of some yarn companies as I develop a kind of designerly tunnel vision
  • I just feel a stronger affility toward some yarns and companies
There are yarn companies with whom I've developed a warm working relationship, some that are still in the 'getting to know you' stages, and some that just aren't a good fit for my own design sense or method of working.

One of the most exciting changes I've noticed is the willingness of yarn companies to work together on projects (note the Duets concept between Lorna's Laces and Mountain Colors) which is a very good idea because this is how most knitters use yarns they purchase at their LYS. Training knitters to make intelligent substitution choices is - I believe - very wise in the long run.

Every few months I go through my yarns and get rid of the older balls that have gone to 'yarn heaven' or are in colors that have been discontinued. There's no sense in designing in a yarn that won't be available to the knitting public, even though this often happens even if a designer is careful.

So I was very excited to see a wide range of new (or new to me) yarns at TNNA (click image for larger).

I only asked for or took balls of yarn that I didn't have at home, easier for travel and more fair for the yarn companies.

My goal this week is to work up at least a St st swatch of each of these new yarns, to see if any of them would be good for HoTN, or perhaps for another project down the road.

In all honesty, sometimes I just don't see the true beauty of a yarn until I work with it, and often I fall in love with a yarn only to realize that once its knit up it's not quite as spectacular as I'd envisioned.

Swatching is a necessary 'getting to know you' step for any designer who wants to keep abreast of what yarns are available.

This past year I feel that I've fallen behind in my swatching homework, so I'm happy to jump back into it again. I know how I'll be spending my Saturday!

So here, in no certain order (except how I happened to reach for them out of my bag o' new yarns) are the yarns I've swatched up since arriving home on Monday evening. I'll add more as I swatch them up.

Cascade Yarn
Soft Spun
100% Peruvian Highland Wool
Color: 2815 Reddish Brown
Rec gauge: 4 spi / 5.5 rpi on size 9 needle (US)
196 yards /179 meters
3.5 ounces /100 grams

Cascade Yarn
79% Wool, 21% Linen
Rec gauge: 4.5 spi / 7 rpi on size 8 needle (US)
196 yards /179 meters
3.5 ounces /100 grams

100% Fine Merino Wool
Color: 32965
Rec gauge: 4.5 spi / 6 rpi on size 8 needle (US)
98 yards /90 meters
1.75 ounces /50 grams

Red Rocks
New York
100% Merino
Color: Azure
Rec gauge: 4 spi / 6 rpi on size 8 needle (US)
980 yards /894 meters
16 ounces /457 grams


80% Baumwolle, 20% Polyamide
Color: 3757
Rec gauge: 4.5 spi / 6 rpi on size 7 needle (US)
110 yards /100 meters
1.75 ounces /50 grams

Crystal Palace
Panda Superwash
51% Bamboo, 39% Superwash Wool, 10% Nylon
Color: 2002 Stained Glass
Rec gauge: 5.5 spi / 7 rpi on size 7 (doubled) needle (US)
yards / meters
1.75 ounces /50 grams

I'm not going to make intelligent comments about them (I can hear Clara heaving a sigh of relief) because I'm just not the best fiber person to comment on the general makeup of yarn. But I probably will make unintelligible comments about how they knit up as I go along. Nothing to report of note right now!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009


As some of you know, my degree (I have a masters, touch me!) is in Costume and Set Design. This meant spending a LOT of time researching chitons, bliods and drum farthingales (oh my!)

When I look at paintings, I see the things others miss - the hats, the way a garment falls, the wrinkles denoting non-knitted hosen worn by dozens of peasants in all those Breugel ftes.

So when I leapt into reasearch for History on Two Needles (HoTN) I already had a certain number of favorite paintings and sculptures I wanted to use. But how to go about getting permission to use them?

I'm trying a few different routes; First, I wrote or faxed to the museums which house some of my most desired paintings. I've heard back from several, all very positive (my coup was permission from the National Portrait Gallery in London to use a painting of Anne Boelyn - love that neckline!) but I haven't heard back from the mother-lode of historic costuming artwork, the Metropolitan in NYC.

Then, as I was Googling a few paintings, I ran across the Wikimedia Commons,

Welcome to Wikimedia Commons
A database of 3,820,606 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.

Oh, baby! If I'm understanding this correctly, just about any image that's listed as Public Domain on Wikimedia is fair game - am I correct in my assumption?

Obviously, I'm still researching this, but if that's the case it makes my research that much easier - I have a larger pool of artwork to choose from and don't have to satisfy myself with something that isn't quite right. Any image copyright experts out there have an opinion on using a snapshot of The Black Prince's tomb in my book?

Back to my research! I have some ideas of items I'd like to knit, so I'm looking for historic garments that lend themselves to these pre-concieved ideas. But for the most part the ideas for the knitted garments are pretty much coming right from the artwork. I'm hoping for a nice variety of silhouettes and tailoring styles.


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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TNNA Reflections

I love going to TNNA because it's one of the few chances I can meet with sister designers, teachers and yarn company folks in a working environment. It's true that I usually need more than a few days to collect myself and rest up from the walking, but this time around I was sensible about my shoes and I have no residual knee or foot pain. I love my Keens and Brns, they are saving my arches!

I see shop owners more than any other segment of the knitting/crochet world, aside from my actual students and knitters, but I don't get to see other designers or yarn company folks as often as I'd like. So even when a show is a little slow, or I'm exhausted (both happened this time) it's a good decision to go to TNNA.

Like many folks, I just about broke even this show. Times are rough, edging onto hard, but worse things have happened and in my heart of hearts I think a dip in the economy won't hit knitting as hard as it might other industries. It was delicious to be in a warm place, though - very enjoyable - and makes me appreciate my own cold home all the more. That sounds tongue in cheek, it's not - I really do love it here!

We yarn folk are in a unique business - we can fulfill simple dreams, which are all that some of us are able to cling to when larger dreams go into hibernation. A new house, a more exciting job, a cool new car - these are all things that may have to wait for better times. But a new scarf or sweater is do-able, and in the long run may bring a deeper satisfaction.

The sense of joy when a student mistresses a new technique is so strong because it comes from some internal place where we cherish learning. And not just a new technique, but this satisfaction is also found when a new pattern is tackled, a new yarn is discovered, or an old friend/ pattern/ yarn is revisited.

This is what will carry the knitting world through rough times, and perhaps even allow many of us to thrive. Well, a girl can dream.

I suffered an emotional setback at this TNNA, I had a rough day on Sunday which ended with a minor meltdown. Even more embarrasing, I melted in front of folks I treasure - so messy, so troubling.

I'm thinking the culprit was mental & physical exhaustion, the kind wishes of so many folks plus my inability to process them as easily as I would have liked. I wonder if there's some kind of mental digestive aid, like Tums or Beano, that would allow one to take in so much worry and love and concern from others without choking on it.

Like a kid who keeps a brave face until the moment when she stubs her toe, I was getting along fine until I sat down to dinner and put a very spicy samosa in my mouth. The burning caused me to lose all ability to hold back my tears (spices affect me so deeply, I have such a Methodist mouth.) I did have the presence of mind to get to my car before I entirely lost it, and that made the entire rental worth it.

I'm so grateful to Amanda from Lorna's Laces for understanding. Oh, heck, I'm just in love with all of their yarns anyway - Beth and Amanda are just the icing on the cake!

Local Teaching
While in San Diego I taught at the Grove, which remains one of my favorite yarn shops. The stock isn't extensive, but it's VERY well selected and there is something there for everyone. No, what I love about the shop is the spirit of the place - all the books, all the other cool stuff (clothing, trinkets, jewelry) and I especially love the women who run the shop.

Here are two students from my first class - both wearing knit or crochet skirts. Cynthia, on the left, is evidently stunned by Julia's prowess in knitting her Habu skirt (tens of thousands of stitches, we're told...) Cynthia worked up her own beautiful skirt from a pattern in Interweave Crochet. I love knit and crocheted skirts (I'm designing one right now in Skacel Trekking for IC myself!)

It's always good to spend time with Susan, I only wish the timing hadn't been such that I had to run back to the convention center to grab my suitcase before the management shut the doors and turned off the lights. But the rushing took it's toll, and as afternoon eased into evening and I found myself mentally and emotionally exhausted, and thus the aforementioned melting.

Luggage seemed to be a leitmotif of this trip. I've developed a new strategy for dealing with the crowded, bumpy rental car bus and my bags. When I fly I have so many suitcases (samples, teaching stuff, etc.) but I just HATE lugging, pushing and pulling them, one by one, up onto a rental car bus and then off again.

So this time I parked in short term parking across from my terminal just long enough to check in and check my bags. Then I returned to the car rental counter and took the bus back to the airport with only my carry on stuff.

It took longer, and cost me $3 in parking, but saved me a wrenched back and sore arms.

Thankfully, now that I'm back in the Great Frozen North I'm not melting as easily, and that's a mercy.

The flight back was wonderful - I was bumped up to First Class (the reward for so much flying over the past 2 years) and thoroughly enjoyed my free gin & tonic. The view looked better, too - flying away from the sunset was pretty.

Yesterday Gerry and I - and about 1,500 of our closest friends - stood outside the Riverview Theater hoping to get in to watch the inaguration. We didn't make it in, so we drowned our sorrows in coffee and breakfast at the Louisiana Cafe then returned home to watch the big event in the privacy of our living room. It would have been fun to have been in a crowd, though...

Looking Ahead
The Stitch Coop, the group of designers with whom I've joined forces (we're in the market for a Fortress of Solitude) is moving along well. Shannon's had such a great idea, and the members of the coop continue to come up with remarkable ways to market and present our patterns.

It was very exciting to see yarn shop owners stirred by the idea of presenting a hundred patterns and earning money on pattern sales with no initial outlay of funds. Shannon explains it much better than I am in her current blog post.

It looks as though we may be welcoming some yarn companies into our fold, which is brilliant. That's still in the works, as details become firm they'll be posted at the Stitch Coop website.

New Yarns & A New Book
I picked up some balls of new yarns - well, at least new to me - that I'm anticipating using in my new book.

I've made the decision to keep the process of researching, writing and creating the book entirely transparent, discussing the whole thing on my blog as I work through it. I'm hoping it will be interesting for my readers, and will allow me to avoid the annoying phrase, "secret project" that creeps into so many designer's blogs. I have to keep some projects quiet, but I want this one to be more visible.

I'll be self publishing - I had a wonderful discussion with Cat Bordhi about this at TNNA - so I have no overseer to get upset if I publish sketches or swatches en route to the finished design. The working title is History on Two Needles (or HOTN, which may or may not end up being the actual title.)

The premise of the book is the use of paintings, sculpture, mosaics and other artwork as a jumping off place for modern hand knit designs.

I had the idea several years ago, based on an assignment I was given in a design class in grad school. In that class we tackled the same concept, but without the knitted angle.

If I accomplish my goal, the modern designs won't look 'costumy,' but they will reflect the general feeling of some garment or detail in the chosen work of art.

For example, here's this statuette from the Museo Civico in Bologna reinterpreted as a ruana and ribbed top. I've received permission from the Museo to use the piece, as well as permission from several other museums.

Some of the artwork I want to use is available through Wikimedia in the public domain or through creative commons - that's going to be an interesting part of the process to wade through and learn about!

I collected many balls of yarn on Monday at TNNA to swatch up and - hopefully - use in the book. I'll be writing about them as I swatch them up, some of them are incredibly interesting!

The first step is to do the swatching and get a sense of what each yarn can do. The second step - which pretty much runs neck in neck with step 1 - is to determine what type of yarn I'd like to use for the various designs.

The actual designs will - if all goes well - organically just come together as I work through yarn choices and ponder my chosen artwork images. Yeah, right.

Well, that's the plan. Now let's see if I'll be able to deliver!

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dreams For Our Daughters

I made this little photoshop montage a few months ago. It features photographic elements, the image of Ruby Bridges from the Norman Rockwell painting, "The Problem We All Live With" and with Malia Obama's beautiful face.

I held onto it as a bit of a talisman, and now it will be happening. Perhaps not exactly like this, but it's how I, as a woman who was a little girl in the 60's witnessing a different history, likes to think of it.

Maybe Malia should wear a coat on Tuesday, though...
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Friday, January 16, 2009

A little tiny bit of heaven

This morning I woke up feeling warm. I do miss MN, and even though it was -21 (before wind chill) I love it, but it's nice to be warm, too! Gerry and the kids haven't had phone or internet service since the morning I left, as of this afternoon still nothing. Thank you, Comcast...

I'm feeling a little down - I got ill today and I'm trying to figure if it's something I ate, or something I caught. For a bit it seemed that it might have been prudent to have Shannon stay with someone else - heaven knows I don't want anyone else to get what I have! - but eventually it all resolved itself and apparently I'm not ill, just was a little nauseous.

But sitting in the sun, resting, all of that is good and makes me feel better. I have nothing I MUST do until I teach on Sunday, then I fly out on Monday afternoon, so I do have a nice chance to rest myself. Enjoyable.

I'm supposed to meet Cat Bordhi this evening after her class - I'm looking forward to it, she's such a great person!

The show seems like it may be small, but it always seems that way before the floor opens.

The Stitch Coop has a nice book smack between Dream In Color and SWTC, how lucky can we be? We're also just behind Malabrigo, so our yarn needs are pretty well established!

Kristi Porter brought a lot of great stuff for the booth, she lives nearby and
we are SO lucky she does! We all pitched in and had a veritable 'booth-raising' before I began to feel kind of icky and faint. I sat down on the floor while everyone else labeled the pieces for the booth, then headed over to take a nap in Amy's room across the . How convenient...

Instead of napping, though, I felt so ill that I just sat in the Hilton lobby for a while. After a few hours of resting I did feel back to my old self. I think something I ate this morning must not have agreed with me...

I headed back over to the booth with Amy, dropped off a few hats to Lorna's Laces for their booth (that brand new pattern that incorporates earflaps into the initial cast on, which I should have finished soon as a downloadable pdf file. Maybe...)


I met with Cat, we had a very lovely dinner. She's a remarkable person!

We ate at Masala, and had some of the best Indian food I've had in years! They actually had ROSE ice cream on the menu, something I hadn't had since the Indian American Festival in Central Park back in 1986 or so. It was very good.

I walked a bit, and met up with a huge gang of fiber folks corralled by Marly (Yarn Thing) for a lovely 2nd dinner.

I didn't have dinner, though, I had a sundae (which may have been a silly idea after my amazing rose ice cream) The sundae was good, though! Life is good.

While waiting for the rest of the big fiber bunch to show up for dinner I filmed a singing, dancing group happily swirling down the sidewalk. Then who should roll up but 5 friends in 2 pedi-cabs (I keep expecting them to give pedicures as you ride....) racing to the bar. And I had to race to keep up!

Today really was a tiny bit of heaven!
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Monday, January 12, 2009

Teaching & Medicine

My class yesterday for a private group of friends was fun, it was a delightful group of amazingly skilled knitters, and I'm so grateful to St. Luke's Episcopalian for hosting us - thank you for your gracious hospitality!

I hadn't taught since November, and as usual when I have a 2 month break I felt a little rusty - but I do think it was an okay class. I wish it had been better. I always do.

I'm also very grateful to Sheila for arranging the whole thing, it was a lovely afternoon and it worked out beautifully with Gerry's appts today. Thank you, Sheila!

While I taught, Gerry and the kids dropped off Atticus at a doggie day care place that boards and also grooms happy puppies - a triple threat!

The family checked into the Staybridge Suites, where we stayed during our time at Mayo last year, and came back at 3:30 to pick me up at St. Lukes. Gerry kept eyeing the carrot cake, so I just came right out and asked if we could bring the last few slices home for him. I have no shame where baked goods are concerned.

Gerry loves few things as much as he loves Carrot Cake. One layer of our wedding cake was carrot - the other layer was hazelnut with chocolate filling. Unusual, yes. But it offered varity for our guests. It was made most lovingly for us by our neighbor, Margaret Palca, sister of Joe Palca (NPR Science Correspondent) And thus our NPR courtship had an appropriate NPR wedding day tie-in!

After class was over we packed up the car and on the way to the hotel we happened to drive past a bowling alley. On a whim we stopped and bowled a game with the kids. It was fun - Gerry won! An unexpected 10 frames of joy for the kiddies!

Dinner was excellent, but we all collapsed back at the hotel and longed for sleep. Unfortunately there was a marathon of Mystery Diagnosis on TLC, and Gerry, Hannah and I stayed awake WAY to long watching vignettes of mis-diagnosed near-tragedies. We are masochists. Max slept. He's the wise one.

This morning the day started as so many days do, with the ritualistic dropping off of the full day's collection of pee (Gotta love those kidney function tests! THIS is the exciting part of sickness, folks!) and some blood tests for Gerry.

While Gerry had blood drawn in tiny amounts, I went to the blood center and gave a pint. It's always one-upsmanship with us.

It was good for the kids to see the whole Mayo routine, to see what dad has to do every time we go down, and I think it's also good for them to see me giving blood. It was my 5th time giving at the Mayo, I got a T-shirt today. Yay!

The numbers at Mayo were very good, we're very happy!

In addition to the regular docs (Hi Dr. H!) We also saw a new doctor about Gerry's continuing back pain, and more physical therapy (up here in St. Paul) will be forthcoming. Very kind things were said about Knit With Courage (I'd left copies at Gerry's last visit) and one of the docs wants to try to get it in the Mayo bookshop - yay!

We have to deal with our impending loss of health insurance (we're due to lose it in June) so there's our Spring Project all laid out for us.

We're so grateful that we've had good, union insurance up to now - we know that many folks don't. And I'm just tired enough to feel pissy that we have to feel grateful to have what should be a right. But I am grateful. Thank you Local #1.

We took the kids to our favorite Greek diner West of the Hudson, Mac's in Rochester. Gerry had a Gyro and I had spanakopida, the kids had various chicken things. YUM! Gerry looked up at me and grinned at one point and said, "Tastes just like New York!"

After Gerry's last medical appointment we picked up Atticus, the snow was falling thick and fast and I was half afraid I wouldn't make it up the hill to the Bear Creek Kennel.

He was happy, clean and well groomed (Atticus, not Gerry). I don't think he had as much fun as the kids did in the pool at the hotel this morning, but he certainly didn't have a bad time! The dogs out in the yard looked sad to see him go.

The drive home was insane.

It wasn't the amount of snow, although they kept saying, "Blizzard conditions!" on the radio. It was the blowing of the snow - it swirled and drifted and flew across the road so violently I swear it felt like I was driving on clouds. Slippery clouds. It was several hours of white knuckle, white snow, white dotted line driving - I've seldom been so happy to see the St. Paul city limits road sign.

But now we're home, the car's in the garage and the kids are doing homework. Even though it's only 8:00, I'm off to bed. Those late night Mystery Diagnosis session really take it out of me.

I did a lot of crocheting today at Mayo (I have a skirt due for IK Crochet) and I also did a lot of thinking (mostly mental prep for TNNA later this week...) I'm worn out.

Maybe I'll play some iPod Touch scrabble as I drift off to sleep? It's my new obsession, and I'm not ashamed to say it!

Shannon Okey has asked me to mention a poll she has on her blog, with chances to win patterns! She's so much more generous than I am - now I have to think of something all clever to give patterns away.

Scrabble's making me more competitive.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Calling For Backup

This past June a designer I know, Rae Creedle, lost her home to fire. Worse than that, she lost the all the parts of her knitting business that were ON the now-melted computer.

It was a devastating loss, but Rae was kind enough to use it as an opportunity to teach all of us about the importance of backup. Oddly enough, and not like me at all, I heeded her message and signed up for Mozy as a computer backup.

I also store old files from past projects on a hard drive, files that I may never need to refer to again, but I need to keep them for legal reasons. If you've ever emailed me with a question about an old design or an old book, this may be why it takes me some time to find an answer...

Since I don't keep these files on my computer, they wouldn't be backed up in case something should happen to our hard drive. I keep them on one of my servers (,,,, etc.) because I have a LOT of room that I don't use for my websites.

Imagine how thrilled I was to remember this happy backup routine when my computer went dead yesterday. In the midsts of my angst, it was a bright spot. That, and my new cheap-o refurb ipod-touch which allows me to continue to get email and check websites when my computer is out of commission...

I had noticed for some time that the battery seemed to be doing odd things like not working. The computer needed to be plugged in to work, if the cord came out the computer would just "click" off. SO annoying.

But I'd done nothing about it (well, nothing except the backup thing...) Last night the cord fell out again, but this time there was no lovely "chime" when I tried to turn it on. Just 3 long, forlorn beeps. I joked on Twitter last night that I asked the resident Jew to perform a "Lazarus" on my poor laptop...

And my dear, dear Gerry, our resident tech-head, was able to get the computer running again this morning. Yay, Gerry! Apparently there's a well known problem with some of their batteries, one of which is in my own Mac. So a new one is on its way, and with any luck it will be here by the time I leave for TNNA!

BTW, in case any of you were wondering? I'm Times New Roman.
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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Ghost Woke Me Up

I wasn't really asleep, not entirely, not yet.

I'd been watching Forensic Files - Gerry asked if he could turn out his light (I was playing Scrabble, multi-tasking) and I said, "Yes, of course."

He's usually the one who outlasts me, I'm generally the one tossing and turning until he decides he's finished with his book/email/TV show.

Twice today I almost said to the kids, "Your grandpa's old Army uniform is up in the office closet..." But I didn't.

I wondered, "What would I be saying that for, what would it be leading to?"
  • A discussion of World War II?

  • An appraisal of how tall my dad was during the war (average) and how large (average)?

  • A frank discussion of the demons that tore up his soul?

  • An apology for those moments when the same demons visit me?

  • An explanation of why, 30 years after his death on January 6th, 1978, I still feel such a small amount of sorrow for such a large loss?
Perhaps tomorrow, sometime between school and piano lessons/piano lessons & homework/homework & bed, I'll show them the uniform.
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Monday, January 05, 2009

A Clean Office

Shannon Okey, who's the new editor of Yarn Forward, asked me if I'd take some photos of my "studio" space for a piece on designer's spaces. After I finished laughing, I decided it was time to actually get my office space in working order before I committed to taking any photos.

Yes, I know a few months (weeks?) ago I blogged, "I FINALLY HAVE AN OFFICE!" And I did. Really.

But I didn't do the further - and vital - step of claiming the space by moving my books, yarn, tools, etc., into the room.

I relinquished it to Gerry and Max, I figured it was the least I could do after taking away their nice, big office. No - wait a minute! Must-not-be-nice, must reclaim office space...)

And I did. Add to that the fact that I spent about 4 hours doing image research for a book idea yesterday and it may be that perhaps I am working toward something?

Or maybe I really did just spend the day straightening up?

...And playing with my devil ducks! Don't they look evil sitting on the ends of my needles? Be very afraid of the DD's, baby!

Gerry vacuumed and mopped today - I didn't stop him - and now his back hurts. I should have stopped him.

But the house is quite beautiful...

Tonight my knitting group is coming over, I don't have the treats I had last time, but I DO have a ton of yarn (discontinued yarns, colors with which I can no longer design) to distribute freely among them.

My own knitting? I worked up a hat over the holidays, I made several different versions and I think I've finalized the pattern. It's amazingly easy, it creates those cute little earflaps and I think I might be able to make it a universal pattern.

At any rate, Hannah likes her new hat! And Max has insisted that I make one for him! Maybe I'll write up the pattern, it's pretty slick!
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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Max's First Snowboard Attemps

We love Craig's List, and the kicky snow board that we got for Max for $20! The playground at SPA has hills the perfect size for learning to navigate on a board.
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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New 2009

Blogger's Note: I don't think we'll be sending many holiday cards this year. Aside from the expense, I just can't get myself motivated to do it. So I'll be emailing the following post to most friends as a holiday email, and sending it in letter form to those close to me who aren't comfortable on the internets.

I apologize for the repetitive (to my blog readers) portions of our family's newsy 2008 letter, but it seemed like it would be a nice blog post.

It's January 2009, our family is intact, we're all here, relatively healthy and happy to be with each other.

So far in our story we'd moved to MN in Feb 2007, a few weeks later the diagnosis of Gerry's Multiple Myeloma began and later that year he had a stem cell transplant to stop this insidious blood cancer in its' tracks.

Aside from continuing bone pain, a loss of many inches in height (we disagree - he says 4", I say 6") and a new found appreciation of the phrase, "Your days are numbered..." we continue oddly intact as a family. Honestly, whose days aren't numbered?

The cancer, although not officially in remission, is what is called, "Smoldering" - meaning the numbers are good, it's not currently active or growing, but it's there and according to all the docs it will, eventually, return.

In 2008 we've had to settle into a daily routine of pain and fear punctuated with - well, it has to be said - the reduced financial situation of a single-adult earner in a medically affected household. This is when we give up our amateur status in the

It sounds worse than it is - Gerry being home and present is actually quite a blessing (this is said in a secular tone) and allows the kids to spend more time with him than most kids would get with their fathers in 5 childhoods. Yay, cancer!

I've cut down my travel and teaching schedule dramatically. When I'm away more than a few days the pressure on Gerry to be two parents is so hard that it almost breaks him, and he is so kind and wonderful that he can't (or won't) tell me.

The Minnesota Treat
Originally uploaded by modeknit
Thank heaven for kids with keen eyes and big hearts. Hannah and Max report - in a loving way - about how Dad is doing when I'm away, and this has helped me make the decision that no matter what the cost financially, I can't afford to be away from home for extended periods during this time.

This means I've been writing and designing more this year than last, not as much as I'd like (who ever does DO as much as they'd like?) but I'm keeping my hand in. I've had designs in most of the major knit magazines this year and hope to continue the trend, perhaps working back up to my 2 designs in most mags by the end of the year.

I also published a book in September, "Knit with Courage, Live with Hope", a title that makes me cringe and grin simultaneously.

It's a cheesy title for a book, but I figured if any title would get me on Oprah, this might be it... It's the 12-month story of our lives from Jan 2007 to Jan 2008 as we learn why Gerry's back is hurting so much, what MM really means, and how to be grateful and happy in the midsts of what seems (from the outside) as a tragedy. Please.

Our lives are so blessed (once again, secular..) that to complain about anything would be not only mean and small, but idiotic and ungrateful.

Oy - I didn't mean to get all preachy (secular...) You can take the girl out of the fundamentalist Methodist childhood, but can you ever separate the fundamentalist child from the woman? We joke that I was actually born Jewish, but kidnapped by a roving band of Methodists and raised as one of their own in Ohio. Weirder things have happened...

The book's been getting very nice attention. Without a big PR budget we're pretty much left to small periodical reviews and word of mouth, but it's doing well. I was approached by an audio book company and one thing led to another. The book - with my voice (aspirated T's and slight lisp notwithstanding) will be released in early 2009. I'm planning a trip to Baker's Square for one slice of every type of pie they make as a celebration on that day.

The kids are doing remarkably well. We're honest with them, for better or for worse, and they seem to thrive under our insane and Simpson-inspired parenting. Both started piano and skiing lessons this year, both excel, both are firmly planted in the 'above average' portion of the grade card. Should we expect anything less having moved just south of Lake Wobegone?

The cancer lives with us, but we don't let it control our lives. We treat it like a child who could throw many tantrums if we'd let it, so we are firm with it and often send it to it's room. We give cancer frequent 'time outs' and so far it's responding well.

In September Hannah and I realized a 5-year dream (8 years, really, the dream was born when I watched the Eiffel Tower on TV light up on New Year's Eve 2001) I used up about 2 million frequent flier miles and took Hannah to Paris for her birthday.

We traveled with a new St. Paul friend and her daughter and had an amazing time. Hannah's taking French this year, and just having been in an environment where folks are communicating in a foreign language is a huge boost to comprehension. I swear, it wasn't until I was 24 that it sunk in that folks actually DID speak French, that they weren't just faking it.

Max has fallen in love with the Piano and the Bells (he plays in his school band) and seems to get his musical inclination from Gerry's side of the family.

He's also turned out to be an amazing water skiier, downhill skiier and kayaker. Minnesota definitely agrees with him, and he remains a sweet, kind and very fun kid - a little young for his age, but also profoundly wise when we least expect it.

Gerry fights boredom, that's his biggest adversary.

He's tired and in pain enough that a regular job is out of the question (if he'd started with one he might have been able to stay with is, but starting as a non-employed newcomer to MN, finding and getting a job that allows for unlimited days off is sort of a pipe dream...)

So aside from helping me with book shipping, and being our chief cook and bottle washer, he is constantly looking for something to engage him and make him feel more a part of the world around him. Winter's hard for him - it's cold, his pain is worse and he can't get out as easily to see folks. But as we're able to keep the pain under control, I'm trying to get him to look into volunteer opportunities. And, of course, there's always that Knitting DVD that we've been threatening to make for 2 years now...

As far as our family is concerned, the hard part of this year has been the not knowing - how far can we plan? What can we expect? Will Gerry be a 3-year, 5-year, 10-year survivor of this disease?

But when we're honest with ourselves, will any of us be 3-year or 10-year survivors of life itself?

When Gerry was diagnosed my cousin was in remission from breast cancer and we celebrated. But her cancer returned this year and in October we lost her. Jan was more like a sister to me than a cousin, my last link to a childhood of strong emotions. With her passing, (along with my mother and brother 4 years earlier), there's no one around with whom I shared a Christmas morning. That's an odd feeling, and I miss her very much.

Another cousin recently lost her 8-year battle with her own cancer. Patsy passed at the end of 2008 and will be missed by everyone who knew her -she was so loving and funny!

Another close family member, my nephew, Alex, was also diagnosed with cancer this year. He has Ewings Sarcoma and is fighting through treatment (radiation and chemo) right now as surgery has been determined to be too invasive (the tumor is inoperable). He's a brave kid, with a brave mom who is doing the whole parent thing alone since my brother's passing. Cancer sucks. You can quote me.

So we, as a family, start 2009 knowing that there are no guarantees, no promises, and the silliest thing any human being can say is, "But it's not supposed to be like this..."

Life is not supposed to be like anything - it just is.

We're hoping to regain a bit of the bounce and rhythm we've lost over the past 2 years. We've gained so much, learned so much. We realize that our greatest good fortune isn't the current smolder of Gerry's cancer, but our ability to turn toward each other and grow from this experience rather than let the fear and grief rip us apart.
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posted by Annie at 8 Comments Links to this post

Friday, January 02, 2009

More Myself

My leading-up-to-Christmas and a bit beyond funk is past. I'm feeling certain it had as much to do with my lack of biking, walking (icy sidewalks) and darkness.

But I paid my $25 for yearly exercise room privileges at our local Linwood Rec Center (once I get my ID card I'll be able to use ANY St. Paul Rec Center exercise room all year!) and I've been a few times already. I'm not doing anything hard core, just stationary bike and treadmill, but it's enough to make me feel like my leg muscles aren't atrophying.

It's also sunnier than it had been. And I think I can DEFINITELY feel a difference in the past week and a half of each day getting just a tiny bit longer. Friends have emailed with info on Light Therapy and on places to get light boxes. It's definitely something to look into.

Mostly I'm trying to get myself geared up for a decent sized project - I really want to FINALLY get that book on patterns based on historical icons underway - I keep doing research for it - and this is the year it has to happen.

I need to devise different revenue streams because, with Gerry's mobility as uncertain as it's been so far this Winter, I can't really depend on being able to travel as much as I have in the past.

One very good thing is that Knit with Courage continues to sell well (as with the other books, knock wood!), and the audio book will be out soon. The KWC audio book is being independently produced by Holton House Audio, not one of the larger audio book companies, so I've heard that it can be hard to get it included as an easy to purchase iTunes audiobook. Of course, if anyone would care to reqeust it, I'm certain that might help...

But - as long as I'll be at home - there's that knitting DVD that I keep talking about. Oy. Enough idle chatter!

I don't have a lot of practice with procrastination. I'm usually on top of things, devising strategies for getting them done and prioritizing like a triage nurse. But some stuff has slipped away (holiday cards, responses to lovely emails from folks) and I just can't seem to get myself motivated to reply in a deep and kind way.

So either I have to become better at procrastinating and embrace it, or just stop doing it...

A group of us in the Stitch Cooperative are putting together a book of baby patterns using South West Trading yarn. I've volunteered to be the organizer of the projects, at least in the first few months of our collaboration, so having someone outside of myself counting on my 'being there' should be a help to keep me honest and on task.

So that's two books to organize - develop time lines, create yarn lists, etc. I'm relying on Cat Bordhi's suggestion of a color printer for my own book, and my goal is to have samples knit by the start of Summer. As this is something so close to my heart, I really want it to be done well - good tech editing, good shots of the garments, just GOOD and reliable patterns.

Aside from that, the teaching, and the odd design stuff for magazines that contact me, I'm thinking 2009 will be a down-time kind of year - another one - whereby we work through the larger issues by concentrating on the details.
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posted by Annie at 4 Comments Links to this post

Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf

Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho


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