Archive for the ‘knitting’ Category

IMG_3259Last week I began and rapidly finished a knit commission. My assignment: two tiny hats for two premature baby boys. Twins, two pounds each. Such tiny hats don’t take long, maybe a couple of hours total. An episode of Downton Abbey and a couple of podcasts will do it.  Longer projects, like the Aran sweater I made for Malcolm and which has now been handed down to his brother, require little bits of several months. The knitting takes place on car rides, while watching movies, in waiting rooms and under the table in large, boring meetings. Sometimes, a piece of knitting becomes indelibly associated with a place or an event. Once it does, the association is pressed, stitch by stitch, into the memory of the piece. I finished the Aran sweater while we were on vacation on Thompson Lake in Maine. Every time I pull that sweater out of the drawer, I am transported back to that rock-strewn glacial beach.

These tiny hats had such a clear fate. I could see them on the fist-sized heads of these two boys whose future, as far as anyone can read it, lies in a plastic walled isolette in a NICU. I thought about them as I knitted round after round. The thought gets threaded into the yarn invisibly, though to me it’s as clear as a scrap of red ribbon woven into a brown bird’s nest: a bright streamer amid the dry grass.

When the hats were done, I laid them side by side to admire them for a while before I sent them off. The image of these two tiny hats, side by side, was nagging at me all the day after. As I went to package them up, I realized why. The two rounded shapes, side by side, brought to my mind a double tombstone in a churchyard a few towns over, sacred to the memory of two sons of Edward and Mary Bass. The two boys died 5 years apart, and neither was much to either side of one year old. I think of Mary Bass, and the mother of the two tiny twins, and all my troubles evaporate. I have more than I justly deserve. My two sons are above ground, and well.IMG_2028

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IMG_3223 After a frenzy of knitting for other people, with a queue sometimes 5 items long, I finally had a chance to knit something for myself. So I knitted myself what was billed as a waistcoat, but which is, I hope, vest-like enough to qualify me for residence here in New Hampshire. I grew up within a mile of the NH border, but had never really lived the northern New England lifestyle. Now, my husband is employed in Concord, the capital, and I am gradually growing accustomed to the existence of things like “dressy fleece” and “really nice moccasins” for special occasions like meeting the Governor.
The other day, I was at a Salvation Army thrift store in Portsmouth NH and I watched a women in an extremely bright green and puffy down jacket approach a mirror. She thoughtfully gazed at herself as she held a garment up to her chest. It was an extremely bright orange and puffy down jacket. These people know what they like.
A year or so ago, we went on a weekend trip to Portland, Maine. We had reservations at a pretty nice restaurant, so I brought a cute dress, black tights, and leather boots. We were seated up in a balcony overlooking the main restaurant, and it gradually dawned on me that every other patron in the place was clad in at least one fleece item, and almost universally shod in LL Bean mocs. Wasted was my attempt at dressing right. I was clearly marked as a non-local.
I won’t live that way anymore! But neither will I wear a fleece vest unless I am hiking. No matter how fancy and dressy it is. I’m hoping that knitting my own fleece vest substitute will strike the right note of vestiness and self-reliance that is New Hampshire’s flinty foundation. I’ll let you know if it gets me invited to meet the Governor.

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One of many hand-knit items for sale in our shop. Don’t worry, it’s only a little pot! HA!

My mother and I have started a tiny business. Sarobi Interiors, which will one day be a thriving, full service home decorating firm, is, for now, a booth of goods in a corner of the Mill 77 Trading Company in Amesbury, MA.

Why did we decide to embark on this when my mother is a full time R.N./Nursing Supervisor and I have two jobs already plus two kids under the age of six? It’s been a dream of ours for some time now. Both being design enthusiasts and avid amateur decorators, we elected to take the plunge and hopefully parlay our booth into something more.

But secretly, I was driven by a deeper purpose: the fear that I was about to be evicted from the United States for being a hippe-pinko-socialist. “Love it or leave it!” an angry mob would cry as they wrapped me in a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and dumped me into Boston Harbor. And who could blame them? A vegan atheist who made her own Obama banner and drives a Prius bearing the bumper sticker “Got science?” Man, I was one composting toilet away from a one way ticket to Sweden. But no more! Now, I can be venerated as the heart and soul of this nation, a driver of the economy, an All-American striver for life liberty and money.

Our business is a small one to be sure. So exceedingly small that it can fit in a 15′ x 5′ half room we rent from someone else. But we’ve got pluck. And dedication. And a naysaying in-house lawyer/husband/son-in-law who sternly advises things like LLC status and a close read of the Massachusetts income tax statutes. Killjoy.

So if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and check the place out. Even better, buy something! It’s salvaged, repurposed, and retrofitted goods, so we’re green friendly (hippie-pinko-socialist tendencies die hard), but capitalist all the way! So support our small business this holiday season, and wish us luck, dear readers! To find our booth, take a right upon entering Mill 77 on Route 110 in Amesbury, and look for the last room on the right. Our tags bear the dealer code DBPEA. Let us know what you think if you do stop by!

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The neutral toned life

I like to think that the things I like are original! Unique! Things I thought of myself! Like most people, I do not enjoy the feeling of being a late adopter of a trend. But, let us face facts. I wear the same black plastic eyeglass frames as every other mildly hipster 30-something white woman. Additionally, I drive a Prius. And I enjoy running long distances. When I read the lists on Stuff White People Like, I think to myself, “My GOD. How does he KNOW me?” Still, I like to think I’m maybe midway along the continuum between insufferable yuppie douchebag and crazy hermit living off the grid.

There is no denying, however, that I like a lot of things that other middle-class liberal east coast ladies like. In particular, neutral toned homespun goods. The other day, I was perusing one of my very favorite blogs, Design*Sponge, and I happened upon this rhapsody of grays and browns in the nursery of a Tribeca baby named Gabriel. Simultaneously drawn to the aesthetic pleasure of this photo, and scoffing at its stagy preciousness, I began to contemplate the origins of my ambivalence.

It happened that the very next day, Christophe had me listen to a Open Yale courses history lecture on the Northern economy and the Civil War. The image of the Yankee Pedlar, going door to door selling northern ladies finished cloth made from southern cotton stuck with me. Those northern ladies were thrilled not to have to make their own cloth anymore! It occurred to me that all the current fascination with suburban homesteading, and making sweaters for your kids, and canning your own tomatoes is something of a faux nostalgia for the pre-Industrial Revolution era. I have many friends for whom even knitting is not enough–they want to shear the sheep themselves, card the wool, spin the yarn and dye it too, just as our colonial ancestors did in 1738 before the advent of cheap, factory made cloth. Here’s the difference though: we can do all that, and make one, precious, lovely thing, and then we can swing by Target and get the kids 5 shirts and 3 pairs of pants and a Starbucks on the way out. In reality, we don’t want to have to make every stitch of our own clothing, because it would grow tedious and we would have only one pair of pants and two shirts each. And the ethereal muslin dresses with raw hems that make us think of a “simpler time” are really maximally charming when we have a closet of baby sized down vests and tweed coats to pair it with. The closet of Baby Gabriel in Tribeca seems to nag at me because there is so much in it. Five neutral toned coats? Fifteen earth toned sweater suits? and so on.

I love to make neutral toned handknits

even though my kids actually wear things like this.

I have nothing against handmade, neutral toned sweaters for babies. I started this post partly because I just finished a handmade, earth toned baby sweater myself. But let us be honest with ourselves. We like growing swiss chard and tomatoes in the backyard because there’s no anxiety in it. If all the plants die, it’ll be a bummer, but we’ll just go buy some at the store. And if it takes me several weeks to make a baby sweater (and it does), that’s fine because my kids get their actual clothes from thrift stores. Let’s face the fact that a lot of the stuff white people like is stuff we can dabble in as a mere hobby, because the stakes are low. I suspect that migrant fruit pickers do not spend their fall weekends at an orchard picking their own apples. We like doing that because we don’t have to do it to survive. It’s a novelty. So, by all means, plant a garden, make a sweater (or buy the one I made on etsy), and learn to sew your own throw pillows. I genuinely love doing all those things. But I try to remember what the desire to do them means; I am so blessed with such incredible wealth that I can make a hobby of a prior generation’s subsistence.

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New projects!

The newest cosmetic bag.

Last summer, I stopped at the fabulously old school sewing and knitting store Yardgoods Center in Waterville, Maine with my dear old mom. We were perusing the clearance bin out on the sidewalk, and came across several upholstery samples of now discontinued patterns. We speculated about potential uses for these pieces, but at a few dollars a piece, I couldn’t pass them up. Now, here’s the first completed project involving these once unwanted fabric scraps: a new cosmetics bag I just posted on etsy.

Still in the works, a prototype Aran sweater with asymmetrical Celtic braid motif. Sounds fancy, but we’ll see if I can actually make it work. Here it is as it has progressed thus far.

The start of the front of a sweater.

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The pixelated octopus

Work in progress: octopus sweater

After trying a few basic multi-color knitting projects, I decided it was time to come up with my own designs. Each stitch in knitting amounts to a little square of color, so designing projects amounts to not much more than messing around with graph paper. This red and white octopus sweater is the first prototype of my molluskan graphic design plans. I think the finished sweater will probably fit the average 18 month old. More pictures to come when it’s all done!

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