Delicious toast

My grandparents Mildred and Harold (My Valentine), aka Nanny and Gramps, were fresh on my mind as I searched recently for the name of my latest knit design. We were close throughout my life, and they were often present, but it’s a few early memories that got me smiling, and as a new grandmother myself, began to resonate.

me and nan c1957.jpg
me and tarpee c1957.jpg

Sometimes when my parents had a late night out I would be lucky enough to have an overnight with Nanny and Gramps. It didn’t happen often and I was too young then (or maybe too old now) to remember too many details, but the experience based on early impressions was a good one.

There was the black alligator-printed valise just big enough for a 3 year old’s pajamas and tooth brush, a dinner stand-out of white rice with ketchup, and sleeping in the middle of a huge-to-me double bed. And in the next day’s sunny morning, I would eat Arnold Brick Oven white bread toasted and spread with margarine. Bliss.

I’m grateful for these memories, and all the rest from my loving and supportive home that shaped my filter on the world. This I don’t take for granted – which brings me next to my young occasional charge.

 
v feb2019.jpg
 

Whatever will this ladybug remember of her visits with me, Ninny, and her grandfather, Bop.

Perhaps this.

 
V-7.jpg
 

Delicious Toast, my latest knit design, just published 2/25/2019.

My valentine

I’ll be digging through my family photo archives soon in search of a name for my next design, currently in the works. What I find there is always a surprise. I wasn’t intending to post on my blog today, but on this Valentines Day something prompted me to take a peek into the folder labeled with my own name, where I discovered this small envelope, yellowed with age.

 
IMG_1205.jpg
 
 
IMG_1207.jpg
 
 
IMG_1208.jpg
 

I do love that Marlene saved things. This was my valentine to my grandfather Harold (Gramps – a name I gave him) Welch, c 1961. And since most of my posts highlight the women in my family due to my feminine knit designs, I’m pleased to take a moment and say hello to Gibby (soft G), as my grandmother Mildred called him – her rock of Gibraltar she was fond of pointing out, and that I love remembering.

 
IMG_1211.jpg
 

This was me then, posing in one of the few sweaters Marlene made for me, beside my parakeet Pete. Coincidences abound as I married Peter 18 years later – ya, not the parakeet :).

Undoubtedly Mum knitted this drawstring top using Hattie’s needles, on which she later taught me – one of the rivers that runs through my life. (They’re there if you look for them as I tend to.)

 
Marlene and Harold ( Gramps, Gibby ).

Marlene and Harold (Gramps, Gibby).

 

Sometimes brushing my teeth in the morning I see him looking back at me. Marlene and I tend to favor his lineage. It’s usually a sign that I should get my eyebrows done – reported lovingly.

Happy Valentines Day Harold-Gramps-Gibby. I’m thinking of you.

Hattie's needles

I relaunched a renovated Hattie pattern over the weekend. She’s top down now and reknitted in a worsted yarn, replacing the DK that had been discontinued. My only regret is that required new photos now replace the originals of my girl. See? Alas.

My Hattie pattern was published initially in January of 2011 – the fourth design in my newly formed Deb Hoss Knits endeavor, released after Marlene, Mildred, and Martha, (named for my mother, grandmother and great grandmother, respectively). Hattie deserves this prominence in my lineup as she was an early champion and mentor of my interests. It was on Hattie’s needles that Marlene taught me to knit after all. I gathered them up for this writing and was pleased to find so many – my old friends.

Sticker decorations courtesy of my Violet.

Sticker decorations courtesy of my Violet.

Harriet (Hattie) Stieg was born in 1888 in South Boston, the second youngest sister of my great grandmother Martha and 11 years her junior, nearly overlapping generations. I never got to meet Martha, who died when my mother was in high school, but I did meet Hattie. One summer day in the 60’s her son drove her out to our Waltham house. She would have been in her 70’s around then, and I would have been around 10. After birthing 4 sons, Hattie was likely delighted with my sewing interest and, no longer knitting herself, with finding a home for her fabrics and tools.

In researching for this post I came across these fun photos of Hattie’s crowd on a Florida vacation back in her day, c.1908.

 
 

Happily, as luck, or fate, would have it, Hattie had many, many days. She died in August of 1980 at the age of 92, overlapping 1 month with the life my daughter, her great great great niece Juliet born in July of that year. Amazing right?

Thank you Hattie, for your motivation and support. I carry it with me still.

The aviator

“Jack might like a hat,” she said, when I asked about gift lists for the babies.

Jacks hat 600px.jpg

And of course, Jack’s (and Juliet’s) wish is my command. 

But since I’m not a hat wearer, I rely on others to show me the way.  Thank you Gabrielle Danskknit for your The Journey of the Aviator design.

Happy New Year everyone!

Giving Yarn to Your Good Cause

Happily spreading the word – this just in!

yarnCanadalogo.jpg

We're Giving Yarn To Your Good Cause

We know so many wonderful people knit and crochet for good causes. We'd love to hear your stories and help out!

We've partnered with Bernat Yarn and Patons Yarn to give 12 individuals and groups a total of $2000 worth of yarn to use towards their good works.

Since we get requests from all over, and we'd like to do something nice for our neighbors, this is open to Canadians and Americans.


Here’s the yarn we’ll be giving away:

1 x $500 of yarn to a Canadian group who knits or crochets for a good cause

1 x $500 of yarn to an American group who knits or crochets for a good cause

10 x $100 of yarn to Canadian or American individuals or groups who knit or crochet for a good cause

 

For more information and application forms visit:  www.yarncanada.ca/for-good

Happy knitting!

For our wild child

Highlighting November activities – I’ve recently updated and relaunched the pattern for my Gussie design, a sport weight lace pullover.  Originally published in 2011, I reformatted the instructions and schematics, and added metrics with a row tracking tool – just to save knitters the step.

Gussie  c 2018

Gussie c 2018

While I was at it, I re-imagined her as Chunkie Gussie, recalculated stitches for aran weight yarn, and launched that pattern too. 
It’s fun to see how a simple change in the yarn effects the overall character of the design.

Chunkie Gussie  c 2018

Chunkie Gussie c 2018

Which brings me next to their namesake – my aunt, my great great aunt, that is, and according to legend, our family’s wild child – Augusta Elisabetha Steig, aka Gussie.

In these photos taken around 1905, she would have been about 19 years old, and since the only images I have of her are at this age, there she stays for me.

I’m thinking of her now, forever young – and wonderfully wild. 

You go girl.

Paper toys 2018

With the onset of September, my to-do list signals that the time is right for holiday planning – making the paper toys, that is, for Hoss gift giving assignments, our annual event.

2018 pick1.jpg

Commemorated on this year’s ornament is my sister-in-law Madeline – retired special education teacher, avid gardener and chef, poet, and most notably for my purpose now – botanical artist.

Stunning, right?  I save everything she sends.

2018 pick3.jpg

Happy holidays for real, before we know it.

Mrs. Donahue

Peter received a gift from a friend recently of carefully packaged vintage newspapers where headlines highlighted historic sports events.  It’s a fun keepsake for sure, and one that our babies Violet and Jack might well enjoy too, someday… but knowing my penchant for neatness, and tendency to too quickly recycle (guilty as charged), he decided to store his treasure box deep in the bottom drawer of his bureau, where, come to find out, he puts other special items to ensure their safety – like our old address book, newly discovered.

address book1.jpg

Judging from its contents this is circa 1990s, right about the time I was keying our family data into my new apple computer – moving us too quickly into the future for my husband’s comfort I guess, hence its stashing. He came clean and revealed the find, expecting me to rip out the pages and uncoil the wire binding as prep for the recycle bin, but I couldn’t – at least not yet.  This was a time capsule and I needed a closer look.

address book2.jpg

Area codes were just then being assigned and required for calling.  I’d forgotten that transition.  I found addresses of friends and family who had moved away, or passed away, phone numbers for old employment, business contacts, and service people.  We were immersed in Juliet’s world then – her classmates and their parents, summer camp, her orthodontist.  My parent’s page had been erased and rewritten several times as evidence of their multiple moves since my high school graduation years before.  I kept them in my hometown too long, and they were like a clock wound too tightly that needed release.  And there were some names I don’t recognize at all, such as Mrs. Donahue, that honestly would freak me out a bit, except that Peter doesn’t remember them either.  It’s nice, at least, to have company on that front. 

I’ve lost track of many – no, most – of the people on these pages.  It happens, life goes on.  But remembered or not, as thank you to all the people who have participated in and enriched our lives along the way Mrs. Donahue will be the name of my next soon-to-be-published sweater design.

Let the recycling begin. 

Update:  Mrs. Donahue, my latest knit design, just published 9/15/2018. 

I know that look

I found this from my great aunt Hilda while rummaging about for my next sweater name.  She was big on thank you notes, sometimes even thanking us for a thank you note we had sent to her – that admittedly made us smile.  The year was 1983 and by this time Hilda resided in an assisted living facility.  Predating the internet, her letters to us were her lifeline and Marlene reciprocated.  I'm grateful for that.  This thank you from her was sent in response to shared photos of our recent Easter that year.  M kept Hilda in the loop about family news, particularly about my daughter Juliet, then just 2 1/2 years old and changing daily. 

img125 resized.jpg

Reading through, Hilda's handwriting is warmly familiar and I can hear her voice.  As a retired librarian she wrote well.  I find I even enjoy how it looks visually on the folded page – most definitely a futile plea for reviving this disappearing letter writing practice.

img124 resized.jpg

This exerpt got my attention. 

In the picture that shows Juliet alone she has a totally different expression from any others that I've seen.  In fact it's an expression I have just recently seen on the face of your cousin Martha McKee (Arnold's daughter).  And what's more, Walter made the same observation before I did (an independent thought for each of us).  That expression we first saw on the face of our mother, Juliet's great great grandmother!

As background – Hilda, Arnold, and Walter (mentioned above) and my grandmother Mildred were siblings.  It was in the face of my baby girl that both Hilda and Walter had found a familiar look, one that they had seen before in their own mother Martha, 4 generations before my girl.  How delightful that in Juliet's exponentially enhanced gene pool, Martha revealed herself to us this way.

img129.jpg

Will my grandchildren's children's children find me in a sideways glance?  It's fun to think about.  Frankly, I'm planning to be there, in one form or another, whether they know it or not.

I Know That Look – my next sweater design – coming soon.

 

Update:  I Know That Look, my latest knit design, published 8/13/2018.

Paid in Full

While searching out a name for my latest knit design I serendipitously came across this delight – an ID card for my then 11 year old daughter Juliet from the Fafa/Mar Loan group, an agency founded by her grandparents, Bern (aka Fafa) and Marlene.

It seems that funds in the amount of $17.50 were needed by the young one and a teaching opportunity was hatched. This was so like my Dad, who delighted in all things Juliet.  At that time her emerging affinity for math, that likely originated from the gene pool of both him and Juliet's paternal grandmother (middle school math teacher) Lavalie, resulted in many happy after-dinner conference calls over homework assignments.  

img116.jpg

In this lesson, he drew up the contract as she calculated principle and interest amounts for a 6 month repayment plan. 

img113-rev.jpg

It's noteworthy, that the loan was forgiven after month 1 – that was like him too. 

Bern and Marlene, proprietors of the Fafa/Mar Loan group

Bern and Marlene, proprietors of the Fafa/Mar Loan group

Thinking of my Dad on Father's Day.

Paid in Full – my next sweater design – coming soon.

 

Update:  Paid in Full, my latest knit design, published 6/29/2018.

Walk this way

Still smitten with the lace of Windfall, and especially its silk wool blend, I'm conjuring up a turtleneck now in the same knitted fabric, one that's sleeveless.  It's definitely something my chic Marlene would have worn.  Though our styles often differed, Mum taught me to love clothes, buy good ones, and take chances with fashion.  She walked that walk, and usually more bravely than I.  

Those who knew us both say we looked alike and I tend to agree.  I see her staring back at me in the mirror every morning as I brush my teeth.  And sometimes I hear her too – her words, her laugh – coming from me.  Our resemblance has given me curious benefits – of checking out hairstyles she wore that might work for me too (okay, joke), and seeing in advance how I'll likely look as the years go by (joke, not).   

Some years after we lost Dad she was lonely and feeling ready to venture out into the dating world.  She had some cosmetic work done to boost her confidence and was happy with the result.  "What do you think Doe?" she asked.  She called me Doe.  "I don't know M," I responded, "I don't really see a difference," a response that at the time was likely accompanied by an eye roll.  Well, I'm near to the age that she was then, and although I'm not entertaining the idea for myself, her motivation is now crystal clear.  I’m sorry Mum.  I should really have been more supportive.

Mother's Day is this weekend and I'll be visiting her soon – my semi-annual pilgrimage to Maine where she rests.  I'll fill her in about Violet and our new baby boy on his way, though I suspect by the manner she guides me each day, in some cosmic way she already knows.   

Marlene's Christmas card, 2008

Marlene's Christmas card, 2008

Walk this way – my next sweater design – coming soon.

Update:  Walk This Way, my latest knit design, published 6/14/2018.

Mildred on a pedestal

Of the many, many things Marlene left for me, most treasured I would have to say, are the photo albums – family archives that span multiple generations.  Begun by Aunt Hilda, the collection runs deep.  And as it happened, this record-keeping hand-off from Mum occurred just as I was embarking on Deb Hoss Knits, my knit design enterprise.  At the time, grappling with my branding, as it werealong came my maternal ancestors offering themselves up.  I named my first pattern Marlene, and the rest followed one by one. 

c 1905  The Steig-Stepat clan, first generation immigrants from Germany.  Matriarch  Johanna  (Stepat), surrounded by her adult daughters –  Louise ,  Martha ,  Gussie ,  Hattie , and  Flossie , and granddaughters  Hilda , Erna, and  Mildred .

c 1905  The Steig-Stepat clan, first generation immigrants from Germany.  Matriarch Johanna (Stepat), surrounded by her adult daughters – LouiseMartha, GussieHattie, and Flossie, and granddaughters Hilda, Erna, and Mildred.

In the photo above, my grandmother Mildred is the sweet little girl in the front row sitting on the grass.  I'm reworking the design named for her these days, so she's on my mind, and I find myself gravitating once again to the family albums.  Memory has a way of flattening out time, as if all versions of ourselves may simultaneously exist.  And since my own recollection of Mildred didn't begin until she was well into her 50's I'm grateful to find her there.  

Celebrating a life well lived, I'm thinking of Mildred now, and often – keeping kindred spirits alive.

Windfall

Marlene's watch died recently.  I've been wearing it for the past few years, putting my own aside.  Hers was special – because it was expensive, and it was engraved with her initials and date of her purchase, but most notably because it was hers. I checked into its repair and was told $1,200 would cover it, so...

Ms watch.jpg

Here's the back story.  Marlene had always wanted to invest in the stock market, but Dad wasn't game for it.  Family chatter had it that Uncle Don had made some serious money in his day on the blue chips and Marlene wanted in on that.

Years later, on her own then and independent, she revisited that dream and asked her son-in-law, my husband, Peter for advice.  He had been interested himself, enough to see what was going on but without investments of his own, and the dot.com bubble was underway.  "Amazon," he advised, "put some money in that."  So she did, $10,000 – more than she should have risked probably, but they'd be watching and he wouldn't let her lose it, at least not all of it.  They watched it then as it climbed higher than anyone expected, for 6 whole months – HOO HA!  Then watchful Peter advised her to sell, which she did – begrudgingly.  It climbed a bit more after that before it fell back to earth. 

Mum walked away with $150,000 and one of the biggest thrills of her life.  We likely got some of her winnings, I'm forgetting, which at the time would certainly have gone to Juliet's college fund.  And Mum bought a $5,000 Rolex – the wristwatch of her dreams.  

After she died I had it stored away with her things for a time, but its value, both monetary and sentimental, gnawed at me, so I made it my own.  Admittedly it's super pretty, although with my aging eyesight it's hard to read the gold hands on its gold face (and that's the last time I'll admit to that).  One year I even ponied up the $400 (annual?) maintenance required to keep it running right. 

But lately it had been losing time and I now had a quandary I'm sure Marlene never intended.  The jeweler pointed out logically that if I fixed it I'd have a $5,000 Rolex for $1,200 after all – hmm.  So I asked Juliet how she felt about it.  If she wanted I'd keep it going, for her and conceivably for Violet too.

"It's not something I would wear Mum,"  she responded, putting the matter finally to rest.

So I'm storing it back away with her things, that we'll take stock of from time to time and remember this story.

In its (her) honor, Windfall will be the name of my next knitwear design – currently underway.  At least there's that.

Update:  Windfall, my latest knit design, published 5/9/2018.

Agnes and Nelly

I updated two of my sweater designs recently – Agnes and Nelly – changing their knit direction and adding some styling.  And along the way it got me thinking about their namesakes – my paternal grandmother, Agnes, and her younger sister, my great aunt, Nelly (Nellie?).  I went looking in the family albums and found this. 

c 1961

c 1961

Perfect, right?  As introduction to my republishing announcement, I thought I'd share. 

Thinking of Nana and Aunt Nelly today – going viral.

My paper toys - taking stock of Hoss holiday fun

I've always loved New Year's Day and its promise of a fresh start – my annual bugle call to take stock and make plans.  This year I thought I'd begin by tidying up a bit, finally cataloging my paper toys:  the holiday ornaments announcing Hoss gift giving assignments.  

They started out as pure fun – fanciful experiments in paper mechanics.  I enjoyed making boxes and pop-up books at the time and these were an extension of that.  It's interesting to see how they've changed.  Over the years they've become richer, I'd say, by commemorating our family events, and for the last 10 years especially, creating an inadvertent historical record.  They've found their calling. 

20 years of Christmas Pick paper toys... where ever did the time go.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Giving Yarn to Your Good Cause

Happily spreading the word – this just in!

yarnCanadalogo.jpg

We're Giving Yarn To Your Good Cause

We know so many wonderful people knit and crochet for good causes. We'd love to hear your stories and help out!

We'll be choosing 12 individuals and groups to get a total of $2000 worth of yarn to use towards their projects.

Since we get requests from all over, and we'd like to do something nice for our neighbours, this is open to Canadians and Americans.


Here’s the yarn we’ll be giving away:

1 x $500 of yarn to a Canadian group who knits or crochets for a good cause

1 x $500 of yarn to an American group who knits or crochets for a good cause

10 x $100 of yarn to Canadian or American individuals or groups who knit or crochet for a good cause

 

For more information and application forms visit:  www.yarncanada.ca/for-good

Happy knitting!

For A Good Egg

This was the lone egg cup I retrieved from my grandmother's kitchen years ago.  Though there were likely 4 once – a mum, a dad, a girl, and a boy, for their family – I had only known of 3, no girl cup, and by the time of my retrieval, only the dad cup remained.

IMG_7808contrastcrop.jpg

Turns out these were Cleminson ceramics, made in California in the post WWII 1940s, "a time after the war when society breathed a collective sigh of relief and went out looking for a bit of fun."  Who knew. 

Years later, aiming to recreate my childhood memory, I took a stroll on ebay and found my egg cup a friend. 

IMG_7810contrastcrop.jpg

And then more friends.

IMG_7813contrastcrop.jpg

Uh oh.

IMG_7817contrastcrop.jpg

Help me.

 

But wait, before you do – I think there's just one more I might need...

I won't stop until I find you.

img078.jpg

Thinking of you Mildred, my Nan.

IMG_7809contrastcrop.jpg

For a Good Egg, my latest knit design, published 11/21/2017.

Paper toys 2017

We had Sunday dinner at Ellie and Mark's yesterday and its end-of-summer timing was just right for distribution of Hoss holiday gift giving assignments – our annual event.

This gift pick toy commemorates a year of special generosity and selflessness, as we witnessed our Sheryl's kidney donation to her aunt Dianne.  Approaching their 6 month anniversary, both are doing well and we're grateful.


The off-season delivery

With another sweater design in the wings, off I went to the family archives in search of its name, a familiar drill by now.  As I've mentioned before, Marlene saved everything, and it's during these name hunting episodes that I often find myself – for better or for worse – on trips down memory lane.  This time, I ventured into the dreaded card box.  And this time, I finally took the time to see what exactly I had there.

Diving in, I found lots of correspondence – between my mum and her girlfriends, from her brother Sonny, thank you letters from great aunt Hilda, cards from my grandmother Mildred to my newly married parents, congratulations on my birth, some of my childhood artwork – all very fun to be sure – but most delightful to me, as I categorized each set and sorted by year, was realizing that my parents shared valentines every year of their 4-plus decades together.  A sampling follows.

1950s

1950s

1960s

1960s

1970s

1970s

1980s

1980s

And this was the last.  Dad died the following year.

1995

1995

It's nice to know, amidst all the ups and downs there most surely were in their lives over the years, that the backdrop was this.

Paying homage to their romance, Be Mine will be the name of my next sweater design – a September valentine delivery.  I'll post and tweet upon its release.

 

Update – Be Mine published 9/20/2017