On the road to find out

I aim to always have something ready to knit.  It's embedded in our routine, mine and Doug's – during morning coffee in front of the news and at the end of the day, as you can see.  

So when a design is launched without the next yet coming into view, I look for something simple but meaningful to bridge the gap.  This last time, the filler became my Happy Thought cowl – named for an optimistic, one line poem I found in my tattered copy of A Child's Garden of Verses, a gift from great aunt Lillian Hildegarde, on my bookshelf since day one.

At the time, still fresh in my mind was the collar of Brooklyn2.  I loved the density of its aran-weight wool (Quince & Co's Osprey) and the fact of its buttons that snugged it close to the neck, or not, if left undone.  So, with yarn on hand from my Mary design of a few years ago, I made this – version 1 (as it turns out. I didn't expect its versions would be multiple.)

I can be a color coward, I admit it, and this proved true again with my recently published Lucy cardigan.  I loved the blended Juniper Moon Farm Moonshine yarn and had been drawn to their Sun Haze color, but in the end I caved, settling instead on the still lovely but less adventurous Moonbeam.  So, with golden color beckoning, and seizing my chance at redemption while still noodling indecision about my next something, I recalculating stitch and row gauges accordingly, for this – version 2.

Meanwhile and finally, I was making good progress on a new design.  It will be a textured cardigan using Quince & Co's worsted-weight, blended, Owl yarn in Cielo – an inspiring light blue.  So, while waiting for mail order delivery, its sample skeins on hand for gauge testing became this – version 3.  

A perfect designing segue, I'd say, and a win-win-win for me and Doug.

I'm excited to report that my new textured cardigan – dubbed Listening to the Robin's Song – is nicely underway.  I'm hoping that Cat Stevens won't mind the reference.  EPD (estimated publishing date) is expected sometime in April.  I'll post and tweet upon its release.

She loved Lucy

My design ideas have been coming up in pairs lately, where discoveries made in the first spawn revisions and additions in the next.  And although I do enjoy the opportunity to go back at the math and construction in a second go-round, I admit that it hadn't been my initial plan.  It's just what happened along the way and accounts for the lame naming of Brooklyn2 following the previously published Brooklyn – alas.  

So when I saw it happening again in my current design duet I decided to get out in front of it by determining a family sourced name pair from the start.

M&B 1951-pdf.jpg

This is a favorite family photo – my parents, Bern and Marlene on the left, with my aunt Kay and uncle Clem (aka Junior or Luke) at a night club somewhere.  I enjoy this point-in-time glimpse into their lives, and imagining them then.  It's 1951, Marlene was 20 and working full-time at a Boston insurance company.  They married the following year.  

I remember Dad would happily recount how she'd laugh out loud watching I Love Lucy on TV during those years and I like to think of that.  Watching those early episodes gives great insight into the society of the times and the roles of men and women – a time when a clear hierarchy existed between the sexes. During those years most women gave up jobs and became homemakers after marriage, but Marlene wanted a career.  So bucking the tide and amidst some gossip (I'm told), she continued working.  By the time of her retirement years later she had become a beloved fixture and integral member of the staff of the Harvard Athletic Department.

I know she never felt that she had achieved the career status she wished for, but she was definitely ahead of her time.  I hope she found pride in that, and for being a terrific role model for me – this yet another in the myriad of things I should have told her.

Lucy and Ethel – 2 button-less garter stitch cardigans with shrug and wrap-around variations – are currently underway.  Updates to follow.


Update – Lucy published 2/22/2017 followed by Ethel on 3/1/2017.

Knitting for V

Although I continue to design exclusively for the big girls, I'm happy (eager, actually) to turn over the reins and knit up the designs of others on occasion, for my Violet.  

Anything she ever wants – ever.  How could I possibly resist.

And speaking of the big girls, I look forward to having my sweater model back again, soon.  Juliet, your public awaits – me too :).

Brooklyn

Amidst the myriad of changes that have happened in 2016 – the birth of my granddaughter (oh hooray!) and the presidential election (omg!), to name a few – is another, worthy of note.  My daughter sold her Brooklyn co-op.

She bought it a while after graduating from college.  At the time there were good reasons for her to move there – a job opportunity, friends in Manhattan, new adventures; and some undeniable reasons for procrastination – the unknowns of a new job and city, leaving the comfort of family, and most of all, living alone.  I knew she was up to it, and admired, I suppose, the freedom for reinvention she had at that stage of her life.  So, in response to her announcement that she would move only if she purchased a place, off we went.  That weekend we made the trip, found her co-op, she made an offer, and the deal was done. Unexpected? – oh yes. 

That was 2005.  I remember our surreal drive from Boston for her move, and making our way back home without her.  Marlene used to say that our children bring us along and I balked then at the concept.  I see the truth to it now.  She moved in and never looked back.  As for me, I got the gift of seeing my daughter flourish and visited as often as I could without becoming a nuisance, happily experiencing this new, now favorite city for myself.  Yes, I've definitely been brought along. 

Where will she take me next?  Where ever it is, I'm in.


Continuing my homage to life events – pattern writing for my latest knit design, a cardigan named Brooklyn, is currently underway.  Publication is planned for next week, updates to follow.

Update – Brooklyn published 11/30/2016.

Nans

Now that I'm a grandmother I've been thinking more about being one.  Honestly, it hadn't occurred to me before this  my daughter becoming a mom took precedence over all of my thinking.  

In the few weeks before new baby Violet's birth, and during the several that have followed, I've been asked what she will call me  hmm, more uncharted territory. Does one pick a name, or is it chosen for her. My google search yielded:

Modern names for grandmothers include Ama, GoGo, Gigi and Mimi. Grandmothers choose modern names to symbolize that they are young and cool, and avoid traditional names such as Granny and Grandma. They choose unique names to distinguish themselves from other grandmothers.

And being young and cool...  one of my pals has started calling me Gigi.  I find this hysterical.

From postcard correspondence I see that Marlene's grandmother was Nana.  My own was Nanny.  I don't know how either name came to be and Mum's gone now so I can't ask. (Regrettably, this happens a lot.  I thought I knew it all.)  Mum was a Nanny too, that got shortened to Nan later on by her then adult granddaughter.

So for now, I guess I'll be a Nanny or Nana or Nan, until Violet decides. I'm sure she'll pick one that rings just right.

Meanwhile, a cardigan – Nan – honoring all of us, is forthcoming, and currently being tested by glorious knitters.  Estimated publishing date is set for late October 2016. 

Update – Nan published 10/27/2016.

Paper toys 2016

The Hoss clan had dinner together last night, celebrating Ellie and Mark as they get ready to head back home to West Virginia after our usual summer of fun.  With all of us in attendance it was the perfect setting to distribute this year's paper toys for holiday giving assignments, so I hustled to get them done, finishing up finally on the car ride to Scituate. 

The panorama that wraps each was taken at one of our parties on Ellie and Mark's ocean-view front porch, and hints at the happy craziness that's gone on there over the years. 

But this time their departure is different.  They're packing up everything and clearing out on to new adventures.  After a lifetime of ownership they've sold their cottage and won't be returning to it.  They will, howeverbe returning to us, for more happy crazy times, where ever we are.  We'll make sure of that. 

B is for Betsy


Yes, I'm definitely feeling nostalgic these days.  Looking backward while moving forward – my usual state – has been made more-so by a combination of summer dreaming, impending grand-motherhood, and my significant family tree research of late now that son-in-law James has introduced his additional and excitingly deep lineage to explore.  I'm channeling Dad (Bernard Henry) now in my effort to get our family history documented, all neat and tidy for our new baby girl.  BH would surely approve.

So recently, while conjuring up a new knit, the spirit of my great aunt Lillian Hildegarde joined in. B is for Betsy was her chapter book gift to my mum Marlene in the 1940's, that eventually made its way to me in the 60's, and then to Juliet in the 80's.  Its current state, as shown, now complete with the markings from 3 generations of bedtime reading and a vintage DYMO embossed ownership label (I found its name on the internet), has over the years provided hours of parent-child quality time, the familiar names of all of our pets, and most recently that of my latest knit design, just published.

Flipping through its pages while preparing this post I came across its chapter 8 – How Betsy Went to Pick Violets and Got Into Trouble.  I had to laugh.  Could this book have been the subliminal source of my new granddaughter's name as well??  Okay, kidding – since its source is obviously the heavenly reach of Juliet's grandmother, Lavalie Bixby Hoss, who long ago claimed the flower as her favorite.  It all makes perfect sense to me.  That's how I roll.

V is for Violet Mae, born August 6th – my future sweater model, or protégé perhaps, if she'll agree.

Summer dreaming

It's summer now (here in the northern hemisphere, anyway).  I'm in the process of working out my next knit design and having a déjà vu moment.  

As a teenager, many of my summer days were spent swimming in the pool that Dad put up in our back yard, sun-tanning (too much), thumbing through the pages of the fat, fall, fashion magazines that hit the newsstands during July and August, and imagining all the school clothes I would make.  This was bliss.

While it's always been true that my great, great aunt Hattie figured prominently into my interests it was her 1940's era sewing machine that I started out on, and her knitting needles too that I still use  as I focus on the details of this latest piece, I find myself remembering a sweet, knitted, eyelet shell that Marlene made for me back then.  It wasn't like her.  She didn't particularly like knitting or making things at all really.  Yet it's this delicate piece of hers that inspires me now.  I think she'd be shocked – and delighted.

I'm forever 14.

You & You Too.

I've got a new knit design underway, a pair of cowls, and the set needs a name – a task I sometimes find more challenging than working out the design itself. Keeping consistent in combining my interests (all my designs' names have a family link), I turned once again to Marlene's archives – this time, specifically, her greeting card collection. She kept them all, every one she ever received, or so it seems.  

Years ago, while taking stock of her possessions, I had grouped these, tied them up with twine, and stashed them in the plastic bins that now occupy the corner of my workroom. My knit-design-name-searching gives me reason and motivation to revisit these bundles, and doing so I often rediscover family events I've forgotten or learn things I never knew. This time, among valentines and birthday cards, I came across 3 postcards, out of place – from Dad.  

As a young man Dad worked in a sheet metal shop at the Charlestown Navy Yard. He made pipe fittings. I'm not exactly sure what these are, but over time he parlayed this work experience, coupled with his innate neatness and attention to detail, and moved from the making of these things to the planning of their placement on big naval ships. By the 1970's he found himself traveling to ports around the world on shipchecks.

I miss my girls too much to be away alone. They were 20 years into their marriage by then. I was 17. He didn't travel without her again. The very next month photos find them together in London, the next year in Rome and Paris, and in the years that followed in many more European and Island destinations. It's nice to see them smiling back at me in the photo below, from somewhere in Italy. They lived well, and happily.

M&B naples travel 2 resized.jpg

Its name now known, my cowl set – You & You Too – is forthcoming. I'll update this post and send out a tweet upon its release.

Update – You & You Too published 5/13/2016.

Miss Me Yet?

The name of my latest design (almost literally) fell into my lap as I was working with Mum's postcards.  While sorting through I found this one among them – a message from then teen-aged Marlene, writing home to her family.  

Always on the lookout for a family story to apply to my knits, the irresistible Miss Me Yet became its name even before any of its design details came into view. Then most of these came easily too.  And that never happens.

Still swooning over the quince & co. cotton yarn I used for the remake of May, the single skein remaining from that project called to me.  I ordered more and Miss Me Yet used up every last bit.  

Juliet's Openwork Mitts spawned its lace.  The stitch count repeat in multiples of 6 was easily translated to the rib trim variations of its hems, pocket tops, and button lap, and provided elegant hiding places for the invisible shaping of its bodice.  

Knit in the round, from the cuffs up, I worked out something entirely new while shaping the sleeves.  Increasing only 1 stitch on the round instead of 2 eliminated the visual jog, spiraled nicely, and was an easier story for knitters trying to follow my directions – something I value as much as the design itself.

The stitch pick-up count of a button lap is often more science than art.  Too many stitches and it bulges badly, too few and it pulls upward.  Aiming at just right I had the additional self-imposed mandates of a count that was divisible by 3 (to match the rhythm of the lace) plus 2 more (for a clean edge), and 4 buttonholes that needed to be spaced evenly from v-neck base to hem.  In addition to all of this, but held on the way-back burner for the moment, was my wish that as the 3x3 ribbing joined with the back neckline, its sequence would match the pattern of the stitches that were held there.  Too much to ask?  Mathematically possible, but in my experience, unlikely – and yet all of this, including the long-shot of the back neckline segue, worked out on my very first try for all 7 sizes.  

Serendipity?  Sure, but in this case I prefer to employ a bit of magical thinking.  

8 glorious test knitters from New Jersey, Texas, Washington, Denmark, Germany, and India are working as I write this to prove out my calculations and check my text. I'll plan to publish in late April once they're done.  

I have a good feeling about this one, an angel on my shoulder.  And to answer the question posed by its title – yes, Marlene, we surely do.

 

Update – Miss Me Yet published 4/23/2016.

The collector

I discovered Marlene's postcard album when I was going through her things.  I was in a hurry then so bundled them up, and they've been sitting on my shelf since. Recently I circled back.

She collected postcards when she was a girl during the 1940's and continued through the 50's.  It was either the rage to send cards back then or widely known that she collected, since there are several hundred in the bunch.  Probably both are true.  She had them to and from friends and family (among them Hattie, Hilda, Mildred, Martha, and Mitzi – for those who follow my sweater designs). 

All delightfully vintage and visually interesting for that, of equal treasure, especially for me, are their backs.  I saw where they lived through delivery addresses and their hand in their writing.  Reading through I met my mum as a girl and a teenager, and my grandmother Mildred younger than when I knew her.  I met my great-grandmother Martha too, for the first time. 

Included among this vintage set, was one a little less so.  At the very end of the postcard pile I found this.

Apparently I felt the need to clarify as sender.

I've put aside my knitting for the past several days to make their container as these cards are box-worthy for sure – keeping kindred spirits alive.

 

 

Planning and persistence

Among several tasks on my excellent, new, to-do tracking system for last week, there was only one real priority – to re-publish my May design (that I posted about a few weeks ago in Catching Up). The task seemed do-able.  

It's true that what started out as a simple rewrite to modify yarn and add metrics had taken a turn when I decided to redevelop it to be knit in the round instead of flat and embed its shaping invisibly inside the cable stitch pattern instead of at its edges.  Then the gauge of my new yarn, Quince's cotton Willetturned out to be slightly different than its obsolete predecessor and required a bunch of recalculations.  But by now I had made great progress on the bodice, and had only to trim the neckline and work the ever-so-short cap sleeves.  Then I'd be done.  Re-publishing within the week seemed do-able and I would happily check this off of my list!

Cotton is less elastic than wool, and because of this, I found out, tends to be less forgiving in some aspects of sweater-making, such as picking up stitches along the deep v-neckline of May for its rib trim. The stitch counts my calculations told me I needed left noticeable gaps, and after a few trials I determined that the problem lay in the absence of a selvage along this neckline.  Since the v starts below the armholes and the piece is knitted bottom-up and now in the round, this remedy required both sides of the bodice front and its back to be unraveled down to this start point.  I took a breath, did this, and began again.  

After 2 days of re-knitting, with my neckline now complete with selvage, I gave it another go – with the same disappointing result, unfortunate gaps along the pick up edge.  I took a few more breaths, (I did breathe in between these trials, but hardly), unraveled for the second time, re-knitted it as it was, and while I was doing so thought hard about another solution.

In my third attempt, I tried a method I'd read about but hadn't used before.  With smaller needles I picked up a stitch in every row along the front v edges  many more stitches than I needed, but with no gaps.  On the trim round that followed where I introduced the knit 1, purl 1 rib, along these front v edges I modified the sequence as knit 1, purl 2 together to decrease these extra stitches away.  Finally, success!  

4 days later.. so much for planning.

Among several tasks on my new to-do tracking system for this week, there is only one real priority – to re-publish May.  The task seems do-able.


Update  revised May finally re-published 1/15/2016.

Making boxes

With holidays now over I can post about my gift to the new couple that was most certainly a labor of love. Digital images are just fine, but I wanted Juliet and James to have something in their hands, to hold, when they reminisce about their wedding weekend. 

Using Artisan State, I made 6 layflat books where landscape-positioned photos (most shot by Fat Orange Cat Studio) each span across 2 open pages.  See more details about this project here.  (I heartily recommend both vendors, btw, for book making and wedding photography, respectively.) 

Once the photo books were in hand it was clear they could use a case, and that's when my project took the unexpected turn of opening up the world of my not-that-distant past (which sometimes feels like a lifetime ago) and re-igniting my interest on that front.  In addition to knitting over the years I've had fun making books and boxes to present personal collections of photos and objects.  When I left my administrative job at Harvard I intended to focus all attention on these.  I don't recall when or how my interests shifted and knit design took center stage – where it remains – but it will likely have to share a little of the spotlight for my attention from this point on.

Venturing into my wedding box project, after all this time I had to remind myself about the technical details.  My glue containers, labeled with dates to track shelf life, told me it had been 5 years since I touched them.  I also soon realized that I needed to find new sources for some materials.  Paper Source, once great for book artist supplies is now more of a gift store.  And although Blick carries book cloth, its sheets are very small and weren't suitable for the project.  A google search yielded Harcourt Bindery in Charlestown that sells supplies along with fabulous hand bound books for all purposes, and a trip to their studio workspace reminded me why I loved this craft.  I walked away with a sheet of book cloth large enough to wrap my dimensions twice, and renewed inspiration to get started. The project also motivated me to take an inventory of where I'd been.   Here's some of what I found.

5 years ago, I left 2 projects underway – Watch Boxes (a collection of the 24 wrist watches Marlene and I had saved over the years) and Postcards (postcard correspondence collected by my mum during the 1930's and 40's).  
I'll aim to get back to these, finally, in the new year.

Catching up

Wow, I didn't mean to let so much time go by since my last post.  No excuses though, I have been (happily) busy.  In this 3 month interim I've published M's Favorite, Mad's Gift, and Mitzi, and revised Corinne – adding a smaller cowl in the process.  I've also been working out a journal system for keeping track of all of this craziness, with a to-do list that starts out with 

  • post twitter
  • post instagram
  • post blog

so, ya, my bad – until now.  

As I've written previously, I'm driven (since working with quince&co on Linda) to update my patterns with metrics and Quince's formatting terminology and language. Starting with my early designs (first public offerings in 2010-11) this review sometimes goes beyond the surface and I find myself tweaking other things. The latest in my revision queue is May.

May was designed with Classic Elite's Wool Bam Boo (50% Wool, 50% Bamboo), my go-to yarn at that time, that has since been discontinued.  So embedded in this task is an opportunity to try something new.  Juliet's birthday gift to me this year was a gift certificate to quince&co.  Starting there and checking for comparable gauge I discovered their Willet, a sport-weight cotton.  I find it thrilling that they are environmentally conscious, and this cotton yarn, billed as cleaneris also quite lovely to work with.  I'm swatching now for my revised May to be followed next by pattern #128, as yet unnamed but with design coming into focus.

More to come, sooner than the last round.  I promise.

M's Favorite

Marlene loved a good turtleneck.  They were part of her classic look.  One day she reported to me that she found 10 in her closet, all of them black, when she was cleaning it up.  And although she wasn't particularly organized, I knew that even if she realized she had 9 at home, she would not have passed up that special one – a 10th – on her trip through Filenes Basement.  Knowing this I went looking for a photo of her in one of those classic blacks as I was preparing for this post, and found her instead in beige.  Taken about the same time as her confession, we're now numbering 11, clearly proving her obsession. 

Marlene and Paul, circa 1999

Marlene and Paul, circa 1999

We've been preparing for Juliet's wedding lately and Mum's been on my mind.  She would have adored James and thoroughly enjoyed the weekend festivities.  I like to think she orchestrated their perfection from her distance – since they were, and she would have.

My next design, forthcoming, is a turtleneck, for M.

Update – M's Favorite published 11/3/2015.

Paper toys 2015

This year's paper toys are ready for distribution to the Hoss clan, complete with Christmas giving assignments.  I'm Santa's secretary (er, administrative assistant) and cannot wait!

2015 marks a year of extraordinary happiness, with 3 weddings(!) – nephew Derek to Erica, niece Sheryl to Dan, and favorite daughter, knitting muse, and sweater model Juliet to favorite soon-to-be son-in-law James;

and also a year of loss as we've said good-bye to brother John.

These events are represented perfectly, I'd say, by 3 diamond rings and a wreath on the water – the circle(s) of life. 

Bearing witness

Yesterday, bittersweet, as the extended Hoss family gathered at Scituate beach to say good bye to brother John.

It was so nice to have everyone together.  Even the weather – grey, with dense air and breeze just right – seemed to offer us hugs... a surreal day to be sure.

Humarock

Hopping from the design detail of Bonanza, as I often do, is a new knitted piece I've named Humarock – a sweet sweater vest whose color, named salty brine, reminded me of sand as I worked it out.  Humarock is a beach local to me.  Our neighbors had a summer place there and invited us for the weekend once or twice to escape the Boston suburbs. 

Please forgive my face, I was 9 – and to quote a line from a favorite movie, "good at it."  Dad was 35, and my best playmate – ever my hero.
I've put out a call for testers on this new knit piece and look forward to publishing during July.  More to come on that, hopefully soon.

Update – Humarock published 7/25/2015.