and we're having a party to celebrate – a shower, this weekend!
My labor of love?
and we're having a party to celebrate – a shower, this weekend!
My labor of love?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Family historian Hilda (Lillian) recognized the name Hoss when she learned about marriage plans for me and Pete, and dug into our tree to find out more. "Edwin Ziegler married an Ernestina Hoss," she reported.
In 1871, Hans Ziegler and his wife Anna Habisreutinger traveled to the United States from Switzerland with two sons and settled in Malden, Massachusetts. Their sons had sons – Jacob begot Edwin, and Ulrich, my great-grandfather Albert.
Later Pete's mom verified the connection, "Of course," she said, "Aunt Ernestine." They knew each other well. Edwin, my 1st-cousin-3-times-removed married Peter's great-aunt. My husband and I are related.
Six degrees of separation, it turns out, exists in both current space and over time.
Ernestina will be the name of my next design – slowly coming into focus. More on that soon.
Update – Ernestina published 9/15/2015.
When I was 8 I had a birds egg blue vinyl spring jacket – that may or may not be the one pictured below, but no matter, close enough. And through the magic of photoshop it now is.
Aren't so many of our selections in life based on memories from the haze of childhood. It's my recollection of this vinyl jacket that has prompted my design currently underway – a garter stitch cardigan made from Quince&Co's lark wool in birds egg blue. Zippered instead of buttoned and a bit more hip, I like to think, but its essence is surely this. And it's almost done, just in time for spring. I'll post soon.
Update – Connie published 4/26/2015
My girlfriends can tell you all about my fascination with cowboys. We've had more than a few laughs about it over the years :). So in keeping with my patterns' personal naming theme, I dub this, my latest knitting design (with cowboy fringe!) – Bonanza.
Dad and I used to watch this 1960's tv series on Sunday nights, before (or after?) Ed Sullivan. Maybe this is where my western obsession began. Is it an accident I married a Hoss? hee hee, a topic for my therapist..
Creating the fringe, a new-to-me technique, turned out to be very fun and easy. Fabulous testers are working now to proof the numbers and text of my pattern, that I plan to launch mid-January. It will be my first for 2015 – a nice start for the brand new year. Yee-ha!
Christmas in September! at least for me, as I put aside my knitting and orchestrate annual gift giving assignments and their paper toys for special delivery to my 16 brothers and sisters-in-law.
We lost our brother Bill this year – our marathon runner. All the Hoss men are athletes and by now most have settled into golf for sport. Bill remained a runner to the end, competing in 66 marathons during his lifetime. He, and we, are particularly proud of his 1981 Boston Marathon – finishing first place for his age group in a time of 2 hours, 34 minutes, and 15 seconds.
This one's for you Bill.
Lillian Hildegarde, my great aunt, was born in 1898 – the oldest daughter in my grandmother's family. I knew she had polio as a child, that she had walked with a cane since then.
I knew she was the keeper of our family tree. I spent one preteen summer with our royal typewriter re-keying her name lists onto new clean sheets. I still have these pages. I'm their keeper now.
Unlike most young women of her day she went to college. Single, independent, she lived alone in an apartment on Park Drive. Through family albums I learned more about her work at MIT. She was a librarian. I saw her smiling back from photographs taken at her retirement party.
But it wasn't until much later that I discovered she was a writer – a writer of steamy novels never published, about life, love, romance, and heartbreak. She wrote her chapters in Scribble-in Books – little blank hardbound journals. I have the one with pages numbered from 626 to 778. I wish had more more.
As sweater tribute to my novelist, I plucked the fitting family-inspired name of my latest design from one of her characters – a young woman named Estelle.
Introducing Estelle's Envy – a slim pullover with alpaca collar abundance. Pattern writing and testing are underway – EPD (estimated publish date) 9/15/2014.
This design is named for a Dean Martin song circa 1955 (almost before my time). Marlene was a fan and if I close my eyes I can hear it playing from the stereo in our living room.
Innamorata, Italian for "in love" and I've also seen translations as "sweetheart" and "soul mate" – all of which I find fitting for this simple, delicate, and thoroughly romantic summer tee.
I hope you'll agree.
One of the many things I like about my knitting enterprise (the design work, website, and blog) is how its "branding" evolves. Over the past 3 years I've changed my website format a few times, which has spawned like changes to my business cards, the pattern font and layout, etc., and each time I'm tempted to go back and change all of my prior patterns (38 published at this writing) to match the new look – but I resist. (Truthfully it's an ongoing internal dialog. I can be that kind of perfectionist.) Such would be crazy work, I tell myself, and would get in the way of my knitting.
The latest in this evolution involves the naming of my designs. Up until now I've used my family tree as source, beginning with my mum – Marlene. By now I'm running out of family names, and since I expect to never stop this work :), I need another plan.
I read recently a blog post by knitwear designer Bristol Ivy (Where the Red-Winged Blackbird Flies) where she recites a Shaker spiritual, "by turning, turning, we come 'round right." She's a wonderful writer and I found this passage particularly poetic. I've thought of it a lot since and as often happens, I notice, when timing is right ideas come together. From this I've decided to name my pieces lyrically while keeping their basis in my history and family story. It feels right, and consistent, hopefully opening up a whole world of naming possibilities – though currently I'm thinking only of the next.
Oh Johnny Lee – mum's first crush, as written in her teenage diary that I found and secretly read as a scoundrel child, then broadcast to the family, as we laughed and laughed. Mum laughed too, though I never saw that diary again. I don't think she'd mind me using the memory.
Launch of Oh Johnny Lee forthcoming.
or technically crocus – #115 of Quince's color wheel.
Olive Clough begot Olive Ziegler – aunt and cousin of my grandmother Mildred, who later married Harold – brother of Olive Welch. Olive must have been a popular name back then.
Olive is also a double-breasted cardigan in chunky wool, worn so well by Juliet.
Alice, what a beautiful name. I was pleased to find her among my ancestors in our family tree – Alice May Welch, sister of my grandfather Harold, and of Marjorie. I do love to bring my family members, to life again in this way.
I've had this color-block design in the wings for a few months – since it was graciously declined by the publication to which I had submitted. By that time I had already worked up the prototype to ensure that, if accepted, any related deadlines would be less stressful, and her styling would be just as I imagined. Recently with autumn in the air (at least in my locale) she came to mind and yesterday I posted the pattern to ravelry. I'm so happy to see my ravelry friends giving her thumbs up. Things have a way of working out... as they should? Yes, I think so.
It's August and time to focus on my paper toys and Hoss family Christmas gift giving assignments. Ellie and Mark celebrated their 55th(!) wedding anniversary this summer, and as soon as I opened the party invitation I knew I'd found the theme for this year's Christmas Pick announcement.
A walk through Bloomingdales a few weeks ago spawned lots of ideas for a knitted gift. I picked one and am running with it – will be posting about it by next week for sure.
I've got my July design nicely underway, named Lena for my great grandfather's cousin. (It's this family line – the brother of my great, great, grandfather who traveled with him from Switzerland in the late 1800's – that eventually marries into my husband's family long before I do, but that's a story for a future knitted piece that I'll get to pretty soon. Sadly I am running out of family names and will eventually resort to assigning design namesakes to those of us who are still living, though this may well please my pals. Family tree research sure has been fun!)
The design for Lena was spawned initially from my search for a lace. I ran across the Double Wing pattern in one of Barbara Walker's books. It's easily memorized (a requirement) with short repeats and I loved that there was both an open version
and a closed one.
Initially I thought they might look cool paired, but after swatching I found the open version more appealing so I stuck with it.
At this writing, Lena's bodice will be shaped, as per my usual, and with a wide scoop neck. Her sleeves will be slightly longer than those for recently published Marjorie. I like this silhouette, and lately like playing with raglan sleeves so I stuck with these design elements too. I'm working the sample with Quince chickadee, also my usual, but in the new-to-me petal color that I've found to be unexpectedly fantastic –
at first glance almost colorless in its pale-ness, but while working it has become nicely saturated. It feels quite rich to me by now, and a favorite.
Also note, I'm tweeting!, turned on to twitter by Juliet who found, to my delight, that fellow tweeters were mentioning my designs. For those of you who tweet too, you'll find me there as @DebHossKnits. I hope you'll follow me as I post regular updates about my knitting progress, and maybe a bit more.
Great aunt Ruth married pastor Albert, my grandmother's brother. Word is that pastor Albert enjoyed watching his rascal bride Ruth vacuum au naturel. Makes me wonder how that word ever got out (hee hee!) – but oh how my mum enjoyed this story. I like to think that with her house finally cleaned Ruth might have slipped on this rascally tee to go out on the town.
Thinking of you dear Ruth – with a loving grin.