Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I'll try to get through this with a straight face, though trust me it's not going to be easy.   I'm the one who just can't scramble through a normal knitting pattern.  I simply find it tedious and irritating for some mysterious unknown reason, and would rather reinvent the wheel, than follow someone else's wheel merrily rolling down the hill in all it's perfected glory.  So I make up my own pattern as I go along.   Those PURIST KNITTERS (yes, Zimmerman fans you're included in that lot :}  )  had better stop reading right here, the rest of this post may be hazardous to your mental health.

I pick designs from this book.

My mother taught me to knit when I was around seven or eight.  My grandmother had taught my sister to crochet.  My mother could never learn to crochet.  I cannot crochet either.  I think it's a genetic flaw.   When I was around twelve I decided I had it in me to knit my Dad a sweater.  Mainly because all of our known relatives were by now draped in scarves I had been crankin' out since learning to knit.   My mother took me to the LSY where I picked out a gorgeous shade of forest green, and because I can never do anything simply, I shopped on, finding a shade of medium tan for a snowflake pattern across the top, and down the sleeves, visions of Norway dancing in my head.  The sweater turned out great, if you consider one sleeve was about four inches longer than the other... I think I may have been caught up in a particular episode of Ben Casey and forgotten to mark rows, never the less my father, when presented the sweater, rolled up the one mutant sleeve, and wore the thing for the rest of his natural life.     Or so it seemed to me.    It never wore out so I'm thinkin' now he may have been racing to the closet and yanking it out before my arrival during cold weather visits...  I seem to recall my mother teaching this bit of graciousness to my sister and me.  It may or may not have emerged from Eleanor Roosevelt's Post-War edition of  the BOOK OF COMMON SENSE ETIQUETTE.  This of course, was way before the new wave of  'return or re-gifting.'

I began with metal knitting needles back in the day. 

 When the joints in my fingers became bad in later years I stopped knitting for a long time. Then someone invented bamboo needles which I decided to try, not because they are planet friendly, though they are, but because they give a bit and it didn't cause pain to knit with them.   They also have a tendency to warp when held in a death grip.

pay no attention to my kitchen curtain fabric which has yet to be transformed into curtains.

  I have been using wooden needles since.   Which my great-grandmother would have loved.    These came down the family tree from a relative who was a whaling captain on what must have been a particularly boring sail.   He carved the needles from rosewood,  the tips are carved ivory   (No, I don't condone whaling, nor ivory they are simply relics  :} ).

One day I was flipping through a knitting magazine searching for inspiration, when I came across an ad for SQUARE knitting needles.  Whoa, now that's odd.  There would come the time, before Christmas, when I would need to race out to the brand-spanking-new LYS that opened a few miles away.   (  http://www.newenglandyarn.com/ )  It's not like I needed anything concrete, I just had to go and have a nice old fashioned look-see.  It's a great shop, the woman who owns it even spins some of her own yarn.

Hardcore yarn addict that I am, I had to look at everything, including a yarn that actually includes possum hair.  Its from New Zealand, where apparently there is a possum population explosion going on, and some fiber addict figured out possum hair is moisture resistant, so they mix it with wool   ( http://murrbrewster.blogspot.com/ take this and run with it!).    Well anyway, while perusing the small notions section, I spotted the square needles I had seen advertised.

They they were, all coppery, definitely square, though metal, and calling my name.  Well, I couldn't resist and bought a set of DP N's, even if they didn't work out, they are still gorgeous...

In between big stuff, I knit socks to clear my head, it's sort of like an 'eating the melon slice in between courses to clear one's palette' thing I have going, only with knitting.   So I thought now would be the time to try out the square needles.  Oh, wait for it, here comes my knitting tip....  For Socks...

On top of my 'pattern' as I go along making it up.....

As I cast on, I add needles, so by the time I have the amount of stitches I need, they are already on the needles, and I simply have to knit four stitches from needle # 3, to needle # 1, and I am all set to start whizzing around the sock cuff.    It's never a heart-ache being 'careful not to twist' either.    And just because some poor soul might have actually searched for knitting tips, and believed  this post would be useful...   my  Knitting Tip for Knitting with DP N's...  When traveling from needle to needle, always begin the new needle with a knit stitch, even if you have to distort rework the whole pattern to do it.   It prevents having to worry about holes in the work due to not keeping the DP N's close together while switching needles.    Well, I warned you above I am the Village Idiot Knitter didn't I?  But you'll find nary a darn holey space in my socks.    If you wanna see some really snazzy knitting, you should check out this site  http://www.annielarson.com/, she does it with a knitting machine, which is even more mind boggling for someone as clue-less as me.

While I was whizzing through the first rows of a roll cuff for slipper socks for my son, I noticed that not only were my fingers not bothered by the metal, but the square needles are easier for my fingers (suffering from occupational traumatic osteoarthritis) to grasp.  I might add, the more I keep them moving, the slower it will take my finger joints to weld themselves together due to lack of cartilage. I am afraid of this.  I don't think my toes are long enough to hold the needles.

Well these babies are not only a joy to use, they are fast.  The first slipper sock is nearly half done in two days, using size 3.  Which means they definitely will be done in time for my son to use when he has his surgery on the 15th of this month (by a competent surgeon, phew).    This also means using my normal favorite size 0 or 1's, I may be able to complete a few pairs of real socks before Jesus returns. 


The news is chock full of roofs collapsing these days, so we see a lot of this...

We woke up to this ...  a squall that left two more inches...

And yes, those are cat tracks...   When the old gentleman that lived in the strange house across the street passed away, his relatives came, cleared out the house, and shoved the cat outdoors.  He/She is mistrustful now of humans so it's taking me a while leaving food out for it, to even get it this close, at night.

So tonight, with the wind doing 50 mph gusts and howling to beat the ban, I sit with the new square needles, whizzing toward toe # 1.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Just loves photo ops.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I was around seven or eight when the mill in town went up.  It had been one of those summer evenings that didn't require a sweater.  One of those black and gray evenings when there is no sunset to speak of, things just seem to fade from the light quickly, and before you know it, buildings have all turned the same shade of shadows, and it's time to go inside.   

The neighborhood kids and I had just dispersed, heading for home when the siren began sounding  it's numeric code for the location of the fire.   Well, that was always exciting.  I ran through the back screen door, flew to the cellar stairwell while counting the number of blasts and spaces the siren issued, and by the time I looked up the location of the call box, sirens in the distance could already be heard. 

"Goin' to the FIRE!"  I yelled at the empty kitchen, racing back out the screen door to find the neighborhood gang already reassembling in our back yard.  "Its the MILL!" the boy next door said, and the five of us were off like a shot towards the river.

The lumber mill was half owned by my grandfather at that time, and was situated just off the river. Railroad tracks that followed the river split into a  junction, the side rail ran directly through the mill for pick ups and deliveries.  Though he ran the manufacturing side of the business, while his partner ran the office, he could never quite keep his hands away from wood, and was always making things to bring home to give to my grandmother.

Baba's hand turned saltshakers he made for Gunga.
I still feel ridiculous calling them these names...

Just past the tracks were the old, rickety wooden docks we'd fish from.  It was only a couple minutes away, and as the small group of us ran at full tilt, we began to smell the burning wood, mixed with an oily smell, and see the smoke before we were halfway there.

Upon our arrival some fire apparatus were already setting up running hoses, and shouting orders to each other we didn't understand.     We raced across the tracks taking up positions on the familiar dock, knowing - even in semi-darkness - where the boards were broken, where not to step so as to avoid going through and landing in the slime that edged the river underneath.

The fire got progressively worse, the crowds continued to gather and at some point blocked our view of the firefighters in action.  We left the dock and made our way through the crowd to get a closer look.  It was easy to do that when you were a kid.  Shimmy through the crowd at the height just below the point where adult bodies had become thick with age and pushed against each other when in close proximity.

Most of the lumber came from the mills in Manchester.

Suddenly the shouting from the firefighters reached a panicked crescendo, as some that were actually in the burning building were rushing out covered in soot and coughing. The crowd, sensing danger, moved in reverse en mass, my friends and I carried along with them.

The reason for the abrupt change in the fire came not a minute later.  Evidently there were quite a few fuel tanks within the building and the fire could not be contained enough to keep the blaze from reaching the tanks.   The first enormous explosion whacked the front row of the crowd, along with my friends and I, about five feet back, and onto the pavement.   Then we were all up and running over the tracks to get further away from the building as the firefighters were shouting "MORE TANKS INSIDE!" It wasn't until we were a safe distance away sitting on the slimy river bank, did we realize we, along with most of the crowd, were covered in black, greasy soot.  Three or four more tanks blew up, one causing the long, low roof of the mill to spring into the air a bit, before collapsing into the building.

Soon one of my friends would say, "Uh oh."   I followed the direction of his gaze and saw my sister on her prized black Raleigh, pedaling down the street like the Wicked Witch of the West.  She was scanning the scene in front of her bike and got a bead on my friends and me.  Pedaling over with an air of superiority only one who is in the loop is able to carry off, she braked the bike, stopped and said,  "Baba is here somewhere, you are late for dinner, and you were too close to the fire and I'm TELLIN'."   I should note my sister had named our Grandparents "Gunga" and "Baba" when she was small and incapable of words that actually meant something. The names stuck.  Baba loved it and Gunga spent most of my sister's childhood trying to force her to call her "Grand Mother."  Gunga never quite learned that my sister was the boss of everything.

George MacComber Gifford   (AKA Baba)
Viola May French Gifford  (AKA Gunga)

My Grandfather had his dream job.  He not only got to work with wood, but he got to be around trains, which he loved.

This is how he utilized the attic bedroom in his home.

He left his prized collection to me.

Which I still have because my son still lives with me.

My first experience with fire, during which I gained a healthy respect for it.  Thus began my adventure in life, where it seemed fire would follow me, no matter how hard I tried to avoid it.

Dear Pat....

When I was a kid...

Feb. 1960

In New Hampshire.  I headed South the second I had a chance... apparently not far enough south.

                                              Because I distinctly remember icicles like this.



Photo courtesy of Joey Guillo via The Weather Channel

Don't Irritate Me.
I'm running out of places to hide the bodies...