That Slushy Sound Is Just Me Drooling

… over this pattern from Knitting Lingerie Style by Joan McGowan Michael.
Pinkish bedjacket
This is not a book I gravitated to naturally. I like my girly stuff, but I like it loose and comfortable and simple, so just the phrase “lingerie style” makes me feel kind of itchy. In the picture above, this bed jacket is pretty, but not necessarily a piece I’d want to knit—too close-fitting and gappy, not practical for real warmth. I can easily say, “ooh, aah,” then move along without a fuss. But (you knew there’d be a “but,” didn’t you?) the latest KnitPicks catalogue has a picture of this piece knit up in one of their own yarns. The model wearing it is older, with silver-grey hair (ergo seemingly sensible and not one to go mincing about in uncomfortably clingy skimpies), and the piece is larger in proportion to her body, so that the fronts can overlap easily. Now that version I could imagine knitting and wearing. (Here‘s a link. It’s just a picture of the bed jacket, not the model shot from the catalogue, which I can’t find on-line, but perhaps it will help you get the picture.)


On a completely different note, I was lucky enough to get to see the eclipse night before last. Melissa reminded me of it, so I set my alarm clock for 2:30 and got up for an hour to watch the moon disappear. I stretched out in the back yard on a lounge chair, gazing heavenward while the cats frolicked around me. Sparky in particular was delighted that I was finally showing the sense to wake up and do something once it was dark out. He chirped and chirped, leaping on and off my lap, and gave me happy little pats with his front paws. Bea was much more discrete, settled down on the grass a few feet away and purring contentedly.

I’ve seen partial eclipses before, but to the best of my memory this is the first time I’ve been able to watch a total eclipse. I thought of earlier times when this eclipse would have been an omen of tragedy to come, and I thought of cultures where villagers might gather to bang on pots in order to scare away the invisible monster devouring the moon.

I often imagine the universe as a sort of dance: planets and galaxies spinning to a pattern and set of rules I can sense, but can’t fully grasp. I looked up Tuesday night and thought to myself “This is happening because we’re all—earth, sun, moon, every bit of matter large and small—looping about at inconceivably fast speeds. I can sit in the dark and feel overwhelmed with the mystery and stillness of this sight, but there’s really nothing still about it.”

Stages of the total lunar eclipse Stages of the total lunar eclipse Stages of the total lunar eclipse Stages of the total lunar eclipse

I went back to bed to finish up my minimum-requirement-for-choerent-teaching sleep with the occluded moon a dark, brown-red disk in the night sky. The cats remained outside to continue their revelry.

Tuesday Mewsday: Hail, Noble Cats!

Cat Book Mom’s blog led me to a site that generates Peculiar Aristocratic Titles. Because I know who the real aristocracy are chez moi, I immediately generated titles for all the cats. Some of the results took several tries (for whatever reason, Maggie in particular kept getting these titles that just were not right), but we are quite pleased with the final products.

Archy: My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is
Most Noble and Honourable Archy the Inchoate of Ofsted in the Bucket
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
Mighty Bezoar: My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is
Lady Beatrice the Vehement of Withering Glance
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
Maggie: My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is
Reverend Countess Maggie Gloriana the Glutinous of Piddletrenthide Under Booth
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
Damian: My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is
Very Lord Damian the Scintillating of Happy Bottomshire
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
Sparky: My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is
His Most Noble Lord Spartacus the Fortunate of Fishkill St Wednesday
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Just use the links to generate titles for your own feline aristocracy.

P.S. I understand that some of you may have canine aristocracy in addition to or instead of the feline variety, but please don’t tell the cats.

Paso a Paso

Today, while my flooring is being replaced, I’m hanging out at Melissa’s. I’ll settle in upstairs to mark papers, which need to be returned tomorrow. Meanwhile, Melissa will be downstairs, putting finishing touches on linocuts and running the blocks through her press. She’s getting ready for the opening of “Paso a Paso,” the exhibit of her linocuts based on the six-week, 500-mile trek she made last fall across northern Spain along the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrim route dating back to the 9th Century.

I always like her work, but I am absolutely in love with this series of prints, which combine the medieval and the mystic with the contemporary, all set in the wide expanses of the Spanish plains. The last six months or so, I’ve had the pleasure of watching all these images come into being, seeing Melissa carve away at the blocks and hearing her talk about her ideas and recount her stories of the pilgrimage.

Here’s “Entering Castrojeriz.”
Entering Castrojeriz

And “Stray Dog Sleeping in an Albergue Doorway.”
Stray Dog Sleeping in an Albergue Doorway

If you like these, head on over to her web site, where you can see eight more of the twenty or so prints that will make up the show. (That number’s not set in stone because she keeps getting new ideas even as she races to perfect and print the blocks she has carved.)

Had I But Yarn Enough and Time…

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m quite pleased with the patterns in the latest issue of Knitters Magazine.

My absolute favorite is Penny Ollman’s Jade Empire.
I confess to having headed over to Elann yesterday to order enough Peruvian Sierra Aran in Italian Plum to make one in my size. (With Elann’s prices, it was a total deal.)

Why do I love this sweater? Because it offers an ideal blend of comfort and feminine beauty. The diamond lace pattern is girly without being fussy. The empire shaping means it won’t bind (and, again—girly). And I am a fanatic about three-quarter length sleeves: love them, love them, love them.

(For the moment, Empire Jade has even eclipsed Silver Belle on my must-knit major project list, though I still find Silver Belle breath-taking. Click here and here and here and here to see it in progress on various bloggers’ needles. I’m planning to work up my version in Mustard Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk Aran, for a warm-colored, autumnal look.)

Back to the latest Knitter’s
…I’m also fond of Lois Young’s Etched Copper.

And I definitely want to have a go at Jane Sowerby’s Ruffled Fichu.
Check out that bell-shaped ruffle.

I must hope that the next few knitting magazine that arrive in the mail offer only hideous patterns or I’ll be feeling utterly overwhelmed with all the pieces I want to work on.

Meanwhile, I stayed up much too late last night leafing through Barbara Walker’s Mosaic Knitting dreaming up ideas for all sorts of projects: scarves, hats, table linens, and dishrags, of course. (Check out the Walker Treasury Project for a sampling of possibilities.) I have papers to mark this weekend and also need to completely empty the bottom level of my little home because I’m getting new flooring, but how I wish I could just ignore everything else and spend full days playing with needles in hand.

P.S. For those of you who sympathized with my raccoon problem, you may want to head over to offer comfort to So Now What? as well.

It’s All About the Dishrags

That’s life these days, chez moi.

Here are four cloths worked up in a variation on the stitch Laurie used for my dishrag tag cloth.
Four dishrags
The colors (all Elmore-Pisgah Peaches & Creme) from L to R are Oasis Ombre 176, Mardi Gras 163, Sour Green Apple 312, and Cityscape 211. Not only do these cloths illustrate some of the colorways available—they also offer a lesson in gauge. I knit each one using the same number of stitches and rows on U.S. size 8 needles, but I worked the smaller three on wood needles, the larger one on aluminum. Apparently aluminum needles loosen up my gauge. Who knew?

The pattern is quite simple. Cast on an odd number of stitches (I used 37) and K two rows.
Then work as follows:
Row 1: K2, [P1,K1] across, ending with an additional K1
Row 2: K3, [P1, K1] across, ending with an additional K2
Row 3: as row 1
Row 4: K across
When you’ve worked this four-row pattern through until you have the size you want (I did 13 reps), K one additional row, then cast off K-wise. Easy pie!

I’m absolutely in love with the Mardi Gras colorway, which is riotously happy.
Two dishrags
Check it out in the Mason-Dixon Ball Band pattern with a natural background. Those colors just *pop*.

Here’s another pair in Peppercorn Ombre 180.
Two more dishrags
The cloth on the left is worked in the Wheatfields pattern from page 3 of the Dishcloth Boutique. On the right, another Ball Band cloth with a natural background.

And here’s a dishcloth yet to come:
The ghosts of dishrags future?
The yarn on the needles is Sunflower 196, the other two are Black Watch 192 and Lemon Lime 186.

Since I discovered the self-striping Lilly Sugar ‘n Cream at the Michael’s in Emeryville, I’ve looked for it at other Michael’s without luck. I’m not sure why one shop carries it, but the others seem not to.
Dishrags and yarn
At any rate, Here’s Rowena, our Oregon stegosaurus, posing with some of the different colorways and one completed cloth. (This pattern is from one of the Leisure Arts dishcloth leaflets, I can’t remember which.)

I’m delighted to report that I finally found myself asking a “what if?” knitting question yesterday. I’ve felt so preoccupied lately with teaching responsibilities, that I’ve just been following patterns without dreaming up my own possibilities. The question was simple enough: “What if I work a mosaic-stitch dishcloth from two different self-striping yarns?” The cloth I knit up to answer my question (pic to follow) is fun, though the Sugar ‘n Cream colors aren’t as saturated as I’d like them to be for this purpose.

I’ve had lots of help with all my dishcloth knitting.
Two BIG hellpers
Damian will eventually settle down and leave me to my work, but Maggie just aches to grab those needles and work a couple of “stitches” herself.

P.S. Have you checked out the new issue of Knitter’s Magazine? I particularly like the Jade Empire cardigan.

Tuesday Mewsday: Carousel Cats (and Their Friends)

When Melissa and I drove home from Oregon, we began by traveling west to Canon Beach on the coast. From there, we took a quick run out of our way, heading north to Seaside. The reason? Carousel cats!

Look at this handsome creature:
The handsome black cat, fish in mouth.

He’s been using his fierce claws to catch a fish.
The handsome black cat has fearsome claws.

And his companion has had good luck fishing as well.
The white cat cavorting.
No cats will be going hungry on their watch.

Not only did this carousel feature cats. It also offered bunnies and pigs…
The bunny and the pig.

… and a very sincere young bear.
The little bear is very sincere.

Of course we went for a ride, with me perched side-saddle on the black cat and Melissa astride the white.

Closer to home, my favorite carousel is at the San Francisco Zoo. I generally need to take several rides so I can visit with all my favorite animals.

P.S. This may not seem like a knitting-related post, but trust me—I have plans for these beasties.

Good Stuff!

First off, I’ve been meaning for quite a while now to post a picture of the great dishrag that Laurie (of Knittinggarden) sent me for Dishrag Tag. The pattern has lots of texture—a definite plus in my book—and it’s in one of my favorite colorways: Peaches ‘n Creme Daisy Ombre.
Cotton Commandos still rule!
Not only that, but she included both chocolate and these beautiful stitch markers. You will no doubt be shocked to know that the chocolate was no longer available at the time of the photo shoot. The stitch markers make me feel like a contessa whenever I pick up my knitting. It’s quite a struggle not to start putting on airs!

Yesterday at 5:00, after several hours of me marking papers and Melissa running lino-blocks through her press, I idly raised the question, “Do the A’s have a home game tonight?” A quick check of the schedule revealed that indeed they did and that it started at 6:05. We dropped everything and headed out to the coliseum, where our commitment to the game was rewarded both by free A’s t-shirts from Chevy and an A’s doormat giveaway.
Free stuff from the A's game
We were mightily chuffed and enjoyed ourselves immensely, despite some unfortunately doormat-like playing by the A’s, who lost 3-7.

A Most Lovely Bad Influence

I’ve been cruising about the internet today, trying to catch up on all my blog reading (and to do a bit of actual work, incidentally). Kim Hargreaves has a new collection out—all pretty, though nothing I found irresistible. I checked out the projects in the new Rowan Magazine. I even looked—without buying—at theWoolie Ewe‘s Rowan/RY Classic yarn sale and at Little Knits, where I stoppered my ears against the siren call of Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk DK.

But my willpower broke down when I got to CatBookMom’s Yarns. Her list of recent shawl pattern acquisitions sucked me in with the unstoppable force of a black hole. Before I knew it, I’d followed the breadcrumbs she’d strewn along the path straight to Goddess Knits, where I bought not one, not two, not three, but four shawl patterns. There’s Beltane. Also Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. Midsummer with a lovely mix of solid and lacy areas. And sweet, sweet Petticoat with its vertical lace panels that remind me of insertion lace on vintage underthings. I have yielded to temptation—and I regret it not. Thanks, CatBookMom!

The Shakespeare Game

The pile of dishrags grows ever taller, but I haven’t much knitting to talk about besides that, so I thought I’d share one of my amusements: The Shakespeare Game.

The purpose of the game is to imagine one’s self a director/producer and to dream up a novel production of one of Shakespeare’s plays. The ideas can be quick concepts—setting Romeo and Juliet on the Israel-Palestine border, for example—or more elaborate things with whole proposed casts, costume ideas, and the like. When I teach my summer Shakespeare class, I invite my students to play this game. I also have it going in the back of my head during the course.

Last year, when one of the plays Shakespeare Santa Cruz presented was King Lear, I imagined a production set in an assisted-living facility for people with Alzheimer’s. Lear would be one of the residents; the play would be his fantasies acted out by other residents and staff. This summer, I had the idea of making the setting even more specific: New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The storm on the heath would be the actual hurricane. I picture a large-screen tv on the set, playing a continuous loop of news coverage of the disaster, with regular cuts to George W. Bush saying, “You’re doing one heck of a job, Brownie.”

This year, Shakespeare Santa Cruz is presenting Much Ado about Nothing and The Tempest. Since Tempest is often seen as Shakespeare’s “retirement play,” in which he foreswears the magic of theater and retreats to live an ordinary life, I’d like to try producing it as the final film of an aging director—sort of Sunset Boulevard-like. Ariel would be the director’s assistant with a clap-board to mark the beginning and end of scenes. I’d play Caliban as a Hattie McDaniel type: a gifted African-American actor forced to play mammy roles.

I also imagine a production of Taming of the Shrew done as tragedy, rather than comedy, in which the insults are sincere, the violence real. Watching a production like this would be grueling, but it would open up all sorts of ideas that are lurking right now under the script we’re so ready to laugh at.

Think back to your high school or college Shakespeare. What plays are you familiar with? What would you do with them to make them anew for audiences?

Tuesday Mewsday: Poor Kit Smart and His Cat, Jeoffry

Christopher Smart (1722-1771) began his life ordinarily enough in a well-off, but not wealthy, Kentish family. He attended Cambridge, but left without receiving a degree and moved to London, earning his living as a literary man. He edited magazines, and wrote both satires and poems.

Beginning in the early 1750s, Smart was consumed by a growing religious mania, accosting passersby in the streets and demanding that they pray with him. This led to his confinement in a madhouse from 1756-58. Ben Johnson questioned the necessity of Smart’s institutionalization, famously noting, “I’d as lief pray with Kit Smart as anyone else.”

Smart’s “Jubilate Agno,” (reportedly composed in the asylum) was an immense, rambling poem, finding God’s hand in all he observed and noting the many ways that creation found to praise its creator.

One version of Smart’s life’s story has him sharing his madhouse cell with a pet cat, Jeoffry, whose every action he delighted in. Whether or not Jeoffry actually shared this stage of Smart’s life, he does make a substantial appearance in “Jubilate Agno,” serving as an example of all that is good in creation.

As a cat-lover, I’ve been partial to this poem since I first encountered it in grad school. But I also treasure this poem for the hopefulness it embodies. For Smart, the ordinary is proof of the miraculous: a cat’s playing with its prey becomes an opportunity for salvation; feline grooming a hymn of praise. Were I living Smart’s life, I doubt I would be so ready to appreciate, so quick to see beauty.

For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry (excerpt, “Jubilate Agno”)
Christopher Smart

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord’s poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually–Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.