Archive for January, 2010

Howard Zinn, Presente!

January 27, 2010

We lost a great mind and a great fighter today, Dr. Howard Zinn. Reading his great work, “A People’s History of the United States” as a high school student changed me forever.

When I graduated from college I bolted. I talked me parents into buying me a camping pack for graduation and took only what I could carry on a train and put miles behind me. I took two books with me, “A People’s History” and “Poetry Like Bread.”I devoured both during my days on the train and the weeks that followed when I worked as a farm hand and lived in a trailer on the edge of a sheep field. Zinn’s eloquent prose and clear ideas were captivating for a second time for me. More clear to me during that reading, though, was the clear-headed pursuit of the real story. As a teenager I saw Zinn as all badass. Reading him confirmed what I’d been asking and my conservative teachers had denied and belittled. The earth moved under me as I read about Indian removal, labor movements, abolition, and the anti-war movements that responded to every war the US has ever fought.

My second reading, undertaken after I finished the two-year long project that was required for my BA, was less memorable for the content as it was for the larger ideas. I left college with more questions than answers. I was demanding of myself a real solid answer to the one question that had haunted me for years when I first discovered Zinn: how are we going to fix the world? That second reading, as I worked on an organic farm and toyed with the idea that pulling weeds might be my role in things, was what put me on a Greyhound with my pack. It was what brought me to San Francisco. It was why I stopped when a woman on the street with a table asked me what I thought was necessary to fix the world and it informed the attempt I made to answer her. That conversation was the beginning of phase of my life dedicated to struggle.

When I started working with Darrell Lomax, an innocent man on death row whom I have written and visited for four years, I mailed him that copy. I haven’t replaced it because in the inscription I told him he should give it back to me upon his release. I’m confidant that it will be back on my shelf soon. Zinn pointed me towards the ideas I was so hungry for. He opened my eyes to the real history of struggle – the years of organizing, the defeats, the hard-fought victories.

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. – Howard Zinn

I found the answer to my question. How do we win the world we deserve? We fight for it. And we stand on the shoulders of giants.


Don’t ask me why

January 25, 2010

Once in a while I’ll get a real hair across my ass to knit something so complicated it might be dangerous to my health. Enter the Nagano:

Notice how I didn’t just show a shot of a completed Norwegian ski sweater modeled by my dad? Yeah, funny that. I was up two nights before Christmas, madly steeking and attaching sleeves, then tacking down selvages over the rough edges and weaving ends. There were a few nail-biter moments with that and I had to pull out some things but no big deal. It got wrapped. It went under the tree.

The sleeves were Two Inches Too Short. I said, “No problem, this is superwash!” and dashed to the bathroom sink to submerge the sleeves in hot water and pin them to size. Somehow that didn’t work. The damned things were still two inches shy and guess who only brought what seemed necessary for the finishing to Maine?

It fit just as easily into my checked bag on my flight home and now it sits mocking me from its favorite spot in my WIP bin.

That hair? That hair across my buttcheeks that I mentioned earlier? The one that won’t go away until I shower take on a project that makes my best knitting buddy toss his head back and cackle about my insanity? Turns out that picking apart my effing Nagano doesn’t make it go away. I’m doomed to screw up colorwork. Just as a cruel trick, it’s not the technical aspects of the skill that poop on my parade. No. It’s the basics of sweater construction and fit.

Ten Stitch

January 24, 2010

I am a scratchy yarn person and a color person. Can anyone say Noro?

The wonderful part of this project is that I’m buying my expensive yarn slowly. One skein every time I need one and a lazy pace on the project. It’s a good one to have in my hands while drinking at the kitchen table with comrades.

I have a goal that might be a little nuts. I want our living room to have only handmade blankets and pillow cases. The house gets chilly at night, like any place lacking heat or insulation in 60 degree weather. Snuggling under something I made with my hands is so nice. Spilling dinner on it, less so. The Red Heart granny square afghan works fine for that, though.


January 20, 2010

I read on facebook that my cousin’s wife is going in for a c-section in 8 days. Today marks the 7th day before the grand event. Our family is getting another whole generation in a week. I’m excited. (Also, I swear I still had a couple months of knitting time.) They live in Florida, a minor detail to most people but a pretty major one to someone wanting to knit something useful for a baby. I was lucky to find an amazing deal on some Queensland Collection Bamboo Cotton.

It’s a pattern that I had a baby blanket in when I was born (that one made from a pastel variegated Red Heart Super Saver if my memory holds) and it’s a pattern that no one can possibly take credit for.

CO 5 sts. Work 1 garter st. ridge. k3, yo, k to end. Next row and all rows until it’s “big enough” k3, yo, k to end. To reverse: k2, k2tog, yo, k2tog, k to end. Repeat until 5 sts remain. work 1 garter ridge. BO.

I’m using 6 50g balls of the Bamboo Cotton in “color 06” which is a nice pale blue. Running towards the end.

Solidarity Forever

January 20, 2010

I made these mittens for a woman I adore who moved back to the midwest. We organized together for years and I’ll miss her. We worked together to stop executions and win equal marriage. I wanted her to have a little knitterly love. They read “Solidarity Forever” across the palms and there are two lines from the labor anthem by that name avross the backs of the hands. One mitten reads, “A power greater than their hoarded gold” and the other, “A new world from the ashes of the old.”

I hope she’ll wear them to tatters. (Don’t worry, they got thumbs and a good blocking.)

Free Pattern!

January 18, 2010

I had planned to make my kid sister a pair of breathtaking gloves for Giftmas this year but the crunch hit me and I chose a more manageable project for plane-knitting. It’s a simple cowl with a classic lace pattern that requires nothing more complex that counting to 6.


Miriam’s Cowl

Ravel it!

Size: Approx. 22″ circumference, unblocked, 13″ height

Materials: Madeline Tosh Worsted, [100% Superwash Merino Wool, 100g/225yd] 1 skein (pictured in Baltic colorway)

Needles: Size US #8/ 5mm DPN or size necessary to achieve gauge

Gauge: 5sts/ 1 inch

CO 108 sts, divided evenly onto three DPNs. (36 sts per needle) join for working in the round and place marker for beginning of the round. K all sts first round. P all sts second round. Begin feather and fan pattern:

Round 1-3: K all sts

Round 4: *k2tog 3 times, (yo,k1) six times, k2tog 3 times* repeat to end of round.

Repeat rounds 1-4 until work measures 12.5″ ending on a round 3.

Purl one round, knit one round, BO loosely. I used the following method:

*K2tog TBL, sl st back to left needle* repeat until last st remains. If working in the round: Pick up a loop from first BO st and work it together with the last st to avoid a gap. Break yarn, pull through last loop.

Finishing: Weave in ends. Steam lightly with an iron on the wool setting, if desired.

From the Top

January 18, 2010

I’ve entered a 12 Sweaters in 12 Months challange. When I tell non-knitters about this I get a confused look. I’m done with my first. The Ravelry group’s rules stipulate that sweaters must be adult-sized and be completed in 2010 but may be WIPs from years past.

Here’s my Green Sweater:

It’s not quite my own design. I used some of the formulas in Barbara Walker’s fantastic, “Knitting From the Top” to start the neckline. Once I’d cast on to the button bands I depended on trying it on for fit. The lace motif comes from of her four volumes of stitch patterns. The yarn is Fleece Artist’s BFL, one skein. That’s right. I worked the body to the lengthof other little lightweight cardis I wear. ThenI picked up the collar and worked the ribbing before weighing out the remaining yarn into two equal balls for the sleeves. I have under a dozen yards in a tiny ball that will go into my scraps bag awaiting a repair.

I’m undecided about closure. I’ve worn it a few times and I like cardigans to be open. I may put in a strip of hook and eye tape.