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March 26, 2010

Spring and Scarves

Happy Spring! It's been gorgeous here in SE Texas and everything is starting to bloom. I love seeing the fat little robins every morning and everything is looking so fresh and green.

Leaf Lace Scarf - Knit Picks Independent Designer Program

I can finally share the project I alluded to in this entry last month. It's another version, slightly revised, of the Leaf Lace Scarf. For this scarf, I used the new Knit Picks Shadow Lace Tonal in the Gypsy colorway. It was really lovely yarn and my first time knitting with their lace weight merino. I'd use it again in a heartbeat.

Leaf Lace Scarf II

The pattern can be purchased from Knit Picks or via Ravelry. They're both downloads, so whichever one you choose, you can cast on right away!

When I sent my finished red scarf to Knit Picks, I knew I'd have to wait for the release of the new tonal yarns before my pattern would show up on the site, so I cast on for a scarf I could wear right away. I knit the Spring Festival Scarf with Noro Sekku, their lace weight (or more appropriately -- cobweb) self-striping yarn, it's a light and airy spring/summer scarf. You really do have to love Noro to enjoy this yarn though. The thick/thin slubs are a challenge with yarn overs and one has to be really okay with imperfection. It was worth it for me - I love wearing this scarf.

Noro Sekku :: Spring Festival

The pattern is also available for purchase and download via Ravelry. If you knit one of these new scarves, I'd love to see it!

March 21, 2010

Counting Sheep Afghan :: Unveiled

It seems that we've started an informal tradition at Twisted Yarns for co-workers who become first-time grandmothers - a blanket or afghan for which we all knit a square or two, seam it together, and present it to the lucky recipient. We've knit one for Alisa and Lynn Anne, but we had to kick it up a notch for Shelley, one of the shop's co-owners, with a sheep-themed afghan - complete with intarsia (textured, no less) and duplicate stitch (my first time for both).

We each chose our squares in the late fall of 2009 and I started (and re-started) mine before Christmas when I bought my first Addi Clicks:

Counting Sheep Afghan - my first-ever intarsia!

We used shades of pink and gray, along with a little bit of brown, since Shelley had found out her son and his wife were going to have a girl. The yarn is Cascade 220 Superwash and the pattern is from a vintage pattern leaflet that once belonged to Eve's mother. See more details on the Ravelry project page.

It was a challenge figuring out how to get together at the shop without Shelley knowing about it, but after a few sessions, everything came together nicely.

Secret knitting for a new grandma

Last Tuesday, we had a get-together at the shop and presented Shelley with her afghan. She was so surprised:

Counting Sheep Afghan for Shelley

The pattern includes a knitted fence border and border collies. As Debbie G. would say, "It's so stinkin' cute!"

We had a great time working on it and I learned a few new skills and tricks. While intarsia knitting isn't one of my favorite techniques, I'm no longer intimidated by it. I've seen some really cute patterns for kids that include it, so it's possible I'll attempt it again someday.

March 19, 2010

Jerri :: Stylespotting


Earlier this week, my sister Jerri launched her L.A.-based blog and channelzine: Stylespotting.com. Jerri's always had a gift for nailing trends and pop culture -- the zeitgeist -- or "spirit of the moment." She's focused on the details RIGHT NOW, while I, on the other hand, often mine our past for answers or gaze in to the future for inspiration. This new medium is the perfect showcase for Jerri's innate visual talents. I've always been amazed at her ability to analyze a room full of people, a dense magazine, or a film and share her micro view of style, accessories, mood, and fashion. And now it's here for others to experience - not just southern Californians, but those of us who wish for a glimpse in to that world occasionally. (If you're like me, you crave a glimpse in to that world every day).

While Jerri credits me for being her secret weapon, she's always been my first reader -- the one I have in mind when I write. Jerri won't allow me to quit or give up. Our currency these days is inspiration. Since we don't have the luxury of seeing each other in person, we share links and ideas in text messages and emails. It takes me back to our intense creative sessions in Norman, Oklahoma, on the days I would visit her at school to get a brief break from being a working single mom. We'd shop for beads (her) or books (me), step into Victoria's or Lovelight Bakery for something to eat, then head back to her place (an old Victorian apartment), where my clumsiness would usually result in a spilled tray of beads on her wood floor. It feels that way again, if only in a virtual sense. And I'm not spilling beads.

And now, since I can't visit L.A. in person very often, her blog is a wish come true. Lovelight is now Urth and Victoria's is Chin Chin on Sunset Blvd. We have a lot of memories of experiencing places together and she's the best guide for anybody who wants to experience it street-level. I hope you visit Stylespotting.com -- not just because she's my sister, but to get a glimpse of her immense talent and unique perspective.

March 15, 2010

Remember the green scarf?

Leaf Lace Scarf knit with Malabrigo Lace from Spritely Goods

I knit this in 2008, inspired by the awesome green Malabrigo Lace that I purchased from Stephanie at Spritely Goods. I have an inexplicable weakness for the laceweight version of Malabrigo and it's the rare colors I covet. I scored one a few weeks ago (again, from Stephanie's site) and I'm going to use it to knit the very same scarf again.

Malabrigo Lace :: Polar Morn

Although it's a color I don't typically wear, I'm still dying to knit with it. My pattern, formerly a free download on Ravelry, is now for sale for $1.99. I tweaked the design, layout, and photo a little bit -- not so much to make major changes but to make my pattern Kindle™-friendly. Formerly, you couldn't view the lace chart on a Kindle™ but now you can -- just make sure you have the latest software release which gives the Kindle 2 native PDF capability. Naturally, you won't NEED a Kindle™ to view the pattern, but if you have one, you can store it there. Why $1.99? I hope to share more details about that in a few weeks. Most of my patterns are still free and they'll remain that way even after I make revisions to them. See? I told you I'm still knitting!

March 10, 2010

65 years ago today

Last month I wrote about a package of memorabilia that my sister sent me. In it were documents from my Uncle Michio that he had sent to my mother sometime in the mid- to late-80's and included a translation of our family history (that is, translated from ancient Japanese to modern Japanese) and a genealogical chart for their immediate family. He knew I was interested in our family history and after my mom and I visited Japan in 1985, he started compiling some of the information to send me. He later sent it to my mother, rather than to me, since much of it was written in Japanese. I think he expected that I would sit down with her and listen while she translated the information for me. Probably due to other things going on in our lives at the time, I never knew that he had sent her the chart or the letter. I discovered it last month with the other items in the box.

Some background:
Several years ago, I learned that my mom had a brother who died during World War II. More recently, she shared a little more about the day he disappeared, giving me details that led me to believe that he was "lost during the war." It wasn't until I saw the chart my Uncle sent that there was more significance to his disappearance than I could have imagined:

March 10, 1945
March 10, 1945

It appears likely that he perished during the firebombing of Tokyo. More specifically, the incendiary bombing of urban centers all over Japan, using bombs filled with what would become the precursor to napalm and often described as "jellied petroleum" or "jellied gasoline," and in this case, dropped in heavily populated areas of Tokyo. But on this day 65 years ago, in the neighborhood where my mother's family lived, my Uncle Osamu died. History came alive the moment I saw the date.

Accounts of that day in Tokyo are so difficult to read. Survivors can rarely be coaxed to talk about that day and I'm not likely to ever ask my mom to tell me more about it. She was 14 years old on March 10, 1945, and a student at Keisen Girls' School in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo (from April 1942 - March 1946). I recall that she has always had a difficult time watching any war footage (Iraq, Desert Storm, etc) or seeing any images of fire. And, although her older brother Osamu was one wartime death among hundreds of thousands in Japan, there are still questions about this one young man and some whispered rumors within the family of what really might have happened *. His body was never recovered, but seeing this date finally helps me to understand (after reading so many gut-wrenching accounts of this day 65 years ago) what my mother meant by "lost."

From here:

On March 9 and 10, 1945, before dawn, 279 B-29s dispatched from the 73rd, 313th and 314th, 31 from the 500th Bomb Group, attack Tokyo urban areas with 1,665 tons of incendiary bombs from between 4,900 feet and 9,200 feet. Fifteen square miles of the Tokyo urban area is burned out.

The numbers are almost unfathomable. But one young man died that day and that man was Osamu:

Osamu & Akiko, 1933

Valentine Vintage
Keiji, Osamu, Michio, Akiko

And the earliest known photo which again, I found in the package my sister sent:

Summer in Japan about 1931

I've labeled the photo to indicate who everybody was. The photo was clearly taken sometime in the summer, so I believe it to be 1931, and my mom would have been around 1-1/2 years old.

I was so close to never knowing that I had this highly personal connection to such an infamous day in American and Japanese history. But it's important to me because without that connection, I might never have understood the significance of what happened that day and how so little (if any) is written about it in history books. Some of you might remember this post from 2008 in which I shared my first glimpse of what my mom's life might have been like in Tokyo during WWII. Back then, I didn't know that my uncle's death was tied to this day and to events similar to the ones depicted in the animated film Grave of the Fireflies.

A continent away, the same year my Uncle Osamu died, my father was in high school and planning his enlistment in the US armed forces. Although the war had ended by the time he enlisted, he clearly had the desire to leave Ohio for more exotic locales, eventually arriving in Tokyo sometime in 1949. The rest, as the old cliché goes, is history.

*I no longer have any family members currently living who know the details about what happened to Uncle Osamu the day he disappeared. I can't stress enough that had it not been for Wikipedia and the internet, I'd never have this information or insight