I am an unconventional prepper

Ah, this writing class I’m taking…  It’s a treasure trove of reading and writing enlightenment.  The homework for our last class was titled Funhouse Mirror and again was from The 3 a.m. Epiphany:  write a caricature of some aspect of yourself.  Blow it up.  Take it to the extreme.

At first I thought I’d take some part of Johanna which is exceptionally vulnerable and see how I felt when I pushed that to the extreme: no one likes me;  I am not actually good at anything I think I am good at; I am selfish.  But those ideas sucked and made me want to cry, so I went another direction.  Below, I present to you, the first – perhaps of many – meet Afthead in the funhouse mirror posts.  Enjoy!


Johanna is a prepper, but her version of the apocalypse appears to differ from those typically found in literature.  In her end-of-the-world scenario the killer bug, aliens, nuclear fallout, or zombies will only be thwarted by soft colorful hand-knit items.  Heads of her family and friends will be covered in zombie proof alpaca toques.  No body part of her child will be exposed to epic flus; instead they will be covered with garments knit from hand-painted yarn produced via sustainable practices high in the Andes, which have known germicide properties.  Aliens will be repelled by the soft glow of angora halos radiating from shawls wrapped around her shoulders.  Pile on enough woolens and radiation has no chance of reaching human flesh.

Anticipating the end of the world, Johanna knows that saving humanity will invariably be hampered by a lack of crafting resources.  Scarcity is common in apocalyptic scenarios.  She knows yarn must be hoarded and protected.  Today she is building best practices by keeping her yarn stash safe from invading caterpillars – well known to eat through woolens.  Her basement stash is displayed in a glass front cabinet for protection and ease in project planning.  However, while glass protects against moths, it is vulnerable to a quick alien smash and grab, so in nooks and crannies of her basement lurk larger stashes of more securely organized knitting raw materials.


High in the dark corner of a closet is the sweater yarn protected by five gallon Ziploc bags.  In these giants of the sandwich bag world lurk yarn quantities large enough to cover an adult torso in stitches.  There are two, or three, okay maybe five such bags on the top shelf.  On the bottom shelf?  An opaque Rubbermaid container of blanket yarn: quantities similar to sweater yarn, but with more color variation.

Most preppers would stop there.  Yarn stored in three discreet locations with the big quantities hidden away for protection, but not Johanna.  No.  Hidden in the storage shelving under the stairs lurks two more large Rubbermaid containers.  These hold the auction yarn.  Yarn that was purchased for a tenth of its value, and while it might have limited use as yarn today – certainly it won’t smell like cigarette smoke anymore someday – everyone knows that aliens hate nicotine, so when the invasion comes she’ll be ready with jewel toned garments which will repel even the biggest eyed anal probe wielding creatures from another planet.  One can never be too prepared.

2012 Sweaters
All set for the end of the world.

Help me pick my yarn

I’ve started a new knitting project and I am looking to the blogosphere to help me choose my yarn. The pattern is the Purl Soho stitch block cowl.  It’s a gorgeous cowl with three blocks of knitting:  one neutral section; one neutral and solid section; and one neutral, solid and variegated section.  the below image is from Purl Soho’s site.  Isn’t it beautiful?  The knitting is filled with techniques I’ve never used and amazing color, so there is so much fun to be had; I love this project.

stitch-block-cowl-600-10

The neutral block is on the needles, and that color is a done deal, but I’m torn about the solid (equivalent of the yellow in the Purl Soho picture) and the variegated (the equivalent of the gold/maize in the Purl Soho picture).  I’ve got three choices and would love to hear your thoughts about the relative beauty or not-beauty of each one.  I love them all, but they are so different, and I really don’t want to make three cowls (because I’d have to buy six more skeins of the neutral color and that would be a lot of money and time and cowls.)

Option 1 – The Hobbit Cowl – Earthy and dark, reminiscent of little underground homes.

Color 1: Purl Soho’s Worsted9832 Twist in Sea Salt

Color 2: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino in Shire

Color 3: Purl Soho’s Worsted Twist in Moody Green

Option 2 – The Sunset Cowl – White puffy clouds set afire by the setting sun

Color 1: Purl Soho’s Worsted Twist in Sea Salt

Color 2: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino in Spicewood

Color 3: Purl Soho’s Worsted Twist in Clementine Orange

Option 3: The Scottish Cowl – The variety of Highland greens enjoyed with a cup of tea.

Color 1: Purl Soho’s Worsted Twist in Sea Salt

Color 2: Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage in Earl Grey

Color 3: Purl Soho’s Worsted Twist in Cardamom Green

Which option calls to you, my blogging friends?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.  I’ve probably got a week until I need the other solid, so vote soon, and vote often.  Thanks for your help!

Yarn on fence

Mrs. Knit Purl’s Obituary

I was given a remarkable gift.  A gift on many levels and remarkable on many levels.  At a local auction, there were five bins of yarn available:  three filled with wool, bamboo, boucle, and mohair and two with acrylic.  My parents texted and wanted to know if they should bid; I said yes to the wool and no to the acrylic.  A few hours later they texted again.  All three bins were mine.

At first it was like winning the lottery and my birthday all mixed up together.  My parents had spent $70 on these bins, gave them to me, and the value of the yarn was well over $1000.  There were skeins and skeins of remarkable, expensive, luxurious yarn.  It was not all yarn I would have picked out for myself, but it was all beautiful.  As I poured through the bins there were patterns with the yarn, and there were start of projects, and projects half done.  Suddenly, this wasn’t just a bunch of awesome yarn, but another knitter’s stash, and she was no longer around to finish that sweater, that blanket, or whatever that swatch was going to become.  The deeper we dug the more real she became.  She loved yarn and knitting, and this is what my heart has invented of her story.

Mrs. Knit Purl never skimped when she bought yarn.  She wasn’t one of those optimistic knitters who thought, “Oh well maybe I can make do with just 5 skeins of this gorgeous boucle.”  She bought 6, even if it was $40 a skein because she knew that if a pattern said she needed to have 1000 yards, 1200 was safe and 1000 was cutting it just too close, especially given her growing waistline.  She held onto projects for years waiting for the right time to turn yarn into a garment.  She prided herself on knowing what she was going to do with every skein in her stash, but a smart knitter knew that it was easy to use less yarn than you have but hard to use more.

Knit wasn’t afraid of having multiple projects going at once, in fact she loved the variety of a purple itchy wool sweater on one set of needles, a boring brown swatch for her grandson’s Christmas sweater started on a second, and a fluffy soft Alpaca cardigan in vivid jewel tones halfway completed on a third.  She wasn’t the knitter she used to be, anything smaller than a size 5 needle made her fingers ache, so the variety of projects gave a routine to her knitting days.  As she was drinking her morning coffee and smoking her first cigarette, the smaller needles and wool helped loosen her hands.  Late in the evening, while she was watching the evening news, and smoking her last cigarette, the alpaca on the giant size 15 needles was easy for her eyes to see and her hands to work.

Her projects also gave a routine to her years.  She told people she loved them through her knitting.  Every April she started a sweater for her grandson, and she had it finished and wrapped every December.  She knew that he didn’t love her sweaters  – who needs a new sweater from his grandma every year – but she still loved the tradition of him wearing her sweater every Christmas Day.  She’d made his first one when he was just a tiny baby, and this year would be her twenty-second sweater for him.  He was in college now, and maybe he wouldn’t mind wearing a brown cardigan on cold winter days.  Now that he was paying his own heating bills he might appreciate something to throw on in the house instead of turning up the heat.  She saw boys his age walking down the street in sweaters.  Maybe this year would be the year she would finally make something he would cherish.  The one he’d still be pulling on years from now when his own baby woke in the middle of the night.

She loved color and dreamed of making a knee length sweater for herself: a statement piece that would show everyone that she was not just a knitter, but an artist.  One winter day she found a yarn that reminded her of the sunsets she during her Alaskan vacation.  She was stroking the yarn and counting the balls when the lady at the yarn shop asked if she could help.  Knit told her about the dream, and the yarn shop lady found her a pattern she loved; it looked like a housecoat, but in the sunset yarn it would be a housecoat she could wear with pride.  She’d waltz into her knitting group and her friends would gasp in admiration at her masterpiece.  Oh, but there wasn’t enough yarn in the stacks.  The shop lady smiled, went to the back and came out with four full bags of sunset yarn, each containing twelve balls.  Knit never considered not buying the yarn and the pattern.  Each time she finished a project she would pull out those bags of yarn, and each time she started something else.  She loved the idea of the coat, but she never felt ready to actually cast on the dream.

Knit’s collection has been donated down to two bins of yarn. Every Thursday, when I work from home, I place the yarn in my backyard to let the sunshine and chlorophyll in the grass work their magic on the cigarette smell.  As I set them out I appreciate her plans, and make my own.  The sunset yarn will be shared with a knitting friend who loves color the way Knit did.  The jewel toned yarns are beloved by my mother and will make a blanket, or a shawl, or a cardigan.  There is an afghan kit I will make for myself and five different beaded scarves that will become lovely Christmas presents.  With every packing and unpacking I appreciate her artistry and promise to make something, different than she planned, but equally lovely with her beloved yarn.  I’m sorry she never got to make her sweater, but I won’t make it for her.  That was her dream, and I’m sad she never got to realize it.  My gift to her is to love her yarn and to make my own dreams.  I hope that someday my yarn will go to someone like me who appreciates it and laments the fact that I had cats the way I wish Knit hadn’t smoked.

Thanks Knit.  I love your yarn, and I’ve loved having you as an imaginary knitting friend over the past few weeks.  May you rest in peace.

Finish something, part deux

Now that the Afthead lice infestation is officially over, my hands were itching to do something more productive than comb hair.   (I spent a lot of time examining my daughter’s afthead, let me tell you!)  I wanted to finish something, like my BFF Neil Gaiman encouraged me to do a few weeks ago.  The novel is still inching along, but I’ve had a knitting project in the basket since February, and I had Women’s World Cup soccer and Tour de France to watch this weekend.  Knitting time!

My husband jokes about my knitting and my writing, “You’re so lucky.  You’ve already got all your old-person hobbies figured out.”  In retaliation I poke him with my knitting needle and make fun of him publicly on my blog.  I’m excited about my first knitting blog, because I can try some cross linking between my Ravelry page and my blog.  If you aren’t a knitter just look at the pretty pictures and wonder why on earth I’d want to work with a toasty pile of of wool when it’s over 90 degrees out. The pattern is the Chevron Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, and I used Liberty Wool from Classic Elite Yarns.  It took  about 3 skeins of the light tone (color 7804) and 3 skeins of the dark tone (7898).   It’s a really long scarf.     I also have a shower to go to next weekend for a dear friend’s baby boy.  Well there’s nothing I love more than knitting baby hats, so I also started, and finished a baby hat this weekend.  I watched a Lynda course about design and by the time it was done my yarn had become a hat!   I have found that I can learn from those online courses if my hands are busy while I’m watching.  It alleviates some of the tedium.  I’ve yet to be brave enough to bring knitting to a meeting filled day at work, but I bet it would work in person too. Sadly I think knitting at work is at best weird and at worst rude.

This pattern is a modification of the Magic Coffee Baby Hat pattern.  I used three Debbie Bliss yarns; the brown and blue are cashmerino aran (300008 and 300005) and the red is cashmerino astrakhan (31006) which is a yarn with a little texture to it.  The cashmerino yarn makes the hat both not-itchy and machine washable, critical for a baby.  I did a slip stitch on the fourth stitch of the brown row to make the brown bump in the blue stripe.  I think it’s cute and should be a great first hat for a September baby.   We are supposed to bring a book instead of a card to this shower, and as the book lover in this group of friends, I picked out the books for three of us.  I’m like a kid’s book personal shopper.  I love all three of these books.  The hat is included in the picture so you can see how teeny tiny it is.     What a productive weekend!  Now I just have to wait two months for anything I created to get worn.  The best part is, now that I’ve finished two somethings, I can start something…or tackle that sweater that was under the scarf in the knitting basket.  Just one more sleeve!  Maybe I can get it done before winter.