It’s a good thing Jon slept in this morning, because at one point, there was yarn all over the living room. I woke up this morning with a feverish urge to engineer and organize a major knitting project I have been thinking about, one larger and grander in scale than I have ever attempted.

I am going to make a blanket. Not an afghan. A blanket. A big one that is colorful and wonderful and able to take a beating. The kind of thing that you take out to picnics and outdoor music events and show off with pride. The kind that you can wrap yourself in on rainy days while you read or watch a great move or, obviously, knit. “The Blanket” that your kids fight over one day once you are dead because it was a staple textile of their childhood.

In short, it will be epic. Finally, my bag full of wool/acrylic yarn of various origins has a purpose. A destiny. And I am getting excited about it.

I started to tell Kennita about my plan yesterday at Wildflower Yarns and Knitwear, but the plan was too big to put into words in the moment. I started to e-mail her today, so happy to tell someone about this idea bobbing around in my head, but the e-mail started to get so long, I figured I better make it a blog post.

It started with a scarf pattern. This one, Scrappy Lengthwise Scarf, by Zona Sherman. Isn’t it lovely?  I love the way the colors come together.

Image from Zona Sherman’s blog. Check her out at: http://zona.livejournal.com/

I’ve had this scarf on my Ravelry list for quite a while. I kept thinking I might knit the scarf at some point, but never quite got around to it. You know, after a while it’s hard to get motivated about another scarf. And I there about 100 scarves I’d love to knit, but the need for scarves is limited—How many do you really need? And once you made a person a scarf as a gift, a second gifted scarf is, well, lame. And having half your family live in a semi-tropical climate doesn’t help either.

Then, I read this pattern that changed everything. Joan L. Hamer’s The Mindless Knitting, TV Watching, Scrap User-Upper Afghan. I was particularly intrigued by this list of materials: “Scraps of many colors, worsted weight yarn; 36″ or longer #9 circular needle; stitch markers, large opaque garbage bag (yes!)”  The concept is that you throw all your scraps in the opaque trash bag and randomly pull out yarn. As Joan writes: “Afghans tend to become monotonous after about a foot is knitted and this one employs one trick that keeps you from running out of steam. First, you gather all your odds and ends and place them in a black garbage bag. No see-through ones allowed. The rule is: whatever color you reach in and grab, without looking, you MUST use. Believe it or not this produces a prettier afghan than you might imagine, but more important, it keeps your interest. Why? When you are nearing the end of a color, you can’t wait to see what comes next. Really! It works and no cheating….”

This kind of glee she describes totally reminds me to knitting with Noro. Wouldn’t it be neat to have that kind of fun with a blanket?

Jan’s pattern is basically double-knit garter stitch. The finished product is a “tube,” accomplished with a seam. The pics on Ravelry are all beautiful. However, a double knit blanket might be a little warm for me, and garter stitch might send me over the boredom edge for a blanket-sized project.

So, the master plan, if you don’t already see it coming: I’m going to use “woven stitch” pattern I like in Zona’s scarf, and using the trash bag yarn selection method Joan details, make a huge blanket that uses all my scrap/crap acrylic blend yarn, is colorful, reversible and yes (hopefully) exciting to work on.

Much more engineering and planning is needed. Currently mulling over anticipated problems like, how do you keep a trash bag full of yarn from becoming a knot the size of a two-year old? (I think the answer is many, many zip lock bags!) And yarn acquisition may take some time. I have enough for a good-sized afghan right now. Here’s a sample of what I have so far:

This is a strand of each color… There are actually a lot more light browns, proportionately.

As I look at my colors, I think I need MORE. More purples and hot pinks and lime greens and orange corals and electric blues, turquoises and some more lavender and minty greens and pale blues and so on. Luckily, Kennita’s Dog Days of Summer is coming up soon, so I am hoping to score some random skeins. And my Mom has a bag of yarn waiting for me in Houston from a friend whose mother recently passed away… reportedly all pinks and purples once destined for an afghan. We’ll see! I don’t know how much yarn it will take me  for me to feel I am ready to cast on. But I think the trash bag of yarn will speak to me at some point and say, “I am ready.”


Dick and Susan at 4 monthsHard to believe, but it’s true: My father is 70 today. I started thinking about what to do for my Dad’s 70th birthday, and I decided a blog post would be just about as cool as any Hallmark greeting or silly gadgety gift. Besides, at 70, he already has an iPhone, a Kindle, a digital pen and reams of crazy digital paper, and probably any number of gizmos that I don’t even know about yet.

In fact, just this morning, he sent me an article from the New York Times from his iPhone. He reads his papers like this now. I find this amazing. Most people’s dads, even dads a decade younger, would not dream of such behavior. But this is the same guy who brought home a Apple II Plus before anyone had a computer at home, hooked a black and white TV set to it, and taught my brother and me about computers. And that’s only one of many things he taught me.

He told me about the Web before anyone was talking about it. As a scientist, he was one of those guys trading documents online while the rest of us were sending faxes. Of course, he’d never tell you that. He’s a little modest. If you don’t believe me, here’s his faculty bio from the Rice University Web site. Under great pressure from some university P.R. flack like me, he was forced to write about himself, and it turned out like this:

“DR. WOLF came to Rice in 1967 after completing a postdoc at Caltech and working a year at Bell Labs. His thesis was in theoretical astrophysics, but he clearly wasn’t any good at that, and he consequently started working on the Earth’s magnetosphere. He has continued to work in that field for more than 30 years and is now too old to learn anything new. He is best known for his work with the Rice Convection Model, which is a large computer code representing the Earth’s magnetosphere. It still doesn’t work right, even after 30 years of effort. More recently, he helped write a simpler program called the Magnetospheric Specification Model (MSM). It doesn’t work very well either but is nevertheless being used by the Space Environment Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for space-weather reports. Dr. Wolf is working on a textbook on the Earth’s magnetosphere, but nothing is likely to come of it.”

I know he wrote this thinking it was accurate. I don’t think it is. Especially the part about being too old to learn anything new. Did I mention he read the New York Times on his iPhone at age 70? This little paragraph always warms my heart because it sums up how down to Earth he is, if that can be said about a theoretical space physicist. What you don’t know is that he is still asked to speak about his research around the world. Some of faculty members I work with, whose egos seem staggeringly out of portion with their accomplishments, could learn a thing or two from him.

Even though my Dad is kinda impressive, he has always been there for me, looking out for me, and yes, listening to me. A lot. As you can see from the above photo, taken in Princeton, New Jersey in 1975, this started at a young age. Back when he was probably using a Cray.

So, here’s to you, Dad, on your 70th birthday! You have always been proud of me, but I hope you know I am also very proud of you! Thank you for always being there, for pushing me to try new things, for always supporting me and for teaching me about modesty and honesty. And, above all, for listening to my babble.

Post note: I thought I would share this picture of Dad showing my niece Addison the joys of a iPhone. Careful, Dad. You may have to buy her one for Christmas!


Tonight I made a word cloud based on my blog content using Wordle.* I imagine that you (all four of you) who read this blog will probably fall into one of two camps: 1.) Those who’s reaction to this is, “what’s a word cloud?” and 2.) Those who first thought is “how 2006 of her.” You have no doubt already stopped reading.

A word cloud is a visual representation of user-generated tags or content. You know, Web 2.0 stuff. It’s just another way of showing the content on your website or blog or name-your-favorite-geeky-web-tool, only in a pretty way. I thought using my blog would be the closest thing to word clouding my life, and it’s close. It accurately documents my knitting obsession (I am surprised the word “obsessed” didn’t turn out to be larger.)

And although not represented in words, the fact that this image exists points out another obsession of mine: social media. You know, like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, and YouTube. I think about this stuff a lot. It’s on my mind at work (I am writing a social networking media plan currently, so this is legit), at home, on vacation–pretty much all the time these days. Knitting has a very, very similar effect on me. (Although I do not keep knitting at my desk at work like some of my knitting friends…you know who you are!)

While knitting has been a frequent topic in my own social media narrative (most notably on the knitters’ social media mecca, Ravelry), I assert that I am still in the “casual user” category in both knitting and social media. Really. Want proof? I have not yet posted a YouTube video anything like this:

As of today, this video has garnered 36,429 views. I have never done anything close to this cool. (Opps, I mean obsessively Web 2.0ish and knit-crazy).

See what I lightweight I am? I really don’t have a problem. I can quit whenever I want.

*I must attribute word cloud image to Wordle. See http://www.wordle.net/ to make your own.

If I had a boat…


This is not a post about knitting. It is about a boat, which we now own. This wasn’t a planned purchased, but one of those things that happens to you when you marry an “outdoorsy” guy.

As you know (all three of you), I am not “outdoorsy.” To the contrary, I am downright “indoorsy.” I grew up in Houston, where the outdoors is regarded as the not air-conditioned space one must swim through in order to get to another air-conditioned space. For the indoorsy, being outdoors for more than a few minutes is only tolerable if you are exerting very little energy…like lounging. Oars never, ever come into the picture.

And yet, the following the e-mail conversation took place today. His timing and tactics were perfect, too perfect not to share. I was doing several time-sensitive tasks and prepping for a meeting in the cool sanctuary of my purple office at the time, and you could say my defenses were down. (The bold text is the actual text from the e-mail conversation string.)

From: Jonathan Berhow
Date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 2:33 PM
To: Susan Berhow

What would you say to getting a 16′ canoe delivered to our house for $350?

From: Susan Berhow
Date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 3:00 PM
To: Jonathan Berhow

I would say ok, but what’s my $350 toy?

From: Jonathan Berhow
Date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 3:08 PM
To: Susan Berhow

This is something we can both use on Tuttle.

* For those of you who do not live in here, Tuttle Creek State Park is minutes from our house. An “outdoorsy” person might even get there by taking a short jog. I have only been there by car, of course, and have kayaked it exactly three times, and only upon Jonathan’s request. And by “kayaked” it, I mean I was in one with Jon watching him do most of the work.*

From: Jonathan Berhow
Date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 3:09 PM
To: Susan Berhow

It’s for two people and can hold 950lbs, which is why I thought we might go for it.

From: Jonathan Berhow
Date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 3:13 PM
To: Susan Berhow

The reviews for this say: very stable, not tipsy, good for whole family.

* Note here the use of “good for the whole family.” A clever manipulative technique when trying to convince your 34-year-old wife that buying a boat is a good plan: throw in references to yet-to-be-conceived offspring.*

From: Susan Berhow
Date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 3:26 PM
To: Jonathan Berhow

OK, but I never want to paddle!

From: Jonathan Berhow
Date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 3:33 PM
To: Susan Berhow

Analysis: over the past year or so, I have seen no decent, cheap, used canoes for sale in our area; most of the canoes and kayaks on eBay have to be picked up (again, none around here); this canoe meets the requirements that will make it fun to do together; the brand is a good one; since the canoe is durable and stable, it will be good for hunting and going out in together; the price is right, so far.

Currently, there is only one bid for $200 (or, $300 IS as shipping is $100) with 2 hours to go. I’m thinking we could go up to $350 but not past . . . ???

The conversation stops here because I left for a meeting, and while I was in the meeting, he got the boat for about $350 IS. (By the way, IS is Jon’s shorthand for “including shipping.” Being married to an online auction guy, I hear about prices in “IS” a lot. Although, I have to admit, shipping is an important consideration when buying a 16-foot canoe. Online.)

As so it is. We are boat owners. I keep trying to imagine the look on the poor UPS guy’s face. Like we don’t give him enough to heft to the front door.

And while I caved on this, I want you to know: I holding on my “no paddling” condition.


Dear Addison,

Thank you for making your Auntie very happy! You must have read my letter (the gifted two-year-old that you are). Tell your mom thanks for the sewing and fab taste in fabric.

Aunt Susan



A letter to Addison


Dear Addison,

I have just wrapped up something I made just for you: a dress bodice for spring. It’s something to think about its impending voyage: It will make it’s way from Kansas all the way down to Houston, where your dear mother will sew a skirt into it. It should be a happy thing to put this little bunch of ruffles and eyelets in the mail. Instead, I have to admit it’s bittersweet. 

It all started all joy: the idea of co-making a dress with your mother, who is such a talented seamstress and so graciously appreciative of hand-made things. I thought about it for weeks, fussed over which yarn and shade of pink and which size to attempt. I spent a good thirty minutes on deciding which button should adorn the back. There were many, many e-mails with your mother. I was so happy to get started. Then, I read this the introductory paragraph to the pattern, written by the amazing Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne in Mason -Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. It reads as follows: 

“…it may be necessary to adjust your expectations that the girl will actually wear the dress. Your chances are quite good if the girl is age 6 or under. Seven is a watershed year in which many girls abandon their pink and purple and start trying to look like teenagers, and by eight or nine you are going to get a fight from almost any self-respecting female…”

Any woman must admit, these sage ladies speak the truth. And even though you are just two years old now–and by this measure I should have several solid years to make you ruffly, girlie, pink and purple things–this short paragraph makes it impossible to ignore the fact that my days of knitting you things are numbered.

One day soon, I will knit you something that you will reject, even though, like this dress bodice, I will have put my heart, soul and curse words into it (your Aunt tends to cuss when she knits. It’s not nice, but it feels good to do it sometimes.) I hope I have the good sense to know when this day is coming and spare myself the heartache of knitting you something that will ultimately hang lonely in a closet, never to be worn. But, in reality, due to the fact that I live so far away, I probably won’t.

So, if this moment arrives when this little pink number hits your mailbox, please do your Auntie a solid and wear it long enough for your mother to take a picture of you in it. I freakin’ slaved over it, and the picture will make me very, very happy. And if you never wear it, know that I understand completely and love you anyway.

Aunt Susan

After the mad knitting frenzy that was Christmas, I said I would knit for myself. I said I would spend months only knitting for myself. I was very excited about it. And I made myself a hat (which I do really like)!











But before I could even settle on a making something to match it, pregnant people needed things. Like, for instance:












Bibs!  Who doesn’t need them, really? I made six… ’cause, you know, they were cute.













A baby sweater, size tiny. Nevermind that by April, there may be no need for a sweater. Or that the baby could be born too big to ever wear it. Cute trumps practicality though, right?

And then, we were going to Texas to celebrate Mom’s 70th birthday, and we were staying in my brother and dear sister-in-law’s house. I suspected “staying” would really mean “we’re gonna take over your house for a while, hope you don’t mind,” so I thought I better come bearing gifts.

I knit my brother a beer koozie (which I forgot to get a picture of).  I think my brother questioned the practicality of such a thing in knitted form, but I still argue that it is completely functional and more than worthy of his Bud Light (we have been unable to convert him to drinking better beer. sigh.)















A ballband dishcloth. For Bethany. And, of course, why not make a matching smaller one for Addison, who kinda likes to clean?













If only we could cultivate this interest and import to her my house periodically.


And since I have already blown the resolution completely, I have jumped into a project that has me downright giddy! I took the day off to day just to revel in it. 












My first project with a ruffle. It’s for Addison. It is the bodice of a dress, which her dear mother will sew a skirt into, since I don’t. It’s the Jane Austen dress from Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. I am completely hooked and planning a matching shrug.


And, I do have on yarn on order to make a sweater. For myself. This one, actually. Honest!