The current issue of The New Yorker came across the transom on Saturday morning, and I laughed in recognition. Roz Chast always hits the nail on the head.
Friday, January 26, midmorning, I was not waiting for the cross-town bus. I was plumped in front of my computer screen, suffering from a cold that made it painful for me to talk and for you to listen, when I heard sirens. Close-by sirens. I went to the window and looked down at the street to see a few FDNY ladder trucks and firefighters assembling in front of the entrance to my building. A window on the second floor was emitting a delicate puff of pale smoke.
Hmmm, I thought. Somebody probably exploded their toaster oven, or something that set off the smoke alarms, and New York’s Bravest are here to check it out and make sure all is well. I went back to my desk.
Like an idiot.
Typing away, something made me look back at my window. A cloud of thick white smoke now completely blocked the view, which was alarming since I’m many floors up from the puff of smoke of a few minutes earlier. Despite my ferocious head cold, I sort of almost smelled something. Something like burning electrical wires. Within seconds, a sheer curtain of smoke was hanging in my living room.
I grabbed Olive (who must have known Something Was Up because she allowed herself to be picked up without the customary chase), put on a jacket, and opened the front door. My houseguest, who had gone out five minutes earlier, was standing there in her coat, looking confused. “The elevator is not working,” she said.
The phone rang. It was my neighbor calling from his office across town. He had already heard there was a fire on our side of the building, and asked me to open the windows to let in some fresh air for his elderly dog.
Houseguest and I went into the neighbor’s apartment, where elderly Molly the Dog waited politely in front of the door. Unlike some dogs I can think of, Molly is a wise old gal who will let a neighbor put her on the leash, and leave the apartment without question. Off we went, two dogs and two people, down the back stairs and through the dark lobby to the street.
By now smoke was billowing out of the second floor of the building, many more ladder trucks had arrived, and news helicopters were overhead. I was in calm denial. All was well. The firefighters we’d passed, coming in as we went out, didn’t seem worried. They had a lot of gear on. Instead of standing around speculating with the neighborhood (which is always fun, don’t get me wrong), we went for a coffee in the dog cafe in the park.
Later I learned that the apartment that was spewing smoke had been occupied by a housebound lady and her caregivers and was completely gutted in a matter of minutes. No one was injured, thanks to a doorman across the street who saw the smoke and shouted to our doorman, who went upstairs and got the people out. The fire did not spread to other apartments, thanks to the good old fireproof construction methods of the late 1920s. The lobby was flooded, many doors were rammed open, and three days later, despite industrial air cleaning machines all over the place, everything smells terrible. But really and truly, it’s a story with a happy ending. Things don’t always go so well.
All this is by way of saying: Roz Chast really gets it. Sometimes you just want to open a can of tuna and stay home. (At the end of that link, there is a video in which you can glimpse Roz Chast’s extraordinary hooked rugs and other crafty endeavors.)
Knitting the Same Sweater Twice
I spent the weekend ventilating my apartment, drinking hot lemonade and working on finishing a second version of one of my favorite pullovers, Relax by Ririko, in Esopus by Jill Draper Makes Stuff.
I got the neck edge picked up and the simple rolled collar completed, and one sleeve on.
Knitting the same pattern twice can be controversial. Some knitters refuse, as a matter of principle, to repeat a pattern.
That has never been my policy. Just as I would happily make a reliable, tasty recipe over and over again, I like making seconds or even thirds of patterns that have worked out well for me. I’ve lost track of how many Riddari pullovers I’ve made, or Easel Sweaters you’ve made, with all the joy in the world.
I don’t even get how this could be seen as boring. I like to knit! It is reassuring to know in advance how a sweater is going to fit, and that I am going to like it.
What Is Up With the Sleeve Color?
You’ll notice that the finished sleeve is in a darker shade of Esopus. The main body of the sweater is in a shade called Vamp.
I started out with plenty of Vamp. But then I had a Roz Chast incident (see January 13). I lost half a skein of Vamp, on a bus, at night, last summer. I knew there was a good chance that I’d run short of Vamp by the time I got to the sleeves, but I stubbornly knit on, trusting to providence.
Providence delivered, in the person of Kirsten Kapur. Kirsten is also a big fan of Esopus, having designed her dearly-beloved Fort Tryon Wrap in it. She came to the rescue with a half skein of Esopus in Guignolet, a darker shade in the same blackish red family as Vamp.
Before adding the new color, I tried Relax on without the sleeves, to see if I should maybe just quit and call it done. It worked pretty well that way. Due to the shaping of the sleeve openings and shoulders, you get a sleeve that goes halfway down the upper arm as part of the body of the sweater. I could have just picked up stitches (with my remaining nubbin of Vamp) and knit a rolled edge into each armhole for a dolmanish slipover that I think I would wear a lot.
But I’m a sleeve lover. I wanted the silhouette of that extra bit of sleeve, so I knit the first one in Guignolet, as an experiment to see how the color transition would look.
It looks a little stark, laying flat. But when I try it on, I’m happy for the extra sleeve length, and I don’t mind the deepening of the color. So tonight, the second Guignolet sleeve will go on, and I’ll have a new everyday sweater.
Hang tough. Two more days left in January!