Friday, December 30, 2005

Live Dangerously, Don't Swatch hat

I cast on this hat on Christmas eve and finished it Christmas day. It's for Scott, to keep his bald noggin warm and possibly enable him to trash the now-grungy Steelers hat that my dad gave him years ago. Pattern is the Live Dangerously, Don't Swatch Hat from I'm Knitting As Fast As I Can blog. The gray yarn was purchased at Plimoth Plantation this Thanksgiving and the greenish stripes are our first (lumpy and uneven, but loved) bits of handspun, made on the drop spindles around the time when this blog was brand new. New stuff learned because of this pattern: Emily Ocker's cast-on, M1R and M1L.

Y'all won't believe what I did yesterday. I spent the evening at Mohegan Sun casino, being a high roller on the nickle machines! This is just about the last place on earth you'd expect me to spend an evening, but my Gram just loves casinos (she'd fit right in with those gambling Jamiesons), so I offered to take her to one yesterday. Mom and Bren joined in too. I won a few cents here and there, and so did everybody else, but mostly we just had a good time together. Hey, I'd do anything for/with Gram...even hang out in a casino. After I blew through my designated $20 "investment" for the evening and was waiting for Gram to get her fill, I did get a little sock knitting in. I bet not too many socks have been knit among those slots. :-) Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 29, 2005

and so the spinning adventure begins!

This is a blog entry for Leah, age 7, who was also hard at work before Christmas in her own little elfin workshop. She knit a slit scarf for her great grandma, GiGi, from the "yarn-that-looks-like-a-party," which was a gift from Aunt Vickie.

She also made many crocheted dishcloths. We lost track of how many, but probably more than 20. The ones she gave to me are shown here. We've been using this kind of dishcloths for years and are always happy to have a new stash of them!

And many of you know that Leah received an Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel for Christmas. She is out of her mind with excitement about this. We're learning how to spin together, with my only advantage being watching spinners at a couple of hours of meetings and getting about an hour of practice in to familiarize myself with her wheel before Christmas. This paid off big-time because I had a basic understanding of what to do and was able to help her get a feel for it quickly. The kind folks at Nutmeg Spinners Guild recommended Corriedale as a good beginner wool for spinning, so I bought 4 ounces. We had a small partial bobbin of crazy messed up "spinning" from all of us (Jesse and Scott too!) giving it the first try on Christmas day, but a couple of days ago we put a new bobbin on, focused on the Corriedale, and Leah spun it all! By the end, she was beginning to get a feel for how fine she could go, recognize when she had too much or not enough twist (and sometimes correct this), and control her speed.

Yesterday evening we sat together and worked with some dyed Romney that I got at New York Sheep and Wool Festival. This was quite tight, almost like it was a little bit felted, so much drafting was required, but ooh, the fun of seeing how the different colors spin up!

We just might move on to the merino stash today, after finishing the Romney.

Awesome discovery: I got 7 fleeces for free from a Freecycle offer a year or so ago. Figured eventually they'd have a purpose and yesterday was when it was discovered. Scott scoured a grocery bag-full, Jesse and Leah flicked and carded it, and we discovered that it has a fairly long staple length, plenty long enough for beginning spinners to handle! And we have LOTS of it! Already there is much talk of dyeing and the handspun, handpainted, handknit gifties that are sure to come!

Between the fibery glee, the Lego Mindstorms invention-fest, the new acoustic guitar strumming, and the new-to-us world of MP3 history/science/art/fiction downloads, we all feel like we just burst through to a new and exciting phase of our lives!

Secrets no more

This Santa never actually was a secret. I needle felted him for mom last year but added his sack this year and gave it back to her a few days before xmas. This Santa's style was inspired by a print on a throw pillow that my grandma puts out at Christmastime.

Green/blue socks for my mom are Lorna's Laces yarn in Broadripple pattern. Easy to remember this pattern without referring to the written version, so it was a good on-the-go project.
Purple stripey socks for Brenda are Opal's self-patterning sock yarn in the basic K2P2 pattern from Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles.

Slippers for Scott are Fiber Trends clogs pattern. Just yesterday he figured out that I made these, didn't buy them. :-)

Necklace for my mom is made from one of Scott's lampwork beads of dichroic glass, with three loosely braided strands of assorted stones, crystals, and Bali silver beads. Bali silver magnetic clasp with adjustable length.

Boy, the spacing options for blogger posts are really awful. Sorry I can't figure out how to align things better right now.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Fleece Navidad!

Our schedule is blissfully clear today, so I'm off to cast on two new small projects, a hat for Scott that will include stripes of our first handspun (drop spindle) yarns, and a pair of socks with Socks That Rock yarn in Fire On The Mountain colorway. Some of you out there will understand why I just couldn't resist funky socks with such a name.

A very merry Kwanzukkah Yulemas to you all and a hope for many hours doing whatever feeds your soul in the coming year!

Friday, December 23, 2005

skipping the hustle, passing on the bustle

Hm. It seems this is another holiday season where we've managed to avoid the all too prevalent frantic rush of pre-Christmas mania. Had Gram here for lunch yesterday afternoon. Kids and Scott played our newest game, Sequence, in the evening while I hung out at the bookstore, knitting and chatting with Paige. And I wasn't knitting in a Christmas-induced rush, either; just working on a simple scarf for the heck of it. No deadlines, no particular destination.

Scott and I are working a bit today, but not too much. Visiting with friends this afternoon, then tonight I think there's a family game night in the works, undoubtedly capped off by more of Little House on the Prairie, our current read-aloud. Funny that for the past two years I've chosen this book at this time of year for its groundedness, and this year the kids chose it.

Peaceful and bright. Festive and joyous. Calm and cozy. With plenty of time for what's important to us. Just the way we like it.

(Woodland Santa stitched by Scott in 1989, his first solo counted cross stitch project.) Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 22, 2005

finish fest

I finished three projects yesterday, but can't show them here (yet). One I'm especially excited about, so pictures will come in a few days.

Meanwhile, this is a pic of the gift we received from Scott's mom on Sunday. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, she does exquisite quilting and we're thrilled to have some of her work. Sorry for the poor quality of the photo, but trust me, this wall hanging is a beauty and the attention to detail is amazing. I'll try to remember to take a better picture now that it's up on the wall.

Otherwise, we're having fun visiting with my grandma. Will take her out to get her hair done today and then who knows where we'll romp, but I'm sure we will. :-)

I'm getting a big kick out of the challenge of keeping this detail a secret from this person and that plan a secret from that one. Whee ! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 18, 2005

big 'uns

Hoo boy, are these luscious! These are, by far, the biggest beads Scott has made to date. The biggest one is two inches long and almost an inch in diameter at its widest point. They're all made from beautiful dichroic glass, with shimmering colors magnified by crystal encasement. They're mesmerizing, like the colors swirling in an oil slick, and absolutely stunning when the sunlight hits them.

More, please, beadmakerbaker! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 17, 2005

So this is Christmas

It never fails. At some point every December I hear John Lennon singing Happy Christmas (War Is Over).

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
I have a momentary pang of guilt. I think, "Oh no. What HAVE we done?" Happily, for the last few years that little pang of guilt is followed by a longstanding sense of satisfaction as I immediately realize that, oh yes, we're still doing our share, giving back, helping out where we can.

Another year over
And a new one just begun

And as I was thinking about that some more today, I realized that it probably happens on such a regular basis that we don't even notice it anymore. For instance, here's the pile of hats Leah made to send off to the Dulaan Project. While I was waiting for a work tape to rewind today, I tucked in the last few yarn ends so these hats are ready to go.

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun

Then the phone rang and it was the Red Cross in Farmington, asking if Scott would be available for a pheresis donation on Monday evening. Pheresis is something I did for a long time in the early 90s and then started again on a regular basis when a friend was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in 2004. For the past few months, Scott has discovered how good it feels to spend a few hours at the Red Cross, doing something that's painless, makes you feel so good, and helps a lot of people, so he'll definitely be there for the offered appointment on Monday.

The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

And tomorrow morning we'll finish packaging the 120 bars of handmade soap that will be donated to the senior citizens in town as favors during their annual holiday party. And there's a card of thanks from the Heifer Organization on my desk right now and a message in my email box about our offer to volunteer at Old Sturbridge Village.

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year

The best feeling of all is knowing that these aren't one-shot deals. The needs continue throughout the year and we'll continue to help out where we can. When it feels this good and right to do so, how could we resist?

Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 16, 2005

Round and round

This little train setup has been the object of my family's attention this week. Their interest in it borders on obsession. Every morning, I have to chase after them to brush their teeth before settling in to mess with its switches and wires and cars and props. Every evening, I've had to chase them away from it again to go to bed, reminding them that it'll be there the next day. They are building little additions to it and adding things and rigging things up differently every day.

I just don't get it. I mean, you flip a switch and the thing goes round and round. No biggie. Not even that exciting. I try to be respectful of their interest and listen to them as they blather on with excitement about different switches and track segments, but really, you flip a switch and it goes round and round. Being excited and obsessed about it is pointless and insane, I tell you.

Now, going round and round with colorful string and 2 pointy sticks, that is EXCITING! Going round and round with pointy sticks and string is a perfectly reasonable thing to obsess about. I mean, you can sometimes leave a little HOLE in your stringy thing! You can get DIFFERENT COLORS of string! You can use pointy sticks of wood OR metal!! Oh, the joy, the fascination!

And, since everybody needs a little spice in their life, every once in a while it is a good idea to take a break from the sticks and string (and that keyboard thingie that all too frequently gets in the way of some people's fun), and poke a bit of string through little bits of rock and glass and then do a happy Snoopy dance around the house for the amusement of your family, who may try to be respectful of your interests and listen as you blather on with excitement.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Dear Santa, I want time to stand still.

Yup, that's it. That's what I want for Christmas. When I'm stitching, knitting, reading with my kids, or otherwise following my bliss, I would like time to stand still. But of course those are the times when it seems to go fastest.

Yesterday we had a delightful morning of visiting with old friends and fun neighbors at Bren's annual Christmas brunch. Normally we would've then romped through the snow with these folks as we all searched for our perfect xmas tree, but this year we did the tree the day before because we had plans to spend the afternoon at a Lego League competition. Leah was in a snit there because she was overdressed for the occasion (still in her fancies from the brunch), but Jesse was in his element. He immediately disappeared and we noticed him right up front and center -- couldn't have gotten closer to the competition fields without being on a team. Later, we found him collaborating with a team that was having some difficulty with their robot on the practice fields. He gave them some suggestions that helped their robot perform better and they were most appreciative. And he was most proud. (I was knitting in the background throughout brunch and all of this Legomania.)

When we got home, I plopped myself and my knitting in my favorite chair and proclaimed that this was where I would be for the remainder of the day. It seemed like this would be a l-o-n-g time and I felt a little smug in designating these hours for exactly what I wanted them to be. But somehow time sped up and those hours flew by and oh no it's dark out and nooooo, it can't be bedtime already! One more row!

It's funny because this is exactly how I spent Sundays throughout my childhood too. In this exact same chair, doing these exact same things (more crochet then), in perfect bliss. To get the full picture there, though, you'd need to add in the feelings of impending doom, knowing that the next morning brought another dreaded day in the school machine, and the fun and distracting lunacy of my parents and their friends cheering the Steelers on.

Ah well, today time will slow down while I work for a while and mull over my chances for some stitching moments again today. I have to do a 2-3 hour conference call training session today and I'm figuring on a few secret stitches during that. What they don't know won't hurt them and perhaps it'll make the time go faster...until I'd like it to slow down again. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 11, 2005

They're gaining on me

Scott needs a new winter hat. Jesse's balaclava is too short in the neck. I could sure use a pair of convertible glittens. And Leah needs thick, long socks to wear under her winter boots.

In other words, they're gaining on me. Since I picked up the needles again recently, there's been a steady stream of requests and ideas tossed my way. Some knitters laugh at themselves for insisting on wrapping their friends and family in wooly knitted love; my family actually clamors for it!

Not that I mind. But when you combine their ideas with the neverending fireworks in my own brain, it can be a little overwhelming. But in a good way. I'm not complaining. Except about that darn career that gets in the way of all my fun and forces me to ignore the fireworks show for a while.

Anyway, we are fully festive here now. Scott and the kids went sledding yesterday, then we visited a noncommercial Santa's workshop, then off to find our Christmas tree. The tree is decorated and she's a beauty. Jesse and Leah spent the remainder of the evening oohing and aahing over their favorite ornaments and decorations, laying under the tree and gazing up into the lights while I read them Christmas stories.

Today's picture is of Jesse's Christmas stocking, stitched by Scott over the course of two years. I would never want to tackle this kind of pattern, but Scott loved it and loved the thought of creating this heirloom for his son.

I suppose, by comparison, this makes my little quickie hats/socks/mittens to-do list appear much more achievable. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Doing Hardanger on the Christmas train

The Christmas train Lene described is moving along at a pleasant pace here. We had the first substantial snowfall of the season and were all feeling especially festive, so we did most of our Christmas decorating yesterday evening.

Over the years, we've narrowed down our Christmas traditions and decorations to only the ones that have meaning in our lives and bring us joy. Unwrapping each decoration is like discovering a treasure that grows more precious each year. The tiny ceramic elves and delicate blown glass ornaments belonged to my grandma's grandma. The very cool santa decoration was made out of a kitchen grater (!) by Scott's sister, Vickie. The perfectly sewn decorations made by Scott's mom, Pat. The countless ceramic and cross stitched decorations meticulously painted and lovingly stitched by my grandma when her eyes still allowed her to do such fine work. And of course the things Scott and I have contributed.

The kids' Christmas stockings are two of our favorite decorations. Scott made Jesse's stocking, which I'll show tomorrow, and I made Leah's, which you see here today. I altered an Emie Bishop design to make this stocking. I adore Emie Bishop's designs and have stitched many, many of the patterns you can see at her site. The stocking's rosy moire lining peeks out through the linen's many areas of cutwork. It was so much fun to do all the stitch variations in this pattern. You can't see it, but the heel is embroidered, ecru on ivory, "To Leah, Love Mom, 1999-2000." Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 09, 2005

Job? What job?

Oh yes, the elves have been busy around here! Much whispering and giggling and scurrying!

Leah's crocheting and boondoggling (making lanyards) and wrapping and ribboning everything in sight.

Scott and I made nearly 100 bars of soap to donate for the senior citizens' holiday party in town. You can see some of them here, but they're not nearly so spam- and kermit-like as they may appear. This is how I use up scraps from other soap batches through the year and they actually look quite festive all together. We have a few more dozen bars to make and will tint them different colors, and then a couple of the seniors tie ribbons around them all and folks at the party get a bar or two to take home as a party favor.

Took the next step on almost-finished secret thing. If you're NOT Scott, you can click here to see the secret. One more step to reach completion.

Sewed the lampwork buttons on Bren's black wool coat so she could wear it to her work xmas party in Ohio this weekend.

Project night at Paige's last night, where I made decent progress on the current secret thing and petted her rug in progress.

Today it's snowing a lot and I have a very understanding boss ;-), so I'm going to snuggle under blankets, listen to a good book on tape with the kids, knit and melt glass and play games and do whatever else tickles my fancy. Given the way it looks outside my window right now, there just might be some xmas decorating and hot cocoa involved too. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


The secret xmas knitting thing is done! I'll post a pic later today, if I can figure out how to do that without actually showing the secret xmas knitting thing. Heh heh...yeah, I've got a plan. Shhh...

Meanwhile, other secret xmas knitting things are in progress.

Since I've got this secrecy photo challenge thing going on until xmas, I'll instead leave you with a pic of two happy gingerbread architects, who had a great day on Monday with their pals. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 05, 2005


These are a few of Scott's lampwork beads that came out of the kiln this week. The bracelets are on special order and the dichro beads are just because I like dichro beads. :-)

Two features of these bracelets that I'm happy about are that they incorporate a decorative Bali bead style magnetic clasp, for ease of putting on without assistance, and the magnetic clasps are adjustable along a short length of sterling chain, so the bracelets can fit wrists of different sizes.

The dichroic beads sparkle beautifully in sunlight. They've been a challenge for Scott because the dichroic glass coating can burn off in the torch or, worse, get scummy/ashen-appearing, so they need to go directly into a hot kiln after they're made. They're worth the extra effort, though!

I'm off to watch a xmas show and work on a secret project with the munchkins, who are home again after an exciting day of gingerbread house construction.

What's with the spacing on this post?! Oh drat. I was trying to fix the spacing and lost one of the pictures. Bah. Will figure it out eventually.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Spinning, singing, and Santa

This is a portion of the Nutmeg Spinners Guild meeting I attended yesterday. I brought along Leah's new wheel and my knitting. Browsed the vendors, talked with many nice folks, and was totally blown away by how many people were at this meeting! The speaker was Jackie Fee, author of The Sweater Workshop. It was so exciting to be among all these folks knitting socks (some were knitting other things, of course, but predominantly socks) and spinning gorgeous fibers while listening to Jackie's thoroughly engaging stories. I stuck with my knitting during the meeting so I wouldn't distract the spinners as I made my first laughable attempts with the wheel, but spent some time giving it a try when I brought it back to mom's for storage until xmas. I practiced for about an hour before I felt like I was beginning to get it, and it was intoxicating. Even Brenda and Zach gave it a try! I think Leah is going to love learning how to spin, and I suspect that Jesse will like it too.

Spent the evening at Spirit of the Season celebration at Old Sturbridge Village. This is one of our favorite places in the world and this event was truly magical. The whole village was decorated for the season and aglow with candlelight -- in lanterns along the paths, in homes where traditional activities were in progress, and even in the chandelier of the church. We brought along Bren, Dave, and Zach, as part of our Christmas gift to them. Enjoyed a barbershop chorale performance of xmas carols, a handbell group in the Center Meetinghouse, horse-drawn carriage ride around the village, nibbles of roasted chestnuts and sips of mulled cider, and a singalong in the Parsonage barn. Visited with Father Christmas and Santa, read about the evolution of Christmas traditions and symbols. We were warmed by campfires on the green and fires in the hearths of most of the homes as foods were prepared for a Christmas feast. The kids got to shake the jingle bells during caroling and even helped bring in wood for the fire at the home where they were making the desserts.

The first time we brought Zach to Old Sturbridge Village, he was a bit cynical and spent much of the time proclaiming the place "bor-ing." He slowly opened up to it, though, and has been willing to go back with us a few times over the years. Then, late in the evening yesterday, Bren asked Zach if he was cold or if he was ready to go home yet and he said, "No. I want to stay. I like it here!"

See? I told you it was magical. :-)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bren's button baubles

Here are the lampwork beads Scott made for use as buttons on Brenda's black wool coat. I'll sew them on the coat this weekend, so it'll be ready for her to wear it in Ohio next weekend.

As far as I'm concerned, you just can't go wrong with glass beads with silver foil in them. They sparkle so beautifully and the silver deep within really adds depth and interest.

As expected, Leah has a crochet hook and a skein of Sugar and Cream yarn sitting on my desk this morning. It's so much fun enabling such a willing fiberholic! Posted by Picasa


This is one of my favorites of the nuno felt scarves we've made so far. The foundation is a variegated silk, felted with a wispy layer of complementary colors of merino wool. It's light and drapey, as you would expect of silk, but has just enough texture and warmth from the wool. And because it's merino, it feels great draped around your neck. I've made a half dozen scarves over the past few weeks and can't wait to make more. Have lots of merino, silk, and tencel in luscious shades from my day at New York Sheep and Wool Festival in October.

Looking forward to Knit Nite tonight at Pixie Sticks! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Toasty Toes on the Polar Express

Kids and I watched The Polar Express this evening while Scott was out, putting together Leah's spinning wheel xmas gift (shhhh...). He tells me it's ready to go for the Nutmeg Spinners Guild on Saturday.

I'm working on the toe decreases of this second sock, begun in Massachusetts last weekend. It's Sockotta yarn on size 3 needles. This is my second pair of socks, having learned from Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles, which I borrowed from the library. I'm really comfortable with the process now and even tried to cast on two socks on two circs a couple of days ago, but I couldn't quite grasp it...yet. Next go 'round, I'll get it.

Working my way through these blog options too. Added my picture in the profile and titles for the entries. Definitely fun.Posted by Picasa
I worked on a secret knitted something yesterday. Coming along beautifully and fun to do, but those chunky needles make my hands hurt.

I suggested to Leah that crocheted dishcloths would make nice gifts, since she's always wanting to give handmade gifties to folks she likes. Emphasis on handmade -- atta girl! So we bought some Sugar and Cream yarn. Didn't realize they had so many pretty color combos out! I'll show her how to do my quickie double-crochet-around-posts dishcloth pattern and she will be one happy little crocheting Goober.

Scott did some lampwork in the morning. Silver foil over ivory, with transparent turquoise and purple, pressed into large chunky lentils to be used as buttons on Brenda's coat. They're in the kiln now, but I'll post a picture after I sew them in place. The silver foil reflects the light beautifully and I think they'll look great against Bren's black wool coat.

Scott applied 3 coats of tung oil to Leah's new spinning wheel yesterday. One of the bobbins is damaged, so I'll have to get in touch with The Woolery about that, but I can't believe how quickly our order got here! Excellent service in that regard, so I don't expect any problems with getting a replacement bobbin. Posted by Picasa