Friday, August 31, 2007

fantabulous Friday

Reason #1: My new computer arrived! Pretty pretty, zoom zoom!

Reason #2: The Hemlock Ring Blanket , a vintage knit doily adaptation by Brooklyn Tweed! Lace knitting has never really appealed to me, but it ends up that I love lace knitting in heavy wool (Cascade Eco Wool, Night Vision). I finished the center floral motif this morning and have begun the feather and fan portion. It's about 20" diameter now.

Reason #3: The beginning of a long Labor Day weekend!
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

lice? not nice!

This is the Lusekofte Cap from Hats On! It is knit in deep purple wool from Blackberry Ridge and mystery gray wool left over from some other project.

Seems like a benign little project, doesn't it? When I cast it on, I thought it was an easy geometric pattern, single color ribbing, only two colors to manipulate, quickie little hat project, good for knitting at parties and during other social events. Yeah, well, maybe so for some people, but apparently not for me, not this time. I cannot tell you how many times I knit the ribbing, how many rows I messed up and needed to re-knit, how much the speckled pattern at the top vexed me. This hat took concentration from beginning to end and apparently still didn't get enough attention.

There's no excuse for most of the problems except possibly that I am incapable of following directions, counting to three, or reading a pattern. However, I do get some satisfaction in the knowledge that lusekofte means lice sweater, the speckled pattern at the top of the hat being a good example of the "lice" stitch pattern knit into traditional Norwegian patterns. Those lice? Not nice!

And to top it all off, the hat turned out too big. Any of us can wear it as a slouch style hat, and we like the pattern enough that we just might, but it's definitely bigger and taller than we would have liked. I blame it on the lice. ;-)

Knitting locations of the past week have included the beach, a summer picnic party, while visiting in a hospital room, and while we toyed with the idea of how long it might be until someone unearths the time capsule we buried in the newly poured concrete foundation as part of the ongoing supa-ugly porch renovations. The time capsule tells a little bit about the history of the house and its current inhabitants, then we each chose something representative of our interests. Sealed inside that time capsule are a handful of glass beads and buttons, some K'nex and Legos, and some handspun yarn.
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Saturday, August 25, 2007

words of the week

Word 1 = Fez, as in the Tasseled Fez pattern from Hats On! by Charlene Schurch, knit in Berkshire by Valley Yarns, available at Webs. Learned a 2-color cast-on and twined herringbone edge, which I'm not sure I did right but I like it anyway. Long repeat means that this little project requires concentration, but it's a quickie because it's fun to see the design develop.

This is a 3-pointed hat and I chose to do a 3-needle bind-off at the top, making a very cool kaleidoscopic pattern where the design comes together at the center and an awful lot of giggles because of the three floppy tassels hanging by braids from the points. The yarn is loosely spun single ply, Lopi-like merino that includes some alpaca for luscious softness. Double thickness as a result of the stranded pattern makes for a very thick and soft hat. The herringbone edge has a tendency to curl, but it doesn't seem to be a big deal. I'd probably do the edge on smaller needles if I made it again, switching to larger needles when I started the main pattern in an attempt to eliminate the curling.

Word 2 = Snood, as in a tiny snood crocheted on a whim as a bun cover for a kiddo whose hair is not really long enough to wear in a bun yet but who really wanted her hair up off her face on a recent hot day. We weren't sure she'd like the hairstyle after all, so I just made up a quick double crochet pattern in acrylic boucle, but it ends up that she LOVES wearing her hair this way and I agree that it looks nice, so there will undoubtedly be more variations in the future. Maybe we'll even do some finer designs out of the scads of crochet cotton I have leftover from hackeysack-making Dead tour days.

Even though we don't need another hat around here, I've already started the Lusekofte Cap from Hats On! That book has probably half a dozen hats that I want to knit and it's still hot and humid out, so I figure I'll stick with the small projects during the end-of-summer parties, picnics, and beach days planned over the next week or two. If I'm lucky, I'll finish the current hat between the two picnic-parties this weekend and move on to another (or whatever else floats my boat) for the mid-week beach days to come!

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more mittens, mom!

These are the Mad River Mittens from Knitty. The main part is knit with Burly Spun from a Vermont trip. I knit the cuffs in superwash sock yarn so that part would stay stretchy, as illustrated by Techknitter. The idea was to make felted mittens for Leah. The whole idea of knitting something you're going to intentionally shrink and hope it'll fit properly in the end is a serious leap of faith. We're game, though, so off we go. The first step is to make normally sized cuffs and gigantic mitts. Check.

Next, close them in a fabric bag (to keep fuzzies from strangling your washing machine) and wash in hot water for a few cycles as they felt down to size. I found that the fuzz of this Burly Spun yarn felted into the yarn of the cuffs, so the superwash cuffs are not nearly as stretchy as I had hoped, but that's okay.
They're still a bit big on Leah, so we might run wash them in hot water some more. They are wonderfully thick and warm, though, and they fit my hands and Jesse's fine, so Leah said she'd share them with us.

Given how much a certain someone seems to like them, I just might need to make another pair for him!
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

few quick things

I spent much of today reconnecting with someone who has been a friend for 25 years and am about to head out for what will certainly be another pleasant time with a friend this evening, so I'm going to make this quick.

First, a blurry pic of a pair of thrummed mittens knit partially by Leah and partially by me. They're a kit we picked up at a local farm last year. We added more thrums than the pattern indicated so they wouldn't have bald spots in their soft inside fluffy warmth. I would knit any future mittens in the round, but they turned out well enough and she'll be happy to have them this winter.

Next is a pic of Leah and Jesse outside the Norman Rockwell Museum, where we visited on Saturday morning. I'm mostly posting this shot for my Gram, who may remember the last time we visited this museum, with her, when I had Leah in a sling and toddler Jesse was just the right size for that tiny funky cement sculpture chair in the distance. Since we were in the area of the Norman Rockwell Museum and clearly overdue for a re-visit, we snagged the free pass from the library the day before, stopped in, and all enjoyed it very much.

Then off to the Age of Iron weekend at Hancock Shaker Village. This was their annual blacksmithing event, where my young blacksmith hoped to get some input about challenges he has faced with his own forge. He talked with many blacksmiths, observed even more of them at work, and spent the next afternoon happily banging on hot metal at home. Leah and I, of course, eventually wandered off to check out the weaving and spinning rooms of the village. In case anybody's interested, they're having a spinning week in October.

More soon, but for now, there's Thai food calling my name. Yum!
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Saturday, August 18, 2007


Scott fishes in the summer and in the winter; on land, sea, or ice; when the weather's good and when the weather's bad; daytime and nighttime; alone and with friends. Anybody who knows Scott knows he's a Fisherman, with a capital F. In other words, he loves fishing like I love knitting. And, see, I like it when he's fishing...because then I get to knit. ;-) So when he asked me to make him a pair of convertible gloves/mittens that would keep his fingers warm and he'd still be able to tie knots and bait his hook while ice fishing, I was happy to give it a go.

I used some vintage wool that was handed down to me from my Gram, along with the Broad Street Mittens pattern, which was easy to follow for this first-time glove knitter. I didn't care for the star decrease for the mitten shell, so I used a sock toe-like decrease along the sides to keep the flap flatter. You may notice that there's a regular glove thumb on that pattern, and that's how I originally knit them, but when they were finished, Scott was busy in the bakery, so Jesse tried them on and told me they would be better for ice fishing if the thumb had a flip-top lid too.

Down to the bakery I went, where Scott agreed that a flip-top thumb would be perfect. So I pulled out the top inch or so of the thumbs and improvised a cap. The guys said they didn't think loops and buttons would be necessary for holding the flip-tops back because they'd only be flipped open for a few minutes at a time, so I omitted that part of the pattern.

Oh, he's a happy Fisherman and says these will be great when he's on the ice. I too think they turned out well, and it's a darn good thing because gloves are fiddly things to knit and I would not be excited about the idea of making another pair. I wouldn't go so far as to say hell would have to freeze over before I'd knit another pair, but if it did, you can bet Scott would be drilling a hole to see if there were any fish down there!
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Friday, August 17, 2007


Every once in a while I find that there are a whole bunch of tidbits collected in my head, little things that I want to mention on the blog but they just sort of pile up and wait until I get around to it. Today I'm getting a round tuit. In no particular order:

1. Even when I expect it, I always get a little surprise to see myself (green shirt, first The Good pic), the Goob (2nd shot in the young knitters section), some of our fave peeps (front row, 2nd The Good pic), or stuff we've made pop up on the Internet.

2. We ordered red wiggler worms for vermicomposting. I am looking forward to having them turn our food scraps into nourishment for my house plants. Scott and Jesse are looking forward to their arrival for an entirely different reason.

3. Free summer concerts are so much fun. Especially when they're Motown.

4. Yahoo Photos is shutting down, so they make it easy to move pics to Flickr, but my captions seem to have gotten lost in the transfer. Did any of you have the same thing happen? Am I SOL or would a re-transfer solve the problem? Meanwhile, I've updated our travel links in the sidebar to reflect the new Flickr location of the albums.

5. When we decided to see Comedy of Errors performed by a bawdy group of Shakespearean performers whose performance we enjoyed very much last year, it was especially fun to discover that the setting for the play is a place we've visited recently, Ephesus. It was even more fun to have the follicularly-challenged husband picked out of the crowd to participate in a portion of the play that talks about the benefits of being hair-free, including "The one, to save the money that he spends in trimming; the other, that at dinner they should not drop in his porridge." Bwahahaha! Among the audience, we spotted a knitter in the wild. Upon chatting with her, we learned that she was knitting stockings on size 000 needles for Old Sturbridge Village, which was right up the road and where we spent the remainder of that weekend.

6. One day recently, there were two people in this family who both needed to use the sewing machine for their projects du jour. Both were happy with their results and both are under age 13.

7. Cliff's Upholstery in East Hartford is a good choice if you need reupholstery of some furniture. They did our sofa, loveseat, and chair with ottoman in two weeks. As soon as I choose fabric for one more chair, they'll get that one too and I will breathe a big sigh of relief to have those projects moved to the "finished" category on my mental list. I cannot stifle my glee at being able to sit on real furniture in our living room for the first time in six months.

8. We stopped using shampoo almost two months ago, switching instead to a baking soda and vinegar no poo option. We expected a transition period of ratty hair, but that didn't happen. Our hair is as clean as it ever was and healthier than before. A box of baking soda and a bottle of white vinegar (works just as well as cider vinegar) will last us a Very Long Time. No chemicals, minimal product consumption, and the baking soda box will eventually feed our plants (see #2 above). It is amazing to me that the entire shampoo and conditioner section of the grocery store is unnecessary. As usual, simpler fits us better.

9. A scoop of gelato and a rambling walk around the town center with the Grandma can make for an outstanding summer evening outing when you are in the 9-12 range (and beyond, for sure).

10. We have discovered a new addition to the category of home improvement follies that we've come to call Guntherisms, in honor of this house's previous owner, Gunther. Upon beginning to beef up the ceiling joists, we slowly and painfully began to realize that every single current joist on the porch is 1/2" narrower than standard sizing. Why, oh, why?! So, as usual, it's two steps back before we can take one forward here. Every single 16-foot board on our porch is in the process of being trimmed 1/2". We're trying to focus on the positive here. For example, "Well, at least Jesse's getting lots of practice with the circular saw." Yippee?! :::rolling eyes:::

11. The Friends of Counted Embroidery group apparently has meetings at our library on occasion. If two stitchy type people just happen to be visiting the library during that time, they may be unable to resist a detour into the meeting to ooh and aah over other stitchers' finished objects. We spent over half an hour enjoying our time with the women of this group and all the while I was thinking that I *used* to be a stitcher, but it's been such a long time since I did anything with a threaded needle. It wasn't until I was almost asleep later that night that it occurred to me that I actually did quite a bit of stitching just a few months ago. D'oh.

12. When there are 30 work hours added to an already full work week, not much knitting is accomplished, but I did manage to finish a pair of socks and am happy to report that it's possible to get a kid-sized pair and an adult (shortish) pair out of one skein of Opal 6-ply, which we like very much.

13. In the past week, I have heard from three out of my four bridesmaids and two high school friends, and hung out with someone I've known from LaLeche League for >10 years. Nice!

14. The xmas knitting has begun. :-) There is a shark hat on Ravelry that makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Random stream of consciousness blog post, over and out!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

knitting naturalist

Earlier this summer, Jessica, the naturalist at our favorite campground, told Leah she wanted to learn how to knit. On our last camping trip, the timing didn't work out to teach Jessica (because she was busy teaching all kinds of cool environmental and conservation type things to the campground kids, facilitating fascinating presentations for the kids and adults, and being in a parade along with Leah), but we did manage to show another friend there how to knit. This weekend, Leah packed up extra yarn and needles again, in hopes of getting a chance to share. Leah was off riding bikes with friends when Jessica came to our campsite during her break on Saturday, so I got her started with some knitting and Leah popped in later for cheerleading and knitting support, knowing those first few rows are So Darn Awkward. Jessica was determined, though, and she managed to learn to knit and purl before her break was over.

Otherwise, this weekend was filled with biking and swimming in the river with friends, enjoying cool nights and spectacularly beautiful days. There was also a stop at Webs on the way north, a super presentation by an officer on the K9 unit of the local police force and his furry coworker, and a presentation by a nature photographer.

When the skies are clear, we love to take the rain fly off the tent to stargaze until we fall asleep and see the trees when we wake up. We were one day ahead of this year's peak Perseid shower, but were thrilled to see two shooting stars during the very short time before we fell asleep after a day of fun and sun.

Three FOs to come!
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Sunday, August 05, 2007

a stitcher's view

We spent yesterday at Old Sturbridge Village's Redcoats to Rebels weekend. For my guys, it was all about the mock battles, the weaponry, the loud bang-bangs, the supercool (but super hot) uniforms and accoutrements. However, here's a taste of military history for those of us who are more interested in the gentle arts.

Dyeing, knitting...

bobbin lacemaking, spinning...
weaving, rugmaking.

Going back today for more!

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muggles of Madison

As early as possible on Friday afternoon, Leah and I packed up our handknit hats for charity ...

and headed for Madison Wool, where we bought some beautiful handpainted yarn from Blackberry Ridge. We mentioned being in town for the Yarn Harlot event that evening and the owner of the store was surprised that we would drive "so far." She was planning to close at 5:00, as usual, but we told her she just might want to reconsider that plan because there would be a steady stream of knitters coming this way throughout the evening. Before we left the shop 15 minutes later, three more knitters had arrived and we passed another on our way up the lane. It is possible that the owner was beginning to realize this would not be the usual evening in Madison, as she was making phone calls and arrangements when we left.

We meandered along Madison's delightful Main St. and a sculpture trail, taking note of a pair of women up ahead, one of whom was wearing a lacy knit summer top and carrying a felted bag. She's one of us, we nodded to each other with a smile. We made our way to RJ Julia Booksellers, where Leah bought Knitting Rules and then we parked ourselves in the children's section upstairs to browse the books, finish work on a pair of mittens, and generally chill out. The staff members talked among themselves about how many calls they had received about the evening to come and that the store would be "crazy" later for the standing room only event. Other customers wandered by, some giving a knowing smile as they'd turn a corner and I'd notice a sock-knitting book sticking out of a purse or a Sockapalooza bag hanging from a wrist. One customer asked an employee what was going on with "all those people gathered downstairs," and was informed the author of a knitting book would be in the building for a book signing later in the evening. Yup, the muggles could tell something was up. We joined the knitters downstairs and played a game of "Hey, I recognize you from your blog!" and "Hey, I was talking with you on Ravelry!" as the party atmosphere overtook the previously subdued bookstore.

Eventually the store moved tables aside and set up chairs, which were filled almost as soon as they were set out. It was a little snug, given that they had to fit as many chairs in the store as possible to accommodate the pre-registered crowd and that every single one of us had a knitting bag at our feet, but they were gracious hosts. One of the store folks asked Leah to come up to draw the raffle winner's name for a gift certificate at Madison Wool, which she happily did. And it wasn't her own name or mine -- aw, shucks.
Stephanie was charming and entertaining, as always. Her prepared talk made us laugh, but her spontaneous comments made us howl. Afterwards, Leah had her book autographed and she was so proud to give Stephanie the original chart from when she designed the Imagine hat, so named because of a picture on Stephanie's blog. I remember when Leah was coloring in the peace sign squares on the graph paper chart, she looked at me and said, "I want to give this to the Yarn Harlot because she's such a nice and peaceful person." Mission accomplished and the girl was psyched.

I understand there was a steady stream of knitters doing a yarn crawl from the bookstore back to Madison Wool afterward, as they had stayed opened late into the night to accommodate the need. We had already purchased our yarn and were tired, and we knew better than to tempt ourselves again, so we headed home. It ends up we should have stayed, as there were friends looking for us at the yarn store and others who would have invited us to join them for pizza, but we'll have to catch up with them all again another time.

When I used to go on Grateful Dead tour, one of my favorite things was watching the locals' response to the influx of Deadheads. The more things change, the more they stay the same. :-)

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

gauntlet girl

Leah's knitting of late is all gauntlets, all the time.

After making her first pair, she understands the basics of fingerless glove design, so now she's making up her own patterns and choosing stitch patterns as she goes along. She's trying a variety of styles, varying the length, thumb construction (with gusset or without), ribbing, etc.

These are great little projects, giving her the opportunity to try new things without it being too much of an undertaking. She's especially enjoying cables, which is why she chose the Stitchionary, Volume 2, as a design reference source, and why she bought two skeins of everything in her basket at Webs last weekend.

In general, her mind is filled with thoughts of the winter to come, but on this hot, humid day, we're stepping back in time to the 1840s and a Rebels to Redcoats weekend at Old Sturbridge Village. If you're going too, you'll recognize Leah as the girl in a calico dress and bonnet, knitting gauntlets as she enjoys the military history and re-enactment activities in one of our favorite places in the world. Jesse will likely be hanging with the blacksmiths or helping the re-enactors, just like last year.
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for want of a bit o' string

I had a hectic day ahead of me yesterday when I boogied out of here for a client's office. All days when I'm working extra are hectic, but I always take my knitting anyway, just in case I get a few minutes' breather and can take a few stitches while reading the news headlines or something. Often I'm surprised to find myself with more than a few knitful minutes here and there. But this day seemed a little more hectic and I hurried out the door without my knitting, knowing there was just no way it was happening today. See, this was the third day of covering an extra full-time job (on top of my regular work) this week and I was especially looking forward to the overtime pay I'd receive as a result of busting my hump. As I approached the office, I noticed that the stop lights were out. Then, as I entered the office, everything was dark except for the dim emergency lights in the hallways and a few employees with flashlights, coming to meet me at the door and making follow-up arrangements with patients whose exams were interrupted by the power outage. Apparently a car accident in the area wiped out a pole and transformer.

And me without my knitting!

Had I come prepared with sticks and string, as usual, I could have happily plopped myself down by a window and knit merrily away for overtime pay. But this was one of maybe three days a year when I left home without a project and it was likely to be a good long while before they got the accident cleared away and the power up again.

I couldn't just sit there. I couldn't pretend to be interested in the magazines. I'm not much for small talk...especially when my hands aren't busy. So what to do? Sit quietly with my hands in my lap, thinking of all the things I could be doing, while collecting overtime pay and waiting for the electricity or go DO those things and catch up with the work later? I'm sure you can guess which I chose. An hour later, I was at the ice skating rink with my munchkins and my knitting, and a definite plan to designate a set of needles and yarn to keep in the car at all times as emergency knitting supplies. :-)

Scott made some new buttons, pulled fresh from the kiln yesterday. Among them are the few stragglers I need to put the finishing touches on my Garden Patch cardigan. Yeah! I've just about reached the end of my interest in knitting little summer hat/sock/mitten projects and am itching to start a more substantial project. Among the current candidates are Jenna's Stars from Philosopher's Wool for Leah, the Son of Aran pullover from Blackwater Abbey for Scott, or the Kauni Ssssweater from Astrid's Dutch Obsessions for me.
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