About Me

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Four years into widowhood, after one year of incredible happiness and nearly 14 years of single blessedness. Have given up perfect manicures and pretty hands in order to resume playing the soprano recorder and to see if I can figure out how to play bluegrass banjo. Singing in the shower. Still really, *really* love to knit!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

This is the yarn that doesn't end...

And it goes on and on, my friend! Somebody started knittin' it, not knowin' what it was, and they'll continue knittin' it forever, just because...

This is the knitting equivalent of "Coyote Ugly". A few years back, my friend's shop was closing, and naturally it was my obligation as her friend to help reduce her inventory! This, apparently, was the only thing I could afford at the time. Or maybe the only thing left that I even marginally liked. [I got there as soon as I could, but still...]

As you will see, it's an exceedingly chunky chenille, space-dyed, and the individual colors are lovely. Parrot turquoise, the same milky brown as a bottle of YooHoo, indigo, smoky plum, several shades of green, burgundy, raspberry. You name it, and it's probably in there [except for orange or yellow], and they all play nicely together. The person who chose the colors gets a big gold star for his/her forehead.

But the fiber? I'm not sure what, exactly; the labels are gone with the wind. I promise you that this was never grown on any critter's back, nor extruded from a spinneret, nor pulled protesting from the ground. This is 100% Artificial Something, and working with it is about as close as I'm likely to get to calf roping. I now know how Jacob must have felt that night he wrestled with the angel, and limped for the rest of his life.

Silly, loyal me, I bought every skein she had. [I was probably thinking "I'm going to buy another loom" when I did.] And the Bag of Deception has survived every move and spring cleaning since its purchase, which earns it my grudging respect.

In the past three years, I have made: (1) a child's sweater in garter stitch, lacking its buttons until Friday morning;



Closer shot of the sweater, because we saved these to draft at Secondborn's last night, and I haven't figured out how to upload more than one picture per draft from my computer at home, nor how to delete an image once it's embedded in a draft:



Close-up of the buttons, cleverly marked up at the fabric store from $2.50 a card to $3.00 and then the $3.25 I paid for each of two cards. What do they think this is, gasoline?



(2) a tubular scarf, given as a present, which if she had any sense was immediately filled with kitty litter and converted into a "draft dodger"; photos mercifully not available

(3) a child's hat in stockinette, with intermittently fashionable rolled brim, and (4) a coordinating hat for an adult in 2x2 ribbing, which I devoutly hoped would use the last of the yarn, but alas, did not. How convenient to have a delightful Mother-Daughter combo living 18 miles away in Foat Wuth (Fort Worth, for those of you who don't speak Texan.)



Detail of BittyBit's hat, carefully photographed to show off the button trim. And after the wrestle we had to position the hats so as not to be suggestive in the extreme, I have a greater appreciation for why most hats are finished with a tassel or a pompom, and not pink jeweled buttons. Secondborn says that if I mention what we called the hats as we were shooting them, she will cut the buttons off, and they are too cute to languish in a button jar.



and (5) the final project: an adult's hat in stockinette, which mercifully did finish it off. And nearly me, as well. Somebody please send Sean Connery over to kiss my hands all better!



In terms of gauge this was a good antidote to Sock The First; in terms of PITA* factor, it was not.



All that's left of the yarn, praise be!

Oye.

Parting shot: BittyBit mugging for the camera in her new hat.


*PITA factor: (n, highly intransigent!) the extent to which a person, place, thing, or situation is a Pain In The Ahem.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Louisa Harding beguiled me

I noticed the "Sari Ribbon" the second time I dashed into The Shabby Sheep on my lunch hour. One of those moments when you lock eyes from across the room, and your heart is lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Clementine.

Thus, I had been yearning for a month, passionately in love and unable to tryst with my sweetheart because of the wrath of the Cruel Checkbook.

[As I recall, the Tenth Commandment says absolutely nothing about coveting your LYS's yarn! And it's not exactly coveting if I'm planning to buy it. Eventually. Right?]

A week ago yesterday, I dashed again in at lunchtime with Knitting Co-Worker#1, who has graduated on her current project [Blanket #2 for Incipient Granddaughter] from craft store yarn to yarn store yarn and cannot believe the difference. I remember that paradigm shift, which I made 20 years ago when I was doing sweater commissions. At the risk of making my church friends and my unmarried daughters blush, it's like the difference between good old fashioned bread-and-butter marital relations, and making love. The one is comfortable; the other, transcendant, and you think to yourself Oh, so this is what the songs are all about!

Good yarn and good needles are about as close to relaxed as I'm likely to get until Brother Right tangos into my life. Unless I can talk my best JustFriend into taking me back to that restaurant for more Steak Diane with the insufficiently-flambéed Cherries Jubilee for dessert. Oh my gracious! It has been a very long time since I was that relaxed. [Not even after the three-hour Swedish massage I had after one particularly brutal day at work last week.] I remember telling him that it was a very good thing that our friendship is chaste and platonic, because it is the sort of restaurant, and the sort of cuisine, with the strolling classical guitarist, that must be the setting for many a Grand Seduction Dinner. [Now my daughters know why I laughed so hard the last time I watched "Funny Girl" with them, and Fanny warbled "wonder who is gonna be dessert?"

Not me. No way, not till I'm married. And remarriage would mean that the French laundry basket which occupies a good chunk of the fallow side of the bed, would have to find another home. No more waking at 2:00am and grabbing a book or the current project until I'm drowsy again. Nope, remarriage is one of those things that is important, but not urgent. I like my quiet, peaceful life.

Where was I? Oh yeah, transfigured in the yarn shop, before I started with the metaphors and the woolgathering.

I picked up a second set of Crystal Palace jet-propelled bamboo DP's in size 0, so I could start on Sock the Second. My friend picked up jet-propelled needles of her own and a skein of Cherry Tree Hill for her first pair of socks.

And then I meandered, ever so casually, over to the bookcase where the Louisa Harding yarn was waiting for me. I plucked her from the shelf, and she hissed, "Needles, move the [colorful adjective] needles, they're poking me!"

I can see already that she's going to be an opinionated wench, so I only brought one of her home, for now. I don't want her nattering on all night and keeping the rest of the yarn awake.

What to put with her? Something softer, a lot quieter, less diva-licious. The "Impressions" said to me, "Take me home. I know how to deal with her." Big words. We shall see.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Besotted Meets Rasta

This is the scarf that I made from the yarn leftover from my Wilted Leaf Cardigan. The yarn is Cascade 220, black because I was thinking "sweater that goes with everything in my closet" and not "scarf that will eventually be photographed for the blog I never dreamed I would have".

The fringe is from Melissa Matthay’s "Little Box of Scarves" (don't remember if it’s I or II; I was watching one of the teachers at a somewhatLYS make a shop sample). The body is the Besotted Scarf http://helloyarn.com/besottedcarf.htm.

I knitted this on Clover Bamboo #4's. How to describe my delight at watching 45 twisted springy thingies, interspersed with 44 stitches on my needle, shrink from roughly two feet of chaos to a 5-1/2" scarf? Never underestimate the take-up power of 2x2 ribbing!

And this had to be the least boring bind-off I have done in forty-six years of knitting (yes, you read that right). I tried to figure out how to finish with 45 springy thingies on the second end but was only able to manage 43. It's not visually obvious, and I think it will only bother the eventual owner if he/she is a CPA with OCD.

Yes, you read that right, too. This one goes into the donation box, bound for Parts East and the neck of someone I will never meet in this life. The eyebrows of one of my new friends in the knitting group flew up so high when I mentioned this, that I thought they were going fly right off her face!

I have strong opinions on the topic of giving to charity, having been relatively poor for much of my adult life. [Dusting off the soapbox, which is the only dusting that will get done here this week.]

When the children's father was pursuing an advanced degree, we were Seriously Poor. And sundry nice folks at church and elsewhere helped out with hand-me-downs for the kids. The clothing from other Seriously Poor families was clean, clever, and useful, as was some of the clothing from church and elsewhere. But some of the things we were given, I wouldn't have let my kids wear to clean out the henhouse. Just because one is Seriously Poor, it does not follow that one has no taste or self-respect.

Therefore, my choice is to only give away things that I'd be delighted to wear myself. And I hope that somewhere in Parts East there is a brother or a sister who is thinking, "Hrmmm, winter is coming, and I sure hope I'll have a scarf that's warm and doesn't show the dirt and makes me smile."

And I hope that when he/she sees this scarf, the smiling starts.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sock the First


Ok, we will begin with a shot that shows off the nifty little ladybug stitch marker I made when I began the Fibonacci Scarf. (I made earrings to match. I seem to be collecting ladybugs these days.)

And we will continue with the sock in progress. Looks good, doesn't it, particularly for a first effort?

Looks can be deceiving. The sock is currently in time out, while I solve the problem of normal-sized feet and ankles whose circumference is slightly less than the square root of my alleged IQ. And in the meantime, I have grabbed the bag with the Mother-Daughter Caps (one for Secondborn and one for BittyBit) and will take them to work. Must have my knitting fix, and after wrestling with a bajillion tiny stitches for over a week, I am ready to cha-cha with some seriously chunky chenille and attempt to restore what passes for my sanity.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fibonacci Scarf





Feza “Kid Mohair”, Shades of Orange 85% Mohair, 8% Nylon, 7% Polyester, 2 balls;
South West Trading Company “Melody”, Arizona Sunrise, 65% Rayon, 35% Nylon, 1 ball.

Notes: I began this scarf with a single ball of Kid Mohair and the cable cast on, which pulled in a little too much for my liking. I knitted for 9” and liked what I saw, so I went back to the shop where I’d purchased it for a second ball. And in the bin just across the aisle, cooing seductively, was the “Melody”. I went home and carefully frogged the scarf. I was able to save all but the cast-on stitches and the first row.

Yarn Bra or old nylon stocking
Notes: This is the first project where I’ve used a Yarn Bra. I didn’t know such things existed until after my half-knit-up ball of “Melody” imploded. Much knitting time lost to impatient untangling and childbirth words. Not pretty. Use something to contain the yarn and preempt frustration.

Knitting needles
Notes: I knit these on Clover bamboo 6’s. I knit very loosely. You might be happier with an 8, a 9, or a 10. The “Melody” tended to stick at the cable join on the rows of double-wrapped stitches. [I used to have Susan Bates Quicksilver needles in every size, which were extruded and lovely and have been decimated by moves and a child who was fond of chewing on them – she is now an adult and has apologized profusely. They would have been perfect for this project.] You might be happier using Addi’s or the new KnitPicks. At this writing I own neither.

Getting down to business:
With one strand each of “Kid Mohair” and “Melody”, cast on 40 sts in your preferred method. I used the backwards-loop cast on, and it made the bottom edge flare out. [See notes at bottom of pattern.] Long-tail cast on might be just about right, but you know your own preferences.

Slip the first stitch as if to purl. Knit across row. Repeat until you have three ridges on the right side of the scarf. Mark the right side to preempt another sort of frustration: you will be counting these ridges to determine when to do the long rows, and it’s easy to do a ridge too many or one too few. You’d still produce an interesting fabric, but the Fibonacci effect would be muddled.

Next row [always on the right side of the fabric unless you’ve messed up somewhere]: Slip the first stitch as if to purl. For each of the next 39 knit stitches, wrap the yarn twice around the needle. This will make these stitches approximately twice as long as the rest and relieve the tedium of never-ending garter stitch. On the next row, slip the first stitch as if to purl. Knit across row. Every few stitches, tug on the fabric to lengthen and straighten the stitches. Count your stitches; you should still have only 40.

This is the Fibonacci pattern for this scarf:
Three ridges, long row.
Eight ridges, long row.
Five ridges, long row.
Thirteen ridges, long row.

Repeat until scarf is as long as you want it, or you run out of yarn or patience. Bind off. Fringe if you like. Block lightly [if you must]; this is a lush and lofty fabric, and you don’t want to crush its spirit. Prepare to hear compliments vastly out of proportion to the simplicity of the project!

One last comment: I went back and carefully picked out the cast-on and bound it off properly. Much better!

© [me] 2006. May not be copied for commercial use.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

No longer sadly blogless

For those of you who have been urging me to publish. Be careful what you ask for. You might get it!

Photos will come later, as I either acquire a camera of my own or bribe Secondborn with brownies. For now, you will have to be content with prose. Following are excerpts from recent weekly "gratitude" mailings. [God bless you, Sarah Ban Breathnach! http://www.simpleabundance.com/sarah.html]

*****

Had a great time at the Church singles dance on the 7th. I actually got asked to dance a couple of times! I've decided that the secret to getting a man to ask you to dance, is to be happily engaged in something else: i.e., talking with another man, signing along to the music[ASL, or in my case PSE -- Pidgin Signed English], or that particular Friday night, knitting on my scarf while quietly rocking out in my chair and talking with my friend SisterSalsa. I was determined to have a good time, even if it meant sitting in a chair with my yarn and my circular needles.

One of the guys who shows up occasionally for the dances, but rarely makes it out onto the floor because he spends the nights circulating and making sure that everybody else is having a good time, asked me to dance. As he walked me back to the table, I grinned and said, "I've noticed you don't generally dance much. You're always friendly and sociable, but I don't see you out on the floor. Maybe the trick is to give all the women here a ball of yarn!" He laughed. I wasn’t entirely kidding, silly man!

Another guy who is one of my favorites and about my brother-in-law’s age, came up and took my hand and said, "Let's try something new." I grinned and said, "Oh wow, you want me to teach you to knit? No problem!" Instead he treated me to a lovely swoopy swirly slow dance, complete with half-dips and much laughter. If the man were only 20 years younger and not dating one of my friends...

And I got not one, but *two* dances with a friend I used to refer to as BrotherYummy. He's still yummy after all these years [humming my apologies to Paul Simon]; I'm just no longer interested in anything other than friendship with him.

*****

Swatched my sock yarn and realized the size 2 needles [tiny, for you non-knitters] that I have are too big, and I will need 1's or possibly 0’s. I currently have only one project underway, but that’s about to change. I had a ball of Feza Kid Mohair, Shades of Orange, that I’d bought to maybe incorporate into the rust Fibonacci Sweater, but it wasn’t the right gauge to go with the other yarns. So I started a very simple scarf and have been knitting on it as the mood struck. Saturday the 8th, I bought a second ball of the mohair for this scarf and discovered a really pretty knit-along [South West Trading Company “Melody”, Arizona Sunrise], so I carefully and meticulously frogged 9" of stitching and started over. That night I put “Midsummer Night’s Dream” into the DVD player and re-knitted the yarn that I so painstakingly ripped earlier in the day. The fabric of the scarf is far more lush and interesting than with the variegated mohair alone. And the gauge is virtually unchanged. Very glad that I did this!

*****

Four days later, I made two trips to the really cool yarn shop http://www.theshabbysheep.com/ near downtown. At lunch I picked up more itty bitty needles for when I am done with this scarf and am ready to tackle my first pair of socks in the Cherry Tree Hill Indian Summer [again for you non-knitters, wool that you can wash in cold water on gentle in the washing machine, without turning it into stockings more suitable for the youngest grandchild] that’s about the diameter of an cooked piece of angelhair pasta. During the day, the ball of Melody in my scarf imploded, and I went back after work to buy a package of Yarn Bras, which are tubes of a diagonal mesh plastic -- think old fashioned baby gates -- that you slip over your ball of yarn. They maintain an even pressure on the ball, and as you pull from the center of the ball, they keep the outside of the ball from slithering off into a tangled mess that takes two hours of precious knitting time to untangle (at $16 a ball for my knit-along yarn, I was not about to just grab the scissors and do a lumpectomy). Perhaps the only real bargain in knitting tools, a package of Yarn Bras is $4, for one small, two medium, and one large. I will forgive them that the large one is screaming blue and not some lovely shade of purple.

*****

I had so much fun at the first singles dance this month that I decided to try the knitting experiment again. I did not bring the knitting out at an office party (it was held outside, and I forgot to take the camp chairs, and the scarf was getting long enough that it could drag on the ground if I’m not careful. So, no!)

I did take it into the dance, and promptly discovered a tangle, so I had to take it out to the foyer where the light was better. Who should follow me out but a man I met at my girlfriend’s Fourth of July shindig? I got my mess untangled, we chatted pleasantly, and then my girlfriends came out and found me and dragged me back in for a line dance.

Not only does the man know how to knit (a long time ago) and crochet (ditto), and have a great appreciation for Things Handmade, but he can dance. No, it gets better; he can lead! And – are we all sitting down? – he actually asked *me*. Quelle idée!

*****

I finished the mohair and ribbon scarf on Tuesday. Meticulously picked out my cast-on stitches and tightened up that edge by binding it off properly. Ever so much better! Highly gratifying ooh-ing and aah-ing at knitting group that night.

*****

I cast on the stitches for my first sock, using size 1 needles. After increasing to 48 stitches (12 on each needle) and experimenting with which increase I preferred, I realized that my knitting friend J was right: the fabric was “airy”, and smaller needles would make a tighter fabric and a better fitting – and longer lasting – sock. On Wednesday morning I ripped it all out and started over on size 0 needles. When I left for work, the sock in progress resembled nothing so much as a pregnant gods-eye.

I am really feeling the need for a digital camera. [Those of you who are photographically inclined and use one, which do you think is best to capture fiddly detail on needlework projects? And if it doesn’t cost more than $15.95 so much the better, because I’d rather spend my money on books and yarn, LOL.]
*****

End-of-week note on the sock: I am about an inch away from my ankle bone on sock #1, and on Friday I went to the Dallas shop with Student Co-Worker #1 so she could buy her own teensy needles and her first skein of Cherry Tree Hill. Exercising incredible personal restraint, I left the shop with a second set of size 0’s so I could work sock #2 to this point from the other end of the ball of yarn (thus eliminating what J calls Second Sock Syndrome, which is the tendency to abandon a sock project with one sock remaining in order to begin a new sock project with a different yarn).

And one skein of Louisa Harding Sari Ribbon in Color#1 [screaming reds and oranges and just the merest hint of dusty plum to cool things down, and a sparkly gold metallic stripe the entire length of the ribbon; I would have maintained up to a month ago that I loathe All Things Metallic] with one ball of a Louisa Harding Impression, a companion mohair blend in Color #03 [just enough different from the ribbon in texture, size, and color to keep things interesting], to make yet another scarf to keep my neck and shoulders warm at switchboard. I am pondering Feather and Fan, and the further acquisition of some of those KnitPicks needles so I can put the needle for the mohair on one end and the needle for the ribbon on the other. But I digress…