Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New on the needles

I've started in on a new design project, a simple cotton shell with some lace (what else) at the lower edge. I'm working with Paton's "Grace", a sport weight mercerized cotton. I like it. It has a good firm twist, so it doesn't split easily, and has good stitch definition. This style of cotton isn't as soft as some of the more loosely spun varieties, but it seems to be working up with a nice drape.

The color result on this photo is too weird. On my monitor it looks kind of periwinkle, but the color name is Taupe, and it's actually almost more like Cocoa. A rather handsome, not too dark, brown. Neither my camera nor my software has any kind of color adjustment, so you will just have to imagine it.


I always like it when I hear from pattern customers. If there's a question I want to answer it. If there's a problem I want to know, so I can clarify or correct it. So questions and concerns are always welcome. But, oh, it does a designer's heart good to receive a comment like this one about the lace fichu knitting pattern:

"... I bought the Lace Fichu pattern from you back in September last year. I just wanted to say that it is the best pattern for shoulder shawls I have came across. I have knitted it up in different yarns, and my favourite needle size is 5.5mm, it gives me the size of shawl that drapes around my shoulders that I like."

Thanks for writing to share that, Margaret!


Speaking of the fichu, my friend Ellen says was pleased with the results when she was inspired to wear hers collar style: with the ends crossed in front and tucked underneath and then tied behind the neck. Neat idea, Ellen!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

An Afternoon of Lovely Connections

I drove up to Madison today for "Last Saturday" knitting. This was my first time to drop in on the group. I was looking forward to meeting Elizabeth and Laura in person, and they are just as interesting and nice as I had expected. (Plus I got to see Laura's striped hoodie almost completed and pet Elizabeth's lovely alpaca lace scarf, previously known to me only from their blogs). And I very much enjoyed making a new connection when I met Linda: who was, I thought, previously unknown to me. That's what I thought until she emailed me this evening, because she had put two and two together, and figured out that we both post to the knitting forum. Yup, for any buds who are reading, it was Linda/8grasshopper in person. And I got to see her Calico (as in cat) afghan in progress, which really and truly was new to me because she doesn't knitblog.

All I brought to work on were these really rather uninteresting socks (which had been sitting unfinished in a corner for months.)

Uninteresting, but 1) I needed something relatively mindless if I was going to talk 2) I didn't have anything else on the needles that was ready to pick up and go and 3) it was either finish these or start mending the three pairs that are now sitting in the corner with holes in their heels, and I would rather knit any day.


Back at home I opened the back door to let Baxter out and "whoosh", a blue jay went swooping about six inches in front of me at just about knee level. It was dive bombing Baxter. And then it sat in the lilac and scolded as only a jay can do. So I'm wondering if there is a nest near by. Baxter looked a little confused and slightly abashed, and decided to come back into the house with me (but that wasn't because of a bird, that was because it was wet.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Proof that the rains came

Peonies outside

Peonies inside

I love those tight, hard, almost perfectly spherical buds. How can such an enormous explosion of petals burst out of them overnight? I love the extravagence of the flowers. I love the scent, which is heavy, almost-but not exactly-rose.

So despite their attractiveness to ants, and despite the flowers' predilection to shatter and drop those huge masses of petals in a heap on the table, I'll be bringing these in as long as the all too brief season lasts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Feels like I've just finished finals week

The baby project is done. Three sweaters, three blankets, three hats. Patterns written, photographic models completed. Box packed.

Yesterday it went to the Post Office, on it's way to the publisher at last. I always suffer "project fatigue" about three quarters of the way through the knitting, assailed by doubts, wracked by thoughts of how I should have done something differently. It's just part of the process. But as I took a last fond look at this bunch before sealing up the box I thought, "You know, these are pretty darn cute!" Now on to the next project...

In the evening I went downtown for the Women's Club project I enjoy most in the year: planting the flower barrels along Main Street.

It doesn't look like much now, but those petunias are going to fill out and look lovely. As we women planted, Jim followed along watering from milk jugs he had filled from the river. Jim is a bit eccentric, (or maybe just a little crotchety), but he takes the job of keeping the barrels watered seriously.

We also planted red and white petunias in the Historical Society window box.

It's a banner year for the yellow iris. Women's Club can't take credit for those, another volunteer took on that bed as her special project. This town pretty much runs on volunteers.

The weather has been hot dry and windy. Plants out in the yard are starting to droop. But I expect we will have a downpour before long, because:

The peonies are starting to open (hand holding stem because of high wind). Every year when the peonies are at their height, we get a downpour that pretty much flattens them. I'm not whining. I'm just saying how it is. It gives me an excuse to cut them and bring them into the house. So I'm looking forward to a good rain.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dreaming of Mousies

Dreaming of Mousies
Originally uploaded by baxterknits.

This is an old photo, included as my first attempt to use Flickr. I finally set up an account because I discovered the Selbuvotter group , which has many beautiful pictures, and also a good discussion of where to find patterns for knitting Norwegian mittens (free and otherwise). I'm still new enough with Flicker that I'm not sure whether you have to join the group to see the discussion, but I do know that anyone can join. It's administered by Strikkelise. Her blog, Norway Needles, is in English, and has lovely photos - the current entry has Bunads on Syttende Mai. (and if you don't know what that means, you've never been in Stoughton, WI).


kmkat tagged me to list eight random things about myself. These are really random.

  1. I can't drive and talk at the same time, at least not in traffic. Sometimes I can't listen to the radio and drive at the same time.
  2. One of my knitting student's father did typewriter repair for Lenin's daughter. I know, just a "six degrees" thing, but it kind of blew my mind.
  3. Mr. S and I met in theological school in Berkely, CA. We are both Masters of Divinity. (Ain't that a grand sounding degree?)
  4. I was born in an army camp, delivered by a doctor that my father (when he finally rounded him up) was sure was drunk. Bleary eyed, unshaven, turns out he had been up delivering babies for about 36 hours straight. (they didn't call it the baby boom for nothing.) The "camp" has since been promoted to a "fort", so the place listed on my birth certificate technically doesn't exist.
  5. I took ballet lessons on and off for about 14 years, but really never got past Beginner II. The flat feet didn't help.
  6. I like sweet/sour combinations: lemon curd, rhubarb pie. And I love the combination of chocolate and orange (also chocolate and raspberry, chocolate and marzipan, chocolate and coconut.....)
  7. When I was in fifth or sixth grade our pet cat went missing for a number of weeks. One day when I was out at recesses I saw her (the school was about 8 blocks from our house). I grabbed her and convinced someone in the office to call my Mom for me. Mom didn't believe it was really Miss Titi, but I was so persistent that she finally gave up and agreed to bring the car over. And it was our cat. And I rode home with the cat on my lap. I'm sort of amazed at myself in retrospect. I'm not assertive now and was even less so then.
  8. I've eaten lutefisk once in my life, and that was enough. Though I'm told that perhaps my Mom didn't actually know how to prepare it properly, and I do believe that she only made it that once in her entire life, and maybe there was a reason for that.

Whew.... that's eight. I think I'm supposed to tag more people, but I always was the one who broke the chain letter...... The first one to call me a party pooper gets tagged.

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Assembling sweaters correctly is tedious monotonous work. If the work is done in a hurry you can easily ruin an otherwise beautiful sweater...."

-Gertrude Taylor, America's Knitting Book, 1968

Ms Taylor is a firm and exacting teacher, not exactly Knitting Without Tears (which may explain the wild popularity of Elizabeth Zimmerman when she hit the scene). But Ms Taylor is also often right.

Sigh.... Finishing.... I don't mind weaving in ends, though there often seem to be more of them than can logically be accounted for. Weaving in is rather soothingly boring as long as I'm patient about it. I can do a decent vertical seam in mattress stitch without thinking about it too much. But setting in sleeves is nerve wracking, even little sleeves.

I mark the center stitch on the sleeve and match it to the shoulder join. I whip stitch baste the sleeve top to the armhole edge.

I mattress stitch the two pieces together.

And darned if nine times out of ten I don't end up picking out some or all of it, because even with the basting I've eased too little or too much.

Sometimes I just say "the heck with it" and backstitch from the inside. For some reason, I find matching the pieces simpler that way. But it's a bulkier seam, and less elastic, so it's a trade off.


Back to the "have/haven't done" meme

I have done mittens from the cuff up and Norwegian knitting.

The sweater is a very basic "Louse Coat". I made it with yarn and a pattern that my Mom brought me from her first trip to Norway (she asked what I wanted....). The pattern was in Norwegian, but that didn't really matter, because it was pretty fully charted, and I had books* that described the construction and assembly techniques.

I charted out the mittens myself from pattern graphs in some of the same books. The green and white pair are an object lesson in "color dominance" in stranded knitting. It wasn't until I finished the second mitten that I realised I had carried the green with my left hand on one mitten and with the right hand on the other. I have craftily laid them out in the photo so this is not quite so obvious, but if you put them next to each other right side up, it's pretty blatant. On the other hand, I don't think anyone has ever looked closely enough at my hands to notice when I've actually worn them.

* Books

Dale Yarn Company; Knit Your Own Norwegian Sweaters

Gibson-Roberts, Priscilla A.; Knitting in the Old Way

Lind, Vibeke; Knitting in the Nordic Tradition

McGregor, Sheila; The Complete Book of Tradition Scandinavian Knitting

Pagoldh, Susanne; Nordic Knitting

and of course Zimmerman, Elizabeth; Knitting Without Tears and A Knitters Almanac

Despite this wealth of source material, I do rather find myself craving a new book that just showed up on the Knit Picks site: Selbuvotter (The name just means Selbu Mittens) (and Selbu is the district they come from) by Terri Shea.

Edited to add: Oh yeah, I've never knit mittens from the top down, but I'm not ruling it out.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

You have to love a girl

(young woman, really), who calls from the Saver's (thrift store) to ask, "Mom, can you dye acrylic yarn?" She wanted to know because she found a hand knit sweater and felt badly about someone's knitting sitting in a bin for $2, and she wanted to give it a home, but it was "an awful shade of pink". My daughter is not a pink person, in any shade. Sadly I had to inform her that while nylon would take dye, acrylic would not. So we agreed to hold the thought that someone really would come along who absolutely loved the color. But that impulse to honor a knitter's work, ah it made my day.


On the meme theme: another thing I have done is modular knitting, though not quite the Vivian Hoxboro style.

These are mitered squares, worked on picked up stitches (no seams). I'm assuming that it is somewhere in Afghanistan - at least it was sent to afghans for Afghans a while back (another old picture - still no camera batteries). I guess it it would also count as "textured knitting". I played aroud with different little knit/purl and slip stitch patterns as I went. Another "no swatch, no prior planning, use up the stash project."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"If you care for your own children, you must take an interest in all, for your children must go on living in the world made by all children." Eleanor Roosevelt

One of my Mother's Days gifts was Volume 2 of Blanche Wiesen Cook's biography of ER. My daughter remembered that I had said how much I liked Vol. 1 (borrowed from the stack of college books still in her room). So I'm set with bedtime reading for a while. One of the things I'm enjoying is learning more about so many politically and socially active, progressive women in the '20s and '30s. (Although part of my response is "Wait a minute, what the hell happened? Why aren't we any farther along in 2007?) And I'm starting to think that Eleanor R was the only truly interesting First Lady we have ever had, or at any rate the only one I would want to take or hold up as a role model. My other lovely gift was a small silk painting by daughter herself, that she had framed by her good buddy Arlo. I love the colors, I love that she made it. (No picture here, though, because my camera batteries are dead,) And the best gift was brunch with my daughter and my mother, both truly interesting women (as well as Mr. S, who is a truly interesting guy, but hey, his day isn't until June.)

There's kind of a fun meme going around (that every one's probably already seen), listing 100 different knitting activities. The idea is to put the list up with the things you have done in Bold, and the things you plan to do in italic, and the things you never plan to do get left plain. (If you haven't seen it, CatBookMom has nicely put it in alphabetical order.) Somehow dealing with the whole list at once seems too overwhelming, so I decided to do it in chunks.

So one of the things I have done is Free Form Knitting. At least, I think this counts

I started with the smallest pinkish square (upper right) and did the log cabin thing with a little short row color changes, then picked up for the stripes at the top, then knit the side panels. For sizing, I just kept laying the WIP up against an existing sweater.

The procedure for the back was pretty much the same, with some mitering and more short rowing. By that time there was plenty of "swatch" to calculate the number of stitches for the sleeves. Don't know if it's art, but it was awfully fun to knit.

I've improvised a lot of hat's, "designing on the needles", but this is the only full sized garment (so far).

There were really very few things that I never intend to do, but I think these would qualify:

Knitting with wire. I've seen lovely/interesting items, but it looks like it would make my hands hurt too much.

Knitting on a loom: I assume this means knitting on one of those frames that are like a large version of a knitting spool. I think that would be way slower than using needles.

Knitting with dog/cat hair: mostly because I don't have a source (see below)

Knitting with my own handspun yarn: I love watching people spin. I can believe that it is soothing and engrossing. I admire spinners and their handiwork. And the couple of times I've tried spinning I was a total klutz. Plus I don't have time to knit everything I want to knit, even if someone else has already made the yarn for me. (Does this sound defensive? Is there a little nagging voice saying "Real Fiber Artists spin their own yarn"? Probably.)

Earn a living by knitting: I'm a designer/designer wannabe. I love it when I get paid for my work. But actually being able to earn enough to live on? Realistically, it's not likely to happen in this lifetime.

Then there are a few things that I doubt I will be doing, (but you never know)
These would include: knitting a rug, dying with plant colors (nice, just not a priority), knitting hair accessories.

I'll get to the "I really want to do" and at least some of the "Been there/done that" items in another post (probably, depending, we'll see how things go).

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ya Gotta Love a Guy

whose first thought upon receiving a promotional book tote is "This might make a good knitting bag." Thanks, Mr. S!

I'm going to be able to put a lot of yarn in there.


Thanks to everyone who responded to the "Childhood Sweets". Ruth has a really delightful slide show of British sweets, almost entirely new to me, on her May 9 post. The little mushrooms are so cute! Mr S. is going to England in June; I may send a shopping list. And an extra big thanks to Sandra (aka Curlerchick) for remembering the name of the wax bottles.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Childhood Sweets (of several sorts)

The May blog-along theme at Blogger's Paradise is "memories of sweets you loved as a child". The intended meaning of "sweets", for us non-Brits, is candy, so that's where I'll start. I don't remember the name of one of my favorites, but it consisted of little tiny wax bottles that were filled with brightly colored, extremely sweet liquid. You bit off the top and sipped out the liquid. Then I, at any rate, chewed on the wax for a while - not quite gum, but part of the experience. In my memory the little bottles were shaped just like a Coke bottle (this was before soda pop came in cans), and came in a tiny version of the cardboard six packs that held the real thing. Maybe I'm just imagining this, though. At any rate I do remember that a large part of the appeal was the miniature nature of the little bottles. On the other hand, the wax must have been a draw, too, because another favorite "sweet" was the wax lips that appeared in the Ben Franklin every year a couple of weeks before Halloween. You wore them clamped between your own lips for a while, then again chewed them like gum. They smelled wonderful to me, and tasted almost as good as they smelled. Of course I also chewed on birthday candles, and occasionally took I bite out of the bar of paraffin my Mom kept in the kitchen (presumably for topping jelly jars, though I don't recall her ever making jelly). Hmmm, as I write, I'm starting to sound to myself like a strange child with a wax fixation.

Another sort of "sweet" I adored as a child was the scent of lilacs. There was a hedge of five or six bushes along one side of our back yard.

I do believe the lilac bush was one of the major reasons we bought this house. Right now, I have all the windows at the back of the house open, and the scent gusts in with the breeze. Heaven can wait.


Stretching the definition even further, to pull in at least a little knitting content, I'm thinking the third baby blanket is looking rather sweet if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tra-la, It's May....

There was no May basket at the front door this morning, but this in the back yard makes up for the omission.

There's nothing like an apple tree in bloom to make a person feel glad to be alive.

We also have these:

And, full disclosure, these:

What can I say? I hate putting poison on the ground, and digging them all is beyond the limits of my time and energy. They are really pretty enough (before they go to seed). If they would only hold up when cut....


We had a lovely time Saturday evening. Met our dearest daughter in Madison and went to a neat restaurant called Bunky's on Atwood Ave. The best lentil soup I have ever had. Then we went and walked in the lovely Olbrich gardens, one of Madison's treasures. I wish I had brought the camera. One meadow garden was planted with naturalized jonquils and species tulips and fritillaria, and it reminded me of nothing so much as the background to a medieval tapestry. The Lady and the Unicorn might have been just around the corner.


I've added a link to the sock book over in the sidebar. Thanks for the nudge, Catbookmom. It really was easier to do than I had anticipated.