Saturday, December 29, 2007

Favorites and Ughs

OK, I'm mesmerized by looking at favorites on Ravelry. I go to the people tab to check the "random assortment of favorites", and just keep refreshing the screen for more of those little thumbnails. (Unfortunately, this can go on for a loooong time). Sometimes I'll click on the thumbnail for more detail. Sometimes I'll even leave a comment. The ones that catch my eye most these days are stranded color work in knitting and tapestry crochet.

The "Ughs" are almost as fascinating. Why have these particular projects ended up in that category? Sometimes it's obvious, but sometimes I think "Hey, I kind of like that! Why is that an "ugh"?"

Explanations from the posters (both pro and con) range from extensive to non-existent.
Edited to add: the "ughs" are projects people have posted themselves and with the least happy of the smiley faces. No one is passing judgement on another persons work here........

The problems with knitting from stash (well, my stash, anyway):

1) My stash at this point consists largely of odd balls, sock yarn and that leftover pile of eyelash. If I want to knit anything larger than a hat I need to either buy more yarn or start getting really creative about yarn combinations. Creative is good. The fugly potential is daunting.

2) My oddballs are disorganized. This is an understatement. An extreme understatement.

3) My oddballs rarely contain the color(s) I want, in the weight I want, with the specific fiber characteristics I want, when I want them.

Possible morals to this story:

1) Only buy yarn with a specific project in mind. (Yeah, right, like that's going to happen).

2) Buy enough damn yarn at once to complete a sweater/shawl/other largish project. Buy a little extra just in case I'm off on my yardage calculations. Deal with the inevitable left over odd balls at a later date.

3) Win the lottery and buy a yarn store, so I can can have what I want on hand and maybe sell the leftover odd balls. (Why does this not sound like a workable business model?)

4) Sell the house, pack up and move next door to a yarn store so I can just run over and get what I need when I need it.

I think #4 has the most potential.
Just so this post doesn't remain entirely pictureless:

This is the palm side of a mitten prototype. I'm not showing the front yet, because it's going to be a surprise. Well looky here, it's stranded color work! And it's fingering weight yarn from the stash! And it's going to be a little too small for me because it needs to be worked in sportweight, but annoyingly, I only have one color of sportweight wool in the stash and between the holidays and the snow I just haven't driven the 30 miles to the nearest LYS. But that's OK, really, because it's a first draft, and I need the practice on getting my tension even on the color work, and there is bound to be someone it will fit...

Friday, December 28, 2007


One of these things is not like the others (click on pic if you need to embiggen)...

Lovely as they are, holidays leave me feeling somewhat disjointed and missing my bearings. What day of the week is it, and am I supposed to be doing something, like going to work? Add lots of snow on top of that, and a husband who is home during the day and I'm pretty totally confused. Just this evening I was sitting in front of the TV waiting for the Saturday "Brit Coms", when I belatedly realized that it's Friday.

We had a nice Christmas. Mom and Dearest Daughter arrived early in the evening on the 24th and stayed until mid-day on the 26th. It was mostly low key, as we like, interspersed with some more boisterous jollity when we went next door to the Brother-in-Law's for dinner on the 25th. My Anglophile Mr. S made Christmas Pudding, as has been his custom for several years. This year he added Christmas Crackers to his repertoire, which were a hit. We all put on our tissue paper crowns, read aloud the corny jokes and enthusiastically employed our noisemakers as Mr. S set the pudding aflame.

One of my loveliest gifts came from sister A-Pazoo. These are earrings crocheted with silver wire. The artist, Maria Rudnick, is a silversmith and fiber artist, and a friend of Sister A.

Another most cherished gift came from Dearest Daughter.

This is a skein of handspun hand dyed Navajo 3 ply Falkland wool, worsted-aran weight (188 yds). She bought it at the High Noon Saloon Holiday Craftacular (next year I have to get there). It's absolutely lovely, and I'm needing ideas for something really special to make out of it. Something about the yarn says "cables" to me right now, though rationally I'm not sure the variegation would suit cables....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Holiday Wish

The world is feverishly working to build the things of war,
The world is preparing destruction of a kind unknown before.
I hear much cursing of enemies, and arguments increase,
But oh, the world is longing, is yearning,
Is praying for peace--for peace!
Peace Pilgrim

Our lovely gentle hearted friend Carol is member of the Self-Realization Fellowship. Every year she sends us their beautiful engagement calendar. It's filled with stunning color photographs of natural scenes or animals, each one captioned with a quotation from Paramahansa Yagananda. Every page is a reminder of the beauty and value of the world we inhabit. I love just turning the pages and savoring and reflecting; and Mr S has saved many of the photos to use as starting points for writing projects with his sixth graders.

This year Carol included a wall calendar, too, the 2008 "Cat Lovers Against the Bomb Wall Calendar" from Nebraskans for Peace , and that is where the Peace Pilgrim quotation came from. Peace Pilgrim was a remarkable woman. Many years ago I had the privilege of hearing her speak, but to be honest, I hadn't thought of her in a long time. I was glad to be reminded.

So my holiday wish for myself and the world is hers and also that of St. Francis.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Friday, December 21, 2007

To a number of people who found my blog thru a search engine,

I apologize, I really, really do. Because what you're looking for? It isn't here.

I have no "Latvian sauerkraut recipe" (although I sort of wish I did, and if you find a good one, come back and let me know). Heck, I don't even have any Latvian mittens, because the pair I started so long ago never got any bigger than three inches of cuff. Not that I've given up, I haven't frogged (yet).

Whoever was looking for a "keep Christ in Christmas" label (sic) pin" may have been more irritated than disappointed. Oh well.

I hope that the person searching for a "Jack Frost Knitting Book" found it. I like vintage patterns, too. I do have one from that series.

It appears that in 1946 there was a demand for two needle mittens patterns, and also for children's sweaters knit in fingering at 7 - 7 1/2 sts per inch.

I was just amused by the "weird colors like periwinkle" search term. Who was looking for that, and why? And why did they consider periwinkle to be a weird color? I like it.

On the other hand, there are more people than I would have expected looking for patterns for soap sacks. And that I do have, though whether it was satisfactory or not I have no way of knowing.


On a completely different note, I finally got a picture that comes close to the "Sugarplum" colorway. Did someone say something about "natural light"?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

OK what the heck is Elite?

Elann has a yarn in their newsletter with a fiber content of "85 % Viscose Rayon/15% Elite". I know what Rayon is, but Elite??? What is is made of? How does it behave? Why is it there? Does it contribute to the "fabulous elasticity" of the yarn? Does that mean it's elastic? Then why not just say so? Jeesh! First Draylon and now this. How's a girl supposed to know what her yarn is made of?

Well enough of the mumble, mumble, grump, grump. I know that this fiber is nice wool and nothing but wool.

The color still isn't right. This picture seems to have a greenish tinge. Oh well, maybe you just had to be there. Take my word for it, the color is nicer than the picture looks.

Almost every Thursday evening for the last 5-6 years, my friends Lu and Lavonne and I have gotten together to knit (and gossip). This time of year we exchange small gifts, and I usually try to find something knitterly. This year I found two of these litte pins at The Sow's Ear.

So cute! And they are handmade by a woman in Belmont, so I was buying locally. Which reminds me that I haven't had any of the really good Belmont Brie in a while..... Shopping for holiday groceries tomorrow, must buy Brie.

I've decided it's time to finish off the Christmas Meme once and for all. (it's gone on long enough.)

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Both (it's a long story...)

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Total commercialization of the season, that and the whole "Keep Christ in Christmas" thing (and the way the two seem to be intertwined). I could go on about that in about eight different ways, but I won't.

23. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color? Completely eclectic.

24. What do/did you leave for Santa? Cookies. The cats would get at milk long before Santa had a chance. Well they probably would get at the cookies, too. It's been a while since we left anything..... There was at least one year when Santa had a really nice single malt Scotch, but he helped himself to that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Have I Got a Great Sis, or What?

This morning, my sister emailed me the WSJ article about Sock Wars, great in itself, but then she also noted that it mentioned Ravelry.
"Are you in Ravelry?????"
"No, but I read about it in the knit blogs, and it sounds fun."
"You read knit blogs??????"
My sister makes beautiful jewelry, paints on silk, has sewn entire bedroom's worth of soft furnishings, painted murals on her son's wall and single-handedly installed a new glass shower door. But as far as I knew she had just about figured out how to cast on and do the knit stitch.
"Well some, mostly yours and a few others. I'm particularly enjoying Franklin and Dolores."
Thanks, A-Pazoo, you made my day. Maybe we can actually get those Potholder Wars going.... (though I may be surprised, one of these days, to hear that you have just finished your first lace shawl.)
Oh and about Ms K's present? Sorry about the beer cozy. The book has lots of simple projects, most of them age appropriate. Maybe she can make her Dad a birthday present....... And about your young Mr S's present? My Mr S swore he's old enough to handle it. No peeking now!


Yarny goodness in yesterday's mail. This is some handpainted wool from Rachel-Marie at knittydirtygirl The skein on the left is worsted, the skein on the right is her handspun thick-and-thin, both in the colorway "Sugarplum" The photo color doesn't do it justice, as the darker shade is actually almost chocolate brown, and what looks pink here is richer and closer to red.

Since I've had mittens on the mind lately, you can guess what this will be.

Ay Yay, are we really so close to Christmas? Well here's the meme installment.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay at home. If Mom's not visiting one of the sibs, she joins us. And Mr. S's brother is right next door - so we do travel that far.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yup, and so can you, I bet. Go on, I dare you.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A little something for me

On Wednesday I drove to Madison to do some gift shopping. I think I've got it all wrapped up. Well, the gifts aren't all wrapped, but the purchasing is done. I ended up coming home with something for myself as well: Robin Hansen's Knit Mittens. I couldn't help it. The book was so deeply discounted that I couldn't not buy it.

When this one was first published, I flipped through it at a bookstore and decided that since I already had her Flying Geese and Partridge Feet I would resist temptation. But now I'm very glad to have it in the collection. It's just so cute. Plus it has some nice patterns, clearly written. And there is a lot of good technical information, tips, even instructions for Kool Aid dying.

OK, given the number of books I already own, there probably isn't much information I couldn't have found in what I already had (even several of the patterns are Flying Geese). But it would be a great gift for a new mitten knitter - in the unlikely event that I would be willing to part with it. I should have bought two.

Which sort of leads into the next question(s) in the Christmas Meme:

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Late November/early December.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Not in the sense of giving it away as a gift. I have recyled things through the thrift store. And in our family we like receiving used books, and often after they've been read, they go back for more credit at The Frugal Muse, which just happens to be where I found the bargain on the mitten book.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Cookies! Specifically, cookies that have been made with real butter. Toffee Bars, Sugar Cookies, Spritz, Sandbakkles, Thumbprint Cookies.... Oh, Rum Balls, too. I don't know if they use butter or not, but in that case, who cares?

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Colored.

17. (in case I don't post tomorrow) Favorite Christmas song? "The Holly and the Ivy", or maybe "Joy to the World", or "I Saw Three Ships", I dunno, I like a lot of them, mostly older ones.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Are We Having Fun Yet? Oh Yes We Are!

I just discovered Picnik. Oooh Boy, play with your photos. Make your cat look silly. Disguise your DH. Embarrass your children online (the possibilities are at least as promising as singing aloud at the mall.....) I love it!

Actually, it's a nice very user friendly basic photo editing tool, with some fun wingdings thrown in. And its free!

Don't run over me now on your way out the door.

Anyone left? OK, here's day 12 of the CM

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

Can't limit it to one. We have several on the absolutely must see list: "White Christmas", "It's a Wonderful Life", "Christmas Story", the George C. Scott Version of "A Christmas Carol", the "Charlie Brown Christmas Special". Then Mr S also makes sure to work in "Rudolph" and "Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol "(he knows words and music to every song in by heart.)

One of my personal favorites isn't a movie, it's an audio recording of "A Child's Christmas in Wales." We do have a video version (BBC, I think). But I like just listening best.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On the loose with the camera again

We've been really fortunate to escape the worst of the ice storm. The roads are slick enough that schools have been cancelled all over, but no power outages. There was some sleet in the morning, but mostly it's been snowing all day. I went out and shovelled the walks a few hours ago, mostly just for an excuse to be outside. Mr S will give them another going over later this afternoon. Went to the Post Office to mail sister's families gifts because I realized "Oh my gosh, it's only two weeks until Christmas." But that's as far from home as I'll be roaming today.

Last night was the Middle School/High School concert. Nephew Scott plays with the High School band, so of course we went. As an added bonus, the Jr. Class had a bake sale to raise funds for Prom, so I picked up some brownies and a loaf of peanut butter chocolate chip bread. Sounded potentially odd, but it's actually yummy.

CM answers for days 10 & 11

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I don't remember any really any bad ones. Unless you count the boss who gave us uniform shirts to be worn on casual Fridays. I guess it was a good gift in the sense that at least we didn't have to pay for them..... But it sure felt more like Mr. Scrooge than Mr Fezziwig.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Christmas cards? Christmas cards? No seriously, most years I do put a few in the mail. And Mr S sends out more than I do.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

So I've Been Thinking About Mittens Lately

First off, the Christmas Meme Days 8 & 9

8. Hardest person to buy for? Probably my sister's husband. Not that he's picky, just hard to figure out what he might enjoy.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My daughter. I don't have any trouble spotting things she would like. Plus she's good about giving us a wish list.

Now on to the main topic....................

I pretty much "winged it" on sizing the Soaring Eagles mittens, as the recipients will be various ages. My contributions will surely fit someone in the group. Working the whole hand in ribbing means that, width wise at least, they can stretch or contract as needed. But it did set me to thinking that it would be handy to have some more or less standardized mitten size information.

First I turned to the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Rules, remembering that she had lots of handy tips for hats and even socks. I was sort of startled to realize that she doesn't say anything about mittens in the whole book. She's Canadian! How can she not cover mittens?

So I Googled "mitten size chart" expecting to come up with lots. Uh uh. There was this, which is very helpful as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough. It gives length, and circumference and thumb length, which are essential, but it doesn't specify where to place the thumb opening, which can be pretty crucial for a decent fit. (Though another benefit of the all ribbing mitts is that there is no demarcation between cuff and lower hand, a little more sizing "wiggle room")

Then something started niggling around in my mind, something I had seen, a diagram of mitten proportions. There is one close to what I had in mind in Selbuvotter. But that wasn't exactly it. So I started digging around through old files ("files" meaning papers stacked in a shallow box shoved under a bookcase). And sure enough I found this

The text is in Norwegian, which I don't read, but (Whoo Hoo), numbers are numbers. Best of all, those numbers indicate proportions. so they are applicable to any gauge, or to any finished length.

Years ago I visited the wonderful Vesterheim museum, and by making advance arrangements I was able to examine some of the mittens in their collection, and also have an afternoon's access to their library. (I was doing research for an article that ultimately never got written). One of the items in the library was a booklet titled Votter Og Vanter, from 1955. And in the booklet was that very helpful chart. And I had indeed made a copy and kept it in the files.

(Note: it was only after digging through all those papers that I thought to pull out Vibeke Lind's invaluable Knitting in the Nordic Tradition. She gives a little schematic with essentially the same information - should have looked there first)

So, combining information from the Internet size chart and the printed diagram of proportions, I'm set. I can devise a schematic for a range of more or less standardized mitten sizes.

Why not just use a mitten pattern generator or go ahead and order the Mitten Wizard? Well, sometimes I like doing things for myself, or at least knowing I could if I had to.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Question 7

Otherwise known as installment Two of the Christmas Meme

#7. Do you have a nativity scene? Well, yes, we have almost two.

When I was little my parents didn't have any interest in setting up a manger scene, but I really, really wanted one. In those days you could go to the Ben Franklin and buy individual painted plaster pieces from little bins, which I did, a few at a time.

Shortly after we were married, Mr S made me a wooden stable to house the group. We used it through a number of Christmases. But eventually Mary's head broke off, probably during one move or another, and I've never been able to find a replacement. If it had only been Joseph, I might have subbed in a shepherd or something. (Sorry Joseph, but everyone knows you're not the real Dad. Deal with it).

Mary, on the other hand... well a manger scene without Mary doesn't cut it. No way, no how. So these days we put out a set that Mr S's mother made in ceramics class. It's more elegant, all white with a smooth high glaze. It's very pretty, really. And it has associations of its own. But I miss my childhood painted plaster. All the other figures are still in their box, just in case, it could happen, you know, the right Mary showing up after all these years.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Christmas Meme: Part One

OK, this has been going around. I picked up my copy from KnitThink. It occurs to me that as there are 24 questions I could do this Advent Calendar style, with one answer a day. But since we are already 6 days into the month, I'll start out with 1-6.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both. Squarish things get paper. Lumpy things get bags. The squarish things always end up looking sort of lumpy by the time I'm done, so maybe I should switch to the bags altogether.

2. Real or artificial tree? Real. I love the smell when it comes in the house, even though it means finding little needles in the rug for months. Note: though a tree may have at some point grown in the ground, it does not count as real if it has been sheared and spray painted green.

3. When do you put up the tree? My personal theory is that the tree should go up no more than a week before Christmas, and then stay up until Epiphany, on the principle that if you are going to celebrate a liturgical season it should be done according to the established liturgical calendar. Mr S's theory is that a tree should go up as early as possible and come down before school starts again, on the principle that Christmas can't come too soon but let's start the New Year with things in their proper places. So we compromise. Up sometime mid-December and down on New Year's Day.

4. When do you take the tree down? See #3.

5. Do you like eggnog? Love it. I also like Fruit Cake with citron, thank you very much, the denser the better.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? "The Golden Treasury of Poetry" selected and with commentary by Louis Untermeyer, illustrations by Joan Walsh Anglund. This book made poetry a pleasure long before I learned that some people consider it a task. Amazingly, it is still in print, though now titled "The Golden Books Family Treasury of Poetry". If you have any youngsters on your list....

That's it for the first installment. Feel free to discuss among yourselves.......

It Snowed Last Night

So aside from running outside to get this picture, I've been enjoying the sunshine from inside the house - very cosy! I finished up a third pair of little mittens.

These all look rather narrow in the hand, but the ribbing is nice and stretchy. The largest pair fits around my hand, though of course is too short for an adult.

Someone always has to get into the act.

Molly Bee asked where I got the Pepparkakor. I found them at Cost Plus/World Market at Greenway Station in Middleton. But Ms Bee, I know you are a cook, so here is the very good recipe, from an old and dear friend of my mother's.


1 c. butter or margarine (use butter!)
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 T orange peel (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)
2 T dark corn syrup
1 T water
2 T molasses
3 1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves

Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and cream well. Add orange peel, syrup, water and molasses and mix well. Sift dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Mix well. Chill the dough while your mixing arm rests (a couple of hours at least). On a lightly floured board, roll out dough 1/8" thick (no cheating, the thinner these are the better). Cut with cookie cutters (I like stars and hearts). Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Jack Frost Visited Last Night

It does feel more "Christmas is Coming" with snow on the ground and frost on the windows.

On a frosty day, every bit of sunshine counts

I picked up a big tin of Pepparkakor in Madison last week. For those not in the know, these are very thin, very crisp Swedish ginger cookies (wonderful with coffee). I have an excellent recipe, but these are almost as good and much easier. Mr S did make his Christmas Pudding, and it is ageing in the fridge.

I've almost finished the second pair of ribbed mittens, and may squeak in a third. I figure I had better put them in the mail by the end of the week.

And I've been having fun with the DROPS design julekalender - very cute with those little red hearts and a new pattern surprise every day. But it won't let you peek ahead. What can I say? It's nice to feel a little childlike.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Test Knitter "Thank You", plus some odds and ends

Hugs and appreciation to Caitlin, who proofread and test knitted the Just Spring socks pattern. She quickly and tactfully: caught an omission, spotted typos, suggested clarifications and overall helped me whip it into shape. It has been a total pleasure working with her.

I finished the first pair of Soaring Eagles Project mittens today. They looked a little dull right off the needles (the color is darker and grayer than it appears in the picture). So I added a little bit of embroidery on the thumb. A second pair is now underway.

Knit in Plymouth Encore DK

On Friday afternoon, I called the wonderful Penzeys Spices to place an order. Usually I would just order online, but I had a question about a particular item, and a somewhat out of the normal delivery request for a gift, so I phoned. What a treat. My call was answered almost instantly with no voice mail run around, no time on hold. It was so nice to talk to a customer service rep who was just across the state (instead of half way around the world). She was extremely helpful, took her time to get everything right, friendly... I actually enjoyed the transaction. To top it off, the portion of the order that was coming directly to me arrived the next morning (!). Granted, it only had to come from Milwaukee, but still, less than 24 hours. Woot.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My Rustic Mitt

The grey yarn and I have been continuing our discussions and have come to a tentative agreement. The yarn was adamant about plain stockinette, but yielded in the end to just a bit of cuff detail. Of course, that won't show when I have a coat on, but I'll know it's there.

I'm not even sure where the yarn got off being so picky, because to speak quite frankly, it wasn't all that evenly spun. Remember the sport vs fingering conversation? The yarn wasn't being completely up front when it brought that to the table. I did catch it muttering something about "going for the handspun look".

All in all, though, the mitts will be warm and soft, and I guess that's the main thing. The weather's getting colder by the day. The second one's almost done. It's just on hold while I work on the Soaring Eagles mittens.