Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thought provoking question (well for a knitter, anyway)

When Christine had her blog anniversary contest, she asked commenters to tell her "what your favorite knit has been". I came up with a fast response, so as not to miss the deadline, but that got me to thinking, and I really could answer that in a lot of different ways.

Is my favorite the one that was most enjoyable to work on, because I loved the feel of the yarn running through my fingers, or the rhythm of the motions? Nothing jumps to mind based on this criterion. I'm pretty sure I'm not a "process knitter". Or maybe I just haven't been using the right yarn. I think I could really enjoy the physical sensations of working an ever so basic cardigan in bulky baby alpaca.

Is my favorite the one I made for someone special? In that case, it would have to be the really very plain Jane (or John) socks I made for Mr. S. from cotton/elastic yarn, because I was so happy to find something that he could wear without itching and because he is so darned appreciative of them.

Is my favorite the one that was most satisfying to accomplish, because most challenging? That would have to be one of the lace bits.

Sometimes my favorites are the ones I make up as I go along. Even though the results aren't alway exactly as I had envisioned, this is where I genuinly do enjoy the process, figuring out what is going to come next. I derive a certain pleasure from being surprsed by my knitting. The Electric Kool Aid (dyed) Stocking Cap would fall into this category.

It's really sort of a monster, but boy was it fun to knit.

Mostly I think my favorite knit is the one that is lurking around in the back of my mind, just starting to take shape as an idea.


Speaking of favorites of a different kind, I'm hugely disappointed that John Edwards has dropped out of the race. I liked Edwards because he was the only one focussing on the growing economic inequality in this country, and insisting that this needs to be addressed in national policy. I never thought he would get the nomination, but I wanted a chance to vote for him. If the primary ballots have space for a write in, I still will.

In Rehearsal

Whitney Houston, eat your heart out.


It's still winter, dammit. Think I have cabin fever, or something. Does the brain get sluggish with the cold? because I just can't seem to kick into gear on almost anything. I've made myself a "task list", but don't seem to be getting through it with dispatch. I did get the pattern submission into the mail, now it's just the waiting game.

One of my tasks is to start working on some goal planning worksheets. A few women here in town have started a support/accountability group for small business planning. Goal setting has never been one of my strengths in any area of my life, but maybe it's time for that to change.


Oh wow, late breaking news: Laura and MollyBeez sent me one of these. Amazing how that, well, made my day.

You have no idea how happy that makes me. Same back at both of you!

The instructions say "Give the award to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy about blogland. Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so they can pass it on. Beware you may get the award several times."

This is really hard to limit to ten, there are way more than ten on my favorites list. But here goes, in no particular order and with no unified set of criteria: Knit Think, the KnittingLadies at Interim House, Annie M, magnusmog, Kmkat, Dale-Harriet, Betsy, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Life Starts Now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What's that about a Badger? (and a short, unrelated review)

Do you mean to tell me that Bucky Badger is not globally recognized? No? Well I can't just plonk in a picture of the striding along UW mascot, because he is most decidedly copyrighted. So here's a link to a page that shows him in all his determined glory. (Who knew there was a wiki just for basketball? Not me, 'til I googled for images.) I'm honestly not much of a sports fan, but I just love the way he juts his lower lip out, throws back his shoulders and clenches his fists. There's a badger that's ready for some action.


Complete change of topic. For some time now, I've been meaning to mention just how much I like Black Purl Magazine. It's still a fairly modest size, but has a wide, inclusive scope; showcasing needlework, including knitting, with a bent toward ethnic and/or traditional design. The current issue has a very nice roundtable discussion with six knitting designers (some familiar to me, others not) talking about their inspiration, passion and process. It's well worth reading.

Every issue includes several free patterns. Even though I don't crochet, I'm particularly charmed by Paloma Perra's little sheep, especially after reading her description of its part in Mexican New Year's celebrations. She's a frequent contributor, and her textile history lessons always appear to be well researched. The excellent Donna Druchnas has also been a regular (and is one of the designers featured in the round table). Her pattern this month is a little cell phone cozy based on Andean coin purses. It would be a great first project for someone who hasn't done stranded colorwork before. There are also patterns for a simple but lovely triangle lace shawl, and a scarf with Japanese characters for "peace (free from war)" and "peace of mind" worked in intarsia.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Messin' Around With Short Rows

I'm playing around with some short row shaping and color changes.

I like the effect, but what could it possibly be? The yoke of a sweater for Bucky Badger? A skirt for Molly the American Girl doll? The beginnings of an extremely funky hat? But, darn, that's going to be a lot of ends to weave in.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It snowed and it snowed and it snowed

All day yesterday and most of last night.

I shovelled in the afternoon, while Mr. S. was at work. Mr. S shovelled in the evening while I was at work. Then this morning before leaving for work, Mr S and his brother got out the joint snow blower and gave everything another going over.

Sidewalk clear for now, and the sun is shining, and as a farmer friend pointed out "It's good for the land."

In hopes of minimizing the ice dam build up, I hauled out the roof rake.

That's about a 10 foot pole. There is another 4 foot section I could have added on, but at full length it's too heavy and unwieldy for me to handle.So I just scraped up as high as I could reach.

Of course that left me with

Another pile of snow in front of the door. Sigh. I'm tempted to just wait for spring.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"The Yarn Lady Called" and cat talk

One of the things I do at the library is unpack tubs that come bi-weekly from the inter-library loan system, check items in, then call the patrons who requested them. Yesterday morning I phoned one of the regulars, and her daughter answered. Since I could hear E (the patron) in the background, I just asked her to tell her mom that a book had come to the library for her. Now I assumed that I was talking to the older daughter. But a few minutes later, E called back, laughing, to ask if I had just tried to reach her. Turns out it was the younger one, the four year old who had taken the message. She had been a little unclear on the whole concept, but she did tell her mom that "The yarn lady called." I was tickled to death that E figured it out from there.


Baxter gets most of the press, mostly because he's so darned good looking. But our other, senior, cat is Gato. She's smaller and more angular, and she rarely ever seems to completely relax. Sometimes, having her on your lap feels like sitting next to someone whose elbow is poking into you. If you pet Baxter when he's asleep, he generally just slowly leans into it. If you pet Gato when she's asleep, she jumps and often as not moves away. But she's a valiant little thing.

She was born in an alley in the middle of winter, and rode home on my daughters lap in a paper lunch sack.

While she was still "too young" to be spayed, she escaped and had a wild night. So she was a mother once, and a very good one.

When she was a couple of years old, we were sitting at dinner and heard her crying outside. When we got there, her back legs were limp. She's been hit by a car and dragged herself from the street halfway around the house with a broken pelvis. I thought she might never walk again. Then I thought she would never be able to jump up on a chair again. Then I thought she would never be able to go up a tree again. But she proved me wrong.

At age thirteen she was able to fight off the vet and his assistant when they tried to get blood for her thyroid test. (Bless the good vet, he actually came to the house and gave her a sedative before the next, successful, attempt.)

She knocks things off bed stands at four in the morning, just to wake you up. Her nose runs (copiously) when she purrs. She's chewed through more phone cords than I can count, because she knows that's a sure way to get you to pay attention and feed her or let her out

But in the evenings, when she climbs up on Mr S's lap and finally relaxes and he pets her until her nose runs, she has such a look of bliss on her face that you feel it's a wonder and an honor to see so pure a moment of happiness in this broken down old world. She's a good cat.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

How to knit the headband

Since you asked. Wait, no you didn't. Well I'm going to give the directions anyway. (no new picture, there were more than enough in the last post).

You will need:
some bulky thick and thin yarn (about 50 yards) Plain bulky would probably work, too.
- US size 8 needles (5 mm) or size to give gauge
- Button
- Tapestry needle
- small bit of lighter weight yarn in coordinating color for sewing on button

Gauge: 3.5 sts = 1 inch or 14 sts = 4 inches/10 cm in stockinette st

Pattern Stitch:

Row 1 and all odd numbered rows (RS): knit.

Rows 2, 4 and 6: k2, p8, k2.

Rows 8 and 10: knit.

Edited to add Abbreviations:

kfb = increase one stitch by knitting into the front and back of the same stitch.

k2tog = knit two stitches together (right leaning decrease)

ssk = slip, slip, knit (left leaning decrease)


Cast on 4 stitches.

Increase section

Row 1 (RS): kfb, k2, kfb.

Rows 2, 4, 6 and 8: knit.

Row 3: kfb, k4, kfb.

Row 5: kfb, k6, kfb.

Row 7: kfb, k8, kfb. [12 stitches on needle)

Straight section

Work rows 1-10 of Pattern Stitch 7 times for a small head or 8 times for a large head. (I consider my head large. It measures 22 inches around at forhead level.)

Work rows 1-6 of Pattern Stitch

Decrease section

Row 1 (RS): ssk, k8, k2tog.

Rows 2, 4, and 6: knit.

Row 3: ssk, k6, k2tog.

Row 5: ssk, k4, k2tog.

Row 7: ssk, k2, k2tog.

Row 8: Bind off 3 stitches. There will be one stitch remaining on the right needle. *put stich back on left needle and knit it; repeat from * 7 times. Break yarn leaving a 6 inch tail. Pull yarn tail through last stitch.


Sew the button onto the increase section. Using the tail of yarn left after the bind off, sew the free end of the little chain of stitches down to form a button loop. (You may want to try the headband on first. Fit can be adjusted slightly by button placement and size of loop.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Warm Ears

I had somewhere in the range of 45 - 50 yards of knittydirtygirl's handspun left after making the cuffs for the ribbed mittens. What to do with it?

I often wear my hair clipped at the top of my head. This makes it hard to wear a hat.

Note expression of intense concentration as I try to take photo in mirror with camera at arm's length.

How about a headband/earwarmer thingy? After one false start (too narrow), it didn't take me much more than an hour to finish this.

Looks kind of like a slug just laying there, doesn't it? Here's the artsy shot.

Wear with button in back or button in front?

60's downhill vs homage to Lucy

Either way, I'll have warm ears. Good thing, because it is cold out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Like Words? Have Lots of Time?

I've discovered a spot where I can spend even more online time than at Ravelry, I think. It's the vocabulary game at the Free Rice website. I made it to level 50! (and promptly fell back, but eventually made it again, and fell back). Oh, and advertising revenue from the site all goes to support the United Nations World Food Program. I checked that claim out on Snopes, and it seems to be perfectly legitimate. And it is supposed to improve your vocabulary. So play without guilt. (Except for all that time not accomplishing anything here at the home front.) Forget all the altruistic motivations, though. I just want bragging rights.

Edited to add: Here's how it works. A word is posted with four possible words that mean the same thing. You pick, and if you are right you move up. The words keep getting harder. It's a pretty quick trip to about level 45. After that it gets dicier. You can tell that it originates in the UK: bosky, fen, copse, furze, gorse. It also helps if you have read Tennyson or Mallory or other medieval-y things: samite, oubliette, surtout, demesne, salver. There are also many words taken from the French. And Italian. And those scientific ones that at least you can sometimes get a clue from the Latin root.

Of course, you have a one in four chance by just guessing, and even better if you can do process of elimination. A stated purpose of the site is to help people improve their vocabularies. I guess it works. I just learned that "thrasonical" means "bragging". I'm not sure when I'll be able to work that into a sentence, but I'll be ready when the occasion comes up.

Oh, and credit where credit is due: I found this on Cheryl's blog.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekend Snippets

Saturday morning at the library was slow. Don't know why, as the weather wasn't bad here. I had a chance to quickly flip through the new Creative Knitting magazine and noticed an interview with Annie Modesitt. In my knitting missionary guise, I try not to abscond with new knitting books/magazines until they have had a chance to circulate a little. But I think I'll have to take this one home soon, because she is someone I admire tremendously as a designer and as a person.

When I got home it was fairly warm out, that is, hovering just around freezing. So I wandered around the yard a little, staring at the ice dams at the back of the house and willing them to melt (not a notably successful endeavor), and taking a few pictures. This was the one I liked best.

The Thompson and Morgan seed catalog came in the mail so I spent much of the afternoon pouring over it. I have finally almost learned not to order more seeds than I have time/room to plant, but I sure like looking at all the new varieties and the old tried and true ones, too.

One of my Christmas gifts from Mr S was the movie "Winged Migration", and last night we settled in to watch. The photography is heartbreakingly beautiful and enhanced by the fact that there is almost no narration.

I've almost finished the knitting part of the lace thing. Starting to ponder how I will block it: pins, or smooth to shape and let dry, or possibly try steam blocking?

My Thursday Night Knitting (meaning current project that doesn't need too much thinking because I'm knitting in company) is a second iteration of the checkmate socks in a different yarn and different color combination.

The yarn is Cervinia Calzeterria, purchased from Smileys about a year and a half, maybe two years, ago. It was billed as fingering. I would call it heavy fingering/light sport. It's not very soft, though it gets a bit better after a few washings. It does seem to wear well.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Not the knitting genius

I have a small local reputation as a person who knows a fair amount about knitting. This is mostly because a couple of other people I know, more skillful than I, aren't running around acting as knitting missionaries. They just sit quietly and turn out their impressive Norwegian sweaters and Arans. Me, I talk it up. "Sure you can knit socks - let me show you." "Dropped stitch? -No problem, here's what you do." It impresses the uninitiated, and I build a rep.

But I sort of met my match on Wednesday. L. was working her shift down at the River Valley Trading Co., and since things were slow decided to work on a shawl pattern for her spinning group's annual challenge. But she was perplexed by the directions for the cast on and gave me a holler and I went down, confident I could help her out.

The directions were something like "make a slip loop and work into it as if to knit, then as if to purl until you have 9 sts". Mind you, this was on a pattern that had been sold as relatively easy; and in fact the directions for the rest of the project were spelled out clearly and in detail, and were indeed quite simple. But the cast on directions were a bit opaque to an advanced beginner.

I, however, did know this cast on, at least in the sense that I recognized right away what the designer was after. This was familiar to me, not just vague gobbelty gook. It's a classic way to start a shawl worked outward from the center. I could remember reading the directions. I could almost visualize an illustration that's in one of my books (which book?). I clearly understood why the designer had chosen this cast on (to be able to go back and snug up those initial stitches.) The only problem was, I couldn't exactly do it. Oh, as I dropped my purse and plunked down in the chair, I thought I could. When I actually picked up yarn and needles, I couldn't. The really frustrating thing was that I almost had it. Nine stitches on a loop - no problem. Getting the loop to pull up snug - no way. Repeat with same results - several times.

So I finally did the sensible thing. Went home. Googled. Found Eunny Jang's deservedly renowned lace tutorial (now that woman is a knitting genius). Located the cast on I knew enough about to at least recognize - it's down near the bottom of this page. E-mailed the link to L. (And saw right away that my problem had been caused by working onto a slip knot, instead of just a loop of yarn. Doh!)

If I can't really be the walking knitting encyclopedia, maybe I'll settle for knitting reference librarian...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I've figured out what to do with the one ball of Kidsilk Haze that I found during the stash reorganization. I've started working on it.

The color is really a deep teal, not the silver gray that appears in the picture. Maybe the light reflecting off all that "halo" washed it out?

I can't say what it is or show a clear picture, because I'm going to suck it up and try to submit the pattern for publication. But I can say that this is really pretty yarn and I would be happy to work with it on a larger scale if only I could afford it. I have heard that Madil Kid Seta is nearly identical, and somewhat less expensive. What about elann's Silken Kydd? Does anyone know how it compares?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Win Yarn (did that grab ya?)

No, not here. Over at Christine's blog. She's celebrating her first blog anniversary, so go say "Hi" and tell her about your favorite knitting project. The prize is really lovely, but if you don't really need more yarn (say you've taken a vow of non-acquisition), say "Hi" any way.

Big thanks to everyone who commented on my last post - nice to know that I'm not the only "not Martha Stewart" in the bunch.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

I am going to get my yarn organized, yes indeed.

Here's how it went on Wednesday...

I will at least get all the bits of worsted weight wool into one place. I'll use the 3-drawer plastic bin that I traded for with Loveliest Daughter (she got my old camera.) But wait, first I have to go put the wheels on the bin, and rearrange things in the spare room so I have a place to put it.

Wheels on, unit positioned. Now haul all the cardboard boxes out of the closet and start sorting. Oooh, look what I found.

An almost finished object. Felted clutch purse - still needs magnetic clasp. Add to shopping list. Go to You Tube for background music. Not enough k.d. lang doing country, but I'll settle for what I can get.

Throw odds and ends of worsted in top drawer. Some ends less than 10 yds. Toss out or save? Decide to save for now. Oooh, look what else I found.

More GD eyelash. On the other hand, I did come across a ball of Kidsilk Haze. I'd been wondering where it had gone to. Ok, lace weight will go in the bottom drawer. Run out to car for Springsteen Seeger Sessions CD, because all of a sudden I really want to hear "Mary Don't You Weep". D**n. Seeger CD missing. Go with Aretha. Note to self: what am I going to do with one ball of Kidsilk Haze?

Search attic for stray worsted yarn. None there, but found some sport weight wool. Yay! Now I can swatch for the mittens. (I like those colors, but are they mitten colors? Is that really sport weight? Note to self, check WPI.)

There's room yet in the bottom drawer. I'll put it there. Wander around trying to find that can of Diet Pepsi I put down somewhere. Crank up Aretha a notch. Pull out some things I have finally convinced myself I will really never, ever use - no really. Set aside for thrift store. Return remaining cardboard boxes to closet (sock yarn, 3 partial balls Plymouth Encore all different colors, couple unmatched skeins of bulky.)

Go downstairs to sunroom to check contents of cedar chest. Move all the houseplants off chest to be able to open.

Inside: a bunch of partial comes of shetland that is somewhere between lace and fingering in odd colors, some more odd balls of fingering wool, 2 skeins (one white, one gray) of gaawgeous handspun worsted wool that I had been "saving for good" so long I forgot I had them, one ball of extremely scratchy pale pink worsted wool (rug yarn?), 2 balls of gray wool left over from a sweater made years ago. (glad I found it, the elbows on that sweater are wearing and need reinforcing). Replace plants. Carry gaawgeous wool and mending yarn back upstairs, (leave scratchy pink behind and pretend it doesn't exist.)

Sit down and groove to Aretha. Decide that's enough moving yarn back and forth for one day. Haul empty cardboard boxes to garage. Note to self: find Springsteen, mend sweater sleeves, figure out where time goes.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Civic Engagement

It's a very cold morning, but I went down to the fire station. Senator Russ Feingold was holding a listening session, here in little old population 800 Blanchardville.

There were a few people in place when I arrived. By the time the session started there were over 100, including at 15-20 high school students who had taken the the school bus up from Monroe (good for that teacher!). I recognized a lot of neighbors, but as this was a session for the whole county there was a fair representation of out-of-towners.

I've reached a point in my life where I'm not particularly awed by public officials. (I've been rude to state assembly persons more than once.) But I did feel a certain kind a awe, because I respect Sen. Feingold so highly. I haven't always agreed with his votes on every issue, but I have always appreciated the intelligence and integrity with which he makes his choices. And he will always be a hero to me for standing up against the Iraq War and against the "Patriot" Act.
So I felt privileged to be there.

This wasn't an event with a preset agenda. The Senator took questions/comments and responded to them. These ranged from a request from the county sheriff for funding help, to concerns about the inadequacies of electronic voting systems, to farm issues, to veteran's concerns, to education issues to the budget deficit. The one statement that drew a general round of applause was an attendee's statement that we need to get out of Iraq, now. The one issue that was mentioned most was the increasing number of people who do not have access to health care coverage. The last speaker was a woman in tears, whose husband had just lost his job. She is diabetic, with $400 a month in expenses for medication and testing supplies, and she is scheduled for an operation. And she has no idea how they will pay for any of these things.

I appreciated the Senator's responses. Where he was familiar with an issue or involved with legislation he gave clear answers. Where he was less familiar, he said so. He stressed bi-partisanship and gave praise to politicians "across the aisle" where he felt it was due. But most of all, I felt that he was genuinely listening. It all felt a bit like democracy actually happening. Given the directions this country has been taking in the last few years, that was refreshing. All in all, the morning felt like a good way to start the new year.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

amazing k.d.

I'd almost forgotten how astonishingly good k.d. lang is. Then on New Year's Eve, Mr S. turned on PBS for the Tony Bennett "Duets" special. Terrific all the way through, but the absolute highlight in our collective opinion was the segment with Tony and k.d. Then last night when I was catching up on blogs I found Lucky's post with links to different versions of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Here's k.d. If that doesn't break your heart then lift up the pieces and make them whole, I don't know what can.

But that's the kind of song that sticks in your head for a long time, so maybe you would rather listen to k.d. and Tony.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the evening listening to YouTube clips.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Just a quick follow up

to yesterday's post:

I should have made it more clear that the Ravelry "ughs" are all self selected. If you post one of your projects, you can rate your happiness level. Projects given the lowest ratings may appear when you go to the People tab and click "show me the ughs". But no one is rating other peoples' projects this way.

It can be very educational when knitters comment on their disappointments, and in one case at least (intentionally) extremely funny. They can range from perceptive analysis of why a particular yarn was unsuitable for the pattern selected to "I knew it was coming out too big, but I kept going anyway" to "I just lost interest and frogged it".


Kmkat: thanks for the link to the Interim House blog! This looks like a wonderful project. Everyone, go take a look at it.

But honey, be careful what you wish for: " could just send your extra yarn to me..." Because you could end up with a honking big pile of eyelash on your doorstep. Not a threat, or anything...