Tuesday, March 28


While I was in Utah doing this:

Zach was in Seattle doing this:

He had finished the earflaps before I left. The morning of my trip, I gave him a quick lesson in picking up stitches and crochet cast-on, since long-tail cast-on would not work for the pattern. Four days later, here's the result. I'm speechless. I suspect that was his motivation. Now we just have to figure out how to do the crochet edging.

My trip was lots of fun. We didn't really ski that much, just one morning, but the whole time we had a blast. My friend and I pretty much talked nonstop for the whole four days. Reminiscing about the past, catching up on the present. Looked over the old yearbooks and laughed at the teachers' outfits and hairstyles from the 70's. We watched UConn blast my current home team, then cheered on as George Mason --- from our original hometown --- bested UConn. Her friend, a realtor, showed us a couple multimillion dollar vacation homes on the market. Some folks just live a little more splendiferously than the rest of us.

Husband and son managed fine at home without me. While no laundry was attempted, the kitchen was spotless. And yes, they did cook. Zach made French Toast one night, the other nights I believe the menu was spaghetti. Tonight I'll make Kabuli Chicken Curry --- will be a welcome change for them from Classico Tomato & Basil sauce.

Wednesday, March 22

Herbs and ears

What a real bay tree looks like in the spring. Reading about Dave and Norma's bay tree adventures makes me remember one more thing I love about Seattle. Oh, and there's the rosemary and lavender and the thyme and the sage... the little old Italian lady who lived in here for 27 years knew what she was doing in the yard.

One earflap, ready for a partner. I think Melinda's optimism helped Zach carry on. He said, "I think it will be easier when I get to the complicated part."

Monday, March 20

We've been Swatching

Two two-color swatches. Can you guess which one I did and which one is Zach's? We both started practicing two-color knitting with the Cascade 220s in brown and red. Mine was ok and his... well he learned something and he frogged. As he had just taught me some current teen slang, I was able to declare that I owned him and that I owned feral knitting. His calm response was, "gee mom, you really should have scored higher on that competiveness quiz." Then he proceeded to knit the swatch for his Peruvian hat --- and now he owns me. While he had at first been OK with my selection of bright colors, once there were three colors on the swatch, red, purple and green, he got cold feet. I'm glad he finished the swatch, because once all six colors are together, they really do balance each other well. But it will certainly be a bold hat. (I made the bunny with the weird pointy feet, btw)

Jessica commented in an earlier post regarding this hat (Thanks, Jessica, I felt honored to be read) that I should consider the Fiber Gallery's Thursday evening clinic for help. Well, so far we seem to have figured out the multiple color bit. The one thing I am clueless on is the crocheted edging. Knowing how high a regard Jessica has for crocheting, I hope she's working when we come for help. That's a ways off though. Can't crochet on the edging til there's a hat.

First, the earflaps need to be knit. The directions call for knitting a 4 stitch wide, 70 row long, garter stitch band (the orange bit). After that, stitches are picked up along one side, with decreases for the earflap shape. Only problem is that it is really hard to get even tension, nice fabric four stitches wide. He's started and frogged several times now. Any suggestions I have about modifying the pattern --- trying something else to get the same effect? No way. That kid can be stubborn. Wonder where that comes from?

Warmth for the Weekend

Last week, my friend Nancy asked if I could recommend a plumber --- she had a mysterious leak. I recommended a company that has been satisfactory for me in the past, and fortunately they were able to find and fix her broken drain quickly. I then commented to her that I had both a snake and an auger and knew how to wield them. Little did I realise during my "I am woman watch me roar (and snake a drain)" moment of hubris, that my furnace had gone kaput. I know nada about fixing the bloody furnace. Friday afternoon I called the fellow who installed the very green and very unusual furnace three years ago. He said he would try to come by on Saturday. I said that would be great, but if not, I could hold til Monday.

Well, Monday it was (and my furnace is now all better). Not too much hardship, as I have a gas fireplace and --- with the husband and son on a boy scout camping trip --- no fighting over who gets the chair closest to the fireplace. Knitting, reading, drinking tea, cosied up next to the fireplace I was fine. The rest of the house was a little chilly, but I survived. So did Franz and Zach, look where they slept Saturday night--->

A boy scout weekend snow camping at Mt Rainier. A memorable fun trip, they said.

I also had the pleasure of experiencing some Dulaan warmth, at Melinda's knit-in on Sunday. I met Ryan and Elaine and even, briefly, TMK. I brought the two hats Zach and I made and worked on a sweater, while chatting, snacking, playing with the dogs. Warm people, warm knitting, warm sunny window.

Knitting for Dulaan is such a win-win. I am still really new to knitting, so I want to practice new stitches and techniques. This Dulaan sweater is perfect for that. I get to learn how to construct a sweater, knit fast in a child's size without worrying about gauge. I just cast on plenty of stitches for a child somewhere between ages 2 and 10, then knit up til I could figure out exactly how big this was going to be. Now I can use Anne Budd's book to make it all work out.

Melinda offered some yarn from her stash for more Dulaan projects. I took some handspun home to make another hat. Elaine showed me a wonderfully sproingy, soft and warm hat she knit using a brioche slip-stitch rib. I think that will work really well for this yarn --- another new thing to learn and play with.

Time for Scarves

About two months ago I googled a long-lost high school buddy. I had tried googling her in the past with no luck, but this time success. Turns out she also moved out west, she's in Park City, Utah. She was happy to hear from me and I am going to Utah this coming weekend for a reunion. Very exciting! Utah mountains, a long weekend to catch up with an old friend, a mini-vacation from husband and son. We may ski, we may head south to Moab, but whatever we do, I know we won't stop gabbing, hours and hours of non-stop girl talk, reminiscing and philosophising about our lives. The scarf on the left is a present for her. (Branching Out by Susan Lawrence, in Noro Cash Iroha, teal, two skeins.)

It was my first lace project, and while frustrating at first, after a while the chart, the pattern, the knitting became intuitive and easier. I've even decided to join the Mountain Lace knit-along, to make the Mountain Stream scarf, also designed by Susan Lawrence. Went to my closest LYS to find some KidSilk Haze, the recommended yarn.

Turned out LYS does not stock KidSilk, but they do have Douceur et Soie, virtually the same thing. However, the skeins are five yards shorter than the KidSilk and the instructions for the scarf say that "you will come perilously close to running out of [KidSilk]". I decided to wait, try another LYS for the KidSilk, but then noticed a sample scarf knit with the Douceur et Soie --- a simple garter stitch goodness made with two strands of the Douceur et Soie and a strand of Tahki Pansy (cast-on 17 stitches, US 11 needles, garter stitch ahoy).
So I knit one. This one will be a present for my friend's little sister, who also lives in Park City and, I just found out, going through a divorce. Figured she could use something bright and cheery.

Aside: The sample scarf at LYS was knit with the same colorway of the Pansy, with a mint green Douceur et Soie. They didn't have the green in stock, and anyway I liked this peach color. Well, when I took the two yarns to the front to purchase them, instead of ringing me up, the woman behind the counter just took them and looked uncomfortable. She hemmed and hawed while she scrutinized them. She really did NOT want to sell them to me as a pair, she finally was able to say what her body language made clear, she thought they clashed horribly. Did I ASK for her opinion? NO! And everyone who has seen the scarf has approved, including my very-picky-about-color, artistically-inclined son. I counted on his honest opinion and he complimented the colors before I even asked. I shop at this store because it is walking distance, has good selection, and I have gotten friendly, helpful advice about half the time. Just the other half of the time, the staff makes me feel insecure and inadequate.

Saturday, March 11

Question of the day.

Can we turn this

Into this?

given that we have no experience working with two colors at once and that this Vogue Knitting Caps & Hats has lousy directions?

Zach really wants to make this hat. I like the idea of purchasing six skeins of yarn for one hat. Think of the stash possibilities of the rest. As the clerk at the Fiber Gallery pointed out, this Lamb's Pride yarn would make an awesome felted bag.

First we are practicing two color work on some cascade 220 leftovers, with help (?) from Sally Melville's Color: The Knitting Exerience V3.

Tuesday, March 7


I guess I don't believe in yarn monogamy or else I am totally ADD, since I have cast on four and a half projects since finishing my Olympic sweater (non-gold-medal-winning but I love it nonetheless). While this sweater got me over the hurdle of finishing a major project, I still don't feel like I can call myself a knitter unless I finish more items. And if I am just a dabbler, not a knitter, I don't feel like I can justify purchasing any more yarn. Two of the items I started are gifts, with deadlines even, so that will be the acid test. Can I finish the scarf before my trip in two weeks? Can I finish the shawl before... well there is a very small chance the intended recipient will run across this blog so I better not say more.

The great thing about knitting WIPs is that they can be hidden in a drawer and no one is the wiser. My never-ending task/hobby/joy/bane is gardening. Gardening is Always a work in progress, and it is Always right out smack dab visible for the world to see. There have been times when I have felt like avoiding the neighbors because my front yard was such a mess, but I've pretty much gotten over that. Doesn't mean the yard is in top shape or anything, I've just gotten over my shame. I began a front garden and walkway renovation last summer.

Crushed gravel underlayment does not a pathway make. We have a terrific stone store nearby with a wonderful selection. I've browsed the stone yard at least half a dozen times and I still get overwhelmed and can't decide what to use. And I spent days, weeks even, last summer scraping and stripping the paint off the porch. It still needs more stripping before I can repaint. This summer for sure.

I don't know if this is a WIP or FO. It's a Cloud hat done according to Ryan's pattern. Only problem is, it does not seem warm enough for Mongolia. I wore it yesterday as a test. Low 50's and windy. While it was warmer than not wearing any hat, it was not that warm. What to do? I'm thinking of lightly felting it, but don't know how the mohair will react. I hope to meet Ryan at Melinda's Dulaan knit-in for more advice. Until then I will try other designs for warm hats.

My first sweater, begun in December shortly after I relearned to knit. It was supposed to be a very simple first sweater project, but morphed into a monster. Will I be able to face it again?

The box of bulbs on the deck is doing nicely. On the patio is the lumber for my husband's UFO, an arbor. Posts and supports are done, but he wasn't happy with the way the across thing looked so he took it apart to rework it.

Sunday, March 5

Random Thoughts

License Plates:

Just got the annual renewal notice and this year we are getting new plates. Why? Is there a new design? That would be nice, but I haven't seen any yet. I'm a little sad to lose our current plate which we've had for 8 years, the life of the car. Not a vanity plate, just the usual random three digit-three letters, our current license plate, nonetheless, is easy for me to remember. The three letters are the initials of a noted Chicago educator, the founder of the school that was the archrival of the school at which I taught. This educator shared first and middle names with my dad, who died over 30 years ago. So in some very small, very obscure way, our license plate gives me a connection to my past. A good connection, even though it's a rival high school and my alcoholic father.

We can retain our plate number if we pay an extra twenty dollars. Nope, got better things to do with twenty dollars. Who knows what interesting connections I will form with the new combination of numbers and letters?

School & Stress:

My son goes to public school part-time and homeschools the rest of the time. This is our first year doing so and it's working out. He has time to explore other interests and not feel that the burden of school and life combined is crushing him. In science class they are studying the heart and heart health. They discussed stress and the teacher asked the kids how many felt over-stressed, always on the go. Zach reports that just about everyone but him raised their hands.

So do I find comfort in that or worry that not enough stress in his life is somehow a bad thing? Anyway, his project is coming along.

Friday, March 3

Ate, Shot and Left

What Cheney did. Remove the comma and you get Whittington's response. Ain't commas grand?

In response to my grumble about illiteracy, Melinda asked if I had read Eat Shoots and Leaves, by Lynne Truss. The answer is not yet. I am hampered in reading it because I own it. Weird? Well, I am not alone with this problem. I saw Gayle Richardson, librarian extraordinaire, at a party shortly after her retirement. When I thanked her for a long ago recommendation for Handling Sin, by Michael Malone, I also commented that I didn't think any of his other books were nearly as good. She replied that while she owned a couple other Malone books, she hadn't read any yet. Perhaps, following the example of a recently retired friend, she should vow to read a book a month that she owns. Another woman in the conversation misunderstood and was shocked, how can you vow to read just one book a month? But I got it. Between borrowed books from friends and the library, there's always something to read that has an expiration date. So books on the shelves tend to wait their turn a long time.

I used to work in a bookstore and a savvy customer asked for this book before the American edition was released and nobody on this continent knew about Truss. One of my favorite tasks at that job was doing the research for this sort of obscure request. As soon as I figured out what she was asking for, I placed an order for myself as well. When it was released and I brought my copy home, my then ten year old son immediately absconded with it and read it. I have browsed through it and enjoyed its curmudgeonly flavor. Perhaps, someday I will read it and finally learn when to use a semicolon. Until then I have Zach to pick at my grammar and punctuation (a task he relishes).

What I do not intend to purchase or borrow is Lynne's next book, a rant on manners. The subtitle for Talk to the Hand is The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door. Ouch, she doesn't go that far with punctuation even. Does she say that since people can't write, one should stop reading? No. Is the bolt the door advice hyperbole? Evidently not. The New York Times did a scathingly funny interview with Ms Truss after the manners book was out and it turns out that Lynne has absolutely no manners and no friends and she is happy with that thank-you-very-much. It's really worth a read, especially for those who liked Eats, Shoots and Leaves. NYT charges for its archives, but Seattle residents can use our Public Library's subscription to Proquest to get a PDF of the article for free. The article is Lynne Truss Has Another Gripe With You, by Deborah Solomon, NYT Sunday Magazine, Nov 20th, 2005.

Thursday, March 2

Three days later....

It's done! Yes, my first finished sweater. It fits and it is soft and warm and it doesn't look too amateurish. Photo does not do the colors justice.

I learned a lot and I feel like a real knitter. Perhaps I ought to blog what I learned, but what I want to do instead is start something new.

In addition to the Dulaan hat that Zach has usurped and the scarf I've started (a DDR inspired scarf to go with Zach's hat) I have three projects in mind; a lacy scarf, a lacy shawl and socks (clearly I want to up the challenge level). Went to a LYS to choose materials for them this morning. Deciding which to cast on first is my next challenge.

Zach's got a new project going too.