Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Behind On Blogging

So many things to do and not nearly the proper time to do them! Story of my life, and I'm sure it's the story of your lives as well!

I had a birthday just over a week ago. Another trip around the sun, I can hardly believe it's gone so quickly!

My sweeetie took me down to a little tiny yarn store in Creswell called Mountain Shadow Ranch on the actual day of my birth. He took a book and settled himself in next to the wood pellet stove... I spent money.

Louet Euroflax Sport in Eggplant

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I'm not sure what this is going to be, but how could I resist this color?

Three balls of Frog Tree Cotton/Silk

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Again with the purple. Seeing a trend here? I'm thinking that this will be a wrap from one of my Interweave Knits magazines, the name of which escapes me at the moment. It's so very soft!

A ball of Southwest Trading Company Bamboo

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Tuck-in scarf? Ascot of some kind? I just don't know!

And a ball of TOFUtsies in the October colorway

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Socks, what else?

On the Monday after the birthday, I took my mother and best friend with me to Sisters, OR to visit The Stitchin Post. It's a combination of quilting and yarn/knitting/crochet. Since Mom's a quilter and my best friend's a crocheter, there was something there for each of us.

On the way there we stopped at Sahalie Falls. This is one of the more spectacular things that the MacKenzie River does on its way through the Cascade Range, and a Must See on any trip through the mountains.

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The rainbows are fantastic, you can see at least one wherever you're standing.

Here's a look at the waterfall through a young tree.

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And finally here's an old snag. You can see that there's snow on the ground.

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Here's what I got at the store:

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13 balls of 1824 Wool in the loveliest shade of teal. This is destined to be the Notre Dame de Grace Pullover from the Fall Interweave Knits.

Not pictured here are the tabletop swift from my mother and the ball winder from my husband. Be still my heart!

All in all a very nice birthday indeed. Plenty of time with family and friends, and also plenty of time to look back and reflect on the past year. It's really been a doozy, what with a bit of job stress at the end of the summer and coping with the dissolution of an on-line community I'd grown to cherish. Fortunately we've found other places to be together, and so the internet friendships continue.

To all of my friends who've been with me through the good times and the tough times, all I can say is thank you for sharing the journey with me.

Merci, merci mille fois

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Memory Lane: Checkerboard Crib Blanket

So, here's another project from last year.

My friends announced that they were having a baby, and it produced a flurry of excitement amongst all of the crafty folk. You know how we are... I started out with the idea that I might make an entire wardrobe for the newcomer. A bonnet, some soakers, sweaters, booties, blankets in various weights and sizes.

Then I came to my senses. Pregnancies only last for nine months, and the wish-list of projects I had in mind could conceivably keep me busy until the baby filed for Social Security. I settled on one of the old standbys: a crib blanket.

I consulted with a mutual friend, who reminded me that the mom-to-be likes bright colors. Bright contrasting colors. No pastels, no traditional "baby" colors. Right then, a bright contrasting crib blanket it would be!

Once I had the pattern picked out I went off to the craft store looking for yarn, and I found these:


Bright and contrasting, oh my yes! I didn't need sunglasses, but that may be because I knitted it in the fall!

Here it is about 1/3 complete:

I really liked they way that the contrasting colors from both yarns kind of pool together and move through the blanket. The pattern is a very simple one. Garter stitch borders and slip stitches to make the checkerboard effect.
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And here it is all done, being modeled by my faithful bear for perspective:
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He's wearing a handknit sweater... but that's another post.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New Beginning

My front yard is boring. Grass, just grass and a couple of places to put pretty things.

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It’s small, and the grass isn’t doing very well.

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The little bed along the porch has been over-planted with Calla Lilies and the soil’s not in very good shape. The whole thing lacks imagination and doesn’t add any interest to the space. I could spend a lot of time and money amending the soil and patching the bald spots, but it would still be this little tiny patch of grass.
Let’s face it, I’m just not happy with it.


Fortunately, I have a best friend who’s a landscape designer. I look at this space and I see something boring, she looks at it and sees potential. She and I spent part of an afternoon talking about the kinds of plants that I like, and she came up with a plan.

We’re going to put in paths and build up sloped beds. We’ll salvage the stones used in the current construction to hold the new soil in place and we’ll use gravel and walkable ground covers for the paths.

So my husband and I spent a few hours on Sunday digging out quite a bit of grass. It was hot sweaty work, but one of the things that kept him willing was the knowledge that he'll never have to mow the front yard again.

This is what we've got now:

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The wall in front of the lonely rose is going to come down, and the new path will curve up into the space

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I know it looks like boring grass accented with a bunch of dirt right now, but hopefully it will look like a whole new garden in a few weeks. I need to take out the sprinkler system, since I won’t be needing it with the new plantings. I’ll be taking out soil until the paths are three inches below grade. Then I’ll put down cardboard over the remaining grass. This will smother the grass but not harm the soil, and it will compost right back down into the dirt.

Truck in some gravel and topsoil, get the new plants and shrubs into place, and hey-presto! New space!

I’m excited. Even with the project barely begun I can see the potential now.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dear Laura

One more time around the sun, hard to believe.

What can I say to you that doesn't sound clich├ęd? My admiration for you is boundless, and if I must grow up it'll be just fine if I turn out just like you.

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There are so many things to thank you for. All the soccer games, all the riding lessons, all the horse shows, all the concerts - from "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to Tchaikovsky - you were there for them all. In the past few years, as my life has grown busier, I have realized that there must have been times you had to move heaven and earth to be at all those events, but you never let me see it.

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You indulged my passion for mismatched socks, never insisting that I find a pair for a special occasion. When I wanted to be a witch for Halloween one year, and you had miles of green fabric and almost no black, you convinced me that green witches were way scarier than black ones.

Your courage in the face of multiple frightening diagnoses and difficult treaments humbles me. Your dedication to your volunteer work for the public library, your lifelong love of reading shining out of you, inspires me. Your continual wonder and amazement at the world around you are a reminder to me that beauty is everywhere if I'll just let myself see it.

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You are my hero.

So, to the woman who read Pooh stories to me:
Hippy Happy Bitatuski Wottadusky! And many many more.

All my love, always,

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Memory Lane: Mosaic Boatneck Sweater

I got my invitation to Ravelry this weekend. Good gracious, what a tremendous amount of information! I've started uploading my backlog of project pictures to Flikr, and it occurred to me that most of these projects haven't been properly blogged. So I'll decided to to a Memory Lane series.

First up is the Mosaic Boatneck Sweater from The Pleasures of Knitting by Ann McCauley. This was my project for the Knitting World Cup in the summer of 2006. The idea was to pick a project which would be a challenge and try to complete it during the World Cup.

I'd been wanting to try sweaters, so I picked the Mosaic Boatneck for being very pretty but straightforward at the same time. I went off to the LYS and after much debate I settled on Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in Wisteria:


Such a lovely yarn, and I just adore the color. I spent the time between the yarn purchase and the beginning of the event swatching like mad. Used up most of a skein and finally settled on US 6 as being close enough. (Please note the "close enough." It will come up later)

I discovered fairly quickly why so many people hate the Boye Needlemasters so much. Sheesh, those cables are stiff, and the join has a nasty tendency to grab yarn and stretch stitches. I ended up going to the LYS for my first pair of Addi Turbos. What a difference! I was flying right along, and pretty soon I had something that looked like this:


And this:


I forged ahead, moving from the back to the sleeves. I was thinking I might actually make it, and the World Cup tournament was some pretty good soccer, even though U.S.A. went down in flames. But, life got complicated as it sometimes does, and I accepted that I wasn't going to finish in time. No matter, I had a great start on my sweater.

Midway through the front I received a set of Denise needles I'd ordered. I switched to using them since they were brand new. The felt quite a bit different than the Addis, but still better than the Boye's. I felt like my knitting was going nowhere, a phenomenon known to more experienced knitters as the Knitting Black Hole.

Would it never end? Was I doomed to knit this sweater forever? (At the time I maintained the delusion that I was a monogamous knitter... what was I thinking?) Would nothing free me from this Wisteria-colored purgatory?

Finally, I cast off. Sweet Freedom! I laid all of the pieces out and took another picture:


This was also the point where I discovered two things:
  1. "Close Enough" is a dangerous concept when it comes to knitting a sweater with a specific number of rows in the pattern, especially if you're too inexperienced to adjust for it. The pieces were a little longer than the diagram in the pattern.
  2. The front was about 1.5 inches longer than the back. I attribute this to changing needles mid-project, and also to the changes in my knitting style as I went along.
I blocked the pieces:


I measured for the neck opening and pinned the shoulders together:


And then I ran out of steam completely. I rolled the pieces up in a towel and stuck them in a box. Maybe somebody would sneak in and seam them for me? And, if I was really lucky, they'd make the front and back the same size while they were at it. (Why yes, I do have an active imagination. Why do you ask?)

Months passed. Four of them. I knit other things. The sweater was out of sight and I was trying to keep it out of mind as well. Finally, when my husband and my friends started asking awkward questions a little too often, I took the rolled towel out of the box and unrolled it on the floor.

Phooey. Still unseamed. Front and back still not the same length. Clearly I need a higher class of house-elf.

So I seamed it myself, fudging near the underarms a bit. And then I wove in all the ends. I even took the obigatory "camera head" picture:


And then I put it on and wore it to a hockey game. My husband proudly pointed out to all of his friends that I had made it myself. I think I may keep him.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Log Cabin Craziness

I was having a bit of a rough time last week, so my supervisor encouraged me to take some "me time." What does a knitter do when presented with a couple of free hours in the afternoon? She goes to the yarn store, of course!

I've been wanting to make a throw blanket, because the ones I have are getting kind of ratty, and well, because I can, after all. Earlier this year I fell under the spell of Mason-Dixon Knitting, and after the third time I checked it out of the public library I just went ahead and bought a copy for my very own. What wonderful simple knitting, and what wonderful writing as well.

There's a chapter about Log Cabin knitting, and I found myself going back to it over and over again. Smitten for sure. A chance to play with colors, and also excellent TV knitting, since it's all garter stitch.

So, I took my desire for a throw blanket to the LYS and I came home with this:

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11 balls of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Superwash in various colors.

This is my progress as of last Friday:
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The only intimidating part is what the back looks like:

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I've been catching the ends as I go along, and I think I'll spend a couple of hours soon weaving them in in another direction just to be safe.

I'm very happy to have a project going that doesn't require much in the way of attention once the strips are established. Hockey season starts today, and I'd hate to miss a good play because I was counting stitches until the next decrease!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Oriel Lace Socks

Remember this yarn?

Of course you do, how could you forget it? It's a hank of Hand Dyed Herb Green, purchased from the fabulous Blackthorne Fibers. Fingering weight superwash merino, just to die (dye?) for.

I finally felt like my sock-knitting skills were worthy of such wonderful stuff, so I've been working on a pair of toe-up socks from Sensational Knitted Socks, in the Oriel Lace pattern. They're a challenging knit, but I just keep putting in lifelines and persevering. I'm working with size 0 Addi Bamboo needles and to tell the truth they're flying right along.

Here are the toes being modeled, complete with the Teva Tan:

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If you look closely, you can see that the heel flaps are both done. I took this picture just before I turned the heels.

And here's a detail shot of the lace pattern:

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What can I say about this yarn? It's soft and sproingy, it just glides on and off of the needles. I love it to death, and I can't wait to finish these so I can wear them.

Tonight I'll pick up stitches and start the gussets... wish me luck!