Monday, March 23, 2009

It’s The Trustworthy Ones

They’re the people you’ve really got to keep an eye on, because every now and then they do something that just takes your breath away.

Like my husband, for instance. He’s as honest as any person I’ve ever met. Kind, dependable and honest, he simply has no subterfuge in him. I’m pretty sure that if he ever tried to tell a really big lie, he would simply go up in flames.

But there are times…

As has been well documented, I have a fixation with lace. I cannot seem to keep from buying lace yarn, lace books, tiny diameter needles with pointy tips and flexible cables. I am powerless in the face of tiny yarn and knitting with holes in it…

So it goes.

When the ads for the Year of Lace 2008 started appearing, I was enchanted. I hemmed and hawed and finally talked myself out of it. At that point I had precisely one lace project under my belt, a 6-foot long feather-and-fan scarf I never wear because it weighs a ton. I didn’t feel like I could justify the expense.

But things change in the course of a year, and when the ads for Year of Lace 2009 came out, I was more than enchanted… I was enthralled. Luxury yarn, famous designers, the undeniable snobbish thrill of having patterns unavailable to the general public. I looked at the patterns from last year, and they were all fabulous. I wanted it, I really did.

When my husband asked me back in September what I’d like to do for my birthday, I told him that I had seen that Ralph Stanley, one of the godfathers of Bluegrass was coming to town. I also told him about Year of Lace, with the caveat that it was probably too expensive but that I might end up giving it to myself. After all, you only turn 40 one time in your life, and I have a thing about birthdays with zeros in them.

Let me tell you, the Ralph Stanley concert was amazing. If you’re interested in Bluegrass and he’s stopping anywhere near you, you should make it a point to go. At 82 years and counting, you may not get too many more chances.

I decided not to get myself a subscription to Year of Lace 2009. Yeah, I could afford it, but I have over 13 miles of lace yarn, not to mention all the books and such. Maybe another year.

Friday morning I was going through my usual morning routine: reading blogs, drinking coffee, and listening to the news. My e-mail program informed me that there were new messages, so I switched over to check them. Newsletter, ads, bill reminders… hey, what’s that?

Subject: Year of Lace 2009, Are You Ready?

Yeah, my husband not only signed me up for it, but he kept it a secret for nearly five months. I still feel very virtuous about the fact that I didn’t go shrieking into the bedroom at 5:30 to bounce on the bed until he woke up so I could thank him… I waited until 7:00.

I’m so excited I could just burst!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I’m Like A Space Cadet

… only with knitting needles.

The February Lady Sweater is really pretty straightforward, especially at the beginning. Garter stitch garter stitch garter stitch, with raglan increases on the right side rows and the occasional buttonhole thrown in to keep me awake.


It was coming along beautifully, although the buttonholes were done in the “uhm, whatever” method. I was all ready to do they eyelet increases when I decided to do something radical… I counted my stitches.

Then, thinking that the number couldn’t possibly be right, I counted them again. The good news is that I got the same number as the first time. The bad news is that the numbers were wrong. Somewhere along the way I must have missed doing an increase or two in one of the sleeve sections, so that one sleeve had six more stitches than the other one. Not only that, but I had done far too many increase rows, so the yoke was too deep and had too many stitches.

After that I took a closer look at the buttonholes and concluded that the “uhm, whatever” method had been a rather bad choice.

I decided when I started this cardigan that I wasn’t going to repeat previous mistakes by blowing off wonky numbers. Nope, this sweater was going to fit, damn it.

So, I took the knitting off of the needles and took out my trusty ball winder.


Then I took a deep breath and turned the handle for all I was worth. In a very short and mildly depressing amount of time, this is what my sweater looked like.


I’ve written myself some notes on the pattern and cast on again. With any luck at all I’ll remember to count my stitches on a regular basis, and to actually follow the buttonhole directions.

Let’s try this again, shall we?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

B is For…


Baking bread is one of those things I talked about wanting to do for years and years before I tried it for the first time. And, like knitting, it has become a journey, an art, a frustration at times, and something I love to do.

Bread baking is like most other things in life: you can learn the basics in an afternoon and spend the rest of your life seeking after perfection. It’s all part of the process.

Gather your ingredients…

My Kitchen Aid Professional Stand Mixer has pride of place on my counter. Truly one of the best investments I’ve ever made, if I treat it right my nieces children will be quarreling over it when I die.

Measure carefully…

Proof the yeast…

This step is mostly optional, but I keep doing it because it’s just so cool to come back after ten minutes to see that ¼ cup of water, a tablespoon of yeast and a pinch of sugar have bubbled up like this. It’s the little things that keep me entertained!

Stand mixer at work…

You can see the motion in this picture, but you can’t hear the wonderful humming. Perhaps I should make some video someday…

Finish by hand…

There’s a saying in French, “Il faut mettre la main à la pâte.” It translates to “You must put your hand to the dough.” I use this step to check if the dough has the right texture, to dither a bit over whether it needs more flour… but mostly I like the way it feels. This particular dough has an amazingly silky texture, and it’s a joy to work with.

Ready for first rise…

This is when I go off and knit for about ninety minutes. Cover the dough, put it someplace warm, and just leave it alone. This is when the magic really happens, and it can’t be rushed.

Ready for second rise…

Well, would you just look at that! Even after several years, the transformation still makes me smile.

Ready to bake…

Glazed with egg wash and sprinkled with poppy seeds, it’s ready to bake. The house will smell incredible, I’ll be peeking through the oven window to see how high it got, and there will be more knitting time while I wait.


One of the toughest things about baking my own bread is letting it cool before I cut it!

I’m so glad that I started baking my own bread. Nothing I’ve bought in a store comes even remotely close to tasting as good, and I love feeling connected to centuries of people who have done the same thing with the same ingredients.

Just like with knitting.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sun Breaks, Gauge, Packages to Post and Sparkly Things

The most amazing thing happened… I actually had my knitting, my camera and a perfect patch of sun all in the same place at the same time!

This is one of my Gas Flame socks, with the short-row toe and the straight part of the foot completed.

Ready to increase

This pattern has been challenging on a few levels, but once I wrapped my head around a few things and remembered how to count, it’s been a lot of fun. I’m starting the gusset increases and having a blast watching everything take shape.

I lovelovelove this Socks that Rock. Really love, really a lot. I’ve called the socks Gas Flame because that’s what it makes me think of. All kinds of blue and occasional flashes of red, just like the fire on my stove. A perfect fit for Yarnissima’s Firestarter pattern, if I do say so myself!

I decided that I need a cardigan, and after much dithering I settled on the ubiquitous February Lady Sweater (4469 projects in Ravelry at last count). Not only is it a lovely sweater, but I can actually knit it out of stash yarn! I have two enormous skeins of Brooks Farm Mas Acero which I bought on impulse when I ventured to the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair in the summer of 2007.

Two skeins = 1100 yards

It’s a beautiful mix of silvery blues and greens, which put me in mind of blue spruce… naturally the cardigan is called Blue Spruce Cardi in my Ravelry notebook. And will you just look at the way it knits up!

4.5 stitches per inch... perfect

Not only is it pretty, but I hit gauge spot on my very first try. Surely it’s a good omen. I’m going to shop for buttons on Wednesday, hoping to find some pewter ones… or maybe cobalt blue… or perhaps a nice green… Oh dear, this may be harder that I thought.

I took a trip to the post office on Saturday, and there’s sock yarn on its way to my contest winners as we speak (as you read?). The Random List Generator came through in a very big way, picking yarns I hope you three will like.

Off to a new home!

And last but not least: who can resist the lure of the sparkly? I tried to resist, I really did. Lizardtoes has been advertising on Ravelry for quite a while. She makes these tiny stitch markers for small needles, just the prettiest things you’ve ever seen. I’d see her ads, click through to her etsy store, and just sigh and dream and pine after them.

Last Tuesday I gave in. I placed an order. For eight sets of four in different colors. Yeah, I bought 32 stitch markers in one fell swoop. Don’t look at me like that, I defy you to visit her shop and not want to do the same thing!

And let me tell you, her service is lightning fast. I ordered on Tuesday and received them on Saturday. Believe it or not, they’re even prettier in person

So tiny, so lovely!

I’m going to have the best-dressed needles in town!