Monday, March 31, 2008

Falling Down

I was doing really well with my vow to finish Death By Cables before casting on anything new. I only made one bag and one baby blanket and started one pair of socks and the shrug part of the Retro Ribby Twinset. And none of those count, as I've explained repeatedly.

But I'm going down now, and I'm going down hard.

It's totally not my fault. The new Vogue Knitting came. This did not seem to pose a problem, since, as usual, I didn't like any of the designs.

And then I found this:

I like this. I like it a lot. I like it so much that it has jumped to the very front of the queue. Death By Cables? Who needs a cabled wool sweater in San Diego in April? So I immediately started shopping for yarn. And then I remembered this:

This is the gorgeous, hand-dyed, superwash merino from Sharon's shop, in the Sligo colorway (she just posted some BFL in this same colorway, and it's totally different and absolutely lovely). I love this yarn. It's soft and smooth and lightly variegated and it's green, which aside from being possibly my new favorite color is also the Project Spectrum color for April. I've just been waiting to cast it on until Death was finished. But, you know, if I use yarn from stash... doesn't really count as a new project.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Project? What New Project?

This is not a new project. It may look like a new project; it may smell like a new project; it may even feel like a new project--but it is not.

This is a UFO. It is true that I just cast it on, but that does not make it a new project. I planned to make it last year. I even made the first half of it last year. Do you remember this?

This is the tank from the Retro Ribby Twinset in Knitting Lingerie Style. I made it last spring. I intended to make the shrug shortly thereafter, but I got sidetracked by Prosperous, and then Grecian Plaits, and Icarus, and by the time I thought of it again, it was fall, and I wasn't interested in a tank and shrug.

The status of this project is crucial. I still have not finished Death By Cables. Which means I still have not fulfilled my oath to the Knitting Goddess, and we all know what a b*tch she can be when you mess with her. I am not brave enough to fly in the face of her potential wrath by casting on anything new. We have already established that gift knitting does not qualify as "new." Neither do socks, because, well...just because. And of course, a UFO cannot be classified as "new." Right? So I figure I'm safe with this one. It's not a shrug; it's a twinset. Big difference. It is part of an unfinished project, not a whole new one. It's all in the details, people.

You've got my back on this, right?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Be Still, My Heart

I recently won a contest on Romi's blog. For those of you who may not know her, she is a talented knitter and an amazing jewelry designer, and these two passions have come together to inspire some gorgeous work, as you will see below (this is called "foreshadowing"). This is my very first contest win, so I was pretty excited even before the prize arrived.

Just look at this packaging! Isn't that wonderful? And the card could not be more appropriate, since this is what's inside:

It's a shawl pin! The pin part stays attached to the heart and just slides around so that you can fasten it. Isn't that ingenious? No lost pins, and no damage to your precious handknits. You can get your very own from Romi's shop. (There are also much better pictures there. A photographer I am not.)

Now, of course, I have to made a shawl worthy of it. I've long wanted to do a Swallowtail. And I have some Sea Silk in the stash...

Thanks, Romi!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Erica--An FO and Another Free Pattern!

[Amended on April 9, 2008: This pattern is no longer available here. I'm not being mean; the pattern will soon be available as a downloadable pdf through Little Knits for a small charge. All proceeds will go to Knitters Without Borders to benefit Doctors Without Borders, and Little Knits will make a matching donation for all sales! As soon as the pattern is up, I will link to it here.]

I knitted this little piece several months ago, intending to submit it to Knitty for the Spring issue. I had it done well in advance, but when it came time to take pictures, the weather failed to cooperate, and I could not get pictures done in time to make the deadline.

No problem, I thought, I'll just submit it for summer. It recently occurred to me that the deadline for the Summer issue is probably soon. So I checked. Nope--it is not soon; it has passed.
I am not really a patient person, so rather than wait another year to make this available (by which time I will probably have forgotten all about it), I figured I might as well blog about it here, and provide the pattern for you select few.

I don't know how to turn the Word file into a PDF (I suspect that would involve some software that I don't have). I'm sorry. If you want to make one of these you will probably have to cut and paste the pattern from this post into a Word document. Or you can email me, and I will send you the Word file.

Friday, March 21, 2008

High Priority?

What do you suppose they do to the mail that's not "Priority"?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sailing Right Along

The sailing puns are likely to be hot and heavy around here for a while. Bear with me.

For those who might have worried, I have not died, been abducted by aliens (more's the pity; I've always thought that would be interesting), or been the unfortunate victim of a zombie attack (but it could happen, Annie!). I have been busy. Duh. Aren't we all?

I finished this:

And this:

And I'm (yes, sorry, I really am going to say it) sailing right along on this:

There is much more to be done. I could get a lot further if the other inmates would stop eating, wearing clothes, bathing, and going to school. Although that could get pretty ugly. Cranky, skinny, naked, stinky, and ignorant probably wouldn't be an improvement over the current state of affairs. On the other hand, I might have a completed Death By Cables and a new pair of spring socks. Hmmm...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Come Sail Away

Gift knitting is exempt from my vow of monogamy to Death By Cables. I have no proof, but I am inferring that this is the case since nothing awful happened during the production of the Knitting For Peace messenger bag. Had I offended the Knitting Goddess by working on a project other than Death, I am sure she would have let me know. I have the world's ugliest knitting project stuffed behind the sofa as proof. I am sure if I had cast on for something else for myself, my yarn would have burst into flames. There will probably be a lot of gift knitting around here for a while.

Last night I picked up Death, gathered my glasses and charts and a pencil and my tools, sat down to work on it...and cast on for a baby blanket for the friend I told you about back in December who is having the unexpected blessing. I had lunch with her last week and she is nearly seven months along, making the knitting of a baby blanket a matter of some urgency. I've been having trouble finding a pattern I like. I wanted something with boats, or waves, or some watery theme. She lives in a house overlooking the marina, her husband owns Boat Depot, they love to go out on their boat, and she's decorated the baby's room in a nautical theme. I had already bought this lovely, dark heather blue superwash wool (KnitPicks Swish Worsted) for just this purpose. I swatched a few times with different patterns, but nothing appealed to me. Then, inspiration struck. All by my little self, I did this:

And, people...I am proud. I know you washcloth knitters are scratching your heads and thinking, "So?" But I've never made a washcloth, and this is my first attempt at this type of embossed pattern. And it turned out so well!

See the sails? The mast? The little flag on top? What new mommy wouldn't love a blanket like that for her baby boy? [Yes, it's a boy. Nicholas Andrew. I can't tell you how relieved I am that this child has a name I can say without cringing. My friend is a free-spirited sort, and exactly the type who would be likely to name her son Walnut, or Rocky, or Betelgeuse. Don't look at me like that. We have friends who named their new arrival Jesse James. And that's what they call him. Not Jesse, or JJ, or Stinky. Nope. "Jesse James." They're not from New Mexico or Texas, either. They live in New Jersey.]

But I digress.

I have been taking notes on exactly how I made those little boats so that I can duplicate them. See?

Once I'm done, I will make it available here as a free--and hopefully more legible--pattern, so if you just have to have those sweet little boats, you can. I'll even try to figure out how to get a chart into electronic format, but no promises there!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Staggering On

Just to prove that I really am still plodding on through Death By Cables:

The back and front are done. This is the first sleeve. It's about a third of the way done. I have stuck to my vow to the Knitting Goddess not to cast on any new projects until I finish this...I mean, if you don't count socks, or the Great Green Glob. Speaking of which...

Here is the G-cubed prior to felting. That's me holding it. This is one freakin' huge bag.

And here it is after felting. It's like magic. It's still pretty big, but after multiple trips through the washer, it is dense enough to stop bullets, and I just don't think it's going to felt any more. I got a huge kick out of knitting this, which was a sort of knitting joke. And who doesn't love a good knitting joke, after all?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day!

Every year, my kids' school celebrates Pi Day (3.14--March 14th, for the uninitiated) by holding a Pi contest. The kid who can recite Pi to the most decimal points wins--what else?--a pie. Yesterday, to demonstrate his prowess, my older son recited Pi to 46 decimal points. I had no idea he could do this. After all, he rarely remembers to turn off the lights, close the door, or wear his glasses. Today at school, he recited Pi to 66 decimal points and was the undisputed winner. And this year, thanks to the generosity of Hewlett-Packard, there was a surprise prize for the winner, in addition to the traditional pie (chocolate creme, yum!). Can you tell how proud he is?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Message From John Cleese

I got this via email and laughed myself silly. I thought you all might enjoy it, too.

A Message from John Cleese

To the citizens of the
United States of America:

In light of your failure to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except
Kansas , which she does not fancy).

Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a governor for
America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary.

1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix -ize will be replaced by the suffix -ise.

Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels (look up 'vocabulary').

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell- checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize. You will relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen.

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent.

Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

8. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables.

Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

9. The Former USA will adopt
UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline)-roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager.

South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting Nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of
British Commonwealth - see what it did for them.

Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters.

Watching Andie McDowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

13. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Don't try
Rugby - the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, like they regularly thrash us.

14. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of
America . Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

15. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

16. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

17. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at
4 pm with proper cups, never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.

God save the Queen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spring is in the Air

Check out the new spring shoes!

I've actually had these for a couple of months, but it only just occurred to me that they'd look great with handknit socks. (I mean, of course, in a knitterly sort of way. I'm not expecting to see this look in Vogue anytime soon.) I rarely wear my handknit socks, because I don't see the point when they're hidden in shoes, and because mine always seem to slide down. I'm not sure if that's because I make them too big, or my ankles are too thick, or all my slip on shoes (the only kind I wear--I'm lazy that way) pull them down as I walk. Whatever the reason, it hasn't been a problem at all with these shoes. I think the strap over the instep holds the socks in place.

(How do you get a good picture of your own feet?) I know I've said before that I don't much like knitting socks--too much work for something no one is going to see anyway, and those dpn's get a bit old, but with shoes like these...

...who can resist? (And note the single, extra-long circular needle--one of the women at my knitting group showed me the magic loop method, in about ten seconds. So. Much. Easier!)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Growing Pains

Doing a home improvement project is like growing out your bangs: they both look worse before they look better.

This is the bathroom yesterday morning:

And this is the bathroom this afternoon, after a visit from the dry waller, some quality time with the tile saw, and several hours of crawling around on the floor and cursing silently (okay, quietly):

Slow but noticeable improvement. The drywall patch still needs priming, painting, and tile. The floor needs grouting and sealing, and another trip to Home Depot for baseboards is in order. But the ugly yellow sheet vinyl (and some very scary stuff that was stuck to it) is now history. I would be ecstatic if I weren't so tired. Tiling always wears me out. I think it's the crawling around on the floor and getting up and down a thousand times with heavy pieces of tile. But with a couple of tiling jobs under my belt, I was confident enough to try something a little more difficult and laid this tile on the diagonal, instead of in straight lines. I really like the result. Much more interesting. It's kind of like quilting, without all the sewing.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Thoroughly Messed Up Day of Minor Disasters

Some days you just shouldn't get out of bed.

Exhibit 1: One of the printers in our home office was smudging, so the DH decided to carry it down to the kitchen to clean it. The office is upstairs at the front of the house; the kitchen is downstairs at the back of the house, and the kitchen sink is the farthest possible point in the house from the printer's home on the office desk. I now know exactly how far it is, thanks to the trail of large, black, liquid ink pools that we spent the morning cleaning off the carpet, the stairs, the wood floors, our shoes...

Exhibit 2: I laid the tile on the bathroom floor yesterday. This morning the dry waller called and said he could come out to fix the hole in the wall. Not wanting to miss this unprecedented opportunity, I checked the tiles and deemed the adhesive "dry enough" for him to walk on. I was wrong. Totally, completely, horribly wrong. After he left, I went in and discovered that my carefully-measured, marked, spaced, and leveled tiles were...not. Not spaced, not leveled, not measured. They had, in fact, slid in all directions everywhere he had stepped or knelt. This was not his fault. He had carefully laid a sheet of dry wall atop the tiles and covered that with a tarp, but the adhesive just wasn't set up yet. I almost cried. I spent the rest of the morning carefully prying and sliding and spacing the tiles, trying to shift them gently back into position without breaking whatever bonds they might have formed with the floor.

Exhibit 3: The bride-to-be of Icarus fame is completely out of control. I suspected she might be heading down that very slippery slope when she had an engagement party and two bridal showers, all of which her bridesmaids (of whom I am one) were expected to attend, bearing gifts, notwithstanding the fact that none of us live in the same city. I was pretty sure she was well on her way when she sent out a call for "one or more" of her bridesmaids to come to her final dress fitting to learn "how to put it on"--even though the closest of us lives over an hour away. And folks, I know we ostentatiously call it a "bridal gown" but it's just a dress. I even wore one myself. I don't need a lesson on how to fasten hooks and button buttons. Now she wants to have a "spa day" with her bridesmaids, next weekend, again near her home, which is a three-hour drive each way for me. Aside from the expense (gas, spa treatments, and lunch for myself and my share of hers), I actually do have a life, which includes, on the day in question, one music lesson, two karate classes, football signups, a birthday party, and a trip to Nana's house. I politely, and without so much as a tiny white lie, explained that I just can't make it, please go on without me. I got an indignant email in return, suggesting that we either make it for a different day or meet the Friday before the Sunday morning wedding, three hours from my house, for a girls' day. I already have to spend two days--one for the rehearsal, one for the wedding--away from home. But now we should get together a day earlier to...what? Talk about how exciting this all is and how happy we are for her? It is, and I am, but I've about exhausted my stock of things to say about it. And frankly, I think I've already spent more on this wedding than I did on my own.

With the sort of day I'm having, I'm not about to handle sharp knives or heating sources. We're going out to dinner.

Green With Envy

Look what I got!

This is a sweater's worth of superwash worsted, hand dyed just for me by our very own Sharon, of Chickenlips Knitting/Stitchjones/My mom made this. She has gorgeous colorways of sock yarn available in her Etsy shop, but she will also custom dye larger lots in different weights just for you, if you're so inclined. Just drop her an email ( and let her know what you have in mind. She calls this colorway "Sligo" after a county in Ireland, and this picture probably gives you a pretty good idea why. The actual color is a bit more intense and will be perfect for spring. It will also be perfect for Project Spectrum for April. I don't have anything in this color and I can't wait to cast it on--right after I finish (ugh!) Death By Cables.

The Dickinson Pullover, as it is more correctly called, is coming along. Not perhaps as fast as if I weren't also refinishing furniture, painting and tiling, and trying to look like I know about astronomy, but progressing, nonetheless. I have the back and the front done and am working up my enthusiasm to cast on the first sleeve.

I have been a little distracted by this:

I know I said I wouldn't cast on for anything else until I finished Death, but the Knitting Goddess and I have made an arrangement. (Technically, I have made the arrangement, and I am inferring that she concurs by the absence of dropped stitches, lost needles, gauge nightmares, and missing yarn. I could be mistaken, but I'm thinking she may have taken some small amount of pity on me after all the teeny-tiny charts and recognizes that I need a little plain stockinette, just to take the edge off, or things could get a bit grim around here.) I call this one the Great Green Glob. More green. Hmmm. We may have a theme going, here. It has an official name, but after many miles of lumpy stockinette--it is a thick and thin wool--I can't remember what it is. I can tell you that it is not a sweater. And also that I'm not going to tell you any more for a while. Sorry.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

You Want Me to Coach What?

If you've been reading this blog for a while--and by "a while" I mean since last March, which is when I started it--you may have a vague recollection of Science Field Day, that exciting day-long science competition for elementary school kids. This year, I agreed to coach "an event." So did my husband. He got "Structures." This means he gets to teach his group of kids to build a bridge out of drinking straws that will hold the maximum amount of weight possible. He gets straws, the kids build, job done, right? Not exactly. My super-achiever, former aerospace engineer hubby, who spent years teaching corporate courses in his previous career, put together (in about twenty minutes, I'd like to add) a presentation and course materials worthy of a college class. Yesterday afternoon, he held a dozen bright kids and their teacher enthralled while he explained the concepts of force and load. He had packets. He had folders. He had labels. The teacher said he was the best coach yet.

I got "Starry Night." When I asked the teacher what this entailed, he told me, "They just have to learn the constellations." Yeah. Okay. To me, stars are shiny things that you sing lullabies about. I think they're made of silver. Or diamonds. According to the star chart I borrowed, there are eighty-eight constellations. So I asked my son, what did you guys do in the competition last year? (I was there. I was outside the door. Parents aren't allowed in.) He said they went inside a room-sized inflatable planetarium and identified constellations. Then they took a written test about planets, stars, the solar system, the moon, and current events in astronomy.

So if we add it up, I am supposed to teach a dozen kids to identify eighty-eight constellations, complete with the names and locations of their major stars; the solar system, whatever that includes; the moon and moon phases; and, oh yeah, what's going on today in the exciting world of NASA. There are no teaching materials available.

I've been hyperventilating for three days. I've Googled and Yahooed. I've looked at star charts and sky maps. I've tried, unsuccessfully, to get a mental grip on how to teach a large amount of material that I frankly don't know myself. I may even have whined a little.

Last night at dinner, my dear son "reminded" me that our first meeting is this Friday. Instead of throttling him on the spot in a minor fit of major anxiety, I explained that I'm having a wee spot of trouble figuring out how to, um, present eighty-eight constellations. To which my darling first-born replied: "But we only have to know the twelve that are on the sheet." 'Scuse me? The sheet? Which sheet would that be? I didn't get any sheet. If there were a sheet to be had, surely I, as the purported coach of this incipient fiasco, would have it, right? "The sheet the teacher gave us," the fruit of my loins--who has been witness to the last three days of parental stress--clarified. This would be the teacher who assigned me this onerous task with the oh-so-helpful direction that "they just have to learn the constellations." Who also failed to make available to me any sort of "sheet."

When we arrived home from art class, I tore apart my son's binder and found The Sheet. In less than two pages, it explained exactly what the kids have to know and how the competition is set up. It also gave a list of the constellations and stars the kids need to know: twelve constellations; twelve stars. Totally doable. Maybe someone could have let the coach know.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My New Friend

I brought a new friend home from Lake Tahoe. Oddly enough, there are several "Alpaca" shops in South Lake Tahoe. Unfortunately, they don't sell yarn or fiber (which I considered extreme false advertising, but decided not to point it out to the manager, who looked a little frightened when I burst through the doors, credit card in hand, and maybe a little wild-eyed, hot on the trail of my favorite knitting material). They did have really cute stuffed animals with alpaca fiber fur. My older son chose a dog, my younger son chose a teddy bear, and I...well, was there really any doubt what I would pick?

Monday, March 3, 2008


What I'm supposed to be doing today:

Why I'm not:

Ugly, isn't it? I'm hoping that's just a little mildew, and not some sort of toxic mold that's going to cause my kids to grow third eyeballs and require a home equity loan to repair. I have put in calls to the various drywallers I rely on in situations like these, and now I'm sitting by the phone in the pathetically optimistic hope that one of them might actually call me back today. Is it just a local thing, or is it virtually impossible to get a drywaller everywhere?

If I can't get someone out by tomorrow, I'll be trying my hand at the repair myself. And why? Because I can't live with this anymore:

Do you see the 30-year-old sheet vinyl floor? That is the last vestige of the 1970s in my house. This is the kids' bathroom, and when we looked at this house nine years ago, I immediately decided this would be the first thing I replaced. (I was kinda wrong about that.)

Here's a close-up:

Trust me: it's even uglier in person. It is at least clean, though. I spent the morning ripping out the baseboards and scrubbing everything in reach with bleach solution. Do you have any idea what collects under the baseboards in a boys' bathroom? Neither do I, but it's disgusting.

I finally reached my limit with this floor before the holidays, when I tripped over the curling edge of the vinyl while washing my son's hair and nearly landed in the shower with him. I saved myself by grabbing the shower curtain, which yanked the curtain rod down, and the curtain rod whacked me on the head while the wet, mildewy shower curtain wrapped itself lovingly around my face.

I fully intended to tile the bloody thing three months ago--right before I was inundated by uninvited relatives who took over my house for two months and left me on the verge of screaming hysterically at them to just get the hell out of my house already! I didn't, however. The last of them finally left in February, we're back from our ski week, the kids are in school, and now I can finally get to work--or so I thought. See "drywaller" above.

So, since I'm stuck by the phone and cannot work on the bathroom, I need another project. Hmmm...what could I possibly do?