Saturday, December 26, 2009

F%#!

I've mentioned in the past my utter frustration with knitting instructions that read: "Work to correspond to left front, reversing all shaping." I mean, really. I'm paying for the damned pattern. Would it kill the designer to write out the directions for the right front? Does it really cost that much more to print an extra paragraph? Am I the only knitter on the planet who finds it confusing to change the ssk's to k2tog's and the "end of rows" to "beginning of rows", all the while keeping track of the number of rows and stitches and making sure to remember the "AND AT THE SAME TIME"'s?

I was planning to show you a Red Ruffles just about ready for its front edgings to be knitted on. I was working the post out in my head while whipping through the seams, considering pithy phrasings, imagining colorful expressions...when two inches from the bottom of the second side seam, something went awry.

I had already finished the right side, and it seamed together perfectly:

See that straight seam on the left, and the nice little curve on the right? That's how this cardigan is supposed to look. But as I reached the very bottom of the left side seam, the edges didn't match up. This seemed wrong to me, since I was careful about matching the seams, clamping them, and mattress stitching them up, but I figured I'd been distracted by one or more of the other inmates somewhere along the line and cheerfully pulled the seam to do it over.

Some time later, I reached the bottom two inches of the same seam again...and it still didn't match up. Now this time I was less than cheerful. I knew darned well I had matched the seams properly and sewn them accurately, and the other inmates were all in another room watching Spiderman. I pulled the seam partway out again and took another look.

This is the inside back:


See the straight edge on the right? That's where the side seam should be.

This is the left front:

See the nice curve on the left? That's the one that's supposed to be there. That one on the right? Not so much. And this is the result:

No way that seam is going to be straight. Ain't gonna happen. Because I somehow managed to knit curves into both sides of the bottom of this piece. And as this is a bottom up sweater worked in pieces, the only remedy is to take it apart, rip the entire left front, reknit it, and resew it to the rest of the cardigan.

Now, I would love to blame this little mishap on the instructions. I would love to heap invectives on the head of the designer for failing to write out the directions for both fronts individually. I would love to rant at the magazine editor for allowing such shoddy pattern writing. But the fact of the matter is...the front I screwed up is the one for which the directions are written out. The other one? The one that reads "work to correspond to left front, reversing all shaping"? That one I did perfectly.

F%#!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I just popped by to link to this poem, because I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself, and any knitter who's ever stayed up past midnight on Christmas Eve to finish up those knitted gifts will recognize the sentiment!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Look! Up in the Sky!

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...a toe-up sock!

The specs:

Yarn: Mountain Colors Bearfoot. (Love it!) Not sure of the colorway.

Needles: 2.24 mm, long, slippery, metal Susan Bates dpns. (Not so much.)

Pattern: I started with Wendy Johnson's "easy toe", which wasn't. Halfway up the foot, Cynthia took pity on me (thanks, Cynthia!) and turned me onto her pattern (Rav link) for toe-ups. It includes instructions for a short-row heel (love it!) and a really easy, stretchy bind-off (ditto). I can't wait to try the toe on the second sock. The top of this sock is done in 2x2 ribbing, with every other knit rib done in a 1x1 cable for a ropey effect. I would have done this all the way around once I reached the ankle, but I forgot, so it's only on the front of the sock. I finished the cuff with basic 2x2 ribbing.

To my great relief, it fits perfectly and feels like it will stay up. I particularly like the short row heel. I have narrow heels, and my flap heels always sag. I also never seem to get them the right height. This short row heels fits the shape of my foot much better and didn't require picking up gusset stitches, which I dislike.

Unfortunately, I didn't knit two at a time (sorry, Melissa!), so now I have to go cast on for the second.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Trouble with DPNs*

It took me about an hour to get to this point.

I've never done a toe-up sock before. After a quick check of Rav, I looked up Wendy Johnson's "Easy Toe." It's not as easy as the name would have you believe, but I am willing to believe it is easier than the alternatives. Unfortunately, it calls for the use of dpns, which are not my favorite knitting tools. I'm sure there is a way to do it with a long circular, but frankly, my brain was pretty overtaxed just following the directions as written.

I'm not one of those people who can manipulate five tiny needles with speed and grace. When I have to use them, I prefer short, blunt, bamboo or nylon needles with a little give and a little stickiness to help me control the stitches. The only dpns I have in the right size for this yarn, though, are rather long, pointy, slippery, metal needles. This did not make for an easier first toe-up experience.

I did eventually get the toe finished, but I'm not at all sure it looks right. It seems to me the increases ought to be on the sides, not on the top and bottom. Yes, I could just lay the sock the other direction (and in fact that's what I will do), but then the tip of the toe is vertical rather than horizontal. This seems wrong to me, even though I'm sure I followed the directions correctly. Does anyone understand what I'm talking about?

This is what it looks like now. I'm not the world's fastest sock knitter, obviously.

(Can you see what I mean about the toe now? The stitches on the very tip are turned sideways because I turned the toe to put the increases on the sides.) I'm not using a pattern. I just ribbed the top in 2x2 ribbing, because I like ribbed socks, and did a twisted stitch cable for every other knitted rib for a little more interest. I'm sort of regretting that, actually. I don't use a cable needle and I've dropped quite a few stitches because I can't really see the little buggers that well, even with my glasses on, and the metal needles aren't helping. But I do like the effect.

All in all, I'm finding the sock knitting pretty interesting. I'm hoping I can sustain this level of interest, because this is what the mailman has brought so far--and there's more coming.

I may have gotten a little carried away.

*Please note that I am not in any way disparaging dpns. I know many people love them with a deep and enduring passion. I am not one of them, but I do understand. I love alpaca like that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Now That's More Like It!

This is not the yarn I am planning to overdye. That plan is still in the works. This is the yarn that arrived today, and I am beyond pleased with it. This is a skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot that was admittedly a splurge. I've often fondled this yarn in my not-so-L YS, but as a confirmed non-sock-knitter, I could never really justify buying it, no matter how soft it is or how rich the colors.

In my new knitting-socks-may-not-be-so-bad world, I decided it would maybe be okay to buy just one skein of unreasonably expensive sock yarn, just to try it. Sort of like testing the heroin, because, ya know, you can always go back, right? I found this skein in a Rav destash, and it was less than retail, so I'm working that angle, too.

It's really nice. It's a lot nicer than the cheap sock yarns I've tried. It's softer and denser and richer colored. It's like sweater yarn for the feet. I haven't tried knitting it yet, but I'm sure doing so won't lead me into any trouble. After all, my ability to resist beautiful yarns is well documented.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WTF?

I'm pretty sure I've used this post title before, but sometimes it just applies.

I ordered some sock yarn online. I don't really have an LYS. I have a not-so-L YS, but I only go there once a month for my spinning group (it's more than an hour drive round trip), so when I get impatient, I order online. No driving, less waiting. The only problem is, since the gratification is not instant, I tend to...um...keep ordering until stuff starts arriving. I'm not sure exactly how much sock yarn is on its way, and I won't know until the postman stops knocking, but the first of it arrived today.

Here's where things start getting interesting. When I first started ordering yarn online, I was often shocked at how...dissimilar the yarn looked in person from how it looked on my computer. I have yarns in the stash that no one in their right mind would buy in person, but they looked pretty darned good on my computer screen. As I've become more experienced at online ordering, I've learned to read the descriptions carefully and check photos of the yarn I'm interested in on multiple sites to get the best idea of how it really looks. I'm rarely surprised or disappointed anymore. Sometimes, though, I still open a box and think, "WTF?"

This is the yarn I ordered:

Pretty, huh? It is described as: "A Subtle Combination of Creme, Beiges, Dustings of Cinnamon & Rose Hues". I think that's a fairly accurate description of this picture, and I like it. I like the golden tones and the green and beige and just generally the whole thing. You know what I don't like, though?

This:

This is the yarn that showed up in my mailbox, and yes, the colors look accurate on my screen. I would describe it as "A nasty combination of greyish mauve with a dusting of puke green." No resemblance at all to the picture or the description of the colorway I ordered. And before you ask, yes, I did check the tag and the colorway is the one I ordered.

So I won't be casting on any socks today. I will, however, be breaking out the dyepot for some creative overdyeing. Stay tuned for the results!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Red Ruffles

The day before yesterday I finished my socks, and yesterday I finished my current sweater (bringing the total of finished-but-unblogged sweaters to three). So today, I found myself in the unaccustomed position of having nothing on the needles (excluding those shawls and scarves that I do not consider either wips or ufos--because this works in my world).

I really wanted to cast on another pair of socks. (Shhh...you didn't hear that from me, and I'd just as soon the Knitting Goddess didn't, either.) I wore my new socks to Legoland on Saturday with my new clogs, and despite standing and walking for nine solid hours--it was the Southern California FLL Championships and Younger Son's team was competing--I came home with feet that were neither sore nor swollen. My socks stayed up and my feet stayed warm and it was just generally a lovely experience. So lovely, in fact, that I've decided I need more handknit socks, and I want them badly enough that I am willing to knit them. Unfortunately, I don't have much in the way of sock yarn stash, since I am a devoted non-sock-knitter. I am in the process of rectifying that (anyone have any favorite sock yarns that don't cost $25 a skein?), but while I wait for the postal service, I have no sock yarn to cast on.

So I chose another sweater pattern instead. I've wanted to knit this (Rav link) for a while now. I think it's been near the top of my queue for over a year, but I've never quite gotten around to it. In scrolling through my queue today, I thought, "Hey, that's what I want to knit!" And since I am nothing if not prompt, I immediately began mining the stash for likely candidates. The winner, much to my surprise, was a yarn I believe to be the oldest inhabitant of the stash. I know I bought it back before I even had a stash, so it's at least four years old. Back then I didn't even have a specific place for yarn, since I didn't have any to speak of. Oh, how the times do change!

The yarn is Dale of Norway Sisik. I bought it from Herrschners online because it was on sale. I didn't have a project in mind for it and didn't have any idea how much to order, so I just ordered a lot. Really, a lot. When it arrived, I thought, "Hmmm. That's kind of a lot of yarn. I need to find a place to put it." I put it in the guest room closet, and voila! The stash was born.

But alas, poor Sisik--there it remained, month after month, year after year, as the stash grew around it and newer, flashier yarns stole the limelight. There was Lorna's Laces, and Malabrigo, and Noro...they came and visited for a while, but never stayed long. And in time, Sisik was relegated to the back of the stash closet, next to the lime green kitchen cotton and the ill-advised hot pink acrylic.

Until today. Because for some reason, this yarn that never seemed quite right for anything is just perfect for this project. The problem I always had with it is that it is very light, almost airy in weight, but has a heavy tweed texture. It's too light for tweedy sweaters and too tweedy for light sweaters. But holding it doubled, as I am for this project, results in a fabric that is chunky without being heavy. It's surprisingly springy and soft, too. And the color is a rich, dark red with multi-colored tweed bits and a lovely sheen from the mohair content. (My photo does not even come close to doing it justice. Red yarn+indoor light+digital camera=bleah.)

And as an added bonus, the chunky gauge means that a hour of knitting got me six inches up the back, which is a nice change from sock yarn and size 1 needles. This one will probably be done pretty quickly, although I hear there is a dreadful amount of seaming involved. Perhaps that will keep me occupied until the mailman gets here with the sock yarn.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Redemption

Aaaaand they're done! (They really do match, right down to the last row. The picture just makes them look like they ended at different places. I think I was curling my toes.)

The yarn is Supersocke Summer, if I recall correctly. It's a wool/cotton/nylon blend, which my feet like, but my hands don't. It's kind of splitty and doesn't really have the bounce of wool, although it's not terrible.

The shoes (my new favorites) are Born Joey clogs. They're super comfortable, lightweight, and go great with jeans or pants. They also show off handknit socks nicely. I got mine at theshoemart.com, but they're available all over online.

I don't know how all you sock knitters get decent pictures of your own feet.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Small Victories, Simple Pleasures

Earlier this year, I wrote about the decision my husband and I made to declare 2009 "The Year of Small Victories". I even had a contest inviting people to share their small victories with the rest of us. I, for one, found all the appreciation of small things uplifting and inspiring. And all this year, we've done a good job of recognizing those small victories and enjoying the simple pleasures of life at a time when there is so much distressing news every day.

In the spirit of sharing the joy, I want to share with you my greatest small victory of the year:

It's a working washing machine! It's not a new washing machine--and that is the small victory. I did not have to replace my expensive and unreliable three year old washing machine with an even more expensive and less reliable new washing machine. There's a long and painful story behind this washing machine, which is my third in only five years. The washer it replaced was only two years old, and died the day before we were leaving for Paris, with 11 loads waiting to be washed prior to the trip. I spent over $900 on this one, and it died immediately after the one year warranty expired. I paid almost $500 to have it repaired two years ago. So when it broke down again last week, I tentatively decided to replace it with a new one--until I went online to research new washers.

In case you're considering buying a washer, here's what I learned:

1. Forget the old style top loaders completely. Two years ago, the US government mandated that manufacturers cut energy usage of these models by 20%. The result is that, according to Consumer Reports, none of these washers are now capable of actually cleaning laundry. If you want your laundry clean, you need to pick another style.

2. Forget the unconventional top loaders, such as the Whirlpool Calypso and the Kenmore Elite Oasis (which is what I have). While they do a decent job of cleaning clothes and are reasonably energy efficient, they have a terrible reliability record. (If you don't believe me, Google "Kenmore Elite Oasis". The invective against these machines will scorch your screen.)

3. If you want clean clothes and a washer that works more often than it doesn't, your best bet is a front loader. But be prepared to fork over at least $900. And don't expect that amount of money will get you a good machine, either. Even the machines that are rated "Best Buys" by Consumer Reports only score 2 or 3 stars (out of a possible 5) when rated by consumers. The biggest complaints are "my clothes don't get clean" and "it keeps breaking down," followed by "it smells horrible!" and "it sounds like a jet engine."

After reading all of this, I boiled it down to this simple formula: I could spend $1000 on a piece of junk, and it would probably break down in the next year; or I could spend $400-500 to repair the piece of junk I already have, and it would probably break down in the next year.

Put in that way, it wasn't such a difficult decision after all.

The repair guy came today (as scheduled, on time, and with a courtesy phone call in advance). He knew exactly what was wrong with it and had the necessary parts on his truck. And he did the repair for only $154--which, if you've ever had a modern appliance of any sort break down, you already know is barely short of miraculous. I was fully expecting that it would either a) be irreparable, or b) be reparable, but only if I were willing to sell a kidney or a child to finance the repair. (Actually, I might be willing to give away a child or two after the past week of "togetherness", but I suspect that just my crankiness--exacerbated by a week's worth of dirty laundry--rearing its tired head.)

I was darned pleased when the repair guy gave me the quote, and even more pleased when it turned out not to need a new pump (something he said it might). But I think the crowning touch was that the problem turned out to be totally and completely not my fault. The bad sound the washer was making, followed within days by its complete and utter failure, was the result of a pair of brass collar stays making their way down into the pump and jamming it. I do not wear collar stays. I am not responsible for removing collar stays from the shirts of those who do wear them. I have, in fact, no relationship whatsoever with collar stays. Ergo, the broken washer and the subsequent repair bill were not my fault. And this is its own small victory. [By the way, the repair guy told me that the most common cause of pump failure is the underwires from underwire bras working their way out of the bra and into the pump. He recommended always using a laundry bag for washing bras in the machine. A word to the wise.]

I almost feel bad about blaming the washing machine for breaking down, seeing as how it's not really the washer's fault about the collar stays. I almost feel bad about wishing, loudly and repeatedly, that I had never gotten rid of my old but incredibly effective and reliable Kenmore top-loaders. I almost feel bad about all the nasty things I said about my washer, the Kenmore brand, Sears, and laundry in general. But I still bought the extended warranty. For the washer and the dryer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Disgraceful

I am not a sock knitter. It's not that I can't knit socks, or that I don't like handknit socks, it's just that I don't quite get the thrill of knitting twenty- or thirty-thousand tiny stitches to come up with something no one's ever going to see anyway. I have knitted several pairs of socks. For various reasons, I don't wear any of them: wool is itchy--yes, it is!;I have thick ankles and skinny feet, so they always slide down; they're too thick to wear under most of my shoes, because my feet are really big and I can rarely find shoes big enough to accommodate my feet, much less my feet plus thick socks; most of the year I wear sandals anyway; etc.

But when the weather starts to get cold (that is, below 70F), I trade my sandals in for clogs (yes, I am a fashion maven, why do you ask?), and this year I've bought a new pair with open backs, which would be perfect to show off some nice, warm, handknit socks that wouldn't be prone to sliding down, since there is no shoe heel to pull on them. This is a convenient excuse to forget how much I don't like knitting socks and cast on a new pair. Except for this:

This is the last pair of socks I cast on, about a year and a half ago, in celebration of a new pair of Mary Janes for springtime. Evidently, my enthusiasm for the project waned before the end of spring and the socks ended up stuffed behind the sofa, not to be seen for many a long month. (For the record, I don't count socks as either WIPs or UFOs--ditto scarves and shawls, but that's a topic for another post.)

And that is just disgraceful. It's not like I fell victim to Second Sock Syndrome--that second sock is more than half finished! Even with my lackluster sock knitting skilz, it can't be more than a couple evenings' work to finish these off. They're even kind of cute, the stripes match, they fit, and they're a non-itchy cotton blend.

And so I'm going to go on record here and state that I will finish these darned things (darned socks--*snort!*) and actually wear them this winter. There. I did it. And you can all hold me accountable.

If sock yarn doesn't count as stash, do socks count as FOs?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


I am flopped on the sofa right now, slowly recovering from the effects of a long day of cooking and entertaining, and indulging in waaaaaay too much turkey, ham, and fixin's. We shall not mention the pie. Pie and I are still not on speaking terms.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving here. We usually have a crowd of family and friends, but for various reasons, they were mostly otherwise occupied this year. When we learned we were only going to have seven people for our dinner, we contacted the USO and offered to host some sailors. (The "adopt a sailor" program has been around for decades--it allows local families to host sailors who are away from home for the holidays and would like to celebrate with a family instead of in the barracks.) They sent us five young--and I mean young--sailors who are currently in training in San Diego. There were three girls and two boys. I can't really call them women and men. The youngest was 19 and the oldest was only 22. They were almost all from small towns and away from home for the first time. They were all good kids and really polite and nice. And they were so darned grateful to be at our house instead of on base. They played video games with our kids and talked about their families and their home towns and some of their experiences in the Navy. And they ate. No one can eat like a 20 year old guy. It was heartwarming to see how much they all enjoyed having home-cooked food. We sent them all back to the base with leftovers and pie and cookies.


We still have a ton of leftovers. We don't like to run short of food here, so we always make way too much. We had a large turkey, a large ham, three types of potatoes, pounds of stuffing, a vat of cranberries (courtesy of my mom, who makes the most amazing cranberry sauce), enough appetizers for an NFL team, and at least six different desserts, including three pies--about which we still will not speak.

The preparation went mostly smoothly, despite the fact that we only have one not-so-big oven, which makes for interesting planning--and the fact that my husband cut his finger halfway off chopping apples for the stuffing and had to go to urgent care to get it sewn up, leaving me to finish stuffing and cooking the turkey and making the side dishes. I know this is hard to believe, but I've somehow managed to go 40 years without roasting a turkey. The simple explanation is that my husband loves cooking Thanksgiving dinner, so he always does it. I was a little concerned (and more than a little grossed out--you have to put the stuffing where?), but it turned out beautifully, thanks to DH's preparations. And he did return in time to pick up the sailors and make the mashed potatoes and gravy. Apparently the urgent care had it down to a system--he was the fourth such injury of the day! I had no idea Thanksgiving was such a dangerous holiday.

I hope those of you who celebrate the holiday had an equally lovely day and were able to spend it with friends and family. I am truly thankful for all of you!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

FO: Chevron Scarf...and a whole lot of excuses

I realize I owe y'all some actual knitting, and despite my lack of blogging, I have been knitting, so let's get right to the FO, shall we?

This is my Chevron Scarf, which I started about two years ago. Apparently, I am not a scarf knitter. This one would probably have sat for another two years without any further attention from me, except that Suzanne blogged about her new Signature needles and showed them in use with a Chevron Scarf, and I am nothing if not corruptible. My excuse for ordering a pair of my very own was that the only size 3 needle I had was a 40" Addi circular, and knitting a 6" wide scarf on it was driving me crazy (I know, I know...it's not a very long trip). But the theory seems to have been correct, since once the Signatures arrived, I finished this long-suffering UFO in a couple of days. It's not very long, since I only had one skein of Koigu and one of Fly Designs Monarch, but since I'll probably never have a reason to wear it, the length doesn't really matter. It goes perfectly with my brown faux lamb coat--which I'll probably also never have a reason to wear. (Gotta love the land of eternal summer.)

Now for the excuses. You may have noticed my lack of blogging. Mostly I'm just lazy. But there have been some extenuating circumstances. Such as, I got a new laptop! No, not a Mac, although I considered it. I got a Sony Vaio. I used to have one, and I loved it, but when it was time for a new one, I got an HP. It worked. Sort of. But I've had it for three years, and it was starting to fall apart. Literally: the hinge on the top broke and now it can't be opened or closed, which kind of defeats the purpose of a laptop. Also, there is a short in the screen, so that it only gives a picture if the screen is opened to exactly the right spot. It if moves while in use, the picture disappears. This is a little scary when you're in the middle of putting together a gazillion forms and documents and you're not quite sure when you last hit "save". Much as I love the new computer, it takes time to install applications and move files, and...well. You understand.

Second, the kids have been busy, ergo, I have been busy. Some of it has been not so much fun, but some of it has been great. Like this:

That's Younger Son on the left, intently setting up his team's Lego robot to compete in the regional FLL qualifying tournament. (In case you're not interested in clicking the link, FLL stands for "FIRST Lego League," which is an international engineering competition for 9-14 year old kids. They use the Lego Mindstorms robot kit to build robots to complete a variety of preset tasks. They also have to come up with and present a unique project to a panel of judges based on a given theme, which was "smart move" (future transportation). They are judged on robot performance, robot design, teamwork, and presentation. At the end of the day, awards are given in a variety of different categories, the finale being the presentation of trophies to the three teams that earn the highest total points.) There are about 15,000 teams internationally, with about 200 in California. There were 22 competing this day; the top teams qualify for the state competition, which will be held next month at Legoland California. Younger Son's team consists of nine 9-10 year olds. They've been working on their robot and project for several hours a week for the past couple of months. They have awesome coaches and are sponsored by BAE Systems. And I guess it paid off:

Here they are at the end of a very long day, collecting their awards!

They took second place for Robot Design, and first place in the overall competition! They were so excited. They were also exhausted, as the day began before dawn and went until 5 pm. Now they have three weeks to recover before the next competition.

And that brings me to my third excuse for poor blogging performance, which may be a little startling to those of you suffering through storms and cold weather. This is the peak of fall gardening season here in San Diego. I love to garden. Although spring is my favorite season, there is definitely something to be said for fall, with its cooler temperatures after a long, hot summer, and the chance to clear out all the summer overgrowth. This year, there was even more to do, since the puppies ate my entire yard over the summer, and we had the pool redone and built a deck. After several weeks of work, I've got it just about under control:






This is one of those times when I really appreciate living here. Because, really, how many people can do this in the backyard in the middle of November?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Newest Partridge

My husband thinks I got it wrong. He says my hair really looks just like Keith Partridge:


I think he's right.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bad Hair Day

Today I added a new entry to my all-time Top Five List of Things I Never Want to Hear:

"Oh my God! What was I thinking? I must have completely spaced on your style while I was cutting your hair!"

I'll just give you a moment to let that soak in.

I had my hair cut the day before yesterday. When I left the salon, it looked a little...different. But it wasn't until I got home and took a good look in the mirror that I realized my stylist had been channeling Carol Brady, circa 1975. Do you remember that little bob with the mullet sticking out the bottom? I didn't, either, until I saw it on my head.

We went to Disneyland yesterday for my husband's birthday, and I spent the whole day trying to shake my too-long side bangs out of my eyes. My husband finally threatened me with a Hello Kitty barrette. After that, I walked behind him.

Today I went back to my stylist and mentioned, ever so courteously (because she really is thebeststylistever and has always done a great job in the past), that my bangs were a bit too long and could we possibly do something about them.

I suppose I should have stopped her when she sat me in the chair and asked me, a little vaguely, whether I was sure I usually had short bangs. Um. Yeah. Pretty sure.

I know I should have stopped her when she started grabbing big hunks of hair from the top of my head and chopping them off, commenting the whole time, "I just don't see how this is going to work." Which, by the way, is a close runner-up for my Top Five list.

It wasn't until she stopped chopping and glared at my head for a while that she finally asked me how she usually cuts my hair. Maybe it's just me, but I kind of think that's the sort of question that should come before the scissors, not after. Especially when the answer is "much longer on the top and not feathered." And it was at this point that she let loose with the above exclamation, which pretty much stunned me into silence for the remainder of the visit.

On the plus side, I no longer look like Carol Brady, circa 1975. On the minus side, I now look a whole lot like Pat Benatar, circa 1985. In fact, I look a whole lot like me, circa 1985, except without the parachute pants and the jacket with all the zippers. Which I suppose is some small consolation.

But since my hair is now roughly four inches too short on top, there's really not much I can do about it until it grows out. In a few months, I'm going to shoot for Meg Ryan, circa 1995. Eventually I should make it back to this millennium.

Anyone know any good hat patterns?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Case There Was Any Doubt...

...she's staying. See her new collar and tag? It's official!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

One Down

I'm still plowing through Lillian. If you missed my previous post about this pattern, go check it out. If you enjoy cables, this one is a must-knit. Gorgeous design, great pattern. The pattern has already been published, but I said I'd have it done in three weeks and I'll...have it done in a little more than three weeks. This is the first sleeve. It looks a little funky unblocked, but I wanted to show you the cool cable design. (That little extra piece at the top is because it's a saddle shoulder. That's the saddle. I've never made one of these before, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out.)

See how the "rope" travels around the sleeve? I love that. I also love that the sleeves are mostly stockinette, because even though the body cables were superb, I was ready for a break. The sleeves have just the right amount of cabling. I was able to finish this one while watching Sons of Anarchy last night (it's on past our bedtime, so we record it and watch it later), and I only messed up once.

I have a cold and I don't feel much like getting off the sofa, so I should be able to get this one done in a couple more days. FO post soon!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Coolest Thing Ever

My husband and kids gave me a Kindle for my birthday this year. It is--and I say this with all due respect to laptops, I-phones, spinning wheels, interchangeable needles, and awesome camera lenses--the coolest thing EVER. It wasn't exactly a surprise. I've wanted it ever since it came out a few years ago. But I was waiting for the second generation Kindle to come out, and its appearance was delayed and delayed and delayed.... It finally came out earlier this year, and I told my family point blank that they could get it for my birthday or I would buy it myself. I don't believe in subtle hints.

Although it's not something I talk about here, I love to read. I have been reading obsessively for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I had a deal with the local librarian. The library allowed a person to check out ten books at a time. But I only got to go to the library once a week, and ten books wasn't enough. So she gave me a brown paper grocery bag and told me I could check out as many books as would fit in the bag, as long as I could carry it. I filled that bag up every week.

My childhood friends shared my love for reading. We would "play" every day after school. More often than not, our play took the form of flopping on the floor and reading, side by side. When we weren't reading, we were writing our own stories and reading them to each other. I had exhausted the elementary school library before I reached sixth grade.

In high school, I spent a year in Germany as a foreign exchange student. I didn't speak a word of German before I arrived, but left completely fluent--largely because of the hours and hours I spent discovering all the great German literature that my new language abilities opened for me.

My first college degree is in literature. I started with English and German, but quickly added Russian to the mix. I worked at a software company when I wasn't in class, and I spent nearly every spare penny at Harvard Book Store and Schoenhof's Foreign Books. Graduate school, law school, and extensive travel only added to the mix.

All of this reading and book collecting has led to a house stuffed full of books. I have bookcases in nearly every room, and all of them are overflowing. I have books in baskets under my bed and books in piles in the closet. I have books in the bathrooms and the kitchen. When I had kids, I started buying children's books in earnest. And since the kids are turning out to be nearly as voracious in their reading habits as their mother, you can imagine how the collection has grown in twelve years.

But technology is a miraculous thing. This little device, which, complete with it's sturdy leather cover, weighs less than a pound, and slides easily into my purse, can hold 1500 books at one time, with unlimited storage of even more books online. And if you want a new book, you can press a button to access the entire Kindle library via broadband in only seconds and download any of its more than 300,000 books directly to the device in just a few seconds! It also has a built-in dictionary that allows you to click on any word in the text and get an instant definition. And you can make "margin notes", bookmark passages, and do almost all the things you might do with a paper book. It automatically keeps track of where you are in the text and opens to the correct page. It is not backlit, like a computer screen; the screen looks almost like real paper (no eye strain). And it runs for days on a single charge.

Just imagine the possibilities! Go on vacation with only one little device instead of packing four or five paperbacks (like I do). Stick it in your purse and you always have a full range of reading material at hand, whether you're stuck in traffic, waiting at the doctor's office, or have an unexpected hour free. Download children's books and have instant distraction at hand, wherever you may find yourself and the impatient little darlings. Instantly check out the latest by your favorite author--no waiting for it to hit the library or come out in paperback. Amazing. Just...amazing.

I will always love "real" books. I love the way they feel, I love the way they smell, I love they way they wear with time and reading. I won't be getting rid of my hard copy library. But being able to take it all with me, everywhere I go, in one little device--how can you beat that?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Big 4-Oh My God!

It's true: Today I'm officially middle-aged. But isn't this a great cake? My darling husband threw an amazing surprise party for me on Saturday night--and it was actually a surprise! More pictures to follow...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Testing...One...Two...Three...

Another knitting post? This is...what? The third one this week? One might almost think this is turning into a knitting blog!

I have in fact been knitting. I'm test knitting this amazing design from A Black Pepper, who is a fantastic knitter. I have long admired her gorgeous knits, and when I saw this one last year and she mentioned that she was planning to write up the pattern, I immediately offered to test knit it. A couple of weeks ago, she emailed me the pattern and I've been busy ever since.

I have the back done and I'm working my way up the front. I am trying to have it done in another week, and the last time I checked, I still had two arms that need sleeves, so I have to make some rapid progress. Surprisingly, despite the apparent complexity of the pattern, it is a relatively fast knit because of the thoughtful design. The different cables have coordinated repeats, i.e., the large cable pattern has an 18 row repeat, while the small cable pattern has a 6 row repeat. Because of this, it is easy to keep track of where you are in the pattern, unlike with some cabled designs (Dickinson, I'm looking at you). There is very little fussiness, except for the I-cord cast on, which I've never done before and can safely say I hate with a passion that has rarely been equaled in my knitting career.

I am really looking forward to finishing this one, both because I promised to get it done quickly and because I can't wait to try it on!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

To Whomever Gets My Dog

I got this in an email from another dog lover. Those of you who share your lives with pets, and especially those of you who have adopted a pet from a shelter or rescue group, will never forget it:

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean and the people friendly. At first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things. “His things” consisted of a dog pad and a bag of toys, almost all of which were brand new tennis balls. Also there were his dishes and a sealed letter from his previous owner. Reggie and I didn’t really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home. Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust too. Maybe we were too much alike.
For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls – he wouldn’t go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all my other unpacked boxes. I guess I didn’ t really think he’d need all his old stuff, that I’d get him new things once he settled in. However, it became clear pretty soon that he wasn’t going to.
I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, like “sit” “stay” “come” and “heel.” He’d follow them when he felt like it. He never really seemed to listen when I called his name. He’d look in my direction after the fourth or fifth time I said it, but then he’d just go back to doing whatever; When I’d call again you could almost see him sigh and the grudgingly obey.
This just wasn’t going to work. He chewed on a couple of shoes and some unpacked boxes. I was a little too stern with him and he resented it I could tell. The friction got so bad that I couldn’t wait for the two weeks to be up. When it finally was, I was in full-on search mode for my cell phone amid all my unpacked stuff. I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest room. I mumbled, rather cynically, that the “damn dog probably hid it on me.”
Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the shelter’s number, I found his pad and toys from the shelter. I tossed the pad in Reggie’s direction. He sniffed it and wagged with the most enthusiasm I’d seen since bringing him home. I called, “Hey, Reggie, you like that? Come here and I’ll give you a treat.” Instead he sort of glanced in my direction – maybe glare is more accurate – gave a discontented sigh and flopped down with his back to me.
“Well, that’s not going to do it either,” I thought and punched the shelter phone number. Then I saw the sealed envelope and hung up. I had completely forgotten about it.
“Okay, Reggie”, I said out loud, “Let’s see if your previous owner has any advice.”

To Whomever Gets My Dog:
Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this. I told the shelter it could only be opened by Reggie’s new owner. I’m not even happy writing it.

If you’re reading this, it me ans I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter. He knew something was different. I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip, but this time… it’s like he knew something was wrong. Something is wrong… which is why I have to go, to try to make it right.
Let me tell you about my Lab in hopes that it will help you bond with him and him with you: First, he loves tennis balls…the more the merrier. Sometimes I think he’s part squirrel the way he hoards them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to ge t a third in there. He hasn’t made it yet. Doesn’t matter where you throw them, he’ll bound after it so be careful. Really, don’t do it by any roads. I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.
Next, commands.. Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I ll go over them again. Reggie knows the obvious ones like “sit” “stay” “come” and “heel”. He knows hand signals: “back” to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up, and “over” if you put your hand our right or left. “Shake” for shaking water off, and “paw” for a high-five. He does “down” when he feels like lying down – you could work on that with him some more. He knows “ball” “food” “bone” and “treat” like nobody’s business. I trained Reggie with small food treats. Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.
Feeding schedule: twice a day, once about seven in the morning and again at six in the evening. Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.
He’s up on all his shots. Call the clinic on 9th street and update his info with yours; they’ll make sure to send you reminders for when he’s due. Be forewarned, he hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car; I don’t know how he knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.
Finally give him some time to get to know you. I’ve never been married, so it’s only been the two of us for his whole life. He’s gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and doesn't bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, me, most especially.
That means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new. Which is why I need to share one more bit of info with you, his name is not Reggie. I don’t know what made think of that, but I told the shelter his name was Reggie. He’s a smart dog. He’ll get used to it and will respond to it, I have no doubt. I just couldn’t bear to tell them him his real name. For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I’d never see him again. If I come back to get him and tear up this letter it will mean that everything’s fine. If someone else is reading it, it means that his new owner should know his real name. It’ll help you bond with him. Who knows, maybe you’ll even notice a change in his demeanor if he’s been giving you problems.
His real name is Tank, because that is what I drive. Again, if you’re reading this and youE2re from the area, maybe my name has been on the news. I told the shelter that they couldn’t make him available for adoption until they received word from m y company commander. See, my parents are gone; I have no siblings, no one I could leave Tank with. My only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq was that they make one phone call, the shelter, in the “event,” to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy too. He knew where my platoon was headed and said he’d call personally. If you’re reading this, then he made good on his word.
Well, this is getting to downright depressing, even though, I’m just writing it for my dog. I can’t imagine if I were writing it for a wife and family. Still, Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.
Now, I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and love you the same way he loved me. That unconditional love from a dog is what I took with me to Iraq as in inspirations to do something to protect innocent people from those who do terrible things and to keep those terrible people from coming over here. If I had to give up Tank in order to do it, I’m glad to have done so. He is my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my co untry and comrades.
All right, that’s enough.
I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter. I don’t think I’ll say another good-bye to Tank. I cried too much the first time. Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.
Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home and give him an extra kiss goodnight every night from me.
Thank you, Paul Mallory
I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few month ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags have been at half-mast all summer.
I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows o n my knees, staring at the dog. “Hey Tank,” I said quietly.
The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright. “C’mere boy.”
He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted; searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months.
“Tank,” I whispered. His tail swished. I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.
“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me.” Tank reached up and licked my cheek. “So what d’ya say we play some ball?” His ears perked again.
“Yeah, ball. You like that? Ball?”
Tank tore from my hands and disappeared into the next room and when he came back… he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

Friday, September 25, 2009

FO: Mr. Greenjeans


So this is a little embarrassing. This sweater was done back in...March, I think? And not only have I not given it an FO post before now, but in searching the blog, I've realized I never even mentioned it. I did show you the yarn. I was considering using it for Surface at the time, but swatching determined it wouldn't work for that pattern. I loved the yarn so much, though, that I scrapped my plans to knit Surface and instead cast on for Mr. Greenjeans. And that's all she wrote.

One should not take my lack of communication for lack of interest in this project. I loved knitting it, and I love wearing it! You can see by the wrinkles that it has definitely been worn (several times, before the killer death star began its annual assault on my person and my sanity).

The Details

Pattern: Mr. Greenjeans by Amy Swenson

Size: Um. Well, my gauge was different. The finished size is about 36"

Yarn: Some sort of undyed merino/bamboo blend in light worsted weight. I got it in a Rav destash in one giant one pound hank. $20, including shipping, so it was pretty much impossible to pass up. Lovely, lovely yarn, too. This project used about 2/3 of the hank; maybe 800 yards?

Needles: Knit Picks Options, of course, sizes 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Mods: I added length to the body and sleeves. I made the sleeves narrower at the top and changed the fitted cuff to a longer bell shape. I alternated the direction of the cables instead of making them all cross the same way. I shaped the bodice to end just below my bust. Oh, and I increased needle sizes as I worked my way down the cabled section to make a more A-line shape for the body. The result is a generally more drapey and fly-away type sweater that looks great with skirts or jeans.

Thoughts: This is a fantastic pattern. You don't need to change anything to make it work, but it's easy to modify if you're so inclined. It's a top-down raglan, so there is no seaming, and the sleeve stitches are held on waste yarn until the body is finished, then put back on the needles and worked top-down in the round. The stockinette is quick and mindless, and the cable and rib pattern is easy, but still interesting. I think I finished this in about a week and I thoroughly enjoyed knitting it.