Saturday, June 19, 2010


Izzy is no longer with us. Don't worry--we didn't eat her. (Although why I have a problem with that when we regularly eat chicken, I can't explain.) This morning, after the third straight day of jumping out of bed to shut her up--in her coop, in the dark--the KH and I decided to take her back where she came from, which is a feed store in a rural area near us that also sells small farm animals and chickens.

We loaded her into the car and the KH drove her to the feed store. He walked in with Izzy tucked under his arm, and the proprietor took one look and said, "No room for roosters." At which, Izzy let loose with a full volume "cock-a-doodle-DOOOOO!" that immediately stopped all activity in the store. The proprietor's eyes flew open and he said, "Oh. I see. Put him in the yard."

It turns out, our little Izzy hen is a freakin' rooster! A beautiful, healthy rooster, according to the feed store, where he crowed the entire time the KH was there--much to the amusement of the staff, who are astonished we managed to keep him this long. It really explains a lot. Especially Izzy's sudden interest in Mimi. I think the young cock is starting to notice girls (sorry, couldn't resist).

So we're back to two chickens, and I must say, I'm really looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

FO: Man Blankie

I finished the Feel Better Blanket a couple of days ago.

This was my first machine quilting project, and one of my first machine sewing projects ever, so be gentle.

If you look closely, you will see that there are literally hundreds of errors in both piecing and quilting, and I am quite certain that the experienced quilters among you are shuddering with horror at the way I resolved some of the many issues I encountered in making this.

For all that, I loved working on this project! I love, love, love the fabrics, which I got in the form of Freebird Charm Packs from Moda Fabrics. I did absolutely nothing fancy, just sewed the individual squares together as they pleased me.

The border is plain red cotton. I used a twin sized cotton quilt batt which I cut to the custom size of this quilt, and the backing is chocolate colored flannel to make it extra cozy.

I discovered that I really enjoy the feel of just sewing straight lines with my lovely old machine, and that playing with beautiful fabrics is just as wonderful as playing with beautiful yarns.

For the quilting, I winged it, ending up with an ad hoc plaid pattern. As you can see, I used contrasting dark brown quilting thread. I did this to tone down the bright colors a touch, since the KH declared them, "almost a little too cheerful." I think it worked well; I like the way the brown stands out against the bright fabrics, even though it makes every little quilting error jump out at you--and there are a lot of quilting errors.

I tried several methods to get the quilting to go smoothly. In the end, I found that I preferred using the original old edging foot that came with my 1962 Pfaff 360. I didn't like the even feed foot I bought, or the straight stitch foot, or the darning foot. But the edging foot has a guide that helped get the lines straight and even, or at least less wobbly and uneven than the other feet, and was smoother and quieter than the even feed foot.

To finish it, I cut off the extra batting and the wrapped the backing forward over the edge batting and folded the red edging backward over the batting and the backing and sewed it down by hand. (For the record, I do know how to make and attach bias binding, but I chose not to in this case.) As you can see, I'm no better at hand sewing than machine sewing, but at least I could do this part sitting on the sofa in front of the tv. I finished it off with a good machine wash and dry to make it all soft and crinkly.

The KH has barely let his "man blankie" out of his sight for the past two days. He carries it from the sofa to his upstairs office to our bed, depending on where he's hanging out. I have resisted calling him "Linus" because that be mistaken for criticism, when it fact it tickles and flatters me that he seems to love this blanket so much!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Happy Birthday, Older Son!

Yes, it's official: we have a teenager in the house again. Our oldest is 24, so it's been awhile. Hard to believe it's been thirteen years since my baby was born. Well, until I look at his size 11 shoes by the door. Then it's hard to remember those tiny preemie feet that were too little for the baby socks I had for him.

And that is his birthday present he's holding--are you surprised that it's a Kindle? He's declared it "the best birthday present EVER!" He's definitely my kid.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

And at the same time...

At this point in my knitting career, there are certain things I have learned and expect myself to remember and apply. Things like "knit a swatch." We all know that gauge lies, but failing to even make the effort is just throwing it in the face of the Knitting Goddess.

And "being careful not to twist." Unless you enjoy casting an entire sweater body's worth of stitches onto a circular needle and working four or so rounds before you discover that you have invented a wholly new--and probably impossible--geometric construct.

Oh, and "make a copy of your pattern" is always good to remember. I learned that one when I dropped my knitting magazine in the pool while we were on vacation, halfway through that complex lace sweater I was working on. Blowing a soggy magazine with a hair dryer for an hour does not guarantee a legible pattern at the end.

But by far the one that has burned me the most often--and the most viciously--is "and at the same time." You know what I mean: you're knitting along steadily, following the charts for cables or lace or colorwork, and all of a sudden you turn the page and read "and at the same time" and you feel all the blood drain out of your head as you learn that you should have started the decreases for the body 70 rows ago. And for a minute you wonder if anyone will notice that the fitted sweater you were knitting has morphed into a football jersey and that there is no left armhole.

We all know that you are supposed to read the pattern through from beginning to end to prevent this sort of thing from happening. In theory, at least, you will remember while you are knitting that there are some other things that are supposed to happen along the way--preferably before you knit those 70 rows that you're going to have to rip out. In my case, reality seldom conforms to theory, and so I have learned not only to read ahead, but to highlight the words "and at the same time" every time I come across them...even when I'm reading a book or newspaper, because you can just never be too careful.

So I am at a loss to explain how I could have forgotten, in working the right front of Spicy Tweed, that there is waist shaping that is supposed to be worked "at the same time." This failure is rendered more inexplicable by the fact that I had already worked this very same waist shaping on the back and the left front. But I never cease to amaze myself with my own ingenuity in finding ways to screw up my knitting. And so, gentle reader, instead of showing you two half-completed fronts of Spicy Tweed, I am showing you...nothing. You will have to take my word for it that I have been knitting diligently toward completing my WIP Cup project. I even knitted in the car today on the way to and from Julian with the kids fighting in the back seat and a hefty dog sitting in my lap. (The KH was driving. I'm a multi-tasker, but not quite that multi.)

Alas, tonight I will be ripping out all that knitting so that I can re-knit the waist shaping "at the same time."

Someone pass the chocolate and wine.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The WIP Cup Begins

At Ruth's urging, I signed up to participate in the 2010 WIP Cup on Ravelry. It's like the Ravelympics or the Tour de Fleece, only arranged to coordinate with the World Cup. The idea is, naturally, that you sign up to complete one or more WIPs during the World Cup, and if you do, you win! I don't care about soccer (or football, if you prefer), but I do care about knitting and I need some extra incentive to finish up my Spicy Tweed before the summer really gets into full swing around here.

In accordance with the rules, I put down the needles on this project a couple of weeks ago (actually, I was supposed to have done so a month ago but I didn't know). The WIP Cup officially started yesterday. Since I had only the back done, today I cast on for the fronts.

I am trying something new to me and working the fronts more or less simultaneously, a section on one then a section on the other, to try to keep from running out of steam when I finish one and have to start over on the next. If it works out, I'm going to do the same with the sleeves.

The WIP Cup ends on July 11, so ideally I will have a completed sweater by then. Which I won't be able to wear until next winter, but that's not the point, right? Anyone else in?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


What WIPs?

My kids got out of school yesterday. To celebrate what I have always considered the real start of summer, I cast on a summery sweater with a summery yarn in a summery color.

This is going to be "Hey, Teach!" The yarn is some Rowan Summer Tweed in a color I think of as "bug guts green." I've had this yarn in my stash for years. Every time I've swatched with it, I've stuffed it back in the stash. I don't like knitting with it. It's a heavy worsted blend of cotton and raw silk. In other words, heavy, dense, no give, no memory, unpleasant to knit. But it does make a satisfying finished fabric and should wear extremely well with no pilling. The gauge and material are perfect for this project. And I am partial to bug guts green.

It has what I think may be the perfect amount of lace for me. More than, say, a garter stitch log cabin blanket, but less that, say an heirloom shawl. (For the record, I seriously considered knitting one of these for my friend's bridal shower gift way back when. In my defense, at that point I had never knitted a lace shawl and had no idea what I was in for. I can't tell you how glad I am I chose Icarus for that little adventure. And if you want to read about what a snarled saga that was, just search "Icarus" in my blog.)

And so the kids could also celebrate the first day of summer in appropriate fashion, I took the neighborhood boy pack to the local water park today. I'm not so much for water slides. I enjoy being cold and wet about as much as your average cat. But the kids love it, and this particular park is small and quite pleasant when it's not crowded. Today was an absolutely perfect day. The weather was gorgeous and there was practically no one at the park! We got the best lounge seats in the place, the music was great and played at a reasonable volume, the restrooms were clean, and there was no line for the grill. I came prepared to spend the day indulging in my personal favorite activities, with the bug guts sweater and some reading material:

Um. Yeah. I did take all of those. And two extra skeins of yarn, too. For five hours at the waterpark. Before you laugh, think about the knitting you packed for your last overnight trip, 'k?

I bought several of Elizabeth Zimmerman's books last year but haven't gotten around to reading them. Today I read "Knitting Workshop" cover to cover. It's not that long a book and there are lots of diagrams. Oddly enough, it was really enjoyable. I don't really like reading technical knitting stuff, but her voice is so charming and sensible that it's like listening to your favorite aunt talking. When I was finished, I knitted for a couple of hours, then started re-reading that Yarn Harlot book. In a family first, the kids had to convince me to leave the park.

Here's hoping everyone else is enjoying the beginning of summer as much as I am!


Stop me before I sew again!

Or at least before I buy any more sewing machines.

It's just so hard to pass up an awesome deal on such a sweet little machine. I mean, seriously! $20? So this is my sweet Brother Galaxie 221--solid metal, built in cams for decorative stitches, and bright yellow!

And this case! Come on--it's yellow with turquoise flowers! Vintage perfect.

It looks like it's never been used. Clean as could be, inside and out.

I just love this. I don't know why it tickles my fancy so much. I think after sewing on the old machines with their complete lack of directions about anything, it's just funny how this manufacturer totally dummed-down the process.

These guides are everywhere. Probably a good thing, actually, since it didn't come with a manual and my online attempts to locate one --or any information at all about this machine--have utterly failed. I guess I'll be winging it with this machine...once I figure out where I'm going to put it. It is possible to have a sewing machine stash?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sicilian Message

Our next door neighbor left a sort of Sicilian Message for our wanna-be rooster this morning:

You know what they say about "whistling women and crowing hens"--like this one:

Izzy is not amused.

Friday, June 4, 2010


That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Last night I was working my seven-hundred-and-ninety-three-bazillionth row of garter stitch while assembling my Log Cabin Afghan. I finished the row I was working, detached the needle tip that I was using so that I could attach it to the cable that was holding the square I planned to attach on next, capped the end of the working cable, and went to pick up the needle tip...which was gone. It was in my lap one second, and the next...gone.

I did what any rational person would do and carefully shook out everything in my lap. Not there. Then I stood up, shook out my skirt and shirt, checked the floor, lifted the bottom of the sofa slipcover, and ran my hand under the edge of the sofa. Nope. I took off the sofa cushion and looked under it. I slid my hand under a dog lying on the sofa. Still nothing.

I paused, took a deep breath, and carefully walked the family room floor, looking for the needle. I checked the coffee table. Twice. I checked the kitchen counter, even though I hadn't been in the kitchen. (What...isn't that where things magically turn up in your house?) I went upstairs and interrupted the KH on a phone call to ask him, with barely repressed irritation, if he had taken my needle tip to drive me around the bend, because it was working. (Hey, he does that sort of thing. It was a reasonable suspicion.) I'd have interrogated the kids, but they were all in the swimming pool and I was reasonably sure none of them were telekinetic.

I went back to the family room, checked the floor and the table again. I made the dog get off the sofa and ran my hands through his fur. (You never know.) I pulled everything out of the gap between the sofa and the side table. I lifted off the sofa cushion again and ran my hands through the dog hair, crumbs, and what I think was a half-eaten cookie (not mine, though--I don't leave half cookies behind). Nada.

I lifted the sofa skirt and looked under with a flashlight. I checked the dining room, where I haven't been in two days. I looked on top of the piano in the living room. I checked the entry table. I looked in the dryer, because all sorts of strange things turn up in there. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

I went upstairs to get a different needle tip, cursing all the while. I returned downstairs, sat down--and there was the missing needle tip, lying on the sofa. On the cushion I had already taken off the sofa twice.

I managed a deep breath and carefully set it on the side table, well away from the edge, feeling the need for a little break. I had a snack, checked my email, and ordered pizza. Then I picked up my knitting, reached for the errant needle tip...and promptly knocked it into the no man's land between the sofa and the side table.

I got off the sofa--again--and dug everything out of the gap--again. No needle tip. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. I ran my hand along the side of the sofa...and shoved the needle tip under the sofa so far I couldn't reach it.

I moved the side table (a huge, full steamer trunk), shoved the loveseat out of the way, and wrestled the nine foot sofa out of its spot to, finally, capture the needle tip.

After a little rest, I put everything back where it belonged, sat down again, and at last grafted the last square onto the strip I was finishing. I carefully wove in and trimmed all the ends. I laid it out on the table to admire it, and wondered why it looked...different. I pulled out the last strip and laid it beside the new one. All the squares were oriented the right way. The colors were in the right order. There were four squares in each...uh, oh. There were four squares in the first strip. There were five in the second. That last square I went to so much trouble to graft on? That square should have been the first square in the next row.

Sabotage. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Robin Hood Redux

Robin's got nothin' on my boy.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Believe it or not, I've finished all twenty squares for my Noro Log Cabin Blanket and I've started assembling them into strips. I did the first strip this morning, and it was nowhere near as difficult or tedious as I expected. I laid out the squares on the floor and played with the arrangement until I liked the result, then stacked up the squares in order. I decided to attach them in horizontal rows first, then attach those strips together vertically.

To put them together, I picked up and knitted along the edge of each square for half the width of the strip, then grafted the strip halves together in the middle, as you can see above. The grafting line isn't invisible, but it's pretty good and there's no seam. It turns out grafting in garter is easier than grafting in stockinette.

The yarn I'm using for the strips between the squares is some prune colored baby boucle that's been in the stash for years. It's a blend of mohair, cotton, and wool--unusual, but quite soft. I swatched it a few times for different tops, but finally decided I'd never like it for a sweater, so this was a good use for it. The color picks up on the purples in virtually all the Noro squares and the solid makes a nice border for all the self-striping yarns in the squares.

I'm not sure how long I'll be able to maintain momentum on this (it's pretty boring), but I'd like to get this one finished, so I'll keep plugging along for as long as I can. More pictures soon!