Friday, December 30, 2005

It's been a long school vacation already and we still have to get through several more days.

I've been working on a quick new scarf pattern and the purple pullover pattern (still have some more knitting to do), which I'd like to release for The Garter Belt newsletter in late January. People really seem to like quick projects. I must try to make more of them. I had hoped to spend some uninterrupted time on the double bed machine, finishing up a long-dormant project. Maybe I can still get to it over the weekend. If anyone who reads this has a particular talent for naming knitting patterns, please let me know. My mind just doesn't work that way. My ideas for names tend to be quite literal and descriptive, like Raglan Pullover. When I try to get more creative, the results always sound a little dippy and contrived. It's hard to imagine that I spent so many hours of my adolescence writing poetry, yet cannot find an apt word or phrase to name a simple sweater.

Yesterday we had to buy a new furnace. This wasn't too much of a surprise, since we had been told a couple years ago that we were on borrowed time. I'm glad that it was a relatively mild day: high approaching 40 degrees F. And I'm glad that I had just gotten a largish end of year check from my grandmother. So, while it isn't pleasant to suddenly one day have to fork over $2900 just to stay warm, it could have been worse. And the company that did it was able to get a crew in that day. It's nice to know that our house shouldn't blow up from a gas leak and to feel assured that the CO monitors won't be shrieking at us at 2:00 a.m. on a 10 below 0 night.

Counting down til the end of 2005. Tomorrow morning I have Last Saturday Knitting. I wonder if I'll be all alone this month? That's ok if I am. Okay to have company, too. We have no plans for tomorrow night. My ideal New Year's Eve involves hanging around doing nothing special and going to bed about 11. Mr. SABLE and I agree on this. Unfortunately, the older child has gotten the idea that something FUN and MAGICAL happens at midnight and he wants to stay up to experience it. I tell him, "Fine, we're going to bed. Have fun," but this isn't what he wants. He wants us all awake and experiencing the thrill of the New Year sweeping in. Some of my best New Year's Eves have been when we celebrated with other boring people like ourselves. In '99-2000, we went to a party and did Greenwich Mean Time New Years. The hosts live on Greenwich Drive, so it's quite appropriate. Another time, friends with young kids were visiting us and we had New Year's in Reykjavik, which wasn't strictly accurate, but based on the fact that we wanted to have New Year's at about 8 pm.

So, have a safe and happy New Year's Eve everyone. See you all in 2006.
And remember, friends don't let friends knit fug!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Maternal bragging ahead.

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My ten year old son, Owen, drew this picture earlier today. Click to make it bigger. He has always had an artistic bent, but lately the quality of his sketches has made a big leap forward. He's leaving the "kid art" and behind and really starting to make art. I'm very proud of him.

End of the year activities

Two views of the same thing
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Knitting with Fathom and her momImage hosted by
We managed to get together yesterday afternoon at Lakeside Fibers for a little knitting and yarn browsing. Image hosted by Photobucket.comI always get a kick out of meeting other people's parents. The unexpected ways that family resemblances come through are always interesting. Yes, a certain aspect of the face but more, the gestures and expressions. I hope we can all knit again next time Emily's in town.

Not much else to show the world today.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Updates and a recipe

I finished the second Diamond Hat. It's drying now. This one is from charcoal grey Plymouth Galway and some Pengouin yarn in white. I used #5 needles, which made a good fit for Scott's head. Pictures tomorrow.

I finished reading Bel Canto. I'm a little ambivalent. Yes, it's a good read, but I don't think it's great literature. I felt a little shortchanged at the end, as if the writer took a short cut from the story that had engrossed us for 300 pages to the epilogue and no reader could figure out how she got there.

Today I made a particularly successful batch of soup. Thought I'd share the recipe. I made it up as I went along, so posting helps me in case I want to make it again in the future.

Elizabeth's Chicken Barley Rice Soup

Day 1
Roast a whole chicken. Make gravy with the pan drippings. Serve with potatoes and green beans. Save all the leftovers.

Day 2
Early in the day, pick all the meat off the chicken carcass and put it back in the fridge until later.
Put the bones and skin in an eight quart pan. Cover with about 4 inches of water. Bring to a simmer. Cover. Simmer gently for a couple hours, stirring occasionally.

When you wander through the kitchen, turn off the stove and let it cool for a while.

Strain everything out of the broth. Toss out all this stuff: any remaining meat will be too boiled to taste good.

Add to the broth (in the 8 quart pan): 1/2 cup of pearl barley, 1 medium sized diced onion, several medium sized diced carrots, several celery stalks, diced, 1 tablespoon of salt, some poultry seasoning, black pepper, 1 large or 2 small bayleaves. Simmer, covered, for an hour or more. Stir occasionally.

Add one 24 oz can of canned tomatoes and a few finely diced slices of Canadian Bacon (optional for those who don't want pork). Simmer gently, stirring occasionally and while stirring, mash the tomato chunks up.

About one hour before serving time, add 1/2 cup of rice. Stir while simmering to keep rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stir in any leftover gravy from previous night's dinner.

Adjust salt and other spices as needed at this time.

Dice up chicken meat and any leftover potatos and green beans. Stir in about 10 minutes prior to serving.

Would be good with crusty french bread and butter.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Diamond Hat ready now, too!

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Mine is a little big, but you can make it smaller by using smaller needles and a tighter gauge. The pattern will be available at The Garter Belt as soon as Wendy performs her magic. The good news is that I was able to make the mitten and hat set from the 100 gram ball of blue and 4 oz skein of white. The blue was the worrisome one.

Next up in this series: cuff-to-tip mittens with a side gusset for the thumb.

Also, it's this time of year:
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I made Owen's stocking in Dec. 1995 and Colin's in December of 2002. (Yes, he spent his first Christmas without a personalized stocking. What are you going to do? Report me to Martha Stewart?) The really big problem with these stockings is that Colin's is noticably larger than Owen's. Try explaining to a kid why it doesn't really matter. It's not like Santa keeps on shoving loot in there until it's full. Owen's stocking was adapted from a magazine pattern. I think it was a 1970s Family Circle Christmas Crap, er I mean, Craft issue. Colin's was a little more free-form. With a little tweaking, I think Colin's could be a nice pattern. But in a kid's view, it's perfect because it is REALLY BIG!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Mitten pattern count down...

I did get the mitten pattern finished this evening. I sent the pdf and some photos off to Wendy in Italy. I'm not sure what her schedule is like this weekend, but I know she'll get it up and available as soon as she can.

I worked out a graph for the matching hat last night. Started knitting tonight. I put one slightly tricky element right at the beginning: a Baltic Braid. You can see an example on this page of the Peace Fleece site. Scroll down to the hat with Baltic Braid trim.

I hope to make the hat out of the remaining yarn from the mittens. I started those with a 4 oz skein of Germantown (the white) and a 100 gm skein of Peer Gynt (called Sport Weight, but works well as Light Worsted). Ideally, a person could make the set from 100 grams each of two colors. If the hat starts to run short on the blue, I have a Plan B, but I'm not as happy with it as I am with Plan A. If I do run out of the blue, I'll have to start again, because this was one of my Goodwill odd skeins and I doubt I could match the color on a 25 year old skein of yarn from Norway.

Look for hat progress pics in the next day or two.

The other big project around here was cleaning the living room enough to get a tree. I hauled out a bunch of boxes of miscellaneous toys to sort in the playroom. Put a bunch of stuff in recycling or trash. Boxed some items to take to storage on their way to the Goodwill (the two-step schlep: it helps with plausible denial when things get remembered after they go missing). I actually got all the way to the fireplace and we had a firelog hanging around from last year. So, we had a nice heartwarming moment with all of us eating popcorn in front of a cheery fire, with brotherly love and harmony in the air. It lasted about 10 minutes. Would have made a good Christmas card if I'd had the camera handy.

Heat Wave?

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This morning's temperature here in balmy Wisconsin. This is a big improvement over the last week or more when we haven't broken 15 degrees F for daytime highs!

Here is my nearly done Branching Out. I say nearly done because you will notice I have not yet darned in the ends.
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It blocked out quite long. I'm pleased about that, because I think such a skinny lightweight version should have some extra length to compensate. I used a little over half of a 2 oz, 350 yard skein. Pretty economical. More for fashion than for warmth, but that's okay.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Finished Branching Out

I finally finished my Branching Out today. I used Blackberry Ridge wool and silk laceweight yarn and size 5 needles, so it took a little longer than most of them. I made it about 53 inches long before blocking. Not sure the length will change much with the blocking: more like the width.

I was in a quandary about blocking. I even went so far at to look at the welding rods when I was at Farm and Fleet a while back. For those of you who haven't read this tip, the rumor is that steel welding rods can be had at a fraction of the cost of blocking wires available from knitting supply sources. The welding rods I saw did not look suitable. They were too heavy to pass through the stitches easily, some were copper coated (green oxide on the knitting!), some were not coated (steel rusts!), some had some coating to aid the welding process (can't remember what it was called, but sounded like it shouldn't go on my knitting!) and they were all so oily and dirty looking, I just didn't want to pursue that option.

So, I got out a spool of heavy duty nylon thread left over from an upholstery project. Took two strands of that and using a fine darning needle, ran it down the length of the scarf on either edge.

Then I had to give more thought to where to pin that thing. I wanted to pin it damp. I put a towel on the ironing board and pinned out as much as would fit. There's about 10 inches dangling off the end. Tomorrow when I release the dried and blocked section, I'll block the remaining bit with mist.

Over the weekend I should be able to get pics of the finished project in bright natural daylight, when our temperature will climb above 20 for the first time in a lot of days. A veritable heat wave!

Yes, I've been working on the mitten pattern. Should be ready by the weekend, unless I add the matching hat to the deal. Of course, I could always add the hat later...

Good grief: look at the time. I better go to sleep soon, because I've got first morning duty tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Diamond Mittens

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Newly completed: The Diamond Mittens in worsted weight yarn for adult-sized hands. These would fit either a medium to large size woman's hand, or a small to medium man's hand. For child sized mittens, make the same pattern in sport weight on smaller needles.

Pattern to come to The Garter Belt soon! I have it about two-thirds written. Should be available by the weekend!

UPDATE: Diamond Mitten Pattern Here!. If you want the hat, too, you should wait a few more days, because there will be a special price on the pair of patterns.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A bunch of pictures

It's time once again for Whats In My Knitting Bag? Click pics to make them bigger.
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On the right is the purple tweedy top-down textured raglan. The body is nearly long enough and then I hope the sleeves and neck will go quickly.

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This is the successful mitten, worked in ancient sport weight yarn. It's really more child size than adult. To upsize to adult, use DK or worsted weight. This will be a Garter Belt pattern eventually.

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This is a mitten I was not happy with. I could pontificate on why this pattern failed, but I'm sure you have your own opinions. The simple explanation is that there isn't enough repetition. The brain likes repetition to establish a pattern and this doesn't do that. The brain also likes the repetition to be interrupted before it gets boring. But that's another story.

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This photo shows the progress on Scott's tweedy sweater. About 11 inches. Although the yarn is thin, the knitting goes quickly. This is a good project for waiting rooms, watching tv, or other multi-task knitting. The other thing in the picture is a first attempt at creating a felted boot liner for Colin. It's surprisingly hard to find replacement liners for kids' boots. One store clerk told me it's cheaper to buy new boots. I'm not optimistic about this beginning, but have a Plan B in mind.

The last picture shows the temp this morning while I was taking all those pictures...
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That's in Fahrenheit, kids! Welcome to a typical Wisconsin late November morning.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Yarn shopping to solve a problem

My friend Marji and I both posted about our yarn hoarding compulsion a couple weeks ago. We each said (independently and unbeknownst to one another) that the syndrome is fed, in part, by recognizing potential in all kinds of yarn and fabric that others might not appreciate. My case in point was some tan tweedy shetland-style yarn which I acquired in my first big yarn-amassing binge in 1990. This yarn came in a large lot of assorted colors. I've used a lot of these in several projects: four Fair Isle sweaters and some hats come to mind. But this tan tweed has resolutely refused to be place in any project.

Until it met the Blackberry Ridge sport weight navy.
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(Click the photo to make it bigger.) I took this picture a few days ago. The piece is now about 9 inches long. It goes quickly for a small-gauge project. I'm quite pleased with how it's turning out and Scott, who will get the sweater eventually, likes it too. The third part of this little yarn menage-a-trois is the loden green fingering weight I got from a frogged Brooks Bros sweater. It was doubled and I separated it to make a lighter weight yarn. (That yarn also appeared in the original, unseparated two-strand version in my Professor Vest.) I'm happy with the look of this sweater and the feel of the fabric. But I'm really just thrilled to finally put that yarn to use in a pleasing way.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. I told Owen all about the family Thanksgiving, 1985, when the Morrison clan reenacted The Lost Weekend. Of course, I didn't elaborate on the drunken debauchery. But it was a voyage spanning at least 10 states, culminating in the Great Cranberry Spill in which my mom wiped out in my grandmother's butler's pantry while carrying the Waterford bowl of cranberry sauce to the dining room. Those of us in the kitchen heard the crash, and then Mom reappeared, hands red, white cotton blouse ruined, but crystal unbroken! My grandmother's dining room wallpaper still has a small stain where a few drops flew in to land. There's a lot more to tell about that trip, but now it's late and I must get some sleep.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Owen's first yarn and my new bag...

Here, as promised, is a peek at Owen's first attempt at spinning. We washed the hank and let it hang dry with weight on it. The knitting and the ball are right off the spindle: he got impatient to see how it would knit. I used #15 needles, which are probably a little small for some of it.
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Next up, is my new-to-me Coach bag. The eBay gods have smiled on me. This one doesn't have the hang tag, which I don't give two hoots about.
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This bag cost less than $40, including shipping. It's generously sized, plain unadorned outside, will last forever, and I love it.
My birthday present to myself.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Is it time to post again?

Yesterday Owen and I went to the Blackberry Ridge open house. I had one particular yarn in mind, and brought Owen along to help keep peace at home for Scott. We got my yarn and also a 13 oz bag of natural roving, which Owen was planning to use for needlefelting. I wanted to spend a little more time trying to get the hang of the drop-spindle. When Owen saw me drop-spindling, he wanted to do it too. He spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening and this morning spinning about half the bag of roving into his first yarn. It's a little uneven and a little on the thick side, both to be expected from a beginner. But he made a lot of improvement during the time he was working at it and really seemed to enjoy the process. He wants me to knit a bed for Hailey (the cat) out of it. I'll try to oblige, but am a little unsure what needle size to use: it looks like it fluxuates between U.S. size 4 and 35. Tomorrow I'll get a picture of his yarn and post it.

The yarn I went looking for was the Blackberry Ridge sport weight in navy blue. This is to solve the problem of how to use up the ancient shetland-style tweedy tan yarn I bought so very long ago. I had been hoping for a slightly muddier blue, but it really works well in the swatch. I like this yarn a lot and will probably be buying more of it. The price is quite reasonable at $8 for a 350 yard/4 oz skein. It has a nice hand and feels really pleasant. It's very even and has the right amount of twist. And I get to support a small scale really local business. Without paying a premium price. I also found a sale basket with some nice DK weight 85% wool/15% silk in a purple with tweedy flecks. I couldn't leave that sitting there.

My book group met today. We discussed The Kite Runner, which most of us agreed was an amazing book. One woman didn't feel that strongly about it, which is ok. I'm tempted to do a little write up for my Never On Oprah Book Club blog (see sidebar for link) but I'm not sure I can assert that Oprah would never choose this book. She does sometimes choose books I happen to like. In fact, there are some qualities of this book that might cast it squarely into Oprah-land: troubled family, troubled part of the world, guilt and expiation. Even so, I feel like this book rises above the emotional manipulation that puts me off some of her choices. I would put this in my Highly Recommended category.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Winter's Here

I mailed my submission package to IK today! Now it's time for crossed fingers and waiting.

Sheryl/Yarnit and I had coffee at Lakeside Fibers this morning. It was very slow in there, which was nice. It's a great place to enjoy the view of Monona Bay and watch winter move into town. I managed to get out without buying anything. That must be a first for me. I worked on the Donegal Lambswool top-down raglan and some new mittens. I'm not sure the mittens are exactly working, but they aren't quite failing, either. I modified a chart from Anatolian Knitting Designs, to make it small enough to fit on a mitten. Also, reversed the figure/ground color values. Pictures in the next day or two after I get at least one whole mitten done.

And now I'm having a case of complete Mental Drain. I had at least two other paragraphs of stuff to write, but my head is suddenly completely empty. That must mean I'm done!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Various updates

I finished the plain ol boring grey socks last night. So, I need to come up with another mindless and portable project to fill that niche. I'm thinking about the Cable and Rib socks from IK last issue. Or was it the issue before? Using my totally autumnal Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn. Sounds like a plan.

I got impatient waiting to hear back from Amy S. about my Knitty submission and dropped her a message asking what's up. She said that she hated to say no to such a great design, but, well you know the line, "It just isn't right for Knitty." However, she encouraged me to send it to Interweave Knits, so I got the ball rolling on that process. Made a swatch (hmm, swatching for the sweater that's already made? something a little bass-ackward there!) and wrote up the description. I had some photos printed from my digital pics and picked the best two to send along instead of sketches. I knit better than I sketch, so I may as well show 'em the garment instead of my pencil version of what it kinda looks like. IK asks new submitters to send a brief statement of one's knitting philosophy and history. What my mom always told me, "If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit." I've been having fun creating a designer letterhead on which to submit all these pieces of paper. As soon as the swatch dries, I can pack it all up and send it off! And keep my fingers crossed. I wasn't planning to try to jump into the big leagues until next year, when Colin goes to kindergarten. But opportunity came knocking, so nothing to lose by trying.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I'm turning 44. My folks are coming for a couple nights and we should have a nice time. I always wish I could have more time with them.

Off to play with yarn. And then off to sleep.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

WIP updates

Not a lot of flashy stuff to show today. I've just been plugging away at these works in progress:
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I'm trying to decide if it's worth the extra steps to make thumbnails for photos. I know there are a few people left on the planet who still use dial-up internet service. Does it take too long to wait for a picture 300 pixels wide to load?

So, anyway, about the works in progress: the first picture is of the never-ending grey socks and 39 inches of Branching Out. The grey socks are down to the last bit of shaping on the toe of the second one. I think I'll dig into my Cherry Tree Hill yarn for my next pair, and maybe do something besides the basic sock. It's not that I can't, it's just that I really love basic socks. The scarf is coming along slowly, in part because I haven't given it enough attention to make rapid progress. Also, I'm using thinner yarn and thinner needles than recommended. I'm going to make it 5 feet long, pre-blocking. Going on the assumption that my sister in-law does not know about this blog, I'm planning to give it to her for Christmas.

The second photo shows the progress on a top-down raglan in this yarn. I got it from Lakeside Fibers a couple months ago, on the dainty-size 1 kilo cone. Later, I saw the tag inside that said Valley Yarns, which is the other name of WEBS. This yarn is lanolin-rich and a little tough to knit with. But, my washed swatch came out deliciously soft, so it's worth the effort. The finished sweater will have long sleeves and a turtleneck. I have about 7 more inches on the body. It looks like I'll have a generous amount left on that kilo cone!

Yesterday, I finally checked out the ongoing clearance at Coyote Yarns in Middleton. I was hoping to find a few specific types of yarns, to solve some stash-deficiencies. What! you say. How can the woman who blogs as SABLE have any stash deficiencies? Well, It comes from seeing the potential in every yarn. When my yarn hoarding first manifested itself, around 1990, my old favorite yarn shop in Ithaca NY, Knitting Machines, Etc, had bought a close-out lot of a Shetland-style fingering weight yarn. I bought the whole big box of it and Alice Starmore's then-newly-released Fair Isle Knitting. I have made many projects with yarn from that batch, but there have been a few colors that resisted use. I keep trying new ways to pair up these yarns with other yarns, so that they might finally leave my stash. I had an Aha! moment recently and started playing with a three-color slip stitch from Barbara Walker's First Treasury. I used the difficult beigy-tan-tweedy yarn with a loden green and a navy-blue with tan and loden tweedy flecks. And it really sings! And my husband likes it and would wear it in a sweater. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Because I don't have enough of the dark tweedy blue. So, an example of yarn-shopping to solve a problem would be to buy the type of fingering weight blue yarn I would need for this project. An example of the type of shopping that creates problems was buying 6 skeins of Noro Transitions from the sale bin. And I solved that problem at Coyote Yarns. With 4 skeins of a nice soft bulky black yarn which will tame that Noro into a very warm cardigan.

Now, if only I could solve the problem of my time deficiency!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Nothing but pictures...

OK, maybe a little descriptive text, too.
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Newly acquired stash from my mini-yarn-crawl with Terby yesterday.

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The fully completed porch: front view.

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Side view

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Back and side view.

I realized I never posted the pics of the whole completed project, though it has appeared as background in several photos.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Internet is acting up!

Finally, not just my computer. I think. I've been having trouble posting comments on knittyboard and on a few of my friends' blogs. Blogger was down earlier today. Hmm. The world wide web seems to be having a spastic evening.

Terby and I went to the other knitting group this morning. This one meets on the first Sat of each month, in addition to several regular weekday evening times. Parents of young children know that regularly planning to skip out of the house for social knitting time any time between 5:30 and 7 is a good way to curry disfavor with the spouse or equivalent. The organizers of First Sat knitting really want to find a place on the east side of town, on a bus route, where space for 8-10 people can be reserved. Hmm. It hasn't been easy to find a permanent home that satisfies all these requirements. Today we met in a brand new yarn shop that just opened in Monona. It was fun looking at all the goodies. I was pretty restrained and bought only one skein of Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn. But what a skein! I'll try to get some pics tomorrow. I hope this shop can make a go of it. Madison is pretty saturated with yarn sources. Lots of chains: two Walmarts, two Michael's, Hobby Lobby, two Wisconsin Craft Marts, 2 super Joann's, Hancock Fabrics. Then the following actual yarn shops in town or within half an hour: Lakeside Fibers, The Knitting Tree, The Sows Ear, Off the Beaten Track (new place in Monona), Coyote Yarns, Susan's Fiber Shop, Stitcher's Crossing. Plus some other businesses, like LMNOPies, the pastry shop with yarn, that have jumped on the bandwagon. All of this going up against internet sources.

After Terby and I left Monona, we popped in at Lakeside Fibers, where I cleaned out the sale bin of various 50% off balls of Jameison's DK. And saw the mom of one of Colin's classmates, who works there. (The mom, not the classmate.)

In the afternoon I visited the storage unit and realized that there's still more yarn over there than I had remembered. I brought home a couple boxes to have on hand.

Tantrum-boy, aka Colin, started pitching fits around dinner. (That's why parents aren't allowed to trot off to knitting group at 6 pm) and is, even now, at almost 11 pm, pitching fits IN HIS SLEEP! He's got a big-time case of Crabola Virus. I only hope it passes soon. I can't take it much longer.

In any case, Tantrum-boy should be well enough for a nice full week of preschool this week. And I will blissfully roll in yarn and swatch and play.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The week I'd rather not relive...

Scott's been in Chicago since Monday night, taking a class related to his work. He gets back late tomorrow night. Colin's been running a low fever and coughing chest-rattling phlegmy coughs. I'm fighting a mild cold and so is Owen. In a casual scan of blogs, I've read that people all over seem to be sick. I guess it's the season.

I haven't got much knitting done. But did manage to order some yarn online: just what I needed!

Colin seems to be on the mend, so maybe he can go to his morning preschool tomorrow. His appetite has returned and his energy level is a little more normal.

I hope to start on some fun new patterns soon. That is, if I can ever get a minute to myself.

Last night I made a pair of really wild pajama pants to replace a pair that was self-destructing. The great thing about pajamas is being able to wear colors and prints I might not choose to wear in public.
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This was a real quick'n'dirty project. I had bought the fabric from a sale heap at Hancock Fabrics. It's a t-shirt knit with the big floral print. Sometimes they get flatfold bargains that I think are remaindered from the garment biz. The pajamas I took apart to use for a pattern had biased with several years of washing. Of course I didn't take the time to properly draft a new straight pattern, so these pajamas have built-in twist: the seams wrap around the legs. Oh well. Maybe this fabric will bias in the other direction and they'll straighten out with time. In any case, they are very comfortable and do not have big holes forming all over.

I'll leave you with a Halloween treat.
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Saturday, October 29, 2005

The garage is cleaner

than it has been in a long long time. Not that you care. We are a family of class-A packrats, and slobs, too. Our garage has served as a dumping ground for all sorts of stuff for many years and today we made major strides on cleaning it. Our big ambition was to be able to park the pop-up camper in there for the winter, and I am happy to say we accomplished that goal. I have a large stack of cardboard in the back of my van to take to recycling on Monday, and Scott has a bunch of potentially Free-cyclable stuff to take to our storage unit in his van. We filled up many extra large (like 5 feet X 3 feet) black garbage bags with trash and put it curbside for Tuesday a.m. collection. I found the box from my first CD player, which had been purchased in 1987 or 88, in Ithaca NY, 4 moves ago, and died and was disposed of about 4 years ago. It's truly pathological when the boxes and styrofoam packing materials stay with us longer than they items they originally protected.

This morning was knitting group time for me. My friend Terri was there and Jenny, whom I had met one previous time. You know, as much as people think a big group is a sign of success, I really like it when there's just a few of us. It's easier to get to know people and have a more unguarded conversation. If you find yourself in Madison on the last Saturday of a month, come knit!

Other good news: download The Jester Hat pattern for free at The Garter Belt now and you can have a new hat by morning. Many thanks to Wendy for her speedy work getting that up. And make sure you admire Melly in her Jester Hat, too!

On the computer front, I now own and have running, an external hard-drive to back up everything at all times. Whew. In the modern era, it seems to cost about a dollar per gigabyte. When I think about my first computer, which did not even have an internal hard drive, and when a 30 megabyte harddrive was considered generous, I marvel at how things have changed. Remember being thrilled by 8 megabytes of RAM? Those were not the good old days.

I'm off to order pizza. I think I need a good soaking and scrubbing to get the dust of ages from the garage floor out of hair and pores. Maybe some day we'll live like normal people. Probably not.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My in-house tech guy managed to replace the file that was in a corrupted place on my hard disc, so my email crisis is temporarily avoided. But, I have no illusion of safety. Over the years, I have been remarkably free of major computer catastrophes, so I feel as though I'm living on borrowed time.

Here's a quick little knit for those of you who have a hard time with delayed gratification:
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Here's a close up of the ball on top:
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The ball is knitted as an extension of the i-cord and stuffed with a ball of the same yarn, rolled very tightly, before the final decreases. I got this idea from Anna Zilboorg's Fine and Fanciful Hats book. I'm not sure how different my instructions are from hers, but I love the concept. This will be a free pattern on the Garter Belt soon.

What's In My Knitting Bag
I don't have any really cool big projects to show. Instead I have a bunch of small, rather pedestrian projects.
One of my smaller knitting bags:
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The contents:
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We've got a pair of blue socks for my mom's birthday. That was August 1. Oops. The socks have been travelling around in the knitting bag, needing only to have the ends sewn in, since about mid-Sept. Rumor is my folks are coming to visit in mid-November, so I'll just give them to her then.

There's a couple feet of a skinny Branching Out, about 40% of the final length. I really wanted to give this yarn a test-run on a small project and I am quite pleased with it. It's the Blackberry Ridge wool and silk laceweight yarn in Mallard. I can imagine making something larger and more complex from this yarn. The silk gives a nice body and the yarn is pleasant against my neck and face. It's made in Mt Horeb, about 15 miles from my house. Talk about supporting a local economy!

And there's a sock and beginning of the mate in the Regia from the Sows Ear clearance bin. I think I have a lifetime supply of that! This is my second pair from this grey.

Several other projects are languishing in the wings right now. Nothing so exciting I have to show the world.

And Other News...
We are finally experiencing crisp autumnal weather. OK, first there was soggy autumnal weather, but today is crisp. I love this time of year and even late fall, when the leaves have all dropped and the world is not so colorful. I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire and November had its own particular beauty that all the October tourists never understood. The hillsides have a rich purply-grey and the green from the pines. The sun is either slanting in low or gone altogether.

Our porch has been really truly done for about a week. The cold and wet weather moved in right for the completion. I'm happy we'll be ready for the nice weather when it comes. It feels like such a perfect extension of our house that I already wonder how we lived without it.

Colin wants to be a pink bunny for Halloween, so I've been busy with that kind of sewing that is not what I would choose to do. You know, there are projects you take on because you want to, and then there are projects that are foisted upon you. I bought some pink pants and a pink sweatshirt at the Goodwill last week, hoping to avoid a major effort and cash outlay. I couldn't find a pink blanket sleeper big enough for him in the thrift shops. He loves the shirt and pants and runs around in them quite happily. This disgusts Owen, who cannot believe his brother is running around in pink from head to toe. I bought some pink polarfleece and made a hood with bunny ears. The ears have pale pink satin linings inside. Also, will make the tail out of pale pink satin. While looking for costume ideas online, I found a blog with a boy in a bunny suit and numerous commenters assumed that the mother had done this to the child as torture. I'm here to tell you, some kids do this to their mothers! My mom always had us make our own costumes from stuff we had lying around. Small wonder I always went as a gypsy (I know that isn't P.C. in modern times) or a princess. We had a bunch of 40's dresses, a lot of 60's hippy garb, and lots of costume jewelry for dress-ups when I was a kid.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

computer acting out again.

I just wanted to alert everyone that my computer gave me a "corrupted file" message earlier when I was trying to get email. This using Outlook Express. I can still (for now) send and receive email with the infuriating Mail program that came with the iMac, BUT all my email stuff: address book, unanswered messages, past correspondence with unfinished business, etc, is all locked away from me in a probably-unretrievable part of my hard drive. Scott will be helping me back up everything so we can go back for more Applecare: getting our money's worth out of that deal! But, if you sent me a message in the last little while and were hoping for a reply, it would be good to send it again, both to jog my memory and make sure I have your email address.

Lots of other mundane details to report, but now it's very late.

I'll try to get my act together to post in a day or two.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A little knitting humor

I saw this in one of our local papers a couple days ago. Click for a larger image.
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Some knitting content. Finally!

I figured I better post some actual knitting content, including photos, before some of the web rings I'm in start disqualifying me.

I donated blood this morning and rewarded myself with a trip to The Sow's Ear in nearby Verona. I had Colin in tow, which meant that I had to placate him with a cookie and do my yarn shopping FAST. I bought a skein of Blackberry Ridge wool and silk laceweight yarn to make a little lacy scarf. Although it's lighter weight than suggested for Branching Out, I decided to to give that a whirl. Then I can post pictures of my progress along the way and everyone will know what it's supposed to look like, and I don't have to waste 5 weeks trying to invent the perfect simple lace scarf pattern. Here's the first progress picture:
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I realized that I was doing one of the double decreases a little wrong, but straightened that out. All you experts will spot the errors: the rest of you will just have to wonder.

The other current project is a top-down raglan in Donegal lambswool tweed.
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This yarn changed a lot after washing, so I'm basing all my decisions about the size I need on the washed swatch. The pattern stitch tends to spread a little more than plain stocking stitch, which might work out pretty well for me for the raglan shape. Often, I need to add rather a lot of stitches under the armpits to get around the bust zone when my length is correct for raglan seam shaping. This time, I suspect I'll just be needing an inch or two under each arm.

I'm still itching to launch into a complex color pattern soon, but haven't had the undisturbed time to really play with color and pattern. Lately, I feel like all my time is being scheduled by circumstances beyond my control. I don't like that feeling but what can I do? Colin missed preschool on Tuesday (intestinal distress) and I went with Owen's school to a field trip all day on Wednesday. Thursday evening went to see a dying friend at the hospice center. Today I donated blood. All these are important things to do and attend to, but it makes for a crowded week. It's not like I can tell my friend that he picked an inconvenient time to die. I'm sure he'd agree, as he would have enjoyed having a few more 24 hours on earth. And as I type that, I look out the window facing east and see a beautiful, almost-full moon rising in the pink evening twilight.

I'll sign off with two more photos.
Owen's first effort at needle felting, two geese
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A view of the nearly finished porch with the table on it
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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More Porch Progress

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I took this picture Thursday of last week. We really are getting close to the end.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Long time, no post

Gosh, I've been a flake about my entire online life lately. I haven't been reading blogs, haven't posted to my blog, haven't been checking in on knittyboard. What have I been doing?

I did finish the knitty submission by the deadline. It was kind of dicey at the end because I realized that I hadn't been very honest with myself about the size I would need to look right in the garment. And it was way too tight for me to model it. So, I sent a desperate email to 5 or 6 women I could think of who might either be the right size or have a friend who is and Lo and Behold, one of my fellow MadCity knitters worked out just right. She could have worn a size smaller, but it didn't look too ridiculously big and the colors and pattern suited her perfectly.

Immediately after sending that project off, I had to start paying attention to work I needed to do for my all-volunteer non-profit enviro group. Our big annual meeting was this past Sat. and I handle a lot of the clerical kinds of tasks that make a meeting like that run smoothly: copying, collating, updating member lists, etc.

Now I'm in that let down after the big crunches. Colin was throwing up on Saturday and has progressed lower down the digestive track to running at the other end. I'm hoping for no more symptoms between now and noon tomorrow, because then he will be good to go to preschool: 24 hours symptom-free.

In knitting news, I've started a top-down sweater in a rich purple tweed lambswool I bought in the summer at Lakeside Fibers. It came on a 2 pound cone that was on sale: who could resist? I'm using the same simple texture I used on the The Professor Vest and hope it will be a cozy dead-of-winter sweater. I'll try to post pics in the next day or two.

The porch guys are really close to finishing. Of course, it appears that our long warm spell has finally given way to more seasonably cool weather, so we might be waiting until spring to really enjoy it. I will definitely have a little social for all my knitting buddies when the weather gets warm enough again.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Porch progress

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Here is today's photo of the porch progress. We are getting very excited as it gets closer to completion.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The knitty submission is giving me headaches. I need to take the neck off and redo that. Plus darn in ends and some other finishing work. Not even thinking about finishing the writing right now. And some of the numbers turned out wonky, which I think I understand. Part of me wants to bag it, but it really is pretty close. Maybe tomorrow evening I can rethink the troublesome neck and everything will work out. Today, while avoiding thinking about that project, I worked on my boring socks. Nice to have something that works out well to fall back on.

Much rearranging going on here Chez SABLE. The porch project is coming right along: the roof structure is all in place and now all the finishing details are going on. This is kind of slow work, because we didn't choose to have a bare-bones porch. This week the french door for the living room will be installed, so we had to do a little clearing to get ready for that. Of course, everything in our house is so over-capacity that it's like a complicated puzzle to move some stuff out of the living room. It may seem like the basement project and the porch project have nothing to do with one another, but they are very much connected. I needed to get all my stuff (sewing and knitting) consolidated in the terminus of the finished half of the basement so that space could be made in the bedroom we call the Toy Room for all the toys from the living room. I would like the living room to become a mostly toy-free zone, if possible. To get my stuff all in the basement, Scott had to move out all his model RR stuff and other misc. junk. I'm mostly arranged down there now. Scott has kindly built me a bookshelf so I can finish that move soon. The shelf functions as a barricade to help kid-proof my space. We also hope to move the tv down to the basement, but I think that plan is still several weeks from fruition. Today, Scott took the boys to one of their favorite train haunts, Mid-Continent Railway in North Freedom WI. That gave me a few hours to work on de-cluttering the living room a little. I wouldn't call it clean, but it's closer than it has been in months. I boxed up a lot toys I hope will not be missed and we can stick them in storage for a while. Also threw away a lot of crap. At least now the door can be installed this week and we will have direct access to the porch from the living room.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A day late...

My pirate name is:
Black Ethel Kidd
Like anyone confronted with the harshness of robbery on the high seas, you can be pessimistic at times. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Not my knitty submission

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From Knit King magazine, c. 1972

I debated long and hard about posting these next two images. Maybe I'll just not add captions, and people can imagine what I would have these models saying...
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What do you think these people are saying?

Still busy, but end in sight

Update on the knitty submission: I am now on the raglan area above the armpit joins and making pretty good progress. I have been having shooting pains coming from my elbow, which worries me, but nothing to do but soldier on. I live on ibuprofen anyway, so what's a few more. I'm pretty confident I can get the last stretch done and a reasonably accurate pattern written by the deadline.

The porch guys took Wed-Fri off to go to a trade convention in Chicago. The decking is mostly done and the posts are up, awaiting the beams and roof structure. Pretty exciting. The kids have been using it as a stage and putting on impromptu plays. I bought a small round wooden table at a yard sale yesterday. It's in terrible shape, but I'll paint it glossy white and it'll be fine for holding an ice tea or cup of coffee out on the porch. Some neighbors threw out a chair that will make a good porch chair. It had a padded seat and back, with exposed wood legs, arms, and frame. Kind of a "waiting room" chair. Scott's painting the wood parts glossy white (I stripped off all the upholstery a couple weekends ago) and I've got everything I need to recover the seat and back pad. It should be a rewarding project. If I keep amassing odd pieces of furniture and painting them all white, they should look like they go well enough.

Must go cook a vegetable for dinner.

Monday, September 12, 2005


I'm now on the third sleeve of the Knitty submission, deadline looming. What's that you say? Third sleeve? Well, I told you the first effort was not working out. The second attempt was a great success. Frogged the first down to the cuff and am making good progress on the reknitting. But damn, I have a thing with sleeves. They are the part of the project where I am most apt to get hung up and get a bad attitude. Only I don't have time for a bad attitude on this one. 17 days to finish the knitting, finish the writing, do the math for the other four sizes, guesstimate the yardage for the other sizes, make the schematic and graphs, block, take the photos...

So, if you all don't see a new post until Oct 1, you'll know why.

And my volunteer non-profit is having its big annual event Oct 8. And though I thought I was getting out of that commitment, they keep flattering me and making it hard to say no.

OK, nine 2.5 hour preschool sessions, less transportation time, less organizing my thoughts time, equals about 17 hours of working time, in less than 2 hour chunks, between now and Oct 1.

I'm off to sleep. Tomorrow afternoon is a preschool time. Yay!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day

Designing news
Last night I realized that indeed, this is September! and the deadline for winter Knitty submissions is Oct. 1. I have a torso up to the armpits done, and had done one sleeve that was giving me pause. After sleeping on it, I knew I had to redo that sleeve. One issue is that it was too tight around. It fits on my bare arm, but this is supposed to be a winter sweater and I need ease for a turtleneck. Also, some of the patternwork was vexing me around the increases for a while. About 10 inches up, I had my "AHA!" moment and have produced a far more elegant sleeve the second time around. I'm about eight inches up the second attempt. I still need to rip out the first effort: I like to leave than until I have a better replacement in the bag. It seems less painful that way.

Last night I spent a little time on the writing up phase, too. I tend to underestimate how much time that will take since I try to include at least 5 sizes, from 36"-56", and especially if I need to write it for the lowest common denominator knitter. I read these posts in the knittyboard forum and am constantly surprised! "It says 'reverse shaping.' How do I do that?" "It says increase IN PATTERN STITCH. How do I do that?" You get the idea. If I only had to write a pattern for the quickest minds, it would be a breeze. Cast on X st. Work until the armpits. Do the sleeves, cast off some stitches for the underarm seams. Put both sleeves and the body on the long circular. Make sure you put one sleeve on EACH side of the body. Work in rounds to neck, decreasing as appropriate. Cast off. Anyhow, I'm happy to have made a start on the writing part, because it's easier to come back and do a little here and there once it is started.

Other news
Both boys will have normal school weeks this week. I'm a little anxious about Colin's reaction. I know he will settle in quickly after the first week or two, but it could be a bumpy ride until then. I still need to take care of a few back-to-school details, but most of that is DONE. Thank goodness I don't buy Back To School clothes. (Am I the world's worst mother?) That's right. I do not go out and buy a bunch of new clothes just because the calendar says Sept. Further, I wonder why everyone else does. It's the most painful time to be shopping. The stores are full of bickering parents and kids. The weather is still summertime hot, so all you need are the shorts, t shirts, and sandals you've been wearing all summer. Life is hectic enough with amassing the stuff the school requires. I do stock up on this stuff in late summer because the savings are remarkable. Spiral notebooks for a dime each, instead of $1.89, markers for $1 a box, instead of $3. But the clothes? I let that slide until it seems necessary. Anyhow, I am really looking forward to having a few afternoons of peace and solitude.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Porch design

Here's the rendering of our porch design. You can imagine how excited we are.
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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Not talking about current events

I'm consciously not commenting on Hurricane Katrina, as so many others have covered that and I don't have anything to add. What words of mine can mean anything in the face of that devastation?

Owen and I spent the evening looking through some of my old (60s and 70s) knitting pattern booklets and choosing ones to scan for the EW! project. We plan to give them EW! ratings of 1 to 4 and make a little gallery. Also, of course, current and new releases are fair game. Owen has been working on a little hurling emoticon, which will function like the stars in movie ratings, only a 4-Ew rating will be one that few would ever wish to knit. Sometimes it's hard to separate the actual design from the stylistic choices involved in the photo-shoot: the props and hair styles and even the color choices of the sample sweaters. I hope to get a little gallery started over the holiday weekend.

In other news
The workers poured the concrete footings for our porch today. The work will take about 5 weeks to complete, so we should have a little porch sitting time still before the winter winds blow in.

Owen had his first day back at school and it seemed to go well. He stayed after to set up computers for the music teacher: she loves him. Colin had an open house day at his preschool. This was a little more tumultuous. Tantrum before and tantrums after. I know these teachers and I'm sure it will be fine once he gets into his routine. But neither of my guys handles big emotion very well. Neither does their dad, for that matter.

At dinner, Owen was trying to discuss something and Colin wanted the floor. Colin started screaming and did the prolonged high-pitch ear-piercing shriek. I decided to to take a walk and stalked off without saying goodbye. Just needed some time ALONE. Both boys started following me, one at a time. First I repelled Colin and about a block and a half away, Owen came scootering up. He turned out to be pretty good company after I got over being grumpy. We took a brisk half hour walk and felt better after. I should try to do that every evening while the weather is nice.

I just realized that fall knitty is about to come out, so I need to get my butt in gear for my winter submission. It's coming along pretty quickly, but the writing up is always more time consuming than I anticipate. Last week, for the hell of it, I googled "rejected by knitty" (but without the quotes). Interesting to see what came up. I shouldn't be surprised at the hard feelings, but it was pretty easy to see where several items went wrong: color choice, photo-quality, too much like somthing else. I don't know that I would handle it better, but I hope so. If I'm going to make a go of this biz, I'm going to get rejected. Better to accept it early on.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Vacation Pictures: Devil's Lake SP, south-central WI

Better late than never, here are a couple pictures from our trip last week.

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Here we all are, in our 18 foot canoe. Owen is paddling in front, Colin is next and then me. Scott took the picture from the back.

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A view looking down the length of the lake.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Counting down to Sept.1!

I'll start with the obligatory knitting content. Here's a picture of my current plain ole boring sock.

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I bought a bunch of this yarn last year in a clearance basket at my favorite local yarn shop. I've been making socks from it as my no-brainer projects ever since. I love to wear handknit wool socks and they are easier to store and justify than endless sweaters.

Today I hit the local Goodwill. I was looking for sweaters to recycle and bought about 6. But I also found this:
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Not bad for $1.99! It isn't the Coach bag of my dreams, as it is too small, but still, I couldn't leave it there.

I'm not posting pictures of the six sweaters I plan to recycle yet, but they will make wonderful yarn: lambswool & angora, silk & angora, etc. Next-to-the-skin soft. Now, why I go to such lengths to get yarn is another story. I'm congenitally cheap. And when people whine that they have to use the most inexpensive acrylic because they are poor, I feel a need to prove that a person CAN knit with natural fibers for less than the cost of a sweater's worth of Red Heart. It takes a little more time and determination, but not that much. My local Goodwill charges $3.99 for sweaters: not dirt cheap, but they have a good selection. The St. Vincent's in the area often have lower prices. Additionally, they run a place called Diggers Outlet, at which clothing is sold by the pound. Because I am large, I have to be resourceful if I want a sweater's worth of yarn, looking at the men's XXL options, buying two smaller sweaters that can be combined, or other creative solutions.

We're experiencing a lot of four-year old posturing around here lately. Colin has been a real tyrant! We had intermittent tantrums throughout the day, right through dinner. He's discovered the power in hating lately and loves to yell, "I hate you!" or "I hate (whatever)!" On our camping trip, he tore up a small plastic garbage bag that had Smokey Bear on it and proclaimed, "I hate Smokey Bear!" I had to laugh. Like, what did Smokey ever do to Colin?? He's going to be starting a new preschool program next week and has a lot of anxiety about that. This is the same school we tried to put him in when he was 2, and I ended up taking him out right away because I could see he wasn't ready. Now, he's been to preschool before and will be back in the same speech preschool class later in the fall. That one only meets in 6 week cycles, and Colin is in cycle 2. He will have a number of classmates from last year. I felt that he needed something a little more continuous this year and enrolled him at the Y for afternoons, 3 days a week. I'm hoping that after his first 6 week cycle of speech therapy class, he will be ready to drop that for now.

Anyhow, both boys are a bit nutty in this last countdown week before the school year starts. And when the boys are nutty, you can bet that some of that is taking a toll on the mother.

My little knitting group (I say that like I own it or something) met today. It was very small; just Leslie, Terri, and me, which was perfect. Two hours flew by before I realized what was up. I could have sat there knitting all day, but there were groceries to be bought, battles to referee, laundry to be done, etc. etc.

I still need to finish moving my stuff down to the basement. This, so we can clear all toys from the living room and prepare for the big porch project to go forward. We signed for our home equity loan on Thursday and I went to the builder's Thursday afternoon to take a final look at the plans and approve some fixtures and sign the building contract. Wednesday morning the design team hands off to the construction team, and away we go!

Scott loaded all the vacation pics to his computer then cleared the camera. I'll see if I can find some good ones to post so Zib can see where I was!

BTW, I haven't picked anyone for that timeline Meme yet. Let's see: Fathom, Wendy at Knit and Tonic, Entrelac, and Terby. That's four.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Owen asked me to post a link to his panoramic view of Devil's Lake. Just a warning for those of you with dial-up internet access: you need to be patient! Owen's Panorama

I will get some other photos off the camera later tonight, but have a bunch of other stuff to tend to first.

The Me Meme

10 years ago: My son Owen was a baby and I was in the painful process of extracting myself from the bookstore I had founded and owned for 10 years. It was a hot miserable summer.

5 years ago: I was anticipating Owen beginning kindergarten, had started a fairly complex Fair Isle sweater from an Alice Starmore chart, and was thinking about maybe having another baby.

1 year ago: I was counting down to the start of school, knitting the original Lucky Pullover from Peace Fleece, and trying to think of design ideas that would be good enough to submit to Knitty. Also made sketches and wrote a pattern for a lacy women's top with bust and waist darts, which I never actually knit.

Yesterday: I was camping at Devil's Lake State Park with my guys. Pictures to follow soon.

5 snacks: brie cheese, carrot sticks, caramel corn, Empire apples from the Cornell Orchards in season, coffee. (Is coffee a snack? It is to me.)

5 songs i know all the words to: Some obscure folk songs that no one else knows, a bunch of kids songs that everyone knows, all the god-awful top ten hits of 1973 (embarrassingly true). Not exactly 5 songs, but it gives you an idea.

5 things I would do with 100million: travel a little more, buy a remote cabin on a cold northern lake, generously support public radio, provide financial security for my loved ones, become a minor-league philanthropist.

5 places to run away to: Venice, Italy; Madeline Island in the Apostle Islands, Lake Superior; Iceland; Alaska; a nearby motel with my husband, leaving the kids at home.

5 things I would never wear: Spiky stilletto heels, bikini bathing suit, mini skirt, midriff-revealing tops, low-slung pants, and thong underwear. OK, that's six things. There are probably more, but they continue this theme.

5 favorite tv shows: These days I don't watch TV. In the past, I've enjoyed the Mystery series on PBS, and The Red Green Show.

5 biggest joys : When a knitting design really works; being left alone to play with fiber; when my kids are kind without me prompting; floating in a canoe on a still lake; talking with my mom on the phone (or better yet, getting to spend time with my mom).

5 favorite toys: my computer, my LK150 knitting machine, digital camera, boom box in my workspace, a good technical pen.

I'm not sure who to tag next: I'll think it over and post some names soon. If you want to do this meme, consider yourself tagged.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

We're off camping until Thursday, but I hope to sneak in a little knitting while we're there. I'll bring the big stealth project, of course, but also some socks. Basic socks are my favorite camping project: easy to stop and start, small, long stretches of uncomplicated knitting. I'm not a multi-tasker: I can't even K1, Slip1 for a heel correctly while I chat. But I can K2, P2 just about any time.

We found out Friday that the builders can work us into their schedule really soon, so we should have the porch under way before we know it! Yahoo! Last night I was too excited to sleep, so today I'm tired.

Of course, this means a lot more work in a hurry for us. We need to clear out the corner where the door will go. And finish moving any plants we need to relocate. I'm imagining a wonderful butterfly garden running along our porch and sitting there watching the show!

Friday, August 19, 2005

tornado update

When I wrote last night's post, I didn't realize that things had gotten pretty serious about 10 miles south of here. Read the details here. It's pretty scary when big devastation happens close to home. And surreal the way a tornado can level one neighborhood and leave another completely intact.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Tornados all around

We spent the evening in our basement, a nice little ritual we seem to perform at least once a year. I always kind of hope for some exciting weather, but not too exciting. A lot of the smaller towns and cities around Madison had tornados or funnel clouds, but it seems that we were spared. In the middle of the warning, Colin suddenly realized that Snip (current favorite Beanie Baby) was out on the climber! Crisis. Brave Mom was dispatched to retrieve the soggy little kitty, who then got a trip through the dryer. I took the digital camera out with me, hoping to see some worthy clouds, but it was pretty boring.

For those who are still following the Yellowjacket Saga, the dry ice did nothing. Scott thinks they had a wonderful, deep sleep and awoke refreshed, ready to guard their nest with renewed vigor. Tonight, he's out there arranging a hose with which to pump in hot soapy water. After this, we capitulate and go to the pyrethrins. Talk about your IPM program. At this point, we just don't want the nest to release 50 new queens into our yard for next season.

We did get a reservation to go camping at Devil's Lake, starting Sunday. I'm hoping the crowds will all be off back-to-school shopping or something. Although, there really haven't been many people there on my day trips recently. It's hard to believe, but we haven't had our canoe in the water once this summer. Crazy summer. Scott got all his share of the Big Project done, which means he's free to take off for a few days. After the tornado threat blows through tonight and tomorrow, it should be gorgeous weather for early next week.

After we get back from camping, we really will be in the countdown for starting school. I can hardly wait!

Our other big news, the big screen porch, is moving along. We decided to go with a design and build firm, definitely not "low bidders" but people I feel really listen to and understand me when I describe what I want. And they return calls. And keep us informed. Tomorrow, we go to their office to see some preliminary sketches, from which we will choose one. Then a detailed plan is created and a tighter range of cost estimate based on that presented. Then we get the rest of the money from the bank (gotta love home equity) and they build. We've been wanting a big screen porch almost since we bought this house and it's hard to believe it will really happen.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Since I'm the last person to discover any cool thing, I just found Rose-Kim Knits. This blog has been running quite a while and it's good. Thursdays are reserved for a feature called "What the Hell?". You can imagine what she digs up for that! If you haven't poked your head in over there, do it.

My new work in progress is coming along swimmingly. I'm so happy with it! But, this evening I was zipping along and looked down and about 4" back, 4 circular inches, on 230 stitches/round, I saw four offending stitches in color B that ought to have been color A. Must have spaced out there. they are not all in a row, but every 4th stitch in one area is wrong. Owen says just to duplicate stitch over, because he can't imagine ripping back 5520 stitches. And that's a pretty good solution. I might ladder down to the errors and reknit them properly, but am leaning toward duplicate stitch. I wish I could show you all pictures, but as I'm planning to submit this one to Knitty for winter, it'll have to be a stealth project for now.

We finally had a break in our humidity. We went to Devil's Lake and had absolute resort weather. The water there is very clear. Not too cold for old moms like me to get wet. Not too crowded. We're hoping to get a few days camping before school starts. The weekends are booked solid, but maybe Scott can get his part of the Big Project done and out of his hands for a while, so we can take some weekdays. The boys played nicely. Owen has a new mask and snorkel and would have spent 4 more hours there if he could have. Not bad for $6 clearance at Shopko. I think Devil's Lake is the only one in Wisconsin with no algae.

The yellowjacket update:
They ate holes through the black plastic and were coming and going at their pleasure. Scott tried making a trap with a piece of meat hanging over some soapy water in a bucket. Only two fatalities. Then he made some traps with soapy koolaid (not just for dyeing yarn: did you know you can drink that stuff?) and soda bottles. No success. But he also put a chunk of watermelon in a cake pan with soapy water. There is no more room for dead yellowjackets! I'm sure there are still a lot more in the nest, but I hope that a fresh trap will take in another couple hundred. If we keep this up for several days, we might deplete the nest enough think about removal. Don't leave dead wood in your yard folks! Another idea Scott read on the internet, but that we haven't yet tried: put chunks of dry ice on the log above the nest. As it evaporates, the CO2 will sink into the holes in the nest and asphyxiate the bees. This one appeals to me as the secondary measure, after we reduce the colony size.

I'll try to start another knitting project soon which will be public. Pictures liven up a blog. And I've had several posts in a row with none!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Being "Nice" and the Internet

There’s been some discussion on the web lately about so-called “negativity” in criticism and reviews on blogs and in forums. First of all, let me say that I was always a big fan of Miss Manners’ column when it ran in my local newspaper. A person can never go wrong by striving to be polite. Does this make a person humorless? Does it mean I need to put up with being mistreated? I don’t think so. Miss Manners used to say, “You can’t fight rudeness with rudeness.” I agree. I like civility. I’m trying to instill it in my children.

That said, I don’t think every honest critic is rude. I happen to think a certain amount of satire and irony is a good thing. I am not someone who suffers fools gladly. I don’t mind helping people, but I like to see that people have tried to help themselves.

Some of my personal history: I learned to knit as a child and came back to it in my late 20s. From then on, nearly everything I learned, I taught myself from books or magazines. I am somewhat short-tempered with what I consider “stupid” questions, by which I mean, any question that a few minutes research could have answered. I’m not going to be ageist and assume that this is a trait only for the young. Some people seem to need a lot of hand-holding. I, however, am not a hand-holder. (Except on young children when crossing streets or in parking lots.) Because I have figured out every advanced knitting skill that I have learned on my own, people who won’t try to learn mystify me.

Who is a fair target for public scrutiny? The blogsters of You Knit What? have a statement I agree with. Professional, published designs and their designers are fair game. If you got paid to make something I consider ugly, more power to you. But by becoming professional, you expose yourself to be judged by professional criteria. If people think it’s ugly, they’re going to let you know. If they don’t tell you, they will vote with their wallets.

Let’s back up to the Summer Issue of Knitty. A number of bloggers reviewed it with a broad stroke, proclaiming, “It sucks.” End of story. As someone who had two designs in that issue, I had braced myself for negative reviews. When you put work forth, as a professional, into the public realm, you have to be ready to hear that some folks won’t like it. I find it most helpful when they explain why they don’t like it, but I understand that no self-appointed blogging critic has any obligation to satisfy my preferences. In fact, I was somewhat indifferent to the blanket “It sucks” criticisms for a few reasons. First, no one singled out my designs from the pack to slam. In fact, a few critics almost admitted that they were almost ok. Second, neither pattern was one in which I had a great emotional investment. Both were projects I was making for other reasons and they happened to be done when the issue was taking submissions, so I wrote them up. In both cases, I took the time to look through the Knitty archives and make certain that they didn’t look too much like something previously published therein. In the big picture of knitting they were not original concepts. In both cases I was more a pattern writer than designer. Third, I wasn’t too impressed with a number of the choices myself. I don’t know what the rejected submissions looked like, but there were a few inclusions that I would only have included under extreme duress. No, I’m not going to name them and no, I’m not going to go into detail about why. That’s another essay for another day.

Moving on, there’s the recent flap concerning a certain knit designer who is known for pushing the boundaries of the craft. Some of her more vocal critics posted comments on her blog. They did not mince words. They were not kind. They were not softening the blow. And they did not stick to a critique of the designs. It got personal. I have the feeling that I missed a chapter in that book, but the archives of the blog in question are not currently available. Some people have said that attacking the designer’s character on her own blog was too harsh. I am not this designer’s biggest fan. A lot of her work does not appeal to me. Much of it seems contrived or gimmicky. Fine. A lot of other people do like her work and make and buy her patterns. While my personal code of ethics would allow me to post an honest review on my own blog, or if I had access, in a print source, I would not feel right going to her blog to slam her work or character. But what if the earlier chapters of this story involved a retaliatory shot fired by the designer? I don’t know if they did or not: I just don’t believe that the blog commenters now being vilified would pick this fight out of thin air.

Another bone of contention for some is the amount of obscenity one blog-writer uses. I try not to punctuate my sentences with those words because I don’t believe they enhance my writing. Do I care if someone else uses them? Not one bit. As she says, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. There are times I feel her writing would be improved by a little cleaning up, but it isn’t my place to tell her. She doesn’t pop in on my blog to point out my sentence fragments and or other editorial offenses.

There is a pack-like behavior on the internet that I find fascinating and disturbing. One person passes a critical judgment on a blog or in a forum and another responds. Soon, each has an army of defenders leaping forward to reassure each principal that she was right and the other person is a bitch (or worse). Then volleys of emails are lobbed en masse at people who unsuspectingly stepped into the fray. A lot of that is right out of junior high school. The adults rise above and hope the young’uns grow out of it soon. It’s like a bar fight. People start craning their necks to see what’s up and get swept away with their emotions. Next thing you know, all sorts of otherwise level-headed folks are weighing in and adding to the hostilities. Which leads us to this truism: the Internet is truly anarchy. Good thing it’s virtual anarchy, because the bodies would be piling up by now! There is no authority saying that you can’t print that here. In the information age, anyone with a speck of computer literacy can start a blog and find a public. It’s a wild and wooly world. At the end of the day, each of us must live with our own self.

Each of you will do what you want. No amount of admonishing you all to, “Behave! Be Nice” will help. It doesn’t stop my kids when I’m towering over them with my most dagger-filled angry mom eyes. I don’t think I want the Internet to be overflowing with niceness. But I’ll use a military analogy and suggest that we try to aim our verbal grenades at the other willing combatants and be mindful to avoid the civilian bystanders. Some poor misled teen doesn’t deserve as full a measure of my scorn for her fun fur cell phone cozy as does an internationally acclaimed designer foisting one more poncho on the world. The teen may yet grow out of it!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Peaceful Monday Update

Owen will be spending his mornings at Lego Mindstorms Robotics camp for the next 2 weeks, so that makes everything much more peaceful on the homefront. Colin is playing with the girl from next door, so I am blissfully allowed to think a complete thought, get involved with a project, or even, (gasp!) do some badly needed housework. Yep. Everything at our house has gotten so thoroughly YUCKY that it is less stressful to clean it than to keep living with it.

Last night I sent Scott out back to light the grill, because I am grill challenged. I am a master at campfires, even in the rain, but I cannot light a grill. Go figure. Scott had Colin tagging along and noticed something dart under a rotting railroad tie that has been gracing our backyard for a number of years. Without thinking things through, he reached down and lifted the rotting wood to see what it was. It was a yellowjacket nest. They were not happy to have a big human shaking their home and swarmed. Scott got stung right away and he and Colin came running into the kitchen, both carrying on irrationally. Unfortunately, they brought some yellowjackets in with them, which took a few minutes for us to figure out. Colin had one on his shirt and was stung by it. Scott had one in his hair. While we were calming everyone down, applying ice and topical Benedryl, Colin started screaming all over again. One had stung his toe. Poor kid. The hornets continued to swarm angrily out by the grill and we needed a dinner plan. Meanwhile, Colin was suggesting that we should move away from this house Right Away! and come back tomorrow with a truck for our stuff. Now we're in a bit of a bind, because (as many of you know) I'm not one to see pesticides as the first choice solution to this problem. The fact is, that this nest has probably been there all summer and we only had a problem now because a certain Adult Male in the household decided to disturb the nest. Still, I agree that it would be good to persuade the hornets to relocate. We have some extra large, extra heavy duty black garbage bags and I suggested to Scott that we could put one over the nest and that the solar gain would kill the beasts. So, that's the first thing we're trying. Scott got the bag in place last night. It needs a few more weights to keep it snug against the log. My next approach would involve many layers of protective clothing and repeatedly disturbing the nest. I hope it doesn't come to that!

On the knitting front, I have a new Work In Progress with which I am very pleased. It's from the Jo Sharp DK, in Mulberry, and Knit One, Crochet Too Parfait in a putty color. I'm using charts from Anatolian Knitting Designs, which would be one of my Desert Island Knitting Books. I"m not sure if I'll post pictures along the way, as I'm thinking of a Winter Knitty submission. They have had very few patterns that make extensive use of Fair Isle colorwork, and I think this would stand a good chance of being accepted. The thing is, I'm so happy with the way that it's looking I really want to post pictures and gloat. Mutter mutter. I can always do a picture later if I change my mind.

I finished reading Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven last night. It was really interesting reading. The cover blurbs make it sound like the book is mostly concerned with one murder case. In fact, most of the book involves recounting the history of the Mormon church and its splinter fundamentalist offshoots, and thereby making the case that in view of this history, the crime in question is not that atypical an event. My father always had an historian's interest in Mormonism and I visited Nauvoo with him when I was a teenager. Krakauer's research for this book involved extensive reading and distilling of previously published histories as well as interviews with practicing and apostate Mormons. As far as I could tell, no new research went into the telling of the history, but he does an excellent job with presenting the history as drawn from previous texts. He makes extensive uses of source material in describing the crime and the aftermath and in presenting a picture of life as it is currently lived in the fundamentalist enclaves. I'd put this on my highly recommended list.

And that's the news from my life.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Another online quiz...

You are elegant, withdrawn, and brilliant.
Your mind is a weapon, able to solve any puzzle.
You are also great at poking holes in arguments and common beliefs.

For you, comfort and calm are very important.
You tend to thrive on your own and shrug off most affection.
You prefer to protect your emotions and stay strong.

I find these things infinitely amusing. Don't ask me why; I don't have a clue. Maybe because they always manage to have a kernel of truth in the results, like horoscopes in the newspaper. Keep it sufficiently general and anyone can see something of oneself in it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

3 pictures

First off, two progress pictures from the basement reshuffle.
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This one shows the Wall of Yarn, which is 2 feet deep, about 7 feet high, and 8 feet wide. Most of these boxes are packed pretty tightly. Yep, I have a problem. I am powerless over yarn.

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These are my two knitting machines, side by side, under the overhead light. I hope to make better use of them in the coming months.

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This is a swatch of an idea. I think I'll try again in smaller needles, as this is a little filmy for what I have in mind.

Now, I'm off to Devil's Lake with boys. I hope the name of the lake does not inspire hellish behavior, like the day before yesterday when Colin clonked Owen on the head with a rock.