Saturday, September 30, 2006

I still love fair isle

Here's the progress pics, coming up on two whole repeats of the motif.

And a little closer view

These colors are a little hard to accurately capture on the camera. I tried messing around in Photoshop to make them read more like I see them, but never quite feel like it's working. Still, you can get an idea.

I've had a nasty cold this whole week, so I feel like I've been firing on half a cylinder. Several days I took long naps while the kids were at school. I hope I'm nearing the end of it. I haven't been up to grocery shopping or meal planning, so our diet has been interesting this week.

On Monday, I took the spinning wheel and drop spindle in to show the kindergarteners. They really paid attention and and were very interested. A couple kids said that they know someone who spins. One girl said that she wants to try. Planted that seed early! I found Charlie Needs a Cloak in the school library and read that to them, too. It's so hard for kids to understand just how long it took to make clothes before the Industrial Revolution.

This morning I went to Last Saturday Knitting. It was all new faces since I was last there, way back in May. Jenny and Terri moved away over the summer, and Linda probably gave up on me, after I was away for so many months in a row. With a little luck, we'll be able to get a new group of regulars for a while.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I Love Fair Isle

Ok, this project isn't strictly Fair Isle, in that the motifs are from Anatolia and the symmetry is a little different. Still, you know what I mean.

Here's the progress so far of the vest, just over half-way through the first repeat.

Today I timed myself, just to see what kind of rate I sustain. I played a 48 minute CD and I did 4.5 rows at 330 stitches per row. 1485 stitches (roughly) or about 31 stitches a minute as a sustained average rate. Not record-breaking, but I think it's respectable, considering I stop to flex my fingers every now and then and also to stare admiringly at the work in progress.

Here's the close-up shot:

Monday, September 25, 2006

More pictures of Autumn Walk Scarf

Look for this to go live on The Garter Belt in about a week. At that time, there will be kits available from Yarn Botanika's Etsy Shop.

draped artistically on the trellis

Modeled by the beautiful Anapaula, who lives next door. Her guy, Tom, showed a surprising and previously-unknown talent as a fashion shoot photo-stylist, all while we were being swarmed by our collective broods.

OMG! Thank You!

Sarah M aka Teleknitter is The BEST!

I just got home from the supermarket and the mail was in the box. And look what she sent!

This gorgeous hank of 100% alpaca fingering weight that she spun! Mead was featured on Sarah's blog a bit ago and I might have dropped the subtlest hint (Yeah, right. Subtle like a train wreck!) that I loved this yarn. And today, here she is! An early birthday present. Sarah notes that her (Sarah's) birthday is November 11, two days before mine, so that gives me a while to think of a suitably cool way to reciprocate.

Since Mead has already posed for yarnographic images for Sarah and is now featured here, I'd say she's had more exposure that the average Playboy centerfold. But she's so deserving.

I can't wait to introduce her to some of the alpaca hanks I bought at the Alpaca Fest. I think they'll get on well together.

Thanks Sarah. You made my day.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Corrugated Rib

I love this stuff. Always have. Here's a tip for those of you new to corrugated ribbing. If you hold one color in each hand, put the color you purl with in your left hand. This will make it very easy to move the purl color from the back to the front.

Tomorrow morning, I'm taking my spinning wheel in to show the kindergarteners how I make yarn. Should be interesting. I wish I owned a copy of Charlie Needs a New Cloak. Maybe I can find one in the school library in the morning. I think I'll bring the drop spindle, too, and try to impress upon them just how laborious a process spinning has been through so much of human history.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

More Knitting Content!

You can tell I'm on a roll here! Lots of knitting content these days.

This swatch shows the colors I've decided on for the Kelebek Vest. The stitch pattern is from Anatolian Knitting Designs, and is called Kelebek which they say means butterfly in English. I'm using mostly currently available Harrisville Shetland colors, which are far more reasonably priced that Jamieson and Smith, though the color range is more limited.The only color I don't see an equivalent for in the Harrisville line is the apricot that I got by over-dyeing my pink with a solution of brown and moss green Wilton's cake dec coloring paste. I'm pretty sure I can find a good choice in the Jamieson's line, but need to look at their color cards in person, not just online, to decide. Since my guys have all gone off the train show in Monroe, I'm going to seize the moment and cast on! If any of you fair isle nuts out there would like to knit a sample for me in an alternative colorway, let me know. It would work something like this: I send you yarn and pattern. You make the vest and send it to me with any comments or suggestions. I take pictures and such, then return the vest for you to keep. Just a thought.

Moving along, yesterday we had a burst of sunshine in the late afternoon. I happened to be wearing a purple shirt that coordinates very well with the Autumn Walk Scarf. Grabbed the camera and Mr. SABLE and went to the backyard climber where some rays were still not below the horizon. The pics all had a very warm glow from the angle of the sun.

Weather permitting, I'll get some more pics before the weekend is out.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Coming soon: Autumn Walk

Really. Just need a wee bit of time writing and a burst of sunshine with a model handy.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


While I'm waiting for some muddied up pink yarn to dry, I thought I'd post a bit about my experiences working with color.

In college the prerequisite for all studio art classes, Art 101, was known among the students as Cut'nPaste. People who considered themselves artists resented having to take it before doing any of the fun stuff, like painting, sculpture, etching, figure drawing. I still come back to the lessons I learned in this most basic class.

One of the exercises involved using newspapers (back in the day, there were no color pictures!) to make a grey scale. Squinting at sections of type, we were to show gradating values from the darkest to the lightest with at least 10 levels.

Another great exercise involved using colored paper (maybe origami paper? seemed like that quality) and doing two different tricks. First, by placing two samples of the same hue on different backgrounds, create the illusion of two different hues. Next (this was harder), take two different hues and by placing them on different backgrounds make them look the same. If you have never tried these two basic exercises and you want to know more about color, give them a whirl.

When Alice S***m***'s (she who must not be named) book on Fair Isle Knitting was released, I bought it and studied it, swatched from it, made tams and sweaters and studied more. That book was my constant companion for many months. Later, Tone Takle and Lise Kolstad, two Norwegian designers released Sweaters and More Sweaters! More Sweaters has a wonderful section on design considerations. If you can get your hands on this book, take a look.

Finally, I cannot strongly enough recommend Color and Fiber by Patricia Lambert et al. I got my hands on my own copy of this book about 5 or 6 years ago. If you want to get technical about why you see what you see, this is the book for you.

Ultimately, though, I learn the most by doing. I understand that warm colors approach and cool colors recede. I understand that placing small clumps of green in a field of red will affect my perception of that green. But ultimately I have to see what happens when those two colors of yarn get together in my knitting. Until that happens, it's all conjecture.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The New Fair Isle Swatch

Yesterday evening I finished a second repeat of the pattern, but rearranged some of the colors. The first photo shows the whole swatch, with two different repeats. This helps you get a sense of how it reads over the whole garment.

The next two photos show each of the two individual variations separately, to help clarify what I'm talking about!

In the top photo, there is more pink.
In the second photo, I swapped the pink and palest grey, and reduced to pink to two rows in the center, rather than 4. The other lighter value yarns that form the back ground had to change their relative sizes to work out. The second version uses four rows of the lighter brown, in the center with the pink. V.1 has only two rows of the lighter brown.

At the bottom and top of each repeat, I changed my mind twice. First, I had black only in the two rows that begin the repeat. I decided to use four rows, thus edging the dark purple triangles. But the black looks too dark in person, so I thought about finding a dark grey. At the end of V.2 I subbed in the darkest grey I had on hand, which isn't dark enough.

Feedback appreciated! Owen already proclaimed the whole set of colors ugly. But he's an 11 year old boy, so I'm not giving too much credence to his opinion. He hates all the pink.

What I'm leaning toward is buying a very dark grey or brown to replace the black next to the dark purple. I also have on hand a dark blue which has a lot grey to it, which might do something interesting to the whole thing. Next, possibly buying a muddier pink (or giving some of mine a bath in tea or tan dye), to sub for the pink I have. Otherwise, I'm happy with the purple and loden on shades of grey. This project will be a vest for me, knit in the round with steeks at front and armholes. Corrugated ribbing all around. Pretty traditional in style and shape.

Weigh in with an opinion. If you only ever like jewel tones or primaries, obviously this isn't going to be a design you will like. Given that I love muddy tertiary colors, I'm interested in hearing what you think of these choices and their placements.

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Lady in Waiting?

I've spent the morning waiting for things. Our telephone was behaving oddly and we had a service call for that scheduled between 8 a.m. and noon today. He came about 10:30 and solved the problem. Yay! I'm also waiting for a load of paver bricks from the building center. I don't strictly need to be here for that, except that I want to make certain the pallet gets set in the right place! No sign of them yet.

I'm bad at waiting. I tend to feel like I can't get too involved in things if I know there's a chance I might be interrupted. I don't dare go to the basement lair because I won't hear anyone at the door or in the driveway, so I'm just kind of "on hold". I worked on a sock for Owen, so that's productive. He would like a lot of pairs of hand-knit socks for the coming winter.

In other news, last night I worked on a swatch for a fair isle vest. I don't think I'm ready to change my name to Alice S. just yet.

The swatch is in the round and I'll cut it open for a little steaming and blocking before measuring it. But first, I need to make another repeat and rearrange the colors. I've decided that this one has too much of the pink, so that will move to the center two rows and the palest grey, which reads as either light blue or white, will move out a bit. I might tinker with a few others, too.

After fussing with this last night, and much rummaging in my boxes and bins and trying desperately to find a cone of yarn I know I own, I was reminded all over again that sometimes there really is no substitute for swatching. In your mind, you think you know about color. You think you can "see" how the different hues and values will work, or not, together. And yet, there's still an element of surprise. A green can turn grey; a grey can turn blue. Making choices that work, with good contrast in values, so the design isn't muddy, and the right choice of hues, takes time, experience, education, and a natural bent for the process. And a strong ego, too, because some nay-sayer will always be happy to tell you that the choices you love look like crap in their opinion.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Finally some knitting... and other stuff

Sorry for all you dial-up folks out there. This one's a bit photo heavy.

Several years ago, these sedums came along for the ride when someone gave me a bunch of hostas they were thinning from a family plot in a local cemetary. This year, for the first time, they are in a happy home. Lots of sunshine and no stress. What I love about these sedums is how pink they are, compared to others that look like the same variety. The bumble bees love them, too.

Here's our female cat, Hailey, sitting on the garden path by some ornamental grass. Why do cats start walking right at the camera the minute I crouch down for a picture?

A couple shots from recent butterfly stalking in the garden. Yeah, I know, the butterfly shots are all starting to look the same. I think the thrill is in the conquest for me.

Finally, some knitting progress pics

I would like the skinny scarf to be about 6 feet long. It's about 5 feet right now. Anyone with the perfect name for this, let me know. By the way, the Yarn Botanika yarn has a magical quality of reproducing on the ball while you knit! It's true! This ball still feels about as heavy as when I started! Amazing!*

If I hadn't stressed my left wrist on the sweater for the Little Emperor, I would have been done by now.

The working name for the boy-sized version of the Adirondack Pullover is Foothills. It still needs sleeves, a collar, a good jostle in warm water to make it submit to my will. I think it'll get shelved a month or more while I work on some stuff that doesn't stress my hands. I'm getting a feeling that my little guy is on a big growth spurt, too. I just dragged another box of Owen's old clothes out of the closet, and it's startling to see what almost fits!

*Click here to see close-up of scarf stitch.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


They bounce off each other like gas molecules. Imagine holding helium in your hand, or putting a swarm of gnats in your lap.

Some need so much. Scared, quiet, overwhelmed. Some are bossy and some are rebellious. One boy already spits like an old man with a 40 year Skoal habit.

How can this petulant five year old girl with a teen mom be so secure in herself, so in charge of her universe, when my five year old will not let go of my hand until the last minute? What did that teen mom get right that I, with age, education, and money, could not give my boys?

How do the grown ups who run their school universe keep the wild ones in order without terrorizing the shy ones? Convey both kindness and total authority?

How many new disabilities are there now? Every kind of sensory integration dysfunction, and they need to work it out and be part of the system. You look at some of these kids and you think, surely, he must have a diagnosis. But, by the end of the day, in your mind you’ve labeled three fourths of the class. Maybe that number is too high? Maybe not? Does any child get to be five years old and not know that spitting in another child’s face is bad behavior? Unless he has a label?

Some kids can’t tolerate the noise, or the proximity, or the jostling. Some can’t stop making noise, moving near, or jostling.

They tease and bully from the second day. They form alliances. The daughter of the teen mom and the daughter of an older mom are the queen bees, already. They are in their own secret club, smug in their knowledge that they are elementary school royalty. They are deciding already who is weak or a geek, who will sink to the lowest caste.

Some of them bring out the worst in me, sometimes in spite of their obvious need. For all the things I never managed to teach my children, they are courteous to adults. There are kids who show up with matching, stain-free clothes, who come from clean orderly houses, yet, who size up every situation in the terms of what they can get away with. Were they born like that? Does it come from spending the early years in a substandard, understaffed daycare? Kids who act like the only time following basic rules matters is when directly under a teacher’s gaze. The only time you don’t break a rule is when you’ll get caught. These kids irk me in a fundamental way. When they try to smile cutely, ingratiatingly, I see it as manipulation, maybe even when it isn’t. For all my kids’ failings, they learned early not to expect certain manipulative moves to work.

I agreed to help in the lunchroom for the first two weeks. Closing in on the end of the second week, I am eager to be done, but I worry about how the kids will get their milks opened, pack up their garbage, cope. I know they will. They’ll have to. And I know that my kindergartener is learning the drill and shouldn’t run afoul of The Lunch Lady out of ignorance.

And the ignorance is so sad. The Lunch Lady is a Queen of Protocol. Woe to the child who defies her. Is there a better way?

As parents we color our opinions with our memories of our own experiences. If my lunchroom was anarchy, but I liked that, I think all this regimentation is oppressive. If my school lunch times were hell because of the chaos and unruly kids, then I’m apt to think this strict imposition of orderliness is good. It helps the kids focus on eating when they have only a short time to do that. For every kid who thrives with strictness, there’s another who would thrive with more latitude.

For every kid who can comply completely with The Lunch Lady’s demands by the end of the first week, there are 10 who cannot. She uses shame and ridicule to drive home her expectations. I think there’s a better way. Still, I’ve done my two weeks. I could not do her job day in, day out, year in, year out, for even 5 times what I bet they pay her. So can I still criticize her methods? Is that fair.

Sometimes I think we want our own children to be free souls. But we want all those other kids to follow the rules.

The tattletales
If one third of the kids are trouble-makers, another third seem to be tattle tales. I want a child to tell an adult when something is a safety issue. But I think most of them need to butt out on all the little stuff. Most of the tattling doesn’t directly concern the tattler, anyhow.

The timid
The last third are timid. Too afraid to speak, missing their moms and the cozy lunchtime rituals they’ve enjoyed for 5 years. They eat quietly, sadly, some cry. They look like Dickensian orphans, wondering how fate dealt them this cruel hand and placed them here, under The Lunch Lady’s watchful eye. They try to do everything right, but sniffle too loudly when the call for silence goes up. Then the eagle eyes whirl around, looking for the culprit who made the noise. These children break my heart. They wait patiently, quietly, for their tables to be dismissed, while the rowdies at the other end of the table push and cajole. The Lunch Lady passes them by, punishing the whole class for the actions of a few. Finally, she comes to their table, and reminds them all that they have practiced, they should know this by now. The timid ones tremble, hoping to gain freedom on the playground for a short while. In the 10 minutes that they have been waiting, quietly, hopefully, some fidget and look away. The Lunch Lady barks, “Pay attention! Look at me!”

Finally, freedom is granted. Until tomorrow at lunch.

Very Special Things

A new pattern by Wendy Wonnacott available here!

My own knitting is taking a holiday this week. I've been catching up on things I've let slide in the rest of my life and giving my left hand a break at the same time.

I foresee some machine knitting in my future!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More Things About Me

17. I'm a recovering alcoholic, sober for nearly 20 years.

18. I don't believe in astrology, but my personality seems to fit the profile for my sign, Scorpio.

19. I had to fire someone who worked in my bookstore once. On her way out, she told me I was, "rude, cruel, power-hungry, and abusive." Whew. Maybe some of that is true.

20. Mr. SABLE and I lived in Ithaca NY from 1984-96.

21. We moved to Madison WI when he got his first real job.

22. I don't cry very often.

23. But tear-jerker scenes in movies get me every time.

24. I'm embarrassed when I start crying because of that kind of blatant emotional manipulation.

25. I've never owned a dog.

26. I've always been extremely close to my mother.

27. My family moved to NH when I was 5, just before I started 1st grade.

28. In my very small public school, about 12 of us went from 1st-12th grades together. I graduated in a large class of 30.

29. When I was a young teen, I wanted to go to RISD and study fashion design. My mom told me that would be a bad idea.

30. So, I went to University of Chicago and had several concentrations before I stopped trying. Among them: Italian Lit, History of Religions, and Medieval History.

31. Eventually I may go back to college and get a BA in Textiles and Design.

32. My secret internet vice is looking at real estate. It's like pornography for me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The First Few Days of School

Tuesday was supposed to usher in a new era at the SABLE house. I'm not sure it's quite worked out the way I thought it should just yet. Both boys are in new school situations and having some adjustments. For Owen, the main issue is the earlier start time. We really need to make sure he stops reading and goes to sleep by 10, because he needs to wake up around 7 and be out the door at 7:30. Mr SABLE is going in to work earlier, so we're seeing him a little earlier in the afternoons these days.

For the little guy, though, it's a big change. He's handling it pretty well, although every day I get a bit of resistance as we approach 8:15. When we're lining up waiting for the bell, he begs me to stay but accepts it when I leave. I've been volunteering in the lunch room with the kindergarteners and first graders, so we have to go through the separation issues all over again. I'm eager to finish that obligation. I will do Monday mornings in the classroom if it doesn't cause problems with my little guy.

I donated blood yesterday morning. That was uneventful. It's always good when that's uneventful.

I had coffee with my friend Heather this morning. While I was waiting for her, I managed to spill my coffee and soak my shorts. Fortunately, the spill was on my side so no ambiguity about the big wet spot. Home to change then off to school for lunch duty. Then home for a bit to organize my thoughts and eat a little lunch myself before I went off to the supermarket. Yay! Shopping alone! I love shopping alone.

So, not much knitting the last couple days. Part of that is just the running around busy-ness, but also I really did overdo it with the Cotton Top on the Little Emperor's pullover over the weekend and had to give my left hand several days with almost no knitting.

Tomorrow afternoon I get to hang out with Emily for a bit while she's in town.

Then Mr SABLE is taking the guys off camping for the weekend. I might sneak off to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival while they're gone, although it sounds like the knitty-heads will be gathering on Sunday.

Next week, I hope to really hunker down and get productive.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A little progress since yesterday...

I took this pic about an hour ago. I'm about half-way to the finished body length of this pullover. I'm aiming for about 20 inches long. The Cotton Top is giving my hands a bit of a work-out, so I'd better lay off it for the rest of the day.

I used Cotton Top for the second sweater I ever made. I loved that sweater. (Where is that now?) I could put it in a gentle machine wash in a mesh bag and then lay it out on a drying rack. It stood up to all kinds of abuse in the bookstore. It was oversize then, which means it might fit me ok now.

We had a few lovely days in a row and Mr. SABLE left his van windows open in the driveway yesterday. Our two cats slept in there all day! They really think it's just one giant cat bed.

Our little guy thinks he's a cat. This has been an enduring theme of his since very early on. His first word was Meow. I wonder if there will be Species Reassignment Surgery available when he's an adult. (A horrifying thought!)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Fiber and Knitting

Here are my main works in progress of the moment. The skinny scarf for the Yarn Botanika project is coming along. I find I can make great progress on this if I have my music going or something to keep me in my chair. I'm not a tv/movie knitter, but those of you who are will be able to do this pattern while parked on the couch with an eye on the tube.

The other item is the beginning of a top-down raglan for The Little Emperor. I'm re-using the same concept as my Adirondack Pullover, only at a slightly different gauge and in a boy's size. The yarn is from a stash-dive I took last night. Brown Sheep's Cotton Top, which was not in production very long. It's probably a heavy worsted/aran weight, 50/50 wool/cotton blend. It's soft to the touch and has a nice crunchy hand. When Owen came down to the basement lair to show me something, I asked him what he thought about the yarn for a sweater for L.E. He must be gaining some tact in his old age. He made a bit of a face and recovered. Then said, "You'd better ask him." Very diplomatic. The yarn looks better in the knitting than it does in the skeins. This morning, LE voiced his approval. The other day he said he wants a rainbow sweater, so I might have to make another one for him fairly soon.

This is the Corriedale Cross I've been spinning the last few days. Nice nice batts.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Some Things About Me

The court of public opinion is running decidedly against the "100 Facts", but strongly for the abbreviated version. Here's a short list to kick things off. Turtlegirl, you have permission to skip reading this post.

1. For 10 years, from 1985-1995, I owned a used bookstore. That store is still in operation, under another owner.

2. I’m a closet hypochondriac.

3. I stopped believing in Santa when I was just barely 5 years old. I was in line to talk to Santa at my school’s Christmas party and an older kid behind me told me there was no such thing and that was just a man in a suit. I knew he was right and told my mom I was ready to go home.

4. I first questioned religious authority when I was about four. My parents had been making a last-gasp effort at being church-going Episcopalians. While I was at the little kids' Sunday school, a church-lady told me that God was in every one and in every thing. (A little far fetched to my four year old mind.) Then she told me that God was in the crayons and in the paper of the coloring book. (That followed logically.) But then she said that God was not yet in the nice praying family depicted in the coloring page and that I should color them in to put God in them. Now, that was a load of crap, in my opinion. We had a pointless debate for a few minutes, then I colored the picture. She put it in a closet for me to take home later, but when my mom came, no one would give us my picture. We never went back to that church. I told my mom I didn’t believe in God and she said ok.

5. Now I believe in something I call god, but it’s nothing like the church-lady was talking about.

6. My brain is a trivia trap. I read little bits of stuff or articles and some facts stick. I don’t know a lot about any one thing, except knitting, but I know surprising things about topics you would never suspect.

7. I feel secretly guilty because I neither know nor care as much about politics as I think I should.

8. I did better on my math SAT than my verbal.

9. I didn’t vote in any real election until I was over 30.

10. I was born in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the south side of Chicago.

11. I was delivered by the same female doctor who had delivered both my dad and my brother.

12. I was a bad student in college. I was too interested in drinking and playing bridge.

13. My first son was born after a 43 hour labor.

14. My second son was born after a 5 hour labor.

15. I met Mr. SABLE in 1981. We started seeing each other in summer '83, moved in together in summer '84, got married in summer '90. (four facts in one!)

16. We both always forget all our anniversaries.

I'm thinking about...

doing a "100 Things About Me." Should I? Since you guys are the readers, let me know! I've read some really interesting "100 Things" posts and some real snoozers. Not to dump on myself, but my guess is mine would lean more toward snooze-land. Just being objective: don't tell me to get therapy for my poor self-image.

Anyhow, I've never looked into how to set up an internet poll, so, I'll just tabulate the Yes and No votes from the comments and go with that.

Yes=Elizabeth should do a 100 Things post
No=Elizabeth should NOT do a 100 Things post