Friday, December 26, 2008


Yesterday I started the Charade Socks, by Sandra Park. This pattern is a free Ravelry download. I was playing around with the LittleFreak sock yarn, trying to make the best use of the long sections of color. Each length of color in this skein would make about 1 round of a 72 st sock. I was hoping to make a cool effect with pooling, and played around with a few ideas before I hit on this plan.

This sock is worked on 68 sts, on size 0 needles, which creates a bit of overlap on the brown color. This is resulting in a very subtle spiral winding down the sock, which otherwise alternates a round of green, a round of brown. The herringbone columns in the pattern are subtle (and would be great in a solid yarn) but I think they add a nice touch to this and make a play of texture in the color that works pretty well. It's also a fun pattern to knit: quick to memorize and, so far, not boring.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Knitting Content!

Ok, it's not the most awe-inspiring knitting ever, but, hey, it's knitting. This is a hat for my brother. Just a basic watchcap, 2 x 2 ribbing, over 120 stitches. This is Blue Sky Alpacas 100% alpaca. It took most of two skeins because I wanted a nice generous fold-up brim. This yarn is so soft and warm, I might need to make one for myself!

Here it is on Owen:

And then, I cast on for another hat for Owen. We've had some hat attrition lately, plus his head has grown to what I think will be his final adult size.

This is Gjestal Superwash Sport, worked on #3 needles. Just a basic 1 x 1 ribbing, worked on 108 stitches. I'm getting a little worried that it might be too small, but I think it'll stretch nicely without being tight.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stash Enhancement

Not like I needed more stash, but a gal's gotta do these things sometimes.

One of the folks I see often on Ravelry has just set up shop as an indie dyer. I hope she'll be able to make a go of it with her hand-dyed yarns, so click on over to her shop: LittleFreak Yarns. Look, she even included a couple of nice stitch markers with my skein!

This colorway is called Inference. You'll notice a lot of her color names are a bit unorthodox. Many of them have been named after running jokes on the Ravelry Rubberneckers forum. She put up a good selection of yarns, from vivid to subdued, pastel to saturated, for the opening. Hurry on over before the good stuff is gone. (Don't worry: there'll be more!)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What a difference

24 hours can make...

Owen's been getting a little fed up with his long hair lately. Tonight I gave him a cut. Not too bad. He didn't scream at me and try to glue the old hairs back on one by one. So this is progress.

In spite of the angry teen look he's making in that photo, he was really just goofing. He was laughing about 2 seconds before that picture was taken.

Monday, December 08, 2008


O hai, all your blogz are belong to me, Owen! Mua ha ha!

It's all because of the tree...

We usually get our tree on the first weekend in December. This is a bit of a compromise between me and Mr. SABLE, and now, the kids. I grew up in a family that typically waited until the last minute to get a tree. Truth be told, we often scrounged our tree from behind the dorms in the town where I grew up. A lot of the college students would put up trees in their lounges, then toss them out when they left town for break. My dad would load us kids into the Rambler station wagon (3 on the column, I kid you not) and we would cruise around near the Dumpsters® to pick one out. When Mr. SABLE and I first moved in together, in 1984, he was incredulous when I suggested this approach to Christmas tree procurement. In fact, a few times, I did persuade him to wait until the Cornell students had left Ithaca, and we did, in fact, score some pretty nice trees near student apartments. But it always made him nervous and struck him as wrong at some level. Of course, the kids are on his side with the early tree longings. No sooner is the mess cleaned up from Thanksgiving dinner than the three of them are wondering when we can get a tree. So, the compromise. Not until December. The first weekend in December.

For a number of years we went to a You Cut tree farm west of the city. The prices were kind of steep, the crowds were fierce, and the trees didn't seem all that special to me. The You Cut places are particularly not a good deal if you want a smaller tree. They charge a flat rate, based on the species you choose, not the size. After all, they can still sell it next year to someone else. A few years ago, when we went (maybe we were one weekend late that year) they were sold out. So, we drove off on a state highway toward the northwest a bit. We saw many cars coming back toward Madison with trees tied to the roof, so we knew we were on a hot trail. Lo and behold, there was a sign by the side of the road with TREES written on it. We turned. We went over hill and dale, around bends, up a long driveway, and found another family-run tree farm. Their prices were kind of steep, too. But the pre-cut trees were far more reasonable, especially, if like me, you want a smaller tree.

This farm has a little Christmas Shop where you pay for the trees. Mostly it's very kitschy country stuff that I can live without. But I always buy the kids a little candy treat. On our way home this year, Owen asked how they make hard candy.

(Ah, that's where this story was leading...)

And I told him it involved mostly boiling sugar water until it was mostly sugar, adding some flavor and color, and VOILA. He said he wanted to try it.

This may look more like broken brown beer bottles, but it's root beer flavored shards of hard candy, coated in powdered sugar. That was the first attempt, made last night.

Today, while the kids were at school, while I was out on errands in advance of our major winter storm, I stopped in at The Vanilla Bean, a store that sells cake and candy making stuff. I bought some molds and some official flavors, and a nifty little gadget that makes accurate dispensing of the hot candy solution reasonably efficient. It's like a funnel with a stopper you can open or shut with an easy thumb movement.

Owen made these tonight. They are cherry flavored. He overfilled the mold a bit, but I think he'll get the hang of it. I need to go back to the store and get a few more molds and also the special little baggies to wrap the candies in. And a lot more kinds of flavors. They have about 50 different flavors, in one-use little bottles, for $1.40 each.

Sampling his wares.

The tree is still a bit bare, but we'll do a bit more tomorrow while we're snowed in. Unless the storm somehow wimps out, but I don't think it will.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


This seems like a nice way to spend 5 minutes on a cold snowy December day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for improved needles

click to biggify pic

The guys at my house are waiting for more felted clogs, and I have to say, I wasn't eager to get started on them. Being a tightwad, I bought some super cheap Susan Bates circular needles when I made the pair for Mr. SABLE. It took real muscle to get the stitches back onto the needle part from the cable. One day I happened to notice some higher-priced big-ass needles that had something like aquarium tubing connecting the business ends, rather than plastic cable. So, I asked Mr. SABLE if he could duplicate this with my cheap-o needles.

Yesterday, he cut the original cables off, took the plastic needle parts to his workshop, and used his lathe to trim down a bit on the connector end. Then he slid on the tubing. I need to have him take off just a titch from the needle parts of the join: it's not quite smooth yet, but it's darn close. If the tubing works loose while I use them, we'll superglue it on, but I'm pretty impressed with this needle mod.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Progress Pictures

The Kate Cardigan

I decided on a narrow front band that folds to a facing which stabilizes the front bands. I have a few ideas for closures, maybe button loops along the edge and pearly buttons. We'll see.

I'm not very happy with this collar, but not sure I want to take it out and redo. I saw it on a person last night, and I think the collar is better on than lying flat on the ground. I think this collar is a bit too frilly for my personal aesthetic, but, oh well. Interestingly, I think the other side of the collar, the part that won't show in normal wear, is much better. It still has a lacy quality, but it's less busy.

Here's a detail of the fronts at the lower edge:

The Kauni Cardigan

This is coming along. I'd like to get it finished soon. One more sleeve and a lot of finishing details. Last night after I bound off the top of the sleeve, I spent about 20 minutes winding yarn off my cones to get the colors to line up when I cast on for the second sleeve. It would be nice if both sleeves start and stop at similar places in the color scheme.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Knitting Pictures!

This is a simple alpaca watchcap for my brother. This yarn is wonderful! Blue Sky Alpaca sport weight my friend Wendy sent. My brother has lost most of his hair, so I think a nice cozy alpaca watch cap will be a good thing in a Maine winter.

This is a cardigan I'm making for my sister, and maybe I'll make a pattern of it, too. I've done the majority of the knitting on the machine, to speed things up, but I have a lot of finishing to go, still. The blue yarn is waste yarn that's just holding the stitches. I've got a hand-knit length of the same edging from the cuff of the sleeves almost ready to attach to the bottom hem. I have a few ideas for the neckline and I'm quite baffled, as yet, about how to handle the front edges and closing. Mulling mulling.

The color of this yarn is one I knew would be hard to capture in a photograph. It's kind of a loden, mossy, grey-green, more green than grey. The camera caught it more grey than green, so I compensated in photoshop, and indeed, I may have gone too far toward green now. Alas. And your monitor will see it differently anyway.

It's Universal Yarns worsted wool, which I got on sale in the spring at The Sow's Ear. Total bargain project!

In Other News
For those who occasionally ask, Mr. SABLE is still collecting unemployment insurance. We're still doing ok with that. I'd say he's enjoying his little sabbatical from the working world at this point. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Is this Startitis?

On Monday Kathy mused a bit on the nature of Startitis, as opposed to Stop-itis. Hmm. Well, I agree there's often a correlation between the two syndromes, and I agree that they aren't exactly the same. For me, startitis is just that: the compulsion to keep starting more projects, regardless of how many are currently in the pipeline. This often leads to stopitis, but only because I only have one pair of hands and one pair of eyes. So, if I start on something new, I'm not working on the something old. It doesn't mean the something old is necessarily stopped, though, until I realize it's been several months since I picked it up. That makes sense, right?

So, currently I have the Bourgeois Swing Coat, which is cruising along nicely. I will need to pick out the cast-off on the body and knit that a bit longer, but I'm going to wait until I'm done with the second sleeve, so I can see how much longer it can go. I noticed that Webs currently has some of the DiVe Autunno discontinued colors on the Close-outs page, so hurry along and order some, so I won't be tempted. I can tell you from having this project in my lap while knitting, that it will be a wonderful warm sweater in January.

Also I'm working on the long-dormant Kauni cardigan.

I just started a machine knit cardigan that will probably be a Christmas present for my sister, if it comes out ok. That's so fast, it almost doesn't count.

And I started a 2X2 ribbed watchcap for my brother from Blue Sky Alpaca's sport weight.

And I'm planning to machine knit a cardigan for my Dad, too, after I dig out some suitable stash yarn.

Then there's a scarf from Mirasol Hacho, which I started earlier in the fall, but haven't shown you.

I need to get busy with the camera. For that, I think I'll need light, which is sorely lacking in Wisconsin lately.

I know there are some other pending projects slipping my mind right now.

Monday night I got the GI bug that the Little Emperor had Thursday and Friday. It was short, but vicious. I'm almost restored to my right self. I hope Mr. SABLE will finish the meatloaf that was Monday night's dinner, because I know I'll never want to face that again, having become all-too-reacquainted with my dinner around 9 on Monday night.

So, my advice of the day: wash your hands! Then wash them again!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Maybe it's the change in the weather...

I don't know.

I never knit Christmas presents. Well, sometimes someone gets a thing I knit for Christmas, but only if it happens to be ready and done about that time. But I'm not one of those knitters who sets out to make things for a long list of relatives and goes crazy in the process.

First, the whole mid-winter holiday makes me a bit conflicted, which is an essay and a half.

Then my relationship with my extended family (including the in-laws) is a bit laissez-faire, so that throws a little more confusion into things.

And then you have my essentially anti-consumerist mentality.

And I have a hard time knitting for anyone but myself because I always talk myself out of what I think might be a good idea. It'll be a bad choice of yarn or color or style. They'll think it's weird. It'll be too much. and yet, not enough.

But somehow, just now, with the cold air blowing in and snow showers knocking the remaining leaves from the trees, I got the idea of knitting a bunch of presents for folks this year. Not sure where that came from. Maybe I'll see where it leads me.

We've had an interesting time this week. On Wednesday both kids had some troubles related to school. Owen was on the receiving end of harassment on the bus ride home and the Little Emperor was dishing it out to an innocent kid at recess. Mr. SABLE caught the virus we've been passing around, featuring an annoyingly long-lasting sore throat accompanying a cold. And the LE came down with a GI thing yesterday morning. The LE was much perkier this morning but I kept him home today, because I thought it might be bad if the trouble moves south, so to speak, and he were to have a mishap at school. (You know, try to sneak out a little gas and get more than you bargain for... Or maybe you don't know.) So it's been a week of disruptions and grumbling and malaise in our house, even though it's also a week of great triumph and change in the national political scene. Now, we're just hoping for a bit of triumph in the national economic scene. Though that leaves me conflicted, too.

And why should that be? Well, I have this really strong anti-consumerist attitude. And yet, our economy's health is largely judged on the quantity of consumer spending. I know that for our planet's health, it would be much better if everyone tried to stop buying stuff, just for stuff's sake. But as people have done that, because they are living with economic insecurity, then it causes more economic trouble. I'm glad I'm not in charge of solving these problems. They are big and complicated. And the experts are predicting that things will get worse before they get better.

So maybe I'll go cast on a few nice cozy projects that I can give away in December. It seems like a good thing to do on a cold dreary November day, a week before I turn 47.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


My little fuzzy brown bat
I found a brown velour zippered hoodie and pants in the woman's section of a local thrift store. I had to hem the pants up a bit, and used the extra for the ears. The wings and insides of the ears are craft felt. This was a darn-quick costume and made him very happy.

Our other news is that we finally replaced our disgusting old couch.

I liked this furniture well enough when I bought it in fall 1997. I would still like it, if it hadn't been abused for 11 years by wild, crazy, messy boys. Faithful readers of Bezzie's blog might remember my entry into her Ugly Couch Contest. I didn't win, only because my couch wasn't inherently ugly, just worn out. (But I attracted some interesting comments about the state of my housekeeping.) That old couch and chair aren't even worth Freecycling, so they're at the curb, giving the kids somewhere to play trampoline a few more times before garbage collection on Tuesday.

I'd been scanning Craigslist hoping for a good deal on a couch and/or comfy chairs, but was amazed at the bargain I got. This couch, plus a matching big chair and ottoman, plus another big chair (covered to match the throw pillows) with ottoman, all for $200. The really nice guy who was selling it said he had about 12 immediate responses to his posting. Then he added, "I wonder if I priced it too low?" and Mr. SABLE and I both said, "Yes." Because really, we would have called it a bargain to get this very comfy couch for $200, let alone the big comfy chairs and ottomans. The kids are remarkably accepting of the new policy that there will be no eating on the new furniture and no using the furniture as a trampoline.

Knitting progress has been slow and intermittent. The Bourgeois Swing Coat is coming along nicely, but I don't have any pictures to show.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Project Updates

The beginning of the first sleeve for the long-dormant Kauni cardigan. I hope to have this pattern available in the next Knitcircus, release date around Feb 1, 2009

The other current project is the wine-colored merino blob you see here. I gave it the working title of "Bourgeois Swing Coat". It's a long story, but one without much substance. Not sure I could do it justice here if I tried. But this will be a nice swingy cardigan jacket that a fashion-forward foodie could wear on a fall trip to the farmers market. Most of my favorite clothes are decidedly proletarian in their lineage. But this one might help me take it up a notch or two.

And wrapping up some old business... Mr. SABLE proudly models the (already dirty) soles of his slippers. He loves these. Those bits of crud embedded in the leather are probably sawdust from his basement workshop area. He cut out the leather (which is very thick!) and punched the holes, then I sewed on the soles using six strands of sewing thread.

The Little Emperor would like a pair too. At first I thought I'd need to go buy the children's size version of the pattern. But then I realized that his feet are already as big as a woman with small feet, so I'll just make the women's small.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fixing an old coat

Last night I replaced another zipper. This was in an old winter coat of Owen's that I want to get operational for the Little Emperor for this winter. After studying the construction, I decided that I couldn't do the quick cheat of cutting off the teeth on this one. I set to work picking out the stitches holding in the old zipper. Get this: each half of the zipper was held in by no fewer than 4 rows of stitching! Yes! Now, why go to such lengths to over-engineer the sewing on the coat and yet, not spend 50 cents extra per zipper for a more durable finished product? It defies logic.

Then Owen & I had to have a discussion on the merits of fixing an old coat vs. replacing. Ok, I spent a couple hours in all picking out all that sewing, basting in the replacement, and stitching in by machine. A cheap big-box winter coat would cost about $50. Probably the zipper would break in February. A Lands End coat that would last the little guy until he outgrows it would run over $100. But both coats would probably be made by sweatshop workers in a third world country. And any new coat would have had some environmental impact. Even if I researched the most environmentally responsible coat on the market and paid whatever it cost, no new coat would have as little impact as repairing the functional coat we already own. So, a $4 zipper and a couple hours of my time is worth it to me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ready to Felt

These are ready to chuck in the washing machine. The shoe behind them is a men's size 9, just to give you a sense of scale. They look huge, but when I put them on Mr. SABLE's foot, not so huge that I lose faith in the felting process.

And here they are after felting, with the same shoe for scale:

Yarn: Knit One Crochet Too Parfait. It felted up in no time flat. Wow. Total used: between 300 and 400 grams

Needles: US size 13 Susan Bates, plastic. I bought them because they were cheap. If I do more of these, I'll try to replace the conventional cords with silicone tubing. Getting the stitches back onto the needles from the cord took real muscle.

Next phase will involve cutting the leather and punching holes to make a sole. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Updates and Acquisitions

I finished the first of Mr. SABLE's Felted Clogs. I had some slight variations in the numbers as written on the pattern, but I know with felting it'll all come out in the wash. But, this thing is HUGE! It took most of two 100 gram balls of worsted weight yarn!

Yesterday Jaala & I went to Milwaukee to drop Knitcircus at some yarn shops and of course, do a little shopping. (Sorry, Kathy, I didn't bring your yarn (you know, what you gave away at the swap at camp and now have a plan for). I realize now that we were probably pretty darn close to your house, but I didn't plan ahead. Plus, you would have been at work.) It was a great day for a drive. We hit four yarn shops and had lunch at a nice cafe near Fiberwood Studio, so it was a successful trip. Plus, we each came home with loot.

I've never bought Trekking before. Not sure this will become socks. I'm kind of leaning toward a hat, but we'll see.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Little This, Little That

Here's a brief review of activities Chez SABLE.

On Monday we got our car back from the repair shop. It appears that they have really, finally, definitively fixed that problem. Of course, if we had known two months ago just how deeply we would be in to resolve it, we might have chosen to donate it to a charity and cut our losses. Even after all the credits we got from them for work that didn't fix the problem, we still spent $3000 keeping that car running. Just for giggles, I looked at some other 1997 Windstars on Craigslist. Now, most have twice as many miles on them as ours, but they also were asking less than $2K for those cars. Hmm. So, all my readers with stalling cars, check the blue book on the car before you go to the garage! I have a sense of guarded optimism about this car now. I kind of hope it might go another 60,000 miles without too much ongoing expense.

In other news, Mr. SABLE has been settling into his self-employed lifestyle. He prefers that term to unemployed. He has a few prospects that might lead to a job offer, but not much to do about them in the short run.

Over the weekend, Mr. SABLE and I made hot dilly beans. My SIL makes these every year and we've been given an occasional jar or two here and there, but not nearly enough to keep me happy. I love these things! It finally dawned on me that there was no reason we couldn't just make our own. The supermarket had pitiful unappealing beans for several trips while I was getting excited about this plan. Then they had no beans! Finally, I went in on Saturday and they had restocked with fresh, plump, wonderful looking beans, so I bought a big bag. We made 8 pints, though a few were on the scant side. Haven't tasted them yet, because we're supposed to let them sit at least 2 weeks. Another 10 days! Can I wait that long?

Today I replaced a zipper in a lightweight jacket of the Little Emperor's. I bought this in the spring at a big-box store and when the zipper broke, debated about whether or not I should bother fixing it. He does really love it and it's not that old. The replacement zipper was under $4, so not an expensive repair. I decided on the quick'n'dirty method outlined in the Tightwad Gazette books. Rather than actually ripping out the stitches that held in the old zipper and fitting the new one in between the lining and the shell, I just cut the teeth off the old one, then sewed the replacement to the back of the opening. It's not elegant, but it does the trick. The jacket is no longer reversible, but he only wore it nylon-side-out anyway. My guess is that he will outgrow it by spring.

Now that I've done this one, I'm eyeballing the collection of winter parkas with broken zippers that Owen left in his wake.

Also today, I cast on and started a pair of slipper clogs for Mr. SABLE. He gets very cold feet sitting around in the winter. He doesn't like to wear shoes inside because his feet are already REALLY big: size 13.5. I have some very thick leather I plan to use to make soles for these. Stay tuned.

And finally, here are some milkweed pods.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Knitting

This is the second attempt at a new idea I'm playing with. I bought this lovely yarn at Miss Vicky's Yarn Cafe in Baraboo when all the Alt Knitting Campers decided to drop in on her. It's Di VĂ© Autunno, 100% Merino. A very soft single that I bet will pill like a demon, but will feel so nice along the way. I'm trying a few variations on the basic top-down raglan cardigan, but it means doing all the thinking up front. When you make a sweater from the bottom, you can usually just cast on and go. But this time I've got some fiddly short row shaping and a sloped raglan, with a somewhat wider-than-usual top of the sleeve section, and maybe a variation on the slope of the front raglan line. This is attempt #2, and I know I need at least one more. The good thing is that I learn something new on each attempt.

I think one of the main differences between knitting designers and knitters in general is that the designers are the ones who get an idea and keep trying until they get it right. The idea doesn't have to be complex or amazing. There's nothing wrong with being a knitter who doesn't design (there better not be: we depend on them to buy our patterns!). Some folks would rather not take something out and redo it five times, adjusting numbers and needle sizes a bit each time. And that's perfectly fine. Some of us, though, just can't help ourselves.

And this is a teaser photo. The project will be Knitcircus #5, released Feb 1 or so. You just have to wait.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Automotive Woes

I feel like I have Munchausen's By Proxy, Automotive Variant. One of our cars is back at the shop for more of the same symptoms. Poor Larry (our service guy). I think he never wants to hear from me again.

The history
A while back, my husband noticed that the car he usually drives was not behaving well. It wanted to stall when coming to a stop or when starting from a stop. We went to our local Ford place and they diagnosed some bad sensors and some tune-up kind of stuff. When we got it back, it seemed to run a little peppier than it had, but was still stalling when we tried to put it in gear. Price of the first repair: around $840.

Back to the Ford dealership. Larry phoned with the news that it's probably transmission related, probably the torque converter. They needed to pull the transmission to really know for sure, and then, either way, it would be ready to work on. Larry had spoken with the service manager and they credited the $800+ dollars from our earlier repair to that new repair. Now Larry was my hero because I never had to ask for this consideration. He also got us a sweet little "no-cost rental" (I do love a bureaucratic oxymoron) for the week we were without our car. Our cost (after credit) of repair #2: around $1000.

But, the car still stalled. The symptom had changed a bit. Now it stalled only when fully warmed up and coming to a stop. Still, this was not good. Then, Monday morning, I drove the Little Emperor to school in that car. After I dropped him and was starting home, the brakes went to the floor. Yes, the car stopped. But I thought for a scary moment or two it might not. Got back the 4 blocks home, driving oh so very carefully, and called my buddy Larry again. Now, I think he really really really did not want to hear from me again. I arrange a tow for the car to the dealership. Larry tells me that the brake line has corroded. No real surprise. This is a 1997 Ford Windstar and we live in slush and salt city 5 months of the year. $340 to fix that before they can safely do the test drive to find out the issue with the stalling. Well, I still think we've come this far, so may as well keep trying to keep this vehicle on the road another couple years.

Larry got back to me yesterday and told me it's a valve in the valve body, part of the transmission, which is sticking when it's warmed up. And he told me that if they had realized that when they had the transmission all apart last time, they would have done that at the same time. So, in view of that, they'll do the labor for free on this one. Well, that was the good news. The bad news is the part (valve body) costs $895. And they have to order it. And we'll be without the car for a while.

Larry asked me if we needed another "no cost rental" car this time. I told him No, now that my husband's out of work, we really can get by with one. Just to really pile on my serving of Woe Cake. (If you don't know what Woe Cake is, you haven't been lurking on the Ravelry Rubberneckers.)

So yeah, Mr. SABLE's first day of unemployment, yesterday, went much better than his last few days of employment did. But he's muttering about going to art school and moving to northern Maine to pursue a career making art glass. I guess I can herd sheep and we'll eat stone soup I'll cook on a woodstove. Now I'm being a bit snide. After all, when you've given half your soul to a soul-sucking corporation for 12 years and been tossed out like yesterday's newspaper in the recycling, it's normal to fantasize about a very different lifestyle. Oh, and yesterday? He got his first e-mail from someone trying to make sense of the mess that sacking a whole department leaves behind, asking for help with a big project. Mr. SABLE told him that he can't help, doesn't have any of those files, and the poor successor should check with the Pointy Haired Boss if he has any more questions. I expect this won't be the last desperate email he'll get from folks over there.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Review: E-book Christmas Stockings

Christmas Stockings
7 Classic Holiday Treasures to Knit
Edited by Elaine Lipson
Intereweave Press

Linda Ligon
Lynn Gates
Nancy Bush
Susan Strawn Bailey
Dee Lockwood
Ron Schweitzer
Candace Eisner Strick
Ordering information here

E-books and patterns are a great innovation for knitters, designers, and publishers. While I will always love the substance of a physical book, the handiness of instantly downloaded pdfs cannot be denied. The customer can buy the book at any time, even at midnight on a weeknight, and cast on right away. The designer can self-publish with much less overhead than conventional printing demands: no inventory, no upfront costs for large print runs, and the ability to instantly make corrections in files if necessary. Many of those same advantages carry over for the established publisher. It suddenly becomes possible to envision a world in which a book need never go out of print.

It’s no surprise that Interweave Press is jumping into this market. They have been steadily adding to their catalog of down-loadable individual patterns over the last year and now are branching into e-books. Christmas Stockings contains 7 of the most popular patterns from the original 2001 print book of the same title. (The original contained 18 patterns.) A book like this, with a strong seasonal emphasis, is a great choice for pdf download sales. If you start now, you might make all 7 stockings by late December!

At $14.95 for the pdf download, the price is reasonable, especially considering the book also contains the supporting technical information that Interweave includes in print books: illustrations of general knitting techniques, appendices of methods and materials, and sources for the yarns.

The patterns represent a range of techniques, from Fair Isle to cables, lace to Bavarian twisted stitches. The skills required range from basic to advanced-intermediate. The patterns offer generic yarn recommendations, i.e. a class of yarn with yardage per 50 or 100 grams, fiber blend, and any particulars about the original yarn that would affect substitution choice.

Above all else, though, these look like fun projects. They’re the kind of projects that are enjoyable for the knitter and likely to be appreciated by the recipient. Christmas stockings offer all the fun of socks with two great advantages: 1. they are often worked at a bigger gauge, and 2. you only need to make one of them!

Happy knitting.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Snapshots of the Recent Past

None of these photos were taken by me.

My husband has taken to petting bumblebees. This one was particularly mellow.

This is the famous "The Cake is a Lie" cake, from the game Portal, baked and decorated by Owen. It was not a lie. Except I photoshopped the chocolate shavings on the side of the cake, because it's very very hard to apply chocolate shavings to the side of a cake. So, kind of a lie.

Last Saturday night, on my way to bed, I noticed that one of poor Ossie's eyes looked a little funny. Sunday morning it was clear to me that we had to deal with it that day. Mr. SABLE took him to the Emergency Vet Clinic. One day of eye ointment and an Elizabethan Collar (that's the official name for cone-heads), and he was on the mend. This picture was taken on Sunday afternoon.

And this is a happy image.
The Little Emperor had one or two falls last season, trying to master the bike. He wasn't badly hurt, but he sure wasn't eager to keep trying. Over a year later he finally decided it was time. He had a few small spills, mostly when cornering too sharply, but overall, it's fine. He loves his bike now and rides endlessly around our cul-de-sac.

In Other News
Not much to show on the knitting front. Knitting for publication sure does cut into the blogable projects, doesn't it? I also tried a few versions of an experimental project I thought would make a good gift, but it was kind of flawed. Back to the drawing board on that one. And I can't post about it because the would-be giftee reads the blog.

Mr. SABLE is counting down to the end of his employment. This has been a very hard time for him, and the rest of us. Because he's a private kind of guy, I don't want to say too much, but I will say that this summer has been fraught with complicated emotions, including fear about the future and bitterness about some of the way things were handled at the corporate level in the recent past. Our money situation will be ok for at least several months if it comes to that. Yesterday we signed up for a reasonably-priced insurance plan to cover this time. We opted for a very high deductible and figured our main concern was that we be ready for a medical catastrophe over the next six months. The COBRA plan through his work would have run over $1000 a month for the family. He found a plan through Blue Cross/Blue Shield that was about $140 a month, but really would only be useful if something very bad happens.

Onto happier stuff: Knitcircus #4 has been shipped from the printer. Yay! They are scheduled to arrive here on the 30th. I hope they get here a day or two early. It's very hard to wait.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Non-knitting FO!

Over the last couple of days I finished putting the binding on Owen's quilt. I had enough of the dark blue sashing fabric for binding on the two long edges, but not enough to do the ends. "No problem," I thought, "I'll just pop back over to Hancock Fabrics and pick up some more." Ha! I ended up with a different dark blue, in a different 100% cotton fabric. But whatever, it's done.

While I was taking pictures, I was reminded of my husband's grad school days, when pictures like this one occupied much of his time. (I just lifted that one off someone's website, not sure whose proteins are being run through that column!)

I briefly considered taking a picture of Owen's old favorite comforter, but thought better of it. In 1980, when I moved into my first apartment in college, my apartment mates and I took over the lease of a bunch of students who were leaving early. They left a bunch of crap in there, and because it wasn't a landlord-approved transition, there was no official clean out. Among the items were a couple of ugly 70s comforters. They were quite dirty and unappealing even then. I took them to the laundromat (the one on 53rd and Ellis with lots of huge front loaders) and washed them and used the better one until it fell apart. The uglier one, I kept in the car and took camping etc. After Owen moved into his first real bed, somehow he ended up in possession of it. I figured it would be temporary. As it turns out, it became the favorite comfort-object that he moved on to, after the baby blankies. Now, it is just about disintegrating. It has been washed so much and is so threadbare, that I think only molecular memory is holding it together. It definitely needs another washing now, but I don't dare. Owen tells me that he won't be parting with the old one, just because the new quilt is done. That's ok. As long as it stays in his room.