Thursday, August 31, 2006


I was reminded last night that in the not-too-distant future I have a baby shower to attend. My initial plan for a baby gift was to make a Week of Kimonos from the Mason-Dixon Knitting Book. The kimonos are just as heartbreakingly cute as advertised, and they knit up quickly enough that I could easily see myself blowing through a small corner of my kitchen cotton stash making up a bunch in no time. Heck, I figured I'd probably even be able to make matching bibs to go along.

Then came the whole "knitter's finger" debacle, which quickly developed into "knitter's wrist," "knitter's elbow" and -- because I'm not one to do things halfway -- "knitter's shoulder." While I was perfectly willing to ignore doctor's orders to go cold-turkey on the knitting for six weeks, my tendons were not. Thus, for what is hopefully the time being, I've been forced to knit wearing splints.

Y'know, not for nothing but years ago, there were men, women and children who knitted all day, every day -- it was their livelihood, so not a moment was to be wasted -- and you never heard of any of them getting carpal tunnel. How dare my body rebel like this? Am I getting old? (OK, don't answer that last one.)

In any event, my knitting progress has understandably slowed down somewhat. The Week of Kimonos turned into a Long Weekend of Kimonos, which now looks like it might very well become a Personal Day of Kimono...or perhaps a Sick Day of Kimono would be more apropos...? The blue kimono in the photo is a bit over 2/3 finished, with only the right front panel left to do before seaming and finishing. At the rate I'm going, I should be putting the final touches on...hmmm, let's see...just about as we're pulling into the driveway for the party. That sounds about right.

So, for the love of handknits, please send some knitterly love and happy thoughts my way as I head for the home stretch, one slow, splinty, stinkin' stitch at a time.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Houston, We Have Placemats

I'm still not doing much knitting in the hopes that whatever carpal tunnel problems I'm developing will subside. I've therefore been focusing on weaving, and have managed to finish all but the knotted fringe on my cotton and linen placemats:

I know that doesn't look like much, but it's actually 3 placemats still connected by their common warp threads. Once I cut them apart and knot the fringe, the edges will look like this:

This was my first time weaving with cotton and my first time working with linen, period. I'm excited about wet finishing the placemats to see how the fibers react; from what I understand, the linen should soften up and get nice and drapey.

The two plaid-ish placemats were the ones I planned; the striped is the one I had enough leftover warp for. I wasn't about to waste the warp, but if I'd known I'd had enough for a full third mat, I would have done it in the same plaid pattern and measured to make it come out the same size as the others. Live and learn, I suppose.

I'm already thinking ahead to my next weaving project, and I think it's going to be a shawl. I picked up a ton of fuzzy novelty yarn at the dollar store a few months back, and I think I may use it for both warp and weft to make a nice cushy wrap.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Thanks... everyone for being so supportive. It's so hard losing one precious companion animal, let alone two, but all your kind words have truly been comforting.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kobe - A Little Love Story

Kobe and DH together on the beach in Maine

I feel like all I've written and thought about for the past two days is how sad I am over the loss of Fatboy and Kobe...especially Kobe, because from the very beginning she was my little doggie. Now I want to write a happier story about them, and about her.

When DH and I got married, we acquired within the space of a month a new marriage, a new house and a new dog, Shasta. We were moving from NYC to the "wilds" of Dutchess County, NY, and I swore right off the bat that I wasn't about to live in a house in the middle of nowhere without a dog. We found Shasta, at North Shore Animal League, a wonderful no-kill shelter on Long Island, and adopted her three weeks before the wedding.

Shortly after moving, we realized that Shasta wasn't happy being the only dog in the house, and we started thinking about adopting her a friend. At about that time, my M-I-L told us about a pair of bulldogs she knew about. They had been living in the basement of a fish market for two years as the result of a puppy sale gone bad. M-I-L said that the owners were willing to give us the dogs if we wanted them.

DH and I were leery. Three dogs? We were debating over a mere two. But, I decided to go with M-I-L, just to look.

As soon as I saw the dogs, I knew I couldn't leave them there. They were living in a cage underneath a generator in a dank basement, being fed with leftovers from a Chinese restaurant and only allowed out into the basement itself at nighttime once the market has closed. The dogs hadn't been out of that basement in two years. We managed to lure Fatboy out of the cage with food and petting, but it was poor Kobe (then called BoBo) who really tugged at my heartstrings. She was so shy and so suspicious that even after an hour in that basement she would only venture as far as the edge of the cage. What really got me was that it was so clear that she desperately wanted to come out -- she just couldn't bring herself to. I've never seen such a pitiful thing before or since. I decided then and there that the two dogs would be DH's birthday present, whether he wanted them or not (and, of course, he wanted them, even if he didn't know it quite yet).

When we came back a week or so later to pick up the dogs, Fatboy let us put a collar on him and lead him upstairs on the end of a leash. Kobe, on the other hand, just plastered herself to the floor and refused to move. You would think that three adults could move a 40-pound dog...and you would be wrong. Both dogs smelled unbelievably bad, and there was only so close we were willing to hold either one -- carrying Kobe out of the basement by force, therefore, just wasn't an option. We eventually got her to sit inside a large cardboard box and rode her up and out of the basement on the conveyer belt. The whole time, she sat stoic and motionless with her head and shoulders up above the top edge of the box, just riding that conveyer belt to an outdoors she hadn't seen for two years.

Once we got the dogs home, we realized what a task we had undertaken. Neither dog was house trained, and they didn't even know what a house was. They were afraid of carpet. They barked in a frenzy at the ironing board and the Christmas tree. They didn't know how to walk up and down stairs. They absolutely refused to touch grass. It was a learning process for us all.

Fatboy adjusted pretty quickly. We realized over the years that he was truly our "live in the moment" dog. He wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but he had the biggest heart of all our dogs and was nothing but genuine heart and good feeling towards everyone and everything. Kobe, on the other hand, held onto every little hurt and kept it all stored up inside. She was a sensitive little soul, and she covered her hurts with a gruff exterior. I remember when she first came to us, she had this disturbing habit of sitting for hours just staring at the wall. She would sit just a foot or so in front of the wall with her back to the room and just stare. It was like she was deliberately isolating herself from the rest of us. I could only imagine what horrible things she was remembering about her life in the basement, or what she must have made of her new life in such different and probably overwhelming, frightening surroundings.

One of my happiest moments was watching Kobe outdoors in the yard, rolling around on the grass on her back. I remember thinking that she looked so happy, the very picture of joy.

Kobe's first time chasing sticks in the water

I remember her chasing sticks into the water when we all went on vacation to Maine. I remember her jumping up on her hind legs when she saw a treat or some food she really wanted. I remember her eating pizza crust. I remember when she first came to us and had a bad ear infection how I had to put medicine in her ears and rub them every night. She let me hold her on her lap and fondle her ears and I really think that more than anything helped her settle into her new life. She always loved having her ears rubbed. She would wake us up in the mornings by putting her face right up to ours and snorting -- "spitting" as DH called it. She would always stay up with the last person to go to bed; she would be sitting right here with me now as I type, and she wouldn't come to bed until I turned out all the lights and called for her. She loved to sleep on something soft but would always pee on it. She hated snow and loved to sit in on our yoga classes.

Kobe and DH doing yoga together.

I love all my dogs but somehow Kobe touched my heart in a different way, and I loved her all the more for it. I feel so guilty that in recent years I didn't have the time to spend with her that I used to. We got rid of our old couch, the one the dogs destroyed by sitting on it with us, and consigned them to the floor; no more snuggling with them by our sides at night. This last year and a half since the baby was born saw me paying more and more attention to her and less and less to the dogs. Understandable, the logical part of my brain says, but it hurts my heart to know that Kobe was there, waiting and wanting more. More ear rubs, more belly pats, more time just sitting close to the people she loved. She certainly had a better life than she had in that basement, but did she have the best life we -- I -- could have given her?

I know I wanted this to be a happy post, and it makes me happy remembering all the good times with my little Kobe; but it makes me sad, too, thinking of how I could have done more, could have made more of the time we had together. I'm so, so sorry I didn't.

I don't usually regret things. But I regret that.
I'm so sad about losing Kobe.

It feels so unreal. Over the past couple of days, DH and I had noticed that Kobe seemed to be putting on a little bit of weight. The evening before last, however, it was very pronounced - she looked pregnant, although we knew that was impossible. She also seemed to be having trouble walking. We took her to the emergency, after-hours vet and they found her abdomen was full of fluid. They suspected a tumor on the heart, which left the heart surrounded by fluid itself and unable to pump hard enough. The vet said he was shocked that she could even rouse herself enough to bark in protest at the poking and prodding she was getting.

We took Kobe home that night and brought her to our vet the next day, yesterday. They gave us the same diagnosis. We could have taken her to the really big animal hospital in the area, had her undergo a fluid draining and quite possibly surgery...all the bad stuff, chemo and clinging to life for a few more days or weeks or months. DH's oldest brother died of cancer that ate away at him until he was a shell of the person he'd been. He was only 39 years old when he died. Yesterday as we listened to the third vet in two days tell us the same things, all DH could think about was his brother and the pain and suffering he went through. After agonizing over the decision, we finally had them put Kobe to sleep.

I wished I'd had some liverwurst with me to feed her. That morning, she wouldn't eat anything, not even her favorite chicken breast chewy treats. I finally got her to eat some hard-boiled egg, I think because it was soft. Then, I remembered I had liverwurst in the fridge. As soon as I broke it out and put it under her nose, her eyes lit up. It was exactly like that, like a light popped right into them: "Liverwurst -- all right!" She managed to eat 3 whole slices before she stopped and turned her head away. I don't know if she would have eaten it at the vet's, but at least she could have smelled it.

Still, she at least died surrounded by the people who loved her, in a place she always liked (believe it or not, both Kobe and Fatboy liked going to the vet, maybe because everyone there always made such a fuss about them and paid them so much attention), cradled in my arms and looking right at me. DH and I got to kiss her and hold her right up to the end.

God, I'm so sad.

Friday, August 25, 2006

KOBE: 199? - 2006

Rest in peace, little girl.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Send Good Thoughts, Please

Our bulldog is sick. Really sick.

This is our female bulldog, the lifelong mate of our male, Fatboy, who died exactly three weeks ago today. She's got a terribly enlarged heart which may be the result of a heretofore undiagnosed tumor; the heart is pressing on her trachea; she's having trouble breathing, she doesn't want to eat....

We brought her home from the emergency vet tonight. Please think good thoughts and send them her way. She needs them.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Blogging I Learned This Morning

Forget all that stuff about how to link without stealing bandwidth. The only thing anyone ever need know about blogging is the following:


You don't want to know how I know this. Suffice it to say, my suffering is to your benefit. Learn from me. And if you logged onto my blog this morning before 8am EDT, I apologize for its scruffy, 3-day-old-beard, no-morning-coffee, been-beat-on-the-side-of-the-head-with-a-bat look. It's all better now.

I, on the other hand, need to go back to bed and get away from the html code for awhile.
New Feature!

Inspired by Debbie New and a column in one of my husband's magazines, I've decided to create within my blog a section of knitting book reviews written in haiku form.


'Cause if it's worth saying, it can be said in 17 syllables.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to take a look.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Definition of Irony, and More....

Before I get to any fibery news, I have to relate the following story:

Today, I witnessed the walking, talking definition of irony. A couple, one man and one woman, was walking down the street near Union Square. The man wore Dockers and a button -down; the woman wore jeans and a tank top. Buckled tightly around the woman's neck was a studded, black leather dog collar about 2 or 3 inches wide. At the very back, embedded in the leather of the collar, was an iron ring about an inch and a half in diameter. And attached to a back loop of the woman's jeans was a metal dog leash.

Ready for the irony?

As they're walking along together, the man's hand resting possessively in the woman's back pocket, I overhear him soliloquizing on the state of music today.

"I grew up in the Golden Age of hip-hop," he said. "Back then, hip-hop was at its best. But this generation, this generation is just degrading. It's degrading to women."

Only in New York.


Also only in New York: The Strand Bookstore, with its famed 18 miles of books.

Of course, within those 18 miles of books, only about a foot-and-a-half of space is devoted to knitting. I kid you not. When I asked why, I was told that knitting is just so popular that the books fly off the shelves as soon as they hit. I could buy more books about quilting, needlepoint and cross-stitch than I ever thought could possibly exist, but finding a good knitting book in the Strand is an exercise in patience and diligence.

Well, today I hit the mother lode. Witness my shameless haul:

DPNs were almost drawn over the Debbie New as an enthusiastic fellow-knitter snatched that gem off the shelf right out from under my hot little hand. But I kept my cool (and my grip on the Barbara Walkers, which said competition was also eyeing enviously) and hung around pretending to flip through a volume on knitting for kids until the woman decided she didn't want Unexpected Knitting after all and put it back on the shelf. Down I swooped and just like that I had four wonderful new volumes to add to my collection.

My reviews so far (based on a few minutes' browsing in the store and about an hour's subway ride afterwards):

Barbara Walker's First and Second Treasuries: What's left to be said? Two of the four definitive stitch dictionaries. I now have more stitch patterns than I will ever possibly use in my lifetime. So, why do I feel compelled to buy her Third and Fourth Treasuries as well?

Folk Socks: I'm a huge fan of Folk Shawls, but I did pass on Folk Hats when I got honest with myself and accepted the fact that I would never, ever knit any of the hats in the book, not even for my year-old daughter. Folk Socks seems like a good compromise: a book with lots of interesting stuff to read about the history of sock-making around the world plus some accessible, fun patterns that I might actually try. Maybe this will inspire me to put the few balls of sock yarn I have to good use.

Unexpected Knitting: All hail Debbie New! She is my guru of knitting, the goddess of knitdom. She is the person I want to invite to my "fantasy dinner party," where I can have any guests I want, living or dead, real or fictional. The woman has knit a boat -- a boat! She has also knit a giant wall hanging portrait of her grandmother that looks like one of those mosaic puzzles that you have to stand a few dozen yards away from to see the picture. She has knitted a cape that looks for all the world like Eric Carle's butterfly from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. She has knitted a sculpture that makes music when you touch it. I kid you not. Debbie New is beyond words, and I absolutely love Unexpected Knitting. I got so engrossed that I completely missed my subway stop and wound up riding to the very end of the line. I want one pinky-finger's worth of Debbie New's talent and creativity. Short of that, I'll take this book.


One final thing to note: The identity of my mystery MDK Swapcloth Pal is Elizabeth of the Bad Kitty Blog! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Elizabeth, for the wonderful warshrags. May your partner be as good to you as you were to me!

Next on My Must-Try-This List....

Criminy Jickets: Garterlac Dishcloth

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fantabulous Fiber Day!

The Fiber Faeries were certainly looking out for me today. Look what was waiting for me when I got home tonight:

Not one, not two, but THREE fibery packages!

The first was a Spindlers trade package. I swapped a bunch of Spanish books for 5 oz of brown alpaca (in the background in the photo above -- kind of dusty and with some VM but nice and soft) and 2 oz of absolutely gorgeous tussah silk, which looks a bit less purple and a bit more mahogany in person than it does in the photo. Thanks, Tracy, for an awesome trade!

The second package was a Bosworth featherweight spindle with a Chakte Vega whorl.

It spins like an absolute dream -- I think I'll be using it to spin up my new tussah silk. You can also see the beautiful purple/blue sample fiber Sheila included to get the cop started. Thanks, Jonathan and Sheila, for yet another spectacular spindle!

And last but certainly not least, I got a surprise package from my MDK Warshrag Swap partner. We were each supposed to knit one warshrag from the MDK book and send it to our partner. Well, my partner sent me FOUR!

Aren't they great??

I still don't know who my partner is, but I have my suspicions, and s/he promised to reveal her/himself once I received my package. So, thank you mystery swap partner, and once I find out for sure who you are, I'll publically thank you by name! :))))

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Zen of Weaving

A lot has been written about the zen properties of knitting. Knitting can put the knitter into a semi-trance, inducing a sense of calm and relaxation associated with more traditional forms of meditation.

Far be it from me to disagree. I've felt it myself -- it's one of the things I enjoy most about knitting (and I do enjoy a LOT of things about knitting).

However, I can't help but feel that the relaxation thing is only one small part of the meditation experience as a whole. If you want a true "fiber meditation," try weaving.

Why, you ask? (OK, you might very well not care. If that's the case, skip over this post entirely and head here, where you'll find lots of knitterly stuff without any undue philosophizing.)

It's simple. A huge part of meditation is discipline. The discipline to meditate every day, whether or not you feel it's "working." The discipline to meditate even when your brain is running all over the place like a three-year-old at an ice-cream party. The discipline to meditate even when every fiber of your being screams that the whole exercise is pointless.

That's where knitting as meditation falls short.

Think about it. When you want to knit, you pick up needles and yarn and you knit. Maybe you take the time to pick out a pattern first (or maybe not). Maybe you debate over needles and yarn (or maybe you just grab whatever's on top of the stash pile). If it's a project where gauge is critical, you'll probably take the time to do a swatch or two. But no matter, since it's knitting you know that within a relatively short time you'll be doing what you like to do best: turning miles of yarn into square yards of fabric.

And as you sit and knit (and relax into its meditative aspects), you'll probably get into a groove and let your mind drift away, especially if you've chosen a relatively repetitive or straightforward project like a plain stockinette hat or socks and not something designed to make your eyes bleed like a 15-color Fair Isle sweater. In fact, by the time you tune back into your surroundings again, you'll look down at your hands and see...fabric! In the time you've been zoning (or maybe chatting with friends, listening to music or simply watching the world go by), your fingers have been doing their thing with minimal input from your higher consciousness, resulting in the pleasant surprise of making seemingly effortless progress on your knitting. Unless you're so zoned out that you drop a stitch and have to tink back, which can destroy that meditative calm pretty darn quick. But, I digress.

Contrast that, then, with weaving. In my post of two days ago, I had just begun to warp my loom in preparation for making two linen-and-cotton placemats. Just to remind you, at that time after several hours' work, my loom looked like this:

I then worked for several more hours last night, at which time my loom looked like this:

I also worked on my placemats tonight, and my loom now looks like this:

If all these photos look essentially the same to you, you're not imagining things. This is my point about weaving and discipline. I've just worked for hours and hours over a period of three days and what I have to show for it is...string. Lots of string. None of it remotely resembling fabric, mind you -- just miles of parallel strings, stretching between two bars on a loom.

Talk about discipline.

This is meditation at its most down-and-dirty. This is the discipline shown by those monks who sweep sand into intricate patterns every morning simply to have them trampled by feet and blown away by the wind every night...and yet they go right back the next morning and do it all over again. This is the discipline to do something even though you're absolutely, positively certain it's all for naught, that you're making no progress, that yours is a task worty of Sisyphus and that the fun part, the actual weaving of fabric, will never, ever happen.

Can I tell you that even now, after 3 days of warping my loom, I'm not ready even now to begin the actual process of weaving? That's right -- before I can weave, I first have to wrap my weft yarns around my shuttles:

Those are the shuttles you see lying across the warped loom above. I need to wrap one with half the skein of Euroflax and the other with the black cotton.

This next photo shows the shuttles standing up alongside the loom, just to give another perspective on how friggin' long and awkward they are. There is no easy way to wrap these shuttles. It will take me yet more hours, especially as the black mercerized cotton, which I'm using doubled, insists on sticking together and knotting at every opportunity. After I finish wrapping my shuttles, concluding what will be a minimum of four days' and many hours' work, I will then and only then be ready to first begin weaving. If I had put this many hours of effort into knitting, I'd have a full placemat finished already and a second well under way.


You'll excuse me; I'm off to meditate at my loom.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


While there are lots of things that this title could refer to -- my husband's sense of humor, the state of the nation -- I was really referring to my rigid heddle loom.

I started warping late this afternoon while Baby M took her nap. I continued this evening after dinner while DH played video games and the dogs napped at our feet. I'll finish sometime tomorrow, either before or after Auntie & Uncle P's visit with Baby E in tow. We're scheduled to head to a local Native American Pow Wow tomorrow afternoon, so if I can get the house tidied up early I may finish this first step in warping before the P clan arrives; otherwise, I'll do it in the evening to the sound of grunting PS2 boxers and canned ringside pep talks.

I'm warping my loom with Euroflax (the variegated orange/red/black) and doubled mercerized cotton (the solid black). My goal is to make 2 fringed placemats. The pattern and mix of yarns is the result of my buying 2 skeins of Euroflax as an experiment, thus not having enough to weave placemats solely out of that yarn. I happened to have the cotton in my stash, and I figured it would do to "pad" my linen. I came up with the color pattern myself, and the weave will be plain ol' tabby (the only kind I know).

At least my lower arms are feeling better -- hardly any pain at all, and certainly not what I was feeling these past couple of days, when I pretty much felt a pulling in the tendons up to my elbows all the time. It's good I'll be weaving these next few days to really change my hand/arm motions and hopefully stop any repetitive-motion injury from developing.

The "knitter's finger" feels infinitely better -- all the more reason for me to keep cooling it with the knitting for a bit longer. Besides, I haven't woven anything in quite awhile and I'm looking to experiment. I still have a stash of bamboo yarn in a gorgeous orange/yellow/cream colorway that I want to make up into a shawl once I feel confident enough about getting a decent selvedge.

By the way, this is how I warp a loom:

Direct warping -- what a godsend! Check out the Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving for easy-to-follow directions.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Alpaca (Sky) Blues

I am in love with alpaca. Take a look at this:

That's my skein of sky-blue, glitzy alpaca, newly-washed and hanging to dry (don't worry, I didn't leave it to dry on the metal wine rack -- just long enough for a pretty photo and then back on the icky-looking but non-rustable plastic hanger). Notice anything?

No hanging weight.

That's right, my first skein of yarn that actually turned out balanced -- no wild kinks to take out with a water-filled spray bottle hung off the end of the drying skein.

I am in awe.

I'm sure someone who knows about these things can explain why this happened. Maybe it's the "lack of memory" I've heard alpaca has...? (If this is what lack of memory does, may all my yarns develop Altzheimer's.) Maybe it's something to do with crimp, or a lack thereof...?

You can see I'm pretty much tossing around bits of info and cool-sounding jargon that I don't really understand; bad spinner that I am, I've never really read the spinning books that I own cover-to-cover and absorbed the technical information about various fibers the way other spinners have. As far as I know, alpaca may be full of magic pixie dust which is responsible for its wonderful spinning properties. Basically, I pick up fiber and spin it. If it turns into yarn -- and it always has, although of what quality is often up for debate -- I'm okay with it. But this beautiful, balanced skein is really the crowning achievement of my little-over-a-year's-worth of spinning experience, and I'm perfectly happy with giving all the credit to the alpaca and none to my own skills as a spinner.

I will say, though, that my plying is getting better.

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. No really un-twisted, fat-n-puffy sections; no really over-twisted, help-me-I'm-a-corkscrew sections; just a nice, fairly even ply that seems to have made a fairly nice, even yarn.

Again, I'm ready to give credit to the alpaca -- there must be something in the fiber that allowed this to happen. But I have gotten somewhat smarter about plying from both ends of a center-pull ball. I've pretty much come to grips with the fact that there will be no easy way, for me at least, of plying from both ends. Some people do it with ease. They sing the praises of the double-ended ply -- "no leftover yarn!" "easier than Navajo plying" -- but it always seemed to turn into a tangled mess for me, no matter what I did.

Once I finally accepted that I would never be able to simply pull smoothly from both ends of the ball, I tried unwinding a length of yarn from both ends of the ball and then plying that length. It slowed me down in the short run since I had to stop and unwind the next length every time I'd plied what I'd previously unwound, but it saved time and effort in the long run because I didn't have to deal with a bird's nest of tangles. All in all, I'm pretty pleased.

Now to take some close-ups of my new-to-me Country Craftsman spinning wheel. A kind Spindler contacted me and told me about the CC that she rescued -- now we're going to exchange photos and hopefully I'll get a better idea of what I've got and what I should do next with it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In Lieu of Knitting

Here's what I've been working on these past couple of days:

I finished spinning my sky-blue alpaca singles yesterday and today I plied from both ends of a center-pull ball to get the bobbin you see above. I just love how my Louet bobbins hold so much yarn! I don't know how many yards I have, but I think I'm going to try making either a neck warmer or an Elizabeth Zimmermann dickey (hoping I have enough, of course). The alpaca is so incredibly soft, and I love the subtle glint the little bit of glitz gives the finished product. Now I just need to set the twist and it'll be all set.

And here are the beaded necklaces that I made yesterday:

I wish my camera could get a better close-up shot, but this is as good as it gets. The first necklace is in oyster shell (if I'm remembering correctly -- they're the square orange beads), blue coral and rough-cut amethyst with sterling silver findings. The coral beads are pretty cool -- it seems that they grow on sunken subway cars and the iron in the cars turns the coral naturally blue. Whoda thunk it?

The second necklace is mainly quartz chips with bali silver, glass (the large central bead) and seed beads.

Aside from keeping occupied with every other craft besides knitting, I'm also planning my next knitting projects (tendonitis, shmendonitis). This afternoon I ordered the Icosa Welt Ball Pillow pattern. This too-cool-for-words spherical pillow is knit in what look like mitered equilateral triangles that are then grafted together to form a ball. You can see a finished version on Bente's Blog.

The only place I found the pattern was at Knit-Purl in Oregon, which charges a flat $6.50 shipping fee to anywhere in the continental U.S. -- great for folks buying in bulk, kinda sucky for someone like me who only wants to buy a single pattern.

I even looked into buying the yarn from K-P just so I felt like I wasn't getting so very screwed on shipping. However, there was no freakin' way I was buying 6 skeins of Koigu at $12 each to make a pillow! I headed over to Knitpicks instead and picked up some fingering weight at about a quarter of the price. I don't know when I'll get to it, but knowing I have a cool project just waiting in the wings makes me very happy.

Finally, I've decided that since I'm spinning so much more these days I'm going to invest in another Bossie featherweight. I've already contacted Sheila to see what woods and weights they have in stock, so with a little luck I'll be able to place my order this week. Then I'll finally be able to try my hand at spinning a little silk...mmmmmmmm, silk....... ;-)

In other news, I went out and bought a couple of little treats to tuck into my MDK Warshrag Swap package. I've also been checking in on my partner's blog and have discovered that she likes beads too; I may just have to include a couple of beaded stitch markers in my package. Photos to come....
Christmas in August (Or perhaps I should say Chanukkah....)

Today my friend IV, who just happens to be Jewish (hence the Chanukkah reference), gave me a huge gift:

That's right, folks. What you see is a floor loom

and a spinning wheel.

Can you believe it?

And when I say "gave," I mean exactly that. The loom, she explained, had been a gift to her several years ago. She had never learned how to work it and had finally decided that she wanted the space in her home more than she wanted the loom, so she was ready to pass it along to someone else who would love and use it. The loom is marked "H.M. Stuart," but when I googled the name I came up with nothing. I've never used a floor loom and have only worked 2 or 3 projects on my RH loom thus far, but I'm excited to learn and can't wait to get started.

The spinning wheel is a Country Craftsman, which is now sadly discontinued. I found the email addy of the maker and contacted him to see if I could get an instruction manual and perhaps some direction as to how to repair the wheel. Yes, the wheel needs repair, which is why IV gave it to me. Unfortunately, she purchased the wheel from someone who was less than honest with her and she eventually found that she couldn't spin on it and didn't want to invest any more money in fixing it. Since she'd done nothing but curse the person who sold her that wheel, she said, she figured she'd give it away and at least I couldn't be mad if I, too, found the wheel too much trouble to deal with.

Honestly, I would have been delighted with just one new-to-me fiber toy, but two? How lucky can a girl get?

So, I spent much of the afternoon hangin' with IV, checking out her new garden paths and talking natural dyestuffs. M-I-L was watching Baby M, so I had the whole day to myself. I even managed to get some beading done -- a real rarity these days with the baby around ready to shove any errant beads into the nearest available orifice in a split second. No photos of those finished pieces yet; I was too excited about the loom and wheel to remember to snap pics of my jewelry. But I did crank out not one but two necklaces -- one in rose quartz, silver and glass and the other in rough-cut amethyst, blue coral and silver -- and a handful of oversized beaded stitch markers, perfect for those projects on size 13s and above. Will try to remember to take photos tomorrow to post.

Oh, and I've decided to join the ninth Secret Pal swap. I love swaps and this one sounds particularly fun. Meanwhile, I think I'll be sending the MDK warshrags that I knitted specifically to match my kitchen over to my MDK swap partner instead. I checked out her blog and there was a great post showing a skein of yarn she'd bought at some fiber festival. Lo and behold -- the colos were exactly the same as in my kitchen. With me off knitting for the time being and the swap needing to go out in a couple of weeks, I figured this was definitely the way to go. My kitchen will simply have to wait to get coordinating warshrags.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

For Pure Inspiration...

...check out this blog:

Don't freak when you first see it -- Bente writes all her posts in Norwegian but translates them into English at the bottom of each. Don't I wish I were that fluent in any foreign language?? Be sure to check out the giant "Icosa" spherical pillow -- absolutely stunning!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Cheaters Never Win....

Well, I set off with the intention of making some headway on A's baby kimono even though I'd been warned away from knitting for the time being by my orthopedist. And wouldn't you know it, cheating on my knitting "diet" got me absolutely nowhere!

Somehow, I managed to mis-read the kimono pattern -- never mind that I'd made it twice before with absolutely no problem -- and I discovered halfway through the darn thing that instead of two sleeves of equal length I had a right sleeve long enough to clothe an orangutan and no left sleeve at all. Grrrrrr....

Serves me right, I suppose. I don't have photographic evidence because I discovered my error on the car ride home and immediately frogged back to before the sleeve increases, which was waaaaaay farther than I'd hoped I'd ever have to frog this thing. I did play a bit of catch-up in the car (making absolutely sure I was doing the sleeves correctly) but held off on knitting tonight in favor of doing some more spinning on my sky-blue alpaca. More to tell of that in another post.

Aside from the knitting, we all had a wonderful long weekend with Auntie G and Uncle Godfather. We went to the Fort Rickey Children's Discovery Zoo, which is an absolutely amazing, family-run petting zoo. If you're ever in the Utica, NY area, go. We got to pet a porcupine, hold a giant snake, play with tiny baby goats and watch an amazing interaction between two fully-grown timber wolves and their trainer (who also happens to be the owner of the zoo). I also got to pick a palm-sized piece of bison fluff off a fence and keep it, with permission of the zoo owner, of course, who then kindly agreed to let me know if they ever collected a bagful so that I could use it to spin. I spent the trip home carefully picking guard hairs out of my fluff (and full of guard hairs it well and truly was!), and now I just have to wash my little bison puff before getting it ready to spin. I'll finally get to try out my dog-hair combs on some fiber -- yaaaayy!

While the zoo was ultra-cool, the highlight of the trip for Daddy (aka DH) and Baby M was playing on the grass outside the art museum that we visited on Sunday. DH was busy rolling on the ground and doing silly tricks to make M laugh, while for her part, M was busy playing with sticks and trying to emulate her daddy's antics. The two of them truly crack me up.

We took it slow coming home today, arriving around mid-afternoon with just enough time to unpack and still make it to the playground for an hour or so before dinner. It was DH's first time seeing Baby M walking around the playground like a big girl (she's been walking on her own for less than a week, remember), and he was delighted. He was like a big kid, playing on all the equipment and helping M play as well. All in all, it was a wonderful long weekend, beginning to end.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Travel Fiber

Well, we're off to visit Auntie Gigglepants and Uncle Godfather this weekend. Here's what we're taking to keep the baby occupied:

And here's what we're taking to keep me occupied:

Since the doctor has told me to lay off the knitting for awhile, the bulk of what I'm bringing is spinning stuff. On the right you can see my Golding Swan Lake spindle, already wound up with a cop of purple New Zealand wool. There's a sad, sad story behind this spindle.

My DH gave it to me as a Valentine's Day gift. Needless to say, I was stunned. I immediately started spinning up the purple fiber you see here, and I absolutely loved it. That spindle truly sang. Then, the unthinkable happened. As will happen with drop spindles, it dropped -- right onto our hardwood floor -- and the wooden post holding the hook cracked. I was devastated, but DH contacted the good people at Goldings and they fixed it right away. For free, no less.

I resumed spinning, but more cautiously. I padded the floor below me with layers of towels, but still I was nervous. Naturally, as I was spinning the yarn separated once again and the spindle headed for the floor. This time, my reflexes took over and I clapped my knees together as it went, trying to keep it from hitting. I heard a sickening crunch and found that I'd caught the spindle right at the whorl, crushing the delicate carvings.

It's taken me months to even be able to write about it, I was so heartsick. DH offered to buy me a new one for our next holiday, but I told him I obviously couldn't be trusted with it. He then glued mine back together for me, dear heart that he is, and if you didn't know to look closely you couldn't even really tell it was ever broken. It doesn't quite sing any more as I spin -- it wobbles just the tiniest bit -- but the upside is, I'm not afraid of dropping it and I can certainly take it on a trip, something I never would have done if it hadn't been broken. Now, of course, I'm sure I'll never drop it again...ain't that always the way?

But, back to my travel fiber toys. In addition to the Golding, there's a Bossie featherweight that I simply adore. I was leery of using such a light spindle, but Sheila over at Journey Wheel said it would be the best thing for the silk fiber I wanted to spin, so I gave it a shot. Right now it's got a merino/silk blend on it that I'm spinning insanely finely. I have no idea what I'll ever do with this sewing thread, but I'm sure I'll figure something out.

On the left is my newest fiber toy, a Spindolyn supported spindle. I got this recently in trade for some superwash merino and I've been waiting for a good chance to try it out. I figure a four-hour car ride is as good as it gets.

And, of course, there's the ubiquitous MDK book and SnC cotton. I know, I know, I'm not supposed to knit. But I have a baby shower to go to on the 9th, people! I have to at least finish this baby kimono and a couple of coordinating bibs. I promise I'll go slow and take frequent spinning breaks.

And did I mention that Auntie Gigglepants is a beading guru? There may be some jewelry-making in my future this weekend....

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Blue Skies and Baby Steps

When I was a kid, my favorite color was sky blue. I still remember exactly how the sky-blue Crayola looked, brand-new out of the box, and how much I loved using it.

As I got older, sky blue went the way of crayons and coloring books. My wardrobe filled up with blacks and the occasional red, and I didn't think much about sky-blue until I unexpectedly received a whole bag full of glitzy, sky-blue alpaca roving.

Shasta "guarding" the spinning wheel

The roving sat in my stash until yesterday, when the orthopedist told me to cool it with the knitting for a few weeks. I decided I needed to spin up something bright and fun to cheer me up, and glitzy sky-blue alpaca seemed to fit the bill just fine.

The beginnings of a bobbin of alpaca singles

Can I tell you, I love this roving!! It spins like a cloud, like air itself. I've even been able to do a little bit of long draw, something I was never able to accomplish before. Half of me can't wait to finish spinning because I'm dying to see the finished yarn and the other half doesn't want the spinning to end. If I had to be laid up and out-of-knitting-commission, this is certainly a good way to do it.

Maybe I'm just in an extra-good mood today because M finally, at age 16 months, decided to walk all by herself for the very first time. In the past, she would walk while holding hands; she would cruise along the furniture; she would even take half a dozen tentative steps towards a beloved adult, all the while stretching out her arms and practically falling at our feet when she reached us. Then, all of a sudden, she decided that she could do it on her own -- and she did. She spent the day walking everywhere, turning right, turning left, falling down and getting right back up again. I can't remember when I've been so proud.

I took her to the playground this afternoon and it was the first time she went around without clinging to my finger the whole time. I watched in awe as she walked away from me, heading off to investigate an inviting-looking step or an interesting patch of gravel. And I thought, she'll only walk farther and faster from here on out. It made me the tiniest bit sad, made my heart ache just a little bit even as it was bursting with pride. She's on her way, one baby step at a time.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Whaddaya Want for Free?

OK, Blogger is seriously making me nuts. I've been trying to post for two days now but Blogger won't upload my photos. This has happened at least weekly since I've gone back to blogging. What the heck?! Yes, I realize that for free, I probably shouldn't complain. Still, it's frustrating in the extreme to not be able to complete posts because the photo upload is buggy or overloaded or whatever else is causing the problem.

Let's get with the program, Blogger -- work, dammit!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I've been thinking a lot about hands lately. Take a look at this:

It's a table runner made for me several years back by my mom. My mom has been doing "handiwork," as she calls it, since she was in first grade. Her main thing is crocheting, but this particular Christmas -- the Christmas of the table runner -- she decided to do something different. Did I mention she hand-makes all her Christmas gifts every year? You gotta admire that.

Anyway, that year I think she'd scored a bunch of free fabric and she thought, why not put it to good use? And so she hand-sewed -- yes, you read that right, hand-sewed, without the aid of a sewing machine -- a table runner for me and one for each of my cousins. We're talking serious time here, and serious effort. I always knew that, but then again, that's my mom. Over the years, she's made everything from little hand-crocheted doilies to full-out tablecloths (sheer madness, I know -- who crochets a cloth for a table that will seat 12??).

The year mom gave me the runner, I put it out on the table a few times; after that, it mainly lived in the corner hutch in my dining room. Nothing against it or her -- I'm just more of a tablecloth gal...the wash 'n wear, no-iron kind.

Then yesterday I pulled that runner out and looked at it -- I mean, really looked at it. The stitches are minute. The thread matches the color of the fabric. There have to be at least a hundred of those little circles, each of which mom meticulously cut out of fabric the old-fashioned way: by hand, with a sewing shears, using the bottom of a glass as her template.

Not all that long ago, my mom mentioned that her arthritis was acting up. She talked about how doing needlework was too painful for her these days -- the mere act of holding a sewing needle in her fingers was too taxing. She still crochets, but her sewing days are for the most part over.

These days I'm having my own hand problems, too. The orthopedist just told me I have "knitter's finger," which means a cortisone shot (my second this year) in the short term and possibly surgery in the long. It also means no knitting for the next little while. "I know you gotta knit," he said, after asking me where my LYS was (who woulda thought the orthopedic surgeon would be knit-knowledgeable??), "but you might want to hold out for six weeks, just to see if it helps."

I think of my grandmother's hands, twisted and knurled from arthritis; my mother's fingers the same way; my grandfather's even worse. I feel the telltale pains not only in my finger, but in my elbow, my wrist -- not arthritis, the doctor assures me, just narrow tendons, something he can fix in an hour with a light anasthetic (for me, not him) and a couple of quick incisions. I recognize the wisdom of avoiding surgery and vow to avoid things that aggravate the condition (though the elbow flares up in pain when I type, yet here I sit blogging away). Fifty years ago, people went their whole lives without repetitive motion injuries...or maybe they were just tougher than we are. When there's nothing to be done, why bother complaining?

Anyway, I'm off knitting for the next little bit. I'll spin, I'll weave, and I'll go easy on the typing while I'm at it, just to give myself a chance to heal without aid from a needle or a knife. I'll keep my table runner out on the table where it belongs, a testament to my mother's determination and love of her family.

Much nicer than a store-bought tablecloth any day.

Monday, August 07, 2006

One Month and Counting

So there I was, just starting to cast on for my third ballband warshrag to match my kitchen, when I suddenly remembered the baby shower I'm attending on September 9. Yikes! Off came the brick-red SnC and on went the slate blue. So far, I have a miniscule stockpile of 2 MDK baby kimonos (both of which still need seaming) and zero bibs/burp cloths. Sad, sad, sad.

So, Christmas knitting will be put aside (OK, except for that one washcloth that I'm in the middle of knitting to finish off a pair to go with my ballband bathmat...and except for my m-i-l's scarf for those days when I want to work with wool instead of cotton...and except for my mom's lace stole just because if I don't keep doing a couple of rows every few days it'll never be finished in time for the holidays) and baby knitting will commence in earnest. I've already gotten to the first set of sleeve increases and I hope to have at least half the kimono finished by tomorrow. I'm thinking two or three matching kimono/bib sets...only 31 days and counting....
Some Good News on the Knittng Front....

Well, I did it. It took a week and a half, 44 ounces of PnC/SnC and gave me shooting pains in my right index finger, but I finally finished my first Ballband Bathmat.

As you can see, the ends still need to be woven in, but aside from that I am well and truly done! I actually can't complain; I really enjoyed knitting this bathmat, moreso than the Absorba, which always seems to bog down towards the later, longer rows.

As soon as I finished, I cast on a matching washcloth, which I finished in one sitting while watching Armageddon. Nothing like a cheesy Hollywood flick for mindless knitting.

Tomorrow I think I'll bring my rigid heddle loom up from the basement, where it's been languishing since May, and warp it up with Euroflax (possibly interspersed with crochet cotton) for placemats. I'm thinking more and more about buying Euroflax worsted weight, which (from what I'm told) is actually more of a DK or aran weight than a true worsted. Does anyone know of a good source of linen patterns besides Louet?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Day at the Frog Pond

If only the Marx Brothers had filmed that movie -- maybe I'd be able to laugh a little harder at my own rip-it rip-it rip-iting!

So, after reading that Euroflax won't bloom after it's been washed, I frogged what I'd knit on size 4s and went down to size 2s. After knitting more than I probably should have, I discovered -- naturally -- I still didn't like the way the stupid fabric looked. Grrrrrrr!

So it's back to the frog pond for me, and now I'm wondering what to do next. Someone pointed me in the direction of washing the Euroflax before knitting with it, which should allow it to be knitted up more tightly than if it hasn't been washed. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that, partly because the more I've been thinking about the intended purpose of this yarn -- placemats -- the more I've started thinking I may just break out the RH loom and weave the darn things instead of knitting them. A simple tabby weave will certainly go faster (or at least feel like it's going faster) than doing a fussy knitting pattern on size 0s, which is the direction this project seems to be quickly heading in.

So now, I'm stuck in a whole other direction. I was initially so excited about using linen yarn that I scoured the internet and found a place that sells in bulk, twenty cones or bags of skeins (either 1/2lb or 1 lb each depending upon grist) for $24 each. They also have the largest variety of grists I've seen in Euroflax, everything from the finest laceweight (14/1, 5200 ypp) to a nice heathered bulky (685 ypp). A friend and I decided to go in half and half on an order so that we're each only spending a slightly insane amount of money on this. I was toying with the idea of getting a bunch of the sportweight plus maybe a cone or two of 14/2 laceweight for a shawl, but after this experience with the placemats I'm now wondering if that's what I want to do at all. I can certainly see how Euroflax would make nice clothing -- I really like the top-down Euroflax sweater on the MDK blog site -- but I'm wondering about what grist I should get. Maybe a worsted weight would be better overall than sport weight? (And, to tell the truth, the Euroflax sport weight seems quite thin to me -- far more like a light fingering weight than a sport weight in wool would be.) And that bulky Euroflax is tempting, too. Although, of course, I could surely use the sportweight for a lovely shawl or two....

This is the problem with buying yarn without a definite project in mind, although I certainly had a project in mind for the sportweight and look how that's turning out. Suggestions, anyone?
Another Day, Another Dammit

I took the train into work today, which means that in between eating, reading and sleeping (did I mention I have a LONG commute??) I got a nice little piece of knitting done:

This is the beginning of a Euroflax placemat, modeled after the Euroflax hand towel in MDK. Unfortunately -- and here's where the "dammit" comes in -- it looks like I'm going to have to frog the entire thing and go down at least 2 needle sizes to get a fabric I like. Right now the knit is way too loose; I had hoped that washing the Euroflax would make it bloom and fill in the gaps somewhat, but that's not what people on the MDK-Knitalong blog seem to be saying. *sigh* Oh, well...size 2 needles, here I come!

Still missing Fatboy and feeling that this is all very unreal. DH and I started looking at photos this evening but stopped...still too sad. Here's one we did look at, though, which brought back good memories.

It was taken at our annual spring BBQ; that's Fatboy in the front and Shasta in the back. All the dogs love the BBQ because everyone spoils them and feeds them scraps all day long. I still can't quite believe Fatboy won't be there for our next one.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


At shortly after midnight this morning, our bulldog, Fatboy, died.

It was completely unexpected. We had had him to the vet that very afternoon to get his bordatella vaccine, and he had been just fine.

Shortly before we went to bed last night, Fatboy's breathing became even more labored than usual. Now, if you know bulldogs, you know that they snort, they snore, and by the simple act of breathing they make a good ol' racket just about all the time. So, we weren't overly worried. Fatboy's breathing would get louder and faster in the heat or after running around, but after resting it would always go back to its normal dull roar. We all went to bed thinking nothing was wrong.

Fatboy on the beach in Maine, summer 2003

But shortly after midnight, our other bulldog, Kobe, woke us up with her barking. At first, we thought she had to go outside; instead, she was trying to let us know that Fatboy had died. His face was all wet -- she had obviously been licking him -- and his body was still warm and soft. It must have just happened.

Today was a pretty awful day for all of us. We were up till after 2am, crying and caring for Fatboy's body, our other dogs (Kobe and our shep mix, Shasta) and baby M. We finally got to sleep only to get up a scant few hours later for work. DH's boss, when informed of the situation, told DH to take the day off, which he gratefully did. I didn't have the same luxury. So, after we took Fatboy to the vet for cremation, DH and I drove to his parents' house where he stayed with M and the dogs while I went in to work.

I feel like a wreck. My eyes are sandy and have been burning for hours. I have a headache and am exhausted in body and spirit. I keep wondering if there was anything we could have done. What if...? What if we had gone to work yesterday instead of staying home (which we did because on the way to work the car got a flat and the baby got sick all at once)? Maybe if Fatboy had spent the day in the cool basement as he always does when we're at work he would have been okay. Or what if we had given Fatboy a bath yesterday afternoon? We had been planning a bath for him for days -- maybe the cool water would have kept him from overheating, which is what we think in the end caused his death.

DH says there's no point in thinking about "what ifs," and intellectually I know he's right. DH says it was probably just Fatboy's time. At least he didn't suffer; he didn't go through a long illness and a lot of pain...just slipped into sleep and was gone.

Poor Kobe. She and Fatboy have been together all their lives. She's so sad, and so stoic. She just walks mournfully around the house and, when she's not doing that, she sleeps.

I want to remember Fatboy as he was: a happy, good-hearted, good-natured dog who never really knew his own strength and was always eager to jump in the nearest lap and slobber all over whoever and whatever came within reach.

He will always be loved. He will always be missed.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Somewhat-Finished Object

It may not be the prettiest yarn, but it's my first attempt at Navajo plying my homespun, and I'm pretty pleased overall with how it turned out. It's lumpy, bumpy and overspun, not to mention partially boucled, but it's mine. Oh, and did I point out that it looks exceedingly like a mop?

I've been spinning on this "mystery wool" for a long time now, but I finally managed to finish not only the spinning but do the entire plying job today while hiding out from the heat in our basement. DH, M and I got waylaid this morning by a) a flat tire, and b) M's sudden relapse into vomiting and diarrhea (a repeat of last week's "summer virus"). No work for DH and me; no day spent with doting grandparents for M. Instead, DH worked from home, I got the tire repaired and the dogs vaccinated (in between cleaning up vomit/poop...charming, I know) and M played her little heart out when she wasn't busy soiling herself. All in all, an interesting day.

But I did manage to squeeze in some spinning, as the photos attest. I think my next task will be to Kool-Aid dye the skein. I have half a dozen packets of something that should dye red, and with the heat we've had lately I'm tempted to dump them all in a plastic baggie of water and vinegar and set the mix in the car for a day -- down-n-dirty "solar dyeing." Otherwise, I may just pull out my Twisted Sisters sock book and figure out how to dye from that. I've never dyed wool before, nor have I used Kool-Aid as a dye. My dyeing experiments were mainly high-school attempts to Rit jeans and T-shirts -- nothing nearly as fancy as trying to dye my own homespun.

DH is talking about possibly getting me an I-Pod (something I've dearly wanted so I can listen to books from librivox while knitting)...if and when that happens, I may just have to make myself an I-Pod cozy from my Kool-Aided homespun. All the more reason to get me a-dyein'.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Feelin' hot, hot, HOT!

It is hot. WAAAAAAAY hot. Hotter than it has any right to be, even though it is August in New York. It's so hot that there's a Heat Emergency in effect. I don't know what this means for sure, but it can't be good.

And so, with the temperature at a record high, what should I work on but the bathmat that is quickly turning into the Biggest Ballband Ever!

This bathmat is quickly taking on the proportions of a blanket, with weight to match. It'll make a super bathmat, but for now it's an exercise in knitterly zen (not to mention knitterly determination and knitterly nuttiness) just to sit under it and do a few rows.

I never thought I'd hear myself say I wish it were winter, but right about now I almost do.