Monday, February 26, 2007

Snow Day

Today, DH and I stayed home from work. What was supposed to be a "light dusting" of snow came down hard enough in the middle of the night to blanket roads and close schools by morning, and we just didn't want to risk the hour's drive down to my in-laws' house to drop off Baby M. And so, DH worked from home and I cancelled my class (which I'll have to make up later in the semester) and we all stayed safely home for the day.

The upside is, I got a fair amount of stuff done. I wrote up a paper that's due this Saturday (and which I couldn't quite figure out when I'd have the time to do) and even emailed it to my professor for feedback. I took care of a bunch of work stuff (most of which came as a result of my not being able to make it in to work today, so I'm not necessarily ahead of the game on that one, but oh well). And...

DH and I got to make a snowman with Baby M.

Not any old snowman, mind you. Baby M's first snowman. Ever.

How cool is that?

It looks like Baby M is helpfully adding an almond into Mr. Snowman's crooked grin. In reality, she's swiping almonds for her own nefarious purposes. She gets that from her father.

I must say, however, I think it was much cooler for DH and me than for her. She absolutely loves snowmen, and whenever she sees me sitting at the computer, she toddles over and demands, "Snowman picture!" Whereby I google for the jillionth time some low-budget government-sponsored website that has a line drawing of a snowman with a small assortment of items that can be dragged and dropped onto his body. The clincher: he can have arms made of candy canes. That gets Baby M's attention every time.

Sadly, we had no giant candy canes for our snowman's arms. But we did have walnuts for eyes, a Brazil nut for a nose, and a small handful of almonds for a mouth. Baby M's plastic sand rake served as an arm (she refused to part with her plastic shovel to give the snowman a matching appendage), and the very first scarf I ever knit still sits wrapped around our snowman's neck.

I don't think I'd built a snowman since college (and I'm not sure if I'd ever built one before that), so I had a great time. And Baby M was so pooped afterwards that after taking a nice, hot bath to warm her up, she fell sound asleep in my arms and I got to make a nice, big pot of homemade soup for dinner. Now I'm just waiting for DH to sign off from work and for Baby M to wake up from her nap so we can all think about having dinner.

God, I love snow days.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

New Project, New Problem

Now that I've finished off three Top-Down Timothy Caps (2 for DH and one for his grandfather) and am stuck on my fitted bog jacket because I've had to order -- and wait for -- more wool, I've decided to start a new project: a Woolly Thoughts "Best of Both Whirls" afghan.

The cool part is that this is what the afghan will look like when it's finished:

The not-so-cool part is that this is what it looks like now:

That's right: one square, 44 ends to weave in. Multiply that by the 24 squares needed and that's a soul-sucking one thousand and fifty-six ends to weave in.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Gong Hay Fat Choi and More

Happy Year of the Golden Fire Pig, everyone!

The Golden Fire Pig in its native, Las Vegas.

What does that mean exactly? Well, for DH, Baby M and me it meant a New Year's Eve stuffing ourselves at the in-laws' house. For the world in general it seems to mean prosperity and fertility, as the family made perfectly clear during dinner by asking, loudly and repeatedly, when we were going to provide Baby M with a sibling. What? Doesn't Elmo count?

But enough about Chinese New Year. I promised some details about Valentine's -- excuse me, Valentime's -- Day presents. (Thank you, AP, for the gentle reminder! *g*) gift to DH was definitely unromantic, but I must say it was exactly what he wanted:

Behold the belt sander! Now DH can actually sharpen the knives he worked so hard to forge at his last blacksmithing workshop. Nothing says "I love you" like a power tool that can peel flesh from bone like a boiled chicken. DH will be using safety equipment with this one.

But the big "ta-da" is reserved for DH's gift to me:

Behold the book charkha! But not just any book charkha; this, ladies and gents, is a Bosworth book charkha, from the uber-talented Jonathan Bosworth over at Journey Wheel. This is the same charkha that L kindly brought over not once but twice to let me play with. The same charkha that actually allowed me to turn cotton into yarn and not just into frustrating little piles of cotton fluff. It's an absolute marvel of engineering and a delight to spin with. Not only that, but it fits right on my lap so I can use it just about anywhere. Spinning on the couch...? In the car...? On the beach at Waikiki...? (A gal can dream, right??)

Anyway, I was (and still am) delighted. DH's order went in for the March group (Jonathan makes things in batches), so that means I'll have my charkha by May (just in time for Mother's Day). All in all, DH couldn't have been more thoughtful. Who needs the "traditional" gifts of chocolate and jewelry when you can have cool fiber tools?

And last but not least, Elmo made his appearance in Baby M's world. He actually tried to rush things by spontaneously talking while still wrapped up and awating DH's return home from work before being given to Baby M. All of a sudden, that distinct Elmo voice piped up and said, "Hi, Baby M! Let's play!" (Didn't I say earlier that there was something creepily Chucky-ish about this thing?) Baby M's head popped up from her coloring book and, looking slightly perplexed, she asked, "Elmo?" Er...whoops. I scooped up the box and hid it in the bedroom closet until it was time for her to unwrap it.

Let me tell you, it was love at first sight. Elmo sings the alphabet song, tells a story about how he and Baby M go to visit a bear, reminds Baby M of her favorite people (Mommy, Daddy) and foods (edamame, yogurt) and even claims to have the very same favorites. Baby M has been dragging Elmo around the house by one foot for the past four days and shows no signs of lessening in her affections. Honestly, it's some of the best money I've ever spent.

Now all we have to do is write up birthday invitations because...*drumroll, please* little girl is about to turn TWO. Egads! Where did the time go? Baby M really, really isn't a baby any more. *sniff*

Maybe DH and I will have to take advantage of this Year of the Golden Fire Pig fertility thing after all....

Friday, February 16, 2007

What a Yarn Wants

The other day, my friend L commented, very insightfully, that wool really wants to be yarn. Introduce the slightest amount of twist, she noted, and it holds itself together like a champ and begs for more. Unlike, say, cotton, which according to L's logic wants to be just about anything but yarn (as I discovered after half an hour's utter frustration at the wheel with some otherwise-lovely cotton roving).

I'm not sure where wool/silk blends stand on the spectrum, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's just a bit more cotton-like in its desires than regular wool. I know this because I spent an ultimately happy couple of hours last night spinning up one of my SP9 pal's earliest gifts to me: a luscious 4 oz braid of Spunky Eclectic merino/silk blend in the "Vineyard" colorway.

It took some playing, I must admit. I had to tweak my Louet's ratio vs uptake for awhile until I reached a happy medium where I could introduce enough twist before the fiber got sucked from my fingers onto the bobbin. But this fiber is a true pleasure to spin. Just look at those colors! I was feeling grey and gloomy and longing for something colorful and vibrant and spring-like to spin, and I don't think I could have asked for a better choice than this. Once I have it all spun up (I've probably spun about an ounce by now), I think I'm going to Navajo-ply it, and then...well, I don't have any plans for the yarn after that, but I'm sure it will make a perfect "pet skein" until it tells me what it wants to be.

And speaking of what wants to be....

As far as I can tell, Crystal Palace cotton chenille yarn wants to be anything but a Mason-Dixon Warshcloth. First, I frogged -- a soul-crushing three times. When I finally got up the gumption to cast on again, I knitted all the way to the second-to-last row when....

That's right, the yarn snapped. Snapped! Of all the nerve. And don't ask me how this could possibly be, but the end disappeared. Completely and totally, as if it never existed to begin with. And so...I can't really finish off the center of the cloth since there's a rogue end somewhere in there just waiting to work its way out. And I absolutely refuse to frog it yet again and reuse the yarn. Clearly, this yarn just Does. Not. Like. Me.

Not that I'm taking it personally or anything. *ahem*

And even though Crystal Palace chenille may not like me, DH and Baby M certainly do. More on their most generous Valentine's Day gift to me -- and all our gifts to one another -- next.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Elmo Knows Baby M's Name

At least, he will once DH gets finished programming him.

Yes, that's right, I caved to the Elmo-fest that is toddler pop-culture. When I was a kid (insert cantankerous voiceover here), Valentine's Day meant chocolates. Every year, I got a box for Mom and Dad, they got a box for me, and Dad got a box for Mom. And a card.
But ever since the way-back-when Valentine's Day when I burst into tears at DH's (then Dear Boyfriend) gift of chocolate truffles in a crystal box -- given just as I was terribly depressed about and obsessing over how I'd gained weight -- he's sort of steered clear of chocolates as a gift. And since he doesn't really eat chocolates much himself...well, any box I bought for him would be a de facto box for me. Baby M, who would love nothing more than a whole box of chocolates for herself, is at 22 months still far too young to be given one.

And so...DH is getting something decidedly not made of chocolate, the details of which I won't post on the off chance that he may read this before I manage to give him is present (more on that in a sec). I'm not getting something made of chocolate, either (though I've long given up crying over gifted chocolate fact, if there's anyone reading this who happens to be crying over gifted truffles at the moment and wants someone to take the nasty things off your hands, consider me your woman). And after a short discussion about what non-chocolate delight might please Baby M, DH and I settled on an Elmo doll. (The girl excitedly shrieks, "Elmo PJs!!" at think she'll go crazy over a doll? Yeah. Maybe just a bit.)

So yesterday, before the godawful sleet started to fall, I hightailed myself to midtown and checked out the Elmo offerings at Toys R Us. (If, by the way, you've never seen the midtown Toys R Us, you Really. Must. Go. There's a freakin' ferris wheel inside, fergawdsake.)
Did they have Elmos! They had Chicken Dance Elmo, Hokey-Pokey Elmo, Elmos that hummed and sucked their thumbs and did everything except jump right up and high-five a child. And each and every one of them felt like hugging a sock full of batteries. Yuck!
Then I saw this Elmo:

Not only does he do super-cool things like say your child's name (and, it seems, about a hundred other things that you can personalize, like your child's birthday, friends' names, and more), he's nice and soft and plush and not at all like a Terminator skeleton under a saggy muppet skin. I tend to object to toys that "do too much" on the theory that they leave less room for the imagination (I'm a huge fan of wooden blocks and giant empty cardboard boxes and the like), but even I have to admit, this looks pretty freakin' sweet. You can even program the little bugger right in the box, so your darling child can unwrap his or her present and have start talking right off the bat. Is that not the coolest thing? (OK, it also smacks disturbingly of Chucky, but I'm willing to let that go.) Now, all DH has to do is program the darn thing. Which means all we have to do is manage to get home tonight.'s freakin' sleeting here, people! What is this? We've been having the warmest winter on record and global warming be damned, I've really been enjoying it. Now all of a sudden, we're expected to cope with actual winter? Snow? Sleet? Surely, you jest. We didn't even go home last night. For the second time in just about as many weeks, the whole clan stayed with DH's parents, this time so we wouldn't have to drive on the skating rink that has become our highway system.

On a side note, DH and I did make a foray to Macy's last night in search of work clothes to wear today. When we saw the humongous crowds, we asked, in all innocence, "Why are there so many people here on a Tuesday night?" The salesperson looked at us like we had three heads apiece and said, "It's the night before Valentime's Day." (Is this a particularly New York thing, to say Valentime's Day instead of Valentine's Day?) DH and I laughed and I said, "Oh, we're such an old married couple, we didn't even realize." To which the salesclerk replied, smiling, "Well, I guess if you've been doin' it all year 'round, you don't need to be doin' it on Valentime's Day."

And if the weather doesn't let us make it home for the second night in a row, he'll have been not only clever, but absolutely, positively correct.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Top-Down Timothy Cap Pattern

Excitement! Today I caught a post from a woman asking for submissions of short patterns for her knitting guild's newsletter. I sent in my pattern for the Top-Down Timothy Cap and she said they're going to publish it! I know it's not nearly the big deal of other people getting their patterns published in Knitty, etc, but this will be my very first pattern published anywhere, so I'm just tickled.

Here's the pattern itself, just in case anyone would like to try their hand at it. The usual caveats apply: Feel free to print out the pattern for your personal use, but don't make these hats to sell or otherwise profit off the pattern. If anyone does make one of these, please let me know -- I'd love to see it!

Top-Down Timothy Cap

By Linda Ciano

Size: One size fits most adults

Gauge: 6 stitches/inch in K2P3 ribbing, slightly stretched

Note: This cap is worked with yarn held doubled throughout in the “magic loop” method of using one long circular needle to make a circular item with a smaller circumference than that of the needle itself. A useful tutorial for this method is available at


  • 2 skeins Knitpicks Andean Treasure 100% baby alpaca (50 g/110 yds)
  • 32” size 8 circular needle


  • KFB = knit into the front and the back of the same stitch
  • PFB = purl into the front and the back of the same stitch
  • PFKB = purl into the front and knit into the back of the same stitch
  • KFPB = knit into the front and purl into the back of the same stitch


With yarn doubled, cast on 8 stitches using figure-8 cast on. Place marker at beginning of round.

Round 1: [K1, P1] to end of round (8 stitches)

Round 2: [K1, PFB] to end of round (12 stitches)

Round 3: [KFB, P2] to end of round (16 stitches)

Round 4: [K2, P1, PFB] to end of round (20 stitches)

Round 5: [K2, PFB, P2] to end of round (24 stitches)

Round 6: [K2, P1, PFKB, KFPB, P1] to end of round (32 stitches)

Round 7: [K2, P2] to end of round

Round 8: [K2, P1, PFB] to end of round (40 stitches)

Round 9: [K2, P3] to end of round

Round 10: [K2, PFB, P2] to end of round (48 stitches)

Round 11: [K2, P4] to end of round

Round 12: [K2, P1, PFKB, KFPB, P1] to end of round (64 stitches)

Rounds 13-15: Repeat round 7

Round 16: [K2, P1, PFB] to end of round (80 stitches)

Round 17: [K2, P3] to end of round

Repeat round 17 until cap measures 8” from crown to base or desired length. Bind off loosely in pattern. Block gently if desired.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Now Is the Winter of My Discontent

I am sick. Again. Someone just kill me now, please.

Actually, I'm feeling somewhat better at the moment, which is why I'm taking the opportunity to kvetch write. I don't know what exactly hit me, but it hit hard. Both DH and I felt so ill last night that we didn't even bother coming home after work; instead, the whole family -- Baby M and doggie included -- stayed overnight with DH's parents, and they are graciously keeping Baby M with them again today and tonight so DH and I can get some rest. I'm a little nervous as this is the first time she's ever staying overnight without me, but if there's anywhere she'll be comfortable and taken care of and loved it's there. Besides, I was in no shape to take care of her myself for much of the day, and an evening's additional rest coupled with a good night's sleep might just see me rid of this cursed cold once and for all.

BUT...I'm not here just to complain. (No, seriously, I'm not. Stop that laughing.) I'm also here to give a huge THANK YOU to my SP9 pal, who finally revealed herself this past week.

Joni M, you ROCK!

Here's what Joni sent in her reveal package:

There are two braids of spinning fiber, the one on the right being 4 oz of superwash merino from Spunky Eclectic and the one on the left being 4 oz of BFL wool top from Hello Yarn. But the bestest stuff of all came from Joni's own shop, Union Center Knits. It's kind of hard to tell by my craptastic photo, but Joni sent along an assortment of wonderful little goodies: beaded stitch markers with -- can you believe it? -- little jingle bells on the ends (too, too cute for words!), pretty paper "Handmade By..." hanging tags for packages, a felted autumn-leaf pin, a Union Center Knits button, and two -- count 'em, two -- skeins of hand-dyed (by Joni herself) Whatnot Sock Yarn. Joni, you have completely and thoroughly spoiled me these past 3 months, and I really can't thank you enough. I hope you'll check in on my blog every now and again to see what all your fibers and yarns have been spun and knitted up into. I'll be posting photos, I promise....

And finally, my very first self-designed hat: the Top-Down Timothy Cap.

Named for DH, the first (and so far, only) recipient, the Timothy Cap is pretty cool, if I do say so myself. I used the leftover alpaca from FIL's balaclava and took my design cues from Barbara Walker's book Knitting from the Top Down. It incorporates a couple of neat little features like a figure-8 cast on to prevent that annoying little hole at the hat top and wheel-like spoked increases for a streamlined, symmetrical look. It kinda reminds me of the caps that skateboarders wear (wore? do kids still skateboard? and do they wear caps? I am so out of the loop...), but it works perfectly with alpaca and forms a close-fitting, warm, comfy cap. Gratuitous Baby M comment: "Daddy hat! I like it!" (At 22 months old, the child is a genius, pure and simple. So says her completely unbiased mother.) Now I'm just waiting for some more alpaca to arrive from knitpicks so I can make one for myself, a second for DH and one for DH's grandfather as a birthday gift. And while I was using my February "free day" to order yarn for more hats, I took the opportunity to order some luscious alpaca to make myself the Cable and Lace Poncho from Just Wraps. Mmmmm...cable and lace poncho in Winterberry alpaca... *drool*....

Hmmmm...maybe I'm not
quite as discontented as I thought.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bubble, Bubble, Not Much Trouble

Today I finished Bubbly -- yippee! Check 'er out:

Now I get to use my Christmas gift from DH -- a lace blocking kit from Knitpicks -- to get Bubbly all nice and in shape for hanging in the window. The only thing left to make is the twisted cord for hanging...oh, yeah -- and the second Bubbly for the other window in the bathroom!

In other news, my replacement roving (to replace the not-so-clean Cotswold curls) is on its way to me and it looks spectacular:

Are those colors not to die (dye?? -- see how clever I am?? *ahem*) for? You can't see it in this photo, but there are also some deep greens and other autumn colors in there. I'm going to use the Sheep Shed Studio method of fleeceweaving, which involves making raised "pebbles" with the roving. While I don't hope to turn out something as nice as this

on the first try, I hope I can at least come somewhat close.

Now the question is, what should I start knitting to keep myself occupied on the subway now that Bubbly is done?