Sunday, December 26, 2010

Portable North Pole

My cousin turned me on to this, and it's the coolest Christmas thing ever.

Fill out some information about your child, upload some photos, and Santa sends a personalized video message. My five-year-old loved it! She sat watching, amazed that Santa had her photo, called her by name, told her all about her school, the things she'd done all year, what she wanted for Christmas, etc etc. Her eyes lit up as he spoke to her, and she nodded along in answer to his questions of "You're five years old, right?" and "Do you think you've been nice enough?" She got so excited that she decided to make him a video message in return. She said, "Santa showed me his office, so I'm going to show him my room." It was truly magical.

Merry Christmas, and may the magic of the season be with us all.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Our First Christmas Card of the Season

And my five-year-old came racing through the house waving it like a banner and shouting, "Look, Mommy, it's the Baby Genius!"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

You Know What Happens When You Blink...

You miss it.

It feels like all I've done since my last blog post is blink, but it's nearly Christmas and where the heck has all that time gone?

It's been a strange fall. Strange and hectic. With both girls in school, I've had to adjust to a whole new schedule, and I still don't feel settled in. Big Girl goes to school 5 afternoons a week, and quite frankly, I think I'm as grateful for half-day kindergarten as she is. I just don't know how little kids do the full-day school thing. There are some days that she comes home so exhausted that she just falls right asleep. Fortunately, she really likes school; she's in a great class with an excellent teacher, she's made lots of friends and her only complaint is that some of the "big girls" (first graders) on the bus ride home are mean to her. My 81-year-old mom's advice to her: "Don't take anything from anybody. If anybody bothers you, punch 'em in the nose." That, as DH commented, is old-skool. It's also, I patiently explained to my mother, not exactly tolerated in schools these days. Although, honestly, it kills me to hear about kids being mean to my kid. Just kills me. Fortunately, Big Girl is not the punch-'em-in-the-nose type, although if she were, those other kids might think twice before being mean to her.

Little Z is now in pre-school two mornings a week. She's one of the "babies" of the class since her birthday is in October and she wasn't even 3 yet when the school year started. She also loves school; she's already got her little group of friends and she comes home full of talk about Katherine, her best buddy, and the others. Nobody is mean in pre-school. The teachers don't allow it, and the kids are so very supervised that not much happens under the radar. Little Z is definitely the punch-'em-in-the-nose type, so I think I'll have both more and less to worry about when it's her turn to start riding the school bus with the big kids.

And me? I'm still struggling with carpal tunnel, or whatever the pain in my hands is that I've yet to see a doctor about. I continue wearing braces and trying to vary my fiber routine, switching from knitting to weaving to spinning to just plain resting, hoping that eventually things will work themselves out. Yes, I can indeed spell "denial," and why do you ask?

But, I'm busy working on Christmas gifts: hats for DH and the girls (all finished, thankfully), socks for Mom (also finished) and Aunt C (unfortunately not), and maybe even Abi Grasso stripey watermelon socks for the girls if I can get to them before the 25th. I feel lucky. I feel blessed. We're all together at the end of the year, and I'm thankful for all that we have and all that we have to look forward to.

If only I could keep from blinking.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

First Day of School

Kindergarten...riding the school bus all by herself...every penny spent on pre-K more than worth the moment when she stepped on board without a tear or a backwards glance, waving good-bye, excited beyond belief to be heading to her first day of school.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Day in Pictures

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I teach. The pay sucks, the benefits (as a teacher at a university, as opposed to, say, a public school) are minimal and my own personal commute is pretty ridiculous.

One bright spot, however, is our faculty spending account. Every year, we get a certain amount to spend on "professional development." While the administration has gone all Ebenezer Scrooge on technology purchases (as though having access to a computer doesn't contribute to the teaching effectiveness of the faculty), they are simply delighted to send us to professional development workshops. Which is how I wound up spending a week last summer at the Omega Institute, taking a Spanish Immersion class.

The class absolutely blew, which was shocking considering the fact that I'd loved every class I'd ever taken at Omega up till that point. The rest of the class agreed with me, and when we went en masse to complain we were each given a free R&R weekend as compensation.

I just came back from mine.

R&R at Omega is lovely. No schedules, nowhere you have to be, no one you have to answer to. I timed it so as to be there the same weekend as a colleague who was taking an actual workshop and who I love to pieces, and it wound up being the perfect combination of alone time and friend time.

I arrived late Friday and enjoyed dinner and some quiet knitting time with my audiobook (Scott Sigler's Nocturnal) in the Ram Das Library. When I started feeling sleepy, I headed back over to my single dorm room for a little spinning out on the front deck, then settled in for a good night's sleep.

I woke at 6:45am, no alarm, no kids jumping all over me demanding breakfast, nothing but soft light coming in around the edges of the windowshades and a desperate need to pee. Breakfast with my friend, then knitting in the organic vegetable and flower garden, followed by a group reiki session and more knitting, this time in a comfy hammock down by the lake. I went to lunch only when the first drops of rain started to fall,rousting me from my spot under the trees.

I spent Saturday afternoon knitting, drinking tea and browsing the shelves in the Omega shop for small gifts for the girls and DH. After dinner -- all vegetarian, organic, locally-sourced and absolutely delicious food, as always -- the evening found me again at the library, knitting, then back at my room, spinning.

Sunday, my last day, was cloudy, but I still woke to the gentle morning light at around 6:45am. I spent the entire morning except for meals down at the lake, swinging in a hammock and putting the finishing touches on the socks I'd been working on all weekend. By the time I left after lunch, just ahead of an approaching storm, I'd been thoroughly rested, relaxed and pampered.

Here's what I have to show for it:

First and foremost, Mom's socks. She picked the yarn out last Christmas -- a colorway so totally unlike her that at first I thought she was joking. But for some strange reason, my plain-vanilla mom wants some funky rainbow socks, so who am I to argue? I just put them up to block tonight, and once the ends are woven in I'll tuck them away for this year's Christmas present. Score one for me for being ahead of the game!

Four ounces of Crown Mountain Farms Targhee singles in the Woodstock colorway, from their 2010 Fiber Club. This was an absolute breeze to spin and felt like it took no time at all. I didn't get crazy about setting up a control card or being super-duper careful to make all the singles exactly the same grist; I just let it flow, and it was so much fun I didn't want to stop. I actually spun up the second bobbin here at home in just the couple of days since I've been back, a true feat since I rarely get much spinning time around the house. I'm planning to spin up another 4 ounce bump of CMF, this one a lovely Polwarth in various purple tones, also from this year's Fiber Club. At the end of it all, I plan to 4-ply the singles to get what I hope will be a nice, lofty worsted-weight yarn.

And finally, this. My latest podiobook, Nocturnal. DH loves Scott Sigler, but I got totally turned off from him when I tried to listen to Infected, which is gory, to say the least. Nocturnal is pretty gory as well, but for some reason I got completely hooked into the story. As a kid, I was always a sci-fi/fantasy/horror junkie, so I think I'm just returning to my roots. I listened to what must have been something like 30+ hours of audio during a single weekend, and I didn't want the story to end. I absolutely love audiobooks and podiobooks. My latest pick is a classic: Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.

And all this productivity has allowed me to get started on yet another shawl: a Blue Curacao in Misti Alpaca Worsted. So far, nearly a dozen rows in, it looks like this:

Not incredibly impressive, I know. But just you wait. This shawl is gonna be a knockout.

Now if only I had another weekend of alone time to work on it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hold the Mayo...and the Dessert

Sugar makes me crazy. Not crazy like my toddlers get crazy when they have one too many spoonfuls of sprinkles on their ice-cream sundaes. No, this is a slower, more insidious crazy. The kind of crazy that you know is taking over, but still you keep going with it because, well, that's what the crazy is, after all...crazy.

Now, you have to understand something about me. I grew up in a house with two parents who grew up during the height of the Great Depression. They ate mayonnaise sandwiches and made tomato soup out of ketchup and re-used teabags when they were kids. Let no one ever tell you that growing up poor doesn't do something to the way you look at food as an adult.

What it did to my parents was make them what they considered a healthy meal. If it was filling and home-cooked (my mother never did and never has prepared a meal out of a box), it was nutritious. Which is why I spent my childhood fervently believing that a big ol' piece of apple pie , warmed up just enough to melt a slice of American cheese on top and served with a nice, tall glass of whole milk was a perfectly acceptable breakfast. As both my parents attested, it had all four food groups: fruit, grain, dairy and -- since pie crust is made with lard, yanno -- meat. Bill Cosby does a famous bit about how as a father he fed his kids chocolate cake for breakfast because it covered all the food groups. Well, in my house, it was no joke. All our food was home-cooked from the best of the full-fat, high-calorie foods around. None of us ever thought anything of it.

We were also a family of late-night eaters. Oh, we had our meals early and like clockwork. Since Dad worked nights, Mom got up at the crack of dawn to get breakfast on the table by 6am, when he got home. We had dinner together every night at 5pm exactly, never any earlier (except for Sundays, when "dinner" was served between 2 and 3) and certainly never any later. But eating that early means you tend to get hungry again right around 9 or so, and that's when Mom would bring out the cookie jar. Or the frozen Sara Lee. Or the ice cream. You get the drift.

It didn't hurt that Mom was naturally skinny. When she got married at 22, she weighed 99 pounds and had a 22 inch waist. As a kid, she was under doctors orders to drink a milkshake every day to put some weight on her. Naturally skinny my dad was not, and I definitely take after him in the metabolism department. Thanks, Dad.

So, junk food and eating late at night have always been the bane of my existence. For a long time, I didn't even realize that this was a problem. I was teaching crazy hours at a bunch of different colleges, getting home at 10pm or later, and either picking up fast food on the way or raiding the fridge for whatever I could grab. So what if I ate it at midnight -- dinner was dinner, right?

Wrong. Of course, wrong. You know it's wrong. It took me years to figure out it's wrong. And, boy, is it hard to change something so hardwired.

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to lose close to 50 pounds. I'd put on weight before I got married, then kept on weight after each of my girls was born, and quite frankly, I was sick and tired of seeing a fat, middle-aged lady in the mirror every time I looked. If I'm going to be middle-aged, dammit I'm at least going to be svelte. I don't have to be skinny. I just don't want to be fat.

I did well for the first part of the year. I lost a solid 15 pounds. Then, the bad habits started creeping back in. For one thing, I started eating late at night again. I'd been really good about eating dinner, brushing my teeth and not eating again until breakfast. I'm not sure when that all fell apart -- maybe when I started postponing brushing my teeth until bedtime, giving myself a whole 4 hours or so of eating time after dinner? -- but I soon found myself snacking away at night with my naturally-thin husband. (A man, I might add, so naturally thin that he actually loses weight when he doesn't exercise. What the hell's with that?) And so , while I managed to keep off the 15 pounds I'd lost, I certainly didn't lose any more.

I also realized that I'd gotten the sugar crazies again. The sugar crazies start when I exceed a certain amount of sugar intake -- what that amount is exactly, I have no idea, and maybe I'm just fooling myself by thinking that there even is an "acceptable" amount for me -- and fall into a cycle of eating sweets because I crave them and then craving them more so I eat more.

Over the past couple of weeks, I realized I'd hit that point. Not only because I found myself sneaking the kids' chocolate-chip cookies and raiding their stash of leftover Halloween candy when they were asleep, but also because I was getting violent headaches.

Every. Day.

So, I quit. Today was Day 2 of no sugar for me, and Day 2 is always the hardest. Day 1 is tough because the cravings are the worst, but since it's Day 1 I'm also always full of motivation: I can do this. I can do this. Boo-yah! On Day 1 I'm also full of Cheetos or some other salty snack since I realize there's only so much I can cut out at once without going head-scratching nail-biting nuts. Yesterday I ate an entire bag -- that's six full servings for those of you counting -- of Brand-X cheese puffs because that's all the Rite-Aid in Grand Central Station was selling. But, at least I didn't eat any sugar.

Today, I felt the sugar cravings starting to subside, but I also felt the boo-yah subside as well. Now it's more like a "boo." I found myself opening the fridge just to see what was in there and wondering if a glass of chocolate milk before bed would be a good idea.

And so, I logged on. And here I am.

And I didn't eat any sugar again tonight. And as soon as I post this, I'm heading to the bathroom to brush my teeth and get to bed. Because the hardest part of this won't be getting through tonight or tomorrow night or even the next. The hardest part will be getting through every single moment when my default mode is to eat badly when I should be eating well or not at all.

At least I don't have to eat mayonnaise sandwiches.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Bad News/Good News

I'm typically a "bad news first" kind of person, mainly on the theory that getting the bad news over with first allows for an uplift when the good news comes after.

The bad news, then, is that the Dorothy loom that I had so very much fun using is, simply put, killing my hands. The carpal tunnel that I struggled with earlier this summer is slowly creeping back, and the Dorothy with its side levers (and the force required to make them move) just makes my wrist ache. I can't even switch off hands because the levers are side levers -- all on one side, the right. I'm bummed because I really, really like weaving on a multi-harness loom, and I know the friend who lent me this Dorothy would give me a decent deal on buying it. Sigh.

The good news, though, is that now I know I really, really like weaving on a multi-harness loom; I just have to find one that is a good ergonomic fit for me. Another friend has a Schacht table loom with front levers, and she's going to let me try it out. Of course, I might just have to bite the bullet and get a floor loom that I can work with my feet to avoid the whole carpal-tunnel issue entirely. But, yanno, I'm willing to make the sacrifice. It's the least I can do for my health.

As a result, the warp I set up for some cotton dishtowels will have to sit until my hands feel better. In the meantime, I'm direct-warping my Beka RH with some leftover Tilli Tomas 100% silk to make a brown-and-bone plaid scarf. My first plaid, and of my own design, too...wish me luck!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

I've been weaving! And knitting! And crocheting!

I finally finished my Not Yo' Mama's Doily Shawl. It only took a couple of weeks, but it felt longer. I do like the result, even though it's so light and ephemeral that I can't really imagine when I'll wear it. The stitch pattern is sooooooo pretty, though, don't you think?

No sooner had I gotten this off the needles than I started...yes, you guessed it, another shawl: a Citron in green Zauberball. I know, I know, green is not my color. But this green just called to me. And miracle of miracles, it looks good against my skin. Hooray for blue undertones! No photos yet, but if I can get through the last rows of 400+ stitches any time soon, there will be.

Not to let my weaving fall by the side of the road, I also finished my Dorothy sampler.

It was fun, and I did learn a lot. Of course, since I'm product- as well as process-oriented, I immediately warped the loom up for a set of dishtowels. Yes, I know that Debbie Chandler recommends doing a shitton of samplers. I, however, want to sample with something I can use. I'm saving the wool for when I'm ready to make a nice scarf, but I figure kitchen cotton is cheap and I can always use more towels in the kitchen. I think I'm going to combine straight twill and point twill threadings according to a sample shown in the Chandler book, and then I'll pick one treadling to stick with for each of the four towels to see what I get. At least the warping seems to be going faster this time around than the first. We'll see how the rest of it goes.

The only other thing on my plate right now is Small Shawl Wars, and believe me, that's enough. I really want my target to like her shawl, so I'm thinking a lot about what yarn to use. Can't say any more just yet except that I can't wait for this to start.

Oh, and I hope I can at least finish my target's shawl and send it off before I get killed myself. Here's hoping....

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Killers Among Us

Can I tell you how much fun it is to weave on a 4-harness loom?

Pretty damn fun, that's for sure.

Here's what I've been working on:

It's my sampler, taken straight from Learning to Weave, by Debbie Chandler. Tonight, I finished my 9 inches of plain weave (3 inches each in balanced weave, weft-predominant weave and warp-predominant weave) and started on my 2-2 twill. It's tough for me to get a balanced weave in the twill; I feel like I'm hardly beating at all and I'm still getting a clearly weft-predominant weave. I'm also annoyed that my right-hand selvedge looks like crap (but the left-hand selvedge isn't too bad, so that's a plus) and for some strange reason the entire right-hand side of my fabric is slightly canted up and out, although it doesn't seem visible in this photo.

Still, the variations on the different weaves are fun, and once I'm done with this twill I'll "play around" as Debbie suggests. What I'd really like to do is find a draft that I really like and make a whole scarf using two other skeins of the yarn I'm working with now, Araucania Ranco. I've set aside a bright fuschia and an olive green, which I think will play off one another nicely and cause some cool op-art effects if only I can find the right design to weave. We'll see how that turns out.

Meanwhile, I'm feeling a bit "stuck" with my latest crocheting project, a shawl in laceweight tencel. I love the look and feel of the fabric, and it's an easy two-row repeat that was simple enough to memorize and execute, but I think I'm feeling the need for a worsted-weight project in my near future. Something less fiddly than lace and quicker than the couple of weeks it's taking me to pull this shawl together. Not quite sure what it will be, but I know I need a break before Small Shawl Wars starts and I'm going to be knitting shawls nonstop...until someone takes me out, that is.

You know, the last (and first and only) time I ever participated in any kind of "war" was in college. It was my freshman year, and my dorm played "Assassin" (or was it called "Killer"? or something equally uninspired?). We each were assigned a target and given a ping-pong ball. There were rules about when and where you could kill someone, and of course, you killed a person by hitting them with the ping-pong ball. I think I lasted all of two days -- didn't even kill my own target, I'm sure -- before my killer took me out with what I thought was a fairly clever ruse. To earn spending money, I typed papers. A dollar a page, and this was pre-computer, so I was working on a Brother electronic typewriter with the little white-out tape that could go back a whole line to correct errors...but beyond that, you were screwed. Anyway, my killer contacted me through my ad for typing services, then enlisted someone else in the dorm to walk with me to our appointed meeting place (supposedly for me to pick up the paper to be typed), and when we were in just the right place under just the right conditions (per the rules, not within a certain distance of certain buildings, other people, etc), my "escort" took off running and my assassin beaned me with a ping-pong ball. Ah, college...good times.

At least this time around, I'll get a shawl out of the deal. Much better than taking a ping-pong ball to the shoulder.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And the Winner Is....

Me! Can you believe it?

First, I won two books: Cat Bordhi's Treasury of Magical Knitting and Knit Fix: Problem Solving for Knitters. Frankly, I'm surprised as heck. I hardly ever win lottery-type things (and, in truth, mine was the second name picked; I won only because the first-place winner didn't respond in time). I do love Cat Bordhi, and I don't have either of her Magical books, so I'm pretty excited.

Second, I definitely won the swap game...or this round of it, at least. I swapped two skeins of Wollmeise in Maus Jung, a variegated grey ranging from very light to medium-gunmetal, for two skeins of the same in an unpronounceable colorway that is the most amazing shade of deep blue-purple (aka blurple). See for yourself:

This is the closest I could get to a true representation of the color, and even this falls far, far short. Someday somebody will be prying these two skeins of yarn out of my cold, dead hands, it is truly that beautiful.

I also started yet another shawl, this one out of a laceweight tencel in a colorway called Pick Me. Working with the tencel is interesting. It reminds me of crochet thread, but slicker. I love how the lace pattern is coming out:

The shape is forming nicely into a U, which I prefer over just about any other shawl shape for the way it stays easily on my shoulders. Again, the colors didn't come out quite right -- in real life, this piece is less contrasty, more harmonious, with lots of purples to help blend the pink into the blue. If this is as quick a crochet as it seems, I'll be wearing it within the week.

And finally, Dorothy got some love tonight:

I finished threading the heddles at last, and now all I need to do (I think!) is tie the warp onto the back beam and I'll be ready to start throwing the shuttle.

Now if only I could find a few extra hours in the day....

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Really Most Sincerely Done

Blocked and beautiful, Heaven d'Or has been christened.

Here she is, right before DH and I heard a sickening crash at the bottom of our driveway. Certain that someone needed an ambulance, the three of us -- DH, me and the shawl -- went flying down to the road only to find some drunken yahoo had peeled half the side of his car off along the rock embankment and come to rest, tires shredded, car parts strewn willy-nilly, in the middle of our driveway. Before anyone panics, he was fine.

The upside is that Heaven was the perfect wrap to wear to a car accident. Large enough to clutch snugly around myself, warm enough to ward off the slight chill from the lake that Drunk Dude was lucky not to have plunged into, and with a solid, weighty feeling that comes from having a slightly heavy viscose/silk/linen blend edging on a downy light camel/wool body. I am totally and completely in love with this shawl.

I am, however, not looking forward to picking car parts out of my shrubs in the morning.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Little Bit of Heaven

You know that feeling when you're not at all sure that the choice you've made is the right one? That feeling in the pit of your stomach that you get every time you look at a project at just the right angle and think, "Holy crap, what was I thinking?"

Well, I'd been having that feeling.

It started when I ran out of yarn for my 198 Yds of Heaven shawlette. I'd had these three skeins of Bouton d'Or Ksar in my stash for a looooong time -- had gotten them in a mystery swap and just hadn't known what to do with them, but wanted to use them for something nommy because of the camel down content -- and I finally thought I'd found just the right project. Trouble was, I had also just started posting FOs for the 10 in 2010 KAL/CAL on rav, and in order for my latest project to count, it needed to use a minmum of 250 meters.

The three balls of Ksar topped out at a nail-biting, head-scratching 249.6 meters.

So, I decided to extend the pattern. I worked another full pattern repeat of the body, and then I thought I would just pick a contrasting yarn for the edging.

Easier said than done.

The Ksar is a breathtakingly soft and lofty, plied camel/wool blend in a dark chocolate brown. I had nothing in my stash to match it for structure, look and feel.


And so, I punted. I pulled out all the stops and went in a completely different direction. For the edging, I used a viscose/silk/linen blend -- RY Natural Silk Aran -- in a slightly tweedy bone color. This yarn knitted up nothing at all like the Ksar. For starters, it was rustic looking, to say the least. Where the Ksar was soft and inviting, the Silk Aran was crisp and stiff. The flecks of blue and red running through the slubby, 2-ply Silk Aran seemed somewhat out of place against the classic, smooth three-ply Ksar. And every time I looked at my shawl, I got that sinking feeling that this just wasn't going to come together.

So, I did what any other sane, logical knitter would have done.

I kept right on knitting.

Here's the result:

Isn't she luuuuuuuurvely???

I'm so pleased, I truly am. I can't wait for it to be cool enough to wear this. I love the way the two colors and textures work together, and the hard blocking really brought out the best in the lace pattern. At first I was regretting not having had enough of the Ksar to simply do a one-color shawl, but now I'm really glad that I had to make do like this. I got a much more interesting result and a much more attractive shawl than I would have otherwise.

Now the question is, what shawl do I cast on for next?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Holy Heat, Batman!

Where has the past week and a half gone? Work, mostly, and melting into an icky puddle in this absolutely insane heat we've been having.

But the upside is I've gotten a ton of stuff done! Funny how that happens when you fail to post in 12 days.

First up, my Marigold Wrap. Ta-da!

Please to excuse the crappy under-the-fluorescent-bathroom-lights-taken-in-the-mirror photo. It was the best I could do in the middle of the night, and I just couldn't wait to post my pic on rav and call my cute little shawl finished.

I love how this turned out! It's got a nice weight and drape -- heavier than many of the shawls I've recently made, but not overly hot-feeling. The petals make it cute and I can wear it all wrapped around my neck, boa-style, like in the photo, or spread out over my shoulders for a sweet little ruffly shawlette.

I'm already onto my next shawl: Heaven d'Or, based on the 198 Yds of Heaven shawl pattern. I'd had this beautiful cashmere/wool blend yarn hanging out in my stash for well over a year, and I kept wondering what to do with it. When I saw this pattern, and saw that it called for worsted or aran weight luxury yarn, I knew I'd found what I'd been looking for.

The shawl is coming out thick and heavy despite the allover lace pattern. I love the feel and drape of the cashmere blend, and I'm making it larger than the pattern calls for because it just reads as a snuggly winter wrap to me. Plus, I have 250 meters of this delightful stuff and I don't want a bit of it to go to waste. Photos to come.

There's more, much more, but it's late and I'm sweating and in desperate need of a cold shower and about eight hours of sleep, though I'll only get six at the most. More, then, later....

Friday, June 25, 2010


What a week it's been! Getting back to work after a nice, long break is always hard, and splitting my time between teaching and administrating only makes it that much harder.

I must admit, I'm a reluctant administrator. I'm organized and competent, but I'd much rather be teaching than shuffling through student records or trying to match room capacity to class size. I do the admin because it suits my schedule...for now. I teach because I love it.

The nice thing about going back to work, aside from the fact that I love my colleagues, is that I gain massive amounts of knitting time. Traveling 2 hours one-way does that.

Lately, though, I'm devoting my knitting time to crochet. Check this out:

There's my Marigold Wrap, all squiggly-looking because it's not blocked (nor even finished), but still pretty cool nonetheless. I'm following my own path on the placement of the rows of flower petals, and I haven't yet decided if I like how it looks with the wide, open spaces between petal rows or whether I want to fill the whole shawl in with a riot of petals, one row per row of double-treble crochet.

The only thing putting a damper on my fun is this:

I've got a matching one on the other hand, and I don't think my lingering carpal tunnel is being helped by the hours I've spent crocheting this week.

At least I started warping up Dorothy last night, so getting all my threads onto the warping board without screwing anything up should keep my hands busy while (hopefully!) not subjecting them to more damaging repetitive motion. typing.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Endings and Beginnings

Have you ever had a project assume such mythic proportions in your head that you couldn't even bear to pick it up? The fear that it would be too hard, take too much time, prove too daunting just kept you away indefinitely?

Well, for me, that project was my mom's 80th birthday present: a blanket woven out of 400 4" Weave It squares and painstakingly seamed together.

I seamed it halfway, then -- completely undone by the thought of weaving in all those ends -- set it aside for the better part of a year. There it sat, still in the fancy gift bag I'd set aside for it, taunting me from the bottom of my closet of shame.

It was the shame, mainly, of making mom wait so very long for her gift that finally made me pick up that blanket again last week.

And guess what?

I finished it.

That's right, the blanket-without-end is finally finished.Mind you, I finished weaving the last of the ends in during the car ride to Mom's house on Saturday, but still it's done, done, done, and I couldn't be happier.

Here's how she looks in situ:

And from another angle:

And just because I can't seem to stop bragging on this:

Isn't she luuuuurvely???

So, that's the end. And as for the beginning?

Check this out:

Meet Dorothy, graciously lent to me by Joe, a weaver friend who is off to bigger and better looms. Along with Dorothy, Joe lent me his copy of Learning to Weave, by Debbie Chandler, and I've been reading it nonstop for the past week. I've already picked out the sock yarn -- two skeins of Araucania Ranco, one in grey and one in mauve -- to use on my first sample. Now all I have to do is actually sit down with the book on one side and the loom on the other and get started.

There are so many things I've never done before! Using a rigid heddle loom up till now has allowed me to skip past a bunch of the basic skills that a weaver has to develop, like winding a warp on a warping board (I've only direct warped). But, I just can't wait to play with my 4 independently-operating sheds! I've been eagerly poring over the drafts in Learning to Weave, trying my best to understand them (again, something I've completely managed to avoid up till now), anticipating playing with plain weave and twills and all the other beautiful designs I've seen for a 4-shed loom.

If only work weren't busy getting in the way. I went back today for the first time since the beginning of May, and while it was good to be back and even somewhat fun prepping for the start of the new semester, this whole "job" thing seriously cuts into my fiber time. If only I didn't need the "money" that said "job" brings in.

In any event, my time over the next couple of weeks will be quite limited, so I doubt I'll even manage to warp my new baby until things taper off in early- to mid-July. Till then, I suppose I'll have to satisfy myself with looking at Dorothy, reading Debbie and dreaming of warping day.

Oh, and crocheting my Marigold Wrap in -- what else? -- vibrant shades of orange, yellow and deep brick red Wollmeise.

But that's a project for another post.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Perils of Having Children

Up at 5am with a sick child, I'm sooo wide awake and yet I know that if I don't get back to bed before the little one wakes up I'm going to be a wreck all day. So what do I do? Post, of course.

What I really should do, if I'm not going to go back to bed, is keep working on Mom's Birthday Spread. I'm so close to finishing I can almost taste it: 18.5 rows of blocks sewn together, only 1.5 rows more to go. Then about a bajillion ends to weave in. Ugh.

We go to visit Mom on Saturday, and how I would love it if I could bring the finished project with me to give her. We'll see how close I get.

Then I can start the next project that's tugging at my attention: a sock yarn scarf on my borrowed Dorothy LeClerc.

Maybe I'll try to get a few more minutes' sleep first.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Just a quick post before bed to announce some amazing, pie-in-the-sky news. I'm going to be borrowing a 15" 4-shaft LeClerc table loom for the summer!

I'll be picking her up on Monday from the friend who is lending her to me. After a crash course on using her, I'll be taking her home and figuring out where to set her up. This is a try-before-buy situation, so I'll have the whole summer to decide whether I'd like to own this little loom before committing.

I'm so excited! Since weaving my Lorna's Scarf, I've been trying to figure out what else I can do on my rigid heddle loom besides plain weave. I know that a lot is possible, but it just seems like multiple-harness looms make more complex stuff that much easier. I guess I'll find out firsthand in a few days....

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hand Woven

Every year, we host a giant BBQ at my house. We invite all our friends and relatives, everyone brings something for the cooler or the grill, and the party goes until the last people decide to call it quits.

This year, my college-aged cousin happened to notice my cute little Flower Power face cloths hanging in the shower. "There is no way," she said to me, "that you use those as washcloths. They're too pretty!"

And so, of course, I gave her one with specific instructions that she use it, not put it in the shrine of stuff-that's-too-pretty-to-use. I said, "When it gets too old and gross and used up, let me know and I'll make you another."

This got me thinking, though, about all the things I have here at home in my own shrine of stuff-that's-too-pretty-to-use. One of those things is a hand woven kitchen towel. Made for me as a Christmas gift by a friend several years back, I still have the towel folded neatly in my linen closet, untouched save for the occasional time when I'll open it up, sigh over its cleverness, then fold it back up and put it away.

If I can't make one for myself once this one is all used up, my thinking goes, I'm just going to make darn sure that this one never gets used up.

Problem is, I also make sure it never gets used at all. And that's a sad, sad fate for a lovingly hand-crafted item of any sort.

Which is just one of the reasons I'm so very chuffed with myself. Not only did I finally break out my rigid heddle loom after way too many years of studiously ignoring it, but I finished my first project in all that time.


There she is, in all her glory: my Lorna's Woven Scarf. Lorna's because she's made from two colorways of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn; and woven scarf because I frickin wove this all by my very own self! Who knew I would be so proud of something so very simple as a plain weave scarf?

Honestly, I love how it turned out. Oh, the selvedges could be better, but then again, can't they always be? (OK, I'll amend that: Can't they always be for me?) The colors worked so well together, and the hand is just right: not too stiff, but not too loose. A definite winner.

Which brings me to the question of what to warp up for next. I'm thinking kitchen towels, if for no other reason than it will finally allow me to pull my friend's gift out of the closet and let it see the light of day and a bit of good use. But, I want to try something other than plain weave. Trouble is, I know next to nothing about weaving, to the point where I don't even know where to search for weaving drafts for a rigid heddle loom.

Ideas, anyone?

A big shout-out to gibknitty of the Urban Muser blog for tagging me with a Beautiful Blogger award! So, now it's my turn to share 10 things that I think people in the blogosphere might not know about me.

Here goes:

  1. I can play the violin. I studied from age 7 to age 15, and even today could scratch out a bit of Vivaldi or Bach if I needed to. But the instrument I really, really wanted to learn to play as a kid was the harp.
  2. I've seen more of the rest of the world than I've seen of my own country. Aside from a single trip to visit a friend in Boulder, CO, the farthest west I've ever been is Philly.
  3. I bellydance.
  4. I have an entire 3-drawer dresser crammed full of nothing but sock yarn, yet I still stalk the updates of dyers I like and check the swap boards on rav for special sock yarns that I might want to trade for.
  5. Some of the best things in my life, I found online. My husband is one of these.
  6. I was on the back of an elephant when it panicked and stampeded in the jungle of northern Thailand. It was the most terrifying 60 seconds of my entire life.
  7. I've always wanted a cool nickname.
  8. I've had an old circular sock machine for years now and still can't make a decent sock with it.
  9. I consider myself very lucky that my husband's hobby, blacksmithing, costs more money and takes up more space than my fibery pursuits. This way, he doesn't bat an eyelash when I mention buying more yarn.
  10. Just tonight, I finished my first-ever weaving project using sock yarn! Photos to follow....
Also to follow, my 10 nominees for Beautiful Blogger awards. I've already stayed up way past my bedtime, so forgive me for simply heading off to sleep...with a quick detour to scoop tonight's FO out of its soapy bath and lay it out dry, of course. I can't wait to share what it looks like!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

What happens when you take 2 sick kids, mix them with massive amounts of crocheting, and toss in a dash of swap stalking?

Carpel tunnel, that's what.

No fear, though. The fibery goodness just does not stop, pain be damned. Since knitting with wrist braces on is dicey and even the thought of crocheting makes me wince, I've pulled out an old and sadly neglected friend.

Blog, meet Beka.

Beka is a 36" rigid heddle loom from the 1980s. I think they're long out of production; the largest Beka made today, I believe, is 32".

I got a great deal on my loom a few years back, but I never wove a whole lot on her. A couple of throws, a scarf or two, and then an ill-fated project that so disappointed me that poor Beka sat, unused and unloved, in the basement for so long that I thought I'd never go back to weaving again.

And then, wrists out of commission and a basement clean-up in progress, I finally decided to just cut the stupid, hateful warp off my nice little loom and give it another go.

And you know what?

I'm having a great time.

I warped her up at 12 epi (or is it dpi? I can never remember), which simply means there are 12 warp threads per inch. I used nearly every single inch of two full skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the colorway Woodlawn, which is a somewhat unimpressive mix of muted, subtle golds and browns. The weft is the knockout colorway Irving Park in the same yarn. I'm even using a boat shuttle for the first time and loving it, though honestly, it's a real pain in the ass to have to work with such little yarn on the bobbin. If I have a couple of hundred yarns in a skein, I want to weave up all of it without having to cut it up to fit into my shuttle, yanno?

But, I digress.

The weaving is coming along nicely. I'm not terribly delighted with my selvedges, but this will be a good practice piece. I love how the two colorways are working together, and I'm looking forward to having yet another finished scarf in my wardrobe. I'm already contemplating whether I should weave up some dishtowels out of kitchen cotton once the scarf is finished.

Now, if only I could figure out how to do something on the rh besides simple plain weave....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Word of Thanks

Oh. My.

OK, I need to take a sec here and catch my breath. A minute ago, I just finished posting about my cool crocheted shawl and blahblahblah and as I was about to skip back over to ravelry before heading off to bed, I noticed this:

Someone made a donation to the Spina Bifida Association of Northeastern New York through my firstgiving page. A hundred dollar donation.

I wish I could thank this person by name, but the donation came in anonymously, at least as far as I could see. (Can you tell this is the first donation that I've ever gotten?) So, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, my most sincere thanks go out to you via this post. You truly took my breath away.

For those who might not know, my younger daughter, Little Z, has spina bifida. For those who might not know what spina bifida is (and I had never heard of it before Little Z was diagnosed), it's a birth defect with the potential for some absolutely horrific consequences: profound cognitive delays, paralysis, hydrocephalus and more. Little Z is tremendously lucky that she's managed to dodge many of the worst effects of SB, and we are eternally grateful for that.

We're members of the Spina Bifida Association of Northeastern New York because of Little Z. SBA of NENY has been a lifeline for us, and we try to raise what funds we can so they can keep helping families like ours. I could prattle on and give statistics about how many families they work with, or how much information on SB prevention they've distributed, or the advocacy work that they do. But, that's not the real face of this organization.

It's this.

When Little Z was first diagnosed with spina bifida, when I was just 20 weeks pregnant with her, the doctor who made the diagnosis told me flat out that I should schedule an abortion for the next week. No suggestion of a second opinion, no attempts to find out the extent of Little Z's neural compromise, nothing. When Little Z was born (in a different hospital with a different team of doctors), so much of our energy was focused on helping her get well; what little we had left over went to her older sister, Big Girl, who was a trooper throughout that difficult, difficult time. Instead of the joy and excitement that accompanies the birth of a baby, all our friends and relatives were asking how Little Z was faring -- were there infections? complications? setbacks?

And then, our welcome packet from SBA arrived in the mail. It contained lots of information about spina bifida that we desperately needed, and it even contained a very sweet gift: a CD of lullabies. But, most importantly, it contained a welcome letter. And that letter began, "Congratulations on the birth of your baby!"

God, I needed to hear that. In all the whirlwind surrounding Little Z's birth, I don't think anyone actually congratulated us. No one omitted it intentionally, no one was trying to be unkind or thoughtless, but everyone -- us included -- had other, more pressing thoughts on our minds. And I had no idea how much I needed to be congratulated on the birth of my precious baby until the people at SBA did it.

We raise funds for SBA because they need to keep their doors open. They need to keep educating, advocating, and yes, congratulating new parents on their precious babies who just happen to have spina bifida.

I'm incredibly moved that someone I don't even know has donated to a cause so near and dear to my heart. I don't have any other words but the ones I've already said: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Knitter, a Crocheter and the Pope Walk into a LYS....

I'm sure you know the old saying: "You can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse." Otherwise known as "Crap in, crap out."

Now, I've been crocheting since I was so young that I don't even remember learning how. Growing up, I either worked with Red Heart acrylic, that mainstay yarn of the 70s and 80s, or crochet thread. When I went back to crocheting after a many-years-long hiatus, I mainly stuck to dishcloth cotton. All of those materials have their places in the pantheon of fibery goodness. But, boy, let me tell you what a difference it makes to use really, really good stuff when you crochet.

Check this out:

It's a shawl I just finished out of Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball in the Fuchsia colorway. Holy crap! The difference between crocheting with this stuff and crocheting with anything else I'd ever used was like the difference between eating a perfectly-steamed lobster and dropping a brick on a bare toe. And it served two important purposes for me.

First, it's really inspired me to crochet again. Oh, I've been having fun with flowered dishcloths lately, but this is an entirely new league for me. I can't wait to find the next amazing pattern I can crochet in an absolutely kickass yarn. All those skeins I've had sitting in the stash waiting for the Pope to visit? Out you come, my pretties! It's time to work you up.

And second, it's a good reminder for me to use the good stuff. If the day ever comes that the Pope shows up at my door demanding a day of crafting fun, I can always run out to the LYS for a skein or two of, Popely. Till then, I need to step away from the dishcloth cotton and break out the crown jewels of the stash. And now I know I can crochet those special skeins up as well as knit them.

It doesn't hurt that crochet progresses at lightning speed compared to knitting. That shawl up there? Two days. That's right: two days. And not two days of being away on vacation, sitting by the pool, doing nothing but crocheting, either. These were two days with a sick child, a visiting houseguest, party know, the usual detritus of life.

I am hooked.

(Ouch. Pardon the pun. But honestly, did you really expect me to be able to hold out forever?)

Friday, May 21, 2010


I may have mentioned that I love crochet. My mother taught me to crochet when I was so young that I don't even remember learning. All through my youth, I made lacy doilies, pictures in filet, and the occasional scrap-yarn blanket in shell stitch. Despite all this, I never really liked the look of crochet. Lace was fussy and old-fashioned; granny squares were too 70s. I laid aside my hooks because I simply had no use for the stuff I could create with them.

Now, however, I'm rediscovering crochet through some of the amazing new patterns that are coming out. True, there are still way too many granny-square thises and shell-stitch thats to suit my taste. But some of what's out there is really cool.

Like these:

The Chrysanthemum Dishcloths (pattern number 25878), a freebie tear-off sheet available at Michaels. I lovelovelove this pattern. It uses up nearly a full skein of Sugar & Creme yarn (if you work it as I did, without a separate contrasting color). It takes all of an hour to crochet up a whole cloth. And they really do look like flowers. Too cute.

I needed a bit of an instant gratification project today. Earlier this week, I finally finished plying the 4 oz of Crown Mountain Farms Superwash roving in the "Oh, Pretty Woman" colorway that I'd started spinning way back in something like February. It came out looking stunning, I must admit.

I truly think this is the most even, well-balanced yarn I've ever spun. I'm quite proud of myself.

But now, this puts me in a bit of a quandry. There's nothing that I want to do next.

I thought of starting to spin some more CMF fiber. If I want a break from superwash, I can always pick out one of the fiber-of-the-month offerings to try out.

But, I tend to spin in fits and starts. Knitting is my true go-to craft, and while the urge to start another spinning project hard on the heels of the one I just finished is strong, so is the knowledge that I need something on the needles to make me happy.

I thought my OTN project was going to me my Impasto Shawlette. I even got so far as to knit through the entire first color stripe and 3/4 of the way through the second. That's when I ran out of yarn. Sadly, my leftovers from Big Girl's rainbow blankie won't be enough to make the shawl. And while I've considered several other options, nothing is grabbing me enough to make me want to cast on those 321 stitches yet again.

Of course, I'm avoiding the giant elephant in the room: my mother's afghan, which I've yet to finish seaming. I wove over 400 squares on my little 4-inch Weave It loom, but the job of seaming them all together is just killing me. Mom is coming for a visit next week, so I'm considering recruiting her to work with me to seam it up. I wonder if she'd go for it.

So, I'm torn by guilt over the project I should be finishing, but sufficiently uninspired to start any of the hundreds of projects in my favorites list. Which is why I spent today crocheting face cloths.

Now if I could just figure out what to do tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Candy Dots and Other Stuff

What a day yesterday was! The only reason I didn't blog about it then was that as it was I got to bed after 2am, and these days, getting to bed at 2am makes for a nasty wake-up call in the morning.

But, I digress.

Yesterday, Sunday, the supposed day of rest, I woke up at the ungodly hour of six-something a.m. But, I put the time while the rest of the family slept to good use. I finally finished pinning out my Salsa Picante, aka modified Multnomah, shawl:

This photo is only partway through the blocking process; I love how it turned out after the wet-blocking. The crochet bind-off really opened out and makes for a beautiful looped edging, and the shape of the shawl is exactly what I like. Here's how it looks all blocked:

And with the pins out:

All in all, a definite keeper.

But wait, that's not all. The family and I spent a relaxing Sunday at home, hanging out on the deck most of the day. While DH and the kids played, I watched and finished up these:

Big Girl's Candy Dots mittens! Many thanks to gibknitty for providing the inspiration for the name "Candy Dots." She said that the colors reminded her of the little colored candy dots that come on that long strip of white paper, and as soon as she said that, I saw it too. I love the image, especially as these will be for my daughter, who at age 5 is head-over-heels over candy.

And speaking of candy, I even managed to whip up a last-minute recipe for no-bake candied sweet potatoes that turned out just about as good as any Thanksgiving sweet-potato recipe I've ever tried. Make it at your own risk; it's addictive!

No-Bake Candied Sweet Potatoes

Peel 3 medium sweet potatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Cut into 1/2 inch slices and set aside. In medium saucepan, melt 3 Tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. When butter bubbles, add sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook sweet potatoes, covered, in butter until browned and fork-tender, stirring occasionally, approximately 10-12 minutes. Lower heat, add 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed, and ground cinnamon to taste. Let sugar melt and stir gently to coat potatoes. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes until sugar caramelizes. Serve immediately.

Yes, indeedy, that's just a little ol' slice of candy-coated heaven, and it takes nearly no time at all to make. If you do happen to give it a try, let me know how you like it.

Finally, I even started a new project: an Impasto Shawlette, from the latest issue of Interweave Knits. I'm using up some of the leftovers from Morgan's Birthday Blankie, and I'm hoping that I'll have enough of each color to do the 4 loooooooong rows for each color repeat. Let me tell you, I'll be pissed if I wind up only 3 or 4 stitches short on yarn and have to rip out 1,000+ stitches to get back to the last color. So far, though, I'm really enjoying the slip-stitch pattern. Keep your fingers crossed that it all works out!

And then, what kept me up till past 2am:


Specifically, two skeins of WM Twin in the colorway Maus Jung (Young Mouse; it sounds so much better in German, doesn't it?) that I scored in the Completely Pointless and Arbitrary swap group.

Now, I haven't swapped with this group, or with any group, really, for well over a year. For awhile, I was swapping like mad. But, when DH became worried about his job, I became worried about the money I was spending sending out my swaps, so I stopped cold turkey.

It really wasn't so bad. I'd sort of reached stash nirvana (or maybe just stash overload) at that point anyway. I still lurked on the swap boards, but I didn't play and I knit from stash. (I could probably do that for the next 10 years and still not make it through all the yarn and spinning fiber that I have tucked away, but again I digress.)

But, last night, that Maus Jung called to me. It was in a thread for which I actually had valid swappables. And the person offering the yarn is someone I know from back in my high-frequency swap days. I like her. She was online at the time, had just posted the offer, in fact. I dallied. I looked up the yarn, looked up projects knitted with it. I tried to buy just enough time for someone else to claim. I was nervous. I hadn't claimed for so long, I was actually afraid to go for it. And then, reason prevailed. It's only freakin yarn. So, I claimed.

In the end, I swapped away 3 skeins of Socks that Rock for 2 skeins of the WM Twin in Maus Jung, both from the same update. That should give me enough for a decent-sized top for myself, or some killer, killer thigh-high stockings. A very fair trade, I daresay.

Now I just need to start getting ready to do a spinning demo at Big Girls preschool on Wednesday. Twenty-five five-year-olds and me.

Send good vibes my way. I'm going to need them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name

Sometimes, you just have to know when to give in. I reached that point yesterday, when I realized that the growing yarn snarl hanging from Big Girl's otherwise lovely mittens-in-progress was threatening to go from unmanageable to irredeemable. So, rather than do what I normally do -- stick my fingers in my ears and loudly sing "lalala, I can't heeeeeeear you," hoping that the problem will magically go away of its own accord -- I actually stopped knitting, unwound about half the rainbow yarn from its cake, and cut. Once I rewound the yarn, I had my original solid-color yarn still being worked from both ends of the same cake, but with the much-needed ability to unwind the rainbow yarn when the four independent strands started to tangle.

Here's what I'm up to:

I lovelovelove how the colors are turning out. I dyed the rainbow skein myself using leftover Easter dyes, and quite frankly, I wasn't at all sure if I liked the result. The yellows muddied, the purples hardly was a definite disappointment in the skein.

But, as with most creative endeavors, it's more about how you use the materials you have than about what exactly those materials are. And I did manage to find just about the perfect use for that jacked-up skein of rainbow yarn: Robin Hansen's Salt and Pepper Mitten pattern.

Instead of the colors piling atop one another, competing and clashing, the alternating stitch pattern allows the colors to flow harmoniously, in gentle waves. I couldn't be happier with this project.


I can't for the life of me think of what to call it.

Now, until ravelry became the greatest thing ever to happen to the fiber world at large, no one but artists named their projects. When my mother knit a sweater, she called it "that blue sweater" or "the sweater in the hall closet" or "your sweater, you know which sweater I mean, and don't you give me that look young lady, you just march yourself back to your room and put it on rightthisminute."

Now, however, every project must have a name. If my mittens were black and white, I could simply call them my Salt and Pepper Mittens and leave it at that. For now, they're on my ravelry page as my "Two-at-a-Time Mittens," which, while accurate, is less than poetic. No, I'm loving the colors so much that I want a name that I love just as much. Something fitting. Something memorable. Something better than "your mittens, mit-tens, the ones I knit for you and put on a string specifically so you couldn't lose them, those mittens, now findthemfindthemfindthem."

Here's a close-up of how the colors play together.

Any suggestions?