Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Quidditch Match #1 (by Hydrangea)

1. Which of Arabella Figg's cats ran out from under the car? a. Tibbles (Actually, Mr. Tibbles)

2. Which of the following is NOT one of Albus Dumbledore's middle names? a. Ignatius

3. Which educational decree introduced a High Inquisitor to Hogwarts? d. 23

4. Apart from Harry, Ron and Hermione, who was the first person to enter the Hog's Head that showed an interest in Harry's Defence Against the Dark Arts classes? b. Neville Longbottom (I think; he was the first named to enter the bar, on page 337. The first person to definitely state that the classes would be good or important was Ernie MacMillan, on page 344.)

5. In the first Quidditch match of the year which player attempted to score first? a. Angelina Johnson

6. What kind of bush does Harry hide behind to listen to the news? b. A HYDRANGEA bush! My, my!

7. Why is Mundungus Fletcher disguised as a woman when he witnesses the DA (Dumbledore's Army) meeting in the Hog's Head pub? b. He was banned from the Hog’s Head pub 20 years ago.

8. When Harry and Cho go on their first date to Madam Puddifoot's in Hogsmeade, what is it decorated with for Valentine's Day? c. Golden cherubs and pink confetti

9. How old is Sturgis Podmore and where does he live? a. 38 and number 2 Laburnum Gardens Clapham

10. What did Fred and George Weasley do to Montague? a. Forced him head-first into a Vanishing Cabinet on the first floor.Picture Scavenger Hunt

Fred and George Weasley (Together)

Hog’s Head Pub

Sirius Black

Mr. Weasley & Harry (Together)

Draco Malfoy

Bubble Arms

Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
I have hit a snag. Or rather, a bubble.

I blithely started working down the left sleeve of M's sweater, and have worked, as you can see, an AWFUL LOT of the sleeve. Like, 90% of the sleeve. And, according to the pattern, with my personal gauge, I should work until about 38 sts are left. But I am nearly there and I have over! 60! stitches left. That is 1/3 TOO MANY. 50% too many.


So, before I pop myself out of bubble (sleeve) that is denial, I am going to FINISH the sleeve, having dramatically increased the rate of my decreases. (From 2 sts every 6 rounds to 4 sts every 4 rounds) And I'll see what it looks like on my husband. And I already know that it will look like he's an escapee from a quasi-Elizabethan road show. (But I hope not.)

As my grandpa says, I should have used my head to save my feet and double-checked my guesstimate rate of decreases before I began.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A meme

Olive tagged HSKS5 members for this meme, so here goes--

(Answers are from Dana, not Hydrangea)

1. What was I doing 10 years ago? Spring of 1998 was my senior year of college. I was finishing up classes, was working as an Assistant Resident Director in a residence hall, and was a newlywed. I had recently quit knitting, forever, after several hat mishaps. (Famous last words!) That summer I worked for an educational services company, and that fall I did my student teaching. It was an exciting, stressful year, and one I would not relive for a million dollars.

2. What are 5 things on my to-do list today: finish grading a set of essays, touch base with a friend of mine who I've been missing at school, take extra clothes for Baby E to daycare, create a handout for the journalism meeting after school, and try to finish sleeve 1 on M's sweater.

3. Snacks I enjoy: potato chips and milk; ice cream; nice, crisp Washington apples; kiwi; fruit-flavored candy like Skittles, Starburst, or Jelly Belly jellybeans; hummus; california rolls; black licorice.

4. Places I’ve lived: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Texas, and Kansas. It looks like a long list; however, all but 6 years (of 32, so far) were in Washington. Hence my love of apples, wheat, salmon, tulips, orcas, evergreen trees, and very tall mountains.

5. Things I would do if I were a billionaire: fully fund public schools and libraries; endow a building at my alma mater; travel the world; buy any book and any skein of yarn I ever wanted, whenever I wanted to.

6. Who I want to know more about: anyone who'd like to participate

Monday, May 26, 2008

A family of wands

Wood type: ebony
Length: 9 inches
Core: Phoenix Feather

get your own wand!

Mr D's wand (ebony is cool.) He said his personality was fiery, which cracked me up--he's 5!!

Wood type: tulip
Length: 13 inches
Core: Gryffon Feather

get your own wand!

M's wand. Tulip tree = Golden Poplar

Wood type: holly
Length: 11½ inches
Core: Kelpie Hair

get your own wand!

My wand.

Knitting First

Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
I'm picking up on Emma's question, which I saw on Andromache's blog.

A knitting first? most absorbing current project, the Wedding Band Celtic Raglan, is FULL of firsts.

  1. first grown-up sized sweater
  2. first cabled sweater (the cables only run down the arms, but it counts, doesn't it??)
  3. first cabled sweater where I charted the cable all by my very own self
  4. first conglomeration pattern. By this I mean that I didn't COME UP with the pattern myself, but I have conglomerated a bunch of ideas from pattern/unpatterns that I like together in one opus. Sources include:
I'm always impressed and excited by how willing knitters are to share information, patterns, strategies, and techniques. I have learned so much in the past two years after coming back to knitting; when I first started in 1997 I didn't realize that there were so many non-book resources, and I didn't have any knitters in my family or my friend group--besides my friend Joe who taught me, but he only knew the basics himself--to rely upon. I made mistakes, got frustrated, and put the needles away, for good (I thought) in favor of sewing and quilting. If it hadn't been for an impulse purchase of Mason-Dixon Knitting, I don't think I would have discovered the online knitting community, first blogs, then knit-alongs, now Ravelry, and I wouldn't have had the last two years of sheer enjoyment as I've motored through learning various skills and producing some wonderful, practical projects and gifts.

What is your favorite technique you've ever learned, from the simple to the complex? Why? If you write a post about it, leave a comment and a link!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Musical roommates (by Hydrangea)

My roommates Cecilia and Ingrid are so amazing! I could not have asked for more compatible roomies. We all love and are involved in musical ventures!

[editor's note: Hydrangea uses more exclamation points than I do. -dks]

Cecilia plays the cello and a bunch of other instruments, and Ingrid plays wind instruments. I am ALSO a cello player...lapsed for a few years...and a singer. I suggested to them that we create a Ravenclaw Chamber Ensemble and would love for any other musical 'Claws to join us. If we don't get many members, that's OK, because we can always borrow some Charmed instruments to help with accompaniment. We've been up all hours trying to arrange music for two cellos and a clarinet. It is an unusual combination but quite lovely, I think.

In other news: I think I am finally getting the hang of being at Hogwarts. For homework this week, I made a big boo-boo, though; our Head Girl posted a cryptogram and I didn't have time to get to it, then I was reading some of the other students' postings and I ACCIDENTALLY saw the answer before I had done the work myself. I do not believe in plagiarism, but I also don't want for us to lose points for the House! I was really upset, because of course both of my roommates had done the work, and they said as long as I was honest I should post the answer just in case.

Can you keep a secret?
The headquarters for the order of the phoenix is at no. 12 grimmauld place.

What is the order of the phoenix? is it a group anyone can join?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An animalistic conundrum (by Hydrangea)

So much to write about! This first term at Hogwarts is spinning my head. I am so lucky to have the nicest roommates of all time, Cecilia and Ingrid, who are helping me figure out what it means to be a witch!

First off, I came without an animal. I soon realized, however, that I needed a companion. My roommate Cecilia has a frog that she loves dearly and seeing her with her animal pal made me realize that I needed a companion, too. Cecilia is very thoughtful and analytical about these things, and we stayed up late into the night discussing the pros and cons of various animals.

Finally, though, practicality trumped theory (and when does that ever happen for a 'Claw??). As I mentioned, my da has been communicating with me A LOT about what it's like at Hogwarts. I practically could have set up my bed in the Owlery for the amount of time I was spending each day trudging up and down the stairs with notes to send off to Da or Auntie Coriolis, because they have asked me to help them with their anecdotal data for the paper they're writing on "The Transitional Experiences of a Student from a Non-Magical (Muggle) Family into the Magical (Non-Muggle) Community."

I told them they need to get a better title.

Anyway, it soon became clear to me that I needed an owl. The problem was that I am also concerned about Da's confidentiality. You see, the Ministry agreed to let him continue to do his fieldwork as an undercover Muggle; he's a Squib anyway, my mum and brother are non-magical, so there's no problem with the family staying in London and Da continuing his research and reporting. But there can't very well be an owl flying in and out of the house at all hours, could there? Then Cecilia had a brainwave! What about a raven? They are common birds, found all over Europe and North America, highly intelligent, live quite a long time, and are good fliers. A raven flying in the city would be much less conspicuous than an owl of any sort. I asked my head of House and she said they could surely make an exception in my special case, considering Da's position with the Ministry.

My raven is on order from Diagon Alley and I can't wait! I think I will name her Scylla. In the meantime, I will keep making the trip up and down the stairs, reporting on my experiences. Auntie C said she may want to visit Hogwarts to collect some data in person.

Oh, and my other roommate? Ingrid and I have hit it off so very well! She and I both have interest in becoming Hogwarts professors someday--she in International Magic Cooperation (I think she might like an exchange year at Beauxbatons, because she is already fluent in French!!) and me in Muggle Studies. I also want to do as much writing as I can here--I think the state of the wizarding press is just terrible, especially that horrible Rita Skeeter, and I wonder how one gets a job with the Daily Prophet??

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Body, complete!

Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
The Wedding Band Celtic Cable top-down raglan is progressing nicely. This photo is bizarre--the color of the yarn is really a greenish-tobacco-brownish heather, but it keeps coming out as anything but brown OR green when I try to photograph it. (Maybe it was the fact that today was the first true sunny, warm day since EVER in the PNW, and my camera didn't know how to deal with the ACTUAL SUNLIGHT coming in the window???)

I finished up the body on Wednesday or Thursday, then got M. to confirm the length was OK; he also decided that he wanted it hemmed rather than having ribbing. He fears the blousing effect. It took another couple of days for me to figure out what secret message to knit into the hem...stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Introducing Hydrangea MacDuff

Hydrangea will be joining us here at Knitsmith, Wordpurl every so often. You'll be able to tell it's her because she'll write in italics. She's a participant in the Hogwarts Sock Kit Swap 5; if she writes a lot, she may get her own blog. I'll try to keep it all straight, but I know you all will understand if it blends together a bit.

Hello all. I'm Hydrangea, 'Drangea for short, a first-year at Hogwarts. I have a rather interesting history--My dad is a Squib, my mother is a muggle. So discovering that I am a witch was quite a surprise!

My dad, Jamie MacDuff, is from an old wizarding family, Ravenclaws all, who specialize in arcane studies of magic. My grandfather, Sturgeon MacDuff, contributes regularly to Transfiguration Today and often serves as an examiner for the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. exams My grandmother, Eurydice, is a former Quidditch champion, from back when Ravenclaw was the powerhouse team. Dad grew up in a family that simply expected excellence in all aspects.

It came as a great shock to Grandfather and Grandmother when their younger son showed no signs of magical talent. Otherwise normal and clearly intelligent, he simply could not perform even the simplest baby spell--not even toy broomsticks worked for him, a heartbreaker for his Quidditch-loving mother. As he grew older and his siblings went on to Hogwarts -- my auntie Coriolis was a Ravenclaw prefect at one time, and uncle Benjamin was tops in his class AND Quidditch captain -- my father began to realize that he wouldn't follow the same path.

Luckily, my grandparents were not ashamed. They sought the best research on Squibbishness and tried everything to educate their son in magical theory, but also accepted him for what he was. So dad, instead of attending Hogwarts, attended the local day school with the muggles.

While attending muggle classes, he became fascinated with muggles and became sort of an anthropologist, (a muggleologist?) studying the habits and culture of non-wizarding folk, learning how to fit in, researching how to live his life as a non-wizard. He went off to University and there he met my mum. He had to decide -- did he tell her about his family? or present himself as a muggle entirely? He was torn.

To this crossroads entered an unexpected opportunity. It had been just a few years after You-Know-Who had been defeated, and the Ministry was finally putting itself back together. The Minister of Magic realized the need for better understanding of and communication with the muggle world, but it had to be done without violating the Statute of Secrecy.

Grandfather Sturgeon, hearing of the Minister's conundrum, suggested that his son Jamie would be the perfect secret ambassador to the Muggle world. And so my father lived for years with one foot in the magical world, reporting on and analyzing muggle society, culture, and possible responses to magic -- he was the first to study the effects of dementors on muggles -- and the other foot in the muggle world, living an ostensibly normal life with my mum, brother Thaddeus, and me, baby Hydrangea, going off each day to his job in London as an "insurance analyst."

My brother is muggle all the way. But I was different. My mum couldn't figure out how I kept escaping from my crib...seemed to be able to talk to the dressed in seconds without opening my drawers...threw spaghetti against the wall, forming an image of the Mona Lisa. She had me checked out by paranormal experts, by IQ testers, by doctors and nurses and pastors and New Agers, all to no avail. I was normal by all (muggle) measures.

Da, of course, suspected the truth, but denied it for a long time. The recessive magic gene, you see, usually doesn't manifest for
several generations; it's why wizard children can suddenly appear in completely muggle families, a result of the rather barbaric practice of giving Squib children up to muggle families, a practice that persisted until just a few generations ago.

As I approached the fateful age of eleven, Da checked the Hogwarts list and realized that I was on there; Dumbledore wasn't going to deny me my education, my identity, just because Da had a secretive sort of job. Da was going to have to reveal the truth to Mum -- his parents had not died of cholera while doing missionary work in India; he wasn't an only child; he wasn't really an insurance analyst (although he thought she'd probably be relieved to find out the last bit--what a boring job!). In fact, he was from a very respectable family who were alive and well, living in a big rambling house in Inverness, writing their articles and studying their spellwork. Auntie Coriolis and Da, in fact, often collaborated, although they hadn't seen each other in person in years.

The summer I was eleven, Da suggested a family vacation to Scotland. We visited all sorts of fantastic sites, took the train everywhere, got sunburnt at the shore even though it was cloudy out (who knew?), and finally ended up in Inverness one night for a late tea. When the lovely old couple in the funny robes approached us, I thought it was just another historical re-enactment; soon, I expected, William Wallace would pop out, too, in his blue paint and dreadlocks. Da saw the couple, started crying, gave them hugs, and they joined us at our table. Mum was in shock, Thaddeus incredulous. You mean we'd had grandparents this whole time and we didn't know?

Grandfather handed me my Hogwarts letter -- he'd persuaded Dumbledore to send it directly to him. I'll never forget the look on his face as he said, voice thick with tears, "This should explain a lot, lass."

We spent the rest of the vacation with Grandfather and Grandmother. Mum adapted quite well, I thought, and Thaddeus was for the first time EVER, sort of jealous of me. I went directly to Hogwarts from their house, and I'll likely spend most of my holidays there, too, getting to know them, Auntie Coriolis, Uncle Benjamin, and their families. Da writes me every week, asking me about being a Ravenclaw, how'm I doing with spellwork, will I try out for the Quidditch team? I can tell he's trying hard to let me live each experience for myself, but I can also tell that I am, just a little bit, living it for him as well. Pfewf. No pressure!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Literary Loving

Yesterday I watched "The Chatterley Affair," a BBC film starring my new secret boyfriend, 25-year-old British actor Rafe Spall. (He became my secret boyfriend after I watched the recent Masterpiece version of A Room With a View, one of my favorite all-time novels and love stories. He made a wonderful, passionate George, if less eloquent than the George in the novel or Julian Sands in the 1986 film version; he made George a real person, a young man, a desperate lover.)

I have to admit I've never read Lady Chatterley's Lover, though I probably will now after watching this film, which is about the 1961 trial of Penguin Books for publishing an unexpurgated version of the novel. The film centers around two of the (fictional) jurors on the trial, who (fictionally) strike up a passionate affair, mirroring the sexual relationship and emotional connection between Lady Chatterley and her gamekeeper lover. The film is much more open than an American film would have been; the sex scenes were surprising for me as an American viewer. As the prosecutor in the film said, "The curtains are not drawn; we follow the characters not only into the bedroom, but into bed."

The film drives home the point that Lawrence intended the novel to redeem sexual love and relations as an integral part of the human experience, the human connection. That it shouldn't be marginalized as our animal or low nature, but be celebrated as part of our essential human nature.

It reminded me of this poem by Maxine Kumin:

After Love

Afterwards, the compromise.
Bodies resume their boundaries.

These legs, for instance, mine.
Your arms take you back in.

Spoons of our fingers, lips
admit their ownership.

The bedding yawns, a door
blows aimlessly ajar

and overhead, a plane
singsongs, coming down.

Nothing is changed, except
there was a moment when

the wolf, the mongering wolf
who stands outside the self

lay lightly down, and slept.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Book recommendations

I love to get recommendations from friends! I'm cheap, so buy books infrequently (less often than yarn; more often than new clothes) but if a friend recommends something, I'm usually in. And you know that as an English teacher I am pickier than your average bear! Not just any pick-a-nic basket for this girl. I must fall in love with the book to stay with it.

My friend Katie over at One Scheme of Happiness is having a book recommendation contest, so go and visit before noon on the 11th (it's my birthday on the 11th, btw, so I hope that helps me win) and recommend books to the knitblogging world!

Here are the three I recommended. I have read and reread them and loaned them out and bought each of them at least twice because the loaned-out copies didn't return to me and so you KNOW they must be good.

1. The Highest Tide, by Jim Lynch. A great book set in the Pacific Northwest--sort of Holden Caufield meets Snow Falling on Cedars.

2. The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. Came out a few years ago; a mix of sci-fi, lit-fic, and heartbreak. You will never feel the same about space travel, love, anthropology, or religion again.

3. Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos. Set in Seattle. (I guess I'm feeling the need to push Northwest writers.) Amazing imagery. Manages to tie together some stuff you'd never think possible. Lovely.

And need I mention summer is the perfect time to reread Harry Potter?????

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Definitions of reality

Twin Mariner Baby Beanies
Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
Some friends of mine just adopted twin infants from Ethiopia. I visited yesterday, and after listening to their story--of traveling, of food poisoning, of unexpected medical tests and celebrations and long flights--I wondered, in awe of their strength and of these two beautiful children, who defines what makes a "real" parent? Becoming adoptive parents, they labored just as long and hard as I did becoming a biological mom. Some of the best parents I know aren't traditional--they're adoptive, or step, or even just honorary. Sounds cheesy, but it's the love and the commitment that makes the difference.

So I made these hats for the twinnies, to celebrate their joining our community. They're nearly identical, but not quite...

I'm also stepping out myself these days, joining a few more communities of my own, trying to make some more connections and have a little fun. There's a new button on my sidebar now, for a group I've joined, and I may be sharing some blog entries here with a young Hogwarts student named Hydrangea MacDuff. Hydrangea may get her own blog--we'll see how much she feels like writing.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hat Fair 2008

Hat Fair 2008
Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
Hats. Some swear by socks as their small project of choice, and, I agree, a sock is nice and portable. But, for me, a simple hat is the perfect thing to tuck away in my purse or travel bag. Something with a nice easy stitch or color pattern--ribbing, cables, stripes--something that fits on a 16" needle or 2 circs at most.

here's a parade of the hats I've made over the past few months. (Missing are 3 baby hats that didn't get documented, all adaptations of the Basic Cable pattern from Stitch 'n' Bitch nation. ExLinkcuse my Yoda syntax.)

Top-to-bottom, left-to-right:

1. Black Irish, my second iteration of the Celtic Cap by The Girl From Auntie., made for my husband. You can't see it in this photo, but it has a lovely celtic knot cable (you CAN see the cable in my ravelry photos). I think I like this pattern better with the hem than the roll-brim; I'm thinking of going back and adding the hem to my green one. Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash left over from my Stefanie Japel shrug.Link

2. My child-size version of the Skull Cap by Gina of Knits Two Together. (This is a free pattern.) A huge hit with my five-year-old! Yarn: Patons Classic Merino + 2 colors of Cascade 220. I hadn't done any colorwork for a while and this went really fast, I guess in part because of the large gauge.

3. An adapted version of Basic Cable from Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation in Patons Soy-Wool-Stripes, made for ME! I love everything about this hat. It is cheery, warm, not too itchy, and fits just right. The only thing I adapted was the cable; I had just finished 3 other versions of this same hat (the aforementioned UnDocumented Finished Objects, or UDFOs) and wanted something different, so instead of the six-stitch rope cable in the pattern, I used a six-stitch horseshoe cable from the Vogue Stitchionary volume 2. For some reason the book only has the pattern written out, not charted (a pet peeve of mine with some knitting books--EVERYTHING should be charted, IMHO) so i charted it myself, folded up the chart so it would fit in my accessories bag, and have made 4 of these hats this year.

4, 5, and 6/7: are all improvised kid beanies. 4 is two-tone red, in Aurora 8 and Patons Classic--using up leftovers. 5 and 6/7 are all various colors of Plymouth Encore. 4 is over 80 sts, 5 is over 72, and 6/7 are over 64. 6&7 are for a friend's twins she's adopting from Ethiopia; the other two are worn by my own personal rugrats. Mr. D loves the red one--it fits really closely. The two-tone wasn't the plan, but it does look awesome--not only are the reds just slightly different, the textures are different, too, which makes it look very sleek and modern. Aurora 8 is soft and almost slippery, while the Patons is traditional and wooly.

Next up: Three more Basic Cables for my yearbook editors' graduation gifts--they're all going off to college in cold climates, go figure.

So now you know what I keep in my purse along with the wallet, cell phone, and tampons...
What is your favorite kind of take-along knitting project?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Climb the Trellis

Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
Here's the start of my French Trellis scarf from Victorian Lace Today.

Even if you're not a lace knitter--and I'm certainly no expert, just an advanced beginner with a couple of projects under my belt--you will love to look at this book. The history...the photography...the lovely projects from simple to crazy-hard...Mine was a library copy, but I've got it on my wish list!

The knitting is going well, and I'm using my new KnitPicks Harmony Options wood needles, which is much better than using metal like I did for the Mystery Stole. Plus the colors--both of the needles and of the yarn--make me very happy.

I'll be interested to see how the Gloss Lace looks once it's been blocked; so far it's not as soft as the Zephyr, but has nice stitch definition and is not rough by any stretch of the imagination. The sheen of the silk really makes the pattern glow.

This is my first lace project that incorporates YOs on both sides and though that means I actually have to pay attention on the WS rows, rather than simply purling back, it's fun to learn a new skill. I loves me some charts, and Sowerby's are clear and easily readable.

The construction of the scarf is also interesting; what you see in the photo is one END of the scarf, which you work sideways. Then you PU a row of slipped sts from one end (you can see the little loopies at the top of the photo) and work the middle of the scarf, finishing off with working the other end sideways & attaching it simultaneously to the middle. (Sowerby explains it better.)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

And now for our feature presentation

Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
I don't usually impulse buy, but when KnitPicks came out with their new Gloss Lace and I saw it was a wool/silk blend like my beloved Zephyr Wool-Silk, I snapped up two skeins. I even took a photo of the brand new skeins and entered it in my ravelry stash. (Since I don't have much stash, I hadn't entered anything in it before. I still don't have much stash, entered on ravelry or in real life; it all fits in one four-drawer metal-mesh cart.)

I saw that Ravelry needed a photo of this new yarn and I submitted mine, and it was chosen as one of the featured photos for the yarn.

Pretty cool to be an early adopter.