Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fun with Slippers

Felting really is amazing. Because how else could this:

become this?

The orange pair I made for my mother-in-law. They are from Paton's Classic in the color Spice (I believe). This color is just HER. I love making handknits for her, and although I think I've done it the last four years in a row, she doesn't seem to be tired of scarves or slippers. She is the perfect person to make stuff for because she truly appreciates a handmade gift and really honors the time and thought that go into them. (I guess it helps that her mom is an amazing crocheter and maker of baskets from pine needles; like, state-blue-ribbon-for-Minnesota good.)

The brown ones ended up being for me. They were a pair I started without much forethought--just knew that there would be someone who'd need them. But then I started liking the tweedy yarn more and more, and started to feel sad that someone else might wear them...and then I thought, Merry Christmas to me! And felted them to fit my skinny high-arched feetsies.

So French Press Slippers pairs #3 and #4 have actual documentation, unlike #1 & #2. #2 look basically like #3, though: orange, but with wooden buttons chosen by my son for his afternoon caretaker. Mr. D has become quite the craft assistant and chief button consultant; he also helped me choose the aqua and orange button for my slippers--aren't they fun? The kids like the button aisle.

(Jo Ann has buttons 50% off tomorrow, and possibly through the weekend. I'm just saying.)

Next up: kids' clogs! Will the slipper madness continue?? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bags and Slippers

This Christmas I decided to try to cut down on the paper waste that always seems to encroach. I used this pattern and a bunch of stashed red and green fabric, plus about 6 yards I bought from the sale bin at JoAnn. My idea was to make red bags and green bags so the tree would look festive & Christmasy, but not red-and-green bags that would look too Christmasy if people wanted to use them AFTER the holiday for shopping bags, which is the intent--reusability and reduction of waste.

As one of my colleagues, an Environmental Science teacher, says: There's a reason "Recycle" comes third on the list.

It went very well, I must say. By the end of the project (e.g. this morning) I was able to cut out and sew a bag in about 20 minutes. If I was assembly-lining them, I think I could bring the average down to about 15 minutes. They're not the sturdiest tote bags of all time--the seams aren't reinforced or anything, but they're great for quick gift bags and would hold some light groceries and shopping.

And, if you make them out of quilting cotton, they fold up small enough to fit in a purse or pocket. Because, I don't know about you, but I have about a hundred canvas sacks that I always forget to take with me. We take them grocery shopping, but I'm always finding myself without them when I'm running other errands, like to the fabric store or for office supplies.

Each bag is made with just half a yard of 44" fabric and very little waste. It's a smart and simple pattern, and very suitable for making with kids. If you have a serger (which I do but have never gotten to work right, grrr) you could serge all of the seams and raw edges for more durability and "finishedyness".

The other sewn gift I made was a pillowcase for my daughter. For Christmas, we had bought her a small sit-up-in-bed-and-read pillow and it was going to be hard to wrap. My first thought was to make a large-size version of the gift bags I was already making, but that seemed impractical. Then, I thought to wrap it in a pillowcase.

My son and I had made him a special pillowcase a few months ago and it was super easy, so I took some leftover fabric from some doll clothes I made last summer and some grosgrain ribbon and made her one, too. I used this pattern. It was, again, very clear and straightforward, but there was more waste than I had hoped for, mostly because the pattern paid attention to the grain of the fabric more than I cared about. If I did it again, I'd cut the large rectangle on the cross grain (full width of the fabric) unless I were using a fabric that would look bad that way.

Adventures in sewing! I don't sew as much as I knit, mostly because hauling all of the equipment out is a pain and knitting is so quiet and portable, but sewing is my first crafting love, and once I get started it's hard to stop. I can see the tote bags becoming a go-to project and keeping stacks of them instead of wrapping paper.

So that brings the craftiness total for Christmas 2009 to: 3 pairs of slippers, a bunch of gift bags, and a pillowcase. Oh, and I almost forgot, I also gifted a hat to my dad that I made a few months ago and kept all this time! (Plus I made a ridiculous reject of a hat that I will need to write about separately.)

What did you make, if anything, for the holidays?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Clogs

Just to keep the slipper love coming, I thought I'd post pics of another gift that'll be on it's way to eastern Washington tomorrow...

This is the Felted Clogs pattern by Bev Galeskas of Fiber Trends (another Washingtonian--go Bev!) Bev is a felting queen and I've seen her a bunch of times on "Knitty Gritty." Last Christmas, I got a yen to knit for everyone and this pattern seemed perfect. I made a pair for my mom (brown and red) and for my dad (blue and green), and then after Christmas, a pair for my husband (black and green).

My brother-in-law is kind of hard to shop for, but he lives in a cold climate in an older house with wood floors, so I thought he'd appreciate wool slippers. My husband loves his and swears they warm up his whole body.

If you haven't made this pattern before, I highly recommend it. Unlike the French Press felted slippers, which I talked about yesterday, these felted clogs require nearly no seaming. It's all short rows.

If you follow the directions exactly, it goes like this:

First, you knit a sole back and forth in garter stitch with short rows. It doesn't look like a sole at all, but more like a filleted fish. Then you change colors, join in the round, and make a foot using a spectacular and lengthy series of short rows. Then you change colors again and knit a cuff in reverse stockinette, binding it off to itself in a neat little hem. Last but not least, you knit ANOTHER sole, pick up stitches around the original sole, and knit them together, making a double-thickness. Knitting a contrast "bumper" is an option at this point, too. Finally, you do a bit of seaming and tacking on the soles, weave in your ends, and felt.

It's one of those knitting experiences, like the Baby Surprise jacket, or turning a heel, where you can't quite visualize the results--you just have to trust the directions, keep track of what row you're on, and wait for the big reveal at the end.

Here are my tips for felted clog success:
  1. Knit both soles at the beginning of each slipper. Leave the spare sole(s) on spare needles until needed. You'll have to slip the spare sole onto your size 13 needle at the end, but that's no big deal. I prefer doing both up front because I just find it's easier to knit two of the same thing in a row rather than getting all the way to the end of the slipper and having to knit another sole. I imagine there are a lot of half-finished clogs out there missing just their second sole...
  2. If you got really efficient, you could knit all four soles (for both slippers, two each) in a row.
  3. The pattern calls for both a 24" and a 16" size 13 needle. I've found that I need only the 24" needle; at least for the womens medium on up, the cuff never gets small enough to need the 16". That saved me quite a bit on an unnecessary 16" needle.
  4. The pattern calls for double-stranded worsted wool, like Paton's Classic or Cascade 220. Upon the advice of my LYS, I've made all mine using single-stranded Lamb's Pride Bulky. The mohair makes them a little fuzzy, but it's nice not having to double-strand, and they felt great. As far as I know, there haven't been any problems with holes.
  5. Buy two skeins of your Lamb's Pride in the sole color, and only one in the foot color. It seems counter-intuitive when you look at the finished slippers, but there's actually a lot more yarn in the sole than the foot because the soles are garter stitch and double-layered.
  6. If you gift these, it's hilarious to give them un-felted. The look on people's faces when they open the package is priceless. Both my mom and dad tried to figure out, politely, what the heck they were, and both tried to put them on as hats. ha! Then, you can felt the slippers with them there to try on as you go.
  7. The slippers are done felting when they feel snug on the bare foot. They do stretch with wear, so err on the side of snugness. If the person really wants to personalize the fit, they can wear them for a few minutes while soaking wet before setting out to dry.
The pattern also comes in a kids' version (same idea, just sized down), which I just bought. Miss E and Mr. D picked out their colors--this time I'm going with the Cascade 220, just to see how double-stranded works out for us. I've told them it'll be after Christmas just so they're not disappointed.

So this means that the only person in my family without a pair is... me!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reverse Bandwagon

Last month, right before Thanksgiving, I saw THIS PATTERN on my friends' activity on Ravelry.

I clicked and was smitten. Bought the pattern with the last $6.99 in the paypal account (I literally got charged $0.01 on my credit card) and set it aside for a couple of days. Bought some yarn and buttons at JoAnn on Black Friday (I was hoping for flannel for PJs and baby quilts, too, but WHOA NELLIE the cutting line was insane at 6:30 AM, so I "settled" for yarn and buttons).

Last weekend I finally got the chance to make my first pair, a gift for my son's teacher, in Paton's Classic marled blue with turquoise buttons he picked out for her himself. "Ms. M loves blue," said he.

(And of course I forgot to take a photo before I gifted them.)



They turned out so cute, and then TODAY I started and finished a second pair, this time for my mother-in-law, and then I caught up with my Google Reader (only 8 million unread blog posts, give or take) and found that while I had been in my little bubble thinking I'd found this little gem of a pattern, it had been HARLOTIZED and now there are approximately a bajillion pairs on the collective needles of the knitting community and once again, just like in college when I started listening to Dave Matthews Band six months before everyone but didn't tell anyone until he was already hugely popular, or like when I had the idea for OnStar when I was about 10 but stupidly didn't patent it (of course, due respect to GM's fine work, my version included floppy disks), I am just slightly both ahead of and behind the curve.

Everyone will think I'm jumping on the bandwagon, when in fact I started up the bandwagon, then got down to go get a cup of coffee and came back to find it several blocks ahead of me.

And I know it's silly to be miffed, even facetiously miffed, because in truth it's a darling little pattern that's fast and fun to make and fun to give, so I'll stop with the pseudo-complaining now. And I'll be sure to post pictures of the next eleventy-million pairs I make. And so should you.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

le yikes! over a month since the last post!

That's the life of an English teacher. With two kids. Often it comes down to the choice between knitting or writing about knitting. No contest.

(sorry, writing, I love you, but I do you ALL DAY LONG. Let knitting have a chance, willya? Just 'cause she's not on the SAT doesn't mean she's not important, too.)

That said, we're headed off on a road trip today and I was poking around for an easy slouchy hat pattern to do with worsted-weight yarn. I like hats for the car because they're so compact. And...I realized that all of my smaller-than-size-10 16" needles are at school because...wait for 2nd period class is knitting.

Our school does a winter service project every fall, and each homeroom adopts a family (or a few kids) to support with winter clothes, school supplies, gifts, etc. I made the tiny little suggestion that we could knit our kids hats and HALF THE CLASS wants to learn. I brought 6 needles and yarn to class last week and had to play rock-paper-scissors for 5 minutes to see who "got" to learn.

How awesome is that?? I already had three students come up and ask if they could knit during class as long as they were paying attention (I told them after one more lesson if they were feeling comfortable and confident they could) and one boy (!) who already knits was assisting with the teaching!

(Lest you think I'm being a lazy teacher, we did this during our personal reading time and all of the knitters agreed to read for 45 minutes at home to make up the knitting lesson.)

So no worsted-weight-hat today (unless I can convince my ever-so-patient husband to stop at Joann on the way out of town, but even then they don't usually have 7s or 8s in stock...because they're semi-lame).

But I really don't mind.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Three more months

To my own vast surprise, I have kept up thus far on NaKniSweMoDo, aka Crazy Repetitive Stress Injury Inducing Year.

You can see in the sidebar my progress each month, the projects I've completed (OK, a few months were cheaty-ish, but not too far off the mark). Each goal--lace, seaming, cables--has been met with the giant yawning omission of one: a colorwork project.

I can't tell you how many colorwork projects I have perused on Ravelry, blogs, and in books. If I had a dollar for each one, I could have ordered all of Alice Starmore's kits plus paid for express shipping all the way from the UK. I finally decided that a colorwork sweater in a month might be too much, so I'd make a vest. I had the pattern and yarn for this one in my knitpicks shopping cart for literally five months--they kept e-mailing me hopefully, saying "The items you saved for later have now come available...hint hint." (OK, not the "hint hint" part, but the implication was there.)

I don't know what's holding me back.

But as the year draws to a close--not trying to be melodramatic here, but in less than three months it'll be 2010--this is becoming a priority.

Any suggestions for a stranded colorwork vest pattern? I'm thinking that, in the interest of time, I may want to go for sport, DK, or even worsted rather than fingering.

And while you're pondering that--check out my October project: the ubiquitous, infamous, and thoroughly well-pattern-tested Central Park Hoodie, in Jade Heather Paton's Classic Wool

The color is totally off--it's actually a beautiful heathered aqua with flecks of yellow and blue.

I can see why so many folks have made this--it's eminently practical, simple, yet fun. The easy-peasy rope cables break up the stockinette stretches. I made the first sleeve in only a few days, and finished the second sleeve last night.

I decided, after the sleeves, that I wanted to make this more challenging, or at least try something new. One goal I didn't list for NaKniSweMoDo was to steek. So I'm adapting the pattern to knit the body in the round with center front, arm, and neck steeks. I get the steek idea in theory--but as we all know, theory is far different than practice. I'll keep you updated.

Have a great week, everyone--

Thursday, September 24, 2009

home-made pesto

I have a thing for basil.

I grew three different kinds this year and we enjoyed it all summer in stir-fry, pasta, and salads. I've been known just to pick it and eat it.

So, although the curly-leaf and Thai varieties were pretty much spent (I worked those plants, believe me) my hanging pot of plain old Italian basil needed to be harvested.

Hence: pesto.

No real recipe, just: chop up a whole bunch of basil into little itty bits (I don't have a food processor); add a couple spoonfuls of minced garlic (I use the "jar-lic," as my sister calls it, from Costco), and then olive oil until it's about the consistency of natural peanut butter. I didn't have any nuts, so skipped those this time, and let each person add their Parmesan individually because of some dairy sensitivities. Cook a bag of Trader Joe's brown rice spirals, toss, and serve.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Finished Vine Yoke!

This is why I don't do the "take a picture of yourself in the bathroom mirror" photo shoot very often.

Let's think of it as "artsy" rather than "blurry," shall we?

Because, even though I sorta teach people how to take good photos...I can't hold the camera steady for the life of me. (And, in my defense, I couldn't have the flash on because it reflected off the mirror, but there wasn't quite enough light for it to work well without the flash.)

I finished this up on Monday evening last. It looked scrunched and funky:

But see how well my garter kitchener stitch turned out?

I was still a little nervous that it might not be long enough. I'm long-waisted, so I usually add .5" to 1" length to sweaters so I won't end up looking like Jennifer Aniston in the first couple of seasons of "Friends." Cropped, in the fashion sense, is a four-letter word as far as my body type is concerned. But even though the scrunched and funky sweater looked short, I decided to trust Ysolda, who insisted that she had taken the vertical stretch of garter stitch into account in the pattern.

I soaked it in the washer with some Eucalan for a half an hour, then spun out the water and spread it out to dry on a towel. I encouraged it to grow vertically, then left it to do its magic. Just like my swatch, first it grew a lot, then it shrunk back to the exact right gauge when fully dry. Woo to the hoo.

Now it's time for buttons (I was too excited to wait to take the photo above), which I've already purchased. Side note: I found them at JoAnn, and they, amazingly, match the red-orange of the yarn exactly. But they only had three cards in stock (six buttons) so I had to special-order two more. JoAnn charged me $7.95 for shipping on $5 worth of buttons. Can you believe that??

Knitting this sweater was an absolute blast. The pattern requires a lot of trust in Ysolde (and thank goodness for Ravelry, because there was an error in the sleeve math--now fixed--for a couple of the sizes, including mine; if you bought the PDF early you should have received a link to the revised pattern) and her math genius, and a couple of times I had to really think ahead and write out my pattern rows to make sure it was all going to come together at the end, but every single time: it did.

My mods were minor:
  1. For the sleeves' provisional CO I used Judy's Magic Cast on with two KnitPicks needles and then just knit one direction, taking the needle tips off and holding the stitches on the KP cable for later. This worked well for the kitchenering later.
  2. I increased above the yoke pattern across the back (4 sts total) to give a bit of back-neck shaping. I didn't want it to ride up. I'll report back on this one once I have the buttons on and have had the chance to wear it.
Loved it!! And--I can't believe I'm saying this--I can't wait for our indian summer to get over with so I can wear it to work. But there's no rush...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Behind the Scenes

Wow--two weeks has gone by without a post!

What have I been doing? Well, first off--I've been knitting. If June and July were rather fallow knitting months for me, I am making up for it in August...

First off, this little beauty just fell off the needles:

This is Cosima, a Berroco design that I first saw featured in the fall or winter WEBS catalog (I forget which). I bought the yarn, Berroco Cuzco in this gorgeous chocolate brown, during the WEBS anniversary sale. It sat in my stashette for a few months while I worked on other projects, and then I finally decided to cast on for it.

Thank goodness for Ravelry, because without it I would never have been able to anticipate some of the issues? challenges? weirdnesses? of this pattern, and I ended up making many modifications to mine as I went through others' comments. The pattern as written yields a very wide sweater with a really deep scoop neck. Every single size (XS to XL) uses the same number of stitches around the neck (I want to say 162? In a bulky-weight yarn?) and the descriptor "Flashdance-esque" was used more than once. I decided to err on the side of caution and picked up only about half that number, and the sweater sits really nicely on my shoulders. It doesn't have quite the same dramatic scoop as I liked in the photo, but I'd rather have it be wearable. My job is so active (I rarely sit down during my teaching periods) that I just can't have anything non-functional in the wardrobe.

Listy list about Cosima:
  • My favorite part of this pattern was the lace. There is something really fun about lace in a bulky yarn.
  • This was my very first sweater knit in pieces and seamed! (Not counting the little seams in baby kimonos.)
  • I stayed up FAR TOO LATE last Saturday (um...3:30 am) seaming, watching Buffy, weaving in ends...and it was totally worth it.
  • I'm calling it Chocolatl because of the color.
  • The fronts and back are size S (the 36") and the sleeves are M.
  • I added about .5"-1" to the length because of my longwaistedness.
  • A full-on Eucalan-enhanced wet blocking did wonders for it. I don't have a "real" blocking board or mats so I couldn't pin it out, but I used my rotary cutting mat to facilitate stretching the pieces by hand...and, again, the extra time was totally worth it.

So: what's next on the needles? Well, take a gander at these:
What are they? Well, if you've gone through the recent Twist Collective you may recognize this baby. She deserves a whole post of her own....and with any luck, it won't take me 2 weeks to write it.

And I bought Jared Flood's Classic Elite booklet, Made in Brooklyn...and I still have Norah Gaughan 3...and it's M's turn for a sweater...

And school starts in two weeks.

Friday, August 07, 2009

It warms my heart...

It warms my heart...
to see this stack of books on my six-year-old's bedside table.

The top four he's reading on his own...

The bottom two are our "together" books. (HP is still beyond him, but he's trying.)

I love that guy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tubular Tropicals

These warshrags are so, like, totally awesome.

It's funny how one project can lead you down the rabbit hole to three more in quick succession. Last week I sorted through a bunch of bins of craft supplies and fabric, which also happened to contain one unfinished ballband warshrag (top left). Part of my goal was to sort all UFOs (unfinished objects) into one bin to be worked on by the end of the summer (notice I didn't say finished by the end of the summer), and, amazingly, I was able to do that (OK, mostly; some knitting stuff is in its own basket).

I have a vague memory of starting the first one. It must have been on a car trip or where I was somewhere stashless, like the doctor's office, because I ran out of black after two and a half repeats and then, inexplicably just continued the pattern using just the ombre yarn for the next three or four repeats. This looks pretty cool, but it's hard to see the slip stitches because they blend in with the bricks too much and the whole point of this pattern is that I don't have to think about it. So once I picked it back up, I decided to go for the all-out freak show and finish with the bright lime green as the background color.

I am kind of weird and obsessive about this pattern, which I have made at least 20 times, probably more--I haven't taken photos of all of them and most have gone to other people as gifts. It's one of the first patterns I made after I started knitting again in 2006 and it still makes me feel so satisfied and smart when I finish.

Hence the fact that, even though I have my log cabin blanket still in progress, and even though I had only one chart left on Ishbel, I dropped everything for three or four days and knitted three more warshrags.

#2, top right, I started right away in the lime green/pink ombre combo that finished number one. When I ran out of pink, I picked up some teal to finish off the last two rows. (Teal is real, remember?)

For #3, I decided to move on to the cool color family, and do lime green with the bright and cheery "Pool" colorway for the blocks. There's one block row of solid teal just to finish off that ball.

And, since I liked #3 so well, I reversed the colors when I started #4. Didn't like that as much, because "Pool," well, pooled in the stockinette background, or mortar, sections. So, I went full out on the train to crazytown and REVERSED the colors midway through the cloth, reverting to "Pool" bricks and green mortar.

I don't know why this project tickled me so much...probably because it was 1) fast, 2) low-pressure, 3) creative, and 4) inexpensive.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I heart Ysolde

Ishbel, unblocked.

This is my July "garment." I started this one on the car ride down to Olympia at the beginning of the month, and now it's bound off just in time for the end of the month.

Blocked photos plus all specs to come!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dog Days

I'm not sure exactly when the dog days are supposed to be, but we have hit them. It is muggy and sweltering and humid (did I mention muggy?), which may sound redundant but isn't in this case--it's muggy x3.

For a region that receives as much rain as we do, we're not really used to high humidity plus high heat (we usually get one or the other) and we PNDub-ers just can't handle it. We wilt and fuss

We spent the morning at the Children's Museum in Everett, which was a hoot and a half. It's a really well done museum--very hands-on, lots to do, clever and fun--and well worth the hour's drive to get there.

It is a great afternoon to hole up in the downstairs (which is nice and cool), put on an episode of Buffy (I'm re-watching season 2), and sew and knit to my heart's content.

Here's what I've been knitting, with near obsession:

Ballband Warshcloths.

These two are for my cousin's birthday on the ninth...I have three or four more that seem to have spontaneously generated themselves from my stash of Sugar 'n' Cream, because I certainly don't remember knitting them. I'm calling that set "Tubular Tropical" because they are these crazy '80's colors. Once I get the latest one off the needles, I'll show you the set.

Monday, July 27, 2009

IK Fall preview is up

The Fall IK preview is up

I am a whore for cables.

Roxanne, turn that red light back on.

Friday, July 24, 2009

two baby shower ideas

And no, I'm not hinting at anything. In fact, I seem to be going to baby showers less and less these days as my college friends age. (Waaah.)

But: for the next one, I'm going with this and this.

I promise photos of knitting (miles of colorful garter stitch!), bedroom redux (Bungalow Gold!), and some reorganizing...

And, if anyone wants to buy a 1992 Kenmore sewing machine, see my ad here...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Diana is close to Dana, right?

Finally, a reason to learn intarsia:

I'm sure I'm not alone in flashing back on days playing in the backyard, wearing nothing but WW Underoos and a couple of bits of aluminum foil around my wrists. (Even if I am alone in this, I don't care.)

The best part about this sweater is searching out her notes on how she researched it. I'm glad she went with the plain WW on the front rather than the eagle.

Spinning in place to see if I become a superhero,

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer ADD

I promise this has been a productive couple of weeks for me.

The bedroom project is (nearly) finished...

Knitting is progressing...

And I have no photos of any of it.

What I do have is a raging case of start-it-is, about 50 half-finished essays/blog posts in my head, and that wonderful middle-of-summer-what-day-is-it?? feeling. (Sorry to all non-teachers who don't get that feeling.)

More soon. In the meantime, here's a photo of supercuteness to tide you over...this big girl will be THREE YEARS OLD on Sunday!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Whirlwind = list

It's been a whirlwind of a week around here.  I can't for the life of me figure out how it got to be the end of June already.

And when my mind (and house, and life, as you will see...) is disorganized, I turn to listing.  Do you ever do that?  Just list things in your head--things to do, things to read, things to remember...?

1. M officiated at a friend's wedding last weekend.  Yes, as a third grade teacher and former altar boy, the internets, and, subsequently, the state of Washington, deemed him suitable to unite man and woman in the holiest of unions.  (Side note: It's a funny world we live in, where my husband, wonderful as he is, can spend 25 seconds on a website and be eligible to unite a guy and a girl in a marriage, while this gay couple, who have been together since 1958, can't get married at all.)
2. He did a great job.
3. The wedding, start to finish, lasted less than 10 minutes. Several guests, who were married with full masses, averred that they wish they'd had M as their officiant instead!
4. We came home on Sunday, tired, but ready to tackle a few projects in between trips.  (Because, of course, we are headed off to Olympia on Thursday bright and early for some work on my in-laws' house and his dad's 60th birthday.)
5. And so, I sit typing this at the computer table, currently the only piece of intact furniture in my bedroom, having spent much of the last 24 hours removing wallpaper.
6.  Wallpaper stinks.  The only silver lining is that they only put the paper on the bottom half of the walls, sort of a half-assed chair rail look.
7. I've had to take wallpaper out of all three bedrooms in this house.  I wish I'd realized how much better it would have been to do all of them at once before any furniture was placed in the room.  We were smart and did Miss E's room before we unpacked it--of course, it was our office/guest room then, and it also had the most hideous wallpaper/paint combo: mauve, blue, and metallic silver seashells with the top half of the wall painted a pukey light mauve.  Very 1984.
8. Mr. D's room was less onerous:  blue and white vertical stripes with a blue and white floral border, the top half of the room painted blue.  (Badly.  In all 3 bedrooms, it looks like they tried really hard to make 1 gallon of paint stretch to paint all of the walls and the ceiling, so they were all streaky.)  It actually looked pretty good--but then, when he was about 4 he figured out he could pick at the paper and peel it off, and pretty soon we had to do the whole room.
9. Our room has yellow striped/floral wallpaper with and lemon yellow above.  And if you don't know why an English teacher wouldn't want yellow striped wallpaper (besides the fact it looks like something Laura Ashley puked up after a frat party gone bad), you need to go read this short story.
10. Each room also had sort-of-coordinating valences over the windows.  I say "sort of" because none of them quite match exactly, and often the colors were far different.  For instance, our yellow wallpaper is sort of goldeny sunshine yellow, but the paint above is full on lemon.  I much prefer the streaky adhesivy walls I'm uncovering now, I must say.
11.  So the next step is to prime over where the wallpaper was, and then get to work on painting the room.  We're going to go with a nice neutral in most of the room, with an accent wall, probably deep gold (NOT LEMON YELLOW), behind the bed.

And that is today's list.  I hope to return to knitting soon.  I've made one washcloth in the past week and that's all I have to show.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Poetry Friday

Confessions of an Underpaid English Teacher

by S. Thomas Summer

I admit I'd like to stroll
the other side of the tracks

own the house on the hill,
stick a silver spoon in the pit

of my son's mouth; yet here
in the belly of July, heat

scraping the day like an ulcer,
beer is cold, grass freshly

cut.  The hammock sways against
a breeze that ushers a mourning

dove through the air inches above 
the backyard shed. For a moment,

it rests on a lounge chair, chubby
as a tear. Light rain falls--a pair

of robins spear the soft ground
for drowning worms. My son captures

a caterpillar in an empty jelly jar.
We celebrate--Fig Newtons and cherry

popsicles. And of course, there's a volume 
of Kafka waiting for me on the kitchen

table, deep in the shadow of a wine
glass tinted red with a fine merlot.

I originally found this poem in an issue of English Journal, the bimonthly publication of my professional organization.  (You didn't know English teachers HAD a professional organization, did you??)  

I found the title intriguing, and the sentiments are something every teacher can relate to:  it'd be nice to be paid more, but the intangible benefits of this job, like summers off, can outweigh the lack of prestige.

The more times I  have read it, though, I note the overall bittersweet tone, heavy on the bitter.  There are a number of interesting word choices and images that, taken together, yield a dark effect:  stick, pit, belly of July, scraping, ulcer, cut, mourning dove, spear, drowning worms, captures, Kafka, shadow.

It's not a simple poem, saying, "Gee whiz, teachers, isn't it great we get such neat-o summers?"  Anyone who chooses to spend his summer reading Kafka, has got to be a little dark and twisty himself, with no illusions that having the silver spoon life he imagines would be any better than what he already has.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fifi is finished...!(?)

Finally finished 'er up.  My expression in these photos, though literally due to the apparently arduous task of taking my own picture, suitably reflects how I feel about this sweater--conflicted, concerned...let's just say: the jury's out, and Fifi may not have Henry Fonda on her side.

Here's my litmus test for a handknit:  if I wear it to work, and not one person says, "I like your sweater" or "cute sweater" or "did you knit it?"--I worry.

It could just have been that it was the last week of school and I spent most of the day I wore it sequestered in my classroom reading junior research papers that are a graduation requirement and thus engender more procrastination than any other paper my students write all year long...but I also nipped out for a couple of hours, taking my last bit of personal leave, to attend Mr. D's kindergarten graduation, and Not One Kindergarten Mom said anything, either.

So here's the fence where Fifi sits:  A great knit, a fun pattern, entertaining to work, should be flattering to my body type...but I think I picked the wrong yarn.  The Shine Sport just doesn't have the body that is needed for an overall ribbed sweater at this gauge:  it flops and flows; it doesn't cling.  I don't know if I should have used Shine Worsted, or Comfy, or if I should have gone all the way and bitten the Rowan Calmer bullet (though, expense aside, I REALLY don't like Calmer's color palette).


Friday, June 19, 2009


How better to celebrate the end of the school year, that time of 180 days of focusing on OTHER PEOPLE, than a good-old-fashioned navel-gazing post?

Found this meme on Blue Garter's blog...
1. Respond and rework; answer the questions on your blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your invention, add one more question of your own.
2. Tag eight other people (if you feel so inclined).

What is your current obsession? I just started a knitted log cabin blanket (Mason-Dixon knitting) and I'm thinking that might be it.
What is your weirdest obsession? I only eat the same colors together when I eat skittles, and always two at a time, one on each side of my mouth.
What are you wearing today and why did you choose it? red Keens, red capris, blue & red Ravelry t-shirt, gray hoodie, and red ballcap. I have been working in my classroom all day, cleaning and filing, and wanted something peppy and comfortable, plus layers because the weather was indeterminate this morning...typical June in Western Washington.
What’s for dinner? Tortilla soup and a good malty beverage
What did you eat for your last meal? mandarin chicken salad
What’s the last thing you bought? Two copies of my Teacher's Daybook for next year, one for me and one for a friend...the best teacher planner ever.
What are you listening to right now? "Before the Goldrush," an album I just discovered & bought on iTunes. It is a benefit CD for Teach for America, and features artists famous and not-so singing covers by artists who influenced them. I'm loving Billy Joel's "You're My Home," covered by Rebecca Elliott; Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic" covered by Swell Season; and Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" covered by Korby Lenker. (full disclosure: Korby and I sang together in our college choir; he's since moved on to Nashville where he records great pop-bluegrass-uncategorizable music. I would heart him even if I didn't know him.)
If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go? Downtown London and just sit and people-watch.
If you could time travel to anyWHEN in history for the next hour, where would you go? I'd go to Vienna and watch a premiere of a Mozart opera.
Which language do you want to learn? Spanish
What do you love most about where you currently live? Our backyard and all the natural light inside the house. I also really love our community as a whole.
What is your favorite colour? Red.
What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe? my Back-to-school U-neck vest I made from Fitted Knits. It makes me feel stylish and cute, yet still professional.
What were you doing ten years ago? I was finishing my first real teaching job, starting my summer job and a whole summer riding my bike everywhere, and (although I don't think we knew it then) about 8 weeks away from moving to Texas.
Describe your personal style? Northwest casual is a good descriptor--Jeans, t-shirts, scarves, sweaters, fleeces. Not quite crunchy (i.e. granola), maybe just mildly textured? More REI than hemp.
If you had £100 now, what would you spend it on? $165.19 in US dollars...Hmm. Oh, I know: two Amtrak tickets to Seattle with my sweetie, Mariners tickets because we haven't gone to a game in years, and a dinner out before coming home.
What are you going to do after this? Pick up my son, go to the bookstore, and spend a gift card I just found in my desk while cleaning it out. (Cha-ching!)
What are your favourite films? Anything Baz Lurhmann (except Australia), Casablanca, Lord of the Rings, Pride & Prejudice (both recent versions), Say Anything.
What inspires you? Helping someone find their truth and express it in writing. Excellent analysis, humor, wordplay, and fearlessness.
Your favorite books? Jane Austen (I used to be a P&P devotee, but now Persuasion, I think, is on top), Lord of the Rings, Cold Mountain, Narnia--anything that transports me. Over the years I have really come to appreciate The Scarlet Letter.
Do you collect anything? random papers, receipts in my pocket, extra pounds on my thighs, and yarn.
What makes you follow a blog? A sense that the person is writing from the heart, with his/her own personal style and sensibility, and not pandering to an imaginary audience. I"ll read almost anything if it seems authentic and thoughtful. Nice photos don't hurt.
What was the most enjoyable thing you did today? Drilled through the piles down to the top of my desk for the first time in months.
What new skill would you like to learn? This summer I want to work on my photography skills, and actually be able to understand what all the gizmos on my yearbook cameras do without relying on the auto setting.

Consider yourself tagged. And, commenters, can you guess which question I added?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I heart vancouver

The Mister and I got home Saturday evening from a long-overdue mini-break up to Vancouver, B.C.

This city is super excited for the Winter Olympics, which it is hosting this coming January. Witness crap cell phone photo, above, of the Olympic count-down clock, which is strategically placed outside of the art museum.  Only 244 more days, people, until I have to decide what my knitting olympics project is!  

Vancouver is one of my favorite places, no question.  

I started to type that it is one of my favorite cities, but then realized I don't have many cities with which to compare it.  I've been to Seattle, of course, many times...also San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix...but that's about it on the large cities of North America front, and most of those I've only visited for a day or two total, with the exception of Houston, where we lived for two years.  Prague, Salzburg--which is really barely a city except for its long history--Venice, and Milan round out the European crowd.  

(I'm not counting cities like Los Angeles, London, Baltimore, or Chicago, where I've only been through the airport.)

Full disclosure over. Now.  Vancouver is one of my very favorite places.

I just can't express my love for Vancouver in strong enough terms.  It is a compact city, with a very dense population in the downtown core (how nice that people actually LIVE downtown, unlike so many cities decimated by flight to the suburbs).  I read somewhere that it is the most densely populated area in North America outside of Manhattan island, but you'd never know it while driving or walking around.  There are huge high-rise apartment buildings and towers of industry, but it feels safe, and clean, and friendly somehow.  (Canadians are the epitome of good-natured friendliness.  Even punk pierced Canadian teenagers will stop and give you directions or return a smile.)  Stanley Park is absolutely enormous, with an aquarium, lagoon, bike/walking trails, and miles of beach. 

Over the years we've often day-tripped up across the border.  (Vancouver is actually closer to us than Seattle; it takes about an hour to get there if border traffic is light.)  It holds wonderful memories for's the site of our first date and is the place M proposed to me, back when we were such younglings (19 and 20, though of course we felt so mature)....And now we have a new set of Vancouver memories to add: staying at Lonsdale Quay and watching the sun set over the city skyline, waking up early to see the big cruise (or was it ferry?) boat slide through the water and dock across from us...taking the water taxi across to downtown and walking up to the Dutch Masters exhibit--a Vermeer! some Rembrandt! and a bunch of other cool stuff!--at the Art Gallery...great Greek food.

We'll be back up in BC in July for sure, staying in Whistler for three nights with my folks...I wonder if we can stop for a day in Vancouver on either end of that trip?  and how long can I stow away in the city before they notice I am American and make me go home?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A great mail day

I still get a thrill when I get mail.  

Real mail, that is, not credit card offers, political flyers, ads for Wal-Mart, or incredibly depressing investment statements.

So imagine my excitement when I opened up the mailbox and found, first:

The shaven head of Stephen Colbert.

The most hilariously unironic issue of Mary Maxim ever. 

I mean, sequin art?  Really?

And this little exciting number all the way from the UK--

I had forgotten I ordered the hard copy as well as the e-version.  It is such a cute little booklet, so professional.  I imagined something hand-made on a color copier, stapled together like those 'zines that were popular back in the '90's, but it's actually perfect-bound.  

Well worth it for the gorgeous patterns as well as to support a fabulous designer.

The first peony!

This is a terrible photo of a peony--but it is a beautiful flower.  I just love the layers and layers of petals, like some sort of sea anemone.

I forgot to stake up the peonies in the front yard, so rescued this one from imminent disaster as it lay on the ground, toppled over by its own beauty...if you can call killing something "rescuing", I guess.

Monday, June 08, 2009

From the sublime to the ridiculous

I have recently started facebooking.  (It's like googling; it's a verb.  This is what my students say.)

A couple of friends and family members had encouraged me to join, and there are some things I really love about it.  I love being connected in with the people I care about.  That part is fun, since I have a far-flung family and don't make the time for phone calls and e-mails as much as I should.  And I have to admit that the novelty factor of "friending" people who I haven't seen or, in some cases, thought about in years, has not yet worn off.  The guy I went to homecoming with in 10th grade?  Teaches math.  The diva-with-a-heart-of-gold from college choir?  Opera singer in Toronto.  My yearbook editor from 2005?  Loving junior year of film school and pestering me with questions about "Lost."  That part is cool--the sense of network, of connection, of reconnection--it makes the overall experience worthwhile.

The parts that I'm uncomfortable with.  Well, they are legion.  
  1. The aforementioned people I haven't thought about in years?  Well, they feel free to comment on my taste in books.  (Hey!)
  2. Other people can post embarrassing pictures of me from college and tag them with my name.  And current colleagues and family members can click on them and see just how much beer I drank during the Europe trip of 1997.  (The nice thing is that I was such a goody-two-shoes that my hair in the 90's will likely be much more incriminating than any party photos.)
  3. There is an uncomfortable sense of being back in the not-cool crowd when I see the photos others have posted from high school.
  4. I totally overthink the status updates ("What are you thinking about?" it asks) because I have both a lesbian librarian and an ultra-conservative quiver-full Christian in my friend list.  Will saying "friggin'" offend anyone?  Is saying I like the show "Dollhouse" revealing me to be in favor of the subjugation of women?  If I'm gardening, am I pedestrian?  If I'm reading Lord of the Rings, am I a nerd?  Basically--this all comes down to feeling judged, and being a sort of private person who also, ironically, loves to connect. 
  5. How long will it be before a current student sees one of those pictures of me drinking the beer in Europe?  How long before the worlds collide in ways that I can't anticipate??
  6. With all the time I spend connecting with former/online friends--am I neglecting the actual flesh-and-blood people in my life, nay, in my house, even?
We're in the middle of a communication revolution.  

I read a recent blog post that spoke eloquently of how historians can look back at pre-printing press and post-printing press and see clearly how the advent of literacy for all (or most, at least) changed civilization--religion, politics, you name it. 

What historians can't comment on is how it felt DURING the revolution--to be a leader when the power structure was shifting under your feet--to be a follower, unsure of the ramifications of new freedoms and industries.

By the time our children are adults, I think the face of the change will be clear, the implications for education, privacy, and government.  But for now--it all feels a little katy-bar-the-door.

What do you think?  Do you facebook? What do you like--or not?

Fifi update

So while I've been musing on my summer-vacation-to-be, and philosophizing about life as we know it, I've also been knitting.  (I KNOW!  Imagine that.)

My May (...june...) project has been Fifi, by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes.  I bought Kristeen's new book, French Girl Knits, a couple of months ago, and fell in love with her design sensibility--feminine, romantic, yet practical.  She specializes in one-piece designs:  top-down, bottom up, and even side-to-side.  So, since I had this wonderful book in front of me with 18 designs in it, I on Ravelry and bought the pattern for Fifi instead of starting anything from the book.  

Fifi calls for Rowan Calmer, six or seven balls of it for my size.  This wasn't in my budget--it costs about $12 a ball--so I searched Ravelry for an appropriate substitute and landed on KnitPicks Shine Sport in Chipotle.  Calmer is a cotton/acrylic blend, and so is Shine.  There was one other Fifi on Ravelry in Shine Sport and the knitter reported not having to do any modifications as a result of the sub and her photos were supercute.  So I ordered the yarn, swatched on size 7s, and it all looked good.

I don't know if it's because I don't knit with cotton very often, or because the sportweight wasn't a good substitute for Calmer, which is listed as either DK or light worsted depending on where you look, but I'm not 100% happy with the fabric.  It just feels a bit...floppy.  What was nice and smooth in the swatch is a little bit droopy in a full sweater.  I don't know if I should have gone down a needle size, or if I should have used Shine Worsted or Comfy instead (two more popular subs once I started looking more closely)...

There are a couple of other issues with my Fifi, which you can see in the photo below:
  1. my center cable is off center, since the stitches to the left of the cable (the little buggers are on the right in the picture, but remember the sweater was knit top-down) are really loose.  I've not had this problem so dramatically before, and I knit a lot of cables, but that's probably also because the cotton is so much less elastic than my usual wool.
  2. The pattern calls for inserting a few short rows at the bustline to ease the fit.  It doesn't give directions for doing this unobtrusively, though...and as you can see from the WEIRD GAPING HOLE in the picture, I don't think I did this right.  There weren't any directions, so I followed the short row directions in Cat Bordhi's New Pathways for Sock Knitters, and the short rows just came out kind of funky and gappy.
I'm going to soldier on, though, because the fit is fundamentally OK and I think, cotton being what it is, that I will be able to shape it during blocking.  I plan on making elbow-length sleeves rather than cap sleeves, and I've also switched to size 5s for the sleeve ribbing to keep it a little snugger.  So we'll see.  If the sleeves turn out well I may reknit the body on 5s or 6s.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

I just saw this on a blog I visited and thought, hmmm?

Please do not link to this blog, any post (or part of any post) , any project or any photo on Ravelry. I do not want their kind of attention and hope you will respect my request.
Thank you.

There is something I am not getting here.  "Their kind of attention"? 

I'm sure the blogger has a good reason for this, and I respect the wishes (not that I was tempted to link) but--what?  Nefarious Ravelry?  Big Brother and all that?  So confused.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Summer: the double-edged sword

One of the best things about teaching is its cycle of open and close, renewal, and fresh starts--every year a new chance, a change. As the season turns and another school year closes, my mind turns to new opportunities and summer studies.

It's hard to refute the stereotype of teachers getting "three months off" a year, especially since I have worked in the private sector and know the pain of an entry-level job that accrues a mere week or two of "Personal Time Off," or PTO, a year.  For most, PTO time is intended to cover both sick and vacation leave, and the corporate lackey also receives, grudgingly, a few national holidays, which stud the calendar like raisins in a pudding (an image I think I just stole from Louisa May Alcott.  Or someone).

That said, my husband and I have had very few summers "off."  Either he, or I, or both have taken classes, worked a second job, or some combination of the two every summer for the past twelve years.  

This summer, though, marks a milestone:  No classes.  No summer work.  Just family time, and lots of it.

All this freedom?  Oh no!

My summer could look like this:
  1. Read classics I've always meant to read; study Anna Karenina with friend Michelle
  2. Bike or run every day; look amazing
  3. Finally develop that rhetoric/linguistics unit for my AP class that's been half-baked in my mind for two years
  4. Refinish bedroom dressers (only 12 years late) and finally get rid of horrific yellow wallpaper in master bedroom
  5. Weed-free garden; clutter-free home; healthy organic meals daily
Or, it could look like this
  1. Eat crap, gain (more) weight
  2. Futz around on computer, wasting hours per day
  3. Procrastinate on school because "I have so much time until September"
  4. Dither over house projects and end up starting many, but leaving several half-done

How do I make option A happen and option B go away?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Your rainbow is shaded yellow.

What is says about you: You are a joyful person. You appreciate optimism. You're good at getting people to like you.

Find the colors of your rainbow at

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Toni passed this on to me, which was so nice!  Thanks, Toni.

The rules are:

1. List 7 things you love
2. Link back to the person who gave you the award
3. Pass it along to 7 other bloggers.


I love:

1. My husband
2. My children
3. Science fiction & fantasy
4. Knitting (duh)
5. Reading and writing nonfiction
6. Really great singer-songwriters
7. Sitting on the dock at my family's cabin on Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho

And I will pass the award on to:

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

What Grownups Do

A conversation between my husband and my daughter, age almost-3, yesterday.

Miss E:  I'm getting to be a big girl.  I'm almost a grownup.
M: Oh really?  What do grown ups do?
Miss E: (Thinks.) Turn on the lights. (Something she has recently learned to do, being exactly the right height, on tippy-toes, to juuuust baaarely push up the switch.)
M: What else do grownups do?
Miss E: (Thinks again.)  Turn them off again.  

A second conversation, during a marathon Nerf basketball session in big brother's room.  Mr. D has recently become very interested in money, how it works, how much he (and we) have, and personal buying power.

Mr. D: What would you buy with a million dollars, Miss E?
Miss E: (Without hesitation) Strawberries.

So there you have it.  A million dollars' worth of fruit, and magical ability to make lights go on and off--that is what it truly means to be grown up.  Rich indeed!

Friday, May 22, 2009

How Stash Grows.

I have never been much of a stasher. 

I know!  

Is that blasphemous for a knitblog or what?

I have one five-drawer wire storage-thingy in the cupboard-under-the-stairs and that has been PLENTY for me.  The top drawer is dishcloth cotton, drawer 2 is sock and lace-weight, drawers 3 and 4 are worsted/Aran, mostly wools, and drawer 5, the bottom, is odds and ends, some bulky, some weirdo acrylic, et cetera.

The thing is that non-stashing wasn't a purposeful thing, it just resulted from my lack of funds and my need to keep the hobby on the up-and-up.  (The minute my hobby becomes guilt- or debt-inducing, the minute I need to stop.)

But I think I may have reached my tipping point, and I blame NaKniSweMoDo.

I hit my sweater-knitting stride this winter, starting with my Charcoal Cables sweater, and suddenly yarn purchasing took on a whole new mode:  

I stopped thinking of yarn as a skein- or a ball-at-a-time enterprise, and a new phrase entered my purchasing lexicon:  "A sweater's worth."  Suddenly I didn't come out of endless Webs fantasy shopping sessions with two balls of sock yarn (that I would never knit but at least didn't cost too much and took up very little space)--I ended up with A Sweater's Worth.

I never got this idea until recently, because I hadn't knit many sweaters.  Suddenly, though, I have the yarn for 4 or 5 sweaters in my stash and I Swear I Don't Know How It Got There.  

One minute I'm surfing Ravelry, the next minute I'm buying 1200 yards of heathered aqua Patons Classic plus 1000 yards of Berroco Cuzco plus 900 yards of KnitPicks Shine Sport.  And this all takes up more space than 1 or 2 balls of Peaches and Creme, y'all!  

I never understood how peoples' stashes grow to extreme levels, taking up rooms and closets and small principalities.  (And not in a superior way--it was just as alien to me as collecting modern art or classic cars.  A financial investment I couldn't envision making.)   I really couldn't fathom a day where I would have 45 sweaters' worth of yarn stacked as high as an elephant's eye.   But here is the part I never understood:

It is possible to buy yarn at a pace that is exponentially higher than one can actually knit it up.

I am not a super fast knitter; I produce a 1000-yard sweater in a month or so.  But I can BUY 1000 yards of yarn in the blink of an eye.  And then I can do it the next day.  All in good faith, all with my queue in mind, all without going over my monthly fun money allotment.  (Well, mostly.)

Now I finally get the yarn diet thing, and the spreadsheets, and the endless talking about stash that occurs on the Interwebs.  The question is whether I will be able to pull myself back from the brink of a full-blown, capital-S Stash before it's too late.  

And if I want to.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ebbs and Flows

"Everything happens..."

"Don't say 'for a reason.'"
"No--everything happens."
- Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog

I haven't been posting much of late, not because I don't have much to say--in fact I've been overflowing with thoughts and musings and reactions and opinions--but because my natural reticence, my inability to possibly offend, and my aversion to conflict keep convincing me that what I have to say is, although legitimate to FEEL, not necessarily good to put on paper, or at least the internet.

This I am working on, I promise, and once life slows down at school enough to get a breath in, I will work on remedying this.  I do promise.  There has been knitting, much knitting, and new books read and ready to review and the sun is coming out and the garden is sprouting and the kids are growing and life is, for the most part, good.

That said--

A good friend and colleague of mine is getting laid off along with several other people in my building, and lots more teachers across the state.  I won't say much more, because this blog is a) not about work and b) not about other people especially if they don't know they're being written about.  Suffice it to say that my friend is an amazing teacher who most likely will not be teaching at all next year through absolutely no fault of her own.

I try very hard not to buy into doom and gloom and conspiracy theories and for the most part I succeed.  But losing this person out of my personal and professional life (well, I guess I'm not losing her as a friend, just a colleague, but she may have to move to find any sort of job since our small college town isn't exactly booming with industry) has hit me hard and has made it more difficult for me to move with energy and positivity through my work days.

I want to make her a sweater as a gift.  She always compliments the work I do--she's one of those people who doesn't realize just how easy knitting is--and I think I will take this on as my June project, a project to ease her out of the school year and into what comes next.

I was thinking about Hey Teach--but is that too ironic?  What would you make for a friend in this situation?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

My April project is done (just 6 days behind schedule!)

It's the ubiquitous February Lady Sweater in Dream in Color Classy.  A big splurge, but worth it.

(Excuse the poor photobooth picture, but it's better than nothing, no?)

I made very few modifications to the pattern as written.  I did decrease away one of the pattern repeats under each arm, because I thought the arms would be too floppy.  I toyed with doing a bit of waist shaping, but that seemed too daunting in a lace pattern.

It still needs buttons, as you can see, but I'm wearing it today anyway!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Pigtails & Bob

See Leann Knit tagged all her readers for this one...a spontaneous self-photo meme.

The rules area:
1. Take a picture of yourself right now. No primping or preparing. Just snap a picture.

2. Load the picture onto your blog.

3. Tag three people to play.

Couldn't resist doing it, since I am wearing my brand new Ravelry t-shirt that my sister got me for my birthday! Gotta love PhotoBooth...

And I must say I don't look as bad as I thought I would, considering I drove 310 miles today, home from Spokane.

I tag--anyone who wants to play!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The finished gift

I just love putting together baby gifts.  And this one was particularly thrifty--I think the most expensive item I bought was the yarn for the sweater.  I found the pants on sale at a discount shop ($2 for two pairs), the shoes at Target, the socks at Tuesday Morning...the book, which you can't quite see, is the only full-price item.  I even used my Jo-Ann 40% off coupon for the buttons...$.98.

I hope this doesn't sound like I'm a skinflint.  I love to buy presents but so often you spend a lot of $$ for not a lot of return.  Especially baby stuff, which is outgrown in the blink of an eye!  

What do you like to buy for baby gifts?  what do you like to receive yourself?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quickest sweater ever!

baby kimono
Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
This pattern and I have a history.

You see, it is the very first pattern I ever made.

I knit two of these baby kimonos while pregnant with Miss E--though her name was "Winky" then--I made one in pastels and one in blues and greens since I didn't know if Winky was a Winker or a Winkette yet.

(Speaking of Miss E, is this not the weirdest face she is making? She is trying to wink and smile at the same time. Pretty entertaining watching it.)

I've since made the pattern two more times as gifts. The pattern calls for cotton, but since that kills my hands, I chose wool instead.

I ended up making this with EXACTLY 220 yards of Cascade 220 paints...whew. I even had to split the yarn to seam one side. It's a gift for a baby shower on Saturday and is finished EARLY. yay me!

The reason this pattern is so great for beginners, or for quick gifts, is that it is all one piece. You knit up the back, then increase on each side for a while to make sleeves, then bind off for the neck and work one arm/front, then go back to your held stitches and do the other arm front, then seam, and, VOILA! All done, all garter stitch, all cute.

The last couple of times I’ve made this sweater I have had weird things happen with the fronts, though–I get to the 40 stitch limit about 2-3 inches shy of the length desired and I end up with more of a double-breasted look than a kimono. I think I need to do a few more rows even at the neck before doing the bindoffs and starting the increases. But I still find this pattern just so enchanting and the perfect little bitesize baby gift with matching onesie & pants!

I’m not crazy about the flashing and pooling with this yarn, but it looks OK in the garter stitch. Think I would have been really unhappy with it in stockinette.

And I can't believe my big girl once fit into one of these herself!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A Knitting Weekend (this time with photos!)

I have come to the realization that I love worsted-weight yarn.  It just provides me with a sort of knitter's equilibrium.

Witness Liesl:
And my February Lady sweater:

Both are top-down; both are simple lace patterns using worsted-weight yarn; both are eminently knittable and relaxing.  I think I'll even knit Liesl again, this time using a bit thicker yarn (aran vs worsted, perhaps?) and the recommended 7 mm needles.  (US 10.75 which are a bit hard to find.)  I fell in love with some dark blue Plymouth Donegal Tweed when I visited a yarn store in Olympia last weekend--they only had one skein and I needed two or three, so I didn't buy it there, but perhaps Webs can do me a solid.  

It's an overcast day today, day six of our nine days off...we spent the morning out in the yard building an eight-foot fence around the garden (we have deer) and planting some of the pea seedlings M started in the kitchen last week.  In the garage I have a dresser to finish refinishing--I'm on the home stretch, since I did the 2nd coat of poly yesterday--just the final buff with the steel wool and the drawer pulls to install.  (I won't mention that I started this project in August.  Oh wait, I just did.)   

I love these sorts of quiet slow days, full of projects and Harry Potter playing on the iPod in the kitchen.  We all orbit slowly about the house, our own little solar system of a family finding the staycation groove.  

I'm not going to think about the 9 weeks grades that are due on Monday, or the conference I'm leaving for on Thursday morning, or the re-written Catcher in the Rye essays that are coming my way Sunday night...for now I'm just thinking about a peaceful quiet cloudy Thursday.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

a knitting weekend (sans photos)

It is spring break--finally--and we have spent the last four days just winding down.  It has been fab.  We fired up the ol' Firebolt (AKA our 1985 VW Vanagon) and headed for Olympia to visit my in-laws, then out to the Olympic Peninsula for one night of camping.  (We are easing the kids back into the camping routine--we hope to do a lot of it this summer.)

The weather was glorious--the kind of weather that (almost) makes up for the past 4 months of rain, snain, slush, snow, hail, and more rain.  We could see Mount Rainier from almost everywhere we drove; yesterday from our campsite we could see the glorious peaks of the Olympics silhouetted against the ice-blue sky, and this morning we set our sights on Mount Baker and headed for home.  (First volcano on the right and straight on until morning?)

I also did just a teensy bit of knitting--I finished the body of the Liesl I started for myself then quickly realized the gauge was all fubared but said oh well and it'll be for my tiny, athletic best friend--I also started a February Lady Sweater for myself and ohmigosh I can't believe how much I love knitting with Dream in Color Classy.  I am in love.  I will probably go back to my old reliable Cascade 220 for the next project (I just can't always justify the $18.00 a skein price, although for 250 yards that is a reasonable expensive, if that makes sense) but, whew.  How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree??