Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I have a lovely friend who writes lovely things and she is inspiring me to rediscover this space as mine.

She's writing two lovely blogs and on the second she is telling all about the books she's reading and what action each inspires her to take. Imagine Amazon.com crossed with your best reading friend crossed with Ben Franklin and that's what it is.

So what has life brought me these months of silence?

Is there anything cuter than a baby snuggled up wearing a handknit you made him?

This is my darling new nephew, who joined us shortly before Thanksgiving.

I've been reading a lot of knitting books and magazines of late. For some reason, like Dumbledore, I enjoy reading the patterns. Of course there is the "I want to make this" factor, but I also just love the mathematics and precision and artistry of them.

Lately, I've started crocheting more. I'm still not super proficient but am gaining in dexterity and speed. I made a tree topper for our Christmas tree, and have noodled around with a few other projects. My gauge is super-dee-duper tight and I'm working on making the movements more natural and less wince-inducing. I can see the potential--it's the learning curve that's daunting.

My takeaway from all of this night-time reading and imagining fibery goodness is to take some of my other reading and make it concrete. Like my friend, creating action items from what I read will help bring it into relief in my life: what place does this have? And does it help me achieve my goals?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Detour from the Sock Tour for a Big Ta-Da

Once upon a time there was a book called Mason-Dixon Knitting. I bought this book on impulse in 2005, when I was pregnant with my daughter. It called to me across a crowded bookstore and said, "Take Up Thy Needles, We Promise It Won't Hurt This Time."

And Lo, it was Correct.

Since then, I've been a huge fan of the Shayne and Gardiner oeuvre, and their smart, well-written books and blog have also led me to other fantastic knitting godmothers, like Ms Righetti, Ms. Zimmermann, and Ms. Starmore.

Funny thing, though, I haven't knit many of their patterns. I've done baby kimonos and ballband dishcloths, and that's it. Until--

The Log Cabin.

Log Cabining, as Kay calls it, is less a pattern and more a lifestyle. It's zen knitting at its best; knit back and forth, make stripes wider or thinner, follow your cabin-y bliss. (Those Moderne Baby Blankets that some people seem to make by the truckload are the love child of Log Cabin and Mondrian.)

Here is mine--over a year in the making (non-monogamous, of course), many many shades of worsted wool on size 8 needles, 9-ridge garter stripes, around and around and around until I felt done.

(National Geographic for scale. The seemingly-semi-annual King Tut issue. Which was actually very interesting but made me laugh when I saw the cover. Circulation down much?)

I started this project a year ago June and worked on it on and off until a week or so ago. I wish my photos did the colors more justice--i'll have to try again--because they are just every shade of lovely in my life. Peacock, olive, royal purple, leaf, denim, charcoal, black and more on the cool side; flame, tangerine, spice, traffic cone, mustard, burgundy, sunshine, and toast on the warm side. Some from stash, some left over from patterns, some from the rest of my Aunt Iva yarn, some purchased just because I couldn't resist. Most solid, some heathered, one marled, one tweed. Cascade 220, nameless worsted wool, Paton's classic, and even some leftover Dream in Color Classy and Artyarns Supermerino.

I love the way the colors play with and off of each other. Combinations I never would have expected to love ended up giving me happy little fits of infatuation: olive and peacock; blue-green and denim blue; sunshine yellow and almost-purple, burgundy and spice.

The knitting in this sucker is so straightforward it's almost like breathing, but there were a few technique references that helped me make it the best blanket it could be.

First off, I had trouble picking up stitches along the sides and tops of the garter stripes, and the first few strips had yucky ridges running along the back. I knew from discussion on the Mason-Dixon KAL that some knitters were just leaving their stitches live on holders, but I didn't want to deal with huge long pieces of waste yarn or tons of holders, especially because I wanted this to be pretty good-sized; plus, I felt like the bound-off strips would give more structure and stability, make it feel more quilt-like.

Fate stepped in just a few weeks after I started the project when the Yarn Harlot posted here about her method for picking up in garter stitch; one outstanding tutorial later I was off and running with a blanket where I like the back almost as much as the front.

So life went on well for a year or so, and then I came to the border, running into the challenge of a garter stitch border in-the-round. Why break that streak of all that lovely knit stitch with a bunch of purling???

Again, with the fate. Fleegle's tutorial for No-Purl Garter In the Round proved just the thing.

The border was a bit dicey with such a big blanket -- it didn't fit comfortably on even my longest circs, so I ended up with splitting the live stitches between two 40" circs around and then using a third 40" as the working needle, kind of like REALLY BIG DPNs.

The only thing I'd do differently if I did the border again would be to use YO increases (as in Fleegle's tutorial) rather than the raised increases I used--with black yarn I had a hard time seeing and marking the increase lines clearly and so two of my corners are kind of messed up. (In the sort of no-one-will-notice-but-me-but-it-still-bugs-me way.)

After I used up TWO ENTIRE balls of Patons Classic Wool for the border (12 ridges) it was time to bind off. what to use, what to use. Garter stitch is so flexible and stretchy, I hated to do a traditional bindoff, which is so, um, binding. I thought about a sewn bindoff but then got hives about the huge piece of yarn I would need to use for the sewing part. Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off was a contender, because I've been loving it so much for toe-up socks, but it didn't have the gravitas I envisioned.

Enter another tried-and-true Mason-Dixon staple: applied i-cord.

If you read Kay and Ann's blog you know they harbor an abiding love of i-cord and all things Elizabeth Zimmermann. Kay, in fact, had written a post about how to do a contrasting applied i-cord without any fancy manuevers or extra knitting to hide the "color blip." (Read it from her: it has pictures. I can vouch for the effectiveness.) The only thing I did differently than Kay is mine is only a 3-stitch i-cord.

At each corner, I knit one round of "free" i-cord before and after the corner stitch, which gave it a little ease. I think if I wanted the corners squarer, I could have done 2 rows. I didn't care.

So what did I end up with? A cushy, squishy, oh-so-warm blanket...reversible because the pick-up seams are hardly noticeable (and actually kind of pretty)...with a flexible, vivid red edging that echoes the center square and ties it all together.

We all love it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tour of socks, part three: Sharp Right Turn

Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
In my very last post before going on my extended period of radio silence, I wrote about visiting Knit Purl in Portland and buying this yarn.

It's since become a pair of Skew socks, from Knitty, Winter 2009. This is an extremely clever, albeit extremely fiddly, pattern that yields a funny-looking but good-fitting (for my average-size feet and calves) sock.

The pattern is complex, no doubt. The designer, Lana Holden, is some kind of mathematical genius person and I'm guessing she dreamed it up in some sort of Beautiful Mind trance; possibly Paul Bettany appeared with a little girl and dictated the whole thing to her. For us average knitter types, though, it's a bit daunting. (When printed out, the pattern is 6 pages long.) (Yes, you read that right.)

Each bit of this pattern requires an unfortunate amount of attention to detail as well as Kitchener skillz for the heel. (Yes. The heel.) (I know.) There's very little mindlessness to this pattern because just when you get in the swing of things it changes from increasing every second row to every fourth, or something equally fidgety.

I started the first sock, the left one pictured here, back in the spring sometime, and worked on it sporadically. I hit some sort of snag that I can't remember (maybe Ed Harris, wearing a black fedora, was stalking me?) and set the project baggie aside until July. Then, during our idyllic week on beautiful Camano Island, I got it back out, fixed my mistake, figured out where I was in the pattern, and finished it up, starting the right foot immediately and finishing that two weeks later.

The socks fit well and I love the yarn, though it's a bit, I don't know, ROPY-feeling against my feet. It's a tightly spun yarn (Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in colorway Tahoe) and it may soften over time, I guess.

The verdict: interesting intellectual exercise that yielded good-fitting socks with a lovely diagonal stripe, but not exactly the mindless purse knitting I hope for in socks.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Divesting; or, Requiem for a Chair

Picture it: Bellingham, winter 2003. A hugely pregnant me navigates the aisles of Toys R Us with my mom, in search of a gliding rocker for my nursery. We've already been to three furniture stores and the cost of their gliders has nearly made me go into premature labor. This one, simple, creamy, and (best of all) AFFORDABLE goes home with us. Over the next seven years I log hour upon hour in this chair: nursing, snuggling, reading, or simply perching, watching Mr D and then Miss E play. If only these things came with odometers; I've surely glided hundreds of miles, front-to-back, back-to-front.

Today it went home with another soon-to-be mama. One who didn't mind the rip in the cushion, and talked with her mom about what color fabric would look good for slipcovers. One who'll also have a winter baby. I told her it was a good chair for nursing, and that the back is tall enough that when you fall asleep with the baby in your arms you don't hurt your neck. As I spoke I could see in a flash the exact view--crib, changing table, CD player, door--I saw for so many hours when Mr. D was an infant.

This summer has been one of divestiture: co-sleeper, breast pump, jogging stroller, crib, bike trailer, hiking backpack--all craigslisted or passed on to other families. Bag upon bag of books, toys, and clothing has gone to Goodwill or to consignment stores. It feels wonderful to see empty space in the garage where once STUFF was.

It's melancholy, though, to realize that my kids don't need that stuff any more; that they can sit on the couch and tear through Calvin and Hobbes (as Mr. D's been doing all day) or ride with training wheels all the way to the neighborhood park (as Miss E did last week). The stuff of infancy and early childhood is rightfully moving on to new kids and families; I love being able to bless others with the objects that greased the wheels of our family machine for the last seven years.

And with each object moving on, there is more space for the next phase, the next project; big kid bikes, tools, art supplies, camping gear. I hope we remember, though, the peace of fewer things, of more space, of ROOM.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tour of socks, part two: Modified Milkmaid

Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
Strictly speaking, this should have been the first stop on our tour, because it was the first pair of socks I made last year, and the first of my semi-obsessive set of Upstream constructions. Oops. Please excuse me the non-chronological order of our tour.

One of the patterns in New Pathways for sock knitters is for the Milkmaid Socks. They are a darling pair of white and blue socks with a lace inset. (Most milkmaids would probably end up with cow pie on their socks, but these must be for some sort of Disney-fied clean and tidy milkmaid, or for one with highly effective rubber boots.)

I received this Lane Cervinia yarn in a swap package and it sat around in my stash for a year or so until, one day, it called out to me that it needed to be socks.

(This was after I tried to force it into becoming an Ishbel shawlette. Epic Fail. It wanted to be socks.)

I dug out the New Pathways book and, remembering how much this yarn hated to be lace, started a standard toe and a plain stockinette foot on size 2 needles. By the time I finished the gusset and heel I decided to spice things up a bit and stole a modified Feather-and-Fan cuff from the Milkmaid socks. (It uses p2tog rather than k2tog for the decreases, which yields a very interesting texture.)

And, where I'd ended up with neck and shoulder pain when I knitted socks on size 0s or 1s, size 2s seemed to work just dandy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A tour of socks, part one: Marsh-a, Marsh-a, Marsh-a!

Originally uploaded by Wordpurler
In the spirit of rediscovering our friendship, I'd like to start small. To start with the small projects that I have been doing while taking breaks from (procrastinating on) my larger, more complicated projects.

I've been a sporadic sock-knitter since I made my first pair in 2007, but for some reason (coughCatBordhicough) I have really been churning them out lately.

It's not just because she's from the Pacific Northwest, or that she's a former teacher, that I think she's a genius. Cat Bordhi's brain really must work differently from other knitters'. I've been working my way (non-systematically) through the various "sockitectures" in her book New Pathways for Sock Knitters, and with her clear directions and clever twists, each pair of socks turns out just lovely.

This particular pair were made for my sister-in-law. She loves these colors, so when I got the yarn on sale from Knitpicks (Felici, in the color Marsh, now discontinued) I knew they would be for her.

I used a Whirlpool toe, then did 2x1 rib across the top of the foot, then the Upstream architecture for the gusset, which creates a triangle shape on top of the instep. Then I did a reinforced heel and a stockinette leg, then ended with a 2x1 rib cuff and Jeni's Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff.

I don't know what it is about Upstream but it fits my foot and leg incredibly well. And, apparently, my sister-in-law's, because she loves these. She's not a knitter, so the idea of seamless socks ("There's no bump over my toe!" she exclaimed) was revolutionary.

As for the yarn--Felici is incredibly soft and silky. I used size 2 needles so I'm a bit worried about wear--the fabric wasn't incredibly dense--but it really was a joy to knit with.

Next up: more socks!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hello old friend

April 6? Can that be right? Surely Blogger has made a mistake.

(It hasn't. And don't call it Shirley.)

You know how you have that friend who lives far away and sometimes you go months without calling or e-mailing and the longer time you spend without calling you convince yourself more and more that it would be awkward, nay, an IMPOSITION to call, and then one day you put on your big girl panties and you dial that long-distance number and you hear her voice say "Hello?" and you say, "Hi, it's me," and she says, "Hello!" with joy in her voice and, "I'm sorry it's been so long, I've been MEANING to call you," and you say, "Me, too!" and then the conversation is off and running and you wonder what took you so long?

That's me with this blog.


Hello! I've been MEANING to call you. There's been knitting, and thinking, and writing, and ONE MILLION HOUSE PROJECTS and travel and birthdays and all kinds of wonderfulness.

I can't wait to fill you in.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


I am not the world's most assertive person.

I am totally comfortable working with teenagers, and I have no problem managing my classes...It's my peers that get me.

When grown-ups are rude, insensitive, nasty, and/or unprofessional (and I've worked with folks that managed to be all four at once!) I just have no idea what to do. Sometimes it's because I don't want to draw anyone's fire...sometimes it's just that I don't want to be seen as bitchy. I've always been a peacemaker, and I forget sometimes that just covering over a problem sometimes lets it fester, and ends up making me feel bitter and unappreciated. I've really been working on this in my relationships lately.

So, with that in mind, dear readers--let me regale you with a story of how I grew some gumption this weekend.

We had dropped the kids off in Olympia with Grandma and Grandpa and then drove the rest of the way to Portland for a gift-night-away. We checked into in this cool hotel and then headed out for some exploration. (We're pretty wild; our most solid plan included Powell's and the Deschutes Brewpub.) As we walked out the door in the rain, I think I actually heard the angels sing and saw the clouds part for just an instant: kitty corner from our hotel was--wait for it--Knit Purl.

As we walked past I made M promise that I could go back before it closed that day. The treat of visiting a yarn store I've heard about on many podcasts and seen ads for in my favorite publications gleamed like an aura around the rest of the afternoon. We had a lovely late lunch and a fantastic poke about Powell's, leaving with gifts for everyone. (I bought Alice Starmore's The Celtic Collection for $10 plus a Robin Hobb book I've been trying to find used; M bought a pint glass.) He decided to poke about for a bit more and head back to the hotel, releasing me to go to Knit Purl.

He knows well that he will be bored out of his mind if he goes to a new yarn store with me. My normal pattern is this:
  1. wander around the store 10 times (minimum) and take mental inventory of their stock list
  2. imagine all the projects I could make with all the yarn I see
  3. inspect the store samples
  4. fondle the yarns I haven't seen before in person
  5. pet the old familiar ones
  6. become completely overwhelmed because of course I don't have my queue with me or even know what's on it and hadn't planned to buy yarn today and - ooh is that Madelinetosh? - and what on earth do I need? needles? a project bag? aaaaaaaaah!
  7. then, and only then, buy something practical as a souvenir. (Seriously. In Port Townsend last month, I ended up with a row counter.)
This process usually takes me about 45 minutes. Now you see why M elected to go back to the hotel and read his book rather than watching me orbit the store like an ADD goldfish.

So here's where the gumption comes in.

There were about five or six other customers in the store, all pretty much doing the same thing as I was. Circling, petting, choosing--just breathing in the yarn fumes. But one customer was a bit more high maintenance. When I came in, she was at the counter and the saleswomen were looking something up for her on Ravelry. She was about 6 months pregnant, very chicly dressed--including those knitted Ugg boots that I personally think look like slippers but probably cost more than I make in two weeks) and sounded like she was an experienced knitter--asking about Spud and Chloe yarn (which Knit Purl doesn't carry), talking about patterns. She was completely monopolizing the sales staff and talking very loudly, running back and forth to the sock yarn wall (I think she was looking at the ShibuiKnits selection).

The thing that got me, though, was at one point, about two minutes after I walked in, the conversation turned to "big box" shopping.

Disparagingly, one of the saleswomen talked about when people come in asking for big box brands. "Oh, you have to go to someplace like Michael's for that, " she sneered.

"Yeah," said Preggo Uggs, mimicking their response to such a gauche request. "'Go out the door and up the road a few blocks.'"

"No," replied Snobby McSnobster. "For that I think you have to go to the suburbs."

Cue catty laughter all around.

The clouds rolled in on my lovely treat. The store's atmosphere went from boutique to bitch; from the best meaning of "exclusive" to the worst. I got a lump in my throat, and I felt like leaving--just slinking out the door. I clearly was not Knit Purl clientele material.

There's room in the world for every kind of knitter, I fumed silently, and knitting snobbery chaps my hide. If someone wants to use Red Heart for every project, at least they're knitting, and not axe murdering. If I were that saleswoman, I'd use that as an opening to say something like, "We don't carry that line here, but may I show you something similar?" or "Have you ever tried X?" Every person is a potential customer and every customer is worth your time and respect, even if they're going to leave with one skein of Cascade 220, not $250 worth of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino.

I pulled myself together, though, and ended up choosing two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the colorway "Tahoe," a beautiful blend of purples and aquas. It just matched my mood (not to mention my shirt) and will be a lovely reminder of our rainy weekend in Portland.

(side note: I see why so many people buy sock yarn as souvenirs--it's usually a good price point, there are often local dyers available, and it's very portable. I just wish I knit more socks.)

As I took it up to the counter, I resolved to say something when I normally wouldn't have, when I usually would just have stored up my frustration and never darkened their doors again. As the saleswoman (not the snobby one, phew!) wrapped up my yarn and swiped my card, I mentioned how excited I'd been to see their store was so close to my hotel and that it was my first visit.

"Well, welcome!" she said.

"I don't mean to be rude," I said, "but I just wanted to say that I live in the suburbs, and I sometimes shop at Michael's. To hear that as a topic of conversation in such a disparaging tone when I came into the shop didn't feel very welcoming."

She looked a bit chagrined. "I can see that. I'm sorry."

"Just some food for thought from a customer service perspective," I said, smiling, and took my yarn.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The cutest shoes in the world

Mary Janes from Ysolda's pattern...adapted slightly because I ran out of the stripey yarn, so I did blue soles with some leftover Knitpicks Essential.

Nothing is cuter than baby shoes.

My colleague, who welcomed his baby daughter last week, showed me a photo of her wearing them...and they're even cuter on a baby...what a fun pattern!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shout out to the singletons

I haven't posted in so long, Safari forgot about "blogger" and I had to type in the whole address. Sheesh.

What a week.

Mr. D came down with a persistent and mysterious virus that has kept his temperature just too high for me to feel at all comfortable with him going to school. This virus coincided with the one week EVER since we had kids that M has been out of town for more than 2 nights--he's attending an education conference in Arizona.

This means that for the first time ever I have missed a full week of school. (Or, to be precise, as of tomorrow it will be a full week.)

It's great that I can keep in touch, somewhat, with school via remote access to e-mail, and my publications staffs can talk to me on the phone. But it's isolating, and stressful, to be so needed in two places at once.

So: shout out to the single parents out there. I've been one for three days and that's enough for me.

So--you'd think I'd be knitting during the hours of house arrest, watching over a sickly coughing 101-feverish boy, but alas...duty calls. Instead, I've been commenting on essays, writing lesson plans, and catching up on some professional reading. (OK, I admit to a few loooooooong rows on my becoming-considerably-unwieldy log cabin afghan.)

So here's to a better tomorrow and an end to this endless week...

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Feeling Crochety

What a couple of weeks it's been.

For most, January is a time of new beginnings, of fresh starts, of optimism and the return of light.

I realized this year that I don't feel that way about January at all, because I'm a teacher.

My fresh start is in September and that's when I do much of my goal-setting. The cycle of the calendar year is somewhat incidental; it's school years that shape my world.

So, for a high school teacher, January is a mid-point: yearbook deadlines, semester grades (and grading...oy) and writing umpteen letters of recommendation for students' college applications.

This January was busier than I can ever remember.

First off, on the personal front, my darling baby boy turned 7. Though we didn't do a big party, we had a wonderful family weekend of going out to breakfast, bowling, movies, and friends. My mom and dad came over from Spokane (a 400+ mile trip for a weekend--they must really love that little guy) and we had a really fun and relaxing time.

Then came finals. There is a certain amount of teacher amnesia that happens for me each year. You know how the memory of labor fades over time? It's got to be some kind of evolutionary trick to keep us having children. Well, the pain of semester finals grading is always a surprise to me--the professional equivalent of labor--and after collecting exams and papers from every single one of my English students, I settled into a week of 12-14 hour days to simultaneously finish last semester--because the teaching load doesn't change just because there are finals to finish--and begin this one.

I don't like to complain about my job, because I love it. So I hope this doesn't seem like complaining--it's just the facts of the profession. I imagine tax accountants feel the same way about the time from January to April 15th. But my normal routines of life get upset and my boundaries get a bit tweaked...So it's nice to have grades posted and be back to normal.

With normal came a few hours here and there in the evenings to knit (and crochet) and plan out projects. I had bought yarn for a sweater for M in the new year's day sale at my LYS. I'll start it as soon as I finish my Central Park Hoodie (a sadly unblogged project, but both arms are done and the body up to the neck divide. I'm knitting it in the round with steeks because I'm crazy that way). Then will come some sort of vest for my mom, and then three baby blankets (I may do quilts instead) for the three friends I have expecting babies in June; one girl, two boys. Last, but not least, I bought the kit for this vest, which will be the colorwork project I never finished from NaKniSweMoDo.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Ms. Smith, please tell us about your recent...activities.

Well, it all started with a little center loop. I guess it's the way the Japanese do it. And they're a very practical society, so I just thought I could, y'know, handle it.

How did that go?

All right at first. Slow, steady, careful. But then...


It grew. And I kept saying, just one more, just this one, well, maybe another, and another. Before I knew it, it was multiple rounds per day.

And how did you feel?

Well, overwhelmed at first. I wasn't good at it, I didn't have the knack. But then it felt natural. Almost like I couldn't remember life without it. I don't want to give it up. It might be a part of me. I might try more than one color at a time. But first I want to see how far I can take it.

Thank you. We'll take that into consideration. You may go back to your room now, and your...hobbies.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Almost ready to plunge in

Well, the ball is rolling and the crochet book is on its way.

Yep, I did it.

And then, Knitting Daily sealed the deal. Watch this woman crochet! It's like magic!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Slippery Slope

The cover of this book is making me want to cheat.

I mean, I've had dreams where I could crochet, but when I wake up, I look over at my knitting needles and think how happy I am with them.

I'd never purposefully cheat.

Maybe a DC here and there, maybe a surreptitious reading of the crochet instructions in my big books of crafts. Maybe a longing look at some brightly colored ripple afghans, or some sturdy wool potholders.

The last thing I need is another monkey on my back, the juggling of hooks, the added projects. But then I see a granny square or a cute amigurumi-- my mouth starts to water, and my fingers start itching.

Monday, January 11, 2010

10 Things You Don't Know About Me...

Lolly generously tagged the world with this one. I like the title so much more than the old "Random Things" list. It's really hard for me to think of random things because I'm pretty...sigh...boring.

That said, there's a lot I haven't shared about myself on here. Anyone care to take a gander & walk through the wilds of my weirdness?
  1. My favorite TV show of all time, one that can make me cry or laugh just thinking about certain episodes, and which I definitely think has influenced my speech patterns (imitate much?) is "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
  2. I have the Buffy theme song as my ring tone. Much as it chafed to spend $3 for about nine bits of information, I get a happy little feeling when my phone rings and I hear the Nerf Herders.
  3. When I saw "Nerf Herders" was the name of the band performing the Buffy theme song, I knew the name was a Star Wars allusion without being told. ("Who's scruffy-looking?")
  4. Whenever I talk to someone with an accent different from mine, I end up imitating it. I don't mean to--it just happens. Maybe that comes from growing up in the Northwest with no discernible regional accent besides Generic American. (I did just learn from my friend the linguistics professor that we say "beg" for "bag" and "aig" for "egg." So we're getting there.) When I lived in Texas I would come home with a strange hybrid Houston/Mississippi/Louisiana accent, courtesy of the hours I spent on the phone for my job talking to schools in those areas. When I worked in Canada, I picked up BC cadences. (They tend to end with a questioning sound? At the end of the sentences?)
  5. Up until fall of my senior year of high school, I wanted to become a medical doctor.
  6. I worked my way through college on scholarships and as a resident adviser. I actually made money every quarter rather than paying it.
  7. I am a mezzo-soprano now sadly out of practice. I sang in high school, at state contests, in state honors groups, in my college concert choir, and in various church choirs and worship teams. Now, I mostly sing in the shower.
  8. Both of my children were born without medical pain interventions. I did like the Fentanyl afterward, however.
  9. In the spring of 2000, I swear that I saw a two-humped camel in someone's front yard near Greenville, Mississippi. I was alone in a rental car at the time and no one can corroborate my story. But I stick by it.
  10. It doesn't help my believability that, a few months later, I swore I saw a camel on side of I-10 while M and I were driving to San Antonio. My propensity to see imaginary--or were they?--camels is now quite the joke in my family.
Anyone care to join me? link in the comments!

And, bonus #11: though I wanted to add some pictures for visual interest, I just can't do it. The journalism teacher in me would be so disappointed in the blogger in me for stealing images from other people. (Even though the realist in me points out that most images on the internet are already stolen, so hey....)

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Anne left a comment asking what felting is. Thanks, Anne, for your comment and compliments on the patterns! Since I couldn't reply via e-mail (why does Blogger do that?) I hope it's OK I answer your question with a post.

I have to begin by saying I am certainly no expert, just someone who has read a lot of knitting books and magazines and watched Bev Galeskas make a princess hat on Knitty Gritty.

Felting is where a knitter takes a lot of time to knit something with wool yarn, usually using needles 2-3 sizes larger than normal, and then sticks it in hot water, agitates it so there's lots of heat and friction, and gets something much smaller, thicker, and no longer totally recognizable as knitting.

This works because wool, being a natural fiber, has scales that open up with the heat and friction and rub and stick together, kind of like cockleburrs. It's the exact same thing that happens when we rat our hair.

(Can you tell I came of age in the '80s? Does anyone rat their hair any more? Oh the ratting and Aqua Net that went on in the girls' bathroom after P.E.! It's a wonder we don't all have lung disease from the hairspray we inhaled.)

It's also possible to create felt just from raw wool roving. I think that's how felt was made in the olden days (or, I guess, still today for commercial felt). This yields flat fabric that can be cut and sewn.

Knitted items that are felted become very thick, warm, and nearly water-proof because the thick wool fabric repels water.

Felted garments popular today are slippers, mittens, and shaped hats. Knitters also like to make felted handbags because the felt fabric is more stable and strong than typical knitted fabric; it won't stretch out of shape or wear holes as easily.

I think that about covers it--let me know if i've answered your questions, Anne.

And--does anyone have any good felting tips, tricks, or favorite patterns?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Even More Fun with Slippers

The winter break is nearly over...but I squeezed a few more small projects in.

My kids got really excited about slippers, in a way they've never been about sweaters. Go figure. So off we went a couple of weeks ago to my most favoritest yarn store, Apple Yarns, for some Cascade 220.

(I had mentioned here that I have usually used Lamb's Pride Bulky for my clogs. I think this will continue to be true for grown-up ones. However, Cascade 220 just has so many cool colors that we went that direction in order to get the exact desired shades of blue, black, orange, and pink. Plus I really love Cascade 220.)

I wound each hank into a center pull ball (best presents of 2008? my swift and my ball winder) and then wound a second, smaller ball. I then put the two balls together and wound a double-thick ball so I could just pull two strands at once without multiple balls of yarn tangling with each other. It was a little hard to eyeball the half-way point, but my estimates weren't too off. (It did occur to me that having a food scale would be helpful, but I don't have one, so...)

Ms. E's came off the needles first. She was actually pushing the project bag in my hands. "Mom, are you knitting my slippers?" "Mom, are they done yet?" "Mom, we need to felt my slippers!" Very cute, even if slightly tyrannical.

Mr. D's were just as easy and took only a couple of sessions. I think I knit each slipper in about two hours. Funny how small stuff takes less time than big stuff.

They felted up beautifully, no mishaps, and although the kids didn't LOVE trying on wet sloppy slippers ("Ew, this feels weird!") it was nice to really customize the fit. I spun the water out in the machine, dried them over the heating vent for a day or so, and put puffy paint on the bottoms for traction. Voila!

Yardage notes: Each set took about a half-skein of the foot color, and nearly a full skein of the sole/cuff color. Mr. D's was very close with the soles; after knitting on the second slipper's second sole, I had a tail of only about 3 inches left. I could have been more economical with my tails for seaming and saved a couple of yards, though.