Friday, August 31, 2007

To Thee, Alone, Will I Be Faithful.

Project monogamy is a wonderful thing. I have finished the centre panel of Print o' the Wave, picked up all 640 stitches around the edge, and knit the first row. I've only been knitting this thing for 10 days. It's coming together super fast - I think the final total will be around two weeks.

Yesterday I went to Fun Knits with Karen to pick up my first ever Addi Turbo. It's one of their new lace needles - 3.5mm in diameter and 120 centimeters long. This is one big needle. I have to say, I am completely wild about it. The cable is so smooth and just the right amount of flexible, without being too floppy. The join is everything it should be (although I can see a little gap in there, which could prove problematic if you were knitting with a very fine or splitty yarn) and the tips.....oh, the tips. They are fairly sharp (not as sharp as my Boye 14" straights, which easily draw blood) and despite the smoothness of the needle, are somehow grippy. I am not sure what dread hand or eye framed that fearful symmetry, but it was genius...this needle is ideally suited to its task. It was well worth my $25.

So I am now quite sympathetic with all those people who blog about the futility of photographing lace in progress: get a load of this very educational picture of the Print o' the Wave stole centre panel, on the new Addi Lace needle with 640 stitches picked up around the edge, corner markers in place. (Thanks for the markers, Natalie!)

Clear as mud.

Although it's only the end of August, fall seems to be here already. I read this beautiful paragraph from one of my favourite bloggers yesterday, and it made me shiver.

The summer is gone and the wool-sweater months are here once again. For the last few nights the temperature has dipped below zero for a short while. In the mornings the fog has been lying on the lake. Most of the leaves are still green but here and there are few early-birds where you can spot colours changing and a few have fallen off. The moment of standing outside in the very early hour today by the lake drinking the first cup of coffee and breathing the foggy morning air felt very good. When I stepped into the warm kitchen the contrast between the warm inside and cold outside was clear and I loved the feeling of rubbing cold hands against eachother to warm them up a bit. It is definately a wool season again.
I admit I actually cried a little bit when I read it. I don't know what it is about Lene, but I think I get teary-eyed more often reading her blog than any other. Partly I think I romanticize life above the Arctic Circle...and who wouldn't, the way she presents it. She has a quiet, introspective style that seems perfectly suited to her life there in northern Finland, with her lake and her caribou and her smiley dog. Partly, too, there is a truth about her words because, though she blogs in English, it isn't her mother tongue. Somehow her emotions emerge more clearly because of this...there isn't a lot of verbal clutter in her sentences. (Unlike, say, mine.)

Anyway, I think wool weather is almost here on the west coast of Canada, too. The nights have been cold lately...nothing like Lene's lakeside home, where it has gone below zero already, but I've needed St Brigid a couple of times this month. The garden is still thriving, though I can tell things are slowing down quite a bit.
The rose bush, complete with elegant garden spider taking her chances in her new web. It's almost egg-laying time for these ladies - they are all over the place outside. The rose bush is the one thing that will bloom until November if properly trimmed of dead flowers...last year it was quite beautiful. These particular roses smell lovely, too - after three years I am finally reaping the rewards of putting every banana peel we generate, around it.
Every June I agonize over spending Mr HalfSoledBoots' hard-earned cash on annuals, and every August I wish I had spent more.
The bamboo has come back, at last, after almost being wiped out by a February cold snap way back in aught-five.

Tonight Charlotte goes for her first ever friend's-house-sleepover. I have a feeling the phone will ring sometime between 10:00 PM and 4:00 AM and selfishly, I rather hope it does.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hearts of Stone. (Well, arteries anyway.)

Thank you, Nigella, for being your fabulous and inimitable self. For you have given me Lunch, in all its melting crispy glory.

This is from Nigella Bites - Nigella's rendition of Elvis Presley's renowned Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich. I had it with my favourite comfort drink, Ovaltine, but I felt like I really should be washing it down with vodka and valium.

It's just a grilled cheese sandwich, except instead of the cheese you put in peanut butter and a mashed up banana. And if you are a whole wheat girl regularly, you have to use white for this. Don't fight it - don't fight the white.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Work Continues Apace.

I spent the better part of last week working on Charlotte's sixth birthday party, which we had at the park but which ended up being rained out. I took this just before we all piled in and God closed the door.

Party stuff took a lot of time but I still managed to spend a bit on Print o' the Wave.

I could use a little affirmation from you guys on this one. Here's my problem: the pattern calls for provisional cast-ons for each half of the stole, which are then grafted at centre back so that the pattern is in a mirror image, with the waves going in the same direction down each side of the body.

I don't know if she calls for this method because it's traditional, or because it's unnecessarily complicated. Eunny is a wonderful knitter but sometimes I wonder if she secretly flogs herself with a bundle of circular needles as a way to make the knitting experience even more tortuous.

I had a few options for dealing with this problem, because I don't care for the three-row band of stockinette at centre back when you follow the directions as given. I considered:

1) knitting the whole back as one piece, without bothering to reverse the flow of the wave pattern so that it appears as a mirror image. I actually think it would look just fine this way.

2) do the provisional cast-on using a circular needle instead of waste yarn, then knit one half of the centre panel. Break the yarn and join in again at the provisional cast-on, beginning the second half of the centre panel on the first row and knitting off the circular needle. This would create the same mirror-image effect as her directions, but without the centre stockinette row and all the plaguey kitchener stitch.

3) suck it up and do it her way.

I chose option 2.

Here is the centre of the shawl, with a perle cotton lifeline in place. I think this looks okay -- not perfect but it'll do. How good or bad it looks actually depends on whether your eye goes to the pattern of holes (the openwork) or the waves (the increases/decreases). I question whether non-knitters will even notice it...and if they do they will most likely think it deliberate. What do you think? The lifeline is still in place so I can easily rip back to this point and change it, if it needs changing.

At this rate I will be making a trip to Fun Knits this week to pick up an Addi Lace needle to work the edge. I need one that's about 120 cm long, which is hard to find, and since this is the first of what will be many lace projects, I don't mind investing the $20 for a really good needle.

And, talking of Eunny, this fall I am planning to tackle a knock-off of this beauty, using my trusty copy of Cables Untangled. I have high hopes for this one, but I just have to find the perfect yarn. I had my eye on an Elsebeth Lavold that Webs has on clearance, but I think it might be too knits up to 18/10 cm. I think I'll have to go with a worsted, or light-worsted, though I was hoping for a quick project. But then, St Brigid only took me seven weeks, right?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

You knew it was coming...

I quote my brother:

Happy Christmas countdown to all the Yule-obsessed! Today is August 25, four months until Christmas today!

The Ber Months begin seven days from now. Summer's been brutally hot here in the South: time for a temperature down-turn and some more civilized climate.

So everybody: get excited, think about turkey (deep fried?), ham, fruitcake, rum, and eggnog. Think about snow, scarves, mittens, and pinched noses. Think about fires, dark drinks, steaming mugs of chocolate, and deep armchairs in the firelight.

Thank you, Clumsy. I would only add:
Think about wool.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's not easily apparent, though.

So I followed a link on my sister's Google ads to an I.Q. test, which I took, and it turns out I have an I.Q. of 123 which wiki tells me is TOTALLY FREAKIN' SMART.

HA!! I knew it. I just KNEW all those stupid teachers were wrong.

I'll think about that while I do some crunches.

Last week at knit night I rode over to Kate's, as usual, but misjudged the amount of daylight left and ended up having to leave the bike there and get a ride home. It took me five days to get around to it, but today I ran over to her place, got the bike, and rode home. (In case you feel like patting me on my sweaty back, the walk warm-up was 10 minutes, the run was about 20 minutes AND NO I DID NOT STOP, and the ride was 10 or 15.) *

I've been doing this a lot lately (riding, running, whatever). I realized with a vague kind of jolt, a few months ago, that I'm not getting any younger. This shocking revelation prompted a long hard look at my fitness level and led to an uncomfortable truth: "later" doesn't ever get here...the only choice I have is Now, or Not.

After two years of belly dancing I can confidently say my fitness level has improved, but at the age of 33 I really should be doing more and harder exercise. The belly dance is great for internal fitness, a bit of sculpting, and skeletal muscle health, but it falls down in some areas...especially bone density.

Blah blah blah weight loss, blah blah blah heart disease, blah blah blah diabetes, blah blah blah osteoporosis, blah.

On the other hand: logically, my heart only has so many beats in it, right? And should I really be using up my allotted beats this quickly, or should I conserve them for my old age?

* Edit: Mapquest tells me it was 2.2 miles. TWO POINT TWO MILES PEOPLE. How embarrassed am I that it took me that long to run 2.2 miles? However, how proud am I that I ran 2.2 miles without stopping?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

This One's FO You, Gwen

Serenade Angel
Designed By
: Rebecca Waldrop for MarBek Designs
Begun: in the time before time, when the earth was young and the butts of Scotsmen were still faintly blue.
Finished: thirty minutes ago (August 19, 2007)
Stitch count: approximately 175 by 300
18-count aida fabric, in "Victorian Christmas Red"
Mods: none, you Philistines. Modifications are for the free and carefree life of knitters. I slavishly followed every subtle nuance and infinitessimal colour change in this chart.

I should tell you that it's very hard to photograph cross-stitch. None of these pictures remotely do this piece justice, nor even accurately depict the colours.

The approach of Christmas (and the "brr" months, as my brother calls the four months leading up to Yule) always spurs me to a renewed interest in cross-stitching. In my circles lately there has been a fair bit of excited chat about cross-stitch: it seems a lot of those who knit were at one time stitchers too. All this talk of charts, DMC, Balger, hoops and tapestry needles induced me to dig around in the stash and pull out some albatrosses that have haunted my sleepless nights for years.

This is the first of three angel patterns I bought in the early 1990's. The other two, "Herald Angel" and "Canticle Angel" (by the same designer and similar in style) haven't been started yet but will, in time, complete the series.

So this is an enormous relief - a rather weighty WIP (work in progress) that has been waiting for at least three years for 12 background crosses and a bit of gold ribbon around the edge of the halo. It's difficult to explain why it took me so long to finish - it's a complicated and boring story about my inability to use a hoop because of fear of crushing the multitude of fussy metallic threads, and the size and weight of the frame on which it was therefore mounted. (See? even the précis is complicated and boring.)

I can't tell you how glad I am to have this sucker finished. Cross-stitch is a wonderful and absorbing hobby, but you can't really take a piece of this size with you on your travels. As a result, you are limited to the amount of time you can find to sit absolutely still with a strong light over your left shoulder, chart clearly visible and very close by. It's extremely time-consuming.

A bit of a closeup for your delectation.

This is the first of four large and outstanding works-in-progress which I pledge to have finished by the end of this next year. At the earliest. The other three are, in order of importance:
1- Charlotte's Christmas stocking. Ideally I would like this one to be done by this Christmas. The chart is still lost and I have ordered another one. When it arrives, I will be stitching before you can say "Yes, Virginia".
2- The Beatrix Potter Storybook Sampler that I started while pregnant with my first child, serenely expecting many days ahead when I could sit in a rocking chair with a cherubic infant sleeping in a cot beside me, stitching fondly on a beautiful addition to her lovely nursery. (Go ahead: amuse yourself by playing "spot the fallacies" on that last sentence.) I have finished 5 of 8 motifs on this. There are 75 different symbols in this chart (so around 65 different colours). It is on 18-stitches-per-inch fabric.
3- The "Enchanted Alphabet", started circa 1994, a lovely little nursery-themed thing which I am 60% done. (It was midway through this piece that I started the ill-fated "Serenade Angel".)

It feels good to be doing this again, but I admit I have gotten a bit older and it seems I need a stronger light now. I think I may be forced to invest in an Ott-Lite if I plan to finish these projects with my eyesight still intact.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Spiral Scarves...And The Countdown Begins.

Attention Sandra: do not read this post.

This year we're doing something different for Christmas presents. With the kids in the family getting a little older and more aware of Who Got What and She Got To Unwrap More Than I Did, it's becoming more and more important to rein them in. To be fair to them, it's not only the children that need reining in...come 10.30 AM on Christmas Day I am always looking hopefully under the tree to see if there's anything I've missed.

My sister-in-law and I decided to do it this year: "handmade" gifts. This doesn't necessarily mean "knitted", although, realistically, knitting will figure prominently.

I had bought some bouclé yarn last year, with vague thoughts of knitting ponchos for all my nieces...after half of one poncho, when I was crying bitter tears of boredom, I abandoned the project. The yarn will now become spiral scarves for the girls, with matching wristers.

This one is in camo (hard to see in the picture), for a very non-girly 8-year-old.

The thing with knitting for children is, there's always the very real possibility that they'll despise what you have made for them, send a faint sneer your way on Christmas morning, and promptly consign it to the Goodwill bag. Good news is, with acrylic bouclé yarn that I got on a BOGO sale and spent one day knitting, it won't break my heart. And, with the perversity common in non-knitters in general, and children in particular, they are more likely to be enthusiastic about acrylic bouclé than about, say, cashmere laceweight.

The pale blue. For a slightly girlier niece....haven't decided which, yet.

Speaking of laceweight, here is the first work-in-progress picture of my mother-in-law's gift: Eunny's Print o' The Wave Stole. I'm knitting it in Sweatermaker's Island Hues (no website but you can find out more about it at Fun Knits), on bamboo needles which I have sharpened almost to the danger point with an emery board. It's the first time I've knitted proper, laceweight lace, though the patterning, chart reading, and so on is no different to, say, the Pomatomus socks, or any of the other lace socks I've made. This means I've avoided the much-mythologised beginning-lace-knitter learning curve.

This shows the patterning well, though the colour is truer in the second picture.

I started the gift knitting in January - a pair of Anemoi Mittens for my sister, who had recently assured me that she loves wearing mittens and has quite a few pair of them. A few days ago, she spotted the Anemoi Mittens on Eunny's sidebar, and commented "Boy I'd like those...that is, IF I wore mittens."
I said cautiously, "But...last year you told me you wear mittens all the time."
She breezily said, "Oh, no: I meant gloves, not mittens."

There was a silence.

Then she said, "Oh, no."

So I suppose the lovely blue and white Anemoi Mittens are destined for someone else. Sadly, Gwen has the smallest hands of anyone I know, so unless they go to a niece, they will have to be ripped right back and reknit with a size larger needle. I'd send them to a niece, but....well, the rest of them are getting acrylic bouclé spiral scarves. It hardly seems fair.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Just Reward.

Look what arrived yesterday!

My Sockpal came through big time with these waving lace socks (I think from Interweave?) in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, colourway "Cedar". They are gorgeous, and a great fit.

Thank you Vicky (not a blogger) for your hard work on these socks. And thank you for all the treats - I'm glad you work for Cadbury!


Sunday, August 12, 2007

A show of hands, please.

Do all mothers have desertion fantasies, or is it just me?

"I have learned my lesson and I swear, Lord, if you just take them back I'll never have sex again. I'm SORRY, okay?"

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Lot of a Little

Today is a day for massive amounts of housecleaning and laundry. I've been working on some knitting but can't talk about any of it, and in the meantime the house has degenerated somewhat. I picked up my pyjama pants the other day (yes, from the floor), put them on, and a bit later felt a creepy crawley on my leg. Pantsed myself to find an earwig hanging out on my thigh so I had to have a little girly freakout. Mr HSBoots did the same with a pair of jeans the other day (but without the girly freakout -- I think)... ew, ew, ew. Time to deal with the discarded clothing piles everywhere.

It's not that I'm a slob or anything, but I definitely feel that cleaning is not the best use of my available time.

This morning a friend called me to chat about how great she feels on her new diet, with some crazy shake thing she drinks every day, and that no evil carbohydrates have crossed her lips in around three weeks. I tried to congratulate her but couldn't talk because my mouth was too full.

Banana-Apple-Blueberry Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce
1 1/3 C flour (I use 1 C white, 1/3 C wheat)
1 T baking powder
Scant 2 T sugar
1 banana, mashed with a fork
1 egg
1 1/4 C milk
3 T melted butter or oil
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 medium sour apple, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4" thick
Handful of blueberries

Mix dry ingredients, beat wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then mix together gently, leaving lumps. Cook on griddle or frying pan 1/3 cup at a time, pressing apple slices or blueberries into the top of each pancake after they spread out but before they are dry on top.

Cook about 1-2 cups whole frozen strawberries with 1 tsp to 1 tbsp sugar in a small pot over high heat until berries give off some liquid and start to cook down. Mix juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon with 1 tsp of corn starch until smooth, then stir into bubbling berries. Turn heat down, cook for a few minutes until thickened. You can use any frozen berries for this. Adjust amount of cornstarch and sugar to your taste. Very yummy on ice cream, waffles, french toast, what-have-you.

The garden is doing great this month. This is the window box on my shed. ("Shed" is an awful word.)

One of my many clumps of irish moss, which I hope will one day carpet a whole section of my garden path. The black grass I bought this spring has grown very well out in the island bed: you can see one of its purple plumes in this picture.

One of the other occupants of the island bed - the pink hardy geranium I got from Kate last year. It didn't flower at all last year, so I was so happy to see these pretty things last month:

Later this week I will post a couple of Christmas-present FOs, trusting that the recipients, being Mere Children, will not be reading this blog.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Watery Grave

Marina Piccola Socks

Pattern: Kate Gilbert's
Yarn: 100g Sweet Georgia Superwash Sock in "Life Aquatic"
Yarn Source: Pick Up Sticks
Needles: 2, 2.25mm Aero aluminum circulars
Tension: 9.5 sts/inch
Cast On: July 14, 2007
Bound Off: July 28, 2007
Mods: Used a slip-stitch heel instead of the eye of partridge specified, by accident. Designer recommends 3 repeats of the pattern on the cuff and I only had enough yarn for 2.
Notes: I liked this pattern. It was pleasantly addictive, and easy to memorize. I like how it looks and I'll certainly make it again.

And now let's review, shall we?

Shan's Sockapalooza 4 Timeline

  1. Bought two skeins of Regia 4fadig and Cookie A's Gothic Spire pattern, knitting the first sock and 3/4 of the second sock before I realized I wasn't going to have enough yarn. Scoured the island for another ball, to no avail.

  2. Bought the Marina Piccola pattern and cast on with stash yarn (2, 50g skeins). Knitted one sock to within 1" of the toe, ran out of yarn.

  3. Began aggressive internet surfing to find another skein of the yarn. Meanwhile, cast on the second sock to start the cuff.

  4. Midway through the ribbing, took the sock to the library with the kids. Shut the point of one of the circular needles in the car door. Didn't notice until I took the sock out of my pocket to knit it, and saw the 90 degree bend one inch from the tip of one needle. Recklessly grabbed hold of the thing and bent it back as best I could, calling on the heavens to strike me with lightning if I ever volunteer to do Sockapalooza again.

  5. Knitted the rest of the sock with a bent needle.

  6. While comparing foot length with the second sock, knocked over my chai tea onto the first sock. Rushed it to the bathroom sink where, thank God, I was able to quite easily rinse out all traces.

  7. Felt a distinct sense of foreboding.

  8. Realized there was no more "Life Aquatic" sock yarn on the continent and there was no choice but to rip the first sock back to the ankle and take out half a repeat.

  9. Ripped the first sock back to the ankle and took out half a repeat.

  10. Reknit the first sock.

  11. Carefully....carefully....put them on, overtop of a thin pair of running socks, to take a couple of pictures.

  12. Tomorrow, will gingerly tuck them into a padded envelope with a packet of tea, a maple leaf-shaped cookie cutter and some chocolate, and mail them off to Denmark.

  13. The day after tomorrow, the plane they are on will probably crash into the Atlantic and go down with all hands.