The pics show them blocking, but they’re unpinned now and ready for use.

First up is Damson, knit out of Zauberball. Doesn’t that red edging make it pop?
Blocking the shawl
Blocking the shawl
This will probably be a Christmas present for my sister, but I have to show it to her ahead of time to see what she thinks. She’s not much of a shawl person—and if she honestly thinks she wouldn’t use it, I’d much rather keep it for myself.

And then there’s Abendwind, in the lovely peacock blue shade of Jojoland Melody that I’m currently obsessed with. (I can happily report that I got a call from my LYS yesterday saying the full bag I’d ordered has arrived.)
Blocking the shawl
I am going to have to design something special out of this yarn. Right now I’m thinking stole, and I have a few good ideas I need to swatch.

The fichu is coming along as well. Only fifty more repeats of the 12-row lace edging.

Tuesday Mewsday: Bobitha Grace, Continued

Here are some better pictures of Bobitha Grace Stubbins—

Look at her long, long whiskers.

And the pretty little line down the center of her nose.

Not to mention her darling tail.
Bobitha at the door

On Sunday we put a collar on her with a note taped to it, asking her owners (if they exist) to give us a call so we will know she has a home. So far, no calls. Melissa’s latest theory is that she is living in the boat in a neighbor’s driveway. It’s tarped, so it would provide shelter, and she often appears from that direction when she comes to join us.

Part of me doesn’t want her to have a home because I am completely smitten with her and want her to live with us, but the truth of the matter is that we’re pretty much up to capacity on cats. If she doesn’t have a home, we’ll need to find one for her—and I just can’t imagine never getting to see her sweet little face again.

Maybe I should be hoping she does have a home. That way I could just enjoy her visits without fretting about whether she’s getting the care she needs and whether she’s crowding out the yard cats that do officially live here.

If Only Life Didn’t Get in the Way

Imagine a knitter’s paradise—

Fresh, healthy food (non-staining) delivered regularly, Knitters’ sippy cups for the red wine to keep it off the fiber, a treadmill that goes slowly enough for knitting garter stitch, a huge library of books on tape and DVDs, cats that snuggle up to one, but don’t play with yarn, and a stash closet as big as the wardrobe containing Narnia, and—oh yes—regular deposits to the checking account from an unknown benefactor who’s a fiber arts enthusiast.

Instead, I’m at work, prepping a class (writing this post is just a quick break), doing my best to maintain a sense of purpose and tranquility even though I have not knit since 10 last night, and I will not get to knit a stitch until at least 3 this afternoon. (17 hours without needles in hand!)

But I can report that Damson is done and awaiting blocking, and I have just 18 rows left to go on Abendwind.

P.S. Have you seen Eve? Amazing! You may want to poke around the site, she’s got some wonderful things going on with gloves.

Tuesday Mewsday: Bobitha Grace Stubbins

We can’t exactly decide what the cat count is in the yard. Miss Timmy is definitely a resident. Mortimer isn’t a resident, but he loves us best and we love him. Mooch is—well, Mooch. We know he has a home, but he’s nonetheless ubiquitous. Then there’s Bobitha, Bobitha Grace Stubbins.

She’s been hanging out for several months now and we’ve gotten to the point where we feed her twice a day when we feed Timmy. We also give her treats when she asks, which is frequently.

We have no idea whether she has another home, but resistance in the face of her cuteness is futile. These pictures do not do her justice. She has a bobtail (hence, her name), a sweet little stripe down the middle of her nose, extra-long whiskers, curly ear tufts, and big, fluffy feet. How can one deny a cat like that anything?



Reasons for thinking she has another home:
• she usually manages to stay dry in wet weather
• long fur that is unmatted
• a willingness to be combed and relatively few fleas

Reasons for thinking she has no home but ours:
• she is always around for meals, including 4 a.m. breakfast on the days Melissa is working
• no collar
• a definite improvement in the softness of her coat since we started feeding her
• she is not putting on excess weight, which one would expect if she had food at another home in addition to what we give her

Frankly, I rather hope we are her home, even though another cat is the last thing we need. I absolutely dote the girl.

Fichu! Fichu! (No, I don’t have a cold.)

This weekend between helping with open studios and marking papers, I bought a copy of this lovely fichu pattern from Baxter Knits.
Baxter Knits Lace Fichu

I first spotted this pattern when I was sifting through the photos on Ravelry of projects made with Zauberball. The photo above, which comes with the pattern, is lovely, but the piece also looks beautiful in a whole range of colors. (If you’re a Ravelry member, you can see all the possibilities at the Projects Gallery for this pattern.)

What really convinced me that I needed to buy this pattern was the description of the fichu’s construction. It’s worked in three parts:
• the center is knit in garter stitch using short row shaping
• stitches are picked up along the outside edge for the first, eyelet border
• the final border is knitted on sideways, working from one end to the other

I expect knitting it will be sort of a woolly equivalent of a good cross-training workout: moving from one distinct activity to the next, with each of them pushing one in slightly different ways.

Now to go stash-diving and see what I have to knit it up in.

Open Studios Encore Weekend—You’re Invited!

I admit up front that this post is about Melissa’s art, not my knitting, but keep reading—you’ll see some wonderful things.

The first three weekends in October, Santa Cruz has open studios. 200+ artists (that sounds like a lot, but the event is actually juried and highly competitive; we have a huge art community here) open their studios to let people come in, see and discuss their processes, and—if the artist is lucky—buy their work. One weekend features north county artists, the next south county. On the final weekend both north and south county artists participate.

From 11-6 on Saturday and Sunday, Melissa will have her press, her drying lines, lino blocks in progress, and a whole plethora of prints and paintings on display in her workspace at 816 Hanover St., Santa Cruz.

She’s been especially productive as a print-maker this past year, working on three different series, along with some individual pieces. I’ll give you a taste of them.

She’s been doing a fairy tale series, trying to capture the sense of dread and danger that underlies so many of these children’s stories. These prints are done in black and white, with just a touch of red colored in by hand.

Here are Hansel and Gretel about to make a disastrous choice…
Hansel and Gretel

And here are the children of Hamlin, enjoying the piper’s tunes…
Pied Piper

Melissa’s also been working on a two-color print series featuring William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell.”
These are reduction prints, which means she carves the block enough to print the colored bits. The she goes back to the same block and carves it some more, until it’s ready for a printing of the black bits. There’s absolutely no room for error in this process, as you might guess.

William Blake would never have purchased a GPS device…
Strait Roads

Finally, we have a series she did for an exhibit on violence against women. The point of this exhibit was to celebrate women’s lives rather than to document brutality. Melissa worked hard to come up with images that would help viewers see and cherish the inherent value of individual women’s lives. Each print is overlaid with a related statement printed on a transparency. The transparency and the print are separated by a hidden bit of matting, so that the words float above the image and actually cast a shadow upon it in the right light.

This piece is in response to genital mutilation…

And this emphasizes the ubiquity of violence…
Girls with Horses

If you can come by this weekend, please do. If you can’t, but you’re interested in the artwork, drop us a line via my web site or Melissa’s.

You Will Know the Truth and the Truth… Will Make You Rip Out Five Inches of Sock Leg

Every knitter should have a friend like Chris—the friend who knows exactly how to balance gentle encouragement with a commitment to pointing out your knitterly failings and forcing you to confront them. Chris is my go-to friend when I find myself staring at a project and wondering “ok—can I live with this or is it truly hideous?”

We generally agree about my small mistakes. I’ll point out a spot where I’ve knit a stitch instead of purling, and she’ll say “Nobody’s going to notice that,” which is just what I was thinking myself.

But she’s particularly helpful in speaking the truth when my inner wishful-thinking voices are going on and on about how “this’ll look better after another fifty rows/I turn the heel/I do the irrevocable fancy-pants bind-off.” Part of me knows that those voices lie. Big time. And it doesn’t help that I’m a confirmed non-swatcher. I’ll write up a pattern for a sock or a shawl and just sit down and start knitting with my wishful-thinking voices nattering on about “well, if it doesn’t come out the way you hope, it will come out like something,” and “there’s no such thing as a completely useless knit.” I look at my knitting and listen to those voices and…I want to believe.

It’s in those moments that I go to Chris because I know she will tell me the truth I’m trying not to hear. Sometimes it’s “that’s the wrong yarn for that stitch.” Other times it’s “changing needle sizes five times on a single sock really isn’t practical.”

Yesterday it was “the front of that sock is gorgeous… but the back doesn’t work at all.”

I knew that truth already, but I would have turned the heel and knit the foot and gotten clear down to the toe decreases before I would have admitted it to myself. This evening as I unravel five inches of sock leg and rechart the entire pattern, I will be thinking to myself, “Thank goodness for friends like Chris!”

If I Don’t Get Anything Done for the Next Few Months, Blame Chris

That would be my BKFF, Chris.

She surprised me on my birthday with a copy of Twisted-Stitch Knitting, an absolutely brilliant book that had somehow never made it onto my radar. This is a reprint by Schoolhouse Press of a book that was originally published in German and that offers a grand assortment of traditional Austrian knitting stitches and patterns for sweaters and hose.

The designs are all charted using a system rather different from what I’m used to, so I find I need to rechart them to be sure I really understand what’s going on, but that’s all part of the fun. I’ve already designed my first pair of socks using this book (to be cast on only after I grade today’s requisite number of student papers). I’m also imagining a sturdy, aran-weight cape with a high, buttoned neck.

I just can’t say how happy it makes me to discover new stitches I haven’t seen before. Even when I’m not really thinking about them, they’re there in the back of my mind, weaving about one another, creating new combinations, and generally keeping me both happy and distracted. Heaven!