Archive for March, 2007

Cavalcade of Washcloths Redux

As I work on my first pair of socks and go back to playing with some children’s knits I started quite a while ago, I’m simultaneously nursing the washcloth addiction, squeezing in four rows here, eight rows there. The results…
Lovely lovely warshcloths.
These ones are mostly for Melissa, whose bathroom features a sparkley-blue-and-cement decor. (When you’re living in an artist’s loft, pretty much every room has a something-or-other-and-cement decor.) Pattern info, left to right: “Windowpane Stripes,” found on p. 58 of Barbara Walker, vol. 1; “Yvonne’s Double Flower” from page 3 of the Washcloth Botique (I worked the last two rounds in solid blue to give it a border); “Bramble Stitch 1″ worked in two colors, from The Harmony Guide, vol. 2, p. 32; “Three-and-One Tweed,” found on p. 53 of Barbara Walker, vol. 1; and S. Turner’s “Diamond Edge Circular Facecloth” from page 1 of the Dishcloth Botique—although the cloth knit up doesn’t match the picture posted with the pattern (the cloth has rounded tips with a sort of “donut” motif inside each curve, not points).

And here’s one more washcloth that’s my favorite of the circular patterns I’ve tried.
Wedgewood blue on a vintage tablecloth.
This is the “Lacy Round Cloth” by Rhonda K. White, whose web site is KnittingKnonsense. She’s the author of Spa and Bath Sets to Knit.

I’m planning to cast on sock number two this afternoon, once I take care of taxes and a couple letters of recommendation. I’m quite pleased with number one. I wasn’t sure whether I had quite enough yarn, so I switched to a plain grey wool for the toe, which looks nice with the variegated yarn the rest of the sock is done in. I made the foot one-half inch shorter than the pattern calls for because I like snug-fitting socks, but the sock is still a bit loose. Once number two is done, I’ll carefully play with washing and blocking to see if I can tighten them up a bit. (If you have advice on this process, now would be an excellent time to offer it.) After that, I’m thinking I’ll try knitting up the same pattern on size 1 needles to see how that affects the fit. I’ve got a lovely ball of Trekking XXL in color 101 lined up for that.

This Sunday, I’ll be going to monthly yarn tasting number four at Article Pract. On the menu—Prism Hand-Dyes. Check out their coloways! I’m going to try to remember to take Melissa’s digital camera this time so I can share the fun with all of you.

On the non-knitting front, I’m trying to get an exercise routine established before spring quarter starts next week. Now that the weather’s warming up, my friend Ellen and I are going to a deep-water running class twice a week. If you’ve never tried this form of exercise, you should give it a go—it’s both a great workout and silly fun, sort of cardiovascular fitness designed by otters. You “stand” vertically in deep water with the help of a flotation belt, then jog/sprint around the pool using a variety of hand and leg motions. Since you keep your body upright, you work against significant water resistance, using your full body. You can also add underwater presses with foam “barbells” to increase the workout.

And… not only are my “boys” good at taking off their collars, they also have a real case of the wanderlust. This past week I’ve had two collars returned to me by not-so-near neighbors: one from across the street and around the corner, the other from around the block (I’m hoping Sparky and Woody got there via back yards).

March 29 2007 | Cats | 4 Comments »

Non-Knitting Terror

No knitting news today (but something good tomorrow, I promise).

Is it just me or are these Marshmallow Pals really, really scary looking?
You can't brush these guys off!
I found them at Michael’s and had to buy a package for Melissa. They’re sort of “Peeps Plus,” with oddly detailed, non-lifelike, fear-inducing facial expressions. The blue-whatever-he-is is particularly unnerving. He looks like a former Bluebird of Happiness who’s been pushed over the edge by steroid abuse. And Miss Pinky? I’m guessing she’s slipped a mickey to many an unsuspecting victim. How else would she get the money for hair ribbons? On the other hand, I think there might be hope for Whitey and Ducks if we could just get them into a good rehab program. (Note that Marshmallow Pals also come in Halloween and Christmas versions for year-round terror.)

If you’re the sort who likes to take a scientific approach, you may want to check out the Peeps Research page, which answers questions most of us would never think to ask.

I couldn’t find an on-line photo of my favorite Easter treat from days gone by: the Popcorn Rabbit. There is a popcorn rabbit at this site. It’s not the popcorn rabbit I remember from my childhood, but it does have the nasty candy eye that I always picked off and refused to eat.

Another favorite—though not limited to Easter—is the Marshmallow Mini Ice Cream Cone. Occasionally I find these somewhere, and I snap them all up in a consumeristic frenzy, then carefully dole them out to myself one or two a day to make them last as long as possible. My mom and sister are also good about buying them for me when they spot this too-rare candy treat.

I also loved (and still do) Sen-sen. Sen-sen is not a typical childhood candy, but I always felt like the height of sophistication carrying around the little foil envelope of the originals.

So what are you jonesing for?

P.S. Despite all the lusting-in-my-heart I’m doing chasing these goodies around the internet, I have stuck to my lent pledge to eschew dessert-like items. I had one slip up, when I realized I had half an hour to get to a baby shower (where there might or might not be food) and was feeling peckish, so I copped out and left myself pick up a Payday bar, playing the oh-so-innocent “peanuts are protein” card.

March 28 2007 | Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Elvis Lives!

Melissa has a thing for Elvis. I don’t, but I do have a thing for Melissa, so I have Elvis-thing by extension. The Joann Fabrics up in Freemont is moving to a new location soon and is liquidating a lot of their merchandise to simplify the move. Look at the fabric I found on sale: $3 a yard at 50% off, so $5 for two and two-thirds yards of…
Elvis is in da house.
…Elvis flannel! In no time at all, this will become pillow cases.

At Chritsmas, I gave Melissa a hand-decorated Elvis table cloth.
I'm dreaming of an Elvis Christmas...
The photo doesn’t do my handiwork justce—each Elvis wreath has hand-stitched sequin berries in a variety of shapes (circles, snowflakes, stars). The trim around the center and the edge is a lovely red-gold-green metallic stripe. Our Christmases will never be blue.

Coming up:
• My first socks! (One down and one to go.)
• The Cavalcade of Washcloths Redux!
• Scary, scary Easter candy!
• The great big box on my doorstep!
Can life get any more fun?

P.S. Webs currently has lots of Regia sock yarn on sale, in case you’re interested and didn’t know. Also some great prices on Elesbeth Lavold (though the Silky Wool isn’t on sale, alas, the Silky Tweed, both Als, and Angora are) and Louisa Harding (check out Kimono Angora, Impression, and my love/nemesis Fauve).

March 27 2007 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

First Steps

My first sock ever is on the needles.
Doin' it by the book.
I’m using Trampoline Stretch by Skacel in color 229. I’ve used this yarn before both for a hat and for a large, lacey scarf, and I really enjoy it. As its name suggests, it has a marvelous bounce, which is due to the elastic core inside the mostly wool plies. (It’s 70% wool, 23% nylon, and 7% polyester and comes in 50g/231 yard balls.) With all that stretch, this yarn was a joy for knitting lace. Double descreases? Knitting through the back? Purling through the back? Passing stitches over? Smooth, smooth, smooth. The one drawback is that the plies sometimes separate, so that a bit of the white core peeks through. With this colorway, that doesn’t present much of a problem, but it frustrated me some with the hat (in color 233) and the scarf (in color 238). Nonetheless, when this yarn appeared in the 40% off area at The Swift Stitch, one of my LYSs, I snatched it up. Working with it makes my fingers happy.

I picked this yarn for my first pair of socks because I figured it was a good neutral, although Melissa observed that ‘neutral’ was not the word she would use to describe it. I’m thinking the socks will look lovely with my autumn-colored clothes. (I wear a lot of oranges, maroons, yellow-greens and black.)

I’m using the “Retro Rib Socks” pattern by Evelyn A. Clark from Interweave Press‘s new book, Favorite Socks. I’ve signed up for the knitalong for this book, and I’m anxious to knit a pair of the folk-style “Ilga’s Socks” (the third pair down in the left-hand nav on the knitalong page) once I get my sock skills under control.

I’ve knit about half of the first leg and plan to keep working tomorrow until I get to the heel—then I’ll be able to take it to the sock clinic at The Golden Fleece on Monday. My friend Amy assures me that when I get to the heel, the directions will make perfect sense, but I’d like to have someone looking over my shoulder the first time, just in case.

March 24 2007 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

OK—I signed up for the sock clinic next Monday at The Golden Fleece, one of my LYSs. That means I’ll have to start a pair of socks and knit until I get stuck (whatever point that is) between now and Monday. Wish me luck!

P.S. Alas—I can’t find my copy of Sensational Knitted Socks, which means I’ll have to choose something else and delay my entry into the SKS Knit Along.

March 22 2007 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

Cruz’n Kitties

You’ve met the Oakland cats. Now I present to you the Santa Cruz contingent.

Ladies first! This is Beatrice, full name Beatrice Grasshopper Schwartz-Noir, aka Mighty Bezoar. It is difficult to do photographic justice to her thick fur and brilliant green eyes, not least because she is convinced that the digital camera may prove to be a weapon of mass destruction. (“Just because my people haven’t turned on me and ripped me limb from limb yet doesn’t mean it won’t be on their agenda today.”)
Beatrice comes to visit.

Does this picture make my butt look big?
Bea really does have a right to be paranoid. Early on she lived in a car with a homeless man, another kitten, and two large dogs. When the man wasn’t present, the dogs turned on the kittens, killing Bea’s sibling and biting through her femur. She was taken in by my vet as a charity case just when I was looking to expand my feline family, so I lucked out. The vet put a pin through what was left of her femur, and Bea made a miraculous recovery. For the first month Bea lived with me, she had hot-pink, Frankenstein-style stitches running up one leg and had to be kept in a cage that limited her movement, so that her leg would heal properly. During that time she was cuddley and lovey as all get-out, but once she left the cage, she took off at top speed and has been an independent gal ever since.

Sparky and Woody, the “kittens,” are also rescues who came to live with me via my vet. She literally picked the boys up on a street corner, where a man with a box of kittens was trying to hand them off to passing motorists.

Sparky, full name Spartacus Eugene Keeper, has matinee-idol good looks and what appears to be trace of Abyssinian.
Sparky practices his matinee idol look.

Sparky likes to sit near me in the evening while I knit. In general, he manages to control himself, but every so often the temptation is too much for him and he snatches my ball of yarn and races off through the house with it in a stash-weasel frenzy.
I'm cute! I'm cute!
Of course, I have to forgive him. Who could resist this sweet boy?

Woody, full name Woodrow Mycroft Keeper, has taken most of the last year to grow into his nose (an excellent, hunting-tool sized nose like a Jaguar‘s, he’ll have you know).
Woody also has a matinee idol look.

While Sparky is my evening companion, Woody prefers a cuddle in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. He likes to begin his evenings under the bed (aka The Diogenes Club). Then, he moves to the top of the bed once everyone else has fallen asleep.
Woody is a sleepy guy.

My best side!
Woody began as the runt of the pair, but has grown into a rugged young fellow and now outweighs his brother by a pound or so.

And there you have it—all cats present and accounted for.

March 21 2007 | Cats | 3 Comments »

K to J to M

Ok—this time instead of telling the knitting purists to go to the end of the entry, I’ll start with some quick knit news and then ramble.

This weekend I got two more splint covers knit up for my niece in lacier patterns. The one that worked best began with four rows of K2, P2 rib, then switched to alternating rows of K2, YO, K2tog and YO, K2tog, K2, ending with four more rows of rib. This produced a sturdy, but lacey diagonal mesh.

I knit most of another face cloth as well, this time using Rhonda K. White’s Lacey Round Cloth pattern. It’s quite pretty with its mix of garter and eyelets. I’m also delighted with the zig-zag border. This business of connected wedges turning into circles interests me. I want to keep knitting up patterns like this until I get to the point that I can design my own. (The “what if” questions: What if I adapted this technique to a shawl? To a hat? Could I maintain the laciness while working on a larger scale or would everything just go all clunky?)

By the way—if you’re like me and can only find Sugar ‘n Cream, but not Peaches & Creme in local shops, you can order this yarn directly from the maufacturer. Peaches & Creme has a much wider color range and is reasonably priced, even with postage, if you order one-pound cones.

And that is all the knitting.

This morning when I woke up, Sparky and Woody lay curled in one another’s arms at the foot of the bed. Sparky was completely zonked, and Woody had his eyes open the littlest squinty bit and was giving Sparky’s left ear a very thorough washing. They used to sleep together like this all the time, but have grown more independent now that they’re “big boys.” (Big is right—each of them looks as if he’s swallowed a small cannon ball.)

Then Woody woke up a bit more, decided to groom himself, and—to facilitate grooming, no doubt—sat down right on top of Sparky and got to work on his own hind foot. This brought Sparky out of his stupor, and we had a few minutes of “Woody must die! No!—Sparky must die! No!—Woody must die!” before things settled down again.

This little skirmish made me think of my favorite columnist, Jon Carroll, who not only writes great political and thought pieces, but also can conjure up a cat column extraordinaire. (See here and here and here for a few examples.)

And thinking of Jon Carroll cat columns made me think of my mother, who brings great joy to my life by providing me with a custom clipping service. (This, of course, is only one the myriad ways she brings joy to my life, but it’s the way I’m focusing on at the moment.) I don’t get a paper daily paper. Instead, I subscribe to the New York Times on line, which provides good general news coverage, runs twenty automatic, customized searches a day for topics of interest (my choices range from Church and State to Supreme Court to Patriot Act to Lemurs), and allows me to create my own database of materials in areas of interest, which comes in handy for my teaching.

So, by using the NY Times and other sources (particularly NPR), I get my daily news, but I don’t get a daily paper. This is where my mom comes in. Every single day, she goes through both of the newspapers she and my father receive and clips every item that might be of interest to me. (She actually does this times three, as she also sends clippings to my brother and sister.)

Articles on new dinosaur species? Check.
Articles on any kind of fossil at all? Check.
Pieces on educational innovation? Check.
All things knitting, quilting, embroidery, and sewing related? Check.
Geology? Check.
Astronomy? Check.
Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary? Check.
Retirement planning? Check.
Political cartoons on education? Check.
Cat Care? Check.
Crossword puzzles? Check.
Mutts? Check.
Get Fuzzy? Check.
Rhymes with Orange when it’s got cats in it? Check.

and

Every single column Jon Carroll writes? Check.

Once or twice a week, I get a wonderul, fat envelope full of these clippings. They make for great just-before-bed or soaking-in-the-tub or sitting-in-the-yard-on-a-beautiful-day reading. Kittens to Jon Carroll to Mom. It’s a perfectly logical chain of thought.

March 19 2007 | Cats and Patterns and Splint Covers | 1 Comment »

Cavalcade of Washcloths

And now, as promised, the fabulous cavalcade of washcloths.
Pink washcloths all in a row.
Hot Pink/Orange/Yellow. Upper left: Chain Stripes Pattern, from Barbara Walker, Volume 1, p. 66. Lower left: Petal Dishcloth, pattern by Hazel Schrock, from page 1 of the Dishcloth Boutique. Center: Three Color Loop Pattern, from the Harmony Guides, Volume 3: 440 More Knitting Stitches, p. 74. Right: Sandwich Stitch Pattern, from Barbara Walker, Volume 2, p. 54 (I liked the look of this stitch so much, I kept going and knit up a hand towel).

These washcloths are hot stuff.
Mint/Chocolate/White. Left: Double Diamond Circular Facecloth, pattern by S. Turner. Right: Petal Dishcloth, pattern by Hazel Schrock. Both of these are from page 1 of the Dishcloth Boutique.

Lovely blue washcloths.
Delft/Chocolate/White. Left: Ballband Pattern, from Mason-Dixon Knitting. Right: Doily Style Dishcloth, from page 2 of the Dishcloth Botique. Bottom: Petal Dishcloth, pattern by Hazel Schrock, from page 1 of the Dishcloth Boutique.

The cats eagerly pitched in during the photo shoot. Damian in particular made sure everything was arranged just so.
Damian always tries to be helpful.
P.S. to relatives and friends with allergies: I promise not to give you a washcloth the cat has lain on.

March 18 2007 | Cats | 1 Comment »

Splint Covers: The “Pattern”

If I’m reading the hand-signs right, my niece loves her splint cover.
I love my splint cover!
The pictured splint cover is knit in Lion Brand Yarn’s Jiffy, the Denver colorway. Another splint cover should be arriving today, in Crystal Palace’s Trio, the discontinued Kiwi-Celery colorway. (Let’s hear it for the LYS’s odd skeins and discontinueds sale bin!) I’m afraid the Trio will snag easily, but it was fun to knit with (I started fantasizing about a knitted tee for myself) and made a dense, stretchy fabric that should be comfortable to wear. And the splint covers only have to last six weeks or so.

Nice stripes.
I’m working on a lacier version now, based on the stitch I used for the Santa Cruz Hat. The weather’s starting to change in the midwest, and the girl needs to have options.

Meanwhile, here is the “pattern.”

Take three measurements (while the recipient is wearing the splint):
1. Circumference, which should be pretty much the same along the length of the splint
2. Distance from the “notch” of the of the thumb-forefinger L up the arm to the end of the splint.
3. Distance from the “notch” of the thumb-forfinger L down the hand to the other end of the splint.

For my niece, these measurements were 10″, 8.5″, and 2″.

Using the gauge information on the yarn band and appropriate double-point needles, cast on a number of stitches that is a multiple of four and that will be approximately equal to the splinted-arm circumferance (measurement #1). (I used U.S. 10.5 needles and cast on 40 stitches.)

Close the circle, place marker, and work in K2, P2 rib until you have a length equal to measurement #2. At some point on the following round, cast off four stitches as you continue working in K2, P2 rib. Then, on the subsequent round use a backwards loop cast-on to restore those four stitches. This will be the thumb hole.

Continue working in K2, P2 rib until the distance from the thumb hole to the end of the piece equals measurement #3.

Cast off.

Voila—a splint cover. It’s still not as glamorous as a cast, but it’s way more glam than an unadorned, clunky brown splint.

Coming next: a veritable cavalcade of washcloths with pattern information and links.

P.S. Last night Melissa and I went to a performance by Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (on-line recordings here). Tonight we’re going to hear John Holloway with Philharmonia Baroque (on-line recordings here and here). Heaven!

P.P.S. We just found out today that Melissa has a neighbor with a pomeranian named—get this—Lobo.

March 17 2007 | Patterns and Splint Covers | 5 Comments »

Sunny

My mood is like the weather, warm and fresh and full of hope. I felt utterly overwhelmed when I went to bed last night—the sort of overwhelmed where you start fantasizing about how great it would be to get sick because you’d have an excuse to stay in bed—but this morning everything seems perfectly manageable. Sweet little Sparky curled up next to me in the middle of the night. (I love snuggly, lap-claiming cats, but for some reason seem to raise very independent little beasts, so I’m always glad for their cuddly moments.)

I have been knitting washcloths in a take-no-prisoners sort of frenzy, so I’ll have lots of pieces to photograph this weekend, along with links to the patterns or notes on where the stitches can be found in various stitch dictionaries. I am just goofy for my cheap cotton yarn at the moment—can’t get enough of it. Colors that I might find insipid or glaring at other times suddenly strike me as refreshing or lively. I’m thinking of sharing some of my photos with the Walker Treasury Project, a great on-line project to get colored swatches of all the stitches from Barbara Walker’s various books.

Today is my last teaching day of the winter quarter, then I have a bit of a break (though lots of class planning and other work as well) until spring quarter starts April 2. On the 29th I’m doing a “How to Write the Perfect Love Poem” workshop for high schoolers attending a writing conference on campus. I always like to broaden the possibilities some by giving a wide range of potential recipients—including one’s self. Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” is a great I-love-me poem. Next quarter, I’m teaching a Composition class called “The Democratic Essay,” a class that aims to teach students how to write in the context of developing the skills they need to be active members of this democracy of ours. It’s a fun class because I try to follow the students’ lead in terms of topics. As a result, they’re usually quite engaged with the material and I have an excuse to spend hours at a time poring through the NY Times on line and finding other good source material from various educational and non-profit web sites.

Before all that work gets going, I’m hoping to update this blog (with Melissa‘s genius help, of course). I’ve got my eye on several web/blog rings I’d like to join. I’d also like to assemble a really good page of links, both knitting and non, to help people connect with blogs I particularly like and to try to entice them into some of my other areas of interest, like 1930s-style quilting, lemur conservation, and animal rescue.

I’ve just ordered a copy of Socks for Clogs and Sandals, which I found by way of the blog On and Off the Needles. This is the book for me, as I am a committed clog and sandal wearer. (If the shoe goes all the way around the back of my foot, it makes me sad. That’s just the way I am.) Wow, does that book open up some possibilities!

March 15 2007 | Cats | No Comments »

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