Archive for November, 2008

Pangea KAL Prize Winners!

Pangea Gallery

There were seven beautiful entries in the Pangea knit-along prize draw.

By Melanie:
Finished Pangea shawl

By Linda:
Finished Pangea shawl

By Shari:
Finished Pangea shawl

By PugUgly:
Finished Pangea shawl

By Valerie:
Finished Pangea shawl

By Nancy:
Finished Pangea shawl

By Betty (aka Catlady):
Finished Pangea shawl

The lucky draw winner was Nancy, who will be receiving a beautiful skein of hand-dyed fingering weight wool (900+ yards—enough for another shawl!).

For the Test-Knitter’s Choice Award, Chris chose Betty’s red shawl. She was impressed by both the color and the stitch definition. Her prize will be four skeins of Simply Shetland Silk Noil and Lambswool in the Craignish colorway. This is the same fiber I used for the original Pangea Shawl, but a different colorway.

I also decided to add a Best Interpretation of Theme Award, which I gave to Melanie. As she explained in her email to me, “I decided to try and knit a literal translation of the name. The green of the main body represents the large continent, and the dark blue border surrounding it is to be the ocean.” She’ll get two skeins of Blue Sky Alpaca Organic Cotton, one in bone, the other in sage.

I’ll be emailing the winners to arrange prize shipment, so keep your eyes open.

I want to say thank you once more to everyone who participated. You made my fist shawl design experience a delight. I’m hoping I’ll be able to make the shawl knit-along an annual event and would love to have everyone participate again.

November 28 2008 | Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Tuesday Mewsday: Little Timmy

Guest post by Melissa.

“Six cats is enough!” we cry. “No, six cats is too many!”
And yet, we keep on finding more. Or rather, I should say, they keep finding us.

The latest to enter the Peyton Place that is the story of our cats is little Timmy. I first noticed him crossing the yard not long after I had moved to Santa Cruz, and I remarked that he was a fine young cat, handsome, sleek, with a grand fluffy tail, and quite full of himself.

This was not good news for Mortimer, who lives next door and is terrorized by his evil sister. Mortimer, also sometimes known as Scaredy Cat or Puff, is very shy, and easily frightened. It had taken Chris weeks to entice him over to eat cat treats, and even longer to eat them with her in the vicinity. (I should point out here that I rent the cottage behind Chris and Peter’s house.) Now along comes Timmy, and Mortimer is back to hiding.

Except now Timmy is hiding too. He seems to have taken up residence under the back porch, where he peers up through the slats, waiting for Chris to put out Mortimer’s treats. As soon as she does, out leaps Timmy, and away runs Mortimer. And Timmy doesn’t seem so sleek any more; he looks thin, and a bit bedraggled, and much more nervous.

“I think Timmy is a stray,” I said.
“Don’t say that!” exclaimed Chris, knowing that as certified crazy cat ladies, she, Sarah-Hope and I would have to do something about it.

So now we are. I’ve been putting out a bowl of food way in the back yard, hoping to lure Timmy away from the porch, Mortimer, and the treats, and am trying to spend time sitting outside so he gets used to me. The plan is to earn his trust, and then catch him in a cage (oops, so much for trust) and take him to our vet. If he is disease-free, they will find a good home for him.

But Timmy is awfully cute.
Seven cats? No, that’s way too many.

November 25 2008 | Tuesday Mewsday | 4 Comments »

On Literacy and Hope

This post isn’t knitting related—but if you’re reading this blog you are a reader, so it definitely is in your sphere of interest.

My romance with books has been life-long. My mom tells stories of reading to me as an infant. Whatever the topic of the book, I’d scan each illustration for butterflies, even tiny little ones that were mere dots in the background. When I spotted one, I’d point at it, crowing “Bubber! Bubber!”

My first conscious experience of “great literature” was with The King, the Mice and the Cheese (sort of a forerunner of the “If you give a mouse a cookie” genre). Normally, I was content to check books out from the library—but the day my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Bonnell, read that book to us, I couldn’t wait to get home so I could explain to my mother why we needed to find our own copy of that book, why it needed to be ours.

As a teenager, I planned to name my children after characters in books I’d loved: Caroline Augusta (the heroine of Caddie Woodlawn), Merricat (from We Have Always Lived in the Castle), Linnet (from The Children of Green Knowe).

When I was in my early twenties, books were central to my impassioned political awakening. I read an array of feminist authors: Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, Barbara Smith, Irena Klepfisz, Adrienne Rich, Judy Grahn. Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States enraged and engaged me. Stephen Jay Gould made me think about the political uses of science. And Jonathan Kozol kept reminding me of the gift of reading and the crime of illiteracy.

I’m not at all surprised that I’ve wound up dedicating my life to books, to reading, and to writing. Education is, in a way, my faith. I am deeply convinced that literacy is essential to justice, to political change, to personal empowerment. We need to be able to experience lives beyond our own, to see landscapes we’ll never lay eyes on, to wrestle with wrongs that may never come to knock directly on our own doors.

If I had to choose one cause that matters most to me, I would unhesitatingly choose women’s literacy.

One of the greatest blots on America’s international record is our willingness to support governments that have systematically denied women literacy. Particularly in our historical dealings with Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have been quick to build relations of strategic convenience that condemn women to lives of subservience, marginalization, and ignorance. Recent data from the U.N. places young women’s literacy in Afghanistan at 18% and in Pakistan at 53%. Those are our tax dollars at work.

The good news is that as private citizens we can work to support female literacy in these countries and in other parts of the world. Developments in Literacy is building schools in Pakistan. Women for Afghan Women supports a number of programs in Afghanistan, including women’s literacy programs. For a broader impact, there’s the U.N.’s Girls’ Educational Initiative.

I know money is tight right now. We’re scared about our own futures and scaling back on holiday celebrations and gifts. But take a minute to think of the worlds—both fantastical and real—that books have opened up for you and see if you can’t give a little something to help that magic happen for girls around the globe—many of whom have been victims of our government’s own policies. A week without coffee could cover half a year of schooling for one of these girls. Melissa and I are looking at our daily expenses to see what we can come up with. We’d be delighted to have you join us. We’d also be glad to hear about other literacy programs. Do you have any favorites?

November 24 2008 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

If Money Were No Object

1. Make1′s Year of Lace.

2. 10″ Lantern Moon ebony needles in every size.

3. Addi Lace circulars in every size and length.

4. Three skeins each of Malabrigo Sock in pretty much every colorway.

5. 8 bags of Dream in Color’s Classy in my choice of colors.

6. A honkin’ big order of medium weight Socks that Rock (check out the Raven Clan colorways).

7. A specialist to chart every uncharted stitch in every stitch dictionary I can get my hands on.

8. About six bags each of Elsbeth Lavold silky wool in Bright Turquoise, Vibrant Green, Sunflower, and Pumkin (all on the Spring 06 card 1).

9. About six gross of small, soft rubber stitch markers, unadorned and suitable for lace knitting.

10. Early retirement, so I could enjoy all of the above.

November 22 2008 | Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Apparently, I Am Ancient

Monday night, I stopped off at a local diner for dinner by myself. I love sitting down alone with a newspaper at the end of a demanding day and having someone else make food appear in front of me. And this diner in particular has the most delicious walnut and raisin pancakes. Yum-tacular!

So I read the paper, ate my pancakes, paid my bill, and left—then looked at the bill as I slipped it into my purse once I got in the car.

I had been given the senior discount!

Mostly it cracked my up, though I found myself wondering if work had left me looking particularly brow-beaten or something. Yes, I have grey at the temples, yes, I’m overweight—but I’m only just slipping past my mid-forties. Saving $1.10 is nice, but I’m afraid the cost to my self-concept may have been a bit high. (And I didn’t even have any knitting with me on which to blame my perceived old-ladiness.)

November 20 2008 | Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

There Otta Be a Law: My Stitch Dictionary Rant

The weather finally turned yesterday. We’d been having unseasonable highs, with temperatures breaking records that date all the way back to the 19th Century in some cases. Some people are glad for a spate of eighty-degree days in mid-November. I’m not. I’m not always that big on summer even when it should be summer. I certainly don’t want more summer when we should be getting autumn.

On Sunday afternoons, there’s a knitter’s gathering at The Golden Fleece, my LYS. Attendance varies a bit, but usually eight or twelve of us show up, and we spend a delightful two hours together, knitting and visiting and tempting each other into taking on new projects and new yarns.

However, when the temperature moves above 80, I don’t want to be around other people, not even knitters. So last Sunday, instead of going to the knitting group, I stayed home, sitting on the bed and leafing through stitch dictionaries.

I pretty much love all stitch dictionaries. Even if they don’t have any “new” stitches in them, they’ll show a stitch in a different yarn or gauge, so I can see it in a new way. But here’s my big gripe: stitch dictionaries without charts. As an (aspiring) designer, I need charts to see how stitches will flow into one another. Written instructions that tell me a pattern requires a cast on of seven, plus three (say) aren’t enough. One seven-plus-three stitch may or may not work with another. And what if I’m hoping to work in a bigger stitch as well, say a fourteen-plus-five? 

The only way to picture how these stitches will work together and to get them correctly placed in relation to one another is to play with charts. Place two charts one above the other and you can see right away which pairings will and won’t work. You can also play with ideas for transition rows. Place written instructions side-by-side and you won’t be able to figure out much at all without committing a great deal of time to swatching.

In a cruel sort of paradox, the need for charts becomes even greater when you’re working with stitches that vary in count from row to row, yet these are exactly the stitches that are almost impossible to find in chart form. (And don’t even get me started on the New Harmony Guides and how, not only are they not new at all, they don’t have charts for 99% of the stitches they include, so they’re pretty to look at , but a pain to use for designing.)

Ack!

So, Sunday. Hot. Crabby. Smart enough not to sit in a room full of people. Instead sitting in a darkened room alone with stitch dictionaries and graph paper. I passed the most lovely couple of hours just writing up my own charts for uncharted stitches. I’d sketch out a few repeats, then cut out the chart, so that I could line it up with others. I looked for stitches with strong lines that contrasted with each other. An undulating stitch with a rigid, linear stitch. Something wide with something narrow.

Granted, the whole process could have gone faster if the stitches had been charted already, but playing with pencil and paper in the half-light was just what I needed on that miserable afternoon. I can’t show you what I came up with because I’m turning it into a new shawl pattern and hoping to find a home for that pattern in an on-line or print magazine (fingers crossed!). But I can promise you I had fun.

If you like thinking about how knitting works and haven’t done much charting, give it a go. You’ll learn wonderful things about how individual stitches work together to make pattern stitches—and with luck, the fun of doing it will take your mind off any less-than-pleasant surroundings.

November 19 2008 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Tuesday Mewsday: We’re Ready, Mr. DeMille…

You may have noticed that this is a busy time of year for Sarah-Hope and Melissa, between teaching and art shows and whatnot. As a result, the cats have taken to entertaining themselves, and have subscribed to Netflix. Their favorite movie so far is “Sunset Boulevard,” and they’ve been practicing their Gloria Swanson/Norma Desmond “ready for my closeup” attitudes.

Here’s Archy:
Archy

Maggie:
Maggie

Damian:
Damian

And of course, the Original:
The Original

Who do you think does the best impersonation?

November 18 2008 | Cats and Tuesday Mewsday | 3 Comments »

Chris’s Guest Blog: Rocky Mountain Ply

Below is a guest-blog from my best knitting friend ever and test-knitter extraordinaire, Chris. I couldn’t travel with her (my work schedule, not any unwillingness on her part to share the pleasure), so I at least made her promise to write about her adventure when she got back.

I recently had the opportunity to attend knitting camp. It was actually called “Make 1 Yarn’s Fall Fiber Retreat,” but all the non-knitters I know seemed to think it was funny that I was going on a “fiber retreat”!

Canadian Rockies
The retreat was put on by Amy and Sandra of Make 1 Yarn in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and took place in the awesome Canadian Rockies.

Amy and Sandra put together a magical four-day weekend with ninety knitters, five world-class instructors, and more knitting fun than should be allowed.

The only hard part of the weekend was choosing just three classes from the five instructors. I had to choose between Cookie A’s Top-Down Sock Design; her Toe-Up Sock Design; Stefanie Japel’s Anatomy of a Top-Down Sweater; her Custom-Fitting Your Knits; Stephanie Pearl McPhee’s Knitting for Speed and Efficiency; Amy Singer’s Non-Sheep Fibers; her Plug-and-Play Shawl Design; Nancy Bush’s Estonian Lace; or her Traditionally Knit Haapsalu Sall (Hop-saw-lou Sall). After debating the merits of each class with both myself and fellow knitters (not to mention absolutely begging to be in Amy Singer’s Shawl Design class) I ended up with the Haapsalu Sall, Shawl Design (there may be no crying in baseball, but it works in knitting!), and Custom Fitting.

Lace of Estonia book cover
Nancy’s class corresponds with her new book—and if you don’t have it, please go get it. I learned so many things from Nancy that I could have gone home happy after just her class.

She brought all sorts of samples of Estonian knitting to the class.
Estonian Shawls

She also brought all the projects from her book! (She knit every one of them herself.)
Lace of Estonia project samples

We even got to try them on.
Wearing Estonian lace shawls

Stefanie Japel’s class was really about our body shapes. She has given me the courage to knit different sizes from the same pattern to make my sweaters fit me!

My final class was with Amy Singer and about shawl design. I’d been having trouble taking the pictures in my head, putting them on paper, and then working up an actual shawl. Amy was wonderful and spent a lot of one-on-one time with me.
Shawl Design Class
With her help and a lot of swatching, I had an epiphany and can’t wait to design my first shawl.

Besides the amazing classes, the setting, the lodge, and the fellowship of other knitters was unbelievable. I know we all have our friends, family, and life in the “real world,” but being isolated in a wintry paradise with ninety other like-minded people is an experience every knitter should have: people who “get” you, a place where you are expected to knit at the dinner table, and encouragement and inspiration everywhere you turn.

If you ever have the opportunity to do something like this, please, please do so! It was one of the best experiences of my knitting life.

November 17 2008 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

In Praise of Ravelry

I treat my Ravelry queue a bit like a knitting reference library. If I like a piece, it goes in the queue, even if chances are that I’ll never knit it. It’s more a source of ideas and inspiration than a task list—which is a good thing, since I’m currently at 16 pages of queued items!

Now that I’ve mastered the whole tag business, I can search my queue when I’m thinking of a particular kind of project. A cowl, say? I do a tag search and up pop 35 different patterns. When I’m choosing a new piece of meeting knitting, I may just skim them to find one that’s reasonably attractive and that won’t command my whole attention. But when I’m in a designing mood, I love sifting through them, comparing different elements. Over the head or neck only or down onto the shoulders? Lacy stitches or tailored or scrunchy? Ring or moebius? I can think about combining elements of different patterns or just puzzle how I might rework one bit that doesn’t satisfy me.

What’s wonderful about Ravelry is that there’s no other place where I can gather together quantities of possibility like these. I might leaf through knitting magazines and find a handful of cowls. I might find another one or two in one of the One-Skein Wonder books. But 35 possibilities? Thirty-five possibilities each of which includes at least one design element that I’m attracted to? That takes Ravelry!

That said, what are some of my favorite cowls from Ravelry?

There’s Yarnageddon’s Susie, with its flattering shape and interesting texture.
Susie

There’s the simple, versatile Tonsil Toaster from Wool in Hand.
Tonsil Toaster

There’s Breean Elyse’s generous and ruffly Keep me Warm Cowl.

There’s Judy Gibson’s Leaf Lace Alpaca Hood, which gets my vote for “prettiest.”
Leaf Lace Alpaca Hood

Mimi Hill’s Promenade Scarf is tailored enough that it would work for a man or a woman.

Now, what if we used a drawstring, a la Tonsil Toaster, but mixed it with something lacy like the Leaf Lace Hood, and perhaps increased the fullness at the bottom in the manner of Keep Me Warm? Oh, how I love Ravelry for making questions like these possible!

P.S. Keep those Pangea photos coming! I’ll publish another gallery post next week.

November 14 2008 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

Tuesday Mewsday: When the Going Gets Tough…

… the tough look at kittens.

kitties

Last Wednesday, after the election results were out, Melissa did all she could to brighten my day by sending me links to kitty images, Victorian and otherwise.

24K Vintage Art has a great selection, including postcards and an entire book that can be downloaded for free.

After all, when you’re facing the loss of a key civil right, nothing is quite so comforting as a kitten in a clown hat.

clown-hat kitten

November 11 2008 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

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