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).

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


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!


• Ouch. Today my wrists are stiff and achy in sympathy with my niece’s. I did far too much knitting of cotton washcloths over the weekend, and, as I’m a tight knitter to start with, everything below my elbows got a bit kinked up. Then, coming home last night in the dark, I tripped over a lawn chair that I’d moved that afternoon. I slammed straight into it with both shins and flopped over it, my keys, purse, and book flying, and landed hard, wrists-first. (Insert spring-forward joke here.) No permanent damage—but it’s been quite a while since my days on the junior high gymnastics team when we used to deliberately practice crazy falls like this so we wouldn’t break anything if we ever took a real tumble.

• Washcloths. I am in love with the one I’m finishing up now—so in love that I’ve kept going and it is turning into a hand towel. I’ll post a photo and pattern once I’ve finished it. I also knit up two circular cloths using patterns from the Dishcloth Boutique that CatBookMom directed me to. For these I used the Sugar ‘n Cream Landscape colorway, a mix of mint, pale chocolate, and white—a refreshing change from my hot pinks and oranges.

• Play Ball! Yesterday, I listened to my first ballgame of the new season on the radio. I was using my hand-cranked, battery-free radio and had to re-crank at every commercial break to keep the thing from dying, but I enjoyed myself immensely. The announcers were giddy as all get-out, joking, repeating themselves, commenting on things they were doing that they wouldn’t do once the official season began. I will have to end my Netflix  and ShowBox subscription. Who has time for movies when baseball’s on the air? I’ll be at the SF Giants’ Stitch-n-Pitch this year. Are any of you planning to go?

• Daylight. I just want to say, “curse you daylight savings time!” I teach 8:00 classes, so get up at 6:00, and every year it’s the same thing. Just as we roll into March and I’m beginning to have the pleasure of waking up in daylight (sometimes before the alarm clock goes off, even), we spring our clocks forward, and I face another month or two of being cruelly jolted awake in utter darkness by that electronic beep-beep-beep-beep-beep. When I am retired and no longer have to put up with this nonsense we call civilization, I am going to keep my clocks on standard time year round.

• Socks. JayhawkKnitter of Knittin’ Honey just turned me on to this great on-line directory of sock patterns categorized by yarn weight. Oh, the possibilities! On the recommendation of Kelly B., who answered my query on the Knitter’s Review Forums, I will be knitting a pair of Fuzzyfeet slippers as a first “sock” pattern. I’ll be using the Lamb’s Pride I got from Discontinued Brand Name Yarn.

• Faultline. Melissa did a hike yesterday up Mission Peak—she wanted to sketch the faultline. If you’re interested in our highly mobile California geography, you can see some of her photos here.

• Splint Covers. The splint cover fits, but can be a pinch shorter on either end, so I’ll get going on version 2.0 now in bright green. I’ll also post that pattern (not that it’s very tricky) in the next few days.

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Worshcloths and Splint-Covers

These are the first two of my Mason-Dixon washcloths. Two lovely lovely washcloths in the sun

Aren’t the colors great?
Color and texture galore

I used their patttern for these two, but have been playing since with different stitches from the various Barbara Walker books.

When I was in fourth grade, my mother made me a sleeveless, dropped-waist dress with a little pleated skirt in a check (a sort of extra-loud gingham, if that makes any sense) in these colors. I loved that dress, and knitting something up in those same happy colors delights me no end.


My niece took a spill from her bicycle and broke her wrist. The good news is that it’s not a particularly bad break, but that’s also sort of the bad news. Since the break is minor, she wasn’t given a cast (which would be glam), but instead has to wear a splint for the next six weeks or so (which is anti-glam). My sister called me yesterday to ask if I could modify my wrist-warmer pattern to make a splint cover.

Well, of course I can, and I did. I knit up a version in the Denver colorway of Lion Brand Jiffy. I did the entire piece in 2×2 rib so that it would have extra stretch, and the colors cooperated, by winding up it candy-cane style, with no nasty pooling. The splint cover went in the mail today. Once I get a report on how it fits, I’ll be knitting up a couple more, so that my niece can have some choices. (Lime green will be coming up next.)