Monday, December 31, 2007

It's Just Another New Year's Eve . . .

Anyone but me even remember that Barry Manilow song? Eeeek! My secret is out - I'm the only Barry Manilow fan who openly admits to it :-D Although I did see him on the telly last week, for some "what would Brian Boitano do?" ice show, and he looked very . . . um . . . young . . . if you get my drift. Just not an attractive look . . . for anyone.

Anyway - here are the final socks of 2007. In my first year of knitting socks I knit 10 pairs. Wow! These were made for one of the "church ladies" in my prayer shawl knitting group. I modified the basic sock pattern I have been using - this time ribbing the leg for maximum stretch and deepening the gusset to accommodate her feet and ankles, which have a tendency to swell. She picked this yarn from my stash.

One more day of my great long weekend! I have watched movies, knit stuff, spun stuff and just generally had a great time. I watched Notes on a Scandal, which is very good. I also watched a Bollywood film called Salaam-E-Ishq, and it was really really good - sort of an Indian Love Actually, except that it was three hours long. :-D I have no idea how I ended up liking Bollywood films, but I do. I think it's the music and the dancing - maybe the hottie guys? Whatever :-D anyway, if you want to try out a Bollywood film, I would recommend Salaam-E-Ishq. I also watched Kal Ho Naa Ho this weekend and just sobbed throughout the entire last 45 minutes. It was really good, too.


Next up - as mentioned, I have joined a sock KAL - here is the sock yarn that got wound the other morning. Clockwise from the yellow: JWray sock yarn; Lorna's Laces, Shibui Knits, Claudia Hand Painted, and Yarn Love. In the middle is Seacoast Handpainted Panda. Some of the purples will likely go to an auction for the African Violet Society of America - some will be for me, and we'll see about the rest - I have one cousin who LOVES that I knit her some socks :-)

Happy New Year!
p.s. I have no idea why Blogger things that spaces between paragraphs are no longer a good thing . . . Sorry.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

On The Fiber Front!

I'm on the first day of a 4-day weekend! Wheeeeeeeee! :-) And now that Christmas has come and gone, here are a few finished objects that had to remain on the QT.

I spun this yarn for my friend, Linda, aka The Chicken Lady :-D Her mission to keep chickens in the city is garnering national attention!! Sorry, I digress . . . You might recall that at Stitches Midwest, she gave me a braid of fiber. It was the first wool that my spinning teacher, PatsyZ had me spin. It's Targhee, and I absolutely loved spinning it - in fact, I would very much like to get some more (after June 30th, I know :-D). I spun it worsted weight, and although there is a little bit of thick/thin going on, on the whole it was pretty consistent for where I was at the time. I plied it as it was spun - I very much like the "barber pole" effect, and when it is knitted up, it will have a very "tweedy" sort of look in all the colors that really are Linda :-) One of the properties of Targhee is that it is really, really stretchy as well as being very soft (next to the skin soft).
One of my non-knitting friends grows beautiful African violets, and (book plug, coming up --> ) in fact, you can pick up her new book, You CAN Grow African Violets: The Official Guide Authorized by the African Violet Society of America, Inc., at iUniverse.
Anyway, she visited me this summer and I dragged her to the Midwest Fiber & Folk Fair, in Crystal Lake, Illinois, where she saw some Trekking XXL, pointed to it and said, "that's beautiful." Since it was the only sock yarn she showed any interest in all day, I figured I had better nab it. Getting it into the bag and paying for it, and then hiding it from her the rest of the weekend was challenging :-D
I did not share her assessment of this yarn - until I starting knitting it up. In the skein, it bore an unfortunate resemblance to . . . um . . . clown barf. Really, it did. But as I started to knit it, it turned into the stunners you see on the right. Clearly, in addition to having a thumb greener than my own, she's a color visionary! So, here are Joyce's socks, modelled on my spiffy new sock blockers from The Loopy Ewe. I love these things!
Here's one last pair of socks to show you. Made of Sockina cotton. I liked how they knitted up - I swear, I had a dress back in the 70's that was that pinky/coral shade, with cream colored lace and dark brown bits of trim. :-D I like how these came out, and I like that I was able to get them to match, unlike the Trekking, above, which I later learned never matches up for anyone.
As part of my personal stash busting challenge, I have joined a knit-along! It's called the Sock a Month 5 KAL. The goal is to knit one pair of socks each month, from January to June. Apparently this is the fifth time time the organizers have done this - hence the "5" in the name. This should be fun!
Point Five Raglan is done but for the sleeve seams and the wonky buttons . . . if anyone knows of a tutorial for those yarn buttons, please point me in the right direction!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas is Different This Year . . .

It's quiet here this morning chez A, which is a marked contrast from last night at my Aunt's. I think that I have the loudest family in the entire universe. Prolly everyone thinks that, don't they?

Christmas is different this year . . . and I am glad that I have this quiet time this morning, because I find that I am far sadder than I thought I might be. I have been doing my best to be merry and bright this season, and I was doing pretty well (I didn't get a degree in theatre for nothing) until the past few days; but, as Christmas became imminent, so did an underlying feeling of sadness.

Christmas is different this year . . . This afternoon I will go to my cousin's house, and we will remember her brother, my cousin Jimmy. There will be a healing ceremony of candles, and new Christmas traditions will be started, and it will be good - good for us all.

Christmas is different this year . . . because of last year. Last year we were having a really great Christmas - until about 3 o'clock, when we found Jimmy on the floor of his home. Back in June, when his ashes were laid to rest, I wrote this:

I truly believe that when we go, it's our time - it means that our work here is done, but I've had a difficult time reconciling that this time for a 41-year-old. I think, how could his work be done? And yet, it must have been. We (as in my large extended family) all miss his wry sense of humor, his flashing grin - he was a brother, a son, a cousin, a nephew, and an uncle. We all miss him every day and we wonder why he's gone, and we hold his light in our hearts so he will not be forgotten - it's there, in a safe place, in each of us. In the time between his passing and tomorrow, a baby has been born who was named after him, and my family bought a star. I like to think it's the second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning . . .

Christmas is different this year . . . I am thinking of him today and how it is a year since he has been gone - and how his death has changed us all. I've written this before, but it bears repeating: I believe that the old custom of a year of mourning has merit - you run the gauntlet getting through that year of "firsts" without a loved one. After that, in my experience, if you allow it, time (which truly is the great healer) begins to soothe somehow and you are able to make a place in your heart to put all the emotions that surround a loss of this magnitude. You don't forget, you don't "get over it." What you do, is you make that place in your heart so you can live again, because you cannot stay in the darkness forever. Just as Samhain moves toward Imbolc, winter moves toward spring - you have to move into the light.

Christmas is different this year . . . it is bittersweet, but it is not without hope. Yes, we miss him - very much - but we have honored his memory this year by making charitable donations instead of giving each other gifts - there are people all over the world who woke up to hope today because of donations made in his memory.

I encourage you to say "I love you" every day, to start doing all the things you've "always wanted to do," and to dance like nobody's watching, because Christmas is different this year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Three Things

I saw this on Sheri's Blog and I love how things go in threes. Things do go in threes. I wonder if that's a law of nature. Anywho . . .

Three Things
1. Snowblowers totally rock.

2. Knitting parlance should be consistent everywhere, all the time :-S Case in point ---> Point Five Raglan . . . You tell me: "Work in St st, dec 1 st each end of needle every 9 rows 3 times - 35 sts rem. Work even for a total of 34 rows or to desired sleeve length." I did that . . . on both sleeves . . . all the time wondering why on earth the sleeves were so long and thinking well, maybe somehow this is going to work out since I've never done a top down raglan before and maybe the sleeves are just supposed to be King Kong length and after all I have pretty long arms and maybe it's going to get taken up somehow in the finish work . . . JesusMaryandJoseph.

I'd like to suggest that this would have been better written thus: "Work in St st, dec 1 st each end of needle every 9 rows 3 times - 35 sts rem. Work even for 5 rows for a total of 34 rows or to desired sleeve length."

I had to fit two photos together to show you the Amazon left sleeve. The right sleeve has been frogged back to just before the cuff should actually start . . . I checked the errata - I read it a thousand times. I remain exceptionally irritated by this because "Work even for a total of 34 rows" means WORK EVEN FOR 34 ROWS.
=====:-O <-- me, with my hair standing on end.

3. It's good to have blooming plants around you. Plants are in bloom all over my house! Here are three of the four Christmas Cacti that live in my sunroom. I treated them to the occasional drink of African violet food from late September on, and they went hog wild. Nearly all the violets are in bloom right now, too. They bloomed in spite of me and I let them go, but they've all reminded me recently that they need some TLC, and definitely some repotting!
Did I mention that snowblowers rock totally hard?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sleighbells Ring . . .

It's a Winter Wonderland here in Chicagoland this morning. I'm just waiting another 15 minutes or so before going out and firing up the snow blower. The official snowfall is 9.8 inches. That's a lot of snow, folks. I don't think I got quite that much, but here's the view out my back deck.

It's similar out the front. I need to sing this morning, so normally I would be out shoveling like mad to get the car out of the garage - this will be a whole new experience.

Every year I say I'm going to get one . . . I said it as recently as last week, when it took me an hour and half to shovel the driveway and the sidewalk at 5:30 in the morning. It's a big driveway. So, last Saturday, in the midst of final party prep, I had stopped at the Ace Hardware at Cherry Creek to get some coolers for pop and beer, and there it was. All put together - the last one they had that looked to be a manageable size for me. Not that I'm a teensy person, but the others looked like you might need a license to operate them. It has an electric starter, and that's always the hardest part of using the weed whacker . . . I hesitated, but not for long. Sold!

I had a momentary hour and half of panic on Friday morning - I put the bag with all the instructions, the key, and the starter cable away . . . and couldn't find it. All was saved when I found it on the floor of the hall linen closet along with another small bag of cosmetic stuff. Guess that was the closest hidey hole when the first guests rang the bell last weekend ;-D

Anyway - I've read the directions multiple times, stopped yesterday and got gas for it (thankfully - or I would be shoveling now), mixed in the oil, and am about to clear my driveway.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Knitting from the Stash

Well, I cast on for a sweater tonight! It's the "Point Five Raglan Jacket," from Knitter's Stash, and I've had my eye on it ever since I got the book. I pulled out some of the Moda Dea Cartwheel that I bought half price at the JoAnne's that closed near me not too long ago (OK - so I bought ALL of it that they had in three colors . . . you see why I'm knitting from my stash for awhile?! :-D).

The Cartwheel is not bulky enough on its own, so I'm carrying a thread of Maggi's Mohair Loop along with it which I actually thought I would make a shawl with, but it's a super huge pain to work with the loopy mohair all on its lonesome. I picked up the Maggi at the My Sister's Knits sale in July. I think the two stranded together for this jacket are going to be pretty interesting! I cast on and did about 2/3rds of the yoke tonight, and I like the way the colors are going together.

AND it's going to use up two big hunks of yarn currently residing in the stash! Even better - if I happen to run low on the Raspberry Cartwheel, I'm going to make the bottom, sleeve cuffs, collar and buttons out of this Cartwheel with the Maggi, which would be THREE hunks of yarn gone from the stash! Wheeeeee!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Right This Way, Hon . . .

When you go to the doctor, does the x-ray tech call you "Hon" in an exceptionally condescending tone of voice?

Or is it just me???

Geez, that bothers me. I suppose it's because my German last name is difficult to pronounce, but really, I'd rather they give it a shot than call me "Hon." I stayed home today and used my last vacation day of the year to have my foot looked at . . . since I woke up and it looked about twice its normal size and was pretty painful to walk on. This means I'll be working on Christmas Eve, so you know it had to hurt pretty bad for me to miss work and go to the clinic (without an appointment).

And all I got was tests, an x-ray, called "Hon," and told to come back on Thursday. Which means an afternoon off without pay.

I'm such a whiner :-S So, here's the good news: while waiting, first for the doctor, then the lab, and finally the x-ray tech who called me "Hon," I kitchener'd the toe of the most recent sock on my needles, and cast on and knit at least 2 1/2 to 3 inches on the leg of its mate. I'm pretty happy about that, actually :-)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Got Stash?

There has been no spinning, and nearly no knitting this week. I hosted a holiday open house last night, and all available free time was spent in the last bits of party planning. Today has been spent recovering from close to 50 family and friends here. :-D You can't have a party this large without a lot of help, and I had plenty in the form of my cousin. Without her, I could not have gotten everything ready!

My wheel is back up now that I don't have to keep the house perfect, and I will be spinning in the coming days. I've actually knitted a bit - finished a sock and will start its mate this week - but it's been a fight between knitting and reading on the train lately. Current book is: Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Anyway - Lately I've been thinking about stash. Yarn stash and fiber stash, both. When I cataloged my stash for Ravelry, I was truly surprised to see it go into the three figures (!) Then, shortly after my weekend in Missouri, my friend, Judi, sent me an enticing email for a "designer fiber of the month club" sort of deal. The two of us have so much fiber between us already . . . so I said, "Resist! Let's make a pact to spin only from our stashes until June 30, 2008." In a moment of weakness, I decided that this was such a good idea that I would extend it to my yarn stash as well and would also knit only from my stash through June 30, 2008.

What was I thinking?? :-D Seriously, though, I'm going for it. I seem to have acquired a really substantial amount of fiber and yarn in a very short time. A lot of the yarn comes from my recent fascination with all the seductive sock yarn at The Loopy Ewe, and I know what you're thinking - sock yarn doesn't count as stash. Sorry - it's taking up an entire shelf in the closet (the middle one) - that counts. I mean, if that's not stash, what is? Some of the fiber came from getting ready for the recent Anne Field workshop, but still - there is too much here already to keep buying more (and there is an armoire in the guest room full of yarn, too . . . ).

So, it's time to burn through some fiber and thin the yarn stockpile. Anyone else out there need to clear some space in their closet? Care to join me?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Adventures in Spinning, Part VIb: Worsted v. Woolen

Sunday. The last day of the workshop. Anne devoted this day to the differences between worsted and woolen spinning. I was particularly interested in this section of the workshop, because I have been confused by the difference - particularly since worsted spinning is not the same as what we in the U.S. call worsted yarn (here it has to do with the weight of the yarn).

I know for myself that, at this time, I prefer to spin worsted yarn. This is because yarn that pills and fuzzes irritates me no end. As the discussion continued, we learned about Worsted, Semi-Worsted, Semi-Woolen, and Woolen.

It's a little tough to see in the photo, but each of the four test skeins is a wee bit fatter and a wee bit longer than the next. They go in that order, from left to right.

So, what's the difference? It's mostly in the prep work. Really! Combed fiber - with all the short bits removed, and all the fibers going in the same direction, when spun "worsted," yields a more lustrous (usually), sturdy yarn that doesn't pill! It's not an exceptionally soft yarn, but it's particularly great for cable work (I do a lot of that). I love it!

At the opposite end of the spectrum, is woolen (it has the grey mixed in with it in the photo). Carded fiber (with everything carded, short bits and all), rolled into very loose (loose is KEY) rolags and spun "woolen," yields a light, lofty, (often not so lustrous) yarn . . . that pills and fuzzes like mad. I do not like it Sam I Am.

And in between, are the semi's: Semi-Worsted, where fiber is prepared worsted (combed) and spun woolen; and Semi-Woolen, where fibuer is prepared woolen (carded), and spun worsted. Important spinning note -> Here's what I think is the greatest reason to learn the long draw (what you use to spin "woolen"): When you make Semi-worsted yarn, you are spinning combed fiber woolen, and you get the best of both worlds: sturdy more lustrous yarn spun loftier (softer), but because the fiber was combed, all the short bits have been combed out - there are no short bits to pill and fuzz!! That totally rocks! You know I'm working on this technique ;-)

All too soon it was time to pack it up, but before we headed our separate ways, I gathered our gang together. I look rather short in this photo . . . that's because I was taking the photo and, thanks to the digital magic of photoshop, I've popped my head into an available space. I'm really a lot taller, but that was the best space for my head :-)

I am so lucky. I've said it before, but I really am the luckiest woman in the world. There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. This has happened for me so many times - and I'm talking opportunities to study with world-class teachers in a number of disciplines. I'm so grateful - and lucky - to add Anne Field to that list! (Horrid photo of me . . . great of Anne!)

And so, it was hard to say goodbye, but I headed back to the hotel to get packed and ready to head out on Monday early. I actually woke up at 3 a.m., and couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up and headed out - it seemed like a good idea at the time, but within an hour, I was wishing I had tried a little harder to sleep a little longer . . . it was a very long drive home.

I saw at least three huge deer that had been hit in the early morning hours. BIG deer. By the time the sun was up, I was doing better, but I spent the last hour or so of my drive singing real loud and smacking my right hand on my leg in time to the music to keep myself awake. Note to Self: In the future, do NOT try to drive 600 miles on 5 hours of sleep. ===:-O

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

If I hear Burl Ives' Have a Holly Jolly Christmas one more time, my head is going to explode - like that guy in Scanners. I'm not kidding.

Here in Chicagoland, one of the local radio stations, WLIT, goes "all Christmas all the time" from around the beginning of November through the holidays. I love WLIT - I listen to Melissa Foreman every morning (and I really missed her when they canned her last year for Whoopi Goldberg (no offense Ms. Goldberg, but I want to hear the news and events from Chicago, not New York)) , and I love Christmas. I love everything about it - the decorations, the parties, the food, the giving, the singing, and the music. My ex-husband used to get exceptionally irritated if I wanted to put up any decorations until after Thanksgiving (all hell would break loose if he heard Christmas music in November . . . ). Of course, I have been known to listen to Christmas music in the middle of summer. I have a vivid memory of sitting on Linda's back porch with a group of SnB friends last summer, with my iPod in shuffle mode on the speakers. Jamie's head suddenly snapped up and she said, "is this CHRISTMAS MUSIC????" I forgot that shuffle would pull from all playlists :-D

Sorry - I've digressed. Anyway, WLIT is playing the Burl Ives classic in heavy rotation. And I mean heavy. Now, there's nothing wrong with this song, I like it just fine, and Ives had a great, great voice - and admittedly, the holiday playlist is somewhat limited, but JesusMaryandJoseph, do they have to play this song every 40 minutes?????

Poor Burl - does anyone even remember that he was an Oscar winning actor? Or that he originated the role of "Big Daddy" in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway and played him in the film? Prolly not. It's far more likely that they remember him as the voice of the narrator, "Sam the Snowman," in the Rankin Bass classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas was featured in this holiday special, and it's been with us ever since.

I'm listening to my own Christmas mix today. No holly, but still quite jolly - and if I get a hankering to hear Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, I just have run an errand. I never have to worry, because every time I get in the car (I'm not kidding), Burl is there, on the radio, singing me out of the garage and on my way :-D