August 2009 Archives

Off the Cuff

This weekend was one of crafty fits and starts.  I started a new pair of "TV socks", tinked back three rows on the Dragon shawl and re-knit two of those rows (I know that doesn't sound like much, but the rows are 230 stitches each and there is lace knitting on both the right and wrong side of the fabric) and sat myself down and started up on the first of two sleeves I need for Z's Zebra Striper Sweater.  I'm beginning to enjoy stranded color work more and more, but I don't think I'm ever going to like it much on double pointed needles.  Just two much shifting of yarn and needles and so forth.  But I'm well past the colorwork now, and just have to alternate colors until all the increasing is complete and I've reached the needed length.

I really want to get this little sweater finished by the time it starts to get cold -- since she's already put in her request for socks (she keeps picking up my Wee Skein Socks and asking to try them on!) and I feel like I've got to take advantage of her requests for knitwear before she gets old enough not to want anything to do with what Momma knits.


This yarn, Lang Jawoll, was a lovely gift I received when I hosted the Audrey knit-a-long.   Since then, I've pulled it out several times, because I love the reds an purples and yellows and the regularity of the colors in the skein made me think that there might be some interesting patterning in the sock.  But, one thing always led to another: I acquired more yarn, I became fascinated with handpaints, I got focused away from sock projects.  So this yarn sat and sat.  It was my "back up" yarn when I went to Kauai.  Of course, I didn't finish the main project I brought, so, once again, this yarn almost went back into my sock yarn stash.

But before I put it back, I gave it a long hard look, and realized that I just had to know what this yarn was going to turn into.  And so I decided that it would be my next couch sock project.  No special details, just my standard old toe up sock with a short row heel.

20090804_JaWollSockToe.jpgI'm not sure exactly what I expected this yarn to do, but it definitely has different character in the sock than it does in the skein.  So far, it looks like that yellow and purple band is going to wind it's way around the sock, alternating with the reddish band. 

Not the self-patterning yarn I was expecting, but the colors blend well.  I don't have a pair of bright red socks, so this will be a good addition to my sock drawer, not to mention that this yarn is 75% wool and 25% nylon, so it should be durable as well as bright!

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Lots in Progress..

... but nothing much to show for it at the moment.

I worked my way through two more rows of the dragon lace shawl (and I am beginning to hate laceweight alpaca yarn to knit with, even though I love the hand) and, with the help of my teacher, threaded over half of the 840 heddles that I needed to thread for my project -- I am now on my third week of just warping for this project.  The Zebra Striper sleeve keeps going, but, it's not really worth another picture yet.  And, in spite of my best intentions, I didn't even remember to whip out my camera and take a shot of the nice little pepper crop that is ripening in our deck garden.


Fortunately, Monday is another day, and my projects will all keep on keepin' on. 

That said, if you have a little extra positive energy to spare tomorrow, it would be much appreciated.  Everything is good, but there are some things for which have a few extra good vibes is always a good thing.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

To say that the "Dragon of Happiness" has been my most complicated knitting project to date would be an understatement.  I have done more tinking on this project than any other project I've ever worked on.  The first part -- the stockinette border with the Chinese characters knit into it -- was relatively easy and I managed to accomplish that without any serious problems.  But the second section which contains the dragon uses "ring lace" as the background lace stitch.  There is pattern work on both sides, making it a true lace stitch.  And you would think that 30 six stitch intervals would not be that much of a challenge to get right row after row, but I've run into just about every problem.  I miscounted once on the base row and had to rip and re-start.  I've run into problems with maintaining the pattern (in other words, I started out doing one thing and ended up doing something slightly different) and I've just plain gotten confused with something and had to tink back until I could resolve the confusion correctly. 

I think the resulting ring lace is lovely, but at the rate I am going (I have just finished row 41 in the picture) I am destined to finish this project sometime around when Z heads off to college. 

I finally decided to put stitch markers in every 3 repeats to help keep myself on track.  I had put in a life line (it's just barely visible in the picture) at the start of the lace motif region, but learned quickly that using a fine sewing thread wasn't the best idea.   Next line I set will probably be with a thicker perl cotton

All that said, I think the ring lace is quite lovely and I'm looking forward to seeing how things continue to develop.

Tuesday saw a trip back and forth from Madison, WI for work.  Luckily for me, I can combine work with a little fun and visit with my good friend Judy.  We had a lovely little lunch and she sent me home with something very lovely for Zosia, which I will share when I have good light for photography.

This Wednesday is going to a be a little random.  After a long trip back through too much Cubs traffic on I-90, I'm just not all that functional...

  • I have rediscovered my love of peanut butter.  My favorite way to eat it is just to bypass the bread and eat it directly from the spoon. 
  • My kid pays more attention to my iPhone usage than I do.  "Mommy's checking twitters!" is one of her recent comments.
  • There is nothing that makes me feel better after a stressful day that sitting on the couch watching something with my kid in my lap.  Yes, I wish she would watch something besides "Wubbzy's Big Movie" -- but some days you take what you can get.
  • It had never occurred to me to use dental floss as a life line, but now it seems incredibly brilliant.  Thanks to all the commenters on Monday who suggested it.  My next lifeline will come out of my medicine cabinet.
  • I am ever so tired of the itching that comes with my eczema.... who invented this skin problem anyway?  The steroid cream makes it better, but only if you remember to use it the three times a day that your dermatologist suggested.
  • I am determined to finish my Kushu Kushu scarf... but I don't think I ever want to knit with one single strand of silk/stainless steel again.
  • I can change songs on my iPhone with my butt.  Yesterday I popped it into my back pocket and skipped to the next song.   Does my butt have a problem with Fleetwood Mac?
I'm outta here -- before I fall asleep at my keyboard.

Fairy Gifts


My friend Judy taught me to knit.  This happened right after I split up with my then fiance and moved into an apartment of my own.  Judy had been knitting since she was in grade school and had a small portfolio of interesting multi-color sweaters to show off.  I really never quite understood what place knitting and the fiber arts would start to take in my life, but I definitely appreciated both her help learning something new, her encouragement (my early style was rather unconventional, to say the least) and her companionship while I made the transition out of one image I had had for my life into another.

At that time, I had been getting back into cross stitch after a long hiatus.  So, in the spirit of fair play, I introduced Judy to the elements of what I knew how to do.  Judy, long a knitter, had also long been a painter, and loved the idea of playing with more color in thread.  So I got her some simple things and some embroidery floss to get started. 

Flash forward about 13 years to the two of us having lunch at a nice little cafe in Madison.  Her second baby (and second boy) is due in October, but it was Judy presenting me and Ms. Z with a gift.

20090813_FairyCrossStitch.jpgIt is a beautiful and sweet and somewhat bittersweet gift in many ways.  Any of you who have done counted cross stitch will understand the work in this piece (actual size is roughly 8" x 10").  The wings have gold blending filament in them and the whole piece is worked on an Irish linen.  Judy made it before she had children, with the idea that when she did, it would be on the wall in her little girl's room.  Since son number two is likely the last child, she wanted it to get the chance to live with another little girl.

When I brought it home to Ms. Z (wrapped in tissue and happily ensconced in a bright pink bag), she had the bag out of my hands before I could even tell her I had something special for her.  I had to do a little juggling to put down my things and help her take it out gently and unroll the tissue so that she could see.  "She has wings!  Like a butterfly!" were the first words out of her mouth.  She then went on to point out the rabbit and the deer, and was very excited when I told her we were going to hang it in her room. 

My next mission is to get it framed so that Ms. Z can enjoy it in her room.  I'm hoping this weekend to get out and see if I can find something that I like for it.

Thank you so much, Judy, for sharing something so beautiful with my little girl. 

Zebra Striper Sleeve

This weekend I hit another milestone on Ms. Z's next sweater and completed the first Zebra Striper sweater sleeve.  Like the rest of this sweater, persistence is what gets you through. And you have to be a little extra persistent with the color work since two color knitting on double points is a little more fiddly than when just using a circular needle.

Really, though, once the cuff is complete, the rest is simple and it doesn't take too long to finish if you actually dedicate some time to it. 

In the background, you can see the body of the sweater -- I realize now that I don't think I made a point of mentioning that I had completed all of it.  Frankly, it was hard to get a good photograph of it since it is in that kind of awkward stringy phase before the steeking begins. 

And one more sleeve... and then some steeking will begin.  I am equal parts excited and anxious about that!

Just Another Random Wednesday

What is it about midweek that leaves me feeling slumpish?  Not sure. So I will be random.  And maybe share a few interesting links.

  1. For those of you considering weaving, I encourage you to take a look at Syne Mitchell's WeaveZine.  It's full of interesting articles on weaving, with plenty of interest for people who enjoy rigid heddle looms.  This article on using a rug weaving technique to make Spa Wash Cloths has me ready to warp up my loom with some of the Sugar N' Cream that I have laying around and make some great treats for friends for the holidays. 
  2. Speaking of weaving, have you checked out Weavolution? Weavolution is the weaving community's answer to Ravelry.  You don't need to create an account to see much of the content.  Even if you don't weave, it's a fun place to look at projects and color combinations.
  3. Need some entertainment on a boring day at work? Passive-Aggressive Notes now has a permanent place in my Google Reader.  Fail Blog is also a pretty good place to waste some time. And even though we're in between political seasons, Pundit Kitchen serves up some interesting photo re-interpretation. 
  4. Who are my favorite Etsy sellers?  Emily Parson has just added a merino/cashmere/nylon blend yarn to her stock lines (and if you read my blog, you know I like a little nylon when it comes to socks!).  It looks delicious and I've already ordered mine -- Charcoal to make a warm pair of winter socks for a certain husband and Mossy (a soft green) for me.   I'm also a big fan of the sweet little knitting bags (perfect for sock projects... I have three or four of them now) made by Stuck in Illinois.  She has so many fun fabrics and keeps a supply of bags with "seasonal interest".  And she takes special orders, too!   Need a clever pillow for your sofa?  Be sure to check out Alexandra Ferguson.  All her awesome pillows are made from post-consumer recycled felt.  Add a modern element to your living room and feel good about it, too!
  5. The Dragon Shawl continues, the Kushu Kushu scarf gets longer, my Lang Sock gets bigger and the second Zebra Striper Sleeve remains to be cast on (and for Annie who was concerned about the size -- not to worry, that sleeve is no problem for a two year old hand -- it looks smaller in the picture than it really is.
Any favorite Etsy sellers you want to share?  Funny blogs you like to read?  Feel free to leave 'em in the comments.

A good Wednesday to everyone!

Eleven Years

Today John and I celebrate our 11 year anniversary.  We celebrate it with our beautiful 2 year old daughter who has brought new dimensions to us and to our relationship.

After 11 years, it's hard to say things that haven't already been said.  John is my best friend and we have been through so many things together, good and bad.  He is my rock, my hope, my encouragement and a continuous source of optimism.  He tries new things with me.  He supports my decisions.  He helps me achieve my goals.  He challenges me when he thinks I need to think harder about something.  He encourages me to take risks when I would play it safe.  He helps me realize that stepping out of my comfort zone is a necessary part of enjoying life.  But he also accepts me for who I am and what is meaningful to me.  He reminds me that most questions have more than one answer, and that if you keep an open mind, the answer you get might surprise you, in a good way.  He does so many things to make my life better, and, in doing so, constantly helps me realize what a wonderful life I do have. 

I love you, John.  I can't imagine life without you.  Happy Anniversary, Sweetie.

The photo is taken from a series that my dad took of us when we were out at the Morton Arboretum when their natural daffodil garden was in bloom in the spring of 2004. Not really an anniversary photo, but definitely one of my favorite pictures of us together.

Images from a Garden

Sunday was a lovely, but incredibly unseasonably cool August day.  Rather than do our usual trip to the park, we took Ms. Z and headed up to the Chicago Botanic Gardens (something of a misnomer as the gardens are actually located Highland Park, a northern suburb).  It was a lovely day in the garden and while I didn't work on the sock project I brought along, John* and I got some lovely pictures for inspiration.

Anemone from the Waterfall Garden

Stately Bird in the Japanese Garden

Yellow Lotus

Water Lilly

Wrigley Field Made of Natural Components in the Model Railroad Garden

Ms. Z on a Bench in the Waterfall Garden

Unlike many of our trips where John and I roam all over the garden, with a toddler in tow, we had to focus on a few sections that we wanted to see and felt she would enjoy.  Our first stop was the Model Railroad Garden -- which costs extra, but which captured her attention for almost an hour and is really a delight for both children and adults.  All the "scenery" for the model railroad is created using natural products.  I loved the Wrigley Field model because the lights over the field were created with acorn tops.  Most of the bridges that the model trains cruised over were made of grape vine.  All the train stops are meant to be historic/significant US locations.  The other stops on our visit were the Waterfall Garden (many steps to climb -- good for wearing out little people), the Japanese Garden (a place you want to stop and meditate in), the Rose Garden (which has a lovely fountain that Z enjoyed splashing in, and the rotunda area just after the visitor center which has four different pools and an assortment of water flowers.  The Lotus that John photographed was particularly stunning.  Z also enjoyed some other fountain areas and was enchanted by the large white swans that reside in the main pond.

I love the deep colors of the late summer gardens.  They are like the grand finale of a fireworks display.  At once stunning and engaging, but also a reminder that the end of the show is near and that fall is just around the corner. 

* to give credit where credit is due, John was definitely the big winner with the pictures today, the Water Lilly, Bird and Lotus are all pictures he took.

Forgotten Scarf

Not too long ago I spent some time on Ravelry getting my projects up-to-date with my blog.  It reminded me of a few projects that have been languishing, so I decided that maybe I should figure out how to get some of these projects on the road to completion.

One of these projects is the Kushu Kushu scarf kit put together by Habu Textiles.  I think I started this project well before Ms. Z showed up on the scene.  Why isn't it finished?  Well, I don't much enjoy knitting with the single strand of silk/stainless steel yarn -- it's probably about the same weight as 10/2 perle cotton (maybe finer) and I have to pay a lot of attention to it when I knit with it.  So I think I just got bored and stashed it away for later.

With fall approaching, it seemed like it might be fun to have a new scarf -- especially one that has some interesting sculptural effects (the stainless steel yarn may not be fun to knit with, but it makes for a very interesting structure that can hold its shape).  So while Ms. Z gets her bath, I'm trying to knit a few rows here and there on it.  Maybe this year will be the year it gets crossed off the list!



Yesterday I had the kind of day that leaves marks on your soul.  Unfortunately for me, these marks come on top of old scars.  I've told those stories here before, and I'm not in the head space where I can tell this one yet.  I'm not as emotionally overwrought as I was in the past, I had some warning of where things were going and had a chance to prepare myself mentally for what was coming.  But I've spent the day with a deep sense of melancholy, and a deep appreciation for my baby girl. 

I spent most of the day in a very contemplative way... and EZ's "Knit on..." quote passed through my head more than once.  I worked a few more rows on the Dragon shawl (I am only 4 rows away from starting on bits of the dragon and I am getting more comfortable with that birds eye lace).  I started a new project for myself, Ysolde's Damson shawl with some of the beautiful rich magenta/purple yarn I got when I traveled to Philadelphia earlier in May this year.  It is a simple little shawl/scarf with some nice details and I know the color will be lovely against my skin.  A little treat for the fall, which seems to be here already with Chicago's current cold, rainy grey weather.

And I went to class and worked on my current weaving project.  I finally have my loom warped, my header woven and I hope in my next class I'll be moving on to weaving the actual project.  I will say one thing for weaving: when you're getting your loom warped, it's really hard to think about anything else.  I earned a number of weaving merit badges tonight as I worked my way through all the issues that come up with a warp sett at 56 epi for double weave (28 epi for each cloth) and wrangling 840 warp ends and 8 shafts.  By the time I'm done with this project, I'm really going to feel like I've accomplished something.

Today I will deal with the wrap up and closure of yesterday and hopefully will end the day with my family at our favorite brew pub enjoying Z's favorite french fries and a beer.  And the scars will heal just a little.  And I'll start to move on.

Peace and a happy weekend to you all.

Starting the Dragon


Dear Libby --

I think that perhaps it's time to put the last post behind me an move on to a more enjoyable topic.  I guess one thing that we learn as mothers is that the process is constantly teaching us something and constantly forcing us to draw on reserves of strength that we didn't know we had.  Parenting is so much about the long haul... something I didn't really understand until Ms. Z came into the world.  Perhaps Mr. C is sharing that with you, too.

Speaking of perseverance, I've hit a small milestone on your Dragon shawl. 

Although this is just the corner, it marks the point at which I have actually started knitting bits of the dragon -- row 55.  Of course, the bits aren't really visible yet, that's going to take another 10-20 rows before his foreleg really becomes apparent.  But it's started, and after all that ring lace, it is definitely a milestone for this project. 

Actually, though, the ring lace and I have begun to have a meeting of the minds.  After I inserted those stitch markers, things go much better, and after 20-odd rows of it, my brain started to see the patterns it needed to see in order to help my hands make a better go of it.

20090830_RingLace.jpgAnd when you get it blocked out a little bit, it is quite lovely to look at.  A fitting background for a dragon, I think.

This shawl is going to also have another unique quality -- I think it's going to have something of a minty fresh smell.  You might notice that white line at the top of the picture above... that is my most recent "life line".  Taking a hint some folks made after my previous post, I decided to try out dental floss instead of yarn.  Definitely a good suggestion as it threaded in easily and slides around well without pulling out.  I'm hoping I won't need to roll anything back, but, just in case, my Crest "Glide" is going to be there to make it a little easier for me.

I wish this were going a bit faster, but I'm finding it hard to work on when it's not daylight out.  I need good light to deal with the tiny stitches.  And even when I do have good light, the thought I have to put into the lace pattern means that I can't do too much without taking a break, lest my brain get tired and I make some mistake that means an unpleasant amount of tinking.  So I get in about two rows a sitting, if I'm lucky... and only about 6 rows a week. 

I guess I'm going to have to cop to that whole "slow and steady" thing... but, even at that rate, if I could keep it up, I should be able to finish before Mr. C heads off to college...

Love to you,


P.S.  To all of you who left comments on Friday and to those of you who might not have done so but might have sent some good energy my way... please know that the weekend has been a good thing and I am feeling much better.  All your thoughts and good wishes were and continue to be much appreciated.  Sometimes I use my blog to document my craft projects... sometimes I use it to write and release whatever I need to write about.  Thank you very much for reading and for listening to my voice even when it isn't always a happy one.