Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sakiori III Vest

Dear Blog-

I'm sorry I haven't written in a while. It seems that life just gets so darned busy, and yet for the life of me I can't think of a single useful thing that I've been doing. EXCEPT!!! The Sakiori III vest is finished at last. Actually, I had finished it on Saturday, it just takes me forever to sit down and sew on buttons, and this time it was both buttons and frogs as well. But here it is! (I promise the frogs and buttons are evenly spaced. It is just the way it hangs on this hanger.)

Ok, now can anyone explain to me why it took 3 hours to load these pics onto Blogger? Alright, so I went out to the going-out-of-yarn sale to see what was left (not much), and then went to Walgreens, but still!

Anyway, you'll recall that last time I wrote, I was all worked up because the yarn lots didn't match. Notice the very top of the vest back in this picture.

So after I wrote, I looked in my yarn stash at the rest of the yarn for this project. Only to find, much to my despair, that the bottom of the vest, the MAIN DANG PART that was already knitted was the odd ball out. That would mean taking out the entire back of the vest and starting over. Well, I figured if G really doesn't care, why the heck should I make myself crazy over a vest he'll wear at the farmer's market? So, very, very unlike myself, Anal Knitting Woman just said que sera sera and knitted up the rest of the vest. G doesn't care and it does look great all finished. And the weather is starting to get cool enough on market mornings that I think I have finished it just in time.

Also since I spoke with you last, I worked up a solitary demo mitten for a pattern I had to write for a class I was teaching.

I named the pattern The Three Bears Mittens as it is sized for generic child, mother and father. This made my husband think it would look good on Pookie, our only child.

Only he forgets that Pookie is deformed and only has big clubby stumps where his paws should be. Anyway, he decided it looked cute anyway, and let the mitten rest on Pookie's leg, whereupon he took that picture.

Now Pookie's story is interesting. My husband sent me Pookie for our first Valentine's Day, which was actually before we had even met. We met online through one of the Aromatherapy lists we were both on, and found ourselves chatting for hours every day, at odd hours of the day and night. A big mystery box arrived for me at Christmas with all kinds of wonderful Aromatherapy things in it, including the sublime Rose Petal Jam. If you haven't tried RPJ, you need to. Then on Valentine's Day the UPS man delivered a box about the size of a small refrigerator crate, and Pookie was inside. Pookie is very soft. And very big.

And remember me saying that I put my felted things in the oven to dry? And how I've never been stupid enough to turn on the oven when one is in there? Ok, you know when I ran out of the room a couple minutes ago? That loud piercing sound was the smoke alarm going off. Fortunately I was able to rescue the thing with no apparent damage, but it sure is dry now!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tragedy and Tears in the Desert

Dear Blog-

The unthinkable has happened and my whole world has changed. You read about these horrible tragedies that occur, and while you feel a certain degree of human sympathy for the innocent victims - and who could not? - you don't understand what a life-changing event it is until you experience such a thing yourself. How on one side of the divide your life jogs along in the old way, and in the next instant, in just an eye-blink, everything has changed. Such a tragedy has befallen your devastated correspondant, Dear Blog.

Last week I went into work to teach, and I proudly brought along two of my knitted and felted pears to show off to our shop owner. I think all knitters know that it is true that you can admire a photo of a knitted thing greatly, but even such true admiration pales beside the emotions one experiences when face to face with the real thing. So I thought I would lighten the day of everyone I encountered, and show them my knitted and felted pears in the flesh, so to speak. I handed two of them to Lynn and said, This is the one I made according to the original directions, and here is the one that I did my way. Well! Need I even say that she was truly admiring and fell on them with a glad cry - of course she was and of course she did - and I went back to the classroom with a skip in my step and a song in my heart for having made someone's day. I enjoyed a very pleasant session of teaching, and it was only on my return to the front of the shop that I realized that I had taken the fatal steps that would lead me to my own deep and tragic loss.

I came upon Lynn once again petting the pears fondly, as I had left her two hours before, and with a glowing countenance she declared that she had been planning to bring the small display cabinet back out to the front counter, and these pears are going to look wonderful on top of the display case! My God! What have I done???

What could I say, Dear Blog? I'm a youngest child. I never had anything of my own that wasn't someone else's first. When I wasn't just a way station for toys and clothes that were taking a small rest on their journey to the person after me. I've never given a thing up with grace, even now in my late 40s. But I couldn't just wrest them out of her hands, could I? I couldn't say, No! Those are MY pears! Give them back! Then push her down and take them away, sobbing all the while. Could I?

So I guess I am just going to have to knit and felt more pears, even as I plot the eventual liberation of the felted pears I have lost. At least I have photos to remember their dear selves by.

SOB! I must end this missive now, I am too torn up to write any further...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Lovely Afternoon in the Desert

Dear Blog-

I have pictures for you! This week I brought the camera with me to the market so that you can see what we do on Sundays...

Here are some of my felted bowls that I have been bringing to the Farmer's Market to sell. The two in the foreground and the purple one in the back row are made with Kureyon. It makes a limper felted fabric, but the colors can't be beat. The orange bowls are done in Cascade 220 with some Kureyon scraps used in trimming them. They sold great last week, but nary a one sold this most recent weekend. I'll do some more up as we get closer to the holidays. I think I finally have my pattern for them perfected. The small purple one in the very back is my perfected pattern.

Here is a long view of the market to the right of our table. This is taken first thing in the morning after most of the venders have set up, but before the customers start coming in. When the market gets busier as the day goes on, this little street is full of people. The hotel in the background brings us a lot of customers as well. As you can see, our market days have had absolutely gorgeous weather for the last several weeks, and looks to be even better this coming weekend. And as winter comes in we do get rather nippy in the mornings here, something every knitter loves...

Here I am looking from my parking space right towards our table, with the blue cloth. We have a nice spot, people see us as they are just coming into the market. To the right of us is the bakery (yum!) and to the left of us are the plant people, with their gorgeous flowering plants. We enjoy watching the hummingbirds come in to feed off of their flowers on Sunday mornings.

This is a view of our table all set up for the day. Yup, those blue chairs are where I spend my Sunday mornings knitting and people-watching. Well, one of those blue chairs, anyway. I don't need both. Yet. I do meet a ton of knitters every week just by sitting there and clacking away. It always amazes me how many people actually get ANNOYED with me in hot weather when they see me sitting there knitting. Or if they are from out-of-town they think I must be crazy to be knitting with wool, because in their minds we couldn't possible need anything that warm. As I said, I get the last laugh on winter mornings when they come out in their shorts because they didn't pack for winter weather in the desert. No clouds at night = cooooold mornings!

Speaking of unexpected weather, yesterday morning the heavens opened up and we had a heavy rainstorm complete with moth-ball sized hail! It sounded like someone was beating the house with bats.

And here is the progress on G's vest... I worked away happily on it all Sunday at the market, then yesterday I had to spend my day writing up a pattern for mittens and knitting up a test-mitten for a class I taught this morning. I took G's vest along with me to class today because I knew I could sit there and work on it while my students were working on their mitten cuffs. Well, I took out the vest, and as I was showing it to one of my students I realized that the green yarns are two TOTALLY different tones! The second skein has a lot more brown mixed in with it. You can't see it as well in natural light, but as soon as you look at it under flourescent it leaps out at you. I showed it to G when he came home from work this afternoon, and he doesn't care. So the question is - how much is it going to bother me every time I see him wearing that vest. And I think we already know the answer to that. So once I finish posting here I'll go dig through the rest of the yarn I am using for this vest and see if I don't have enough of this first color to at least finish the back of the vest. If the front is a slightly different tone I can live with that - this is not constructed like a classic garment and the fronts and back don't ever meet, they are held together by side panels, and all the panels are surrounded by the blue borders - it can work...

It looks as though after G's vest is finished I will be knitting up samples and writing patterns for my classes, and doing some Xmas knitting. I don't think I'll have the chance to do any knitting for myself again til after the holidays. I do have a few projects lined up, a cardi from Philosopher's Wool, the Twilight sweater from Interweave, and the Scheherezade stole from Pink Lemon Twist. She writes the most gorgeous lace patterns! And of course I have the yarn all earmarked for those projects. Something to look forward to!

Ok, I suppose I need to go finish washing the dishes. Ugh!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Green Growing Things

Dear Blog-

I have lots of pictures for you today of green, growing things. Including progress on G's vest...

This is the Sakiori vest from Folk Vests. He gets too warm wearing knitted things, but thought he wanted a vest for winter at the farmer's market. Even here in the desert it gets quite cold on winter mornings. I love being all bundled up and seeing those who are obviously visiting relatives for the holidays and didn't pack properly. They are the ones at the farmer's market wearing shorts and t-shirts in 25 degree weather. I always say to G, I guess they know now that 25 degrees in the desert is just as cold as 25 degrees anywhere else... I even put felt insoles from Morehouse in my clogs for those cold mornings, and they make a huge difference when you are standing on cold cement for 4 hours.

These next pictures are of blooms last night on a large cereus we have on our front porch. Those of you who are familliar with these know that they bloom at night, for one night only, and then by morning the buds are completely closed again. My mother was a cactus fanatic in the wilds of up-state NY 40 years ago when no one understood why she thought these things were so lovely. I remember as a child what I called the spring and the fall plant migrations. In spring we would move all of Mom's 'outdoor' potted plants out to various spots in the yard from their over-winter hibernation in our basement. It was an all-day process with the four of us kids and my Mom carrying pots out of the basement door like a swarm of ants. Then in fall when the nights were getting too cool for the plants to remain outside the process was reversed, and we carried all those pots back in where they would spend the winter in a very sunny room in the basement in front of a large window. Whenever one of her cereus was in bud it would be checked on daily til we could tell that 'tonite is the night'. Then it would be ceremoniously carried upstairs to the dining room where we would turn out the lights and sit and watch it begin to open as dusk fell. The flowers open so quickly that you can actually see them move.

There are many varieties of cereus, and this particular one is very tall with a twisted body. Apparently this variety seldom blooms, but this is the second setting of buds we have had this year. I believe this is because it desperately needs repotting and that is going to require our friend Joe the cactus guy coming over to help G do the repotting. This puppy is about 6 foot tall with 4 arms, so quite heavy and gangly to maneuver.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I noticed that two of the buds were getting ready to open, and here they are. We still have another two buds that are very close to opening. Last budding we had about 6 or 7 buds on the cactus, four of which opened all in one night. To give you some perspective, the flowers are about 6 inches across when fully open, perhaps more with all the outer bits.

The next two pictures are of things growing in our dining room. This large sunny room used to be a porch years ago, and has two very large windows facing south. So it is my daytime knitting spot, this computer is in here, and I pretty much live in this room during the day. In the background of the second picture you can see the potting table cum sideboard that has been slowly taken over with knitting things... as is most of the house.

But the first of these two pictures show GRASS GROWING out of the wall between the dining room and the kitchen. Mind you, this is not an outside wall, this thing had to find it's way through 4 foot of house to get in here to start sprouting. I wanted to wait to see what it was before attempting to cut it back and get rid of it. That is a bit tricky since I'll never be able to find the roots in order to kill it, and most things grow back even stronger and healthier after being cut back. But it really needs to go.

And the second picture shows a coleus that we bought at the farmer's market last week. Our great misfortune is to have our table right next to the plant people, and last week I couldn't resist this. So after I sold one of my felted bowls, this puppy was mine! I love the fall colors in the leaves as well as the pot it is in and the ivy it is underplanted with.

Finally, here is a felted bowl I made yesterday with Kureyon - pre-felting, of course. We were meant to take part in a crafts fair last weekend, and I made several of these in different variations during the week. But the market thing didn't pan out, and instead I brought them to the regular farmer's market we do, where I sold two of them...

Okay, off to do useful things such as wash the dishes and fold laundry.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Torturing my sister

Dear Blog-

I may have already told you the beginning of this story, but darnit, I'm going to tell you again. When I got back into knitting several years back I tried my darnedest to get my oldest sister, who had also knit when we were children, to take up knitting too. I was just thoroughly convinced that she would love it - the patterns, the yarns, the creativity and relaxation, all of it. It was (and is still) something I was so excited about that I wanted to share it with everyone I knew. And with anyone I don't know, too.

But she is as stubborn as I am and the harder I pushed, the more I offered to teach her again ("I already know how to knit and I'm not interested!"), the more she resisted. But every Achilles has their heel, as it were, and my sister's weak spot is her grandchildren. So I knitted sweaters for her two grand-daughters. Heh, heh, heh. That did the trick. Next thing I knew she was asking me if I might know where she could find the pattern for the slippers we used to knit every year as kids. She's gone sharply downhill from there...

It has been a pleasure to watch her journey through learning all those things about knitting that we didn't know as kids, and her pleasures in her projects, to receive knitted gifts from her. We went through a rocky period in our relationship a few years back and although we always still loved each other and always still 'got along' there was something held back on both sides, but knitting has broken through that, and if for no other reason - and I have plenty of other reasons - I will always be grateful to knitting.

I love being able to help her when she runs into a roadblock and to point her to books and resources that will be useful and patterns that she would enjoy. Through her I get to enjoy the discovery of those things all over again.

The flip side to all this is that she lives 8 minutes away from Sheep's Clothing, the shop for Morehouse Farm yarns and patterns. (Yes, she has timed the trip.) The place, as I have already said, that I would like to move into and just be that strange but happy and helpful (undoubtedly corpulent and fetid, as well) woman who lives on the couch in the knitting room, surrounded by ever-growing delicious piles of knitted things.

So when she was visiting last spring and our Mom was in the hospital the entire time, Carol - one of my two nursing sisters - took great care of making sure Mom was getting the meds and treatments that would help her the most. This took enormous amounts of strain off of myself and I'm sure from my Dad, too. I can do the nursing grunt work, but don't know what to ask for or what questions to ask - or even what the answers might mean. Yes, I am the black sheep in the family, as I always say. Our Mom is a nurse, my two sisters are nurses, Carol's daughter is a nurse, my sister Mary's other half is a nurse.... In fact, in my researches of the family tree, we have nurses going back to the mid-1800s - perhaps even sooner than that - along with several doctors around that time period. Anyway, while being a knitting teacher means that I am a dab hand in a knitting crisis, it doesn't do a whole heck of a lot of good in a medical crisis. Hmmm... Nonetheless, I'll stick with my knitting, it doesn't have the yucky bits.

My husband and I ordered the Morehouse Farm book for her as a thank you, at the same time as ordering one for myself. Well, I'll be damned if hers didn't arrive first. Of course it did, she's only 8 minutes down the road! It was sheer torture to me that whole week waiting for my book to come as she described patterns and exclaimed over how wonderful everything was.

Fast forward to about a week ago when I sent her the link to the Interweave Holiday issue, and we both drooled over it by emails back and forth, exclaiming over the woolly pears by Nicky Epstein - and all the other treasures - though it was really the woolly pears we were lusting after. The silly thing wasn't due to hit the newstands until the 17th and we could hardly wait. She ordered her copy from the Interweave site but I wanted to wait to buy mine from the LYS where I teach. So Monday of this week I was talking to the LYSO about classes to teach for the upcoming quarter and what was new in the shop, etc, when she said that the much-anticipated magazine had already arrived! I know, Dear Blog, that you know that I was already in the car and on my way to the shop to get my copy. I told Lynn, the LYSO, that with this in hand I knew what I would be doing that afternoon! Heck, I knew what I'd be doing the whole trip home at every red light!

My sister, of course, was greatly exercised that I already had my copy in my hot little hands and was enjoying every page...

Yesterday I could stand it no longer and after holding out less than 24 hours I made three of the woolly pears. I do see more in my immediate future, they are a very quick knit. The first pear (the purpleish one in the center of the photo) I made according to her instructions - knitted flat and with an intarsia area that is later heavily worked over with the main color in duplicate stitch. The second pear I made again knitted flat, but without the intarsia area, with less heavy duplicate stitch in a couple of contrasting colors. By the third pear I was knitting the whole thing in the round and it all made so much more sense.

It was with much glee that I mentioned to my sister yesterday afternoon that I had pears processing...

I've just whipped the three of them out of the oven and here they are. (Yes, after felting and blocking, I always put my felted things into the oven overnight to dry out completely. We have a gas oven and it is always just warm enough from the pilot light to make it the perfect spot for drying out felted bits. It's also perfect for raising bread dough. I lust after an Aga and can picture the things I could dry in THAT puppy! SIGH. No, I haven't yet turned the oven on to cook and acidentally roasted my felting.) NOTE: Live chicken added for scale.

I can't wait to email this photo to my sister, who already hates me for yesterday's photo of my finished sweater...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's That Time of Year Again...

Dear Blog-

It's time to hide the screaming doormat by the front door and invite innocent people to step in. Time to put out the pumpkins - both plastic and felted - and get into the spirit of fall and harvest and all those wonderful things that people in other parts of the country get to enjoy, while we continue to bake our butts off in 90 degree heat. Ah, yes, fall in the desert Southwest... Will it ever come?

This morning I made myself sit down and sew the buttons on my cabled sweater. This is from a pattern in a Debbie Bliss book called Cashmerino Collection, that we found last year at the Woolly Ewe (I think) on our Hudson Valley yarn crawl. You may recall that on our return trip from hell I started - and finished - the back of another sweater in this same book using Patons CLassic Merino in Leaf Green while waiting endless hours in the Albany and Atlanta airports. For Christmas last year part of my yarn monies went towards buying Knitpicks Sierra in Mist for this sweater. Actually, I ordered the red shade first and when it arrived it was godawful bright so I sent it back with a Thanks, I'll take Mist instead.

I don't enjoy hand-sewing. Even in the years that I made all my clothes for work, I hated hand-sewing and would even do hems by machine. So for me to assemble the sweater after the fun part of knitting it is done is sheer torture and is accomplished by strength of will alone. Okay, not alone, but coupled with the twin desires to have the item usable, and to start the NEXT PROJECT!!! But one does have the pleasure of having it 'finished' in both senses of the word. There is a pleasure in seeing the seams come together invisibly. My husband made the perfect comment when I showed him a side seam, he said it looked as though it had been knitted in the round. Good husband!

I had the pieces laid out on the dining room table last week after blocking, and would sew a couple of seams each day. Then the night before last I sat down and made myself weave in any remaining ends. Thank God there aren't many of those as I usually weave them in as I knit, and any leftover ends I normally weave in at the end of each piece just so that this part doesn't get to be an overwhelming task at the end of a project. But I had a number of ends from my seaming and especially at the spots where the raglans worked into the sweater body.

Then, as I said, this morning I sat down and pledged I would sew on one button before getting up and dashing away. Ok, a second button. Alright, just one more, then I'll be half-finished with this last stage. And before I knew it they were all sewn on. So here is my new sweater -

And it occurs to me that I haven't put a photo in here of a sweater I finished at the beginning of the summer from a Morehouse Farms pattern called the Barbizon Jacket. This was worked in a yarn from Briggs & Little that was another find on our yarn shop crawl of last summer. I was going to knit a sweater a month all through the summer - having a few sweater's worth lined up in queue in the knitting cabinet, but I soon saw the error of that thinking. Also, I do realize this looks like an unmade bed - the woman who rants everytime that she gets a Knitpicks catalogue that she wishes they would take the time to block before they photograph, apparently didn't fold the sweater as carefully as she thought before putting it away... I promise, it doesn't REALLY look asymetrical.

Here are the felted pumpkins...

And gee, while I'm at it, here is a second bag I made that is a modification of my Geranium Leaf Bag pattern. The bead is one my husband made that I wire-wrapped to use as a weight to hold the flap closed. It is hanging next to the Huck Lace Shawl I made from the Morehouse book, in their own lace-weight yarn...

Wanna see something scary? Here is the inside of my knitting cabinet. And yes, it IS organized.

And I am off to spend the rest of the morning working the woolly pears pattern from the new Interweave Holiday issue, and to see if I can't whip up a felted apples pattern to go with...
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