Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Salvador Dali and Nicky Epstein

Dear Blog-

My new issue of Vogue Knitting arrived the day before yesterday, and I saw in the new books section that Nicky Epstein has a book coming out on felted knitting. Now I know, Blog, that I have told you before that Nicky Epstein is my Goddess and that I will put no other Goddesses before her (other than the Goddess of All Knitting, Merino). But I swear, this woman has a new book coming out every two weeks, it seems. Doesn't she ever sleep? Has she no life?

Years ago I remember reading that Salvatore Dali never slept. Not as you and I know sleeping. Which explains a whole lot about his art. When he felt tired, he would sit in a chair with a metal spoon in his hand, and a metal pot on the floor directly beneath the spoon. He would close his eyes, and when his body relaxed enough that the spoon would fall out of his hand, it would hit the metal pan and wake him up. That was it, the man never had REM sleep. Do you suspect, as I do, that Nicky Epstein does the same thing, only with an Addi Turbo in her hand?

Of course, easy target that I am, I am already planning on buying this book, although I must confess here that I wasn't wild about her felted bags book or her knitted flowers book. Her taste is a lot BIGGER than mine. But I always find inspiration from her ideas, and that is the main thing.

Well, blog, the felted cable bag is now a physical reality, and I have been wearing it the last two days. Road testing it, as it were. Because I know I don't get to keep it, it will have to go as a demo in the shop both for my class and to sell patterns. But I absolutely love it. It holds a lot without feeling bulky, and I like the more classic shape of it. One of the things that I haven't liked as much with many felted bag patterns is that they lack structure. Some of them look like down-right sloppy lumps of wool. So I have been leaning towards getting a more definite shape in the bags I design. Now that I have the formula, I will be designing more bags along this idea. Of course I now have to start knitting one that I get to keep, but it has been a joy to use while I have had it. My 'keeper' will have the braided leather handles on it. The pattern will be available on my pattern pages by the end of the weekend.



I also have a pic here to show you of two new felted bowls I made a couple of weeks ago. I have a big bag of my felted bowl yarn all ready to go, paired with the beads that I want to use with each yarn, so now and then I stop and whip up some more bowls. Don't ask me what I will do with them all. I have no idea. Right now I have a bunch of them lining the LR mantel. But you may have guessed by now that I am partial to things blue and green, so this is the yarn that I grabbed first.


You know, also, Blog, that I have been on a Quest for the right buttons for my Algonquin cardi. I hold that the buttons can make or break a piece, so I always look for the perfect button. I first looked at the LYS where I teach, and just didn't see the thing that grabbed me. Then I started by looking at one of our two box fabric stores, Hancock Fabrics. I was looking for a brown button that had personality. And I just didn't find anything there that grabbed me by the sneakers. So I moved on to our other box fabric store, JoAnn Fabric. Where I found the pine cone buttons. They met the criteria in that they were brown, and had personality. But once I had them on the sweater I knew they were all wrong. This sweater almost has a half-of-a-twin-set feel to it, light and feminine in shape. And the pine cone buttons just didn't suit that idea. So a week later I went to one of the specialty sewing shops and looked at their collection of buttons. Not a thing. I asked the woman in the shop if she knew of any other place that had interesting buttons, other than the box stores. And she told me about a fabric store down the street that I know if as being a home decorating fabric store, rather than a clothing fabric store. But she said that they had lots of buttons in the back.


I got there, and near the front door they had three huge racks of buttons in brands I hadn't seen yet. After going through those with no success (but vowing that this would be my first stop next time I need buttons for a garment), I asked the little elderly woman who owns the shop about the rumor I had heard that they have a button stash in the back. She took me around the corner behind the register, and sure enough, they had shelves and shelves of boxes of antique buttons. As well as three binders full of old glass buttons.

After searching through all the boxes on the wall, I finally came up with a small wooden toggle. I asked the opinion of one of the women working in the shop, and she was very direct (which I like when asking an opinion). The color of the sweater is not bright, so to keep the sweater from being dull, I needed some flashy buttons. Hmmm... I hadn't thought of that, but now that she mentions it, I can see her point. So we go back in the room and look through the binders of antique glass buttons. There were several that she liked that I didn't but I could see how much that extra flash added to the whole thing. I found a paisley button that I liked better than anything else there, but still wasn't over the moon about. Then I turned back to the wall with a new eye, and found a gorgeous domed button covered with topaz rhinestones. It was perfect! They were $8 each! Ok, maybe not so perfect, I need 6 buttons for this sweater. I ended up buying one of the paisleys to take home and live with for a bit before I bought the full six of them. They are $3 each, not so bad, but not cheap, either.

Looking online I find that $8 for a rhinestone button is not out of line. But surely one of the box stores must have some form of rhinestone button that doesn't cost the earth? Well, not at JoAnn, but I did find two different types at Hancock Fabrics, and bought them both. As soon as I put the larger one up to the sweater I knew that was it. Then I realized the smaller button might just be perfect for the vest I am starting. I may be ahead of myself!

I have to dash now so that I can get some things done here before going off to teach, but tomorrow I will show you the button alternatives along with the winning button, and also show you the mobius scarf that I just finished.

Knit On, sisters!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

What I Did On My Mid-Winter Vacation


Dear Blog-

No, Blog, it's ok. I didn't go on vacation without telling you about it first. You are probably sitting there feeling hurt and wondering why you didn't get a postcard.

You remember I told you that I was scheduled to have two angiograms last week? Well, Monday evening I was very short of breath, with hypertension, tachycardia, chest pain, and numbness and tingling down my left arm. So about 9 pm DH trotted me off to the ER. The short version of the story is that they kept me overnight, did three angiograms the next day, and then finally sent me home late on Wednesday afternoon. The good news includes the fact that my blood vessels are as clean as the proverbial whistle, I don't have pulmonary hypertension, and the bruises are slowly fading, and skin is growing back where it was ripped off by bandage tape over and over again. The bad news is that now we don't know what the answer is, so have to start looking in another direction. But I'm told that other things are easier to solve than cardiac issues are.

Of course I didn't get any knitting done on Tuesday with sleeping on and off all day til they took me for my tests at about 3:30, then having to lie flat all evening. But Wednesday morning I thought I was feeling perky enough for a short constitutional up and down the hall, only to end up back in my bed, short of breath and feeling like I had just run 10 miles with large, menacing dogs hot on my heels. So I whipped out my knitting, finished the back of my sweater, did the 3-needle BO on the shoulders, and started the collar. All before they finally let me free.


I was going to (and in fact did, this morning) take another picture of it with the buttons on, but my camera just doesn't want to 'see' that sweater hanging in early morning light, so you will have to forgo the pleasure until later.

Wednesday afternoon and evening I just chilled on the couch and read and napped and watched tv, but I finished the collar by Friday morning, and then picked up along the sleeve edge and got started there. I also went and fetched some embroidery floss in a matching color and sewed on the buttons. I like the buttons, I think they are really cute, but I am not convinced that they are the right buttons for this sweater. My search continues.

Now I am about 4 inches along on the first sleeve, and things should just fly along at this point. Which is good, because the real world is creeping up on me, and I have to start a moebius scarf for a class that I will start teaching this week, and then finish my felted cable bag, and dive right in to the vest I am teaching starting at the beginning of next month. Perhaps I will even start work on the scarf today so that I know it won't creep up on me - this sweater, as much as I am enjoying it, can wait til later.

It can wait because our weather has been in the 80s ever since I got out of the hospital, and it doesn't look like it is going to get any cooler soon. I know that people in other places - where they enjoy normal weather - think this sounds great right about now, and I would feel the same way if I were them. But if we start in the 80s and stay there in March, that means 90s in April, and in the 100s already in May. I'd like to put those 100s off as long as possible, as they will still be here with us into late September. By which time I will be barking mad.

However, our penstemmon in the back yard are starting to bloom, so how could that be all bad? I haven't gotten out there this week to see if our red penstemmon is started yet. The pink ones are volunteers and they are all over the back yard, they will get to be about 5 ft. tall by the time they finish blooming in about 6 weeks. Then I just let them go to seed again in the yard. The more penstemmon, the merrier. And I noticed that one of our purple lantana is starting to bloom, too. I really want to get out there with an empty barrel and clippers and get everything trimmed back and cleaned up before it gets too danged hot, so let's hope for that, shall we? Once summer hits you can't get out there and work, it faces south and our overnite lows are a whole 76 degrees.

So, blog, I think that is it for me right now. Off to have breakfast and then start that moebius scarf. I'll show you that later.

Enjoy your day!


PS- Maybe a trip out to Dairy Queen later today might be required.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cruising Along and Blown Away

Dear Blog-

Well, they said we would have a windy day today, but I didn't realize that the wind was planned to start at 6 am, and that it would be blowing so hard that you can't even see the city, or that it would make the blinds in front of the closed windows rattle. Asthma Woman doesn't like the wind. Asthma Woman wants it to go away. I can see why years ago people stuck out on the prairie in little sod houses during months and months of dust storms would eventually go just a wee bit wonky.

Can You See Tucson From Here?

Well, the other morning when I was brushing my teeth, God told me that that was the day to start working on the actual knitting of my felted cable bag. Ok, so you're right, God has bigger things to deal with than my knitting schedule - like world peace and feeding the hungry - so let's just call it a message from the Knitting Goddess, Merino.

I often find that when I am working on a bit of a thorny problem, that I just need to let it simmer on the back burner of my mind for a while and ignore it, and suddenly I will wake up with the problem all solved in my head. Whole knitting designs come to me this way, too. And so it was with this. I had originally wanted to work a cable that was mostly horizontal in design, although it is worked from bottom to top of the bag, and because the charting program I have was giving me fits, I put the whole thing aside for a bit. Over time I realized that I really did want an open, Saxon type of cable that ran in a vertical stripe up the middle of the bag, but I wasn't finding the time or the inspiration to research the idea. And so Friday was the day.

So I spent a good portion of Friday -when I really ought to have been house-cleaning - working on the bottom of the bag (always boring) and then starting the first repeat of the cable pattern. My mind has come up with the occasional But! But! and I am just talking to it in soothing tones and telling it that all will be well. Merino told me so. Once I have the body knitted up I will show it to you here, in the meantime...

I have also been plugging away on my Morehouse Farm Algonquin Cardi. I am most pleased with my progress on it. It is the rare thing that I started with no mental deadline, simply for the love of working with that most delicious of yarns. I have progressed even since the pictures you see here, and am just over a third of the way up the back. Those terrible deadline-like thoughts started cropping up last week, such as: Maybe I can finish this so that I can wear it Wednesday morning when I go for my angiograms. Let's see, if I finish the back by this day, and then a day to work the collar, and then two days per sleeve, I should be able to do that. No! STOP! I am just knitting along, and when it is done, it is done. Get thee gone from my sight, oh Deadline Demons!

But here is a view of the finished fronts-

Algonquin Cardi Front

and of the progress on the back as of Friday morning-

Algonquin Cardi Open to Show Progress on the Back

I have also begun my hunt for the perfect buttons for this. I tried the obvious spots first - the box fabric stores. Yesterday in JoAnn Fabrics I spotted these cute little puppies and thought they were begging me to take them home with them:

Ok, they are out of focus, but aren't those too cute, little pine cones? But now I am not so certain that these are the right buttons for the job, so I hang onto the receipt and the search continues...

In the meantime, as well, I have been working on my Scheherazade Shawl, bit by bit. I promised ages ago that I would post a picture at the end of each chart, and as you know, I was having the dangedest time finding needles that worked with this very fine weight yarn. So once the proper needles made themselves known to me, I took off in a mad flight and not only finished the first chart, but blew through the second. So here it is with two charts completed:

Granted, lace always looks like a dog's dinner until it is blocked, but I think you get the idea from this. Just think: I only have four more charts to go, then I get to pick up from that provisional cast on and do the same thing all over again in the other direction!

So the day's plans include waxing my friend Susan and her daughter at 10, and then a call from my sister who was just visiting last month. Then lots and lots of knitting on the couch.

Stay out of the wind-
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