Friday, September 21, 2007

There Are About 50 Other Things...

Quail hanging out in the back yard

Dear Blog-

I think you can assume that there are about 50 other things that I should be doing right now. Such as laundry, finishing up giving the kitchen a good deep clean and finding where that smell is coming from, paying bills, writing up patterns, spending time feeling guilty about all of the above. Of course, having just typed that out, I had to get up and go throw a load of laundry in, knowing that if I didn't I'd have to go to work naked today. And really, that isn't one of my better options right now. Just take my word for it.

And damn that Ravelry! I finally got my invite in the middle of August while I was wading through hell, and just really didn't have time to do anything with it after signing up and getting my Ravelry name. Til one night this week while DH was sleeping peacefully on the couch, I came over to the computer and decided to start putting my stuff up on Ravelry. So I started entering my WIPs, then put in some of my projects in queue, then started looking at all the various groups and joining them, then started looking for people I know and adding them to my friend's list. Then I had to start reading the posts so far on my many groups and replying where I thought I could add anything to the discussion, then I had to go back and look to see if there were any replies to my posts, then... and it has been straight downhill from there! I can see where someone could spend hours and hours just checking everything out on Ravelry. I mean, what kind of brilliant idea was that, anyway? You could end up like that guy who just died after playing online gambling for three days straight.

"What happened here, sir?"

"Well, Officer, my wife discovered Ravelry last week, and she hasn't been off the computer since. She hasn't slept, she hasn't gone to the loo, she hasn't blogged, she hasn't eaten... And if that wasn't shocking enough in itself, she hasn't knitted, either! That's when I knew she was really in trouble, but I couldn't lure her away! I tried waving rice crispy treats under her nose and then slowly backing away from the computer. I tried rattling the car keys and yelling, 'Let's go to the yarn store and spend LOTS of money!', but nothing worked. Finally, she just fell off the chair with a thump this morning."
"I'm sorry for your loss, Mr. Sorenson, but I have to tell you, we have reports of this happening all over the world. It's spreading like an epidemic. We are recommending to husbands that they just disconnect the computer until after this whole Ravelry thing can be disbanded and the perpetrators can be rounded up. It's a threat to world peace as we know it!"

But thank God it isn't like that (not quite) and reality intervenes and you realize that you haven't blogged in ages, and that you really do need to do the laundry and wash the dishes.

Anyway, last time I checked in, I promised to tell you about the fingerless mitts I was designing. In the meantime they have been finished and other projects started, of course, so here they are from start to finish. Or I should say, here it is, since I have only knitted one.

My whole premise when thinking about this design was that I wanted to work with a hand-painted yarn that I bought from Lucy Neatby when she came to teach at our guild last year, pair it with a coordinating yarn, and work a pattern in two-handed Fair Isle. Seems reasonable enough. And so I started working with these yarns... Actually, I was going to pair a blue with the hand-paint, and then realized that they matched a little too well and nothing would show up, so I swapped it for the green.

And found that it looked like poop, the pattern barely showed up, and even then wasn't particularly perceptable. I mean, you can't really see what's going on here, can you?

Back to the LYS, where I swapped out the hand-paint (which was the WHOLE point of the exersize) with an orange... And it worked.

Tudor Trellis Mitts

I was rather pleased with the result, and now just have to find time to sit down and write up the silly pattern, which can take, sometimes, almost as long as knitting them does. Or so it feels. The stitch pattern is taken from Sheila McGregor's 'Traditional Fair Isle Knitting', except for the thumb gusset, which was a pattern of my own design. (Slight pause while I go throw the laundry in the dryer and put the dishes in to soak.) They are a fairly quick project only slightly complicated by doing the THFI while using two circs. I also used an Italian tubular CO, with a sewn tubular BO, and really loved the way both of those worked out.

The other main thing that I was working on at the same time was chemo hats for my Aunt. If I told you what a difficult life this woman has had, firstly you wouldn't believe me, and secondly it would take away some of her dignity by making her sound pathetic, and she is anything but. She has survived event after event - any one of which would bring lesser souls to to their knees - and come up smiling. Such as the loss of her eldest daughter to a drunk driver at the age of 18. Her house burning to the ground on Christmas Eve. After a horrible car accident where she actually died in the ER and was revived and that left her without one eye, she told my father, Well, I don't have to close one eye any more to thread a needle. My Aunt is an amazing woman. I don't know anyone who is genuinely happier for another person's good fortune. And now she has lung cancer. She is on chemo, just starting, and will start radiation soon as well. So, chemo hats are all I can do from this distance. Her favorite color is red, and here are the hats...

Friday, September 07, 2007

The lizard that 'owns' our pond

Dear Blog-

Today, on 'The Sorenson's Wild Kingdom', we have a photo of the lizard that owns our pond. This is a very fierce lizard that chases away all other lizards that dare to come near his pond, and then goes back to sunning himself on a rock and guarding his lizardom. The mesquite beans that you see on the ground in the background are a great favorite with bunnies and all manner of squirrelish things, and are almost gone now.

Well, Blog, I didn't think I would be posting here this morning. I thought I would be working on my FI mitts, but that project is just not working in it's current permutation, and changes will have to be made. We will talk about all that another day. The idea was partly inspired by this...

Here is my Fair Isle felted bag design (pattern for this and several other recent projects should be available on the pattern page over the weekend). I did this with Cascade 200 and some Noro Kureyon, and was really pleased with the result when felted. After a few years of making felted bags now, I am more excited when adding new twists with color and texture. The plain felted bag is getting to be pretty dull.

Originally I was going to put this bag up on etsy for sale, it was never intended for me or for classes or patterns. And then the LYSO saw it and wants patterns, and when making up my list of classes for the Winter quarter at the shop I decided that in the interests of preserving sanity during the festive Holiday season I ought to do most of my classes as projects I have already taught, or already designed. So it is going on the class list. And I have someone who wants a private lesson in this project. Here it is after felting...

I am really taken now with putting leather handles on my bags, I just feel that it gives them a much more finished and professional look. My expression is that it makes the difference between hand-crafted and homemade. Which means I have also added the much-dreaded lining step to the process.

Last week while waiting for the handles to arrive I went out shopping for lining fabric for this bag and the Mitred Squares bag, and you know how that is. My problem (as it always is in fabric stores) is that I have a very definite idea of what I want, and it is almost never actually in the fabric shop. Last time this happened I wanted a printed lining fabric for a tweed jacket I was making. You would have thought that I as asking the store clerk to strip down to her knickers, get up on the cutting table, and sing selections from Britney Spears using a top hat and cane. She was just aghast! Printed linings? Oh, no! We don't sell printed linings here! Printed lining fabrics are only used by hookers!

Here is another thing about Tucson fabric stores that really tweaks my nose, other than the whole 'lack of imagination' thing. The big fabric stores are only on the other side of town. Never mind that Tucson has been growing to the west for the last 20 years. This means that if I am struck by a burning desire to find out if the larger JoAnn Fabrics on the far side of town might have printed linings, one must pack food and water to last several days, gather one's loved ones about one and kiss them good-bye, and then spend $85 on gas to drive to the other side of the moon to the fabric store. Only to find that they might not have what you want. What did you say? That I should call ahead and ask? You must be kidding! Not only would it be a miracle if they actually answered the phone (during the 14th ring you are starting to wonder if some outraged shopper has finally been pushed beyond her limits and gone in there with an Uzi, and all personnel are laying dead on the floor while she laughs maniacally), if they should actually answer the phone they don't hesitate to make it perfectly crystal clear that they are not, under any circumstances, going to look for something for your lazy self. They (unlike yourself, who has nothing more pressing on your agenda for the day than make crank phone calls) have better things to do. Know that they already have it at the other store? Don't ask them to have it sent over. Trust me. Just don't. Listen, I went to a schmanzy women's college in Virginia. One of the first things you learn is how to deal with haughty sales people. By out-haughtying them. Raise your eyebrows and give them the look. But the well-preserved ladies in Papagallo have nothing on the women who work in the fabric stores of Tucson.

This time all I was asking for was a quilting cotton in a foulard print that matched this bag. Was that really too much to hope for? Apparently so. I settled for this orange cotton print, and I am not unhappy with the result, but it just wasn't what I had envisioned. But I found linings that worked, took them home and washed them, and then had the two lining fabrics and the cutting mat lying out on the dining room table for several days. Then last weekend, realizing that elves were not going to come in the night, measure the bags and cut out and sew the linings for me, I broke down and did so myself. In the meantime, my handles arrived. And here is the finished bag...

Which brings us to the mitred square bag. This was designed for a class at Kiwi. I used Kureyon here as well, as I know you have already spotted, and loved working out how to make the design work, as well as seeing the squares happen.

I love this bag deeply and desperately, and have to give it up for a month or more in order to leave it in the shop on display. This strikes be as being rather cruel. Someday it will be mine again.

Well, Blog, I must go shower and dress to play Knit Dr and then embark on our day of fun. See you later-


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Swan Lake and Other Mysteries

Dear Blog-

I swear, sometimes it is like being on Wild Kingdom and always getting to be the one who stays in the car and watches out the window. Last week after bringing DH home from work I was sitting on the couch reading my book and saw something moving outside, out of the corner of my eye. I just saw the hump of this big body going by with a ringed tail, and assumed it was one of the wild cats we have seen in the yard. Until he got into the pond with all four feet, and I thought, That's no cat. Then I saw this face peering out the other side of the big blue pot. I mean how cute is that darned thing, anyway? How often do you get to see a raccoon about three feet away from you? He was very curious about my husband with the camera, and seemed not at all frightened by us. At one point he was standing on his back legs looking in the front window at Graham, who was pretty excited as he has never seen a raccoon before. This photo doesn't do his size justice - he is big! About 3 foot tall standing on his hind legs. Uh, the raccoon, that is. Not my husband. My husband is taller than that.

And speaking of DHs, tomorrow is our anniversary, so after I go and play Knit Dr we will go out to lunch at our favorite (and only) Brit cafe in town, and then to the movies. I'm still trying to convince him that we ought to go to the Gem Show while it is in town this weekend, but on the other hand, I know that Lynda + Gem Show equals the purchase of gems, and right now it isn't in our budget. Oh, well. Just as we had to spend all of our birthday monies on repairs for a car that was totalled two weeks later, for our anniversary we will probably spend what little monies we get as gifts on something like food, or medicines. Which totally sucks, isn't very festive, but whatcha gonna do?

On the brighter side, I can assure you that while I was not posting here, I was knitting as often as possible. The results of which you will be seeing here over the next few days as I try to play catch-up.

Two weeks ago I finished the Mystery Stole 3. I wanted to finish each clue within the week following it being posted, and I did pretty well with that until Harry Potter came along, and you know I just had to stop and read Harry Potter. While that only took a couple of days, it completely put me out of the mood to work on big projects, and so I was one clue behind when the next one came out. Considering that I finished it only a week after I had hoped to, I figure I can't complain.

And I certainly have no complaints about the results...

I used Zephyr wool/silk blend in the color Charcoal. This is not the color I picture when I think of charcoal, yet I do really like it, and enjoyed the entire experience very much. The yarn is just so delicious, and the shimmer of the silk in the blend made me think of graphite powder. I will definitely be working with this yarn again. The other half of the experience - the mystery aspect - was a very different one for me. I have always fiercely disliked being given arbitrary orders, I like to know what I am going to be doing, the whole story, and all the reasons why. Sure, I take risks in life, but they are risks I choose. To just start knitting a project like this one - without having any idea what the result would be - was not only a very freeing jump off the high dive, but also a treat to work along and not know what it was supposed to look like. To have almost no responsibility for the outcome.

I know that YOU know that I think Melanie Gibbons, the designer of MS3, is a lace genius, so it wasn't that hard to jump in knowing that she was at the controls. All hail, Melanie!

Although it has gone on a short tour of potential admirers, Swan Lake is now packed away and waiting for cooler weather so that I might enjoy it. No, Sister, you aren't getting your mitts on this one...

Look at how the feather area blocked out-

You love it just as much as I do, don't you?

I do have several other projects to show you, including my finished Fair Isle felted bag, my Mitred Square felted bag, and the FI mitt design I am currently struggling with. I also started working on squares from Barbara Walker's Learn to Knit Afghan, to take along during grueling parental surgery patrol. They are perfect for that type of knitting - a small, portable project that doesn't take much thought at all once you have the repeat in your mind.

Less happy projects include several chemo caps for my beloved Aunt Audrey, who has lung cancer. She started her chemo on Tuesday of this week. Rumor has it that she has also worn through the soles of the pair of felted slippers I made for her b-day last November, so the yarn for another pair is on order. I get the feeling that they haven't been off her feet since she got them. This time they will have suede soles. If you could send up some prayers for her and for my cousins, especially her daughter Colleen, it would be much appreciated.

See you in a couple of days-

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