April 28, 2010

Reinvigorated

I recently sent some preemie hats of various sizes to Gulf Coast Medical Center's NCIU, and they were pretty basic as far at the hat scene goes.  Even though the nurses were thrilled to get them, and my recent endeavors have allowed me to come up with the Ideal Preemie Hat Pattern (see In Flux on this page for pattern), the knitter in me has been whispering "That's the best you can do?  Really?!" So I went to Ravelry and I surfed.  Lo and behold, and many thanks to other inspired knitters, I have latched on to the waffle hat.  Check out how cute these are turning out to be!  I'm enjoying this pattern so much that I was almost late for work this morning because I couldn't tear myself away. All day I kept thinking, "If I were home working on those preemie hats, I wouldn't be this stressed out!"  I just like the pattern so much I had to share.  You can access this pattern in my free patterns section. 

April 26, 2010

New Avenues

The Knitting Universe South convention was pretty awesome!  Except for one really major concern, that the class information that was provided when we registered online and then was sent to us with our confirmation was pretty much all wrong and misleading, especially for my mom's class, it was awesome!  I had a great time, and I now have a new addiction:  spinning.  I'm pretty sure that I can never go back to commercial yarn again.  I learned how to spin with a drop spindle, and I even got to spin some camel hair.   That was really nifty!  I bought some hand painted BFT, some silk, and a merino/bamboo/silk combo to spin into some fabulous threads for my first pair of hand warmers. i bought a trindle, too, to use to spin the silk for plying with the BFT and merino. We also knitted on Ravelry's Big Sock--something like 24 feet in circumference for the leg, so it's "big" is a definite understatement.  I am having a very difficult time convincing myself this morning that I need to get moving and get to work--somehow the motivation to go to work when there is spinning to do is completely absent this morning.  I wasn't expecting to enjoy spinning so much.  Here are some pictures of the beautiful fiber that I bought.  The pictures don't doe the colors justice, especially the second picture with the trindle, which is the merino.  It is copper and burgundy with a little bit of icey pink and camel brown running through it.

April 20, 2010

Simple is better.

My husband made this swift for me as my Easter present in preparation for my first ever spinning class at the Knitting Universe convention this weekend.  He made it Easter weekend, and I have not shared it with you; so here it is.  It works like a charm!  My husband's so awesome that he just looked at a picture, asked a few questions, and voila!  No more 3-hour endeavors to untangle the inevitable yarn mess that comes from trying to wind a hank of yarn onto a spool.   Sometimes it's the little, technologically simple things that make me the happiest.  I like anything that makes the operation of my life simpler and less stressful.  Thanks Honey!

And if you haven't been to Knitting Daily to check out the video about knitting green with Mags Kandis, you should.  Very cool idea and I wish that I had thought of it myself!  Basically, you make your own yarn out of old clothing or fabric.  Knitting Daily has a Knitting Green Challenge going on if you want to check that out, too.  I can't wait to have the time to try this out!  Again, simple things can make all the difference.

April 12, 2010

As Scarlet would say ...

So the first day back to work after Spring Break began with a 5:45 AM text message from a parent about her daughter's day at school which hasn't even started yet, followed by being 30 minutes behind schedule in getting out the door, followed by a series of electronic device problems at work--either my DVD player is possessed or it's on it's last legs and it's time to plan the funeral--, followed by a pretty smooth series of classes with my 9th graders, followed by, as I'm about to shut-R-down and go home, being thrown under the bus by someone at the BOE who is obviously trying to save her job in this time of cutting the heart and soul out of public education one furlough at a time, followed by the dog ate my last good pair, and they weren't even that good, of Nike flip-flops as a welcome home present, followed by a stack of new and improved bills in the mail and no new knitting magazines, followed by we're now funding field trips by having elementary school kids pay a buck a pop for a bottle of Coke twice a week instead of asking unemployed parents to send in a check, followed by the damned metal cork screw broke off in the cork of the bottle of wine! That was the end of my sanity. My engineer husband came home and I said "I need you to use your engineering skills to open this bottle of wine" and he took it out to the shop and came back with the bottle and a drill, and that didn't work, so I said "just break off the neck and I'll drink the whole bottle 'cause I'm right there" and he said "obviously" and left with the bottle again. I had momentary visions of being a character in Erma Bombeck books.  When he did get the cork out, my husband seemed disappointed that I only really wanted one glass. Damned good wine, though.

So I'm in one of those angry-at-the-world-cuz-I-need-a-new-job-because-mine-isn't-fun-anymore moods.  And then after dinner I went outside to water the garden because it's April and it's 83 degrees at my house at 7 in the evening and spring has sprung, and I realized that I spend too much time being frustrated by the things that are really beyond my control--like my job, --which I am damned good at by-the-way--and the perpetual Chinese laundry that my children think I run instead of having a life, and I spend too little time patting myself on the back for the things in my life that I do well and enjoy, like growing 26 types of vegetables and herbs in my little backyard garden and I don't even follow all of the directions!  I have two children who are always on the principal's list at their schools and one who just isn't old enough to qualify but would if she could.  And I am a damned good knitter.  And I am currently happily married to my engineer husband who can fix everything I break, even cork screw faux pas.  I can't recall anything that I have tried and haven't accomplished in my life, except a toy slot machine that I took apart when I was ten years old, for which my mother still gives me grief because it wasn't mine in the first place, and a first marriage that I think is listed in Guiness as the greatest mistake in judgment ever made by one women in all of recorded history--well, maybe at least in the history of the Western World. 

 As Scarlet would say, "Fiddle-de-dee!  I don't have time to worry about that now.  I'll think about THAT tomorrow."

Countdown to Southern Knitting Universe convention:  11 days.

April 11, 2010

Not so scary after all!

Thanks to the Socks Revived Design contest, I have been inspired to try fair isle.  That may not seem like such a big deal, but I have been wanting to learn how to do fair isle for years.  I have a smart little collection of pattern books that have been gathering dust on the shelf. I thumb through them now and again; but I have always thought that fair isle would be too  intrinsically complicated and require too much time in a class or with a knitting instructor.  But no.  It's easy!  No knitting class required.  Although I don't expect to meet the sock design deadline--maybe one done and the pattern, but not a pair to boast about--I decided to listen to the yarn and see what happens.  And, voila, my first fair isle sock is born!  My 13-year old informed me yesterday that I am obsessed and need an intervention.  Ha, ha.

April 09, 2010

Plan B

I have learned an important lesson this week:  when the yarn speaks, listen.  I feverishly began that pair of contest socks, thinking that it was the pattern that mattered--and I had dreams of awesomeness!--instead of listening to my yarn, which flat-out told me that it was not meant for lace.  I should have listened.  I wouldn't have been engaged in the sock construction battle of a lifetime for three days of my precious vacation time if I had listened to my yarn.  So, I ripped them out and put my things away, and went to the yarn store.

One of the things that most annoys me about going to the yarn store is inexperienced knitters "holding down the fort".  As soon as you walk in the door, they want to show you around and help you pick out your yarn, and shuttle you out the door.  If you let them, you are in and out so quickly that you have to check your receipt to make sure you were ever even there.  I'm a grumpy shopper.  My children tell me to be nicer to the "helpful" sales lady.  Only a true knitter would understand.  And since I was so pointedly reminded this week that I need to wait for the yarn to speak to me--it took it's sweet time in the store, that's for sure!--I said to the girl, "No, don't help me, I'm waiting for the socks to appear in my head and the yarn to tell me what to do."  She didn't know what to say and, with a look of je ne sais quoi went to sit with the older woman--I think I saw myself in 30 years, asking someone to help me rip out a row because the stitches are too small for me to see clearly as I talk about my tutoring of students and reminisce about my teaching experiences and wealth of literary knowledge to someone who says "I wish I knew more so that I could carry on a conversation with you"--who was working on I-don't-know-what.  Between the two of us, I think we had the poor girl a bit unnerved.

But the yarn spoke, and I came home with a skein each of Rialto extra-fine superwash merino (100% awesome) in chocolate and teal.  And I came home and did what I should have done in the first place--charted the pattern before I wrote it out.  In my compulsion, that other pair of contest socks was a I'll-invent-as-I-go mistake.  Lessons learned.  So I am going to try my first ever fair-isle anything with this pair of socks.  That means I will not be done with even one before the April 18th contest deadline, but there will be other sock contests, I'm sure.

The other thing that I did was to realize that I hadn't met my goal, in all of my foolishness, for my vacation; so I finished the maple socks.  They are gorgeous!  I will have to wash them and put them away, as the weather is now too warm to wear them. Come November, though, they will be a welcome sight.

So what have I accomplished this week?  One major knitting lesson learned, on pair of socks finished, one knitting room cleaned up and put together, one 6-year old mostly recovered from surgery, one garden put in, and one awesome sock adventure about to begin.  Overall, I'd say it's been a pretty productive vacation.

April 07, 2010

Sock Design Hell

Okay, I'm starting to think that sock design is not my thing.  I knit things without a pattern all of the time!  This should not be so difficult.  I knit through the first 18 rows of a gothic lace pattern, and ended up with about 10 more stitches than I was supposed to have.  So I ripped it out, thinking I must have picked up too many stitches with every row after the 10th row.  So I started over.  Bear in mind, I knit two-at-a-time, so every time I have to tear something out, I'm basically tearing it out twice over.  So I knit again.  Same deal.  So I said, fine, I'll just table one sock and do this one sock at a time--thoughts of there never being a pair have begun to creep in--so I tore both socks down to row 9 and tabled one sock for "later".  And I began again.  And I tore out again, and again, and again.  And then I said the Hell with it, and decided to do a series of knit rows and yfwds to make a column of three holes beneath the V in the lace pattern by the cuff instead of following the actual lace pattern.  Hey, I'm designing! It doesn't look too bad except I keep ending up with too many stitches to return to the original lace pattern to finish it off.  Now I am to the point where the anklet is going to be a little long for an anklet per se; so is there a word for something half-way between anklet and full leg sock?  I am having to be crafty to hide the necessary decreases to get the sock back to the 64 stitches that I need to repeat the V pattern near the cuff.  I am spending my entire vacation on this project, and I am not actually sure why. The test will be to knit the other sock with this pattern of mine and have it turn out to be the same as the first sock. I am beginning to long to finish the maple socks because at this point those are a no-brainer and it would be nice to have one project complete before my vacation is over.  My goal was to finish the maple socks and start my fingerless gloves--for which I still have not found the right yarn and a trip to Main Street Yarns (affectionately known as the Yarn Barn around my house) is probably going to be in order for Friday. 

I have also finally taken the initiative to organize the spare bedroom to create a knitting work space for myself.  I got my table all set up and everything re-organized and stored, and now I just need a bulletin board and a book shelf above my table for "design and reference" purposes.  I have spent every possible moment, practically, in my new work space since I put it all together at 5:30 yesterday morning.  I'd say that I need to find a hobby, but obviously my hobby has taken over my life.

I think I would be in a much better state of mind if my children were not telling me that they are "the most bored [they] have ever been in their lives!" every 30 minutes or so because we didn't go anywhere for the break, and if my six-year old were actually letting me get more than 2 hours of sleep at a time each night--day 6 and I'm working on less than 5 hours of sleep for the last 5 nights. So much for a restful vacation. The thought of taking a nap occurs to me, but somehow that doesn't happen because I am obsessed with the purple/grey socks. I can do this.  It's only a sock.

I went outside to my other relaxing past time--the garden--to water it and discovered that it is a field of yellow pollen.  Everything is yellow.  Bushes, plants, grass, outbuildings, cars, the cats, the air ... I tried to take a picture of our pollinated cars, but the air was too yellow, I think, for the pollen to stand out in the picture.  The camera, however, after only being outside for about 2 minutes, went from black to yellow.  Better to stay inside and knit, I think.  I am starting to wonder if I should change the name of my blog to "Knitting Asylum". 

April 05, 2010

Socks on the Brain

Yesterday I was tooling around blog space, mostly because I am on vacation and was tired of working on the maple socks, which are almost finished now--few more inches and I'll be to the toes--and I came across a sock design contest.  Not having entered a knitting contest before, I was particularly excited to come across one whose deadline I hadn't missed.  I always seem to come across contests that I want to enter after they are over, which lends to my defense that I don't spend enough time on the Internet, even though my husband is always giving me a hard time about being on the computer.  So the contest is the Socks Revived contest--deadline April 18.  I don't honestly even know what the prizes are if I win.  Not the point.  It's the challenge of the thing that has inspired a new pair of socks before I am even done with the ones that I'm working on now.

And they are the most frustrating socks I have ever done, next to that pair that lies half-ripped out in the spare bedroom because I came to hate the pattern passionately by the time I got to the heels, but was too non-committal to tear them out completely.  I have written the contest pattern down to the gussets, my least favorite part of the sock,  and have gotten the cuffs and the first few rows of the pattern done.  I thought I'd start with an anklet because time is short and the deadline looms, and then we'd see what develops from there.  But the cable to my needles is totally uncooperative, and I didn't have any solid sock yarn--no yarn stores of merit open on Easter Sunday, so I went with what I had: purple/grey variegated bamboo/merino.  I like the yarn, and I can see the pattern develop as I knit; but my mother was right and I don't think they will photograph all that well.  And the yarn is pre-packaged in skeins, and these two skeins apparently hate one another because I can't do half a row without having to untangle them.  With the cuffs done, I discovered that I can't start my lace pattern right out of the gate, so I had to rip that out and knit a few rows.  And my computer hates me.  The word document I created to write the pattern must have crashed three times due to a virus. And it was Easter Sunday, and probably not the best day to start a new sock obsession.  Good thing we were having the most lax Easter Sunday we've ever had because of my daughter's recovery and my boys being with my ex-husband for the weekend.

My six-year old had her tonsils out on Friday.  Remarkably, two days later, she is acting--during the day anyway--like she never had surgery; but at night she is not sleeping well, of course, so neither am I.  That's why this newest note is being written at 3:30 in the morning.  I can only get up and down so many times before I am just up.  My brain turned on about midnight, and I think I must have had four different dreams about what to write for my next blog entry by 2 am--I guess that's a sign to write something.  So now I'm up for the duration, I guess.  Good thing I'm on vacation.  I don't want to jinx it, but it looks like it will be a week of sunshine and warm weather--Spring took about a day to get here, and now it's 80s every day.  Last week it was 70 degrees if we were lucky and didn't notice the arctic wind.  That sounds a little exaggerated, coming from someone living in the South, I'm sure.  What does warm weather in the South mean at this time of the year?  Jonquils, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, flowering cherry, dogwood, and plum, camelias in bloom, forsythia like fountains of gold, flox on the hillsides, and so much damned pine pollen that the whole world exists in a constant state of yellow fog and allergy Hell!  I'm right there, in allergy Hell right now. So we love the weather and are praying for rain.  We just had about three months of non-stop rain and a crazy number of snow days, and we were praying for it to stop.  It stops, and we can't wait for it to start again.

We put in the garden on Saturday.  I made my husband till up another 5 ft x 16 ft section of the yard for the tomatoes so I would have more room in the garden to grow other things.  I am trying to go totally organic this year, from the compost to the heirloom organic seeds.  I think I am the only person on the planet who can't compost.  I just can't get it to work.  I have been fussing since the beginning of February to get the seeds started, but it kept raining and freezing, and now, two months later, I'm afraid it's too late in the season and by mid-July everything will be under grown and burnt out from the heat.  I ordered seeds late, so I started seeds indoors late, and nothing wants to grow in those darned little pots.  However, when I uncovered the garden from all of the leaves, there was lettuce gone wild, beets that wouldn't grow when I wanted to but that were in full swing, a couple rows of carrots with the biggest one I have ever grown practically climbing out on its own, yellow/crimson calendula budding up despite the obvious frost-bite, and more oregano than I know what to do with.  The Italian parsley is even coming back strong.  My husband planted two blueberry bushes in the new garden space today, and we have muscadine and grapes to plant still. Victory Garden is going to have nothing on me this year!  I'm going to give those darned seeds until Wednesday to sprout, and then I'm just going to put them in the garden and throw caution to the wind!  Sprouts or no.  This year I am planting cucumbers, spinach, 4 kinds of tomatoes, Charleston bell peppers, purple bell peppers, sweet potatoes, beets, orange and white carrots, parsley, sage, rosemary, lime basil, German basil, pink Indian Prince calendula, chives, vidalia onions, bush beans, lemon bee balm, baby romaine, spotted trout lettuce, butterleaf lettuce, red oak lettuce, and dill. I think that's the complete list, but I may have forgotten something.

Alright, well, as 4 am peeks around the corner, I think I will go work on the new socks.  Even the name of the pattern seems wrong.  I never write patterns; I just knit along and invent as I go. That's probably the problem with these new socks right there.

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