Saturday, February 28, 2009

They're Shrugs - not Shawlettes

Just the other day I saw a pattern (somewhere?) for a Shrug, and it had sleeves with a shawl type piece across the back. It was constructed like the "Shawlette" I knit(ed) for Pookie and the one I'm knitting for The Bean. So now I know. They're Shrugs.

Pookie - all smiles - with a few of her beloved animals.

Part of the back and sleeve.

The Bean's Shrug? Progress is being made. I'm past the center back portion and about two inches along on sleeve number 2. (Yes, I did finish the Purple Fountain Lace Socks.)

Apropos of nothing, one of my favorite things are "Bird Trees". The Curmudgeon and I always called them that. A "Bird Tree" is a large bush or a small tree where a flock of birds has gathered and they all begin to chirp and shout at each other. (The McLaughlin Group on PBS sometimes remind me of Bird Trees - the talking heads on said program all talking and shouting at once... But, Bird Trees are much nicer and the birds probably make more sense than the talking heads.)

Also apropos of nothing, I heard a profound statement this morning on Religion and News Weekly (PBS). Forrest Church was speaking in an interview with Bob Abernethy and said "The opposite of love is fear." Without thinking much about it, I would have said that the opposite of love is hate. But, I think he's right - it's fear. And then, fear begets hate. It might be helpful to remember that those who hate us most likely fear us. Hmmmm.

Recently a friend of mine (a very wise woman whom I love deeply) also said something profound. I can't quote her verbatim, but the essence of her thought was this: Isn't it strange that religious fundamentalists (of every stripe) tend to be anything but fundamental in their words and actions? Every major religion (that I know of, anyway) preaches love, forgiveness, service, acceptance, non-judgment of others to name a few of their fundamental beliefs. Yet, "Fundamentalists" often preach hatred, retribution, exclusion, etc., and are super judgmental of anyone different from themselves or who disagree with them. Another hmmmmm...

And here's something that I think is hilarious. The Bean's sixth grade classroom has been the recent home to an incubator complete with fertile chicken eggs. Recently, the eggs hatched and the kids in the class got to name the chicks. One little yellow chick was named "Omelet". Don't know why, but my funny bone gets tickled every time I think about it.

And lastly, Clem takes a breather.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And the Frogs were heard in the land

(Did you hear them? Rip-it, rip-it, rip-it...)

Yes, I did it. I frogged the Fair Isle sock all the way. It was a good thing. I could tell that I was not going to be happy with that sock! Sometimes when I make knitting mistakes I just let them go - I know they're not gonna bother me. But other times, I know they're going to make me nuts and the only thing to do is go back and fix them. In this case, I had messed up not once, not twice, but several times on the heel and the heel was driving me CRAZY (as I may have said before), and there were other issues going on, and, well, ripping was the only solution. I'll probably try these socks again someday, but in the meantime I'm finishing the second purple Fountain Lace sock and then I AM GOING TO FINISH The Bean's Shawlette. Honest.

I debated thismorning about going outside to prune another rose bush. Or ... making cookies. The cookies won. (The Bean will be so happy when she gets home from school!) Also on today's agenda: homemade Beef and Vegetable Soup (recipe from this season of America's Test Kitchen) and maybe homemade crusty French Bread. I haven't made French Bread in years, but I make and bake "regular" bread about twice a week. The aroma of baking of my favorite things on earth.

(Hey, didja notice? I got the date stamp thing fixed on my camera. Yesterday afternoon I was complaining about the date thing to DS and he gave me one of those looks. You know, the kind of look that says "Oh, you poor pitiful thing. You are so totally clueless!) "You just go into the menu, Mom, and use the arrows to navigate around and re-set the date." Me - "There's a menu?"

Another favorite thing - our Chickens! Yesterday afternoon DS was out back cleaning out the garden beds and he let the chickens out to forage. They were so happy.

This is Penelope, one of our three hens. I wish you could click on her image to embiggen the pic, but I seem to have lost the ability to make that feature work in my blog. Chickens are so cool. My grandma and my Aunt Jean both had chickens when I was a child and some of my favorite memories are the times I helped feed those chickens and gathered eggs. My dear Curmudgeon's family had chickens when he was a boy and one of his chores was to clean out the chicken coop. He ended up hating chickens and wouldn't even entertain the notion of having them during our time together. (He's really missing out now. DS does all the clean-up, and with only three hens it isn't such a terrible task. And we get fresh free-range eggs. Scrumptious!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Feels like Spring! Did you hear a frog???

It is achingly beautiful outside today! I worked out front and pruned three of our huge, overgrown rose bushes. Here's a pic showing one of several left to prune, and an "after" pic showing a couple that I pruned today. None of our roses have been pruned in several years. The Curmudgeon used to love doing the dead-heading details during the summer months, but he wasn't so big on doing the big winter cut back stuff. I hope I haven't killed them!

My plan is to dig out all the grass and weeds around each bush and maybe plant annuals around the roses. But then...that's been my plan for at least six years. Who knows if I'll get it done this spring.

This is my little dog, Clem (short for Clemson). He hates it when I go outside and don't let him come along. So his little nose is out of joint from being relegated to the house while I was out side this morning.

He'll forgive me soon though, because after finishing this post I'm going to go out to the back yard and engage in some chicken-watching (our three hens just fascinate me and they're almost as good as meditation when it comes to calming the heart). Clem thinks the chickens might be good play-mates, but they're not very cooperative in that department.

Knitting? This is supposed to be a knitting blog, after all. I'm about to rip out the Fair Isle socks. (I'm sure I heard a frog just now.) The heel is driving me CRAZY! And, although the sock looks plenty big, it's really hard to pull over my heel - stranded knitting isn't as stretchy as stockinette or ribbing. I'm thinking I might do-over: add a pattern repeat going around the leg, lengthen the leg and try a Priscilla Gibson-Roberts heel in garter stitch. I know that will mess up the beautiful heel pattern that Katherine Misegades charted for this sock, but...hey, sometimes you just have to give a sock another chance at life, and if that means simplifying things, well then you do what you have to do.

That's it for now. Out I go to commune with chickens :-)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

True Confession Time

The Purple Fountain Lace Socks? Well, they're not the only new WIP I've begun while needing to finish The Bean's Shawlette... I also cast on for some Fair Isle Socks (yes, I know! I really am BAD!!). Not once, but twice. The first time, I began with an inch of 1 x 1 ribbing as called for in the pattern, but it looked so wonky that I ripped it out and started again, this time with a braided edge that I liked from some long-ago mittens. (Speaking of ribbing...I love the way my 2 x 2 ribbing looks, but every time I do 1 x 1 ribbing it looks like crap! Why is that, I wonder.

Here's a pic of the first couple of inches or so. The pattern is from "The Tongue River Farm Sock Collection" found here, and the wool is Icelandic Wool found here. I love knitting with this wool - It's springy and earthy and very appealing. It also felts like crazy. How do I know? I knit another pair of socks with this yarn several years ago and my Darling Curmudgeon accidentally washed them - and dried them! They were never the same!

I have knit a few stranded projects in my time, but I'd be the first to admit that I don't have a lot of expertise in this type of knitting. However, I found a stranded knitting technique here that I really like. Why? First, the yarn doesn't get all twisted (which drives me crazy) and second, I have more even tension with this technique: the floats on the back are only carried over a maximum of two stitches at any time, so there's less possibility of having extra loose floats or extra tight floats.

I finished the first Purple Fountain Lace sock and only have a few inches to go on the second one but I'm such a WIP whore that I couldn't even finish before I schlepped off to the Fair Isle socks.
As for the Shawlette? I'm going to pick it up and actually knit a bit on it soon, I promise!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Some knitting in spite of everything

This past Christmas was low budget. Without the Curmudgeon's income, there was/is no extra $$ for much of anything. So I did what frugal knitters do. DS and DD and I agreed that we wouldn't spend any money on each other and that we would just focus on the two grandchildren. I found yarn in my stash (oh, thank heaven for little stashes!) to knit hats for each of the girls and also knit a "shawlette" for the youngest one. Actually it was supposed to be for The Bean (oldest), but in spite of all my efforts it turned out too small, so I gave it to Pookie (youngest). When she comes to stay with us next weekend, I'll try to remember to have her Dad pack it with her stuff so I can get a picture. I did start another shawlette for The Bean and am a little over half way done, but I've been working on other projects...I'm so easily lured away from WIPs to start other WIPs. Anyway, here are a few pics of hats.
The Bean's Hat, Side View
Same Girl, Same Hat, Front

(By the way, I have no idea why the date stamp on the pics says January 6 of '06... these pics were taken just the other day...why is my camera smarter than I am?)

The Bean had seen a pic of a similar hat in a catalog from Limited Too (?) or some other tweenie catalog and wanted one just like it. This one isn't "just like it", but similar enough that The Bean was very pleased.

And here's Pookie's hat.

Back to the shawlette for just a second. I don't know what to call it - maybe it's a shrug? I don't know. Basically it's a shawl with sleeves. (I've sewn the one sleeve so maybe you can see what the heck I'm talking about...You start at the wrist, knitting flat (not in the round),

then increase a few stitches along the arms to make the sleeve,

and knit across the back
and then reverse the process for the other arm. (I haven't gotten that far yet.) After you're done knitting, you sew seams from each wrist (end) of the shawl up the arm to create sleeves, leaving the portion from the upper arms and across the back open so it acts and feels like a shawl. Again, The Bean had seen a picture in a (knitting) catalog and thought it was really cute, hence my attempt at knitting one for her.
And what has lured me away? (Bad Grandma!) Socks, of course.

I'm working them toe-up, using Judy's Magic Cast on and following Wendy's generic toe-up sock with gusset, but making the socks my own by incorporating Fountain Lace and Double Eyelet Cable (from Barbara Walker's books). This is only my second time knitting this type of toe-up sock...I swore I wouldn't use this type of construction again as I sweated through the first pair - but then when they were finished and I wore them, I fell in love with the fit and comfort. So, I've used it again with these purple socks (and still had problems along the way) but I persevered and am now past the heel and working on the leg of the second sock. The problems, by the way are because of ME, not Wendy's pattern. It is superb, as all her patterns are. It's the "knitting the stitch together with the stitch that wraps it" that seems to be my big challenge. Don't know what my problem is...

Friday, February 13, 2009


It's been so long since I've posted I've mostly forgotten how.

First, sad news about my dear one. Last April my darling Curmudgeon had a heart event in his sleep, and even though the EMTs did finally get a heart rhythm back, he didn't ever "wake up". It's been about 10 months since he died and I still feel as though I'm on an emotional roller-coaster. Those five stages of grief? What no one tells you is that you don't necessarily move/progress through them smoothly, transitioning from one stage to the next. For me, it's been (and still is) a hodge-podge of profound grief one day, ballistic anger the next day and "calm" acceptance another day. And on and on.

This pic was joyfully discovered in my camera's memory after he died. I don't think I took it - maybe The Bean or DS/DD snapped it. As I look at his face in this tableau, he looks worried or maybe in pain. He also looks more haggard than he looked when awake. We used to tease him unmercifully about falling asleep anywhere, any time, and if any of the cats had access...well, they regarded him as heated furniture.

While he was in the hospital (connected to all kinds of machines in the hours before he actually was un-plugged and subsequently "died" for real) the cardiologist told us that his heart was only functioning at about 60% and that it had most probably been that way for a period of several years. Now, of course, we're all so sorry that we teased him for falling asleep anywhere anytime... Poor guy! He needed it. And, we're all still amazed at how hard he worked, how much he got done in spite of 40% less output from his heart.

And, despite his haggard, pained look, I'm so glad I have this picture of him with his beloved cats.

I'm planning on posting again soon - and with knitting content. Yes, there has been some knitting.