Friday, April 28, 2006

Patterns of Old

My mother gave me someold patterns a while back. At first I thought, ugh but once I managed to get past the hair, color choices and accessories I found that many of them were pretty stunning. Some are American, some are English (mum is Welsh). I know that her garage is stuffed with patterns dating back to her youth. I've been trying to think of a polite way to ask About The Will. I want to make sure I get the rest of her stash.

I’ve been knitting up a storm trying to finish this for a certain person’s birthday. It will be a day or two late but much progress is being made. I’m wrapping the Rowan wool cotton with the Super Kid Mohair/silk, which is giving the hat a slightly fuzzy look, and making it very, very soft.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ah, home at last. I loved living in the bay area but I love the Sierra foothills so much more. It’s not only been sunny for a week or so it is now getting hot. The visits and lunches with girlfriends were all fantastic and best of all the chemo session went smoothly. I spent part of it knitting, reading and just visiting. I was pleased to see that my new and improved sewn scarf design worked very well.

I had a wonderful time at Uncommon Threads in Los Altos where a very helpful staff person showed me lightweight yarns to make a summer hat. I even remembered to bring my discount card so $10 off and because of the amount of my purchase (no, I’m not telling) another 10%. The addition to my stash looks like this.
Things are a little messy because, 1) while waiting for my turn with the chiropractor yesterday I found myself amusing a very adorable 5 year old boy who liked my "rope" and 2) after doing my swatch (no, I did not wash it – I’m bad) I found that despite having three jars of needles I didn’t have two of the three that I need for the hat. So, gosh, another swing by the local yarn shop. I suffer so.

The yarns are: Rowan -wool cotton; Trendsetter Yarns - 70% Super Kid Mohair/30% Seta silk (the most amazing color and so soft) and Koigu KPPPM - 100% Merino. I also bought a Vogue book on sock making. I think I'm on the slippery slope here.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


I’ve knitted the first buttonhole (my very first ever). Then I ripped it out. I decided to change the pattern. Egad! I wanted my button to be in a little more and I also found a flaw in my choice of button. It has a decorative edge that is incised. This is catching the yarn. Hmmm. I’m rapidly approaching the second buttonhole and new yarn color. So far so good. The pattern has had problems. It calls for A, B and C colors then proceeds to forget B now and again. A careful check of the photo does show B. For someone like me it’s hard to tell if it’s the pattern or did I just do it wrong. I’m counting my blessings that I’m doing the most simple of buttonholes – no band to sew on – just bind a few stitches off and add them back on the way back.

My basic book of knitting arrived yesterday (Vogue Knitting on the Go: Beginner Basics) and it appears to be just what I need. The projects are very, very basic but the nuts and bolts explanations on how to block and other technical issues are just great. Lots of drawings and pictures. I seem to know a lot about stitches but not much about how to get everything to fit and hang together. I have only done a quick look-see but the book didn’t seem to recommend washing your swatch as per the Yarn Harlot’s recommendation. I’ll go with the Harlot every time.

I should get the right front finished over the next couple of days. I’m heading down to the bay area to take a friend in for her last chemotherapy session. She’s always very tired afterwards so I make dinner and we sit around and watch movies. A perfect time to knit.

Just because I’m so proud, here are some flower pictures from my garden.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

No Progress

At least not on my sweater jacket. I’ve been busy doing this.

Rain is predicted for late tonight and tomorrow so I’ve been gardening as fast as I can - starting seeds, weeding, mulching. My mulch pile grew today and it came from here.

My husband is very tired but the tree branches are finally chipped. These are the two trees that came down while we were in Death Valley. I hate it when we lose trees. The oaks take so long to grow. It’s a "not in my lifetime" thing but we plant new ones regardless. It takes about 4 years to finally wean the transplants off of watering. Oaks in the wild don’t need supplemental water but those from the nursery do till they get their taproot down.

This is what the trees fell on. I had a lot of good times with that truck shell. Camping trips, naps at work, the occasional cry when the day was particularly hard. I had a pregnant co-worker a few years ago who would use it to take naps on her lunch hour then wander in all pink cheeked four hours later. It was very useful and cozy.

I keep forgetting to buy Woolite to wash my pieces in. I’ve never blocked anything before so it will be an adventure. I forgot to add "how do I block my sweater" to my simple questions yesterday at Meadow Farm Yarns. The second yarn store couldn’t tell me. The lady at the counter had never made anything that needed blocking. I did my usual fall back – I surfed the web.

I downloaded some photos tonight and found this pretty late afternoon view taken during a break in the rain a few weeks ago. The light was very unusual and very green. The view looks east towards Nevada. It doesn't seem to be the same from day to day so you have to keep looking.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Poor Me

I went to not one, but two yarn stores today (all that this area boasts of) and found only one thing I lusted after – and they didn’t have it in stock. Just a luscious hat sitting there all made up in the yarn of my desire looking innocent. It’s not that there wasn’t loads of wonderful stash, just that none of it called to me. To make matters worse I then went to our wonderful fabric store, Fabrics on Mill Street, and found lots and lots of things but I had no patterns with me. It was expensive enough that I couldn’t just buy yards and yards. I do so try to be an adult at times. It comes and goes. So, till another time. I did buy 5 buttons for my soon to be finished sweater jacket. No photo yet. I’ve spent my afternoon baking cookies and muffins for my monthly care package to my stepson who lives in Memphis. (He has a nice girlfriend who knits him hats. Life isn’t so bad from his point of view.) My favorite yarn store, Melody Farm said no problem to my coming in for a private lesson on how to sew my project up and answered some very basic questions without rolling their eyes. They are so great. They had an almost tragedy this winter with rain seeping into the floor and soaking the yarn. Did I mention that it has been sunny for the last three days?

Sometimes I question just how observant I am. I bought the yarn for my project in Pacific Grove, CA. I admit that I was more than a bit distracted. My 80-year-old mother had fallen and fractured a vertebra in her back. After a week of not eating much or drinking enough fluids she was rushed to the hospital. Thankfully, she has made a full recovery. I had been talking to her on the phone (difficult sometimes because she is deaf and she doesn’t do email) and asking if things were okay and being reassured that she was just fine. During my drive back and forth to the hospital I noticed a fabulous yarn store, Monarch Knitting and Quilts. I saw the sweater/jacket knitted up and said YES! It was done with a double yarn but could be done with a single. To make this rather long explanation shorter, I thought I had asked for single – the price alone should have made me sit up and take notice. I knitted away for a while put it away for a year and almost finished it when I noticed that I still had a huge amount of yarn left. Being a cheerful person by nature I realized that I Could Make Another Sweater! In fact, the pattern book that went with the yarn has this, which is perfect.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Pattern Pieces

I have finished the second sleeve of my sweater jacket and am now attempting the right front and the dreaded buttonholes. I don’t understand how you can just knit the holes and not know what size buttons to use. This is certainly not what I’m used to with sewing. I will take my finished pieces to the yarn shop for their lunchtime session where they help you with problems. That is, if I can pry the cats off . I want to be sure this project is sewn up correctly. Just for the record I have ordered a basic book that will give me more information about knitting. I hope it has lots of pictures. I do well with pictures. I’ve convinced myself that I really do need to make a trip to the second yarn store to look at books and maybe buy a little yarn. How long can a person hold out? Besides, the cool new fabric store is just across the way and I do need a 9" zipper.

I’m galloping my way through the Yarn Harlot’s latest book and loving it. "It's wonderful" just doesn't capture how fantastic this book is. I feel, well, a little more normal about my knitting and the problems I’ve had in the past. I can see that I need to respect Gauge a whole lot more. I assume that the Harlot exaggerates a little to make things humorous but then again… we're talking about knitting here.

It continues to rain - a person could get a little crazed. But there was this lovely rainbow. I have so many things that need to be done in the garden that I lie awake at night trying to prioritize. I knew I was getting old when I stopped (not totally - I am still breathing) having sexual fantasies and started dreaming of what to put where in the garden. Knitting projects seem to take a lot of my dreaming time too. Gardening is my passion and once the weather improves most of my free energy will go into trying to make as many things bloom as possible along with growing as many interesting things as humanly possible to eat. Oh and using less water - this is a directive fom my husband. He has tried to convince me that I have plenty of raised beds but that just isn’t possible. Maybe just one or two more. Honest.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Strange Day

Today was rather strange - it wasn’t raining. California has had one of the wettest winter/springs on record. It’s like living in Seattle. You just automatically grab your raincoat as you head out the door. There just isn’t anywhere else for the water to go so things are sliding. Not us thankfully. We have rocks in Grass Valley so most of the time we stay put. When I want to plant anything in the garden I need a pickax. But today, today it was sunny and warm – high 60’sF. Of course, it’s supposed to rain for the next few days but then it is supposed to stop. I’ll believe it when things dry out.

I decided to see if I could get one last day of skiing in before the snow melted. I drove to a big meadow called Bear Valley because the small river that runs through it. This is the first time Omar would be out in the snow and I was curious to how he would do. He’s only 13 lbs. and just turned one. He turned out to be a regular snow bunny. He leapt and played, ran over to sniff things, poked his paws at various bugs and ate a cricket. So much of the meadow had melted that we had to cross small streams a few times. The swallows were starting to nest in the boxes along the fence posts so it must be spring at last. I will miss the snow but am ready to start my seeds and eat fresh tomatoes in a few months.

The husband of our company last weekend arrived with a large box of precut squares of cotton that he was sewing together to make quilt tops for premature babies at Stanford hospital. I offered to do one 5 x 7 quilt of 6” squares. I thought the finished piece looked so pretty and bright that I took a photo. I ended up standing on the dining room table to get a good overhead shot. Now I thought, I can get back to knitting my sweater jacket. Then the Yarn Harlot’s latest book arrived and I had to read at least some of it. This is the book I will be clutching when she comes to Berkeley in August.

Last night I wasn’t sleepy so I went through part of my fabric stash and found something to make my new pants pattern with. I purchased it so many years ago that I can’t be sure what the fiber content is. I did a hand wash test (I think it might be wool) and it has shrunk a quarter inch. I washed my square again to see if shrinks anymore.

I’m having a hard time staying away from my favorite yarn shop. I can’t afford it. I have too many projects started. I have a big stash. Still, it would be nice to see what’s new for spring.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Death Valley.

I'm still learning the ins and outs of what my blogware does. So far the spellchecker doesn't seem to work but I can paste into word and not embarrass myself too much. Apparently I need to post my picture first then I can put it in my profile. See, if I had bothered to get my personal webpage act together this, or some of this would be moot. Anyway, I love this photo of me. I'm not Thin. I'm not Young. I'm full of beans and happy. The photo was taken by my husband at Bad Water in Death Valley last March. It was windy but not hot. I’ve visited DV twice, both times in the spring. Last year the wildflowers were stunning - a once in a lifetime display. This year they were nice but not fantastic. I still haven't identified the very interesting plant with a swollen middle that gave some of the hillsides a very beautiful reddish color.
It's huge place though most of it is uninhabitable. It gets an average of two inches of rain a year. It rained while we were there. Go figure. It was windy too, very, very windy. I saw a lot of coyotes. The rangers had warned us that 15 pets had already been killed that year. They seemed fearless and were around even during daylight hours so I worried a lot about my dog becoming a snack. Omar thought they wanted to play. Silly guy.

We rode our motorcycles across what looked like a chemical waste dump to Surprise Canyon. A lot of DV looks like a chemical dump. Beautiful but not any place you would want to break down in. It's one of the few places in DV that has running water coming down out of the mountains all year. It was very beautiful other than at the entrance, which was something of a dump of old equipment and a few small rundown buildings. Various attempts have been made to mine the area but it also has frequent flash floods that are prone to removing anything in their path. If the ranger comes by and tells you there is a flash flood and to get moving you don't fuss around. You just GO. There was a small waterfall about half a mile upstream. The park used to let people drive their four-wheel vehicles up the canyon. You can still see the holes that were drilled to winch the trucks up. I am more of the quiet hiker type myself so it was nice to not have to dodge around trucks climbing over boulders.

Monday, April 10, 2006

To anyone who does not know me I will state the obvious: I am gaga about my pets. Crazy. Demented. In Love. Due to life issues it was 15 years before I was able to have cats again. I had never had a dog of my own. 5 years ago I moved to the Grass Valley, CA area with my soon to be husband. We bought a house, I started a garden so huge and varied I will never, ever have it completely weeded all at one time. Two months after living here with my partner's elderly cat we acquired three kittens. My husband had come across a 9-year-old girl in heavy eye makeup with a box full of kittens. He called wanting to bring them home. I mumbled something about needing to see them first. The moment I held one I was a goner. I can produce 8,000 digital photos to back this up.We agreed to wait on getting a dog till Sam the Elderly passed. Sam hung on and on and on. I started to think I should make provisions for him in my will. Who knows? I only have perhaps another 30 or 40 years left. It could happen. He died a year ago and we put his remains under a difficult to grow green gage plum tree that had never born fruit. Sam was a bit difficult himself so it seemed like a good match. The next spring it produced six incredibly tasty plums. After a great deal of discussion (me: I want a puppy. husband: I love dogs but...) we bought a mini rat terrier and named him Omar. We name all our animals with "O" names. No reason, just happened that way.Ozzie didn't make it past two and he is still missed. Opie and Ollie continue to rule the household and bring me gifts of mice and gophers. I've started putting out feelers for a second dog. So far my husband has only given me pained looks.

Blogging. It all started with an innocent email from my friend Kate sending me the Yarn Harlot’s link. I was hooked. She is amazingly funny and looks way too young looking to have children taller than two feet. I am eagerly awaiting Amazon to deliver her latest book and I plan to have it clutched to my chest in August when she comes to talk in Berkeley. Up to that point (pre Harlot) blogging seemed to me to be mostly 20 somethings and professional political writers going on and on about the state of the world and politics. Now I think that these are things that are important and should be *paid attention to* but I'm deeply (uninterested) uninformed. When I read interesting, fun, insightful blogs on *knitting* I was hooked. I have knitted for years. Okay, years without really gaining any clue on how it's really done or actually finishing up anything more complicated than a scarf I admit it. But I religiously took up my needles, poured over instructions and tried. Years ago I did take a class/group. I loved our instructor but she was anti-sock. Just wouldn't teach socks. I made a red sweater out of a cotton yarn that I almost finished - the neck just didn't work. After a while the class seemed to be little more than gossip and complaints so I moved on. I had a busy full life, it was okay. Still, I kept going to yarn stores and buying yarn. How can you help yourself? I was in Vermont at one point and went to the Green Mountain Spinnery. I bought yarn. I knitted a sweater *three times* and still could not get it to fit. I'm tenacious but also a little stupid I think. Here in the Grass Valley area we have two wonderful yarn stores. I have to be careful. My favorite is on my way back from the chiropractor's and they have things displayed in their parking lot. It's unfair. I try to drive by, I park, walk in, my eyes glaze over and sometime later I am driving home with a bag of yarn.

This year I have decided to focus on finishing up projects. Actually getting things off my needles and onto bodies. I've done two scarves and am finishing up the second sleeve of a Manos Del Uruguay Landslide Jacket (now that I've finally found my second needle which was deep behind the couch cushions). I've done the back and left front and saved the best for last. The right front with the buttonholes. Buttonholes, I have never knitted buttonholes. I will be brave.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Goodness

My goodness, here I am with my very own blog. I've been talking trash about designing my very own website for years complete with signing up for free classes and never yet managed to do it (I think I even paid for a class but we won't go into that). I've become a huge fan of several knitting blogs which finally led me to the grueling process (was it a five step walk through process or six?) of creating my own blog. Do I have anything interesting to say? Probably not but I am sure I will chatter away.

Of course, the main sticking point is what the heck to name it. It's not like I'm going to talk about *everything* but my mind is such that it jumps around here and there and I do like to think that there are a few things of interest about me. At the very least I can post pictures of my two cats and Omar the Magnificent my, as of today, 1 year old mini rat terrier. I'm hoping to link this to my eventual web page (cough, cough) that displays my art, my knitting, even my sewing projects. I recently had my first real Ebay experience and bought a used sewing machine. Since I learned on my mother's 1966 Sears Kenmore getting a computerized machine that does more than straight stitches and zigzag has been A Big Thing. So far I repaired two pairs of my husband's underwear (the waistbands had become unraveled) enabling me to say, see sweetie, it's a TOOL not a TOY. Then a couple of pillowcases and a removable pillow cover with piping no less for the couch. I had never done piping. My dear friend Suzy who can make wedding gowns with 7 foot trains in her sleep assured me that piping was "easy". Being me, a little compulsive, I had to do lots and lots of research via the web and going through back issues of Threads magazine before I finally tried anything out. I love the web. It's a wonderful way to connect to the world. I mean, I'm reading wonderful posts from a woman in Finland about knitting.

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