Monday, December 29, 2008

Well Received

We do Christmas and Jim's birthday presents together on December 26th. This year instead of having Inge and the grands here, we were invited to her house. This meant, on reflection, that I only made one eating item for this holiday. I am not complaining.

Inge made us waffles, bacon, pressed coffee (num) and a green jello cake that Jim's mom always made for him for his birthdays. I supplied  White Rabbit Salad from the original Moosewood Cookbook.

After we were full, the packages were distributed by Amelia and Tucker. We go around from youngest to oldest opening each one, giving it its due, ooohing on the item until they are all opened.
I am just going to document the presents from my holiday knitting/sewing list.

Amelia is the youngest.
I waited until she had most of hers before snapping this one. The Calorimetry hat and Bolero sweater went on immediately and did not come off again until bed time. (She is cutting off some plastic from her new English rider doll.)  Near the bottom of this photo is a smidge of Inge's new humbug bag, already stuffed with knitting. 

 Amelia is in love with horses. Takes riding lessons and will now have more sweet horsey dreams.
Tucker's eyes went wide as he opened his mittens package. They also went on and stayed on for several hours, despite the fact that we were inside the whole time.

Next was Inge's hat. The yarn was hand spun from my Roses for You colorway in alpaca/merino/silk.

Jim's mittens, although not officially on THE LIST were completed after brunch. He says he is sure they are warm but declined to wear them indoors.

And on the kitty front, from Rhode Island:
I will tell the truth. Max has not yet deigned to lie down in either bed he was given. This is a photoshopped pic of him superimposed into one just so we could imagine the scene.  

My goodies will be posted tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

10:04am, 12/24

is when I completed the last present for 2008.

Last year I was still knitting Tucker’s Sweater on Christmas Day. When I evaluated the hand made gifts season I was not pleased with the rush for production, the tight feelings, nor the amount of Netflix DVD’s watched into the wee hours. I reminded myself to do fewer items and in a different order for 2008.

This year I started with the largest present, Amelia’s Bolero, and then proceeded to make items in the order in which they needed to be either sent out or gifted. I also replaced the DVD’s with Audible books. Cathy gifted me with a silver Nano a few months ago. I am not a big music listener but do like books on CD, so Audible was the perfect thing to have to be able to download into my iPod. I even got it a set of speakers.

That’s a whole story unto itself as most of the speakers I encountered as we walked from Best Buy to Target at the other end of the mall and back again, were over $100 and 20 times larger than the Nano. I could not reconcile myself to enormous for such a little thing, nor did I want another radio. However after extensive listening we found the smaller speakers to be tinny. Finally, at Radio Shack, mid mall, a nice set of Memorex speakers were on sale (sans radio) so came home with me. Now I can sit at the dining room table and comfortably knit and listen. If Jim is watching football then I just use the earbuds. Knitting while listening to good books goes way fast and is so pleasant. Being a multitasker must have something to do with it too.

Completed this year:
• 4 Humbug bags—sewn rather than knit.  They are perfect project bags.
These are the last two with the first two already gifted as Chanukah presents.

• 1 pair of socks for Jim, although I am not sure if they still count as they were intended for Christmas but then I gave them to him for a wedding present.
• 1 watch cap
* 4 pillow cases- sewn
• 4 Calorimetries
• 1 Bolero sweater
• 2 thrummed mittens-- the very last to get done.

• 2 cat beds
• 1 Showl
• 1 bunny named Orchid as a gift to me

Others certainly have done more. I have in years past, but reason actually prevailed this year leaving me feeling rather light and well. Now there is time to spin again. I feel so light I already started knitting a pair of utilitarian mittens for Jim out of some of his early handspun. These are certainly not on the present list so can be done at leisure and for process.

Wishing you all completed projects and a great holiday.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Day

To paraphrase the Yarn Harlot who was quoting a weather forecaster. 'We are expecting Snowmageddon.'   We were told we would get approximately 14 inches in about 14 hours. Yeow! That’s a lot of white stuff for one day. On top of that it was a broad band of northern weather extending from the Midwest all the way to the Atlantic. Whew! No way was it going to miss us. The time of the start was predicted for 10 am but actually began here about 9:20 and got serious fast. By 10 there was almost an inch on the ground. I normally take the weather headlines as so much hype but this one seemed to be on target.

A few last minute orders were packaged up and taken out to the mail box in hopes that intrepid Adam would be stopping by to pick them up, (he did about 1:30pm) then I packed up my portable office and brought it inside for the duration. By 11:30 we had 2 inches with plenty more coming down thick and fast.  And when Jim got home around 1 he said the visibility and main roads were not nice.

Snow Days are gifts. School Snow Days, when I taught, meant the world stopped. Well the school world anyway and, as a teacher, one could do whatever one wanted for the day without needing to make up for it tomorrow. I decided this was going to be one of those days even though Ithaca did not close.  However since I no longer teach there, I metaphorically did. Holiday Knitting, which is on schedule even with some mishaps, was suspended for the day in favor of the Knitted Rabbit, p8 from Simple Organic Knits by Emiko Kamata.

We can credit Fleegle for this minor diversion. Ever since she debuted her Ninjin Killer Rabbit on her blog I have wanted to knit this little personality. I even started spinning a special hand dyed orchid angora/merino Pixie Batt in this one’s honor.
clockwise from left: Fuzzarelly, abalone merino, hand dyed angora batt, SmokeyBlue

Yup, the whole pattern is in Japanese.  And no, I have not become a linguist overnight, but I have been using a Japanese stitch book for some time now along with a Japanese picture knitting stitch book, and Fleegle’s help (Arigatou). The Japanese use Arabic numbers and metrics so measurements are relatively easy to decipher plus their diagrams are incredibly well done.

The body, knit with two of the singles (abalone merino and hand dyed angora/merino batt) went along quite fast although Jim said it looked like a bowling pin. Then the thumper feet were crafted with 3 singles (the Fuzzarelly and the two from the body) and the pom pom tail with all 4 singles. That was a bunch of fun with a new fangled plastic pompom maker that does make the whole business very easy to manage once I read the instructions.  The bunny is stuffed with very neppy angora acquired somewhere along the way. Stuffing is the best use of it I can come up with.

Somehow the day got away from me leaving one front paw (done in the same two singles as the body) and the ears before other things like eating and laundry took precedence. Not wanting to stress myself over this cutie pie I left the rest for this morning. The storm seemed to have abated by the time I went to bed which was considerably before midnight.

Today dawned winter grey with flakes still/again falling and temps in the low teens. The total count seemed to be more like 10-11 inches than the predicted 14. Before shoveling, the second fore foot was knit, stuffed and both were attached to the body. 

After a shoveling workout (Who needs a gym in the winter around here?) and some warm tea, the ears were knit up from SmokeyBlue, Fuzzarelly and the angora/merino/batt singles. Those fuzzy appendages were shaped but not stuffed and then sewn on.

Orchid was born Saturday, December 20, 2008.
Here she is enjoying 13-degree temps while holding a Phalenopsis orchid blossom.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Otherwise Occupied

This is a busy week, what with getting packages out to you all and getting presents wrapped and out to California, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  

Basel always comes into the shop and sleeps on the mats.  Sparkles only comes in once in a while as he'd much rather be out chasing whatever moves in our snowy frozen landscape.  Today he jumped up on the door and mewed to be let in.

 When I had a quiet minute I looked for him and saw:

that this

had turned into this.

Then my sister sent me this.

They are such joyful creatures.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Plowing Story Winners.

Our two best answers to the plowing story query are below. Thank you to all who answered. 
The Manchu story is wonderful.

Second Place

from Mary,
The reference is most likely to a quote from Luke in the new testament. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
—Luke 9:62

In order to plow a straight row you must be looking forward to where you want to be and not backward to where you have already been.

from Carla (please write to me and let me know your pattern choice.)

The Journey of the Two Worms (Manchu) (Please click on the title to get the provenance)
Many, many years ago, two worms--an older but dumb worm and his younger but clever brother--lived together in the moist soil by Jingbo Lake. Whatever hard work was to be done, you could count on the older brother to do it cheerfully without complaint. As for the younger brother, well, he did all the thinking for the pair.

Now one fine morning, the younger worm, having done some deep thinking, slithered up to his older brother and said, "Say, I have heard that not far from here lives a very old worm, and this old worm can teach worms like us how to become dragons. Let's go seek this old wise worm and ask him to become our teacher. Who knows? Perhaps we'll even become dragons!"

"Splendid idea! Let's go," responded the older worm, and off they went.

After many days of slithering through mud and crawling over rocks, they finally arrived at the spot this wise old worm called his home. The younger worm, used to doing all the talking, respectfully approached the wise worm and asked him to teach him and his brother how to become dragons.

"So, you two wish to become dragons," said the old wise worm. "Very well. I agree to accept you as my students but only on one condition: You must follow every one of my instructions."

"Absolutely, Master," said the younger worm. "We shall follow your words without question."

And so the two brother worms stayed by the side of their teacher and did what he said, working all day long every day, doing what worms do--turning the soil over and over. Needless to say, it was grimy, gritty and thankless work, but still they worked away harder than they had ever done before.

After one particularly grueling afternoon of turning the soil, the younger worm crawled next to his brother and, making sure their master was out of earshot, said to him, "I have just about had it with all this backbreaking work. Why, we're no closer to becoming dragons now than we were when we started. I am beginning to think that this teacher of ours is nothing but a humbug."

"Hush!" cried the older worm, shocked at his younger brother's attitude. "How dare you speak that way about our teacher."

"All right, all right. Just hear me out. Let's just ask him how long it's going to be for us to become dragons. There's no harm in that, is there?"

"I guess not," the older brother answered, and they went to ask their teacher the big question.

Once again the younger brother did all the talking. "Master," he said, "we've been working hard without complaint for six long months, and we have yet to turn into dragons. With all respect, may I ask you how much longer it will take?"

"I've been expecting this question for some time now," replied the wise old worm. "I know you both have been working very hard, and so today I shall tell you how you may finally become dragons. Starting tomorrow you are to go to the nearby farm field. There, you are to plow the field for exactly one hundred days. After one hundred days, you are to make your way to Jingbo Lake. Once you arrive there, you will have become dragons."

The two worms were joyful at the news, and early the next morning they headed for the farm field where they were to plow for one hundred days. Turning the soil was one thing, but actual plowing, quite another. However, plow they did for ninety-eight days.

On the morning of the ninety-ninth day, the younger worm came to a decision. Working like this is crazy, he said to himself. If my brother wants to work for a full one hundred days, he can go ahead. I shall head for Jingbo Lake today and plow as I go. One day can't possibly make a big difference! So while his older brother was faithfully plowing away, the younger brother sneaked off without a word and headed toward the lake, plowing as he went.

He began to feel a bit strange as he slithered and plowed and slithered and plowed his way to the lake. He felt his head grow larger and larger as he made his way. "It's happening!" he shouted with glee. "I'm beginning to look like a dragon!"He was very close to the shores of Jingbo Lake when thunder and lightning sent him scurrying back into the earth. When he reemerged at the shore, he discovered he was stuck and unable to move. He now had the head of a dragon but still the body of a little worm. All he could do was lie with his face in the cold water of the lake, lapping up all the water he could drink whenever he was thirsty. There he remained, perhaps even to this day.

And what of the older brother? He plowed a full one hundred days, and then and only then did he crawl to the lake. When he reached the shore, he discovered that he had indeed turned into a real dragon, a lovely and lucky white dragon that to this day resides at the bottom of Jingbo Lake.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Living in Egypt

I have mentioned in a previous post that I am not fond of metal needles, and especially Addi Turbos. OK, I am in the minority. However there are so many non metal needles out there that this minority must be somewhere close to at least 30-40%. After all Knit Picks’ Harmony needles sell very well and Brypuns do too, and they are pointier. Also Clover keeps itself in a nice profit with bamboo needles of all kinds.

It was time to start the next Holiday present. What exactly it is will not be mentioned here as the recipient reads this blog. She is not a knitter so hopefully will not understand the hints I am giving. This particular project is from Cat Bordhi’s second moebius book. The item is perfect for the many balls of natural colored hand spun South American Alpaca/Llama in my stash. Actually this present will probably use up most of that stash and not require me to buy more. A unique feat. I have done several other projects out of this book but none quite so large. It requires a 60” circular #13 (9mm). The only 13’s in my needle depository are dpns or Denise’s. Neither works well with a 200 count Moebius Cast On. I called up to Hickory’s but she only had that length in Addi Turbos. You know I had to wanted to start the project that very day. There is no time to order Bryspuns in the correct size as the Holiday is fast approaching. I read the pattern again deciding that the Addi's would only be used for a short time while the Mobius section was knit. Metal needles won't be a biggie for just a few inches.

I forgot that a Moebius Cast On of 200 really means 400 stitches. The Moebius section ends with an I-cord bind off. A fleeting memory of the unfinished lavender fuzzarelly EZ vest zipped through my brain but, I reasoned, this project was vastly shorter.

The cast on and first round on a real Moebius are definitely interesting. Once you get the rhythm going the cast on moves quickly, if you are not interrupted. The first round needs to be carefully knit, one stitch ktbl, one stitch knit regularly. The 60” cable is doubled inside the cast on stitches and as the rounds are knit the cable moves further and further apart. It‘s kind of like knitting from the middle out. This is fun magic.

Metal needles do not bend in the least, do not warm like Bryspuns, do not hold the yarn like wood. 14 rounds of 400 stitches are a lot of metal needle usage. But, they were quickly enough completed and the attached I-cord begun. Attached I-cord is this: * k2, sl1, k1, psso, sl3 to left needle* repeat, repeat, repeat endlessly. Really, for every ONE new stitch knit you are still knitting 3 old ones. That means I am knitting 1600 stitches in the I-cord bind off. That means that no matter how many iterations have been done there are many many more to go.

I whined to Jim about my lack of progress and he responded with, “Cleopatra, why did you take on another I-cord project when you know they take so long?” I tried to explain that if every knitter knew how many hours a sweater might take, she might never even start the thing. He chuckled his indulgent laugh. Yes, I live in the land of De Nile where knitting (stash, fiber) is concerned.  

He then mentioned the story of some guy (some myth person perhaps?) who only finished his task of plowing a field by looking forward and at what he had done, not at what was left to be done.  An excellent suggestion.  (I then spent the better part of 2 hours online looking for this story instead of I-cording, but cannot seem to find it.  Not Medea and Jason, not in the Illiad, can't find it in Aesop's Fables either. Maybe I missed something?)

Anyone who can successfully show me this story will win a free pattern.