Wednesday, December 23, 2009

45 Lessons in Life

A friend in Texas sent this power point presentation to me. Watching these lessons and incredible images (thank you to whomever took them) popped me right into the Vortex.   At the end it says that 93% of the people receiving it will not share it.  I found it so beautiful I want to share it with as many people as possible.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Under the Mistletoe

My knitting ADD was really bad this past week.  No sooner did I read the Knitting Daily post about the Celestine Tree Topper and watch the video than I made plans to knit the thing immediately.  (Did I mention it is a free download?)  I rationalized my impulse by exchanging this project with another one that had yet to be started but, would be for the same person.  I also decided that this close to mailing deadline the original item would just take too long or else keep me up for days and nights.  I am truly trying to stay sane this Holiday Knitting Season so thought this exchange would be a great idea.

The size of the Star put me off a bit as did the white fabric.  I certainly don't want a 10" star with white bra cups on top of my tree so my thinking was that neither would my DIL, Liz.

 I could also see my son, Matt, making off color jokes and the whole thing put into a closet somewhere never to be seen again.   What a waste of good knitting.  So I thought: 1- a smaller needle would make a smaller star; 2- sparkly yarn would give it a more festive appearance; and 3- lighter weight yarn would also make it smaller.

I took myself, that very afternoon, off to Knitting Etc because I knew there would be some lace or fingering weight sparkly yarn in stock.   Sure enough there was some Filatura di Crosa Gioiello in white with metallic gold thread.  Perfect.  I got me 2 balls, just in case as the pattern calls for 288 yards and one ball is only 200 yards.

This star is called a dodecahedron (12 sided) but really is a stellated dodecahedron as the regular shape has flat sides.  Do you think my mathy brain may be part of the fascination with this project?

I just had to start this immediately that evening. Nevermind the other Holiday items that needed finishing.   This one called to me big time.  After some false starts and downsizing the needles to zeroes (it calls for US 2's) I got the hang of the points and how to add more and managed to get 2 out of the needed 12 done in a couple of hours. Then the knitting was placed in my bag in readiness for guild on the morrow.  This turns out to be a nice social pattern as once a couple of points were completed I didn't need to look at the instructions to know the process involved in knitting each point.
By Saturday evening I had it half done.

The markers are to remember which ones were done most recently.
Here's what the inside looks like.

However the white began to look dingey.  Joanne thought if Liz' decor was country it would fit in nicely as the look was very natural (um like old wash).  My son and DIL do not have a specific decor with 3 kids running about but they do live in CA and have practical tastes.  Country natural is not it.

What to do?   We thought maybe bleaching would whiten the yarn.  HA! Bleaching made it yellowish.
Now what?  AHA!  dye it.  So I made a small skein and experimented.  This stuff dyes easily and since it is small it dyes quickly in the microwave.  I debated whether to dye the half already finished and then the remaining yarn or to wait.   Waiting won out.

Here's point 9 on its way.

See how grey it all looks instead of sparkly?

Eleven points were completed and the beginning of the 12th.   Then those stitches were placed on a heavier cord and the same cording tied up the remaining yarn.

Much more festive now methinks.

I have done relatively few stuffed projects.  I thought I had way more than enough stuffing but was surprised at how much a 7 inch diameter star will eat.  The instructions suggested getting the majority of the star stuffed before starting the 12th point.  However I read on Ravelry about some people having difficulty picking up stitches once it was puffed up.  So I changed to 6 dpns from 4, started point 12, stuffed and stuffed and poked and stuffed and poked (Jim gave me the poking tip.) then knit a bit and stuffed, and knit and stuffed until it was whole.

On Tuesday morning I proudly showed the star to Cathy, who wondered about this displacing a possibly treasured tree topper already in place in CA.  Hmmm.  Again I did not want the star put back into its box and onto the shelf forever.  
Cathy came up with the neatest idea.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ta da!

Presenting Jim's Hoggett Vest

This sweater was a very satisfying knit. Just enough to keep up interest but not so much that it needed to stay on the table for concentration.
 The back story is in the previous post.

I asked Jim to make buttons for his vest expecting wooden ones.  Instead he chose to cut up some deer antlers.  They are subtle and beautiful. Jim glued them onto shank buttons so there would be enough height for the button looping.

Now on to other Holiday knits.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Adult Knitting Content

This post is not for the knitting squeamish.

In July I completed an EZ Shawl Collared Vest which was my very first attempt at steeking. (The pattern can be found on Schoolhouse Press  and there are several EZ forums on Ravelry). I can say from that experience that steeking comes in very handy besides allowing one to knit the whole body of a vest or sweater in the round.   One only needs to get over the forbiding idea that one has to Cut.  One's.  Knitting.  Apart.  eeeek.

Jim liked the vest so much he wanted one for himself.  Jim and I have a deal.  If he wants a sweater, he spins the yarn and I knit it up for him.   So he got himself quite of bit of Christine Johnson's nice hogett romney roving and made some 4 ply bulky yarn.

I started on his vest months ago but because my interests are so scattered varied and jump around eclectic, I also started several other things months ago too.     However the fall season reminds me that presents must be completed by a certain deadline which helps eliminate many of the UFO's.

So far I have completed 4 out of the 5 planned hats, and a wristlet (We are not mentioning what all else I have started).  So then the vest was next on the get-it-done list.   Over Thanksgiving weekend, the body was completed leaving me with only the sleeve edging and shawl collar left to do.   I ran a running stitch in a bright color up the middle of the center steek stitch.  Then used a narrow zig zag on my sewing machine to make sort of a sealed column on both sides of that stitch.   This is one of the sleeve steeks waiting it's turn.

Now if you are squeamish, do not look at the next part.

Yup, the colored thread is removed and the stitch is cut in half in the long direction dividing the sweater into two parts.

And here is a completed sleeve edging plus a shoulder 3 needle I-cord..

See all in one piece, no fraying as the sealed steek likes to curl under like a well behaved facing.
Both sleeves are now complete.

The Shawl collar is next.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Introducing Tomtee

Bob, at Winderwood Farm, has the best kittens.  At least the best for us.  They grow up outside but also on a porch.  They have hunting experience.   They are familiar with dogs, sheep, llamas, goats and rabbits.  We have tried rescuing adult cats from the shelter but our track record is not so good on the dog end of things. Since Basel loves cats we feel whomever comes to live with us should at least tolerate dogs if not cuddle up.

Sparkles, who came from Winderwood Farm loved Basel.  Sally, who came from the SPCA, hissed at Baz forever.  He did worship her from afar but it was not a satisfying relationship either way.

Sparkles has been gone long enough for us to want having another cat around plus the mouse leavings are getting rather evident on most surfaces.   Sparkles kept the mouse, chipmunk and bird population in good control.  I was never a fan of his bird trophies but that's cats for ya.

So last Monday Jim and I made the trek to Naples, NY, about 1.5-2 hours and several lakes west.  We had our choice of quite a few kitties.  I liked a black and white 5 month old girl but Jim thought a younger one would work out better for us.   We finally settled on a sweet 12 week old tiger boy and brought him home.

He seemed fine with Baz and accepting of our house.
The only negative with getting an outside kitty is they have never met a litter box.   This little guy understood and used one within an hour of arriving.

He had an eating problem when he first arrived, probably from trying to jossle with all the other cats and kittens for crunchies.  He gorged and then threw up.  We put him on limited food several times a day and within a couple of days he began regulating his eating by himself.

Tomtee is so laid back, very little of anything scares him, yet he is inquisitive and has travelled all over our house exploring corners and dark crevices.  He purrs immediately upon being picked up.
It took us several days to hear his name since it is so unusual.  We went from Tommy to Bixbee to Timtee to Tomtee.

So far Tomtee has shown no interest in going outside.  Jim thinks he is happy for now just exploring the house, although he does watch out the window at the birds, squirrels and buns.   I expect pretty soon he will learn about the doggie door and we will be able to retire the litter box.  Meanwhile he is so clean it really is no problem.

He weighed in the day after he arrived at 3 pounds 12 ounces.  Two days later he weighed 4 pounds 8 ounces.   Definitely a growing boy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


My gosh, the years go fast. I was figuring out just how long I knew Carl, who is 22, and it is 10 years.  WOW!   Carl looked at me his first day of math in 7th grade and we made a lifelong connection then and there.  Since then we have moved into a mentor/mentee relationship, studied for SAT's, applied for scholarships, gone to college interviews together and talked.   Carl graduated from Ithaca High School as the president of the school's Gay Straight Alliance.   When he attended Alfred he was active in their group and now that he is at TC3 is active again.  Carl has a huge sense of right and wrong manifesting in empathy with those who have grown up without proper parenting and without privilege.  Once he finishes his associates degree this coming May he will be going on to get a degree in Social Work.

So to celebrate both my love for him and stranded colorwork I decided to make him a nice Holiday present to keep his ears and head warm as he walks around town a lot.    While my back brain was working on this idea I was wandering around the internet and happened to come upon this pattern called Fag Hat.  I really do not care for that word and neither does the designer, Fuzzknot. She was very clever in using Morse Code to write it on her stranded colorwork hat as a practical joke for her friend.   Inspiration comes from everywhere.  Thank you.

So I present to you a FREE Hat pattern

This is a simple ribbed edge watch cap with stranded color work people holding hands.  If you go around the hat you cannot tell if the couples are guy-guy, gal-gal or gal-guy.   The letters GSA are knit in Morse Code on the bottom in the rust and on the top in dill.

I used close to worsted yarn throughout.   The blue (MC) is Dark Starz yearling mohair I hand dyed.  One skein easily will make two hats.  I am really reluctant to tell you that the rainbow colors are Red Heart.   Actually I looked a good bit for some rainbow yarn in the correct weight but could not find any.  In AC Moore of all places I found some bamboo/wool in just the right colors and at very reasonable prices considering how few yards of each are needed.
Eco Ways Bamboo Twilight, Cayenne, Dill, Gold, Rust and silk Bamboo Orchid.

The ribbing and top decreases are done with a 16" US6/4mm circ.   The body of the hat on 16" US7/4.5mm circs.

Using long tail method and MC, cast on 108 stitches with smaller needles.  *K2, P2* around for 1.5 inches.
Change to larger needles and follow this chart for where to use which color.  All the white boxes are MC.   The chart will repeat 3X around and only once in rows.

After completing the chart, change back to smaller needles and MC.
Decrease as follows:
*K8, k2tog*
Knit next round.
*K7, k2tog*
Knit next round.
    Follow this pattern until
   *K1, k2tog*,
    Knit next round,

Cut off a length of yarn and thread through stitches with an embroidery needle, securing the end inside the hat.  Then tuck in all those colored ends.

That's all folks.  Very simple hat with some secret coding to amuse.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bunny Mittens

Ever since I saw and purchased the book Selbuvotter, I have been in love with Folk Style Mittens.  My first challenge, two years ago, was to make a child sized pair for granddaughter Amelia.

After that I was hooked on this way of looking at knitting.  Of course I have been enamored of Fair Isle/ Stranded Colorwork for a very long time so the Folk style mittens and hats just added to my library of books, knowledge and projects.

With the advent of Finger Knittin' Good, which features fingering yarn in other than socks, my imagination was allowed to run wild, resulting in two patterns with Stranded Colorwork in the Folk Style -  mittens and a coordinating hat.   The mittens are now realized with the hat/tam soon to be as well.  Or maybe it will turn into a Donegal/newsboy style cap?  We shall see what comes off the needles very soon.

In my mind I imagined solid colored angora yarn for part of this set and a colorway wool for the rest but just could not settle on which colors.  I waited for Rhinebeck intending to bring home some nice angora/merino/mohair fingering yarn but that deal fell through.  sigh    However, since Rhinebeck feels almost limitless, I walked around with an open mind and sure enough some lovely natural grey angora/alpaca/merino fell into my hands.  Right away I knew which colors to dye the wool yarn -- deep burgundy and teals.  Once the ang/alp/mer yarn was in hand, the entire look seemed to emerge whole from my mind.

Being a math teacher for 22 years left me with many skills, one of which is charting and making things work out numberwise. A very satisfying thing to do.  I got out my pattern making notebook and Knit Visualizer.  Together they are perfect for writing and conjuring patterns.

A regular ribbed cuff was not my desire I so played with several ideas until this one was the winner.

And here, my friends, is the thumb hole, now waiting for its thumb.

While I was immersing myself in the fiber overload that is Rhinebeck, my gloves disappeared.  I must have taken them off, put them down to look at something and just forgot to pick them up. They were not special but I did look for them without success.  It was a rather chilly day with temps in the 30's and either drizzle or rain or just blah but definitely a day for gloves if one was going to be outside.  I must have walked around inside buildings A & B several times looking for an inexpensive pair of gloves I would want to wear more than once.  Ones that fit one or the other of those criteria were findable but not both.  Finally I gave up and ate some lunch under a large umbrella meant to keep the sun from the eater but today doing duty as a rain shield.   By the time lunch was done I knew if I wanted to stay comfortable, gloves or at least mittens were a necessity.

As I was walking toward the barns I spotted the alpaca tent.    Aha!  A whole tent of 'Made in South America' alpaca items.  Sure enough there were mittens and gloves and hats and scarves and sweaters in every size and color.  I picked out some gloves and went to pay for them.  The person on check-out was wearing convertible mittens.  OH.  MY.  YES.   That's really the ticket.  I love mittens as they are warmer than gloves, but rarely wear them as they seem too limiting.  She showed me where her's were displayed and I happily pawed through the basket until I found these.

  I LOVED wearing them and found them so versatile and useful.  All day they stayed on my hands, even while knitting in the Fiddling Tent.  What a great combo idea.  AHA my brain said, "Why not incorporate this idea into your bunny mittens?"

I put my back brain to work while figuring out the basics and nuances of mitten pattern writing.  I also really interviewed those convertible alpaca ones.  Making individual finger necks can be a royal a pain. So to avoid that downer  I thought of simple a simple finger collar where all four fingers were shielded but stayed together.  Jim pointed out that a mere fingerless glove section would eventually pull down, leaving a gap where cold air would come in, essentially negating the warm usefulness I was trying to engender.  More thinking ensued.  Good thing it is chilly as my brain sure was making heat.

Once the thumb and palm are done do we first make the flap or the finger necks?  Such a delightful dilemma.  I pondered this decision for several days until Cathy said the fingers would be more of a pain after the flap than before.  Cathy often makes excellent suggestions.

However doing this either way necessitates making a row of stitches that are on waste yarn &/or have to be picked up later.  I solved this one by leaving the original circ right in the mitten and then, with a new circ, picking up stitches from inside the mitten, in the same row with the ang/alp/mer to make the finger neck.

I also solved the fingerless question by making two two-finger necks.  Holds up the glove well, is warm and fuzzy yet cuts down on those teeny tiny going around and round individual finger necks.

Once the necks were done picking up the back-of-hand stitches was relatively simple.  Since the original circ was still there I just moved all those stitches from the cord onto the shaft and continued the chart, plus cast on for the flap section.  I am hoping this can be explained well enough in the pattern. At any case, I will be having a test knitter work these up so that should solve the clarity issue.

After each round I looked at the back of the hand to see if a bunny had yet emerged.  Finally one did.

I was so excited I stayed up late to finish this first mitten.  It also helped that Jim was watching the first game of the World Series so kept me informed of what was going on.   Yay Phillies!  Plus I got to see some nifty Mac commercials.  Go Apple!

Here's the mitten converted with the flap pulled back, over the fingers and secured by a button on the cuff.

And the mitten as a mitten.

There will still be a few minor charting changes to aid in the bunny looking more like a bunny but essentially we are ready to type up the pattern.

We are definitely ready for you to sign up for our Finger Knittin' Good Club which starts out with this mitten, then the coordinating hat, then a shawl and lastly a warm pair of easy toe up socks featuring some HAND SPUN yarn