Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And now some knitting

Imagine that.

I finished the Urchin hat. Anna modeled it for me.




It's warm. It's a little big on her but fits me just fine. I hate tight hats. Also did mittens out of the leftovers.

Nothing fancy, but very warm.

That's about it. I'm going to measure Bob for a sweater sometime over this weekend.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

It's that time of year (as I said in another blog) when we do retrospectives, so here goes mine.

I'll start with the bad just to get it out of the way.

1)Obviously, my leg. The accident and subsequent lingering pain and lack of mobility is one of the worst things that has ever happened to me. I went from mobile to immobile to hampered mobility, probably permanent. We also had some pretty tough financial times as a result but we made it through with the house and our stuff intact, except the knitting stash I sold for hand money and that can be replaced if I want to replace it. But I never, ever thought I'd see the day when I'd have a handicapped placard in my car and a crutch with me whenever I leave the house.

2) I love my kids and they're so important to me, but this past year has not been easy in my relationship with them either. #2 daughter moved away to Tennessee, and #1 daughter and I apparently have some severe communication problems that I didn't even know existed. Children are a lifelong work in progress and I know many families have it a lot worse than we do, but this is still not easy.

3) I'm getting older and can really feel it now. My hormones have gone on a roller coaster ride of delightful fun, my non-injured bones creak and moan, and the injury has not made staying strong and limber as I age possible. I feel like I've aged 20 years in the past year. Hopefully the pool membership we got from my Mom will help with that.

The good-

1) I'm a better knitter. My fiber skills overall have improved dramatically, and I even designed some socks. I'm gaining confidence and courage all the time and love trying new things. The new spinning wheel has taken me to heights unknown in that branch of my fibery life and that makes me happy. Now if I only had time to do all the things I want!

2) My family has been awesome through this year. My mom stepped up and did what she could, my uncle helped us out so much when I first came home, and overall things on the family front are pretty good.

3) Bob, of course, is the best thing. He's really come through for me above and beyond the call. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a partner like him.

4)Gainful employment with health insurance. Not perfect, not the job of my dreams, but it's comforting to have a job that will actually gain security in a weak economy. And I can't say enough about that health care.

5) The President-Elect. I know he's going to have a tough road ahead but damn, it feels good to have hope.

The Ugly

Some of my knitting
My leg
Biscuit's flea problem (resolved, we hope)
My bills

All in all, a year I'm happy to put behind me. Bring on 2009!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

No one could ever reprise

The weather here is very unseasonable. It's got to be 60 out and getting warmer. This is December 27, I checked.

As promised, photos. All the christmas photos including pictures from Hartwood Acres' light show (the ones that aren't too horrible) are in this set on flickr...

...but here are some highlights.

Biscuit is Anna's kitty overlord.


Anna's major gift was a laptop. My mother and my daughter Lena contributed to it so it was from all of us. She was quite happy.


Bob's socks fit him just fine.


That was the stealth pair. He knew about the DNA cable socks that have been pictured here multiple times. Both were total successes.

Lena got a nice pile-o-gifts including a GPS unit for her car and a new DVD player which she needed.

We had a nice visit with family both days.


On the way home christmas night, we have a tradition of driving through the light display at Hartwood Acres. Some of the photos aren't too bad.






The gifts all went over well on the crafting front, too. I loved how the washcloths and soap came out once I'd tied them up with ribbon.


Cousin Ray's scarf came out well, as did my mom's socks, finally.


Apologies for the crap photos, I was in a hurry.


Bob and I got a membership to the swim club from my mom, a gift certificate for an awesome CD store from my daughter, and money from his mom. We got a lot of other nice stuff too and the kids got totally carried away stuffing my stocking.

In new crafting, I started an Urchin hat for myself out of that dyeing nightmare Merino that I bought at Penn's Colony.


The yarn looks like ass, but when it's knit up it actually looks pretty decent. It'll be warm, which is a bonus, too. The pattern's pretty ingenious in use of short rows. I'm reserving final judgment for after I finish it completely, which should be sometime today because it's dead easy and fast with chunky handspun and big needles.

Finally got to start a pair of socks for myself again, yay, out of Schaeffer Anne, which I think is my new favorite sock yarn. It's so soft and shiny and a delight on the hands. I'm making the Go With the Flow socks from the Interweave Knits favorite sock book.


I'm obviously in my green phase. Funny how the hat and the socks are pretty much the same color.

Well, that's the promised photo dump. Hope everyone's having a fine and relaxing weekend. I'm working on it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

lived through it

Well, we had a good two days with no major family drama. Nobody yelled at anyone in public. Everyone seemed to like their presents. Nobody got sick or had any accidents.

I'm completely exhausted.

Yesterday, we went to my aunt and uncle's, then to my mom's. This morning, my mom and my elder daughter came here (younger daughter was already here) to open presents and get the day started. Then we went to my other aunt and uncle's. Then we drove through Hartwood Acres to see the light display, THEN we went to my other aunt's house and visited for an hour and a half or so. I'm now completely done in.

All the socks went over big. All the facecloths and wine cozies went over well as well. Cousin Ray loved his scarf. I'll have ten million photos over the weekend, but I have to go back to work tomorrow, and I'm exhausted.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Lightning Round

Ok, here's the quick roundup.

Kids socks, done.
Presents for uncles, aunts, mom, done and wrapped.
Mom's socks done after a marathon knitting session that almost made me hate sock knitting. I'm serious. I did 2/3 of an entrelac sock IN ONE DAY. Ouch.
Husband's socks, done.

Presents for non-kids wrapped.

Cat bathed. (flea issue. they love him. no idea why. Nobody else has fleas. We fog, we treat, he has fleas. Tomorrow, Advantage.) Cat dried. Cat pissed.

Work tomorrow. No idea how long.

Work Friday. Uck. Doubtless, a full day.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Photos soon. I hope. Hang in there, it's almost over!

Monday, December 15, 2008

For a dime you can see Kankakee or Paree

This is going to be quick again, sorry. There's way too much going on and if I start into it, I'll never get done writing and it'll be way more than my slim readership wants to know.

I'm coming down with a cold, which is not helping matters at all. It's been the world's slowest onset cold, starting about last Monday with feeling congested and phlegmish in my lungs and throat. Today I've progressed to slight snotrun and moderate sore throat. Intermittent coughing too, but that seems to be mostly in the morning when I wake up.

Most of the dread holiday shopping is done, along with the dread holiday crafting. So much so that I've started a couple of new projects. I'm making a scarf for one of my cousins out of some black and gold handspun I had in the stash.
Just 1x1 rib. Weaving the ends in will be a moderate pain but I'll get over it.

The DNA socks are almost done, amazingly enough. I took a LOT of photos. Suffice to say sometimes there is a good reason to rip things out and redo them and yes, they turn out much better the second time.



That cable looks SO much better.


The entrelac socks are also moving along.

I'm well into the second one and anticipate finishing them within the next couple of days. I love Mr. Noro, though. Seriously. When I started this sock and got to the point where it was olive and then went into brown, I was like, ew. This is gross. I don't like this. Then... the dark sapphire blue.
And suddenly the color sequence all made sense.

The only other major craft thing other than my usual pining away for spinning that I can't do right now because I'm finishing christmas crafting is that I learned how to norwegian purl. I really dislike purling. I'm a continental knitter, which essentially means that I hold the yarn in my left hand and knit with my right. When I purl, I have to pinch the yarn with my thumb. Hate it. I've gotten used to it, but I still hate it.

Today on the Livejournal knitting community, someone posted a video they'd done on norwegian purling. I'd seen the technique before but never tried it as frankly it looked like more trouble than it was worth. But today, I decided to go on and give it a whirl. I watched the video and a few others, and it still didn't make sense, so I found written instructions and used them. I love it. I don't think it'll substitute for all my purling needs but it'll certainly come in handy for ribbings and the like.

That's about it, except for this, which I needed today.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon, I will return again

Not a lot to say at this point. Lots on my mind but I'm not going to put it out there because it's mine to deal with and mine to handle. Suffice to say it sucks being a parent a lot of the time.

Entering the homestretch on holiday crafting. I'm 1/4 done with my mom's socks.


Interesting color sequence. I ran into a knot that broke it and ended up finding the spot further along in the skein and picking it up from there, because it was just too jarring going from olive to pale lavender that way. It won't matter so much if there's a jarring change on the foot but I didn't want it in the middle of the entrelac section.


There are a lot of complaints on Ravelry about the Noro sock yarn and odd knots in the yarn that break the sequence but honestly this is the first time in the five skeins of Kureyon Sock I've rolled up that I've had it happen. No complaints from me at all. And it was easily set right.

The DNA socks are MUCH better this time. I'm almost done with the first one and it looks much better than my efforts at the pattern before. This picture is from yesterday but I actually got most of the leg done during movies last night.

The cable is a lot more prominent in real life than it is in the photo, you'll just have to take my word because it's too cold to go outside just to photograph crafts.

Since I'm so far along I've started scarves for my cousins as well, with no pressure to finish them. If they get done, they get done; if they don't they don't.

An old friend from the days when I actually had friends surprised me with a gift from my amazon wish list. She sent me the Led Zeppelin Mothership CDs and DVD, and we watched the DVD last night. Reminded me of all the reasons I love that group, and why I don't listen to much "classic rock" or hard rock-because they were truly as good as it got for the genre.

Big Steelers game today. I'm making a ham, sweet potatoes, and homemade bread in the bread machine. Tomorrow, I'm working. They're offering six hours of overtime and since I'm so whiny about not having money, I am going to go ahead and take it. It'll be a long week though.

My leg is the same. It hurts. The cold weather is kicking my ass. I'm terrified of walking in the snow and ice. Mostly it hurts. The horrible leg cramps continue, too, which is a joy, let me tell you.

Off to add fruit and nuts to the bread. Until next week, if not sooner.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Round them up, they're going astray


Capping off a wonderful long weekend here. Five whole days! It's the closest thing to a vacation I'll see until 2009 so I was very glad of it. I don't have a whole lot to say blogging wise that's arranged in a coherent way, but I do have knitting pictures and progress reports.

Here's a box of gift knits!

Both girls' sock pairs and two face cloths are in there.

Speaking of the face cloths-I got two out of each skein of handspun-two are cotton,and two are bamboo. I tested out the bamboo with a wee swatch to make sure it'll hold up to scrubbing and so far so good, plus it feels nice on the skin.
The bamboo is nice and shiny.

Here they all are together.

Seriously, two an evening. They were SO easy. I loved it. The pattern calls for Sugar and Cream and size seven needles. My yarn was handspun of course and a bit thicker, plus I wanted a drapier result, so I used size eight needles.

The pattern can be found here
, it's a PDF though so be warned.

Tossed the stash the other night and found this.
It's half a scarf of handspun in seafoam stitch. I'm going to work on it some more and see if my tension is consistent from two years ago when I packed it away. The yarn is pretty delicate, actually. It's from before I blogged regularly even. One ply of poofy handspun and one ply of dark green sewing thread. I'm not sure it'll stand up to frogging at this point so I might as well finish it and hope any gauge difference will diminish in blocking.

I also ripped out the DNA socks. The more I looked at the completed one, the less happy I was with how wonky it was, plus it was marginally too big, and considering all the wanking I did last week on how I didn't mind frogging when I knew I could do better, I decided to do better. So we're back to this.


I should have plenty of time to get them done, and considering one was a little too big and the other was considerably too big, I might actually end up with enough yarn this time.

Started and darn near finished garter rib socks for my mother in law.
These will probably get done tonight during Monday Night Football.

So, I'm down to reknitting the DNA socks and my Mom's socks, which are started, another pair of the entrelac socks and not enough done yet to photograph. I can do those on the bus and at work on breaks, so I'll have one traveling project, one home project, and probably enough time to make a couple of scarves if I'm lucky.

I am obviously not going to go into too much detail because stuff like this gets people into trouble in real life, but I am going to say that a work situation that was causing me a whole lot of stress has gone away. I don't know what the future will bring in terms of who my new cubemate might be, but it's not likely to be any worse than the last one, because she made my work life a living hell. So hooray for management getting that under control for me.

I'm going to close with a photo of Biscuit. Just because he was being cute.

Until next week, or sooner. Stay calm, the year's almost over.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gee, our old LaSalle ran great

Family is good food.

Yesterday was, of course, Thanksgiving in the US. It's a day when we all get together, rehash old family drama, create new family drama, eat a lot of really good food, and fall asleep watching inconsequential football games in the living room. My family is no exception.

They're mostly a good sort but there are lingering issues.

One of my aunts never fails to stir up drama on holidays. She was only nine when I was born. She viewed my arrival as supplanting her place as favored baby of the family, even though that wasn't strictly true. She's not had an easy life and has full subscriptions where most other people only have issues, so I don't precisely blame her, but it gets hard to deal with sometimes. A couple of years ago, my elder daughter and I were laughingly arguing back and forth at the sink in my mother's house and the aforementioned aunt, my Mom's sister, grabbed me painfully by the upper arm and yanked me away from my daughter. I turned around, told her to remove her hands from me immediately, and to never, ever grab me like that again. It shocked her. But she was pretty nice to me for the rest of the day. She's a bit of a bully and it seems whenever anyone stands up to her, it makes her back down in a hurry. Pushes her boundaries as it were.

Anyway. Yesterday we were playing a game of Bananagrams after dinner. At some point, my aunt had stopped playing and was walking around the table looking at what other people were doing and I think I was bemoaning my poor letters, and she said "Sucks to be you, bitch!"

When she says and does things like this, (a frequent occurence, by the way) she plays it off like it was a joke. I think, though, deep down inside, she's not joking at all, and she really has that much hatred and anger inside her, but she's been conditioned to bury her emotions. She's witty, funny, very intelligent, and manages to pull off the "sarcastic mean but goodhearted" schtick pretty well most of the time. I think in truth, it hides what's really going on, which is that some people, she really does hate that much, and I'm one of them. It can't be easy being her, is all I can say about it.

I didn't precisely laugh the comment off, acted surprised and a bit offended in a joking way (gods, our family dynamics are complicated) and nothing more was said about it. I wanted to let her know that she really did hurt me without making a scene about it. Unfortunately it doesn't matter, because if what I believe is true, she wants to hurt me and my best tactic would be to probably ignore it.

What bothers me is my mother is put in the middle of it. She told me last night (after my aunt and uncle had left with a bit more drama stirred in for fun) that she feels her sister, my aunt, tries to get her to "choose" between her and me. My mother said there's obviously no choice, my daughter comes first, but it's wrong to do that, because you should not have to choose between family because they're all your family.

I'm very proud of my mother because she's come a long way. She had a hard time too, growing up in the same family, having a baby at a very young age, having to work hard and make a home for us and deal with me as a kid when she was only a kid herself. She did good and she continues to grow as a person which I think is awesome. I know this hurts her more than she lets on, but I don't think that my aunt is capable of changing her behavior without much therapy and she'd never, ever go into therapy.

It was mostly a good day though. Even though one of my daughters was missing (she's still in Tennessee) and the other one came late and didn't stay long. I managed to deal with the wooden floors, low furniture, and upstairs bathroom without getting stuck or hurt anywhere and my leg was feeling pretty okay until we left, which was when the foot cramps started again.

In crafty news, I'm really hoping to get some pictures up soon. I have had a massive crafting tragedy in that the DNA socks are not going to have enough yarn to finish. If you've been reading along, those are made from handspun cheviot. So, that means that in order to finish the socks I will need to spin more three ply fingering weight cheviot. In addition to starting my mother's socks, finishing my mother in law's socks, making facecloths for my aunts (one of which is the one I talk about above, BTW)and my mother, and scarves for my cousins. And I might have to spin more cotton to get three facecloths. OH JOY. Even when I set the bar low in terms of holiday crafting, it manages to raise itself to dizzying heights.

This too shall pass. In a month, it'll all be over. In the meantime, I'm off to do some spinning.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On the nature of craft

Today, I ripped out one of my first knitting projects, a Clapotis. I have no idea why I started worrying at the edges of it like I did, but I kept eyeing the yarn and thinking there had to be something better I could make from it. I had a large amount of the yarn left over (and I still have it somewhere in the stash) so whatever I do make will involve more yarn and hopefully incorporate the attributes of the yarn better than the clapotis did. I don’t know what it’s made out of; it feels like wool, or maybe a wool/rayon blend. But it’s a slightly boucle’d three ply sportish weight yarn that was a royal pain in the ass to do the drop stitch rows. Perhaps I’ve resented it ever since. I don’t know.

It got me thinking though, on the potentially transitory nature of fiber craft. It wasn’t that I didn’t value the piece, I just thought I could do something better with it. I saw yarn, pretty yarn, that was not being utilized to the fullest potential so I reclaimed it. Recycling my own craft.

People comb thrift stores for sweaters and so on to unravel for the yarn. I’ve done it. I have three sweaters waiting to be ripped out into the yarn they’re made of. Many times I’ve gotten a long way in a project, only to frog it. My pinwheel sweater only needed half of one arm but I ripped it out. Half a top-down raglan tee in Interlacements Kansas got ripped out. And the Lovlund sweater was about ¾ done when I ripped it out to make the luna moth shawl.

Long story short, I’m not afraid to frog, especially where projects for myself are concerned. A totally finished object with nothing in particular glaringly wrong with it that I’ve been wearing around for over two years, though? That’s a new one. It made me think. I took the materials. I made them into something that at the time was a big deal. This was my craft, my creation. I took the time, and the tools, and created the object and now I’ve uncreated it so I can create something new with it.

Perhaps it goes back to my time as a writer. Words are easily reclaimed, but you can’t make them totally disappear. And once they’re out there in the world, forget it. You have to own them. When I self-published my book of poetry and essays back in the dark ages of my life, I was totally happy and pleased that I’d done it. Now, many of those words make me cringe. I can’t unmake Drumming through Woodsmoke, and I have to reconcile myself to the fact that it’s out there, good or bad, (or good and bad, which is probably closer to the truth.) This scarf had snags, mis-stitches, mistakes, wasn’t quite long enough, was made out of questionable materials. I was able to unmake it. Does this make me more or less accountable for the content of my art or craft? I’m not ashamed of the work, I just know that I can do better now. And I have pictures to remind me.

I heard somewhere that in Japan, they knit yarn into sweaters and when it’s time to wash the sweater, they unravel it, wash the yarn, and reknit it into a new sweater. Now that is reinventing your craft. I have no idea if it’s true or not and I can’t even remember where I heard it, but it made me ponder the transitory nature of yarn crafts. If I make a sweater for my husband or a shawl for my mother or a blanket for some baby, once it passes out of my hands, it could become anything or stay the same. It could be felted into a mess and thrown out. It could be unraveled and knit into something else. It could line the bottom of a dog crate or be sewn into a pillow for a couch.

Maybe part of this is why I am so ambivalent about selling my handspun yarns. Part of me feels like they’re not really good enough yet. Part of me feels like I couldn’t price them high enough for their value to me. And part of me wants control of their destinies.

Enough philosophy.

Brief crafty update-I’m more than ¾ done with the red socks. The DNA socks are approaching the ¾ point, and I started a pair of thick socks for my mother-in-law that are going so fast, they’re almost ¾ done as well. I also took a spinning break over the weekend and did up a three-ply sportweight out of some batts I got in a destash. The batts were gorgeous, candy colors. Pink and light green and shiny white. Unfortunately, those things may not go so well together in a yarn. I’m reserving judgment because often, I’m not sure about a yarn until I see it knit up. But I have great anxiety about this one. We shall see.

Pictures soon, I just don’t have time to take them-short work week followed by a long weekend so there should be ample photos then.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's the good old sentimental season

We got our first snow of the season over the weekend. Not much, just a dusting, but enough to make me worry about what's going to happen when we have accumulation and I have to walk through it with my crutch and my bad leg and my general unsteady state of existence. Scary stuff. Maybe we'll have a dry winter this year.

We got the major part of our holiday shopping done for this year yesterday. I have to say we spent more money than I was comfortable with, but what the heck. It'll be okay. I hope. I'm not going to get more specific than that because I'm sure my kids can find my blog if they want to and some stuff REALLY needs to be a surprise.

Crafting goes on. I'm making real progress. The DNA socks are moving along, despite the pattern being full of errors, which aggravates me to no end. I agonize over my free patterns being error-free, I think if someone is selling a not-cheap book, they could at least make sure the charts are right before it goes to print. But apparently, there is errata out there, even though I searched and searched on the web and didn't find any. It must have been added very recently.
This bothers me too much. I need to let it go. Here's recent photos of the socks.


The cable should pop more once it's washed and blocked. It's more apparent in real life than it is in photos, if that makes any sense. I also need to go in and do the "gene pairs" that were clustered over two stitches, because those looked like ass when I was knitting them so I left them out, planning to go back and stitch them in once the socks are done.


The gene pairings that cluster over three stitches are fine, but the two-stitch ones just didn't look right.


One of the red beaded rib socks is done and the other is moving along.

Both winecozies are finished. I went with i-cord for the tie on the second one, with tassels.




I think they look pretty awesome. I still need to block them, hopefully that will take care of that slight unevenness in the two-color one.

Did my first sweater recycling this weekend, too. I had bought four sweaters at a thrift shop with the intention of taking them apart, one in cotton specifically because it wouldn't break my heart to mess up the cotton one. I got a big affirmation of Alden Amos' assertion that "twist costs money" because the 12 ply cotton yarn that made up the sweater was almost completely not twisted together. I ended up running it all back through my Babe spinning wheel to get some twist in it, then washed and hung it to dry. I have four skeins, two are quite hefty, two are smaller, probably about 6-700 yards of bulky weight white cotton yarn. It's soft, too, not like discloth cotton. No idea what I'm going to use it for, but it was a good trial run on deconstructing a sweater and I learned a lot. I have one pink wool, one black merino that is very fine gauge, and a grey silk, also very fine gauge, to take apart. No rush on them at all, though. I have plenty of time and that white cotton one made a MESS in the living room so I'd rather wait until I have time and space to work on the others. I might do the pink one pretty soon though, because it's small and a large yarn so it should be a snap.

Most of the holiday knitting is ongoing. I still need to start the socks for my mom. I'm going to do her a pair of Noro Entrelac socks, because they're fast, and awesome, and I think she'll appreciate getting something I designed as well as knit. I also need to start facecloths for my aunts and something (maybe a scarf?) for my mother in law. I really wanted to make her another pair of socks but I am not going to have time. Unless I make her some chunky weight bedsocks... hmmm... there's a thought. But I refuse to stress myself out over it.

The flowers Bob got me last week for our moveinaversary keep getting more awesome. I don't understand it, but I'm not complaining.




Until next time...