Monday, June 25, 2007

The Sock and the Fury

For once in my blogging life, I have more pictures than words. I have been taking pictures like a fiend the last week and a half but haven't managed to write a post. (The lack of posting may well have something to do with the bronchitis, etc. I had last week, too.) The mammoth black widow spider and the massive stash organization undertaking will have to wait for another day. For today, we have gift yarn and a minor sock nightmare to discuss instead.

First the Good News

I went to check the mail late on Friday night and discovered no bills, no credit card offers, no magazines, no grocery store coupons...Just a package from the lovely and talented Kiwi knitblogger Ennavic.410 meters of absolutely stunningly gorgeous New Zealand wool. Seriously. The picture doesn't do it justice. It is black and deep purple and blue and green and dark red and pink and orange and yellow....the colors are all so strikingly beautiful. I took several pictures and never did quite capture how remarkable it is. The transitions between the colors are lost but take my word for it: they are cool. These colors could not be more perfectly suited for me if I had personally selected each and every one. When I emailed her to tell her the package had arrived, I said that as soon as I saw the yarn, I immediately thought it would be perfect for a felted bag and EnnaVic said that she had had the same thought. Apparenly this yarn knows what it wants to be! Thank you, thank you!

Want to see it again? The Damned Sock

Have you ever had a project that was nothing but trouble? A project that seems to fight you every step of the way?

That's how these socks-for-the-doctor are. Words like "wicked" and "demon-possessed" and "stupid" and "&#$!>+(#" keep coming to mind. These socks should be simple. They are a generic vanilla sock pattern. Even for this barely experienced sock knitter, these socks should not be this much trouble. (Sidenote: I need to stop reading blogs where people knit socks with wild know who you are. The ones who cast on a pair of complex, intricate socks on Monday and ***wham, bam, thank you ma'am*** on Wednesday they are posting finished socks. I do not begrudge them their fast knitting of socks. It is jealousy, pure and simple.)

I readily acknowledge that the first problem is that I haven't had much time to knit lately so I have been knitting bits and pieces here and there. This sort of knitting means progress happens but not lots of progress. Last week, during the fever/coughing, I did a bit of knitting. [Sick knitting time is seriously hampered by a) sleeping; b) cough syrup with codiene c) "Prime Time in the Daytime" on TNT. The do, in fact, know drama; d) coughing; e) sleeping.]

I was quite pleased, then, when I finished the heel and gusset of one sock and traded off to pick up the gusset stitches of the second sock. After picking up the second sock gussets, I stretched out the heel a bit to take a look and make sure it was nice and even. That's when I saw this:Do you see what I saw? Some very normal, generic spaces between nice little even heel stitches....and one gimongous hole.

What's a knitter to do? First, I laid it down. I knit a couple of nice even rounds on the foot of the other sock. I looked at the hole again. I took my antibiotics. I said dirty words. I took a nap. Then I picked up the offending sock. I knit a round. Then my inner knit-picker (ha) got the better of me and I, woefully, ripped out the heel. All the way to the point that I split for the heel in the first place. Then I took a shower.

So now I am working on the heel again. I don't know how that hole happened. I looked and looked and LOOKED at it and never figured out exactly what I did wrong. This whole hole business has included a reprehensible amount of make-a-sailor-blush language.

At this point, there is a part of me sitting quietly in the corner, angry and frustrated, saying, "Screw it. He doesn't need handknit socks." There is also a more determined, more ill-tempered part of me that could care less about the finished product and just doesn't want to lose this grudge match style battle between knitter and knitting.

Soothing My Spirits

Last weekend, I was online and happened over to Jimmy Bean's Wool to pick up a little something for my Secret Pal. I wanted something special for her last package and I thought some Lorna's Laces would be a good pick. I accidentally bought some for me, too. Oops. Unfortunately for me, the Jimmy Bean's site didn't indicate that it takes two skeins of LL to make a pair of socks. (Not that this is JB's fault. I should have checked the yardage.) Luckily, I had ordered each of us a skein of two different colors so it worked out in the end. Except for one that I only ordered one skein of....Do ya'll have any experience with the Lorna's Laces? I have never used it. Obviously. That's the reason I bought 5 skeins of it.

Today's Quote:

"CATAPULTAM HABEO. NISI PECUNIAM OMNEM MIHI DABIS, AD CAPUT TUUM SAXUM IMMANE MITTAM" (I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head.)

Friday, June 15, 2007


My oldest sister, Carrie, is ten and a half years older than me. I was 9 when she married Jeff. Katy and I were 5 when we first met Jeff and while we liked Jeff just fine, we were surprised to hear that Carrie was going to marry Jeff and not (her friend) Sam. Alas, when you are 8, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between "friend" and "boyfriend".

Lucky for us, Carrie did marry Jeff because almost exactly three years later, in an Army hospital in Fort Polk, Louisiana, she gave birth to my niece Whitney. And three minutes later, to my niece Tegan. As 12-year-old seventh graders in a tiny K-8 school in southern Wisconsin, Katy and I were called to the principal's office, where we took a phone call from our mother. "Did ya'll want nieces are nephews?" We of course didn't care - we were just excited. "Two girls," she said, "Whitney and Tegan."

We were so excited - thrilled, even - to be Aunts at 12. One week later the whole family made the drive from Wisconsin to Louisiana to meet the newest additions. They were a bit premature, Tegan had jaundice and spent the first days of her life on this earth in an incubator. They were beautiful, perfect girls. They were miraculous. They were dwarfed in the arms of my big brother (I wish I could have found a picture). During those few short days of that first visit, we could already see their personalities. Tegan, the snuggler who slept like death every time she slept (and still does). And Whitney, who Carrie called Baby Dozer because of her tendency to bulldoze the sleeping Tegan into a corner of the crib so she could spread out. When they were still very little, they moved closer to the rest of the family - to us - and have lived close for the rest of their lives. I had no idea how my life would be changed from then on. I've heard people talk about the love they feel for their own children and, not having my own children, I can't say what that is like. I do know that though I was only 12 when they were born, I felt a love for them that I couldn't even define. And to this day, that hasn't changed. Now, as then, I love these girls in a way that I never could have expected and cannot articulate.

Through the years, I have been amazed to watch them grow and change and I have been blessed and honored to be a part of their lives. Tegan, who from the time she could walk, pirouetted and pranced in front of every mirror, window, shiny or reflective surface. Tegan who was nearly constantly begging Katy for a "makeover". Who liked nothing more than dressing up in a perfect fancy dress, that she more than occasionally pulled up over her head. (Luckily, she has out grown this. For the most part.) Who used to scrunch up her nose snort and huff and spread out her arms as if to fly. (We still regularly mock her for this.)

Whitney, who was known to hide in corners and eat garlic salt straight from the shaker, who fell in love with a onesie at some point early on and continued to wear it until it had to be confiscated for fear it would permanently cut off her circulation. The onesie was her second favorite outfit, her first favorite being a diaper and a play gun belt, that she wore religiously while pretending to be a cop and while "apprehending the perpetrator in the boiler room." Who, troll-like, frequently carried a brown paper back around full of found treasures - pennies, a sock, Legos, a napkin, a ball of lint, a Matchbox car.Tegan, with her flare for the dramatic (note the pose) and Whitney, the practical, straightforward one. (Seen here at Santa's Land.)

Nearly 18 years later, they have grown up to be two amazing, beautiful young women. Each funny and frustrating and wonderful in their own right. I wish I could tell you - I wish I could tell them! - how much I love them. Simultaneously, somehow, I love them as if they were my own children and I love them like the little sisters I never had and I love them like long-time, dear, beloved friends.

Whitney, who aspires to one day being a high school band director (or a performing musician....I'm never quite sure which) and who I know will be successful whatever she decides to pursue. She is an amazingly talented instrumentalist and a pretty girl, who tries to hide it. She is a smart (and smart ass) and endearing young woman, whose politics, when she mentions them, lean precariously toward the far left. Whitney, who apparently aspires to give St. Jude a run for his "patron saint desperate cases and lost causes" title. Who wants everyone to think she is tough and cool, but who holds my mother's puppy and cuddles her and calls her her "baaaaabbbbyyyyy" and kisses her on her little dog mouth.

Tegan, who is the only militant cheerleader I've ever known. (She once made another girl on her squad cry because the poor girl was not "taking stunting seriously".) Who, when she was little, asked my mother (her nana) if there would be biscuits in heaven - and who cried when Nana told her probably not. Tegan, who along with her best friend, made the Young Republicans Club a going concern at their high school and who has worked as an intern for a Republican Congressman for the last year or so. An extremely smart girl who nonetheless once informed the entire family, in an appalled tone, that "Froot Loops is totally spelled wrong on the box...but they probably only did that so they could use the cereal shapes for all the Os." Tegan who Thursday flew 2500 miles from home to try out for the college cheerleading squad.

Over the last 17 and a half years, I've gained more nieces and some nephews - who I love dearly and wouldn't trade for anything - and yet these two will always hold a special place in my heart. These girls have made me cry more times than I care to remember, have been in my prayers so often only the Lord knows (thankfully He knows) and who have made me laugh more times than I can count. Last Friday night they graduated from high school. I am shocked and appalled at this - but also anxious and thrilled for them . . . and filled with excitement and trepidation on their behalf for all the things I know lay ahead of them. And for all the things I cannot even fathom lay ahead of them.

Congratulations, Whitney and Tegan! I love you and I am so proud of you for all you have done so far and so excited to see what you will accomplish from this day forward. And so blessed to call you my nieces - and my friends!

Today's Quote:

"My sister and I are twins, and you know how subtle are the links which bind two souls which are so closely allied." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Spaghetti Arms

I've been making a valiant attempt at spinning with the spindle Jonie sent me. While recently spinning (among other things) has been encroaching on my knitting time, spinning will not be replacing knitting in my heart. I think maybe I have some tension issues. I'm not suggesting I'll be giving up on spinning, just that I'm experiencing a steep learning curve.
There is good news in that I haven't broken my self-imposed Resolution rules, and I have only been knitting on my socks so far this week. Of course, there hasn't been much knitting getting done...things have been busy...but when I've had crafting time, I've been mesmerized by the siren calls of this guy.

Sunday I helped at the LYS teaching a workshop on Kool-Aid dying yarn. It was an absolute success and everyone had a wonderful time. There were um, I think, 10 or 12 people there. (I never had a chance to count.) It was such fun. Dying yarn is addictive...once I start, I can't seem to stop. Here's the latest.
Grape. I only used two packets for a skein of creme colored Cascade 220 superwash. I am disproportionately pleased with the outcome.
Ice Blue. I was completely jazzed to find the Ice Blue kool-aid.

Today's Quote:

"You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don't trust enough." -Frank Crane

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Gang's All Here

(Lots of pictures)

When I discovered Hooks & Needles (my new LYS) I was thrilled, as you well know. I was even happier when I heard about the Wednesday KnitNight, i.e. Girls' Night Out. What I didn't realize at that time (silly me) was that Wednesday nights were not necessarily going to be useful knitting time for me. I know this will come as a huge shock to all of you, but I got very busy minding other people’s business on Wednesday night.

See, I was helping Lisa crochet and so I didn’t want to dive in to knitting on my socks because I knew I was going to have to stop and show her the next step. So I got up to take pictures and then I had to look at what people were working on and someone had a new book (No Sheep for You. I must have it.) and then I had to help a new knitter fix her purls – she couldn’t understand why she was getting extra stitches every time she purled so I explained to her about holding the yarn in front – and then UPS had delivered some new yarn so I needed to look at that…Ya’ll know how that goes.

Thus very little knitting accomplished BUT – I did get pictures. Without further adieu, let me introduce you....
To the merchandise.
I didn't get a picture of them but in addition to all the wooden needles you see in this pictures, she also carries Addis, which makes up for all the wood, in my opinion.
If you look into the back of this picture (below), you can see a lady standing there. Beyond that is the "family room". There are couches and tables and chairs and birds (yes birds - in cages, mercifully) which is where everyone hangs out. To the chicks...This is (l-r) Kaylee, the Hooks & Needles proprietress, and Julie, excellent knitter extraordinaire and mother of Amanda (who you will meet in a minute.) Julie teaches several classes at the shop and I am 100% certain that when the time comes for me to at long last figure out the attached i-cord, one of these two will be able to show me how.
Here we have (l-r) Judy and her friend Rosemary (who goes by Ro), Suzie who is learning to knit socks (hurray, Suzie!) and her son Joseph who is learning to knit (double hurray, Joseph!) and Anita, who works at the shop and is very funny. You see that pack of yarn under Judy's protective hand? That's the new stuff that had arrived and we were admiring it. It was actually for Julie (above) but she was slow on the grab so the rest of us got in a good fondle before she was able to claim it. (Sorry, Julie.)
Next up we have BL and Ursula. BL, coincidentally is the mother of my husband's best friend. I was so happy and surprised to see her Wednesday. She came to visit me after my last ankle surgery and while she was at my house, she was looking at my KnitPicks catalog and told me she was planning to do some knitting one of these days. You can imagine my excitement when I saw her come in the door Wednesday. She is a natural knitter - next week I will get pictures of the excellent progress she is making on her first scarf.
As for Ursula, I just wanted to put her in my pocket and take her home with me. I met Ursula the first night I visited the LYS and she was bummed because she couldn't find the yarn for this blanket she is working on in the picture. She was short 3 balls and no place in town had the yarn. I introduced Ursula to the wonderful world of online yarn shopping and she was able to find what she needed - in the right dye lot, even - from Lisa's Yarn & Thread. Now she is zipping through this lovely afghan.
Remember Julie, mother of Amanda? This is Amanda. (see the birds' cage at the end of the couch?)
Amanda just finished knitting this teddy bear. This teddy bear is her second knitting project ever. Ever. Her first was a stripey baby blanket for her the baby she is incubating (a girl, as I understand it). If she takes to mothering even half as well as she has taken to knitting, that will be one lucky baby!
And in this corner....Deb and Lisa (yes, Lisa of the thinly veiled crochet project). Deb just returned from two weeks in Alaska (me = so jealous) where she bought beautiful local yarn that she is thinking about knitting up into the ever lovely Clapotis. And then there is Lisa. Lisa who needed a graduation gift for the daughter of a friend. Lisa who wanted to learn crochet....a lei.
As modeled by her darling daughter, Vikki. Lisa assured me she would bring her completed lei next week for pictures.

Today's Quote:

"Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them." -Francesco Guicciardini

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

From the Crafting Kitsch-en


It is my sad duty to report that, sadly, I will not be able to make the trip to Petaluma tomorrow to see the Yarn Harlot. Due to circumstances beyond my control, and with great sadness, I had to make the decision not to go. I am bummed. I will keep my fingers crossed that she will make it this way again or that our paths will cross sometime in the near future. As a side note, I am also still hopeful that Ann & Kay will eventually extend their book tour to the west coast. I wish I had thought ahead to send one of my books to one of the knitters who will be attending so I could at least have gotten an autograph. Double bummer.

I think I have found a toe-up sock I could do. Check out these instructions from Purly Whites. I love all of the pictures and the clear instructions. I am optimistic that this find will translate to a successful attempt at toe-up socks. We'll see. Sometime after July 14.


You may remember a discussion here at Ok! What Next?? about origami. Origami is just one of the crafty things I manage to do that people look at with raised eyebrows and say (in a very even, calculatedly pleasant voice) "Oh wow." Pause. "What do you do with that?"

Knitters and crafters I admire are often of the arty, high-end, classy or elegant variety. Nora, might just be my crafting ideal. And then there's Ruth - I hope I never meet Ruth because she does such beautiful things - I would feel like a macaroni frame next to her Trompe-l'œil finery. While this brand of crafty, artistic refinement is something I long for and imagine I do in an alternate universe, it is not the kind I actually manage to produce. I seem to produce somewhat obscure, odd things. Kitchsy might be the word. So if you are looking for fancy, high-end crafting, you won't find it here. Especially today. (And really, this should not come as a surprise.)

One of the reasons I can't go to Petaluma tomorrow is that I have a commitment tomorrow evening that I've known about for 3 months and ultimately wasn't able to reschedule. I needed to prepare some favors and some snacky things for this function. That's where the kitschy projects come in. This was a "small" project that sort of grew. . . hearken back to the way the adorable mogwais morphed into Gremlins. (Am I showing my age?)

So, the results of this life-of-its-own undertaking?

Snack + Favor = Picnic Basket Full of Marzipan Fruits and Vegetables, with a side of Fruit/Vegetable Bookmarks made from Buttons.

For your viewing pleasure...

The basket and bookmarks (on some of my favorite books.)

Close-ups of the Raspberries and Pea bookmarks. (I also made Apple, Lemon, Plum, Orange and Cucumber bookmarks.)

To fill the baskets, a little snack. Handmade Marzipan Fruits and Vegetables. The Marzipan Menu includes Yellow Squash, Bell Peppers, Eggplant, Apples, Carrots, Potatoes, Cherries, Tomatoes, Oranges, Cucumbers and Peas. (And no, the they are not to scale, one to another.)

A Plateful:


I can't decide which is my favorite, the peas or the apple.

Tune in tomorrow for the mystery crochet project.

Today's Quote:

"Nothing interferes with my concentration. You could put on an orgy in my office and I wouldn't look up. Well, maybe once." -Isaac Asimov

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Magnificent Surprise

Happy Dance

Saturday I spent the entire day making good on a Mother's Day present and when I got home, hot and tired and riddled with muscle cramps, there was a medium sized UPS box with my name on it. The return address said Pacific Wool & Fiber but I knew I hadn't ordered anything. I opened it and discovered it was a surprise from my secret pal, Joanie. I had almost forgotten mentioning somewhere recently that I've been wanting to learn to spin but hadn't managed to get my act together and try. So guess what she sent me?

A drop spindle!!!
And beautiful fiber!!! (described on the packaging as "Colonial Heather Top Vineyard")

There was much dancing and cheering and ohhing and ahhing on my part. Followed by several valiant, if unsuccessful, attempts at trying to explain to my Mister what all the giddiness was about.

I spent a little while last night trying to spin, with only moderate success...I was very tired. I will try again tomorrow. This fiber is so so soft and stunningly beautiful - the picture doesn't do it justice. I had some roving on hand and have been practicing with it. I think I want to practice a bit more before diving into the wonderful Colonial Heather Top Vineyard. THANK YOU, JOANIE!!! You are the best pal a girl could ever hope for!

Crochet, The Devil's Handiwork

Friday evening, I unburied the crochet hooks and made up a sample of the crochet project. (I haven't done one in a long time and thought I should dust of my skills before trying to teach them to someone else.) Here's the sample. Any guesses? (Robyn, you are not allowed to guess.) As if the fact that it is crocheted were not enough, the yarn is about 90% fun fur and similar novelty yarn. I am so ashamed.

I'll make Lisa pose with it Wednesday at KnitNight when I teach her how to do the devil's work. (And actually, the yarn shop calls it "Girl's Night Out" but I prefer to refer to it as KnitNight. Umm.)

At long last, I feel like I am making actual, noteworthy progress on the socks. I have made some more progress on Sock #2 (left) since I took this picture and it is about one inch from the start of the heel flap. I will try to get that far before I go to bed tonight. These guys have spent an awful lot of time huddled together in my knitting bag. I may have to ship them off to Dr. B, who I think, with her special knack for sock conversations, is in fact a Sock Whisperer.

Tonight I've been knitting and catching up on tivo'ed episodes of Planet Earth. The squalls of the baby polar bears woke up my helper. (Sally and I both prefer Deadliest Catch, but we're all caught up on Deadliest Catch.)

Today's Post:

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Friday, June 01, 2007

Making a Post out of Nothing At All

Work is busy, life is hectic, I'm tired and the batteries are dead in my camera. All of these factors combine to mean that there's not much to blog about. So a few odds and ends...

Only a few more days to get in on Dorothy's fundraiser. She is giving away amazing prizes. You can buy seeds, stitch markers or just make a straight donation. Click on the fundraiser link above for her fundraising site. She also has tons of pictures of prizes on her regular blog.

Wednesday I went to KnitNight again and it was so much fun. Lots of really nice people there. Next week I will make sure I have batteries in the camera and try to convince these strangers that I should be permitted to take their pictures and post them on the internet.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for any amount of time should probably set down your glass of wine before reading this next bit of news: I told a girl at KnitNight that I would teach her to crochet something next week. (Yes, I do know how to crochet a thing or two. I just choose not to.) She apparently has always wanted to learn to make these and she was absolutely giddy when I commented that I don't crochet but I do know how to make them. I'll keep you in suspense until next week.

I completed the heel flap on the first sock and I am about 2 inches into the second sock. I am contemplating ripping out the heel flap of the first sock and making the leg longer. It is 6 inches but it seems too short. I am going to make my husband try it on again now that the heel flap is complete. I'll keep you posted.

I think that's it. If you need a good laugh, watch this. (Make sure your volume is up.) I've watched it several times and it makes me laugh everytime. Actually, you need to watch it a couple of times to take it all in.

Today's Quote:

“We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves, ‘How much clean air do we really need?’” Lee Iacocca