Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Knitting! Blogging! Life!

Since I last posted, there has been much crafting but little computing. Setting up classes on my work computer effectively nixes the desire to come home and spend an hour on my own PC. But life will revert to normalcy soon.

I finished a One-Skein Wonder in Katia Papiro, a discontinued steel-lavender cotton/linen blend I got from the clearance rack at Spin-a-Yarn in Edmonds.

Knit in DK weight on Size 6 needles, so I kind of made up the stitch counts as I went along.
I used yarn-over increases instead of make-one increases, so there are little lacy rows up the raglans and along the front hem of the sleeves.
I knit the body border in seed stitch instead of ribbing.
A great knit and a cute pattern. I highly recommend it.

I also entered some handspun in the Evergreen State Fair and won three 4th place ribbons.

My fair entries:

Third from right.

Third and fourth from left.

Disqualified because my scale and theirs had a difference of opinion over exactly how much an ounce is. I'm really bummed, because not only was it my best yarn, I had another 4 ounces of it at home.

Last evening's project was to paint a border in the downstairs bathroom to give it a little pizzazz before our big open house in a couple of weeks. Here are the results:

What do you think? I have determined that freehand border painting is far easier than stenciling, because it requires less exactitude, which has never been my strong suit.

And now, I have a date with the laundry. Au revoir.

Friday, August 26, 2005


There has been little knitting chez moi of late, as I am getting ready for school to start. Today, I finished my classroom set-up and preliminary planning, though, so I'm now dedicating my efforts to enhancing my school wardrobe. Last night I cut out the pieces for a new suit, Butterick 4620.

I can't wait to try this pattern in boucle, but I thought I'd better give it a trial run in less expensive fabric first. I had 4 yards of dollar-a-yard drapey plum suiting on hand, which I think will look nice with a bit of interfacing. I'm going to trim it all with some ruched tulle, for a (hopefully) fashionable look.

In preparation for this sewing odyssey, I've checked out every Threads the library had on hand and re-read all the articles on custom tailoring, particularly set-in sleeves. Sleeves, you see, are my downfall. I'm an indifferent sewer, at best. Long, straight hems are my best work. Anything that features the term "ease" is 100% guaranteed to give me fits. Princess seams, okay. A slightly curved hem, okay. Set-in sleeves....shudder. Progress pics to come, if I don't lose confidence and curl into a fetal position.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Of cats and flowers

"Honey, where's the cat?"
"I don't know. Do you hear her crying?"
"No, I just can't find her."
"Maybe she got locked in the laundry room."
"Maybe. I'll check."

It reminds me of this cartoon by Gary Larson.

On Sunday, while Tim was away on a hike with the men of the family, my mother and I went to Point Defiance to see the flower gardens. Notwithstanding the three weddings being held there at the time, I got some pretty good shots.

Tivoli tee is done! Pictures tomorrow!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Der rings des Nibelungen

I went to see "Siegfried" from Wagner's Rings last night at the Seattle Opera, thanks to another teacher who had an extra ticket. I had a great time. Here's the basic plot of Siegfried:

Our hero, Siegfried, the son of the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde (yuck), and grandson of Wotan, king of the gods, was raised by Mime, a dwarf, and the brother of Alberich,who forged the Ring of Power. Siegfried repairs his father's old sword and runs off to kill the hand-operated dragon, Fafner, who used to be a giant. Fafner has the golden ring , which Mime wants, and only Siegfried can get. Lots of singing ensues. Oh, and Wotan pops in and out as "Wanderer."

Fafner dies quickly, so does Mime, and, on the advice of a little bird, Siegfried runs off to the top of a mountain to rescue his true love, whom he has never met. Wotan has an interlude with Erda, the earth goddess, and mother of his daughter Brunnhilde, who is the girl on top of the mountain that Siegfried has gone to rescue. The scorecard is somewhat muddled at this point but that makes Brunnhilde Siegfried's...aunt. Yes, his aunt on both sides because, as I said before, his parents were twins.

Brunnhilde is a former Valkerie with a major identity crisis who saved Siegfried's mother Sieglinde and tried to protect Siegfried's father Siegmund, so she is somewhat partial to Siegfried from the start. They kiss, they sing, they walk around, they sing, they declare their undying love, they sing, and they take their bows.

This is where the whole thing broke down for me, I will admit. It's one thing to rescue your true love on a mountaintop, but it's quite another if that true love is your somewhat...erm...substantial double aunt. A picture is worth a thousand words:

Our young lovers.

But the singing was lovely, and the sets were marvelous, and everyone came away from the opera house feeling quite satisfied, myself included.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I am weak

I re-dyed the mohair. It just wasn't BLUE enough. And I must have blue. This, of course, resulted in blue-dyed hands. They're pink, now, though, because I immediately thereafter dyed 8 oz. of tussah silk top red, purple, bronze, and blue. But that's for another post. Here's the mohair-BFL, in its new peacock-ey glory:

And it's already on the needles. I'm planning to enter it in the Evergreen State Fair under "handspun knitted items." Also going to the fair will be this:

Not in that state, though. It's already spun and plied, and having its twist set even as we speak. It's a tweedy fuchsia-pink-orange sport weight, the result of dyeing blended dark-brown and white batts those colors, then layering them and pulling them into a roving, a la Deb Menz. The wool itself is pretty awful. Coarse, sproingy, sticky, and full of neps. But the yarn didn't turn out all that bad for all that. I don't expect to win any awards for it, but it will provide a nice contrast to all those lovely, downy white merino yarns entered by other people.

And finally, Tivoli, blocking.

You'll note that I didn't say "Tivoli finished." I tried her on, and she's about two inches too long. So a'frogging I will go, then re-knit the bottom band, then voila, Tivoli, she shall be done. Oh, and Lily, in the lower corner? She's pulling out a blocking pin with her teeth.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Doggie Backpack

Last night's project was something of a rush job, Tim having planned a hiking trip for today. He wanted Abbey to have a customized dog backpack so she could carry her own food, toy, and rope. Accordingly, I set to work. The fabric and notions came from Seattle Fabrics, a firm specializing in outdoor and recreational fabric. Here we have the scene of the crime:

And here is the result:

I attached the pack assembly to a store-bought dog harness so that a leash could be used easily when necessary.

The "saddlebags" are 8"x6", large enough to hold up to 6 dog meals, or 8, if necessary. Don't worry about Abbey bearing the weight--she's an amazingly strong little thing, with very powerful legs. And she loves to hike.

The undercarriage is fastened with the harness in front and a contoured buckle assembly in back. The back isn't meant to be cinched tight, just comfortably snug to keep the load from shifting.

Doesn't she look spiffy? Tim's got her out on a day hike today, so her load is light--just a toy, a snack, and her water bowl. I will report back on the success of the mission.

Friday, August 12, 2005

A tale of two fibers

Here are our two fibers, neatly spun onto bobbins. On the left, in my hand, is yearling mohair. On the right, on my Babe, is Blue-faced Leicester.

Here they are, plied and skeined, waiting for their warm soak.

After their soak, they went into the dyebath, or, rather, it went into them. They are dyed with Wilton's cake dye: Cornflower Blue, Royal Blue, and Brown, Ecru fiber reactive dye, and Silver-gray Jacquard acid dye.

I'm a bad dyer--at least production-wise. I don't measure my dyes exactly, and have been known to add more colors of dye to the dyebath after a while if it's not turning out exactly the way I want it to. This time, I started with the cornflower, royal, and silver, and added the brown and ecru later to dull the color somewhat. I was going for a yarn that would be easy to wear, not rainbow-bright, like Wilton's dyes tend to produce.

After 3 hours in the crockpot on high (A Goodwill crockpot, one I never use for food.), the dye was exhausted, and I rinsed the yarn in hot water with a little shampoo (wool has the same basic properties as hair, so washing it with a good hair shampoo is one of the safest ways to clean it), then gave it a few minutes of the spin cycle in the washer. And...voila:

It's damp in that picture, so the color will lighten somewhat. I thwacked it against the door of my bathroom at length to straighten the yarn, set the twist, and free up some of the mohair to create bloom. I like this colourway. It's a subdued peacock, which will go with many of the things I own. All in all, a successful yarn project.

Wedding cake

Well, here it is, remarkably unscathed from a year in my parents' freezer. It's chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache filling. Yum.

You know, I have never heard anything good about the traditional first-anniversary cake-tasting, but ours was GOOD! I only had one bite on our wedding day, and I must say, even a year later, I'm pleased with how tasty our Fred Meyer cake was. And how pretty. The decorator lady did a custom job for us, and it turned out really nicely.

In other news, here is last night's project:

My mother and I took a trip to Shipwreck Beads on Wednesday and I got a bunch of 6mm natural stones, spacer beads, head pins, and split rings to make stitch markers. I love pretty stones and things, and these are just like jewelry for knitting. Tim says I should sell them. I would if I could get any customers. Anybody want stitch markers?

Tivoli will pose for an advertising shot. She says "Just look how classy I am with my new natural stone stitch markers."

Little show-off. I suppose now I'll have to start paying her modeling fees.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


So as I was working on a paper for school (SPU, professional certification for teachers), I noticed that things had gotten really quiet. I turned around, only to discover this:

The lion lying down with the lamb.
Of course, the noise I made when I went over to get my camera woke them up, and they immediately fell back into their preferred activity. This:


Today's spinning:

Weight: Bulky
Length: 80 yards
Fiber: Fine merino, plied with acrylic fuzzy thread
Color: Sky blue with multicolored purple-ish slubs
Difficulty: A lot harder to manufacture than lace-weight. I actually find it more difficult to deliberatly spin slubs than to spin a relatively even fine single. Go figure.
Destiny: Dunno. Maybe a hat, if my best friend's baby is a girl.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Well stomp on frogs and shove a crow bar up my nose

KnitPicks has cashmere.

For $6.99 a ball.

Life, as we know it, has ended.

Not only do they have cashmere, it's cashmere-silk-merino-baby alpaca. Oh, or, if that's not good enough for you, there's also just cashmere-baby alpaca. Or maybe just merino lace yarn. Or maybe boucle.

I can't take it. Where are my smelling salts?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Gratuitous dog-blogging

Our intrepid hero confronts the great unknown Boulder River.

On Sunday, for our first anniversary, we went up to Boulder River to eat lunch under the waterfall. It's only a mile or so hike in, but Abbey enjoyed herself immensely. She especially enjoyed the opportunity to pose for many heroic pictures.

My knitting, alas, did not have the opportunity to pose for many heroic pictures today, because we forgot the camera in the car when we went to the game. Felix Hernandez, rookie phenom, pitched magnificently, and Tivoli was knitted upon doggedly. The end is in sight. I feel it in my bones.

Tomorrow: Mystery spinning. (Oooh...feel the mysteriousness-ness)


Monday, August 08, 2005

Tivoli Progress

Thanks to some knitting time in the car on the way up to Boulder River yesterday, the end of Tivoli Tee is in sight. I can't tell you how happy I am with this pattern. I slipped half the stitches onto another circular this morning to try it on, and it fits very nicely, not too loose and not too tight. The yarn I'm using is fabulous, and the color looks good on me (If I do say so myself).

I've completed the first increase row after the waist, and I just need to complete about 6 more inches total to finish her to my preferred length. Then, I think I'll crochet around the edges for added stability and a bit of armpit coverage. Unlike many of the knitters attempting Tivoli, I have no difficulty at all with crochet, having learned it as a tot at my mother's and grandmother's knees. Indeed, while I've crocheted for about 16 years, I've only seriously knitted for 1 year. I prefer knitting for garments, though. It seems to have a more professional finish. Crochet, is, of course, the afghan method of choice.

Lily cares not for the knitting/ crochet debate. She would rather just lay in the sun.

Book Meme

Having been tagged with the book meme by Jeana, here are my answers:

Number of books I own: Far, far too many. One year and one day ago, when two history degrees wed, the combined literary power became a library of truly horrific proportions. My husband, bless him, proceeded to arrange our books according to topic, alphabetically by author or chronologically by topic, whichever was called for by the section. In addition to my guilty fiction habit, we have extensive philosophy, music, history, political, biology, and Christian literature sections. The works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and the other Inklings figure largely in the collection, as well as works on United States Military History and, well, knitting.

Last book I read: Vet in Harness, by James Herriot. Herriot is the shrewd Glasgewian veterinarian who was the subject of the BBC's All Creatures Great and Small. His books are pithy and amusing, just the sort of thing to pick up and put down during the summer.

Second-to-last book: The first three chapters of "America's History," Bedford-St. Martin's Press, in preparation for the first week of AP US History in September. My review: Flowing in the slightly stodgy manner of upper history textbooks, beautiful color plates, nice chapter reviews.

5 books that mean a lot to me:
1. The Bible. Particularly the New King James. I just don't like the NIV, never have. It seems somewhat halting to me, particularly when reading aloud. That, and it features some particularly wimpy synonym choices. "Transgressions" just sounds so much more important than "sins." I'm not against all new translations, though. I particularly like the New Living, which seems quite well done, flows beautifully, and is easily understood by the average 15-year-old.
2. Moral Man and Immoral Society, by Reinhold Niebuhr, which explains so beautifully why nations are small and petty things compared to divine morality. Not that nations should be abolished, or that Christians should forswear allegiance to their countries, but that only individuals, not societies, may serve God. A godly man in power may lead a nation to act in godly ways, but there is nothing inherently godly about the nation, just about the man.
3. The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis. There are some things that are best taught through story, and mans relationship to God and to sin is very well portrayed here. That and it's just a good story.
4. The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, by Adrian Plass. The church isn't the building, it's the people.
5. The Joy of Cooking. Sorry, but I'm a hopeless domestic. And really, without good food, what's the point? You'll note that I've linked to the 1931 facsimile edition, not the new version. The new version has been completely ruined by taking out all the chattiness and inserting things like recipes for Pho. The real help in the Joy of Cooking isn't the recipes, though those are reliable, it's the faultless advice included in every chapter. Well, that, and where else in this day and age can you learn how to pickle onions and make Jefferson Davis pie? Really--I mean it--I wouldn't be nearly so successful a cook, or, indeed, a human being, without this book.

Now...tagging...hmm...the only other blogger I really know is my husband, and I'm not sure if he'll go in for this sort of thing. We'll see.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Of Cats and Gerbils

Having totally knitted myself out last evening (Is't possible?), today I bring you the tale of the gerbil and the cat. Tim's and my first pet (other than the two dead fish, which we will not discuss here) is a gerbil named "Bernard." No, not after Bernard in the Rescuers, but after General Sir Bernard Montgomery, who bested Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, in Egypt at the Battle of El Alamein in 1942. Gerbils are desert animals, you see. And I'm a history teacher. Please don't laugh. They say I can live a quite normal life if I drink lots of tea and stay away from PBS specials on the English Civil War.

Anyway...the gerbil is our first, though least beloved pet. It's hard to love a Gerbil more than...well, anything, really. It's just that he's so paranoid. He will never trust us, despite the fact that we have never harmed one hair on his small body, he always assumes we thirst for gerbil blood. Bernie lives in a cage, equipped with all the necessities of gerbil life, atop a bookcase in the office. Here he is, in all his nervous glory:

Little does he know that though we bear him no malice, there is one who does. There is a watcher in the night, who indeed thirsts for his blood. I give you...Lily...viscious huntress.

And at her customary perch atop the monitor, plotting the gerbil's demise.

Lily's favorite, though unsuccessful, method, is to hurl herself bodily at the side of the cage, feet frantically searching for purchase. Finding none, she tumbles downward onto the printer two feet below, causing it to emit an angry beep and shoot out a blank sheet of paper. This scares Lily enough that she rockets off the desk and out of the room, ashamed of her lack of hunting prowess.

But behind that innocent facade she is again hatching gerbilly plots, awaiting the precise psychological moment at which her dreams will come true. Someday...oh, yes...someday...MWAHAHAHAHA!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Waterproof Mascara is a Necessity

If you go to see Stephanie Pearl-McPhee speak, please remember to wear waterproof mascara. Mine ran down my face and I had to surreptitiously remove copious black smudges sans the use of a tissue while not getting any of said black smudges on my Tivoli Tee. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she is that amusing. By the time she had reached the end of her “Bacon Powder” story (which involves biscuits, Memphis, and bilingualism), I was actually crying into my knitting.

Allow me to set the stage: The kind folks at the Weaving Works had placed about 150 chairs in their upstairs classroom to accommodate the expected crowd, which was very kind of them, I thought. Unfortunately, they underestimated the draw of Ms. Pearl-McPhee, resulting in a standing-sitting-knitting-room only crowd of about 200(?) packed in like a factory-sealed 10-skeiner. Did I mention that this room, like most Seattle buildings, is not air-conditioned? It's not. I never realized how sticky one's hands can get on the old Addi Turbos when it's 100 degrees and you're knitting wool. It really cuts down on the speed. But here is the anxious crowd, about 10 minutes before the Yarn Harlot arrived:

Most people came in late, as you can see. I-5 traffic can be terrible.

Here is the Yarn Harlot herself, being blogged while blogging. Trippy, eh?

Then, Stephanie launched into her talk, which was excellent, I may say, and also nearly memorized, which must be a great relief to her. I wasn't going to buy the book because we're somewhat short of funds at the moment, but she was just so darn funny that I knew I couldn't leave the store without it.

Everyone was knitting as they listened. I cannot imagine how many yards of yarn have been looped around needles by women (and a few men) watching the Yarn Harlot speak.

We then adjourned downstairs for cake.

And finally, the Tivoli Tee in its big moment, a picture (somewhat blurry) with its idol.

All in all, a wonderful evening and a very funny lady who has found a way to support herself doing what she loves. Sleeping alone in strange hotel rooms.

The Yarn Harlot at the Weaving Works

I happily discovered this morning that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot, will be at the Weaving Works this evening promoting the bookbookbook. I shall be there, with camera and Tivoli in tow.

This will also be a good opportunity to use the 10% off coupon I picked up at Stitch-n'-Pitch for some new spinning fiber. I'm knitting a gift scarf in some 70% merino/ 30%tussah silk I spun up a few months ago, and I really love the feel of it, so some of that will no doubt find its way into my shopping basket this evening.

Speaking of baskets, Lily where she shouldn't be: in my Ghanaian hand-woven knitting basket, between one project and another.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Tivoli Update

But first, another project:

These are "Marakesh" semi-sheers from Fred Meyer, hung today on bronze-ish leafy curtain rods from Wal-Mart. I only go to the best home decorating shops, you know. The husband lurking in the corner of the photo is very grateful that I do not make him help with this process.

And now, Tivoli:

I have cast off the sleeves and joined for the body. So far everything is going well.
Pattern Modifications:
1. I knit 2 rows of seed stitch around the neckline and around the sleeve edges. I'm hoping this will stabilize the edges a bit, since I've heard they have a tendency to curl.
2. I have added short-row bust shaping, since the tee is quite fitted and it could probably use a little extra room. You can barely see them in this picture, but, I suppose that's a good thing since short row shaping is supposed to be virtually invisible.

Lily is a great help to the designing process.