31 December 2007

The Year Has Taken A Sudden Downturn

I've already mentioned that I lost the book with the instructions for the Floral Lace Shawl I'm knitting.

The next thing to happen was that last night (Sunday) I loaded up my dishwasher just chock full of dirty dishes and flatware, turned it on, and all it did was make a funny noise. It's not pumping water in at the beginning of the wash cycle. I went over to Lowe's (after going to the local appliance dealer I've always dealt with and discovering that they only sell new appliances by special order and think I should go to Lowe's for just one item) and bought a new dishwasher. A fancy quiet dishwasher with adjustable top shelf and fold-down prongs, plus all sorts of hold-downs for stuff on the top shelf. I didn't get the old dishwasher fixed because it's about 25 years old and it's time to let go.

Now I'm wondering if these things come in threes and, if so, what's next.

I hope I didn't jinx myself by looking over the washer and dryer I'm considering. I think they'll be a reasonable height when stacked. On the other hand, there's a spiffy clothes-folding surface to put on top if they're side by side, as well as pedestals with drawers to hold all the laundry soap, fabric softener, etc. At extra cost, of course, as is the stacking kit, which I think is just a plastic square that fits down over the top of the washer, with depressions to hold the feet of the dryer.

On the other hand, it's our 37th wedding anniversary today

30 December 2007

That's Silly

I've been knitting away like crazy on my Floral Lace Shawl. I've finished the 18th repeat of the body pattern. After making a few measurements I decided that I'd only do one more repeat of the pattern. Rather than the last couple of pattern rows, I have to knit transition rows and the scalloped border. However, I can't find the book with the transition row and border patterns. I've looked everywhere for it. I threw away a stack of recyclable catalogs over a foot high and put about a dozen other knitting and cook books back in the bookcase.

My husband even helped me with this thrash, pulling out magazines and putting them aside for me. He also dragged the stack of stuff to the recycle bin. After about an hour of looking, he suggested that I just buy another copy. I went to Elann and did so. Now I'll probably find the first copy, albeit somewhere odd. In any event, the new one may be here by Friday.

27 December 2007

Lace Shawls And Blocking

I thought it would be interesting to show before and after blocking photos of the lace Diamond Fantasy Christening Shawl, to show how much it stretches and how much flatter and lacier it looks after blocking.

This is the before photo:

And this is the after photo. See how much bigger the yarnovers are and how flat it is? It's a lot less dense and the shawl really grew.

I'm still working on the Floral Lace Shawl; I'm somewhere between 2/3rds and 4/5ths of the way to being done. That is to say, I'm nearly at the end of the fourth ball of yarn but I don't know whether I'm going to use five balls or six. I think I may have to go to the next longer cable (Knit Pick Options Harmony interchangeable circular needles) before I go much further. The current one is getting kind of crowded. I meant to measure the christening shawl before and after blocking, to help me estimate how big I wanted to make the current shawl, but I totally forgot. Since this shawl is for me, I'll probably use up all the yarn. I don't think there's much I can make with just one skein of it, as they're fairly small.

I mentioned the whatever I'm knitting for what's-her-name earlier. I'm sorry to say I seem to have mis-measured the gauge swatch and have to frog nearly six inches of 2x2 ribbing, 440 stitches per row on circular needles. It seems to have come out about 150% bigger than I thought it would. If I'd kept going, it was going to be the heaviest and warmest scarf knitted in the history of the world, including the Dr. Who scarves that are such perennial favorites. I'm going to abandon this for a while and make an entirely different whatever for someone else. Fortunately, I have enough victims friends and relatives in colder climates that finding someone else won't be too hard.

If you look here you can see the next lace shawl I'm going to knit (this won't be the next thing I knit, just the next shawl). I got the pattern in November, from Elann, and I've got several choices of yarn in my stash. I'm thinking that blue, rather like Wendy's, might be nice. I married into an entire family of blue-eyed Iowans, mostly with brown hair, so I buy a fair amount of yarn in colors that will look good on them. I've also got some lovely natural (cream) merino from Knit Picks in both lace and fingering weight, but I think a mildly variegated yarn will look really good in this pattern.

24 December 2007

Baby Shower Time

Saturday I went to a baby shower and took the Diamond Fantasy Christening Shawl with me. It's going to South Dakota to wait until March, when my dear friend's first grandbaby will be born.

The Diamond Fantasy Christening Shawl is knitted in Knit Picks Bare Merino/Silk Fingering Weight yarn from Sivia Harding's pattern. It's the second Diamond Fantasy Shawl I've knitted; the first was for my friend, the baby's grandmother.

This is a close-up to show off the diamonds.

This is a tassel I made with the same yarn, with a braided strand, to wrap the tissue-paper package. It's going to be a cat toy now that the shower is over. Pretty day, wasn't it? Calm, which matters in the cold-winter High Desert.

And here is the shadow of the shawl on my brick-on-sand sidewalk. I noticed the shadow as I was zipping back into the house to wrap the shawl, put on my shoes, and race to the shower.

The shower was a lot of fun and I even won a prize for guessing closest on how big mommy's waist was. The food was so good that I ate too much and could hardly bear to make dinner for my husband.

20 December 2007

Holidays and Hurrying Around

The holidays are upon us and my life has gotten a bit odd. It's not exactly because of the holidays, though. My friend Pat's daughter, the mother-to-be for whom I've been knitting, is here for Christmas. What she doesn't know, but her mom and I know, is that there's a surprise baby shower for her on Saturday. Pat and I have been racing around town, shopping, running various errands, and trying to decide on our shower presents.

I had no problem picking out a gift, as a long discussion of the excellence of the baby swing convinced me immediately that nothing else would do. When I showed Pat the one I'd selected from Amazon, she decided to send another item in the collection, too. After intense discussion, we decided to send them to her daughter's home, denying ourselves the chance to see them in real life. However, we did have the diaper bags (a two-bag set) sent here. I'll tuck the sheets and descriptions from Amazon into the respective bags and she'll have something to unwrap and be surprised by. This whole thing has consumed more time than I thought it could, mostly on selecting the proper color and pattern.

We also spent a day getting our new toilets installed. This house was built in 1972 and I, in my youth and foolishness, put in two Harvest Gold bathrooms. When we bought the first house in Palm Desert we had Kohler Wellworth low-flow toilets. These were the first low-flow toilets we'd seen and liked. The second Palm Desert house had them, too, and now our Lancaster house has them. In white. Plain, glowing white. I'm a quick learner. Next I'm going to replace the Harvest Gold lavatory sinks, rendering one of my bathrooms into a white bathroom (except for the gold tile around the shower). I'll still have the Harvest Gold bathtub, though. I understand they can be painted or powdercoated or something, for a lot less than they can be replaced.

To add insult to injury, my dishwasher is making an odd noise and not getting the dishes as clean as I'd like. It's the second dishwasher we've had since '72, so it's not as if we didn't get our money's worth out of it. However, the expensive soundproofed dishwasher in the Palm Desert house has spoiled me. I'm going to try to hold out on this for a while though. Ditto on the washer (which doesn't always seem to spin well enough) and the dryer (which seems to have lost some of the intermediate heat settings). They're both quite aged and I knew this day would come. I'd just hoped it wouldn't come for every appliance in the house all at once.

I've been knitting like a fiend, between all these digressions. I finished my BIL's scarf last night and the what-not for what's-her-name is coming along nicely. As soon as I finish that, I can go back to my brightly colored shawl.

There's an excellent chance that the probate for my mom's estate will close this month. There hasn't been much action on the house, as my realtor expected, but we hope to see more action in February.

13 December 2007

An FO At Last

I have finally finished my pretty Bigfoot Shawl from Wrapped In Comfort by Alison Jeppson Hyde. It's knitted in Knit Picks Gloss, which is a fingering-weight blend of 70% merino wool and 30% silk. This is a very robust yarn; I ended up re-knitting about three inches of this shawl about four times and the yarn stood up to it very well, looking just as good the last time I knitted it as it did the first.

The pattern called for three balls of Gloss but I used an extra three-quarters of a ball. This was the result of my decision to knit until the shawl was 16" long unstretched. At the end of the third ball the shawl was 16" long somewhat stretched, but that seemed just a little skosh to me, so I knitted on. The pattern calls for 16" in length, no other description, which is why I had two options. Of course, it was easy to decide to press on after three balls because I had, with my usual caution, bought an extra ball. This leaves me with more orphan balls that I probably need, but it avoids that nasty sinking feeling you get when you're out of yarn but not out of pattern.

Here's a not very good photo of the pattern, a variant of Fan and Feather. This is some of the part that got knitted four times. The yarn looks pretty good, with good stitch definition and shine, even after all that abuse. Knitting with black yarn can be a challenge, particularly for older eyes. I used the screen on my laptop to check my knitting.

So now I've got to block this circular shawl. That's going to be a first for me. I've looked around a little on the Web, as well as checking some books, for tips and hints. I have those rubber floor tiles I use for blocking, plus a zillion T pins and several tape measures. I'm not exactly sure how I should pin out the neckline. I mean, I know it's round, but what's the right diameter? I'm pretty sure this will become easy to see when I get right down to it.

So now all I've got left for my imperative Christmas knitting is a scarf made from Knit Picks Panache for my brother in law. This is such luscious yarn, 40% superfine alpaca, 20% cashmere, 20% silk, and 20% superfine merino. I just love knitting scarves from such luxurious fibers for my brother- and sister-in-law, both of whom I love dearly.

Here's a photo, one I've posted before, just to save readers the effort of paging back through previous posts to find it.

It's a little darker blue than this, not quite navy blue, though. The color is named Dusk.

And the last photo, just because I like the colors so much, is of the triangular shawl I'm knitting for myself. I won't be doing much with it until the blue scarf is done and the BIL and SIL scarves are on their way to Iowa.

This is very relaxing to knit. That may be because the pattern is quite straightforward and the colors are sort of unpredictable. I'd never dream of giving this shawl to anyone else because the colors are so vivid, even gaudy. And, of course, I have the option of frogging the whole thing back and knitting wristlets from it, more in accordance with the plan of the yarn's creator. It's sock yarn, but I don't knit socks.

One last item--I'm beginning to suspect that I may get a washer and dryer for Christmas. The washer doesn't always spin the clothes dry and the dryer seems to be stuck on really hot. We're going to go over to Lowe's and look at the Whirlpool front-loading washers and matching dryers. This isn't exactly what I was hoping Santa would bring me, but at least it's not coal.

08 December 2007

What's New On The Knitting Front

I'm going to start out with the knitting for the March baby, my dear friend's first grandbaby.

First is the christening shawl. Traditionally this is worn by the baby at the christening and then, decades later, by the bride at the baby's wedding. Well, the baby isn't a baby at the wedding, of course, but you know what I mean. We don't know whether the baby is a boy or a girl, so I have to write very generally until March.

This shawl, knitted from the Diamond Fantasy Shawl pattern, is finished, with the yarn ends woven in but not clipped. It needs to be washed and dressed (blocked, dressed--I use the terms interchangeably for lace; everything else gets blocked). I got a blocking wire set just for shawls and I think I'll use them for this shawl. The yarn (Knit Picks Bare merino and silk fingering weight) is very nice and I think it will block beautifully.

A close-up, to show the diamonds.

Next is hand-painted Ultra Superwash Merino in worsted weight, from Karen Jorden (sharing.etsy.com). She's one of my favorite dyers as she has a wonderful eye for bright colors.
This yarn (five skeins) was custom-dyed for the March baby. This green is one of the mother's favorite colors and it's safely neutral. I haven't decided on a pattern yet, but I'm considering a ripple afghan pattern. I could make another Argosy baby blanket, I suppose, but I feel as if I should try something new. Be adventurous or something. We'll see.

And here's a slightly lighter version of the same color, in fingering weight. We didn't want to make the two exactly the same. Too matchy-matchy. This will become a shawl for the baby's mother. Like the worsted weight, this is just beautiful yarn. I really look forward to knitting with them.

Now, some knitting for grown-ups in Iowa. This is the start of a scarf for my brother-in-law. It's Knit Picks Panache in Dusk (the alpaca, cashmere, silk, and superfine merino yarn is discontinued, I'm sorry to say). The pattern is the Yarn Harlot's One Line Hand-spun Scarf, which is beautiful indeed in hand-spun yarn, and pretty good in regular yarn.

And this is a close-up of the garter-stitch scarf, knitted in hand-painted brushed Suri alpaca, for my sister-in-law. This yarn is so light and ethereal, it's just amazing how warm it is. The scarf, which is about nine inches wide and over six feet long, took only one and a half balls of yarn.

Here's a bigger photo, showing a section of it. I think the colors are just beautiful and I was ever so slightly tempted to keep this beauty, except that I've never worn a scarf for warmth in my entire life. Instead, I've threatened my husband with a throw knitted from this yarn, to keep him warm. He's not sure if I'm serious or if I'm kidding. Neither am I.

And here's the ball of yarn. It's one of those yarns that you want to cuddle and pet the ball, because it's so soft and nice.

And finally we get to some yarn for me. This is Claudia's fingering weight merino, hand-painted in the Tropicana color way. Yes, the colors are as bright as they look in the photo. Most people use this yarn for socks. Not me. I have six skeins of it.

I'm making a triangular shawl with it. Here's a photo of about half of it. It's too big to lie flat on the needle cable, so I bunched half of it up and spread out the other half. Bright, isn't it?

Here's a close-up, showing the pattern.

And here's another, closer close-up.

This shawl is knitted in the flower motif from this book:

This is a wonderful book by an exceedingly talented designer. I have many of her lace shawl patterns from Fiber Trends and various magazines and books. This book shows how to knit a triangular shawl in four different motifs, either singly or combined, and add a scalloped edging.
With this book a knitter will understand triangular shawl construction and be able to go much further, designing original lace shawls with a wide variety of lace patterns. I highly recommend it.

06 December 2007

Busy Day Yesterday

I spent most of yesterday running around the Antelope Valley. My friend and I went down to Trader Joe's and bought a few things and then we went to my current favorite real supermarket and shopped until we couldn't get anything more in the cart. It wasn't terribly expensive, although we both hit the service deli. I love the service deli and would probably buy half a pound of everything they sell, if not more, if I didn't control myself. I'd bought a bunch of different breads at TJ's, so I didn't even rampage through the service bakery. I was so proud of my self control.

The one extravagance I bought was two quarts of heavy whipping cream and two big tubs of sour cream. I have an experiment in mind for these. I want to see if I can make butter from the sour cream, with or without the sweet cream. European butter is made from cultured (sour) cream and it has a richer, deeper taste than American butter made from sweet cream. So I'll be making a mess out in the kitchen experimenting. I'll probably end up baking bread, too, so I have something to put the butter on.

Then in the afternoon, I went to the doctor. My appointment was for 1415 and I was inside in only a few minutes. That was a relief because this practice specializes in pediatric and allergy medicine and children are seething pits of contagious disease. OK, that's an exaggeration, but ask any parent with a child in day care, pre-school, or grade school. Children may not all be good at sharing toys, but they're all wonderfully unselfish about sharing germs. That's not all bad, because childhood diseases can be a lot less harmful in childhood than in adulthood. Anyway, I was glad to get out of the waiting room.

It took a while to get through the visit, because they were really busy, but it turns out I have a sinus infection that I've probably had for over a month. Since I'd had it so long, I got antibiotics. I've forgotten the name and I'm too lazy to go look, but I have to say they are huge bright blue pills that are awesomely bitter. I hope there's a children's version that's better tasting.

There was good news, too. I've lost thirteen pounds on the Knitting Diet. This was measured on a set of scales I've been weighed on before, in approximately the same amount and type of clothing, so I think it's fairly accurate. I know it's not a huge amount, but I put the weight on slowly, so I'm not averse to taking it off equally slowly.

Then I went to my pharmacy and got the antibiotics and nose spray. I got home at about 1630, which was a little longer than I expected it to take but everyone was really busy. I got a lot of knitting done (a flower motif lace shawl from Evelyn A. Clark's new book, knitted in very bright Claudia hand-painted fingering weight merino), though. I started on the antibiotics right away and went to bed early. I slept late, too, but I feel a lot better. The achy brow and cheeks aren't nearly so achy.

Yesterday was really a nice day for running all these little errands. It got up to 70° F, which isn't bad for early December. It didn't last, though. The wind is blowing pretty hard now. Last night at bedtime it was only gusting occasionally. They say we're going to get some rain at 0300 or so, which I believe. The front of the storm, the wind and some clouds, have made that pretty evident. It's supposed to rain Friday and Saturday and we might even get a little snow on Saturday evening. They'll get snow in the ski resorts for sure. It's already snowing in the Sierra Nevada, which is where much of SoCal gets its drinking water.

30 November 2007

It's Raining All Over SoCal

What a dismal gloomy day we're having. It started raining at about 0845 and it's still raining almost five hours later. It's not a hard rain, so there's a good chance a lot of it will soak in instead of running off. Fortunately the storm is coming up from the south and west, so there's no chance of snow for us down here, although it's snowing and sticking at the mountain resorts. The storm is dumping snow on the Four Corners area, in particular my birthplace, Durango, CO.

This is all supposed to go away by tomorrow and we'll have a pretty, if cool, day for the UCLA-USC game. If USC (boo, hiss) wins, they'll go to the Rose Bowl. If UCLA (go, Bruins) wins and if Arizona State later loses, then UCLA will go to the Rose Bowl. Since I bleed Bruin blue and gold, you can tell where my heart is. USC is my second favorite, though. (I'm somewhat less partisan about football than basketball.)

The weather may affect the game, though, because it's being played in an outdoor stadium with natural grass. They've gotten about a half-inch of rain down there, which shouldn't affect the field too much, but if it keeps raining the field may get soft. Neither team is very accustomed to soggy fields.

Speaking of soggy fields, did anyone else see this week's Monday Night Football game, where the field was all but under water? On one kick, the ball came down and stuck in the ground. It didn't bounce at all. It was just standing there, right where it hit, pointy end embedded in the glop. All the yard lines and hash marked were washed away, too. I love watching football games played in real weather, particularly pro games. There was a fairly recent game in a driving snow storm (at Lambeau Field, maybe?), so heavy you couldn't see the far side of the field, and another in such thick fog you couldn't even see that far. Now that's football.

Last night I washed and dried a rollerball pen with a load of medium-colored clothes, mostly cotton knits. What a mess! The dryer drum had a lot of black streaks and my clothes were almost all spotted and streaked and smudged with black ink. The dryer cleaned up pretty well, so that I could dry the load in the washer. I gave up about then and didn't even try to re-wash the stained load. I'm going to do that as soon as I post this. Fortunately, a lot of the load was nightgowns and briefs, so the world won't end if they end up with a few gray splotches. However, one of the victims was one of my favorite U-2 (airplane, not band) tees and I'm a little worried about it.

I've once again put aside my Bigfoot Shawl for another project. I got two balls of Suri Dream handpainted in Rose Quartz in my recent order from Knit Picks. The box showed up on Tuesday and I managed to resist until last night (Thursday), but I caved in and started a scarf. This yarn is just beautiful. It's really soft and so light, but still warm. The colors are very good, too. The scarf is just garter stitch with slipped-stitch selvages, 24 stitches on US 11 needles. It's about 8 in. wide and I've got about 24 in. knitted already. I've weighed the ball of yarn a couple of times and I think I'm getting about an inch of scarf per gram. I'm thinking that I should order another ball of yarn and make two six-foot scarves. I'll try to get a reasonable photo tomorrow if it's sunny enough.

29 November 2007

I Had A Dream

Or maybe a nightmare. About knitting. I rarely remember my dreams but this one was special. I share them even less often, too, but I figured this one would amuse knitters and their friends. I think it's funny now, but it wasn't at the time.

I'm knitting the Bigfoot Shawl in black fingering weight Gloss. The pattern is a variant of feather and fan and has a whole bunch of *k1, yo* on the first row. There's something I occasionally do on the purl row back that doesn't catch the k1 right, so that on the third or fourth row the weight of the shawl pulls the stitches apart and makes a big hole (yo, k1, yo, after all). This is pretty easy to pick up, just reknit the center stitch and then pick up the other two, but it's annoying and I keep doing it. It's happened not just on this shawl but on two others, too.

Anyway, about the dream. I dreamed that I was knitting away on this shawl (except that it had morphed into a triangular shawl) and it pulled apart right where I was knitting. Then I started tugging on the edges and the stitches started popping apart all over the shawl. My beautiful lace shawl was falling apart and there wasn't anything I could do to stop it. And each time it happened it made a most unyarnlike "pop" sound. I was horrified and panicky. Pop, pop, pop!

Then I woke up, with this vivid image still in my mind. It was all I could do not to hop out of bed in the middle of the night and hurry to my knitting to see how it looked. When I did pick my knitting up later, I checked it over very carefully and tugged gently on the edge to see what would happen. Fortunately, nothing did.

25 November 2007

Christening Shawl Finished

This afternoon I finished the christening shawl that I started on 15 November. It took eleven days and I was doing a lot of other things during that time. I've woven in the ends, but I haven't washed and dressed it yet. I'm washing the baby blanket I finished ages ago, so that I can mail it off to baby Josh. I've only got one good place for drying large pieces and the blanket gets to use it first. The christening shawl won't be needed until March, after all.

I didn't take any photos today because it was quite overcast here. I hope that tomorrow will be clearer so that I can snap a few photos in the undressed state. This shawl looks a lot nicer and more like the finished product than most lace I've knitted. I don't remember the previous Diamond Fantasy Shawl looking so good, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it's probably the yarn and the gauge. Don't be fooled, it really does need dressing but I've got a lot better idea how it's going to look than usual.

I'm back to knitting the Bigfoot Shawl. I think I've only got a few more repeats to knit on it. I think it might look good with a toggle catch right at the neckline, so I've got to look through a few jewelry supply catalogs soon.

I joined the Year Of Lace 2008 club. It's four lace wrap projects in luxury yarns dyed in special colors using new patterns. The patterns are said to be restricted to club members until 2010 and the yarn colors won't be repeated. Not that I care about either bit of exclusiveness, to tell the truth. I guess it's supposed to make people feel more special somehow. I joined mostly to get myself over my dislike for lace weight yarn, on the theory that I'll have spent so much money on the club that I have to knit the wraps up. We'll see how well that works.

18 November 2007

Photo Time


This is the Forest Canopy Shawl II, knitted from Knit Picks Shimmer, in Turquoise Splendor. I took this photo in the hope that everyone can see how light and airy it is, moving in the very faint breeze. As I've said before, I'm not fond of knitting with lace weight yarn, but it does make beautiful, delicate, gossamer lace.

Here's another photo, that shows a little more detail.

There's half a mile (880 yd) and 100 grams (3.5 oz) of yarn in this shawl. It took a while to knit, but that was mostly because I was working on other projects at the same time.

This shawl has gone to the friend it was knitted for and she loves it. It was a total surprise and she had no idea at all that I'd made it for her. I love surprising someone so totally. The blues in the yarn make her eyes look so blue it's almost startling.

Here's a photo of the unblocked lace, taken while I was knitting it.

And here are two close-up photos after blocking:

Isn't it amazing how much difference blocking makes?

This is the Sivia Harding Diamond Fantasy Shawl II that I started a couple of days ago. This is about a third done, but I should put it aside and work on other projects. This shawl is to be a christening shawl for my friend Pat's impending grandchild. The baby is due in March, so I have a little time left. Considering that I knitted a third of the shawl in two days, though, it might not affect the other projects much if I just went ahead and finished it.

I think this is one of the most beautiful lace patterns I've seen and I really enjoy knitting it. The yarn is Knit Picks Bare Merino/Silk Fingering Weight yarn and the shawl will take less than two skeins (each 440 yd, 100 gm). This is beautiful yarn. It's so soft and has such good stitch definition. The fabric has a beautiful hand, with the supple weight of silk.

Here's a close-up photo. I just wish there were some way to transmit the feel of this.

Here's the main project that I've put aside to work on the Diamond Fantasy Shawl II. It's the Bigfoot Shawl from Wrapped In Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls, by Alison Jeppson Hyde. It's knitted from the same merino and silk yarn, only in black. When it's dyed, Knit Picks calls it Gloss.

It's a circular shawl, which means that the rows are really long. The pattern is a variation of Feather and Fan, which I like, and this shawl is going to be so nice. It's soft and cuddly and just the thing to wear around one's shoulders when it's a bit cool or drafty. I'm knitting it for my cousin's wife. She finds restaurants very uncomfortable in the summer, when she's dressed up and the air conditioning is set to keep men in wool suits cool. This should look dressy enough, with the silk in the yarn. At least, I hope it does.

Now photos of a trio of scarves. The first is a modified version of the Dragon Scales Scarf, knitted in Classic Elite Posh (70% silk, 30% cashmere) in Merlot.

Then there's the Breezy Scarf, knitted from my own pattern in Lang Breeze (merino and nylon) in Orchid.

This is a big scarf, about nine inches wide and over six feet long. It's for our niece in Iowa City. It get cold in Iowa so I get to knit warm scarves for everyone.

And last, but certainly not least, is Reggie the alligator scarf from Morehouse Farm. He came out of the blocking wondrously soft and merino-y. I think I'm going to send him to our goddaughter at Penn State.

12 November 2007

Another Shawl and Three Scarves Finished and Blocked

Yesterday I blocked the turquoise Forest Canopy Shawl I've been knitting off and on for a couple of months. It's absolutely amazing how different lace looks after blocking. The yarn is Knit Picks turquoise Shimmer, 70% alpaca and 30% silk lace weight yarn. I used two skeins, totaling 100 grams and half a mile (880 yd). I find lace weight yarn irritating to knit with, but as I knitted I got more used to it and less irritated. The yarn produced a good-looking shawl.

I also washed and pat-blocked Reggie the alligator scarf, the dragon scales scarf, and the big fluffy cream and orchid scarf. Reggie got a lot softer after washing (Morehouse Farm merino) and the other two stayed about the same. The dragon scales scarf is merlot Classic Elite Posh in cashmere and silk and the big fluffy scarf is orchid Lang Breeze in merino and nylon.

I got a new lace book from Elann that I highly recommend to every lace knitter. It's Knitting Lace Triangles by Evelyn A. Clark. Ms Clark is one of my favorite shawl designers and I have most of her Fiber Trend lace shawl patterns. I'm not the only one who likes her work; Elann is having a lot of trouble keeping the book in stock. Essentially, this book shows the lace knitter how to knit a triangular shawl using one or more of four basic patterns and a scalloped edging with or without beads. Of course, after knitting one or more of these shawls and understanding the basic technique, the knitter can substitute any lace pattern.

I have a list of projects that I absolutely, positively must knit before I start any other projects. The list comprises a circular shawl for my cousin (over half done), two stoles for my neighbor (one just started), a christening shawl, a baby blanket, and a lace shawl. The christening shawl and baby blanket have to be done by March and the two stoles should be done before the New Year. I can sneak a few scarves and other little projects in, of course, but nothing big.

I'll take photos of everything today or tomorrow, including the yarn for the planned projects, and post them all. With links to the patterns, where available, even. Ravelry has raised my standards for how much information should be included. I can't wait for it to go public so I can just link to the projects there, instead of repeating it here. I don't know when it's going public but I do know that they're issuing invitations very quickly these days. Sign up at ravelry.com. I'm digitalknitter there.

30 October 2007

Echoing Emptiness

My mother's house is empty. There's one telephone, one telephone book, a note pad, and pen, all in the living room. Everything else is gone. The rooms echo, the house is empty, and I'm bereft.

Life, however, goes on and so must I. The recommended painter hasn't returned a single one of my messages, so I'll find another tomorrow. I've got things to mail, yarn to order, projects to knit, and packing to start.

I hate being the grown-up.

29 October 2007

Launch Hold

We went into a launch hold at T-:35, when the guy with the truck called and told us his truck had a problem. He's quite sure that they can fix it today and we can move everything tomorrow. However, he's going to call us back as soon as he knows, at which point I'll reschedule everyone.

Meanwhile, my friend, her husband, and I cleared more out in the garage, putting all the tools into my dad's WW II footlocker and getting rid of some other stuff. We also got the washer and dryer moved to the house next door, so that's taken care of. My friends took a big carton to the thrift store and I took a box of 24 pairs of glasses to Lenscrafters for the Lions. Then we came back here and changed all the batteries in the various remote sensors for our security system (cathedral ceilings and no way to wire them directly). They've just left, on their way to Lowe's to get some grout for my mom's house. He's one of those guys who can do anything.

28 October 2007

Great Progress In Probate

Well, it looks as if we're very near to closing probate. We're past the 60 days after notice to creditors, we've transferred everything that needs transferring, and we're going to wind it up now. Because we didn't get the house sold, it will just be put in my name until it gets sold. There'll only be one remaining thing, which is income tax returns. My mom died on 15 January, so we have to file a return for her in 2008. The lawyer has to file a return for her estate, from when she died to when probate ended. In both cases there will be a small refund or payment, but nothing much.

We've really made progress with the house. My friend and I got everything we could out of the house and into the garage on Wednesday. All that was left in the house was the bedroom set, a dresser, a cedar chest, a couch, a love seat, and a dinette table. Oh, and the solid maple hutch. On Thursday a team of cleaners came in and did a wonderful job cleaning it. I asked the cleaners if either of them would like the bedroom set and one accepted. Encouraged by that, I asked if either wanted a queen hide-a-bed and the other one did. That really makes my life easier and I'm glad to see the bedroom set go to a good home.

The guy with the stake-bed truck (with tailgate lift) and his helper will show up at my house Monday and load up the hide-a-bed. We'll take that over to my mom's house and unload it. Then we'll load up the couch and love seat and a bunch of boxes and take the boxes to the storage space and the furniture over here. Then back to my mom's house for all the rest of it, except the bedroom set and hide-a-bed, and over to the storage space to drop it off. Then we pick up the last furniture and take it to the cleaner's house at about noon. Then my friend and I go home and collapse. I don't know what the mover and his helper do.

I'm going to send my mom's cedar chest to my goddaughter in New Jersey, so I have to get a mover to handle that. I'm going to go through my cedar chest and dig out a bunch of crocheted doilies, etc, that my grandmother made and gave my mom and me. These go well with my cousin's decor (and don't go with mine at all). I'll pack all that into the cedar chest and ship it.

I'm finally going to take the paint chips over on Monday and pick the paint color. I've left a message for the painter. The current weather makes it likely that he'll want to paint it fairly soon. We've got a cut-off low with enough moisture in it to make painting exteriors a bit chancy, so a nice little one-day interior job should be convenient for him. As soon as the paint goes on the walls, the house goes on the market and I go to Palm Desert.

Well, we're not going quite as quickly as that implies. I've got to pack up some stuff here first, including yarn (the rest of my knitting stuff is always packed in a rolling crate), knitting books, and other books. I have to take a bunch of clothes down, too. My summer clothes here in Lancaster double as my winter clothes in Palm Desert. I remember commenting to a fellow shopper in Palm Desert on Christmas Eve 2005 that it was wonderful to live somewhere that wearing shorts and sandals that day was a good idea. I also have a limited number of dressy clothes, mostly that slinky rayon and Lycra fabric, and that has to go each way each time, too. And I have to pack my twelve pairs of sandals.

I'm almost back where I was when I ripped back the Bigfoot Shawl. I've got some new yarn to knit a stole for a friend and I've done a little swatching on that. I'll get some photos soon to show you what I'm thinking of. The yarns are Lion Brand Incredible bulky ribbon yarn, Yarnplace Vivace DK banana, and Blue Heron Rayon Loop heavy worsted. I think I'm going to do chunks of garter in the rayon loop, blocks of netting-like lace in the Vivace, and narrow garter stripes in the ribbon. I'll also use the ribbon for long heavy fringes. This friend needs a stole with drama.

20 October 2007

New Mini-van

New Mini-van
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

Here it is. It got here at 1506 Friday.

19 October 2007

Mini-Van News

The mini-van is back from the Toyota shop, all fixed, and Mobility Works is cleaning it up for delivery. It should be here by mid-afternoon. I've got to clear off the data card in my camera so I'll have room for lots and lots of photos. Today is a beautiful day, calm, cool, and sunny so the photos should come out well. We're supposed to have high winds again tomorrow but by then the new van will be safely tucked into the garage.

We're members of a rare breed here in SoCal; we have a two-car garage with two cars in it. The rareness of this breed in caused by geology. A lot of California is on or near an earthquake fault so our houses tend to be built on slabs. Slab floors pretty much rule out basements. However, we still have the stuff that people with basements fill them with. It has to go somewhere and that's out in the garage. Pretty soon the garage is full of stuff and the cars are parked on the driveway. Fortunately, even up here in the High Desert, the weather is moderate enough that this isn't a problem. We usually don't have enough humidity to have frost or even dew, for example.

18 October 2007

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I haven't posted anything here recently because I was hoping to have some good news and avoiding some bad news. I still don't have the first, but I've accepted the latter, so I can actually write about it.

It's the Bigfoot Shawl. I had made an error and frogged one pattern repeat and reknitted it at about the eighth pattern repeat, which was a bunch of rows back. I'd managed to miss a yarn over and, therefore, multiple stitches in subsequent rows, so when I reknitted it I didn't really have enough yarn and the entire repeat was tight for six rows. I'd told myself it would come out in the blocking, that no one would notice, that it was OK, but it was preying on my mind and the day before yesterday I frogged 36 rows (averaging 346 stitches). I am not a happy knitter right now.

I must say that the yarn Knit Picks Gloss, has held up beautifully in the face of this abuse. I put a Options Harmony US 4 needle onto the longest cable and picked up the stitches of a purl row after ripping back. The yarn cooperated with this, not running or anything. The live stitches just sat there, ready to slip onto the sharp little needle. The yarn is 70% merino and 30% silk, so this probably isn't too surprising.

The good news I'd hoped to share was the delivery of the modified mini-van. It was supposed to come up early this week, but the wind was so bad we had them hold off. The old van had gotten sand-blasted in the Dryden parking lot about four days after we'd gotten it, so we're kind of jumpy about too much wind and a new vehicle. You may have seen the news stories about the big multi-vehicle, multi-fatality crash on SR-14 here Tuesday, caused by a terrible dust storm. The wind was gusting up to 50 mph here on Tuesday and Wednesday. They were going to bring it up today, which is a beautiful cool, calm day, but the ABS light came on, so they took it to Keys Toyota (Toyota problems get fixed by Toyota, modification problems get fixed by Mobility Works) and it looks as if we'll get it tomorrow afternoon.

I went by Tuesday and rented a 10' x 7.5' storage space and I'm going to get the moving guys in on Monday, 29 Oct. I have a queen hide-a-bed here at my house to go to a local charity. It'll be replaced by the couch and loveseat from my mom's house. The rest of the furniture from her house (a queen bedroom set and some other pieces), plus a whole bunch of boxed stuff, will go to the storage space. There's also a solid rock maple hutch that's stopping at the storage space for a while, before going to live with my friend. Once the house is empty, I'll get the painter in and the house will go onto the market.

I picked up paint chips from Frazee Paint on Monday. They gave me an entire swatch book, too, and there are some beautiful colors in it. I love some of the accent colors, but not for a house I'm trying to sell. I'm inclined to paint the entire interior in Swiss Coffee, which is the color of our Palm Desert house and will be the color of our Lancaster house. It's a very popular warm off-white that I really like. However, I have to see how it looks with the drapes before I decide.

It's actually been a busy week; in addition to all this stuff I had a routine doctor's appointment yesterday and a mammogram today. Then tomorrow I go to the ophthalmologist for my yearly exam. Plus I need to meet with the cleaner and painter for estimates. I'm trying to get the cleaner in at the end of next week.

I also tried out my new six-quart crock pot from Overstock.com. I got a really nice chuck roast at Albertson's and bought it on the spur of the moment. Normally I plan my grocery shopping so that I don't have to run all over the store but not this time. Once I got the roast I had to go back and get the vegetables. It came out really well and I was pleased. Cool-weather food....

08 October 2007

Bigfoot Shawl

Bigfoot Shawl
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

As you can see, I'm making some progress. I've finished ten repeats of the four-row body pattern. I'm almost to the end of the second ball of yarn, which means I'm at least half done. The pattern call for continuing until it's 16 in. long but that seems just a bit too short to me. I've been playing around with a tape measure and I think I want to go longer.

Notice how the edge is scalloping itself. There's no need to add a border; instead just a plain bind-off works just fine. I picked up a great bind-off from Cat Bordhi, in her Moebius Scarf patterns. It's very simple, you just knit two stitches together, return the new stitch to the left needle, knit two together, repeat. I like it because it's loose but it doesn't distort the fabric.

This yarn, Knit Picks Gloss (70% merino, 30% silk) is a real pleasure to work with. As you can see, it's got really nice stitch definition. I'm waiting on the undyed version to be back in stock, which is predicted for 22 Oct. I'm going to knit a christening shawl for my friend's grandchild, who will arrive in the spring. (I'm also going to make a more practical superwash baby blanket.) I already have some Knit Picks natural 100% merino fingering weight yarn for the christening shawl but the silk really makes a difference. Since this shawl is, traditionally, used for the baptism and then put away until the child marries, at which time the bride wears it, the subtle shine from the silk will be nice.

05 October 2007

What A Week It's Been

I went over Friday and signed all the paperwork to list my mom's house. The only thing we didn't do is set the date we'd begin. My realtor, Jane, who used to be my neighbor, came by the house on Saturday and agreed with me that it wasn't ready yet.

On Monday we cleared out the master bedroom and both bathrooms completely. The bedroom set (queen bed, dresser, nightstands) is still in there, which Jane says is OK because it'll show people how big the bedroom is. Apparently, people have trouble estimating the size of empty rooms. I think this set is going to go to one of the sisters who clean my house in Palm Desert.

We got kind of a late start because we had to go by the bank and get my signature medallion certified so I could cash in one of my mom's IRAs, since I was the beneficiary. The medallion certification guarantees that I'm really who I say I am and promises that the bank will cover any losses if it turns out I'm not, so they don't just hand these out at random. We'd had a raging hassle over this Friday, but I figured out what the bank really wanted and it just sailed through.

Then Tuesday my friend and I finished clearing out the guest room. It's still got a daybed, a dresser, and my mom's cedar chest in it, but the dresser and chest are empty. We also packed up the last of the kitchen stuff and made a run to the thrift store. We had about ten boxes of stuff for them. They were getting ready for their fall sale the next day, so we just put everything in the conex out back. My friend and I both noticed that some of the stuff they were taking into the shop for the sale was stuff we'd brought over earlier.

Wednesday my husband and I went over to the dentist. We both had crowns to have cemented and I had two fillings. It wasn't particularly painful for either of us, but we were there for almost three hours. It might have gone faster if my crown hadn't been such a perfect fit. The cementing process starts with a trial fitting and bite checking. Well, my crown wouldn't come off. It was made to fit my tooth and fit it did. My dentist ended up doing the adjustments in place and then tried for at least five minutes, maybe more, to get it out. When it did finally pop off, it bounced off the tip of my tongue toward the back of my mouth. I wasn't in any real danger of swallowing it, fortunately. Needless to say, we didn't do any more trial fittings; the next time it was in my mouth it had cement on it. It's perfect.

Thursday our new van was supposed to be delivered, but there was a problem with getting the running boards. They were damaged in shipping, with a deep scratch through the gel coat, and there was no way they could be used. So they've been re-ordered and we're just waiting on them arriving and getting painted. My friend went over to the house and moved all the cartons of books for the Friends of the Library out to the garage. She also moved about three-fourths of the cartons of stuff we're taking to our Palm Desert house (mostly kitchen stuff and books) out there too. Meanwhile, I started organizing stuff here to go to Palm Desert, mostly books. I'm ignoring the yarn for now.

She got a call from her husband, at about 1730, that his car wouldn't start and would she please come down and get him. He works near Burbank Airport. She put their dinner into the fridge and went down and got him. He went down with a co-worker this morning and figured out what the problem is. Tomorrow they're going to get a hitch for her pickup and go down and get the car. Not that she needed any more excitement in her life, because she's on the board for the public parks in the unincorporated area west of town and they're having a book sale tomorrow. Apparently the county employees can't actually sell the books and take the money, so the board members have to do that, something it would have been helpful to know before Thursday.

Today, Friday, was a very successful day. We started by loading the books for the Friends into my van. Then two guys from the thrift store showed up and took away the two filing cabinets, microwave oven, microwave stand, and two vacuum cleaners. To save them making a second trip and, more importantly, to save them from having to lift the heavy console TV into a Suburban-type van, we ended up moving all the boxes of books into my friend's pick-up and putting the TV in my van. The ramp really helped with that. I followed them over to the shop and they unloaded the TV and I visited with the workers for a bit and then went home. I was so pleased to get these big things out of the house and garage and over to the shop. My friend and I would have really struggled with them.

Next one of the afternoon volunteer workers, who had been a very good friend of my mom's, came by on her way to the shop and picked up the five boxes of things for the homeless shelter (my mom had been collecting this, like towels too worn to sell but still good enough to use, from the donations to the thrift shop). We also had a big black garbage bag full of large RubberMaid, Tupperware, and other storage containers for her daughter-in-law, who is a serious baker and can use these large containers for flour, etc. I also had a few little things for her, mementos of my mother. Between all these visitors we managed to finish clearing up the office. There's a few pieces of furniture in there, which we'll move on Monday.

My friend has graciously agreed to take the daybed, the drop-leaf table, the end table, two living-room lamps, the rock-maple hutch, and two paintings by my father's youngest sister. She has also taken a number of other things. She knew and liked my parents and will remember them both when she uses these things. Her daughter, her only child, also knew my parents and also will remember them fondly. I just can't say how much it means to me that she's taking these things.

Anyway, we finished up the day by taking fourteen cartons of books over to the library, where we were met by the president of the Friends. He and one of the library guards unloaded the cartons onto carts and whisked them away. The librarians will go through the boxes and take any books they want for the collection and then the Friends will take the rest to sell, either in the bookshop they've named after my mom or at their semi-annual sales. My husband and I buy books on science and other non-fictional topics that we don't always keep. We pack these books, frequently the newest books on the subject, in a marked box and they, I'm told, always get added to the collection. I think this says something rather sad about the funding for our county library system, that they have to rely on donated books in such important areas.

It is just amazing how much progress we've made. For so long it seemed as if we weren't making any progress at all, no matter how hard we worked and how much we took away or packed up. Now all at once it's almost empty. We have another day, at the most, and then I'll get the cleaners in. Following that, the entire interior has to be painted, except (maybe) the kitchen. Then it goes on the market, probably in about a week. And there it will probably sit for ages, until some investor buys it and turns it into 8A housing, like what happened after the last real estate bust we had in the Antelope Valley.

I decided to send some people, mostly family, photos of my parents. They had a great portrait done by a very talented local photographer about ten years ago and I was able to get her to make prints for me. I kind of underestimated my list and had to call her this afternoon and order a few more prints. They'll be ready in about two weeks. I bought a box of those stiff photo mailers and I've been tracking down mailing addresses. I'll start mailing them once I get them all.

I'm still knitting away on my Bigfoot Shawl. I'll get a photo over the weekend.

30 September 2007

More About the Bigfoot Shawl

The body is a modified feather and fan, as is the yoke, as Stephanie noticed. Instead of just one row with all the yarn overs and decreases, followed by three plain rows, this version of the pattern has one row with all the yarn overs and half of the decreases and another row with the other half of the decreases, with two plain rows.

I've got to warn you about the book, maybe. If you don't want to knit top-down circular shawls, don't buy the book. That's all it has. I love them. Stoles usually take a certain effort to keep in place, like bent arms, a knot, or a pin, but circular shawls stay in place naturally. It's a lot the same as Faroe shawls.

I also really like the yarn. It's very soft and has extremely good stitch definition. It's not at all splitty, which is important when knitting lace with pointy needles. Of course I haven't blocked it yet.

Me make a gauge swatch and actually block it? Surely you jest. The closest I ever get to that for things like shawls and scarves is to pin out a section, still on the needles, after I'm a fair way through. (I'm not nearly so casual when knitting something that has to fit, though.)

I finally got around to really looking at the box of books from Zooba and discovered that they'd made a small error. I originally thought I had one cookbook and nine mysteries, which didn't seem quite right, but when I looked more closely I had one cookbook, eight mysteries, and a novel about Munchausen by proxy. This was a bit of a surprise, because that's not something I'm particularly interested in. It turns out that I had ordered two cookbooks and eight mysteries.

I've bought quite a few books from Zooba and this is the first error they've made. I wish I could say as much about some of the other on-line merchants I deal with. I fired off a quick e-mail and they mailed the cookbook yesterday (Saturday) and are giving me the novel (I think this translates as "it's easier and cheaper to write off the book than to go through the hassle of getting it back"). I'll probably give the novel to the Friends of the Library.

29 September 2007

Bigfoot Shawl

Bigfoot Shawl
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

OK, I admit it, I started another shawl yesterday. This is the Bigfoot Shawl, from Wrapped In Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls. It's so much fun! It's knitted in Knit Picks Gloss (70/30 merino and silk fingering weight) in black. I have two more rows of the yoke to knit. I'm knitting it with US 8 needles, the new Options Harmony needles from Knit Picks, which are really good for lace.

It's intended to be a practical little shawl for my cousin, who finds many restaurants to be so over-air-conditioned as to be intolerable when dressed for a night on the town. That's why it's black and silky. She's like me (and a lot of other women), she doesn't need a big arrow, which a triangular shawl is, pointing at her bottom. This shawl is circular and won't be doing any vulgar pointing.

Yes, I will finish the Forest Canopy Shawl in the exasperating lace weight yarn. I don't have to have it done until Christmas, though, so I'm going to sneak this quick little shawl in now.

27 September 2007

Breezy Scarf

Breezy Scarf
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

This scarf is finished. It's 9 in. wide and well over 6 ft long (I haven't measured it). I don't know whether I'm going to wait to send it to Iowa until I have several more scarves to go with it or just send it on now. It's really too warm for such a heavy scarf, so I'll probably wait.

I've got yellow yarn, just like this, for another similar scarf, as well as superfine (baby) alpaca in both purple and rose and alpaca, cashmere, silk, merino blend in both blue and black, for winter scarves. Working with such luxurious yarns is a real delight, and making just a scarf avoids bankruptcy.

Today was a real reading jackpot between USPS and UPS. The letter carrier brought me a carton of ten books (one crockpot cookbook and nine mysteries) from Zooba and UPS brought me one book (1634: The Bavarian Crisis, an alternate history book and the newest in a series) from Amazon. I'd been waiting impatiently for the 1634 book and I'm really happy it's here.

Speaking of reading and of knitting, I've figured out a good way to read while knitting. Baen Books offers a wide variety of free books for download, many by authors I really like. It's easy to download one and read it on my laptop as I knit. Of course, this only works for simple knitting.

21 September 2007

Fat-Yarn Scarf Time!

Breeze Scarf
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

I mentioned earlier that I'd ordered some chunky and bulky yarn for scarves and I was going to abandon the lace-weight yarn and US 5 needles of the Forest Canopy Shawl II for scarves when the orders arrived.

Well, the first order, from Elann, arrived yesterday at about 1130. It was opened and the yarn, Lang Breeze Color, in Orchid, was being petted at roughly 1131. By 1145 I'd dug the never-before-used 8-mm (US 11) Brittany birch 10" needles out of the bottom of my knitting equipment crate, gotten a new Diet Coke, snagged something to eat, and settled down to knit.

I started with a triangular tip in stockinette, with garter-stitch border, but decided I really didn't want to spend my time knitting all that stockinette, so I carefully frogged that and just cast on 28 stitches. That's 1 stitch on each side for the chain selvedge (see it in the photo? looks nice, doesn't it?), 1 stitch for garter stitch on each side, and 24 stitches for the 3-1 traveling rib. This is a variation on a scarf I made for my goddaughter, which had a 5-1 traveling rib. Well, it may not be an actual traveling rib because the stitches don't cross, but I've always heard it called a traveling rib.

I should have used 2 stitches on each side for garter stitch, as the edges are rolling slightly, but it's not too bad and I'm not going to frog over a foot of scarf to fix it. Roving yarns don't hold up well to a lot of frogging and re-knitting, in my experience. This one might, but I'd rather not risk it.

Anyway, by about 1600 all the first ball of yarn was knitted up and I started taking photos for the blog and Ravelry. In addition, I photographed all the yarn in the order (five colors of Elann Baby Silk and Baby Cashmere, for the circular shawls in a new book, Wrapped In Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls) and the yarn from three stash bins. Then I spent hours putting titles and descriptions on the photos at Flickr and then filling in the data for Ravelry.

As I rummaged through the bins of yarn, it occurred to me that rather than knitting tops from sport-weight cotton yarn, with small needles, I could knit lace, with larger needles. Or knit with two strands, as worsted weight. So now I'm looking at my stash quite differently. Particularly at the Classic Elite Avignon, which is tussah silk and Pima cotton and a lovely yarn. And looking through my shawl patterns, particularly the ones that accommodate various yarn sizes.

I should get this scarf finished about when the Knit Picks orders arrive. The first order is mostly the new Harmony wooden needle tips and the second is fat yarn. They've both been shipped and will probably show up early next week, a couple of days apart. I might even have some time to work on the shawl, which is now over half done, before I throw myself back into the scarf jungle.

19 September 2007

Half Done

I'm half done on the Forest Canopy Shawl II. I just started the second ball of yarn. It does go slowly, with fine yarn on US 5 needles. The photo is a close-up in which I hope you can see the leaf pattern

I'm expecting an order of bulky alpaca and cashmere blend yarns from Knit Picks in the next few days. I plan to put this shawl aside and knit some soft, luscious scarves for my friends and family members in South Dakota, Iowa, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

You'd think I'd learn my lesson one of these days and stop buying lace yarn, wouldn't you? I haven't. Not yet, anyway. Although I have noticed that some lace weight yarns are thicker than others. I've got some Knit Picks Gossamer, which is quite a bit heavier than the Knit Picks Shimmer I'm using for this shawl, and I expect to like it a lot more.

16 September 2007

Forest Canopy Shawl II

Forest Canopy Shawl II
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

This is my second Forest Canopy Shawl. I really like this pattern. It's very easy to knit and the results are very pretty..

This version is knitted with turquoise lace-weight alpaca/silk (75%/25%) yarn, instead of the fingering weight yarn I used for the first one. I find the lace-weight yarn to be exasperating, but pretty and so very soft. I'm using US 5 needles and I've used about 80% of the first of two balls. Needless to say, it's going a lot slower than the first one did.

I've got a bunch of chunky luxury yarns on order for winter scarves and when that arrives I'm probably going to put the shawl aside and knit a few scarves. They go so quickly it's just amazing. I've ordered alpaca and cashmere blends from Knit Picks, so the scarves will be pretty thrifty. That's one of the reasons I'm so fond of knitting scarves, that I can use the most luxurious yarns around without bankrupting myself. Add in the good prices at Knit Picks and Elann and it's even better.

13 September 2007

I Have An LYS!

Late Saturday afternoon I discovered that there's an actual, local yarn shop in Lancaster. It's really new, not even a month old. I went by on Sunday (it was closed, of course) and peered in the windows; they had Sirdar and Noro patterns in their display, which was a good sign. Then I actually went by on Monday, after finishing for the day at my mom’s house and dropping fourteen boxes of stuff off at the thrift store she volunteered at. We're getting close to being done clearing out the house, which is fortunate because I sold the house last week (before we listed it or otherwise put it on the market; this is the second house I've done that with). The buyers are taking some of the furniture and may buy even more.

It was even better than I thought it might be. Misti Baby Alpaca, Blue Heron rayon, Rio De La Plata kettle-dyed merino, Noro, Cascade, Sirdar, Gedifra, and so on. Not a lot of the really high-end stuff, but this is Lancaster and, as the owners said, expensive yarn is not what anyone would expect to move well. They can special-order, of course. They had every Clover bamboo needle made and some lovely wooden needles.

I didn’t buy a single thing. I was mightily tempted, but I just couldn’t decide on anything. Too much choice, I guess. I think I’m going to get a couple of skeins of purple Baby Alpaca for a scarf for my sister-in-law. Just touching that yarn made me long to own it, I tell you. I can hardly bear to send the baby alpaca scarves on to their owners, I love it so much.

My good friend Pat’s daughter, in South Dakota, is going to have a baby in the spring and I got four skeins (a mile of yarn) of Knit Picks white fingering-weight merino wool to knit a lace christening shawl (traditionally this gets used for the christening and then gets put away until the kid’s wedding, when the bride wears it). Right now I’m knitting a Forest Canopy lace shawl in lace-weight alpaca and silk yarn, on US 5 needles. Lovely, but slow, slow, slow. I'll be so glad to be knitting fingering weight on US 7s or so.

Speaking of Knit Picks and needles, their new wooden needles are really nifty. They're laminated from layers of dyed birch and then turned; this is a very common way to make fancy pens and other doodads. These needles have the same sharp tip and long taper that the metal ones do. They're quite reasonably priced, just a bit more than the metal version, and I've got the interchangeable points sitting in my shopping cart, but I can't quite bring myself to order them yet. You know, Knit Picks may have very reasonable prices for their yarns, but they sure seem to get a lot of money from me. I'm such a sucker for pretty bright-colored yarn and accessories.

Part of the reason I'm hesitating on the needle order is that I just got a Cuisinart panini and sandwich grill. Cooks Illustrated rated this as the best panini grill a couple of years ago. I got it from Amazon and I just love it. I haven't made anything much more exciting than ham and cheese sandwiches but I have great plans. Let me share one of my few household hints, which I rarely do. When you make a grilled cheese sandwich, put a very thin layer of French's bright yellow mustard on one of the slices of bread. This should be as thin a layer as you can manage. The sandwich won't taste mustardy, but it'll have a little extra tang that will really pick up the flavor.

31 August 2007

OK, It Should Have Been "Four (Or Six) New Books"

I finished the Andrews, Maron, and Harris books yesterday and started reading one of the Eric Flint books, Shadow Of The Lion. I've read this book before, a couple of years ago, before the two sequels came out. I enjoyed it then, and have always wondered if Flint had wanted to use all the research he did on Venice for 1634: The Galileo Affair for more than just one book.

It's probably misleading to call this book an Eric Flint book, since there are two other authors, Mercedes Lackey and Dave Freer. In fact, the first sequel, This Rough Magic, is also by all three authors, but the second, A Mankind Witch, is only by Dave Freer.

Anyway, Shadow Of The Lion has 905 pages, This Rough Magic has 944. and A Mankind Witch has a mere 512. I'm such a sucker for a good multi-volume epic. I've recently re-read The Assiti Shards books and all the Anita Blake books, both for the third or fourth time. It's going to be a while before I'm back to knitting most of the day and only reading at bedtime.

I have managed to cast on and knit about fifty rows of another Forest Canopy Shawl, also in turquoise, today. I'm going to try to get the three scarves I've knitted all finished, washed, and blocked this weekend, but who knows if I will. I've got to get my hair cut and do about six loads of laundry this weekend, too.

30 August 2007

That Should Have Been "Three New Books"

I finished the Donna Andrews book last night and started on Margaret Maron's Hard Row, a Deborah Knotts book. I finished that early this afternoon, after I got back from my mom's house. Now I'm reading Charlaine Harris's All Together Dead, the seventh in the Southern Vampires series. Once I'm done with it I'll probably pick up my knitting again.

I also got Annie Modesitt's latest book and five Eric Flint books, plus a Diane Fitzgerald beading book. They won't keep me from knitting though. At least, I don't think they will. Although Annie's book may jump up and force me to knit one of its patterns.

29 August 2007

New Book

The newest Donna Andrews book The Penguin Who Knew Too Much showed up at my house at about 1730 this evening. I had to make dinner and quickly finish the book I was reading (I was almost at the end anyway) but now, as soon as I send this, I'm going to start reading it. There were six other books in the box and I didn't even look at them. Nor did I open the other Amazon box that arrived at the same time. I won't be back here until I'm done with it.

I love Donna Andrews' books, particularly the Meg Langslow series. They so funny and so well written that I just can't resist them. Some people think some kinds of yarn are crack; with me it's good books by favorite authors.

I finished Reggie the Alligator yesterday. I've got to get my yarn needle out and finish him up, as well as the Dragon Scale and Noro Argosy scarves. Then I have to wash the See's chocolate off Reggie and gently block him. The other two scarves don't have any chocolate on them, but they'll still get washed and blocked.

I got some of those rubber foam tiles for blocking, after reading about them on a couple of blogs. I'd give credit but I can't remember. They're great. Two sets of four 2x2' interlocking tiles, with edges. Amazon, intended for work-out rooms and free weight work. Inexpensive. Recommended.

25 August 2007

Reggis Gets Bigger

Alligator Scarf
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

As you can see, Reggie has grown quite a bit. He's up to ten rows of bumps, of sixteen, but he's got a long tail beyond the last row of bumps.

The smudge of chocolate on the center bump of the seventh row is from a See's butterscotch square. He attacked me for it, I swear. I didn't just drop it on him.

I'm still on the first skein of yarn, so it looks as if I won't have to worry about running out, even though I didn't get gauge.

23 August 2007

Cute, Isn't He?

Alligator Scarf
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

I'm very taken with Reggie. He's actually quite a bit darker green than the photo would indicate, because the photo was taken with flash. Think dark green, just lighter than forest green.

I'm not quite sure who I'm going to inflict with him but I'm sure there's someone I know who will find him as cute as I do. Maybe my friend Pat. I was going to give him to my goddaughter, the Penn State student, but he's just not soft enough for her. The next one, in medium olive green Gedifra Living (100% new wool), will be for her, I think.

This alligator scarf is a kit from Morehouse Farms. I've bought a number of their kits, mostly for scarves. This alligator is definitely the cutest. There's only one flaw with it, which is VM (vegetative matter, a euphemism for nasty little bits of plants) in the yarn. I don't know why the yarn isn't cleaner. Their fancy handpainted merino yarns are.

In the last six months I've gotten some books on modular knitting and now I'm thinking that a turtle shell would be easy to make with hexagons of hand-painted yarn. Maybe a pillow.

21 August 2007

Too Young

My cousin in Durango called this morning to tell me that one of our younger cousins had died. She'd had Type I diabetes since her early teens and this had caused a real host of major medical problems. She was only 45.

16 August 2007

A Bit Of Advice

Friends, let me pass on to you a hard-won bit of advice. Let my travails save you from a similar situation.

If you buy an eight-ounce cone of beautiful fuchsia rayon lace weight yarn, thin slinky slippery rayon yarn, and you drop it, so the yarn falls off the cone, don't try to save the slippery tangled mess.

Order another cone and throw the mess away. Trust me on this. You'll save a vast amount of time and energy, as well as a lot of grief.

After more than a year trying to rescue my fuchsia mess I'm giving up. I've got about an ounce untangled and wound off that I'm going to keep. The rest is going in the trash. I'm not even going to order another cone. I've learned my lesson.

14 August 2007

Leaf Lace Shawl

Leaf Lace Shawl
Originally uploaded by Mary The Digital Knitter

What can I say? More lace. Another shawl. I'm in a rut.

With this project I have been reminded that I don't like lace weight yarn and I do like the pointy Boye Needlemaster tips for knitting lace. This is a brand new pattern for me, Fiber Trends Leaf Lace Shawl, but I've had the yarn, Knit Picks Shimmer in Turquoise Splendor, for several years. Just waiting for the right person and pattern.

I've got thirty rows done now and I'll probably add another thirty by bedtime if all goes well. I have my annual dentist appointment tomorrow and I probably won't take it with me. A book works better in that recliner chair he uses.

My order from Elann arrived this morning, with this pattern, and five different yarns. I got ten balls each of three colors of Rowan Cashsoft 4-Ply and Elann Peruvian Baby Silk and five balls of Elann Canapone, This last is 100% hemp in a heavy lace weight and the color is Green Tea. If it works out well, I'm going to get more while they still have it.

The Rowan Cashsoft was a real bargain. It's not the current version, having more microfiber and less merino, so it was a real bargain ($4.25 per ball). It's selling like hotcakes and they're down to just four colors after only a week. It's machine washable and I've got more baby blankets to knit (everyone seems to be having babies!) so I snapped it up. Two strands knits up as worsted weight, meaning the blankets will go fairly fast.

By the way, this shawl is a direct result of my trying to get my stash photographed for Ravelry. I came across the yarn and was taken by its pretty colors and its soft, luxurious feel (it's baby alpaca and silk). When I unpacked the pattern and read the yarn requirements (lace, fingering, sport, and DK, in two sizes each) I realized that these two skeins of yarn had found their purpose in life. It doesn't hurt that I have a friend who likes turquoise and needs a shawl.

12 August 2007

It's All Ravelry's Fault, You Know

I've been busy, playing with yarn, sorting yarn, photographing yarn, rearranging bins of yarn, counting yarn, sorting needles, measuring needles, rearranging needles, sorting crochet hooks, rearranging hooks, and generally collecting and tidying all my notions and gadgets. It's really been cutting into my knitting time. On the other hand, my yarn bins are getting very tidy and organized.

This is all the result of my joining Ravelry. I'd considered starting a stash spreadsheet many times, but I'd never gotten beyond thinking about it. No, throwing similar types of yarn into the same bins to eventually root through them, finding yarn I'd forgotten entirely, was my style, not the organized entering of yarn into a database.

Ravelry has done all the stash database work. They've set up the database and volunteers like myself have entered the details of an immense number of yarns. All I have to do is enter the name, click to get a list of entered yarns, find the right one, add a few details and a photo, and hit save.

Ravelry is still in beta, so it doesn't have all the features it eventually will. Right now it isn't possible to sort through the database looking for all the dk-weight cotton yarn in my stash, for example, but I'm pretty sure it eventually will. They've added a number of features since I signed on.

Ravelry is about to make its move to much more capable servers, which will mean that they'll soon be able to make it available to everyone. They're really up against practical limits right now, which is why they've been so slow to bring new users in. When they get to the new servers and come out of beta, I predict a huge reduction in the number of stitches knitted for a while. I just hope it doesn't happen in the major gift knitting season, making knitters late for the holidays.

If you're on the waiting list for Ravelry, let me repeat some advice. Start photographing your yarn stash and your projects and upload the photos to Flickr. I name the yarn photos with the name of the company and the name of the yarn and put the color name and number, plus dyelot number, into the description under the photo. If the yarn's in the database, that and the number of skeins is all you need to know. Projects aren't much harder, because so many patterns have been entered.

You might want to get a paid account at Flickr, so you can upload as many photos per month as you want. I pay $25 a year for unlimited uploads and unlimited photos.

I'm just a user of both Ravelry and Flickr, by the way. I give them money, not the other way around. I really like what I get for my money and I intend to keep getting it, but that's the extent of my relationship with either organization.

10 August 2007

I Surrender!

I surrendered today and frogged back my 123 rows of the Mystery Stole 3 and gave up on it. I didn't like the yarn I'd picked, I was too tired in the evenings to work on it, and I'd made a mistake at least thirty rows earlier that absolutely, positively had to be corrected.

Instead, I'm knitting the Candle Flame Stole from Knitpicks. I'm using the same Mint Julep fingering weight yarn and the same 4-mm cube beads (yellow with mint colorlining). I'm putting the beads on the edges of the "flame", with the crochet hook method. I don't have enough done to make a photo interesting. Eighteen rows of garter stitch and three rows of pattern just aren't very photogenic. I want to have a few beads in place before I start snapping. Tomorrow or Sunday, maybe.

PRO FOOTBALL IS BACK! No matter how bad MS3 gets, pro football is back and life is good again.