31 March 2007

Found The Patterns I'd Seen

I went to my History file and keyed in skirt and up popped four sites. The third one was the one I wanted, the patterns for the little skirt and one-button bolero for my goddaughter. The pattern is from Tahki (see, I did remember correctly that it was one of the big companies) and it calls for eight or nine balls of DK cotton. I'm thinking that Elann might have a good version of this (like Sonata) for less than the Tahki.

Here's a picture, swiped from Jimmy Beans and uploaded (not linked):

Now isn't this just right for a college freshman? She's got almost waist-length hair and is very slender and graceful. I think this will look good over her swimsuit.

Come to think of it, I might have some DK cotton in my stash at the other house. Looking at my account history at Elann, I see that I probably do. Maybe I'll hold off on this project until June, when we go back up to the other house. There's a possibility that my cousin and his entire family, including the goddaughter, will be out here in SoCal around then and I can measure the kid. I know she's got an itty-bitty waist; she might have an itty-bitty bottom to go with it. I've got the little tees and shrugs to knit to do before I get to this, so I probably wouldn't start much before then anyway.

Knitters will be pleased to hear that when she opened the box full of scarves I sent in February one of her friends remarked "Wow, someone must really love you to knit so much for you!" The other girls agreed, so we know at least some of them understand why we knit for them.

Here's the baby alpaca scarf I sent her for St. Valentine's Day:

It's in faux ribbing stitch and is over eight inches wide and over seven feet long. I didn't put fringe on it because I wasn't sure if the yarn was strong enough to sustain it.

You'll have to tilt your head to see this one correctly:

Here are some of the others I sent:

I'm told she wore the red and silver one, here, on St. Valentine's Day.

Right now I've got one big scarf and another Moebius for her specifically, four eyelash scarves for the group, and two washcloths ditto. I'm going to try to do a couple more washcloths and get it sent off on Monday. Photos will be taken before the box is closed. Her birthday is on the 24th (the same as my mom's), so I'm going to try to get a couple of tops done for that.

Here are a few more photos that I should have posted earlier. The first is my Clapotis, done in hand-painted sock yarn. It's at least twice as long as this now, but I put it aside to knit scarves.

I like the way hand-painted sock and sport yarns look for scarves, so I bought some more, mostly on eBay. You might be able to tell that these sock yarns are Cherry Tree Hill (wide band) and Lorna's Laces (narrow band).

Yes, I do like blue and turquoise and purple, as well as red and pink and purple. How did you guess?

30 March 2007

Package From Elann!

My second recent order from Elann showed up on my doorstep this morning. The first order had mostly been three bags of Jumbo Merino, which I just love. It makes wonderful scarves for our Iowa relatives. I also got a couple of patterns.

This order had yarn for the patterns I'd bought and yarn for its looks. Mostly I bought three skeins of a type and color, for scarves, but I also got some larger quantities for tees for my goddaughter and a couple of shawls. Pretty yarn, good quality, good prices--what more could I ask for?

I just love opening a box of yarn, even when I know what's in it. I can remember back when I was a kid and my mom would order Germantown wool. This wasn't exciting yarn, it was just high-quality worsted-weight wool in solid colors. I can still remember the excitement of opening up the box. It would be full of skeins of yarn in beautiful colors and we'd take them out carefully, to avoid tangling the skeins. It seemed as if they expanded as they came out of the box, because the piles of skeins on the table always looked too large to fit back into it.

I also remember gathering black walnuts, still in their hulls, one year, for our neighbor across the street. We also saved onion skins for her that year. I think there was something else, too. Anyway, when she had enough black walnuts and onion skins and other materials, she got a big box of white Germantown wool and dyed it with the various materials. It came out pretty well, too. This was back in the '50s, by the way. I don't think dyes were readily available, so using natural materials was pretty much the only choice for hand dyeing.

So anyway, I got a couple of patterns in this order, too, and I just sent off for the yarn (Elann Sonata and Esprit) to make a couple of cute little tops and a shrug or two for my goddaughter. I talked with her mom yesterday and remembered to ask about cropped tops. Her mom said she wore them, so I'll knit her a couple.

Somewhere on the Web I saw a pair of kits for a one-button bolero and a little skirt to knit. Both were really cute and the set would be a good cover-up over a bikini. The only problem is that I can't remember where I saw them. I'm going to look through my history and bookmark files and see if I can track them down. They were from one of the big, traditional yarn companies, I know.

Yes, I do know that placing three orders with Elann in two weeks isn't exactly knitting from my stash. Nor is buying Katsura rayon boucle or a bunch of Great Adirondack. I've been weak, but I'm going to strengthen my resolve as soon as everything I ordered last week arrives. Except that Chez Casuelle sent me a 15% discount that expires on 15 April and my 60th birthday is on the 9th. Hey, it's going to be less expensive than a red Mustang convertible....

28 March 2007

Found Them!

I finally found the second box of knitting books. Of course, I had to empty and put away three more boxes worth before I got to it. Why do I always end up with the important boxes on the bottom of the stack? Oh, well, I got the David Weber, John Ringo, and Eric Flint books shelved, so it wasn't a waste of time.

I need to say, quick, that these boxes I keep talking about aren't exactly huge. They're not even as big as copier paper boxes. Rather, they're one-foot cubes from U-Haul. One cubic foot is just about my limit for being able to pick up a box when it's filled with knitting or bead books, magazines, or catalogs, things printed on coated paper. If it's just paperback books, I can manage a 1.5-cu-ft box, the U-Haul "Small" box. I'm not Superwoman and I know it.

So now I've got my Harmony Guides and Stitchionaries at hand, plus a couple of lace books and some more scarf books. I've also got several of the various "Hip" knitting books, so I can knit something stylish for my goddaughter. I don't think she wants anything too edgy but would love something a bit on the edgy side. I thought I'd start with a not-too-cropped cropped tee and work from there.

I'm just about done with the third garter-stitch eyelash scarf for her and her dorm-mates. Yes, I know what everyone says about those, but I like them. They're quick, they're easy, and there's not a lot of emotional attachment. If one gets lost, well, too bad, but it's not like losing a scarf made with a zillion stitches of hand-painted cashmere, in either actual or emotional cost. I'm going to make some washcloths, too. I've got one about half done.

Some wicked cool Great Adirondack yarn arrived in the last two days. There's a skein of Waterfall, a combination of a ribbon and a strand of mohair, dyed together, in Cantaloupe. Then there are two skeins of rayon with "Holo Hoops", donut-shaped holographic sequins, and two skeins of rayon with drops, drop-shaped holographic sequins. These four are just so cool it's amazing. Colors are Mango, Cocktail, Hydrangea, and Peacock. I just love Great Adirondack yarn and colors. Think Superwash worsted-weight merino in Bahama Mama, for example.

If I were a sock knitter, I might consider the sequined yarn for shortish cuffs on a very special pair of socks. Some people may dress conservatively, but in their hearts they're ready for a little flash that only they know about.

One of Neil the Collie's responsibilities was the inspection of yarn. When it arrived, I'd hold it out for him to sniff and when I'd put it into my active-projects bag, he'd come over and sniff again. Now and then he'd find a ball that was intensely interesting and he'd sniff it very thoroughly. He, like all collies I've ever known, was curious. They'd sniff at packages, help with the unpacking, and watch the clearing away of packing materials. Ditto shopping bags. I've always joked that they have those long noses to poke into everyone's business.

27 March 2007

It's Sure Been Sad Around Here Today

I've been picking up all of Neil the Collie's things today. Dog beds, water dishes, food dishes, treats, shedding rakes, and so on. He had quite a collection of things and they were scattered all over the house, although a lot of it was in the kitchen. I'll probably pack up all the food and take it to a nearby shelter.

I sure do miss him. He wasn't a noisy dog ever and he'd slept a lot in the last couple of years, but still it's way too quiet now that he's gone. I keep expecting to look up and see him and he's not there.

I called the woman who bred his sire, Spif, to tell her the sad news. She was sorry to hear it, of course, but glad he hadn't been in pain or anything. She also suggested that I check with a breeder near San Diego, who has one of Neil's half-brothers. He may have a litter bred by him.

Incidentally, it's Spif's name, Narnia's Intrepid Spaceman Spif, that led to Neil and Buzz's names. They were born the year of the 25th, silver, anniversary of the first moon landing. Not only was their sire a spaceman, but their dam's call name was Silver. We didn't need any omens to convince us to get these two puppies, but it sure did make naming them easy. They also each had personalities a bit like their eponymous astronauts. Neil was reserved and dignified and Buzz was outgoing and extroverted.

Here's Neil on his dog bed last year. It was in the corner of my office, right across from my chair. It was Neil's secure place and he slept there and carried special treats there to eat. This photo was probably taken last winter or spring, before we went up to Lancaster for the summer.

I can't quite tell what that is on the floor in front of him. It wasn't edible, though. Neil loved to eat and he would never have ignored a tempting bit of food like that.

Here he is dropping off to sleep. He'd start out like this, not quite curled up, but he'd usually end up on his side, stretched out. He fit just exactly on this bed, nose tip at one edge, rump at the other.

Here are Neil and Buzz in our first Palm Desert house. probably about four years ago. Buzz was up in the chair because I'd been trimming the hair on his feet. Normally our dogs don't get on the furniture and Neil took this rule so much to heart that he was very uncomfortable even when I'd lifted him up and was right beside him. He'd get down at the first opportunity. Buzz, on the other hand, was willing to hang around, given the chance.

Incidentally, Neil was a beautiful, perfect collie. He really met the standard and would have done very well had he been shown. Buzz, on the other hand, wasn't quite so perfect in his looks. See how his ears are set close together on top of his head, for example. He was still a handsome dog, just not quite standard. It didn't bother him, or us, one bit.

26 March 2007

Neil the Collie and the Rainbow Bridge

Neil the Collie set off for the Rainbow Bridge at about 1030 this morning, I'm sorry to report. He'll join his littermate Buzz there, as well as MacDuff, Duncan, Donal, and Malcolm.

He'd turned 13 on the fifth of March, which is quite old for a collie. He'd been having neurological problems for a couple of years, caused by narrowing of the spine and compression of the nerves. Last night he had some sort of attack or seizure that damaged his already-precarious balance and reduced his limited mobility.

He wasn't in any pain physically that we could see, but his dignity was in great danger. He was always a most dignified dog and the loss of dignity was painful to him (and to us). So we sent him on to the Bridge, to be re-united with Buzz and to wait for us.

Since his passing, the skies here have clouded up and it may rain. Even Nature grieves with us for this most excellent of dogs.

I know there's no reason at all to believe in the Rainbow Bridge, not theologically, not logically, not realistically, but I truly hope it's true. Our dogs have each been as much a part of our family and our lives as they could be; they have enriched our days, lightened our sorrows, rejoiced in our joys, and been beside us, loving and trusting us unconditionally. Faith is when you can believe something with absolutely no evidence.

25 March 2007

Spring Scarves

I've been knitting spring scarves for my goddaughter and her dorm-mates at Penn State. Knitting 14-stitch-wide scarves 0f Fun Fur in garter stitch isn't exactly challenging and I'd been doing a little Web surfing as I knitted. The packages have started arriving and I've been very pleased with some of the new scarf yarn. There's always a little risk, particularly in color, when ordering off a monitor, but the colors seem to have been fairly accurate.

I like to use hand-painted yarns for scarves. It makes them dramatic and unique and, because one skein is usually enough, isn't likely to bankrupt me. The best value seems to be sock yarn, followed closely by sport yarn. I've fallen in love with Great Adirondack's Bahama Mama colorway, much to my surprise, and managed to convince myself I needed two skeins in sport weight superwash merino for a shawl and another two in worsted weight for a small baby blanket. Smaller blankets work better than big ones when baby's in the car seat/carrier.

Only one of my purchases seems a bit foolish. I bought three skeins of Twisted Sister mohair and silk(70/30) lace yarn. It's Lust Monochrome Variegate in Lemongrass (pale lime) and there are 460 yd in each 50-gm skein. That's just a titch over a quarter of a mile.[1] I don't have the faintest idea what pattern I'm going to use. In fact, I don't have the faintest idea why I bought it, except that I fell in love with it. All I know is thats it's going to be my lace whatever it turns into.

Still lots of airplanes today, but not so many biz jets. The weather is just beautiful for flying and everyone with a recip seems to be out flying today. There was just a little too much of a breeze or we'd have had a flock of hot air balloons drifting overhead, too.

[1] I used to go to a lot of track and field events, like the Modesto Relays and the L A Times Games, and knew, from that experience, that the 440-yd race was a quarter of a mile long. Now that track and field have been metrified, it's the 400-m race, but it's still close enough to a quarter of a mile to think of it that way.[2]

[2] Didn't expect footnotes, did you? Using them is sometimes the only way I can get through a topic without zinging off onto multiple tangents.

24 March 2007

Sky Full Of Jets

The bizjets are really streaming in. It's an LPGA (Ladies' Professional Golfing Association) tournament at one of the 100+ golf courses in the area. We have some very fine golf courses, at which many tournaments are played, and we have some average golf course and we, probably, have some poor golf courses, but the local golfers seems to love them all and play as much as they can.

However, our golf courses are more than just manicured venues for cow-pasture pool. They're part of the Coachella Valley flood control system. There's at least one municipal course that's mostly in a usually-dry riverbed; the planted course reduces erosion when the Whitewater River is in full spate.

Most of the courses, however, are flood control systems for their surrounding housing developments. They're carefully laid out much lower than the houses, which has advantages in limiting the flight paths of balls, making pretty views, and being run-off channels. The planted channels slow the flow and greatly reduce damage. It's not perfect, of course, since desert storms, although infrequent, can drop a lot of water. The tract we live in had several holes damaged badly a couple of years ago, when we had several rainstorms that dropped over an inch of rain each. We've got one low-lying stretch of road (a ford, actually) that's still being repaired from damage that happened last year.

The other thing that makes golf courses in the desert more sensible than you'd think is that they're watered with recycled water. It's been through the treatment process and is quite safe, but it isn't the final, sparkling pure potable water that recycling can produce. Since it's going to be used for agriculture it doesn't have to be potable. Watering the golf courses has the advantage of refilling the shallow aquifers, which helps native plants. Of course, taking out the tamarisk all over the valley would help them even more but no one has come up with an equally good wind screen, so some of them will have to stay. The rest are going. It's really good firewood, too.

23 March 2007

A Little High

Some idiot (me) bought a bottle of bourbon that's 101 proof and failed to notice that when making a highball. It's pretty good bourbon (Wild Turkey), but I think maybe it's time to put my knitting aside and refrain from posting. We infrequent drinkers tend to be more affected by alcohol than are those who drink more often. I already made a mistake in the knitting and had to tink (that's knit spelled backward and it's just what it sounds like, unknitting stitch by stitch) 147 stitches to fix one lousy stitch. That was this afternoon, before the bourbon came out. In fact, it's part of the reason the bourbon came out, now that I think about it.

Speaking of high, there have been a lot of bizjets landing today. It started late morning and really picked up around five. They're still coming in, as I write. I wonder what's happening this weekend that's bringing them in.

I mentioned in a previous posting that I didn't know what high bypass ratio jet engines sound like, but that's wrong. I do know. There's a reason the S-3A Viking is better known as the War Hoover. High bypass ratio jet engines sound whooshy, like vacuum cleaners.

I just finished the third round on my latest Mobius scarf. It's a pretty pale apricot in Berocco Cotton Twist. I cast it on to use my new Knitpicks Options needle set, which arrived as scheduled. That was a fun package to open. There's a nice zippered binder, a bunch of vinyl pages with varying numbers of pockets, needle tips, cables, packets of cable wrenches (OK, little bits of stiff wire) and end caps, and size markers, all packaged individually. I love playing with all the parts and organizing everything into the binder.

I also organized the extra tips and cables I got for the Denise system, but I think the size 17 and 19 tips make the binder just a little too fat for easy zipping. However, I have Day Runner and Franklin Planner binders in Lancaster and I think the vinyl pages will fit into at least one of them. Being retired I no longer need an organizer, so the binders are just sitting around. Now that I think about it, the only calender I have is the one on the back of my check register. What a change from when my organizer went everywhere I did.


We've had a lot of jets (OK, turbine-engined aircraft, which may not exactly be jets, but sound like it) flying around here during the last week. There was a big tennis tournament on the weekend, which brought in a lot of bizjets to Bermuda Dunes (UDD), with arrivals starting on Thursday and building up all day Friday. Then out everyone went on Sunday afternoon and Monday. You know, I don't know who is in those airplanes, players or spectators. I'd expect players to show up a bit earlier, to play a few games and get familiar with the courts. Also, I don't think there are that many tennis players who make enough money to fly around in bizjets. Sure, the big stars do, but there are a lot more non-stars than stars. So I figure it's mostly spectators flying in and out.

We'd had a week or so of unseasonably hot weather, which laid former-President George H. W. Bush low during a round of golf; it was in the 90's that day. We even set all-time records for highs for the day and month on a couple of days. It was over 100° at least two days. We were running the air conditioner and grousing about how hot it was until this weekend, when it cooled down. Then we had clouds overhead and it's been in the 70's and low 80's. It even sprinkled twice for a total of about fifteen minutes.

But to get back to jets, this shift in the weather was accompanied by a shift in the wind. When I went to check the mail on Wednesday I looked up and saw an airplane I knew wasn't going to be landing at UDD, on that short little runway. This was a big airplane that was going into Palm Springs (PSP). The controllers at the airport must not have been using the usual runway because of the change in wind direction, which meant that the approach and departure pattern changed, too. The PSP traffic is still flying over us and it's still cool and a bit cloudy.

Now when I hear a bigger jet fly overhead (they do sound different, maybe because of the high bypass ratio engines) I don't need to worry that there's going to be an airplane overrunning the UDD runway and ending up on I-10. Not that I ever really thought it was likely to happen, but it did cross my mind more than once.

22 March 2007

Habits Are Hard To Break

I've been knitting for over half a century (I'll be 60 next month and I can't remember not knowing how to knit) and I've got some really firmly ingrained habits. Two have really made themselves felt in the last year. These are casting on and off loosely.

I reflexively begin everything I knit with a loose two-strand cast-on, unless the instructions say otherwise. For big yarn I put the ball of my right thumb between the new stitch and the previous stitches to make a space as I pull the yarn in my left hand up and for smaller yarn I just don't let the left-hand yarn slide too close to the other stitches. It's a nice flexible cast-on anyway and I've never had a problem with tight edges.

As for casting off, I work those stitches very loosely. I'll even consider using a larger needle and I never tug on the yarn between stitches to tighten them up, just a bit to keep them even. I've worked other cast-offs, too, and I'm reasonably proud of my nice flexible, loose edges. No one will ever pull their ears off putting on or taking off a sweater I've made....

Well, these habits have caught up with me. They produce flared hems on my scarves. I'd like to blame the non-elastic yarns I've been using for scarves, but I had the same problem with wool as with the others. Maybe it's the difference between the ribbing and other edge treatments that garments use and scarves don't, but I just don't know. I've tightened up my casting-on just a bit and I've really started snugging down my casting off. These would be crummy hems for actual garments, but they work pretty well on scarves.

However I'm now a little worried about what will happen when I knit something that isn't a scarf and that needs a relaxed hem. It took me a while to develop my technique and now I'm undermining it constantly. I mean, I like knitting scarves but there's going to come a day when I need a relaxed hem. I hope it's like riding a bicycle, that you never forget.

20 March 2007

Circular Needle Sets

A while ago I bought a Boye Needlemaster circular needle set on eBay, mostly because I'd always wanted one and the price wasn't bad. I liked it well enough, although I thought the cables were a little stiff, and I used it quite a bit. It's a lot easier to stuff a circular needle and a ball of yarn into your purse. Safer, too, because you're not quite as likely to impale yourself. It's also harder to lose one needle.

Then I got Cat Bordhi's A Treasury of Magical Knitting and fell in love with Moebius scarves. Finally, circular knitting for my circular needles. They take a sixty-in. needle, which I could manage with the Boye by using couplers. Only the couplers put a funny kink in the cable and the cables were stiff.

Cat recommended the Denise circular needle set with extra-long cables. I bought that set, plus extra cables and size 17 and 19 tips, and I really like it a lot better than I like the Boye. Except for one minor factor, that is. The Denise tips are plastic and the Boye tips are metal. There are times when metal is a whole lot better than plastic, mostly with "sticky" yarn like wool.

Then I read some recommendations for the Knitpicks Options circular needle set. Well, I already had a pretty good investment in circular needles, with these two sets and the various non-set circulars I've accumulated over the years, so I didn't order the Options set. Instead, I ordered the long cables and a set of size 13 tips. Neither is included in the basic set. I really like them. The cable is tiny and very flexible and very slippery. The points are slippery and very pointed, which I like for a lot of yarns.

So I suppose it's pretty easy to figure out what I did next. Yes, I'm waiting for my Options circular needle set to be delivered. According to The Knitpicks tracking system, they got to my local post office at 1321 today, well after my letter carrier left. This means they'll show up tomorrow at my door, probably at around 1030. Of course, the needle set's not all that's in the package. There are a couple of books and a pattern or two and a project bag, too.

Once I get the books and patterns there'll be a yarn order. Fortunately, their yarn prices are really very reasonable. However, I'm really trying to use up a significant portion of my stash, which won't happen if I keep buying yarn. I've done pretty well on my resolution to use it up, but I have to admit I caved in and bought a skein of Great Adirondack Waterfall in Bahama Mama. I worry that I won't have the will power to let this yarn go when I get it knitted up.

I also picked up some Noni felted bag patterns last week. I have a feeling I'm going to get really fond of Cascade 220, another reasonably priced yarn. I'm thinking of making the "Cat In The Hat" bag for my goddaughter. I have very little wool in my stash and a lot of what there is is superwash, because it's sock yarn. Not that I knit socks, mind you, but because hand-painted sock yarn makes beautiful scarves and isn't wildly extravagant in price. One skein is enough for a good-sized scarf, too.

I Know It's Here Somewhere....

I'm still unpacking from the translation down here. It's been two weeks and I've got all the important stuff, like dog treats, yarn, clothes, and two new airplane books, unpacked, but I can't find the second box full of knitting books. I know it's here, because I've seen it (I think--I'm getting increasingly dubious of this as time goes by) but I just can't find it.

It's not direly urgent yet, as I'm mostly just knitting scarves in pretty spring colors for my goddaughter and her friends, but I'd really like to find it eventually. Sure, eyelash scarves are just garter stitch, but I don't have all that much eyelash left (well, I do, but not in spring colors) and at least two scarf books were in the first box of knitting books. I really need a scarf pattern for two balls of Berocco Cotton Twist (Aran weight, 85 yd/78 m per ball) in a beautiful delicate apricot.

Oh, well, it'll turn up. It's probably hiding amid the Eric Flint (alternate history) and David Weber (military science fiction) boxes. I'll find it just in time to take about half the books back up to Lancaster.

17 March 2007

Turning Balls Of Yarn Back Into Skeins

I forgot something that goes on the equipment list in the previous posting. It's a regular old plain kraft paper bag from the supermarket. Plastic bags won't work, but an empty cardboard box will.

OK, now we have a hand-wound ball of yarn. The tension is probably too tight in some places and too loose in others and it's definitely not a center-pull ball. This is where the ball winder (which I just realized I also forgot to mention earlier, but it's not a requirement, just a nicety) comes in to play. Take this ball of yarn, attach the free end to the ball winder, and drop the ball into the grocery bag on the floor. Another crummy picture, taken of the depths of a paper bag.

The reason for the bag or box is that the ball, if not restrained, will dance all over the floor when it's wound off from the outside (which is why so many of us are so fond of center-pull balls). Frankly, my floors are rarely clean enough that there's nothing for the yarn to collect, mostly because I have a rough-coated collie. I love the collie a lot more than I love spotless floors, but that doesn't mean I ignore reality.

(If I had one, I'd put a good photo of Neil the Collie here. He just turned thirteen, which is pretty old for a collie.)

The next step is to wind off the center-pull ball and then we're ready to make the new skein. Put the swift back into the normal horizontal position and cut some pieces of kitchen twine or slick yarn lengths. These get draped over the swift and the yarn is wound over them. In this photo I've tied the twine into a cute little bow, for some reason, but just draping it works fine.

Tie the end of the yarn onto one of the pieces of twine and start winding the swift, creating a skein. Don't wind too quickly, particularly if the swift is one an inexpensive metal and plastic one like mine. There's a little handle at the center of the swift to use for winding yarn into a skein.

Once there's a reasonable fraction of the ball onto the swift it's time to stop winding and cross the skein ties. They don't have to be tied, just crossed and then draped out of the way. Wind a bunch more on, cross the ties, repeat.

When there's no more yarn to wind, tie the twine off in bows (to make it easy to untie them later). Tie the loose end to one of the pieces of twine so it'll be easy to find. See the loose end hanging down from the twine here? It wasn't quite long enough to reach the next piece of twine, so I just let the extra hang.

Here's the new skein, tied in three places. Why three places? Because my swift has six places where the twine can be put gracefully and I was winding this into a fairly small skein, so I didn't need to use all six places. I thought two ties was too few, six too many, and three about right. Sort of the Goldilocks approach, I suppose.

And here it is twisted back up, with the label attached, ready to go back to my stash. This baby isn't going to tangle again any time soon.

I hope this has been helpful. Most writers don't mention tangled skeins or yarn balls skittering around and collecting dog hair. I can't decide whether this is because they never have such mundane problems or because they don't want to admit to them or because they think no one wants to hear about them.

Skein Of Yarn Or Ball Of Knots?

I spent two hours on Wednesday untangling an eight-ounce skein of fingering weight yarn. It's Beautiful with a capital B yarn, hand-painted in lovely colors and so soft that I like petting the new skein. Half of the reason it took me so long was that there's a half a mile of fingering yarn in eight ounces. The other half is that it was tangled up, although not badly knotted. Coincidentally, I came across a knitter's blog yesterday that had photos of some badly tangled yarn.

So, I thought I'd describe my technique for untangling skeins of yarn here. I don't think it's unique or anything, but it does seem to work well for me. Maybe it will work well for someone else. It's not as if there's ever a shortage of tangled skeins, after all.

Well, there's no shortage until I want to take photos of the untangling process. I couldn't find anything in my sub-stash that a) was very tangled and b) would show up in photos. The best I could do was a mildly tangled skein of Noro Gisha.

Necessary items are a yarn swift, kitchen twine or slick yarn, a pair of scissors, something to fasten the swift to, a comfortable chair, and some patience. This isn't something to do when Life is falling apart around you; it's more like a meditation. Relax, go with the flow, don't hurry, trust the Force....

The first step is to mount the swift so that it's perpendicular to the floor, like so:

Then put the skein on it. Don't open the swift up too far. It should be wide enough to spread the skein out, but not so wide that the skein is completely stretched. The lower half of the skein should be hanging free.

When putting the skein on the swift, it's important to be sure that all the strands are going in the right direction. This happens when all the strands are inside the ties, not outside. These two photos are terrible (I moved the camera or was too close to focus or something), but you can see that none of the strands cross the outside of the tie.

The next step is to untie the ties around the skein and select one end or the other. There should be an inside end and an outside end to the skein. It's easiest to wind off the outside end, so if picking the wrong end can be fixed by just turning the skein inside out on the swift. Now the actual winding off starts. Roll the yarn into a small ball. If there's a tangle tuck the ball though the skein until it unwinds freely again. The following two photos show doing so.

Nice how the autumn-leaf colored yarn coordinates with the orange plastic on the cheap swift, isn't it? Even the orange Fiskars scissors match. The berry red trim on the chair seats doesn't, though.

Whatever happens, don't ever pull too hard and turn the tangle into a knot. Knots are really bad. Tangles are just tedious. Keep the tangles loose. It helps to kind of fluff the tangle and, even, the entire skein. With slippery yarn like this, just shaking the tangle may help a lot.

Keep winding and untangling until all the yarn is wound off into a ball. Don't worry too much about tension here, as the next step is winding the yarn off the ball into either a center-pull ball or another skein, which will remedy any tension problems. However, it's best to do either fairly soon so as not to stretch the yarn permanently.

I'll write about balls and skeins next. The only part that's at all complex is adding ties to the new skein, and that's reasonably obvious, I think.

It's apparent that a similar technique, sans swift, will work for tangled balls. That's harder, though, because there's no easy way to put gravity to work the way there is with a skein and a swift.

14 March 2007

Baby Blanket Colors

No, I'm not having a baby, but I been asked to knit baby blankets for two different babies. One mother is our mobile dog groomer in Lancaster and the other is the daughter of a friend. Neither one wants a blanket in the typical baby colors, so I've recruited a hand dyer to help me out.

Here are the two colorways I've proposed to her:

These photos are taken indoors and outdoors, respectively. The yarn is Lion Brand Microspun and the colors on the left are lime, turquoise, purple, and fuchsia. The colors on the right are yellow, orange, tangerine, and lavender. I think the purple is a little too dark, but other than that I like these colors. However, Microspun is sport weight and that's just too small for me to knit an entire baby blanket from. I'd get bored and never finish it. The yarn we're using is a superwash worsted weight merino, so it's soft and machine washable. Both of these characteristics are important for babies.

The pattern I'm going to use is Argosy. As Vyvyan mentions, Kay (Mason-Dixon Knitting Kay) has knitted one already. Vyvyan is going to knit her own version and write up the pattern fairly soon. I really like this pattern and have already made several scarves in it.

I think this is going to be fun. I'll get back to you after I'm about halfway through the first one, though.

07 March 2007

TV and Knitting

My husband had to call Time-Warner today, to get another HDTV cable line and digital recorder, for the new second HDTV, so I told him to find out how much the package with the DIY channel costs. I said, thinking it would never be so inexpensive, that if it was no more than $5 a month, I'd like to add it so I could watch Knitty Gritty (which always seems like it should have "Dirt Band" tagged on).

He apparently agreed with me about the probable cost, as he pointed out that if I really wanted it I might have to pay a little more. I said no, that I was limiting it to $5 a month because I didn't even know if I'd like the show once I saw it.

Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) the package costs exactly $5 a month and we're now getting it. They added it while he was still on the phone setting up the appointment for the HDTV add-on. The wonders of modern technology, as applied to an age-old technology.

Oh, yeah, I got tired of clutching those little 3.5-mm (US 4) needles for the Alien Illusion scarf and started another scarf on 4-mm (US5) needles. It uses a beautiful skein of hand-painted sock yarn that I got from Happy Fuzzy Yarn in a colorway called "Boisterous", that's red and pink and coral and orange and gold and purple. The pattern is the renowned Clapotis. I'm enjoying this greatly, although I'm still doing increase rows. Because I'm using fingering weight yarn, my scarf is going to be a little smaller than the pattern. I think I'm going to make it a little narrower, as well, but I'm not sure.

06 March 2007

Knitting Again

As I reported on Sunday, I found the Alien Illusion pattern and was ready to knit. As soon as I clicked "Publish" I picked up my scarf and began, except that I noticed immediately that I'd made a mistake about fourteen rows back. It was at the end of a row, on the color change side, and I decided I couldn't just repair the four wrong stitches. Instead, I had to frog a dozen rows, pick up the stitches, re-knit the error, and press on.

That wouldn't have been too bad, really, except that I made another mistake in the middle of the new rows. Just one stitch, so I dropped it down to the error and tried to fix it. I finally ended up frogging about six rows to fix it properly. At this point I got kind of discouraged and put it aside for a while. Last night I picked it up and finished the third alien (at last) and this morning I'm starting of the fourth.

I have photos from Thursday or Friday, with 2.5+ aliens.

Now you see the aliens:

Now you don't.

05 March 2007

After The Freeze

Well, I've gone around and inspected the landscaping here in Palm Desert. We had at least one night of freezing weather, maybe two.

Pretty much all the bougainvillea froze pretty severely, it looks like. Our gardeners cut them back to live wood and they've coming back very robustly. The root systems weren't damaged by the freeze, so that's what I'd expect. The rest of the shrubs look OK, with a little damage here and there, but not enough to worry about.

The sansevierias and euphorbias are kind of a mixed bag. Some of them look just fine and are growing very well. Others have a fair amount of damage to the ends of the leaves. Did you know that if you damage the tip of a sansevieria leaf it will stop growing, even though the growth takes place and the bottom, not the top? One of my sansevierias, a hedgehog type, has sent up a flower spike that will bloom in a week or two. The crowns of thorns are both blooming very abundantly and one of the cactus-type euphorbs has flower buds amid the spines.

As for the trees, the only one that seems to have had much damage, based on how much they pruned off it, is the lemon. There are still a dozen lemons left on it, even after the pruning. I don't know how good they are, but if they're OK I may make a lemon meringue pie.

Other than having most of the plants look as if they got a buzz cut, not a pruning, everything is find. I see some damage around the neighborhood, all about the same. It may well be worse further south, where it's lower and the cold air drains and pools. You'll be able to tell by watching the price of lemons.

04 March 2007

Houston, Commotion Base Here; The Sand Birds Have Landed

Sand birds, you ask? It's like snow birds, who leave places that have snow for warmer climes that don't in the winter, except it's people who leave places that have sand, like the SoCal High Desert (the Mojave), for warmer climes that also have sand, like the SoCal Low Desert (the Sonoran). In other words, my husband, Neil the collie, and me, who summer in Lancaster and winter in Palm Desert.

OK, our two houses are less than 150 miles apart by road and it's only about a 2.5 hour drive when CalTrans isn't working on the roads and it's not a holiday weekend, so it's not exactly a major migration, but I'm here to tell you it's not as easy as loading the dog into the car and driving off. We've got STUFF. George Carlin has explained the problem of stuff very eloquently, and very funnily, so I'll just say that whoever said that our belongings own us, instead of us owning them was right.

Even Neil the collie has stuff, like food and water dishes, beds, kibble, coat rakes, slicker brushes, treats, and pills. In addition, he needs an open area on the floor of the van, about the size of his bed, with everything around it secured so that he won't be buried in an avalanche of books, clothes, laptops, yarn, and everything else we brought with us if we have to stop suddenly.

Anyway, we made the trip on Friday, with the van filled with the most important stuff. On Saturday our friends Don and Pat came down with a small chest freezer and some more boxes. I had to promise Pat that I wouldn't bring any of the books in the boxes back north to Lancaster before she'd agree to bring them down here. She thinks, quite rightly, that I have too many books and that I should get rid of the ones I won't read again. However, I have trouble doing that, perhaps fearing subconsciously that the entire English printed word will vanish overnight and I suddenly won't have anything to read except what I already own.

I did manage to divest myself of about a cubic yard of books during the summer before last, mostly paperbacks. I only did it because I was giving the books to the Friends of the Lancaster Library and not throwing them away. The Friends support our library by selling donated books, so I was able to convince myself that I wasn't discarding these books, but sending them to new readers and helping the Friends raise money. Since my mother was the treasurer of the Friends and very active, the latter was important to me.

Incidentally, the Friends are naming their bookstore after my mother, as a memorial. She would have been both embarrassed and pleased, had she known. She didn't think she was all that special, but she'd have been glad to have her hard work recognized. I'm just plain pleased, because I think she was that special.

We're only going to be down here for about three months, before it gets too warm for us. I'm sure glad we came down, though. I love this house and I love the warmth. Not that this has been the warmest winter, although last summer was one of the hottest on record. It was hot in Lancaster, too, and our air conditioner there gave up the ghost during the hottest week. Naturally.

Anyway, now that I've digressed once, let me do it again and explain about the chest freezer. This is one of those ordinary but seemingly complicated stories about how life works. The freezer had belonged to a friend of Pat's, who was an Los Angeles County deputy sheriff. She moved away because her husband had been transferred and she didn't want to pay to move the freezer, so she gave it to Pat. My mother had a large upright freezer that I would have liked to bring down here after her death, but I felt that moving something that large was going to take more arranging than I had time and energy to do. My mom also, naturally, had a refrigerator that I had to deal with. It's fairly new, having been bought by her homeowner's insurance after the wiring in her kitchen decided to immolate itself, the dishwasher, and the fridge. Pat's refrigerator had been giving her problems, so my refrigerator problem kind of solved itself. I also offered her the upright freezer. She, in turn, offered me the small chest freezer and its transportation south. As a result, we're both really happy. I got a small chest freezer down here and I don't have to deal with my mom's fridge and upright freezer. Pat replaces her older fridge with a more efficient one and gets a big freezer that she'll really use. Life is good.

So, getting back to the move and the stuff, I'd managed to separate my knitting project, the Alien Illusion scarf, and its instructions. I'd put the yarn and needles into a beautiful bag our niece made me for Christmas and put the instructions somewhere else. The problem was, as you can guess, that I couldn't remember where. It had been sort of at the last moment, as I was scurrying around gathering up the final odds and ends, like the copy of Ed Rasimus's second book, Palace Cobra: A Fighter Pilot in the Vietnam Air War, that had just arrived from Zooba.com. Ed is an e-friend of mine from rec.aviation.military who flew F-105s and F-4s in Southeast Asia and it's a really good book. So was his first.

So I've been mildly frustrated by not having the pattern graph and not being able to knit, which I find very relaxing. However, mentioning the freezer here reminded me that I wanted to move some food from the self-defrosting freezer in my side-by-side fridge to the non-self-defrosting chest freezer in the garage, to maintain its quality. The defrost cycle is kind of hard on frozen food after a while. So after I did that I decided to bring a few things in from the van since I was out there anyway. My eye lit on Ed's book and what did I find underneath it but a large envelope with, among other things, my scarf pattern graphs. Who said that blogging wasn't productive?

This is long enough, so I'll write tomorrow about how the actual freeze affected our landscaping. Not to make this a cliffhanger, in case I don't, there was a lot of damage but everything seems to have survived, although a lot of it was damaged. We do have some lemons and tangerines on the respective trees, which I wasn't sure we would.

03 March 2007

Jet Engines: The Sound of Home

We're back in Palm Desert. We came down yesterday, arriving at about 1400. I brought a few things in from the van and plopped down in my purple leather recliner to go online. As I sat here catching up with the blogs I heard an airplane flying overhead, throttling back to land at Bermuda Dunes airport (UDD). It wasn't really overhead, because they try not to fly over the development; instead, they fly over I-10 and the railroad tracks, but it was close enough as makes no difference.

A lot of the airplanes I hear are bizjets, although there are a fair number of aircraft with reciprocating engines (or is that reciprocal? they're called recips, generally, and I'm not entirely certain what the expansion should be). The jets are what make it sound right. The jet engines the Learjets use are, essentially, the jet engine the T-38 Talon uses, minus the afterburner. I've certainly heard enough T-38s in my life to know how they sound.

The fatter, higher-bypass engines don't sound quite the same, but they still sound OK. Maybe it's not quite the fighter "sound of freedom", but it's close. I mean, it's not like a two-man of F-4s doing max-performance take-offs, but what is?

You should hear it when there's some sort of special event, like a golf or tennis tournament. Last winter President Bush came to Palm Springs for a fund-raising dinner. (Air Force 1 went to the Palm Springs Airport (PSP) and the private planes came to Bermuda Dunes.) They start a day or two before, light in the morning and heavier as the day goes on. The closer it gets to the event, the heavier the traffic. After the event they leave in a constant stream, just far enough apart to let each plane taxi onto the runway, do the last part of the checklist, and take off.

There's a voluntary curfew for turbine aircraft between 2300 and 0600, with occasional emphasis on "voluntary". Jet traffic didn't come to a complete halt at 2300 after dinner with the President, for example. There's a lot fewer violations before 0600, not surprisingly.

There are no sonic booms here, though. I miss them, too, but not as much. There'd been a real drop-off in booms at Edwards because flight time had really dropped off. I can remember periods where there'd be booms all day, like when the F-22 was clearing the envelope. Of course, I can also remember when they'd fire Saturn engines at night, getting ready for the Apollo flights.

I also remember the day the B-2 made its maiden flight. We were watching the take-off preparations on TV, before leaving for work, and we could hear the engines through the open windows. It was a little disconcerting to be actually hearing what we were watching on TV, if you see what I mean. Later that morning, at work, they announced that the B-2 was over the mines (the US Borax open-pit mines) and would be landing in a bit. Everyone headed out to the ramp or the roof and we watched it maneuvering for a while and then doing a long straight-in approach and landing. What an amazing airplane!