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.