Monday, December 08, 2008

Busy Bugs

I just thought I'd post a quickie to let ya'll know I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I am alive and battling a respiratory bug which means I sleep even more than usual. When not sleeping I am knitting like crazy. I've had a acute case of finishitis followed by a case of blockitis. I have a number of new shawls ready to wear to show for it all. The unusually cold weather here in East Tennessee has prompted me to buy some fat yarn and use broomstick-sized needles to knit some toasty warm hats for my cold head. I made my first foray into entrelac knitting and I think I am hooked!

Before I hear the clamour about where are the pictures I will just say you have to be patient. I have taken them, but my poor old 'puter was so overloaded it just couldn't handle them. The good news is that Sinterklaas visited me on St. Nicholas Day and left me a present that was too big to fit into my wooden shoes...a new computer!!! A fast computer with lots of horsies under the hood (4G RAM/640G hard drive) and a big flat panel widescreen monitor. It's so clear and bright it almost makes my eyes hurt. In between naps I'm trying to move my files from the old 'puter to the new one. My attempts thus far to get my wireless access hardware to work and get online have failed miserably so I'm offline for the most part for a few more days. I do try and check my email every day or two so I will get important messages eventually. As for the projects photos, there are a bunch under beadntat on Ravelry. The rest will be forthcoming. Until then...Ho, Ho, Ho and don't sweat the small stuff...It's Christmas and you're supposed to feel a little joy, OK? Have a Holly Jolly adn I'll be back faster adn better than ever very soon. {{{HUGS!!!}}}

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween and other scary things

The month of October has come to an end. It's Halloween, a holiday celebrated with almost as many parties and candy as Christmas. Halloween these days is quite different from the one I knew as a kid. I remember getting dressed up in simple (mostly) homemade costumes and going door-to-door in the neighborhood Trick-or-Treating. We used pillowcases to collect our candy. Daddy always went with us so that nothing bad would happen. Daddy went trick-or-treating twice as a kid...without parents as was the norm in those days...and both times he got beat up by neighborhood bullies who promptly stole all his candy (OK, so he was a wimp). Daddy wasn't about to let someone do that to his precious darlings :-) We came home, carefully sorted our candy, then negotiated swaps with our siblings to get rid of the stuff we didn't want (black licorice, malted milk balls, peanut butter "kisses") for better stuff (Snickers, Reeses', Butterfingers, etc.). That was pretty much it.

Things have changed. By the time the kids have worn their costumes to Halloween events (Trunk or Treat at Church, Boo at the Zoo, Trick or Treating at the Mall, "Safety City" at the police Dept., area corn maze attractions, plus the local park and school) for at least a week, going Trick or Treating on the 31st is rather anticlimatic. We won't go into details about how much more candy the kids haul in nor the sugar high they've been on all week long. Yikes!!! I call this EXCESSIVE!

While I'm ranting about excessive let me tell you about a shower I was recently invited to. The "invitation" was sent via a website that specializes in sending "e-vites", a rather interesting phenomena that I'm not all that keen on. It seems that the availability of a free internet service (sponsored by retailers that feature registry services for the bride or mother-to-be) for inviting people to showers and other parties is the easiest way ever to invite an enormous number of people to come to an event...and bring presents. Lots of presents! Cutting and pasting lists of email addresses is fast and easy not to mention cheap. I don't recall ever attending a bridal or baby shower where there were 70+ invitees in the days of hand addressed, stamped and post-office mailed printed/engraved invitations. Excessive is easy when it's free and online. At least this most recent e-vite was to a shower being hosted in a private home. Previously I was e-vited to shower held at a cafe where attendees were free to order food and beverages--and pay for it--if they wanted to. I guess I'm Old Fashioned, but I find such things to be terribly rude.

My most recent e-vite was for a baby shower. The honoree is having her 5th child. FIVE! Please RVSP and oh, btw the mom-to-be is registered at Baby R Us :-) OK...I totally get a shower for the 1st child...even the 2nd, but I remember the shower for baby #4 just a few years ago, and now it's #5. Forgive me for thinking that this is a bit excessive, but really???? I mean I like the honoree and all and I have no problems with having 5 children, but puhleeze! Five baby showers is excessive in my book. I have recently learned that many Moms-to-be being feted with showers are requesting gifts of disposable diapers. Add this to my list of things in appallingly bad taste. Why don't we just have a donation drive at church or the office or wherever and everyone bring a couple of boxes of Luvs to contribute so the poor child will have something new to poop on? What happened to offering gifts that are of lasting value, perhaps even sentimental value, or at least something that can be worn more than a few hours before being thrown away? What happened to beautiful blankets, silver spoons, or even crib sheets? When it is baby #5 I'd rather fuss over the mother with lotions, bubble bath, or a giftcard for a manicure than tie a ribbon around a box of wadded padding encased in plastic cartoons that will be in the landfill in a few short weeks.

I don't know, maybe my Old Maid is showing. After all, I've never best the honoree in a shower. No one ever gifted me with a crock pot, toaster, or a package of onesies. If you don't get married or have babies, especially in Mormon social culture, you are essentially overlooked...except to be e-vited along with all the other ladies at church to a shower for a dear woman who is having her fifth child. After careful consideration of the event and the time of day (10AM...yikes!)I politely declined the invitation. Having a chronic illness can be very convenient when you need an excuse to avoid stuff. Mom & Dad are going to be in Alabama that weekend so Mom has an excuse too. I'm not sending a gift either...surely the Mom has plenty of onesies and crib sheets. Heck, she probably has a silver spoon tucked away somewhere too. I doubt I'll be missed. At the very least I won't be at an event trying to gush appropriately while feeling like a hypocrite. If nothing else I am an honest woman.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

It was bound to happen. After all the careful contemplation of patterns, extensive swatching, a fair amount of math, and a sleeve aka lace pattern swatch I felt confident that I had done everything in my power to assure that this time the sweater I am knitting would fit. This one was not going to be wide enough for two persons like my previous attempts, after all, I am a much more experienced knitter now. O know what to do and I did it (that "S" thing).

I cast-on the stated 259 sts and started knitting this all-in-one-without-side-seams cardigan with great confidence. I knew the reverse stockinette stitch edging was supposed to undulate so it would take at least one repeat of the lace pattern before I could pass judgment on size. I chose to use a 60" Addi-Turbo needle so I could do a test "try-on" as I knit. Let's just say it didn't take a full repeat for me to know that once again, this cardigan was way too wide. It should be my motto...Way Too Wide. It was at least 4 inches too wide...possibly more. It was late at night (my best knitting time). I groaned and pitched the thing into a basket and called it a night.

The next morning I re-evaluated the situation. I did a bit more math, then I frogged the whole things and started over knitting one size smaller. The test-sleeve will have to be frogged too since the rate of increases is quite different in the smaller size. SIGH! This will be a beautiful sweater that fits...if it kills me!!!

In a fever of Startitis a couple of weeks ago I also cast-on a triangle shawl that I saw on Ravelry. It was a new pattern by an indie designer, Rebecca Hatcher of Archiknist, called Ariel. It was a simple top-down triangle shawl with one lace motif comprising the body of the shawl -- a style similar to that of my favorite designer Evelyn Clark. In a impulsive moment I purchased and downloaded the shawl. Then I dug out a cone of ColourMart merino laceweight yarn in a delicious pinky-raspberry shade and went to work. First I triple stranded the yarn to create a fingering weight (My ball winder and right shoulder have yet to forgive me for this), then I grabbed a big size 6 needle and cast-on. What a wonderful pattern! What a delicious yarn!! What a yummy shawl this is becoming!!! As of this morning I have ten repeats of Chart B (main chart) completed. I have lots of yarn so I'll knit until the shawl is big enough or until I'm sick of knitting on it. Either way it will be fabulous :-)

I didn't need to cast-on for the Ariel Lace Shawl because I have a backlog of KAL shawl projects that need my attention. But who's looking at the practical facts here? Not me. I also cast-on a brand new Stole from Birgit Freyer's Yahoo Group Knitting-Delight. I really love Birgit's design esthetic. Perhaps it is the German blood in me that bonds us, but she has more great designs that I would love to knit that I can ever imagine having the time for. The awful exchange rate makes it expensive for me to buy many of my favorites, but I do collect her free KAL patterns. When the 1st clue of her new Way of Life Stole was posted, I cast-on the same day using some Knit Picks Gloss Lace Yarn from my stash. This shawl is knit sideways having over 300 cast-on stitches. The pattern has been a geometric lace pattern that is repeated 17 times for the length of the stole. Not very complex really, but amazingly attractive and interesting. I have the 1st 4 clues completed and am anxiously awaiting the release of the 5th clue on Thursday.

All this spontaneity means I haven't finished several WIPS, nor have I written the sock patterns I have promised to do. I feel only slightly guilty. I will try to do better by at least getting the patterns done as folks are waiting on them. The WIPS are only about me, so they don't matter nearly as much. In the meantime, I'm trying to do as much knitting as I can given that my fibromyalgia is in a rage and my right arm fells like someone is trying to yank it out of it's socket. Yeeeouch! (that's a huge understatement). I rested it some on Sunday and Monday by taking time off to read Debbie Macomber's wonderful knitty novel The Shop on Blossom Street. The book was completely delightful and I've started reading the sequel A Good Yarn. If my shoulder won't let me knit then I guess I'll have to settle for reading about knitters. Such is life :-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The "S" word

I am living proof that you can convince an old dog to do the old tricks she never bothered to do before. Huh? Well this Old Knitter has finally learned that if you want the outcome of your knitting to be what you expect(ie, if you want the sweater to fit), then you must SWATCH. Whew! There, I said it...the S word. SWATCH. You know, that thing I never did way back when I first started trying to knit sweaters from craft store quality yarn, only to discover that the finished garment was big enough for two people at least 8 feet tall to the same time! Don't ask me why I didn't figure this out until the sweaters were finished. I don't know. They had big wide horizontal stripes too (eek!). And some were knit out of Sugar n Cream yarn, so they continued to grow, and grow, and GROW!

So... I am older and wiser now. I'm a much better knitter too. This means that I have repented of my sins and have given in to the knitting of swatches. LOTS of swatches. I have committed to Knitting Fearlessly along with the rest of knitting world that reads the Knitting Daily blog. For me this means I will knit a "big girl" sweater this year. Given that it is September already, my time is running out and I need to get going. I have dug through my yarn & pattern stash and conducted intensive "research" at my LYS and my favorite online retailers in preparation for this big event. But before any serious decisions about patterns and yarn could be made I knew I had to swatch. I'm talking serious swatching! And so I have! There are funny little blocks of knitted fabric scattered across my room/studio and copious detailed notes scratched into my sketchbook as evidence that I am making progress! Scary, I know.

Up first was some Italian 15/44 Extrafine Merino DK (aka Baruffa Cashwool) from Richard was very gracious to send me samples of 3 colors (Tartan Rose, Tartan Green, Geranium) I was interested in purchasing. The samples arrived last Thursday and I wasted no time in swatching to see how this yarn knitted up. Each yarn sample was 7g/~20 yds. I measured them at ~13wpi. Gauge measurements were taken at three intervals: 1)immed. after knitting with the swatch pinned out but not stretched, 2)after handwashing in very warm water with shampoo and towel drying (sample still damp), and 3)after tumble drying for ~15 min. on the low heat/knit setting. All swatches were stretched, rubbed and otherwise "abused" by hand while still damp. Here are the gauge measurements:

A. Tartan Rose - US 5/3.75mm Addi-lace needles, cast-on 30 sts
1) 24sts x 32r/4"sq or 6sts x 8r/1"sq
2) 26sts x 32r/4"sq or 6.5sts x 8r/1"sq
3) 24sts x 36r/4"sq or 6sts x 9r/1'sq
A fairly firm fabric, great for designs in St st that require body, great for a sweater; the yarn was easily split with the pointy lace needles.

B. Tartan Green - US 6/4.0mm Addi-Turbo needles, c/o 30sts
1) 22sts x 30r/4"sq or 5.5sts x 7.5r/1"sq
2) 24sts x 30r/4"sq or 6sts x 7.5r/1"sq
3) 22sts x 34r/4"sq or 5.5sts x 8.5r/1"sq
Knit wonderfully smooth on the turbo needles with no splitting whatsoever, a very nice fabric that was neither too firm nor too loose. My #1 choice for gauge :-)

C. Geranium - US7/4.5mm Addi-Turbo needles, c/o 26sts
1) 20sts x 28r/4"sq or 5sts x 7r/1"sq
2) 21sts x 28r/4"sq or 5.25sts x 7r/1"sq
3) 20sts x 34r/4"sq or 5sts x 8.5r/1"sq
Technically this is a worsted gauge, but the fabric was more open or loose, not as cohesive for a St st project such as a sweater, better for lace. This swatch stretched out quite a bit after washing, though drying returned the body back to the knitted fabric.

I found the yarns pleasant to knit in their original, unwashed state. Splitting may be an issue if pointy-tipped needles are used. The fiber bloomed beautifully after washing and a brief tumble-dry. There was no evidence of felting> I would briefly finish drying the completed item in a tumble-dryer the first time, but would not machine-wash or routinely tumble-dry this yarn. My final swatches were wonderfully soft and cuddly, perfect for sweaters or baby things. It is very evident that this is a premium/best quality merino wool yarn.

I fell completely in love with this DK merino yarn. It will be the best yarn I've ever attempted to knit into a sweater. That fact alone bodes well for the success of my project. I will be FEARLESS! I will also post about my other swatches as I get to it :-)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nicht Mein Tag

I was trying to wade through/delete all the knitting group messages from my overstuffed Yahoo mailbox tonight (blame the distraction of the Olympics) when I came across this message from Birgit Freyer, a German designer of lovely knitted lace shawls:
Oh jeeeh,heute ist nicht mein Tag ;-). Birgit, I couldn't have said it better myself. Loosely translated she said Oh jeez, today is not my day. Me neither Birgit, me neither. My German is pithy poor, but I know enough to be able to translate that line. Some aspects of my body clock/biorhythms are disgustingly predictable. Like every 4th Thursday I will have a migraine, sometimes a little one, sometimes a monster...a migraine that may last until Sunday. Blame hormones. Today's migraine was a real doozy. Not being able to find where mother hid the Excedrin (my most effective weapon) did not help matters. I take more potent pain meds for my fibro, but for some reason Excedrin works as well or better than any prescription migraine med I've ever tried. I've tried lots of them, and at around $15-20/pill those other meds are budget busters. I'll stick with Excedrin and a Diet Coke thankyouverymuch >:-(

And while today was nicht mein Tag,, I did make some more progress on the 3rd design in my series of Tennessee sock patterns. In this design I abandon lace in favor of the more traditional/classic look of the orange and white checkerboard. The checkerboard pattern is a revered symbol at The University of Tennessee. Football fans know the endzones at Neyland Stadium are painted in orange and white checkerboard, but did you know that the checkerboard is an architectural detail on the bell tower of Ayres Hall on the Hill? I was looking at some photos of Ayres Hall the other day and noticed the checkerboard for the very first cool! So inspired I designed this sock with a checkerboard band at on the cuff, and intarsia Power T on the top of the foot, and contrasting orange afterthought heels and toes. It's an ambitious project for me as it's my 2nd ever stranded colorwork project and my 1st experience with intarsia and afterthought heels. This photo is not good as this lighting is way off, but I'll get a better one when the 1st sock is done.

I'm quite thrilled with the results thus far. I'm enjoying the learning process. Even more shocking, I'm loving the break from lace (gasp!). I know, shocking. I may get into this colorwork thing yet ;-) Kick-off is only 4 short days away.... GO VOLS!!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vols Victory Socks

Vols Victory Socks
Originally uploaded by beadntat

The first football game of the season is less than a week away and I'll be ready to cheer on my beloved University of Tennessee Vols in my new Vols Victory Socks! The second in a series of UT themed sock designed by yours truly under the Plaasabilites Design label, the Vols Victory Socks incorporate a simple V patterned lace motif. Not known for my speedy sock knitting, these socks were a quick knit..only 4 days! Not bad for knitting and designing socks for this gal.

The scoop:
Pattern: Vols Victory Socks
Designer: Kristina Plaas
Source: Plaasabilities Designs
Yarn: J. Knits Superwash Me - Go UT!
Needles: US 2 (2.75mm)
Gauge: 8 sts/"
Started: 22Aug08
Finished: 26Aug08

Details: A top-down sock design with Victory Lace pattern, Eye of Partridge heel flap and Star Toe knit in the round using the Magic Loop technique.

Look for the pattern soon at The Yarn Haven in Knoxville, TN and online. Go Vols!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vols Victory Socks

Vols Victory Socks
Originally uploaded by beadntat

By popular request I am designing sock patterns to complement the J. Knits Superwash Me Go UT! sock yarn sold exclusively at The Yarn Haven in Knoxville, TN. I created another design last year when the yarn first came out, but I had mixed feelings about the pattern so I didn't write it up. To be truthful, my reservations were excessive and not warranted as the finished socks (Volunteer Spirit Socks) look great. But the Volunteer Spirit lace pattern did have some tricky aspects that would be challenging to less experienced knitters so I went back to my sketch book and tried to come up with something that still communicated the spirit of the Vols but would be more accessible to lees-skilled sock knitters.

And so I present the beginnings of the Vols Victory Socks. The V is for Vols is still there, but the lace is simple to knit. I am knitting the socks from the top down with an Eye of Partridge heel flap and, when I get there, a star toe (no grafting!). When I get finished the pattern will be made available for purchase at The Yarn Haven and online. The Volunteer Spirit Socks will also be available for purchase soon. University of Tennessee fans and those who knit for them will soon have their very own handknit socks to help them cheer the Vols on to Victory. Go Vols!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Play the Anthem, Raise the Flag..

Bow to Bobicus Maximus, Wave to the Crowd, and say "Hi Mom!", I finished my Ravelympics Events with honor, and under the time limit. Yes indeedy, I cast-off my Angel Lace Shawl with beads last night. This morning I did the bath and blocking thing. I am done :-)

The scoop:
Pattern: Angel Lace Shawl
Designer: Evelyn Clark
Source: FiberTrends, purchased at my LYS, The Yarn Haven
Yarn: Misti Alpaca Lace - color: lavender, 70grams/613 yards
Needles: Knit Picks Options US 4 (3.5mm)
Beads: 8-0 Ivory Ceylon (Czech) - 415 total
Dimensions: 50" x 23" not stretched; 72" x 33" blocked

Final word: A great design; the only troublespot was my split plied splicing technique failed me at blocking and required repair. I think the Misti Alpaca is too fragile for this technique if a severe blocking is planned. I'll use a different technique with this yarn in the future.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tag, you're it!

A week or two ago I was tagged by Lovie, my nephew Tyler's mother-in-law, to reveal 5 things I love a lot. I generally dislike being "tagged" - it rates right up there with chain letters and spam for me. I refuse to tag others after me, but because I love your Lovie, I will respond to your request. I love many things, so limiting them to 5 is both a challenge an act of mercy on anyone else who is reading this.

First off I must say that I love my family. We're a small family, so staying in touch and being close isn't too hard. We each have very different tastes and preferences and are all strong-willed, so putting everyone in the same room at the same time and expecting all to be easy task. But we do love each other and look out for one another and that's the important thing.

Next I love the personal relationship I have with my Heavenly Father and my Elder Brother and Savior Jesus Christ. I love being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have a firm testimony of the truthfulness of the church, it's leaders and teachings. 'Nuff said.

I dearly love the beauties of this world. I'm especially passionate about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and all the treasures I find there. But no matter where I am, I find joy in the flowers and trees and birds and everything that is beautiful around me.

The 1st three items on this list were easy. The rest of the list is just one of the many little things that fill my life with joy. I love good music. I played the cello growing up and learned to love classical music. I also love to sing and have a special fondness for sacred and classical music, opera, and good old American favorites from movies and musicals and other traditional sources. I also love the arts of almost every genre. I love going to galleries and museums and arts festivals. I love attending plays and concerts. But, lest one think I'm all artsy-fartsy let me assure you that I love sports too. While I am not gifted athletically, I'm a great fan of my favorite sports: college football, college basketball, figure skating, gymnastics, road cycling & the Tour de France, swimming, etc. And finally, I love being creative and learning new things. Whether it's contemplating nursing theory, discovering history, or mastering a new knitting technique, I'm always learning new things. Each discovery I make adds to my understanding of the world, other people, and myself. Each new thing prods me to think thoughts I've never had before, make things I've never made before, and expands my world. It's a wonderful way to be :-)

Monday, August 18, 2008

What does 08.08.08 mean???

It's supposedly a very lucky number in China. How convenient that it happened to fall on a Friday this year...perfect timing for the Opening Ceremonies of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, China. I love watching the Olympics - everything from the Opening Ceremonies to most of the competitive events (nix wrestling, boxing, and a couple of others) to the Closing Ceremonies - it's all fascinating to me. Some sports I follow all the time - gymnastics, swimming, cycling are among my favorites. Some sports are novel to me. This year I've learned a little about the team sport handball. And to think I thought handball was a game played by 2 people in a racquetball court!

A more recent "sporting event" added to my "Olympic experience" has been knitting. It all started 2 years ago when Stephanie Pearl-McPhee aka The Yarn Harlot got the wild idea to have an international knitting event of challenge and goodwill in association with the Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy in 2006. And thus the Official Knitting Olympics was born. The KO is be held every 4 years in true Olympic tradition associated with the winter games. But the idea caught on in an enormous sort of way, so with the Beijing summer games looming on the horizon a comparable, but distinctly different Olympic event for fiber fanatics seemed inevitable. And what is the biggest thing to come along since The Yarn Harlot and Torino? Why Ravelry, of course! I love Ravelry, or at least most of the time I do, so it was the logical venue for hosting an Olympic-sized event. And so the Ravelympics were born. The knitters and crocheters, representing their unique teams, cast-on for their respective events during the Opening Ceremonies and work feverishly to complete their projects before the Olympic Flame is turned off in Beijing.

I was a beginning lace knitter 2 years ago during the Knitting Olympics. My chosen project was very ambitious - my 1st lace shawl. I knit Kiri in a heavy laceweight/light fingering weight red cashmerino. I finished in time, basked in the glory of my triumph, and forever sealed my addiction to lace knitting. Now, 2 years and many shawls later, I'm still knitting lace and loving it. This time the choice of what to knit was difficult as there were so many awesome patterns to choose from. I signed up for Team G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised In The South, one of the Ravelry groups I participate in) and entered the Shawl Relay, Laceweight Long Jump, and Balance Beads. That was the easy part. The rest was hard. I needed to use yarn from The Yarn Haven, my favorite LYS as I am also participating the int shop's Olympic event. That limited my pattern options some. The rest of the decision should have been easy--choose something you like that you know you can do. But could I do that??? No way! No, I desperately wanted to knit Mystic Meadows, an ambitious cables and lace stole that would be hard to complete in the 17 days of the Olympics. I quietly entered 3 shawl projects into the Ravelympics, knowing I would knit only one. Every good gymnast has an alternate plan for each routine, right? Right!

OK, so that's the scoop. Now to the event. I cast-on during the Opening Ceremonies. I started my ambitious project - the Mystic Meadows shawl. I calculated in advance that I needed to knit between 25-30 rows per day in order to finish the "race". It was ambitious, but doable, I thought. But 3 1/2 hours and 13 rows later, with a fair amount of tinking to correct mistakes, I knew I was in over my head. Could I knit this shawl in 17 days? Absolutely. Could I knit the shawl AND watch the Olympics? Nope. No way. Mystic Meadows demands too much concentration. Too much counting. And so I set it aside and cast-on the Angel Lace Shawl, my alternate plan.

The Angel Lace Shawl is another wonderful pattern by one of my favorite designers, Evelyn Clark. Like many of Evelyn's shawl, Angel Lace is a top-down triangle shawl which starts with a few stitches at the neck and increases as the shawl progresses. I'm using a favorite yarn, Misti Alpaca Lace in a pretty pastel lavender, and adding ivory ceylon 8-0 seed beads to the "face" of each angel and along the bottom edge. I started on August 9th knitting the 1st chart and 4 repeats of the 2nd chart. I added 1-2 repeats each day until I completed 16 repeats last night and declared the shawl big enough. Today, the 10th day of Olympic competition, I started knitting the edging so I should be ready cast-on Tuesday or Wedsnesday. The Shawl relay referee decided that blocking was required for the "race" to be complete, so I will be doing that as soon as I finish casting off. I will triumph once again! And best of all...I will have another wonderful shawl to wear with pride and joy! Yea team!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

When Kool-Aid meets Sock Yarn

Originally uploaded by creativelydyed

This is what you get! Or at least this is what I got when I took Dianne's class at The Yarn Haven on Tuesday. Kool, huh? And yes, the yarn smells like grape and cherry Kool-Aid. Soon it will be a pair of anklets...that will smell better than most socks do ... a lot better !!! ;-D

Dyeing is Kool!

Originally uploaded by creativelydyed

This photo is evidence that I did create my own hand-painted custom-dyed skein of sock yarn in Dianne's class at The Yarn Haven. We learned how to use Kool-aid to dye was fun! Dianne encouraged me to get crazy with the colors, and I tried my best. I thank her for taking this photo and hope she doesn't mind that I'm sharing it with you. I had so much fun! I came away with the itch to start dyeing my own yarn. I also fell hopelessly in love with Dianne's own Creatively Dyed Yarn. Truly no two skeins are ever alike as she paints each one individually. There are no standards shades or stock colors...a unique thing in the dyeing world. I bought one skein of fingering weight alpaca in shades of hot pink and pearl gray. Of all the yarns Dianne delivered to the shop on Tuesday, that was the one that screamed at me the loudest. I just love it when yarn starts talking to me. Thanks ARE the BEST!!!

Creatively Dyed Yarn

Originally uploaded by creativelydyed

It was a red letter day for yarn lovers in Knoxville. Dianne of Creatively Dyed Yarn personally delivered the first of what will be many shipments of custom-dyed/handpainted yarns and rovings to The Yarn Haven. Ohmigosh, the socks yarns were TO DYE FOR delicious!!! Dianne taught 3 classes on yarn dyeing using the Kool-Aid method. I was in the last class of the day and I had a blast. This picture of Dianne (left) and Sandy (LYS owner, right) was taken in back of Dianne's trailer after the festivities were over. Can you believe they were still smiling (and ignoring how much their feet hurt)? I was standing just to the side of the trailer when this picture was I hope Dianne doesn't mind that I'm sharing her picture with all of my knitting friends. I was a great day!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ketchup??? Fessin' Up!

Now if that title didn't grab your attention, I don't know what would :-) But the time has come for me to ketchup on my blogging and fess up as to what I've been doing for the last few weeks. My last few blog posts were filled with images of my spring garden. I love sharing my garden with ya'll, but the truth is I was working on a Top Secret knitting project so I couldn't blog about it. Why? Because the intended target always reads my blog, of course! Now the the mission was accomplished, I can tell all :-)

Several months ago I sent my dear friend Diana some yarn to finish a shawl she was knitting as a gift. She had that dreaded I'm almost done and the yarn is gone! experience. Fortunately I happened to have the very same yarn from the same dyelot even. Cool! So Ms. Di sent me her snail mail addy and I discovered that she lived in a really neat historic town in West Virginia--just the kind of place I love to visit. I dropped an atom bomb sized hint that I would love to come for a visit and see the territory. Diana figured it out and invited me to come. Oh joy!!!

Now my Mother raised me to be a proper lady and I know how to be a good houseguest (thanks Mom!). I started to think about what I could bring as a hostess gift. The first thing that came to mind was something knitted, of course. I was inspired by some Malabrigo lace yarn at my LYS in Diana's favorite color - purple. I bought 2 skeins and headed home to figure out what to make with it. Then I learned that Diana's beloved Father-in-law Bill was ill and she was very concerned. That's when I knew I had to knit a lace shawl. I scoured my files and the 'net for the right pattern, found one I liked, and cast-on. About 25 rows in to the bottom-up triangle shawl I realized the pattern wasn't right for the task at hand, I frogged the whole thing and started my search all over again. I had 1 month left to knit the shawl.

I learned that Bill's health was deteriorating about the same time that I ran across Myrna Stahman's pattern, Alix's Prayer Shawl, in my files. At last, the perfect pattern! I knew I had the right yarn and the right pattern, but the combo of the two demanded that I add beads as well, and so I did.

Cast-on: May 8th
Knit, knit, knit. Bead, bead, bead.
Cast-off: June 8th
Whew, just in the nick of time!

The scoop:
Pattern: Alix's Prayer Shawl
Designer: Myrna Stahman
Yarn: Malabrigo Lace, 2 skeins (100g) color-Jacinto (~80g used)
Needles: Addi-Lace US 5 (3.75mm)
Beads: Matsuno 8-0 clear silverlined, ~25g (513 beads used)
Knit Main Chart (a-d) + 8 reps of section d = 11 reps + 1rep modified edging.
Final stitch count (before last row and cast-off): 441 sts
Blocked Dimensions: 76" x 38"

I gift-wrapped the shawl along with a lavender "bottle" made with fresh lavender from my garden, packed my car and headed to West Virginia on June 11th. After an 8-hour drive up I-81 and a little jaunt through the country side I arrived at the humble home of Diana and Tony. Eager to see her reaction, I offered up my gift of love that night. The look on Diana's face was priceless. She was almost speechless...almost ;-) I think she liked it... a lot. I was *very* happy.

To be continued...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Birthday Surprises

A middle-aged single woman with no kids and a fairly quiet and unexciting life doesn't really expect much of any significance to happen on her birthday. It's the side effect of being "Happy Birthday Mommy" to follow you for the rest of your life. My Mom always remembers and celebrates with food (dinner out, cake, etc.) and a modest present/treat of some not usually wrapped up in paper and ribbons but always wonderful. If any one else remembers or acknowledges my birthday it's a treat - much appreciated but never anticipated nor expected. I think that's why I am so stunned tonight. Let me explain.

I slept in this morning like usual. So when I did get out of bed I headed over and turned on my computer so it could do it's thing and be ready when I am.It's an old computer now and has way too much stuff on it, so it's moves excruciatingly slow at times. While I waited on the 'puter I peered out my window to look at my garden and check the weather. Surprise number one was the little critter in the first photo. Yup, a baby chipmunk was feasting on sunflower seeds from the bird feeder. They're cute so as long as they don't munch on the wrong things (ie. my flowers) I let them stick around. Besides, Miss Emme my dachsy just loves chasing them! Now that's fun to watch! Of course Emme never catches the chippers or the squirrels tho' she almost caught a skink yesterday before I snatched her away. Poor critter scooted for his/her very life! Mother and I just hooted over that chase until it became clear Emme was going to win! But I digress....

Now awake, medicated, and DietCoked up, I sat down to read my email. Jiminy Crickets!!! All my emailboxes were loaded....with kind wishes for my birthday! Well I never in my life have seen so many folks take the time to drop a quick line to wish *me* and Happy Birthday. It was already amazed by the time I got through the email, but Ravelry put me over the top. Apparently Ravelry adds a little birthday icon to your Ravatar on your big day letting everyone know it's your birthday. Ohmigosh! I still haven't read all the private messages. There were numerous kind words on several of the forums I frequent in addition to the private messages. You know, it's pretty cool to have lace knitting friends across the globe offering cheery birthday greetings. These are such great people! I mean I knew that before today, but today affirmed it. Thanks ya'll! you're the best!!!

While still stunned by the email birthday messages (before I saw Ravelry) I went out to do my morning walk around the garden. Even before noon it was unusually hot and humid today. The roses are fading from their first wave of blooms, but the calla lilies, daisies, veronica, and balloonflowers are coming on strong. in addition, I have a hedge of Stella D'Oro daylilies the like of which I've never seen anywhere before! Massive waves of golden yellow flowers! And to think it all started with one measly plant purchased oh, say 6 years ago? They will have to be dug and divided this fall. Right now I am most smitten by a intensely saturated pink hydrangea in the front bed. Called Forever Pink, it is a repeat blooming hydrangea that is always supposed to be pink, regardless of soil pH. I bought 2 small plants 2 years ago, but they have never had a serious bloom since the Easter Freeze last year zapped all the hydrangeas. I was lucky any even survived.

Fueled by Martha Stewart Living, Victoria, and Southern Living magazines, I am now hydrangea crazy. I just can't seem to get enough of these amazing flowering shrubs! And since I have a barren back fence line that needs to be filled with sun loving things, I now have a place to put new plants that will grow to be fairly large. I bought myself 2 hydrangeas on clearance for Valentines Day, and they are settling in nicely along the north fence, but I want more! So when mother and I went to Lowe's for peat moss and compost/manure mix today I just couldn't help but lust over all the hydrangeas the vendors were hauling in off the trucks this afternoon. My lust was satisfied when mother spied the blue flower shown the above photo. I get to buy what Mother sees and likes :-) this time it's a Forever and Ever Hydrangea...also a repeat bloomer but one that is blue or pink depending on the soil pH. For now it is blue, tho' I suspect it might change when it gets planted in the ground where the pines once lived. We'll see!

Although the blue hydrangea wasn't on sale, I did stroll past the Stressed Plants table to see if I could find any bargains. I struck paydirt! Yup, for a whopping $2.99 each I toted home 2 everblooming white gardenias. The tag says they'll grow to be 2-3' tall and bloom all year round. We all know how yummy gardenias smell, so I am excited! I almost wish I had grabbed one or two more while I was at it. Heck, I may go back tomorrow and see if any are still there.(there were lots today). Now I have lavender and tuberose and gardenias and roses all growing in my garden...that's what I call a fragrant garden! Yum! Happy Birthday to me!!!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Don't be delinquent

in posting to your blog or you too could be tagged into writing messages you never even considered writing. Gee, thanks Goddess Di! The Di insists she and others want to know trivial things such as the following:

1. What was I doing 10 years ago? Well, I was living in Salt Lake City and working as an Advance Practice RN at the Univ. of Utah Hospital Newborn ICU...and trying to survive. My health was failing fast due to fibromyalgia and I had just made the gut-wrenching decision to resign my job and move back to Tennessee where I could stay with my folks, not work, and go back to grad school. I was stressed, depressed, in great pain, and exhausted beyond words. Yikes! (you had to ask, didn't you?)

2. What are 5 things on my To-Do list today (in no particular order)?
- Get out of bed, get dressed, and do something useful (I'm serious!)
- Check out the South West Trading Co. Trunk Show at Loopville and see what Jinka (shop owner) has been up to ("trunk show" was an exaggeration, at best there were a few shop samples featuring SWTC yarns with free patterns for the saking--same ones already on the website..nothing I didn't already know about...but Jinka seemed her usual self)
- Run past Barnes & Noble and see if they have the current issue of PieceWork that I haven't been able to locate elsewhere (bonus...they had the new issue and an overlooked copy of the previous issue...both with great knitting and lace patterns!)
- Check on my garden: talk to roses and lavender, deadhead petunias and daylilies, check squash plants rescued from veggie bed that neighbor's maple tree fell on yesterday (grrr), check on germinating seedlings: marigolds, zucchini, cukes, cosmos
- Prewash fabric bought on sale yesterday and dig through stash for perfect pattern for cute summer outfit that *fits*

Oh, and KNIT!!!

3. Snacks I enjoy: If it's sweet or fattening, then I probably like it...from the ridiculous to the divine. Simple stuff: chex mix, saltine crackers, Pop-tarts, brownies, blondies, asorted cookies; the good stuff: great pastry ie. eclairs, napoleons, lemon tarts, croissants (the real kind..not purchased in multi-packs at Sam's Club), cherry pie, creme brulee', Dolce de Luce Ice Cream, Almond-raspberry torte, rich airy buttercream frosting on a feather light genoise cake, ..... shall I go on???? Nah, you get the idea :-)

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire: Oh gosh, I can hardly imagine... Let's see, 2 modest, comfortable homes: one in the Smokies, the other in the Carolina Low Country (Hilton Head). Traveling: there are so many places I would love to go see, esp. in Europe, NZ & Australia. Philanthropy: I'd try and do a little something for a couple of my pet charities. Future planning: most would be carefully invested so I would never have to worry about income or health care/living expenses ever again. And I could buy whatever yarn I wanted without having to scrutinize the price of each ball and calculate whether or not I can afford to buy it...I'd just buy it and be grateful.

5. Places I have lived: Salt Lake City, UT; Forest Grove, OR (don't ask...I don't remember a thing!); Reno, NV; Nashville, TN; Knoxville, TN

OK Di, that's it. Oh please don't tell me I'm supposed to tag more people? (whine, I don't wanna, no!)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Oh May May Go.....

Oh May may go where 'ere she will,

Through clouds and rain or sun-filled skies,

In flowery fields or wooded shade,

The cardinals twitter, the mockingbirds trill;

May yields Spring's glories
To Summer's searing parade.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Hurray it's May!

May might just be the most perfect month out of the year. April is awesome, but there are still too many cold days so it can't be in 1st place. June has traditionally held 1st place for the best month of all in my mind, but that has been heavily influenced by the fact that my birthday is in June...and as a kid, school let out for the summer in June. June is still very good, but it does get hot in late June so I think I'm going to let it fall to 2nd place and grant May the top spot.

One of my reasons for adoring May is the flowers. You know the story...April showers bring May flowers...well, it is true! I have worked like a dog for about a month now trying to get my garden and yard into better shape. Most of the perennials have been dug up, divided, and replanted. The roses got a good hard pruning and it shows! They are shooting up like mad and are full of buds. The climbing Queen Elizabeth rose in the front bed is just starting to bloom. There were maybe 6 blooms today out of the 30+ on the bush. Just wait till Mother's Day next Sunday when the bush will be in peak bloom. Ah, it will be stunning. As for now, the pink roses are hard to pick out because of the abundance of blossoms on the azaleas this year. All the TLC I've given over the past several years is finally paying off. The puny things have become fat and glorious. They should do even better next year because I will have moved the rosebush to more spacious quarters, thus giving the azaleas more room to spread.

While I'm talking about flowers, I should identify today's photos. Up first is the exquisitely fragrant blue beaded iris---the State Flower of Tennessee. This hybrid has a delicate periwinkle hue and a delightfully sweet aroma that I find to be intoxicating. I want this scent in a bottle! When I came home 10 years ago this iris patch had one miserable clump clinging to the chainlink fence. It was surrounded by rocks, red clay, and the lawn and was well-shaded by a huge maple tree. The tree is gone, I turned the area along the fence into an authentic flower bed, and the iris patch has grown so much that I must dig and divide this fall. Digging iris is a chore, but I'm thrilled to have this one multiply to it's hearts content so I'm happy to dig.

The second photo is this year's pleasant surprise. You see about 3 1/2 yrs. ago I bought a bunch of spring flowering bulbs and planted them. The following year the tulips bloomed, so did the daffodils. Even the miniature narcissus and hyacinths bloomed. But the Dutch Irises did not. For the last 3 springs I have watched the green shoots of the Dutch Iris start to come up in October and November...growing bigger over the course of the winter and early spring (which seems very odd to me), but no flowers. I presumed things would be the same this year and planned to give up on them and pull the plants this summer. And that's when the things decided to flower. Surprise! The Dutch iris in the front bed are all in flower today. The ones in the shady bed in the back have buds, but no blooms yet. I think they need more sun so I will transplant them later this year.

I threw in the last photo to give you an idea of how one of my smaller aquilegia (columbine) plants looks in it's current covered-with-pink-blooms state. This is a Winky Rose of 3 in my garden at present. Encouraged by the success of these columbine, i bought a new plant off the half-price "stressed plant" table at Lowe's last week. The new plant is a Nora Barlow which has a different shape to the blooms. There is one shoot with buds on it...the other taller shoots were spent and I trimmed them. The plant was a bit dry and pouting after a very cold night the day I bought it, but now in the garden she's perking up quite nicely. I also snagged a pack of pink snapdragons off the bargain table, but they were a bit more stressed being annuals. I potted them in Miracle-Gro Mix to baby them. Pots are useful in that I can move them around in the hopes of prolonging the life of the flowers once the temperatures start to sour and the snaps start to pout in the hot sun.

I've focused on reclaiming two major areas in the backyard over the last 2 weeks. One area is right behind the house where the English Ivy is trying to take over the world. I'm maybe half-way through the chore...and some of the scariest work is left to do...scary because it's the densest places where scary things/critter could be hiding. I'm being brave though and working on things now before the spiders really get going. Later in the summer it's way too terrifying for me to get in there ;-) The other spot is at the very back of the yard where the neighbor's formerly tall pine trees used to shade everything. Now with the trees gone, the entire area turned to nasty weeds and other native growth. Slowly, section by section, I have hauled countless wheelbarrow loads of weeds...with the roots also dug out by hand...out of that stretch and dumped into the far corner of the yard to "return to nature". It has been a massive task...and I'm not done, but the progress is really showing up. Saturday night I cleared out one area (~5-6 sq ft)and freed a wild dogwood tree from the clutches of a vicious weed called bedstraw. Today I rescued a second dogwood, but it was more work since it had competing "weed trees" also trying to smother it.

I have one more garden "surprise" to share, but I'll wait until the next post when I have downloaded the photos off my camera so you can see. With all the heavy yardwork I haven't made as much progress knitting as I would like. Frankly, I couldn't knit more as the pain and stiffness in my hands was the worst I've ever experienced. The fibro pain has been justifiably bad...and well-drugged, but I'm starting to see the effects of degenerative arthritis in several knuckles, esp. in my right hand. This is not good when I'm knitting with 20wt cotton thread and size 1 needles. Yikes! Yes, this is the Colonial Bouquet Doily from the August 1956 issue of Workbasket that I found in my collection. It is stunning. I have about 12 rows left to will follow! I'm on the last repeat of the budding lace section of the Swallowtail Shawl..almost ready to switch to the Lily of the Valley border! I've added a few more rows to the Orkney plus I started a Fancy Fulness Shawl from Birgit's Knitting Delight Mystery KAL. The I hope to gift the FF to someone dear to me, so I won't say much here...lest the intended recipient find out about it! Sometimes surprises are wonderful :-)

Now that I've tried to cram a week's worth of stuff into one post...sorry guys! I promise to update more soon. Speaking of updates...did you notice that I've been fixing my sidebar? Yes, I've been working on my KAL buttons and links, the blog links, and other stuff over there. It's getting better but I still have lots more work to do. I haven't forgiven Blogger yet for lying to me about the saved back-ups..but I'll get there eventually. friends have been wonderfully supportive...and have offered great tips on what to do. Gee, thanks guys!

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Price of Progress

I've been avoiding my blog for a week now, irritated by the enormous changes I didn't know I was making. Oh I knew I was making some changes, but just a few changes...not turning the entire fruit basket upside down. I have discovered a few things in the process. In the "new and improved" version of Blogger I can no longer have a list on my sidebar that contains both text only and text with links components. Pick which one you can't have both. I spent tonight reconstructing my WIP and FO without clickable links to photos. Sorry. I tried to restore my Flickr box that I had previously...the one that was a collage of photos. Nope, that's out too. Gotta use Blogger's slideshow feature and pick which photosource you want...Flickr or Picasa...not both. And speaking of not both, remember that nice list of buttons with photo logos of my KALs that click through to the KAL homepage. That's gone too I guess. I can add one photo...with a header, but not a series of photos; or I can add a series of links...without photos/buttons. Can't do both at the same time. This really s*cks. I am not happy.

In all fairness I have one more option left to explore...the one where I can paste in a block of html coding. I hope this will allow me to get my FiberArts & Lace Knitting Blogring links/banners restored, but I'm too tired to try tonight. One of the rings has has changed away from ringsurf, so I have to redo it from scratch anyway. SIGH!

I have a bunch of garden things to share, but they got top billing last time so I'll talk knitting this time. I'll start with the small stuff first--doilies. Now that I've knit a bunch of lace shawls and scarves, my interests in lace knitting(LK) are starting to diversify. Lately I've been quite taken with knitted doilies and what I've chosen to call "table laces". I figure table laces include everything from the smallest doily to a large tablecloth and everything in between. In LK circles, the hot topic is table laces designed by a German gentleman by the name of Hebert Niebling. His designs are distinctive and include intricate flowing compositions of leaves and flowers that have remarkable dimensionality. Now deceased, Niebling's works are held in highest esteem by lace knitting experts and the most popular designs in OOP pattern magazines are fetching outrageous prices on the secondary market, ie. EBay, etc.

I decided to venture into knitting simple doilies, which caused me to join the DoilieHeads Forum (DHF) on Ravelry. The DHF has both knitters and crocheters, so to encourage folks to crossover and try their less dominant technique they offered a simple KAL. Two patterns similar in size and appearance, one knit (Flacon)& one crochet (Antlia), both free online were chosen for the KAL. I made both doilies out of some yellow Cebelia 20 in my stash and the photos shows the completed doilies side by side. Flacon is pinned out, but neither has been properly blocked. The difference is quite striking. The crochet doily is clearly more dense and weighs more than twice as much as the knit one, yet the finished diameter is the same for both doilies. Fascinating!

Over the last 6 months or so I've looked at the vintage lace knitting patterns on Ebay hoping to pick up some of those German Anna magazines that have Niebling patterns in them. I keep my bids very modest as I can't afford to drop $50 on a craft magazine, but I've had a little success. Then one day I was thumbing through some old Workbasket magazines I had picked up for their tatting patterns. To my great surprise one issue had a lovely knit doily on the cover that looked every bit as beautiful as the ones I'd seen in the German magazines. That was my challenge. I decided to look for American magazines with knitted table laces. So this month I picked up about 6-7 years worth of Workbasket magazines from the late 40s-early 60s. What a goldmine of great stuff! I've had a blast carefully thumbing through the yellowed pages and finding all this great lace--crocheted, tatted, and yes-knitted! Yeehaw!

In my Ebay surfing, I picked up a couple of German magazines too, including a 2006 Lea special issue containing 27 doily designs. The aqua doily is #20 in the magazine and a nice, simple knit. I chose a simple doily for my 1st venture as I didn't have an English translation for the instructions or the charts and I was winging it. I goofed up one symbol and fudged the stitch in my doily, but you can't tell at all so I'm happy. Now I just need to buy a bottle of liquid starch so I can properly block all 3 doilies and give them just a bit of stiffening to help them maintain that blocked look. I am addicted!

Also a couple of weeks ago now I finish knitting the sample shawl for our Summer Lace KAL at The Yarn Haven. Before I let this yummy blue Flower Basket Shawl go I just had to do an artsy photo shoot. I hauled the shawl across the street and everywhere taking photos with blooming dogwood and weeping cherry trees and among the spring flowers. Just before going in the house I decided to take a couple of shots by the bleeding hearts even though it was terribly dark. so guess which location yielded the best photos? Yup, the bleeding hearts :-) You just never know when you are taking photos....

Now that the FBS is done I'm back working on the Orkney Pi Shawl. I have 213 rows completed at this point. I took a couple of shots of the last section, which is cat's paw lace and the beginning of more trees. At 1280 sts/round progress is painstakingly slow and hard to see. but I keep checking off the rounds with my pink marker so I know I am getting there. I'm working on a white Swallowtail shawl as my portable project and plan to cast-on more doilies for that quick FO fix. After all, sometimes a knitter just needs to see Finished in lights to know that she's getting somewhere :-)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Call me stupid

So I had this brilliant idea this afternoon, inspired by visiting a relatively new blog, that I would update my blog template. You know, give the old girl a facelift so to speak. Good idea...not so good results. I read the instructions, which said that Blogger would have a copy of my old template if I wanted to go back. Confident that anything I did could be undone I forged ahead. What a sucker I am! I picked out a new template, chose some colors that fit my personality and hit a few buttons. Poof! New look to blog page. Poof! All the things I put on my side bar in the last year are gone!!!! Can I find them back? Not a chance. Only after digging through the "not really helpful" help files did I find the fine print which says you should save a copy your html coding to a text file on your hard drive before making any changes to your template. Yeah, now you tell me that. Where was that little bit of info before?????

You know, I didn't think I'd been all that diligent in keeping up with my blog, until I just watched a year's worth of work disappear into cyberspace never to be heard from again. And now I have to figure out a whole new template configuration and formatting system to fix it. NOT HAPPY! Nope, not happy at all. The sidebar is totally trashed, but at least the posts are intact...or at least I think they are. Things are never as simple as they seem...I should have known better. Silly me. Bad Blogger.

So to all my visitors, pardon the mess while I try to put things back together again. It's going to take some time. I'm really sad to lose my counter, which was just about to hit 10,000 visitors...a figure that blows my mind. I miss all the KAL and blog buttons that I so diligently uploaded in html coding (after figuring out how to do it too). I even miss my Flickr photos. Reconnecting to my blogrolls is going to be a bit tricky. Why, oh why did I hit that change template button???? Grrrr

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ahhhh, Spring!

As ya'll know my favorite season of the year is spring. Ah spring! It's finally warm, but not too warm. The sun shines more than the moon does and the song birds sing the sweetest songs ever heard! I've worked hard to make my garden a welcoming place for birds and they come to the birdbaths and feeders in great abundance. Red headed woodpeckers, cardinals, mockingbirds, crows, and blue jays dominate the forest that abuts our property. But even the bullies of the bird world can't intimidate the tiny little titmice, carolina wrens, purple finches, song sparrows, and chickadees. Watching the guys get sweet on their little gals is such fun to watch. There is a pair of finches that come to the feeders at suppertime each evening. He feeds his little woman's almost as if he's persuading her that he will take good care of her while she sits on the nest. Male persuasion never ceases I guess :-)

We had a cold snap again this spring, but fortunately the temperatures did not drop as much as expected, nor as much as they did last year. These late frost periods are called "dogwood winter" since they tend to coincide with the blooming of the dogwood trees. Now that the cold has passed, it's now relatively safe to start planting annuals, veggies, and tender perennials. My early spring perennials are really looking good. The first photo is a Winky Rose Aquilegia (columbine) that I planted 2 years ago. they are doing very well. I also have the Winky Blue & White variety which is rather enormous in it's 3rd season. It will have to be divided next year.

Dividing perennials is the smart gardeners way to make their flower dollar stretch. I've been working hard for almost 2 weeks now dividing and distributing dwarf shasta daisies and pink and blue scabiosa. I think I'll wait until next year to divide the hostas and Stella d'oro daylilies again. My reward for all this frugality? A new tree. Specifically the one tree I don't have in my yard and have always wanted...a deep pink dogwood tree. I found a tree at the garden center that was small enough that I can plant it myself and the branches have perfect form...important for a beautiful tree 10 or 20 years from now. I had hoped for more rain this weekend to help with the planting, but it didn't happen. It is so dry!!!

I'll end this post with a photo of my great-niece Isabella. She and her Mommy Mary Catherine came to visit last last chance to see the great-grandparents before they return to Hawaii this week. I will miss them fiercely, but I'm so thrilled to know that my nephew Tyler has such an amazing wife and a beautiful baby that is getting all the best kind of mothering a child could ever hope for. It does this Old Maid's heart good to see MC doing such a great job :-) I love you MC!

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Wild Ride

It was a wild ride in East Tennessee this weekend. Forget that the weather went from cool, cloudy and raining to sunny and warm. Forget that I got mega sick early Sunday morning and had one of the worst days of my life. Forget all that because the Lady Vols were red hot last night, determined to win their Final Four match against rival LSU. The odds were not in the LV favor given that Candace Parker was playing with a dislocated shoulder. It certainly was not their best game...but then LSU wasn't playing at it's best either. It was a fiercely physical game...more like a boxing match than a basketball game at times. Watching Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker go at each other, esp. away from the ball, made a lot of the guys playing the game look like wimps! Yowzer!

Kudos to the AP for taking these awesome photos, which I found on the Lady Vols Sports website. The championship match between Stanford and Tennessee should be awesome. The match-up between Candace Wiggins and Candace Parker should be equally awesome. Candace Wiggins received one of the big national awards last week, so she has been recognized. But....Candace Parker got the big one again this year...the Naismith Award. I was so happy to hear that she won, esp. after the deep disappointment of not receiving the SEC player of the year award this year...a real shock to LV fans. Way to go Candace!!!!

My knitting time has been devoted to a blue Flower Basket Shawl. I cast-on early last week, and I hope to be finished by the end of the week. Since this is a shop sample, I'm not going to knit a Kristina-sized shawl (that means BIG). I've got 9 repeats of the 2nd chart completed and I figure I'll do somewhere between 12-14 repeats before adding the edging. Right now I've used only half a ball of the Misti Alpaca (~25g or 220yds.)..not very much really. I took the photo a couple of days ago, so the size has grown considerably, but you can still see the color and fabric produced on US4 needles.

It was a gorgeous spring day today, so I couldn't leave without sharing a photo from my garden. These are pink narcissi...a later blooming variety with t delicate blush pink trumpet. I have them in my pink rose garden bed along with pink tulips and pink hyacinths. What could be more joyful than that??? Perhaps a lace shawl knit out of a very fine pink lambswool???? That's what I had in mind last weekend when I made my long-anticipated journey to the northeastern corner of the state to meet up with my knitty friend Regenia. It was a rather gray and rainy day...I drove home in a deluge...not fun. But the shop hop, dinner in a great little place, and the friendship more than made up for the rain. Reg took me to Knits and Pearls in Kingsport first where I met Andra. I loved Andra, I loved her shop, and I really loved her amazing knitwear designs!!! Sadly I couldn't afford to buy the yarn I lusted over, but I did pick up some great beads and 2 of Andra's patterns--one vest adn the other a pullover. One of my Knitting Fearlessly goals this year is to knit a sweater...that fits ;-)

Our next stop was Yarntiques in Johnson City. Located in an old Victorian home, the shop was as quaint and delightful as it's location. They had yarn and etc. tucked into every nook and was rather like going on an adventure hunt. The shop was filled with women so it took awhile before Reg could flag down the owner so I could see the lace yarns. Apparently they are kept in a back room out of reach of curious toddlers with potentially sticky hands ;-) They shop was a bit of a zoo, but I found the yarn I had been searching for...Lacey Lamb. It was a bit over my budget for the end of the month, but I bought 2 balls to knit that yummy shawl from Vogue Knitting. Now I just need to find time to cast on. I got to meet the man in Regenia's life, Matthew David, who treated us both to dinner at a fun little converted house, now restaurant in Jonesborough, TN. I totally loved the place and the food was simple, but delicious. I hadn't had a good hushpuppie in awhile, so I was very happy :-) MD is a great guy, I liked him immediately. I think he and Reg are a great match and I wish good things for both of them *wink, wink*

Friday, April 04, 2008

All the News from Lake Plaasbegone

It's Friday night here in Lake Plaasbegone and it's been raining cats and dogs (thankfully not nieces and nephews) all day. My recently overseeded and fertilized lawn is growing greener and taller by the hour. Add rain to tall grass and you get a dachshund who doesn't want to go out to do what doggies do outside. There are no more stubborn canines on the planet than dachsies. I've seen them more stubborn than my sweetheart, Miss Emme, but she holds true to the breed's reputation just fine thank you very much.

Much has transpired since my last post. The highlight, without question, was a visit from my nephew's wife, Mary Catherine, and her daughter, Isabella. When Tyler and Mary Catherine eloped, I was a bit concerned that Tyler had rushed into marriage before he was ready. Well, I don't know much about that, but I do know that he's the luckiest sailor alive because his wife is a gem. With each opportunity I have to spend time with her, I am more and more impressed with what a wonderful woman she is. Little Isabella has the best mommy! MC and Isabella came to visit just after Easter. MC arrived bringing a delicious lunch with homemade chicken salad and lemon bars, all beautifully packed into a picnic basket. Wow! And everything tasted as good as it looked! My parents were simply delighted by the whole experience.

I. being the great-aunt with the camera, took lots of pictures of Isabella. Mom and I brought out two of the Beatrix Potter stuffed animals from the family collection for photo ops with Isabella. We took pictures with the same Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck when Tyler was a toddler. The 3 ft. tall Peter Rabbit is a treasured part of my Beatrix Potter collection, but the Jemima is destined to go to Isabella as she just belongs with Tyler's family. Beautiful Bella was quite taken with Jemima and her shawl and bonnet, so it's a perfect match.

On the knitting front, the Orkney Pi continues to grow. This photo shows the shawl with three sections completed. Section four is progressing at a slower pace given the fact that each round contains 1280 sts. and takes about an hour to knit. Depending on which option I choose, this section will have ~130-160 rounds in it...that's a lot of knitting time!!!! I've got the monster on a 60" circular needle and am plugging away on it. It's hard to get photos at this point, so there probably won't be any until the shawl is completed.

The Orkney is having share time with another shawl. Call it "and I have promises to keep". Sometime after Christmas I was feeling generous (or maybe foolish?) and volunteered to help lead a summer lace shawl KAL at my LYS, the Yarn Haven. The target audience is knitters with some lace knitting experience, or at least comfort in working basic lace stitches...not complete newbies. I thought about the shawls I've made and patterns that would be easily accessible to Sandy, the shop owner. I also took into consideration the flexibility of the pattern in accommodating various yarn sizes and differing options for the finished size of the shawl. The more versatile the design, the better I thought. And so I chose the Flower Basket Shawl (FBS) by Evelyn Clark.

I knit the FBS as my 2nd ever lace shawl...right after the red Kiri shawl. I don't remember it being a difficult pattern and it's very pretty. I pitched my idea to Sandy a couple of weeks ago and she thought it sounded wonderful. I dropped in to the store earlier this week and picked up some blue Misti Alpaca Lace yarn to knit a sample for the shop. Sandy just got the yarn in stock and I've been looking forward to trying out this very popular lace yarn. The yarn is fabulous. Enough said there. I pulled out my FBS pattern and cast-on Tuesday night. By Thursday morning I had a couple of repeats of the Lower Flower Basket chart completed...and was tinking back to fix mistakes. The pattern suggested US5 needles, so I grabbed a US4 Addi-Lace needle. I don't like how open my lace looks, and I found it rather challenging to read my knitting. In fact, the knitting seemed more challenging than I remembered too.

I started to freak out. Should I frog and start over with a size 3 needle? Uh, I'll have to knit forever if I do that, and I need to get this sample done fast! So I'm forcing myself to live with the very lacy FBS. I'm not keeping it, I rationalized, and everyone else will think it looks awesome. OK, fine. But what about the pattern???? What if everyone really is a newbie and they all get confused and frustrated the 1st week...and it all becomes more than I can handled myself. Yikes???? What have I done???? Needless to say I didn't sleep very well last night with all these crazy thoughts swirling around in my head. I'm a little less freaky tonight, but I still have doubts. Sandy does have beginning lace classes going on right now so I just need to chill out and trust that things will be OK. And I think I'll have Sandy get an alternate pattern in stock for those who want to play along, but really aren't ready for the FBS. Evelyn Clark's Leaf Lace Shawl will be the perfect alternative. Now I just need to stop freaking and knit. Why oh why do I have to be so detail oriented? Most folks wouldn't even have the idea that they needed to freak out over the "what if" possibilities. I can't stop thinking about every little detail that could go wrong.

And one last parting note.... My Tennessee Vols and Lady Vols basketball teams. The guys played their hearts out...and did quite well. But they showed the same weaknesses in the SEC and NCAA tournaments...and it cost them both times. Combine that with the toughest bracketing and it's hard to feel bad that they lost to a hugely talented (translation=NBA quality) Louisville team in the sweet 16. A better bracket would have had them playing in the elite 8 before losing, but brackets are what they are. The Lady Vols survived a terrifying night at the elite 8 when Candace Parker dislocated her left shoulder twice in the 1st half of the game and couldn't play for much of the game. Yeeeouchhh! The national semifinal game is Sunday night and Candace says she's ready to play. Great! The flip side? They're playing the same fierce LSU team that beat the Lady Vols in the SEC championship. It's gonna take a miracle for Candace and the LV to get to the championship game, let alone repeat as national champions. What a tough break!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Orkney Update

"And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
"He is not here: for he is risen, as he said." Matthew 28:5-6

Although the wind was icy cold, Easter arrived this morning bringing bright sunshine and cheery spring blossoms. While I didn't see my wild rabbits this morning, I was greeted by the singing of the cardinals and the carolina chickadees and the rat-a-tat-tat of the red-bellied and downy woodpeckers. The sweetest pair of white-throated sparrows danced among the orange pansies and King Alfred daffodils outside my window. A big fat robin dominated the lawn as if was his job to announce the arrival of Easter. It was a feast for the eyes and a delight to my heart.

I took my camera out into the yard and snapped these photos on Friday. The pink flowers come courtesy of a wild black cherry tree that spontaneously popped up in my yard several years ago. Apparently there once was a mature cherry tree in my neighbor 's yard, but he had removed it because of an insect infestation. After listening to mother's graphic descriptions of the ugly mess, I figured I should cut mine down while it was still a sapling and easily removed. But I didn't. Instead I pruned the lower branches and tried to encourage an esthetically pleasing shape from the askew split trunk. The following year I found the first pink blossom on the tree and vowed to let the tree remain and grow. Any tree that makes pretty pink flowers in the spring can't be all that bad :-)

The white mass of flowers in the second photo are the Bradford Pear trees in the front yard. The pear trees are 6 or 7 years old now, and they are mothers most favorite plant in the entire yard. Looking up at the crystal blue sky through the branches filled with snowy white flowers is almost more fun than an grown-up should have playing in the yard ;-)

I started out strong working on my Orkney Pi at the beginning of the week, but things slowed down considerably as the week progressed. Sometimes you just need a break from working on a huge project. So I wasn't caught up when the next clue came out on Friday. I finished the 3rd clue today. I'm quite glad to be done with knitting swirling diamonds. I put in a couple of extra circular needles knitting the last purl round so I could stretch the shawl out some and take a few pictures. The shawl measured about 40" in diameter unstretched...but that's a very rough measurement. This baby is going to be huge!

In looking at the 4th clue, it looks like we're going back to the trees and cat's paw lace. Liz provided lots of options for sizing the shawl, giving 3 or 4 options for when to quit depending on what each knitter wants to do. Of course I had planned to knit the full version, but it's nice to know I can safely chicken out if things get too tedious. A smaller shawl is better than a UFO hanging out in a basket somewhere gathering dust.

I'm headed back to my needles to knit the doubling round-1280 stitches...yikes!!! The Lady Vols are just starting their 1st round NCAA tournament game, so it's a good time to knit. The men managed to escape with wins in their 1st 2 games...but it was way too close for comfort in the 1st game against American University and it got downright scary in the 2nd game against Butler. After leading the entire game, the Vols allowed Butler to tie it up and send the game into overtime before Bruce adn the guys pulled out the Victory. Whew!