Monday, January 28, 2008

In memoriam: Gordon B. Hinckley

Gordon Bitner Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away Sunday evening, January 27, 2008 in Salt Lake City, Utah at the age of 97. He is now reunited with his beloved wife, Marjorie, who preceeded him in death a few years ago. While I know he is grateful to be released from the heavy burden of responsibility in leading The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and happy to be reunited to his wife, my heart is heavy with sadness at seeing him go. I will miss him intensely.

I knew his days with us here on earth were numbered. Just 2 days ago I saw a press release which showed a picture of Pres. Hinckley offering the dedicatory prayer at the rededication ceremonies at the Utah State Capitol 2 weeks ago. In the photograph he looked small and very frail, even more so than he had looked in December at the Christmas Devotional or at General Conference last October. He never looked small or frail to me before then. Yet knowing in my heart that he wouldn't live much longer and coming to grips with the his death are quite different. I still feel a bit shocked at this point.

I felt a special closeness to the Hinckley family for some reason. I was living in Salt Lake City at the time he was called, ordained, and sustained as Prophet and President of the Church. I lived in the same neighborhood as his daughter Virginia. We were in the same stake (a group of LDS church congregations) and I felt as if the Hinckleys were a part of our close knit family in the Parley's Stake. I attended many events in which Pres. and Sis. Hinckley were present and I felt nurtured by their love, just as millions of members of the church across the world did. Pres, Hinckley was kind, gentle, articulate, witty, and very forward-thinking. A wonderful compilation of many of his accomplishments can be found here.

As for me, I think I'll take away from Pres. Hinckley's life his great love and compassion for all people everywhere. I'll renew my efforts to follow his counsel by doing a little better at standing a little taller, by trying a little harder to do a little better each day. I'll try to honor him by being more loving, more understanding of others, more tolerant and less critical of myself and those around me. It's not hard to "scatter sunshine" everywhere you go once you start. Being good and kind is the best kind of habit to get into. When coupled with honesty, hope, and faith, an ordinary Daughter of God like me can do much to bless the lives of others...just as I have been blessed by the life of Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley. Pres. Hinckley, may God be with you till we meet again.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Row 367 - Check!

Yup-- I checked off the last row on the last chart of the Mystic Waters Shawl. Getting through that last chart proved to be a hellish experience. Long rows can be perilous! Why? Because you don't realize you did something wrong until 100, 200, or more stitches have passed. Tink, tink, tink!!! If I was a drinking and swearing woman, which I am not, I could have been tempted to outdo any sailor. Good thing I don't engage in such behaviors ;-D

It was terribly frustrating because I don't typically have such issues when knitting lace. Perhaps it was the very dark purple yarn which made things hard to see, despite my very excellent halogen gooseneck lamps (Ott lights give me migraines). Perhaps it was the very long rows and the relatively heavy, bulky pile of yarn-now-shawl in my lap. Perhaps it was fatigue, although I typically do my best work late at night. I don't know. While the stitches were simple, the shawl's design was complex. You really couldn't relax or take comfort in repetition either, because there was very little of that. Of course the same features are what made Mystic Waters such a fascinating shawl to knit! It's different! It wasn't just another triangle shawl knit from the top down ala Evelyn Clark-style with a handful of lace patterns from the Walker Treasuries. Don't get me wrong, I like those shawls too, but there are times when a gal just needs to knit something different. Mystic Waters is very different.

So the last row has been knit. All that remains is the sideways knit-on edging along the top. It's kinda cool because this finish resembles the yo/garter st edging of the sides, something i haven't encountered before. I wasn't sure about knitting this strange finish and was considering doing something more typical. But I hit the photo files on Ravelry in search of a picture of a finished shawl. I needed to *see* this edging as I couldn't visualize it in my mind. Once I saw it I knew it was the perfect finish. It's one of those "takes forever" knit-on edgings so it may be days before I get through it. You'll all know about it 'cuz the earth will shake when I cast-off the last stitch. Kidding, just kidding :-D

So, with Mystic Waters almost done it's time to move on to new things. And what could be a better than to start off a new year of knitting with a brand new swift? I'm deliriously happy about getting a swift. I've wanted one for more than a year, but swifts are expensive...and I am poor so I didn't think it was possible. Then a fellow member of the Lace Knitters list mentioned getting one from JoAnn' using a 50% off coupon. I got a coupon in the mail a few days later which made the price just right and I ordered one right away. I chose the big birch wood model because I've had problems winding very fine lace yarns or very large hanks using the smaller metal & plastic swifts. I've wound 2 balls thus far and my new swift passed the test with flying colors. Happy, happy, joy, joy!

As for the new year/new projects I cast on some new socks last week while sitting in the hospital with my father. I took my JKnits Go UT! sock yarn (which has been sitting on my desk for months), several pairs of dpns, and my sketchbook with me to the hospital. I had already decided to create an original sock design that reflected that Tennessee Vols spirit. So I sat in a dark corner of Daddy's room at UT Hospital with my orange and white yarn, sketch book and pencil in hand, and the UT/Vanderbilt Men's basketball game on TV, and started to sketch out the lace motif. After a few few tweaks to the design I cast on for my Volunteer Spirit Socks. I knit a good portion of a cuff before the ballgame ended (we won---big!) and continued with it the next day while doing my daughterly duty as the "night shift nurse." Once I had the cuff almost completed I decided something didn't look quite right. I wasn't sure I liked the placement and slant of my decreases relative to the yarnovers. So, I grabbed some leftover yarn and did a little swatching, trying out several variations until I found the one I think looks best. The fabric of the knitting on my 1st version was too loose and didn't look good either so I frogged the whole thing. But I did think to snap a picture before the frog croaked. Ribbit, ribbit. I have cast-on once again and reknit the ribbing. Stay tuned for another progress report :-)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

It's Chemically the Same

That's what my Mom always said after she had concocted something edible that didn't end up looking like it was supposed to. so the dish looks terrible, it's chemically the same---so eat it! This represents the opposite of what she normally says every night before the blessing is said over the amazing dinner she whipped up out of nothing that looked a smelled amazing: "it's not much folks, but it'll just have to do." Decades later she still says the same thing, although the amazement factor is less frequent an event now. Most nights I just want to reach across the table and choke her because I'm so sick and tired of hearing her whine about it all. But I don't and I, the dutiful daughter, gush appropriately over her efforts.

So why do I mention this tidbit of trivia from my kitchen? Cookies. Chocolate chip cookies, to be precise. And not just any chocolate chip cookies, but The Original Toll House Cookies, complete with Nestle's morsels. I've been craving CCC for about a week now, but haven't manged to make them until today. Now I'm a smart girl and a very good baker (it's genetic--got it from my grandpa who was an amazing professional baker). I've also watched the "Good Eats" episode on making CCC many, many times. Despite this knowledge I followed the recipe and used unsalted butter.

As a kid we always used Blue Bonnet margarine, but margarine today bears very little resemblance to the margarine of 25 years ago and frankly, the stuff creeps me out. I'm not an it's gotta be organic, uber healthy food fanatic--not by a long shot. But I find it very hard to believe that all those chemicals and fake stuff in margarine is better for you than straight from the cow butter. I trust the cow. But butter makes for CCC that are thin, crispy, and that spread like the dickens from those nice little mounds of dough you started out with. I did not end up with nice perfectly round cookies that stack up into tins with all the ease and elegance of Martha Stewart. And yes Martha, I did use my 1 Tbsp ice cream scoop so they would be perfect--like yours :-)

I did not, however, use Silpats to prevent sticking. I don't own any since they are a bit pricey and Mom has said no to them every time I've asked about getting some. For what I've spent on parchment paper I could own at least 2 or 3 Silpats by now, but that's another story. It's not MY kitchen. I am not in charge. I followed the recipe which called for ungreased cookie sheets. My very spread out, thin, crispy, gooey chocolate chip cookies did not want to come up nicely off the cookie sheets. I should have sprayed them with PAM. But I did eventually free most of them from their pans and set them out to cool on a tea towel. The most pathetic looking batch of CCC I think I've ever produced. BUT... they're chemically the same.... and they tasted fabulous!

Next time I listen to Alton Brown and substitute shortening for 1/2 the butter and do as Martha does and use SilPats. Good Eats are a Good Thing ;-)

Friday, January 11, 2008

R is for...

I recently joined a year-long knitting/fiber-related KAL hosted on Flickr called ABC 2008. Participants are to post pictures which reflect a specific letter of the alphabet during each ~2 week period. I haven't posted my photos yet since i just got accepted, but my 1st one is ready and waiting: A is for Angel scarf knit out of Alpaca yarn with Amazing beaded tassels. How cool is that?

So, now I have letters on my brain...which brings me to my next New Years goal, which is to finally finish or frog all my ufos. And so the letter is R. R is for finally coming to the Realization that I Really don't like either option for finishing the blue MS3 stole that I started last summer during the KAL. And so Really, Really late last night I had a private Ribbit party to say farewell to the half-done stole and Reclaim the really beautiful cashmerino yarn for yet another lace shawl. The Release I felt while Rewinding the yarn was Really amazing. I am a free woman.

And so I am rethinking my relationship with online KALs, especially the "mystery" KALs where you have no idea what you are going to get. Well Forrest Gump, Life may be like a box of chocolates, but when I open that box from See's or Russell Stover's I have a fairly good idea of what's under that robe of chocolaty goodness. I know if it's a caramel or a cream or a nut cluster. That's more than you know with a mystery KAL. I really enjoyed knitting the MS2 the summer of 2006 and the Scheherazade Stole is among my most favorite projects knit to date. I'm also loving the Mystic Waters Shawl I'm currently knitting, but I know what the end looks like since I wasn't able to keep up with the speedy knitters in the group. But the fiasco of the MS3 KAL left me, and many others, more wary and less confident that the mystery will turn out to have a happy ending for us. For example, I didn't cast-on the SOTs stole last fall because I was 1) too busy with other projects, and 2)I didn't like the double pointed starting edge. Tincture of time let me know that the rest of the design wasn't my style either and I was glad I didn't jump in and blindly follow along. But... at the same time I didn't start Secret of Chrysopolis either, even though I liked the 1st clue. It's an awesome design that I hope to find time to knit one of these days.

Now the spring KALS are starting up and instead of 1 or 2 lace shawl KALs there are 5! I'm feeling the pressure to decide which one or two to knit, but if I knit the KALs I won't have time to knit other lace shawls on my wanna knit list. Now the not-knowing is stressful--it's no longer fun and adventurous for me. And after a little dialogue with some knitty friends (thanks Kat!) and with myself (yeah, I talk to myself--it's healthy!) I have granted myself permission to not cast-on any of the KALs when they start. if I'm ready for a new project and I like what I see in the KAL design, then I'll have the files saved and I'll cast-on and happily knit on. Whew!

Now, having said all that, the 1st two clue for Spring Shawl Surprise are out and I've checked the photo's looking really great thus far! The shawl calls for skinny lace yarn and little needles which is right up my alley so I may knit it next. There's a bunch of knitted lace in the SSS, something I need more exposure to doing, so that adds to the appeal for me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Trouble with KALs... there are so many of them! I've joined most of the lace/shawl KALS, esp. the "mystery" ones. I knit the MS 3/Swan Lake last summer, which was "the" mystery KAL that really put the concept "on the map" so to speak. By fall there were 3 lace KALS: Chrysopolis, SOTS, and Mystic Waters. I could only cast-on for one and I chose Mystic Waters because the start was different and looked interesting to me. I didn't start the SOTS because the start was a bit too different and I was skeptical. In the end, my 1st impressions of those KALS held true to the end. I wish that I had been able to knit Chrysopolis as it turned out to be an exceptional design. Someday I will knit it :-)

I'm now at row 260 on Mystic Waters and I have to decide whether to go short or long. So, I knit the shawl onto a 47" lace needle which allowed me to stretch her out a get a good look at the shawl. With only a mild stretch she measured ~55" across the top and 35" from top to tip--a nice size but not big enough for my kind of shawl. So this means I'll be knitting another 100 very long rows to finish MW.

With MW still OTN with at least 3 weeks of knitting left to go, what am I to do about the new KALs? The 1st clues for Spring Shawl Surprice are out and they look awesome. SSS is a big project with 12 clues and it's calls for skinny lace yarn. My cone of pale yellow cashcotton from ColourMart arrived in the mail yesterday and would be perfect for SSS. Then there's the VLT KAL which I need to do because I still haven't knit a project from that luscious book. I guess I won't any time in the next few weeks either. And last, but not least is SOTSii which starts next week. I have a gut feeling this design will be more to my liking, so my wanna knit list is getting longer. Thankfully Moni and her German-based KALS Fischer and Bad Nauheim won't get going until later this spring, with Fischer starting in Feb. Thank you Moni! What's a lace knitter to do with so many choices???

And I think I'd finish off today's ramblings with a picture of the finished ends of my Angel Pearls Scarf. Sivia suggested applying beaded tassels to the points at each end of the scarf. Now I can't stand yarn tassels or fringe as they look ratty after a few wearings and horrible if washed. Yuck! However, the idea of a beaded tassel intrigued me and I do think pointy ends deserve embellishment. So I grabbed a spool of gold C-Lon and some Thread Heaven from my beading stash and came up with my variation on Sivia's beaded tassel. I had to modify the design just a bit because I didn't have enough beads to do the slightly bigger and longer tassel. Nevertheless, the tassels seem to add a bit of panache without being too heavy or too garish so I'm pleased. While staring at the finished, tasseled ends I was horrified to find yet another dropped yo in a place where there are decreases on both sides of the knitting--the true lace areas. Man oh man have I learned how tricky this stuff can be! Of course i fixed it just as I did the previous spot, and no one will ever find it---even though you know the repair was made 'cuz I told you so. Maybe I should shut up and not confess these things, but I believe it good for others to know that we all make boo-boos, novice and experts alike :-) My tongue-in-cheek motto: If I were perfect I wouldn't be here! (Just think about that for a second...)

Knitting on!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Angel is Done!

I'm pleased to announce the completion of the Angel Pearls Beaded lace Scarf, my 1st FO of 2008. I really thought I would be done in no more than a week, but a few interruptions for things like Christmas and another unplanned hospital admission for my Father sort of delayed things a bit. Well, that and the fact that I was so afraid my scarf would be too short that I kept adding extra repeats of the main chart. The pattern called for 10-11 repeats and I finally stopped after 15. You know how the story goes: you finish knitting a repeat and you try the thing on to see if it's long enough OR you grab a tape measure and run the numbers. You hmmm a bit and decide it's too short and knit another repeat...and another...and another...and well, you get the idea :-)

At 14 repeats I figured I was OK, but I decided to knit one more just to be sure. Well, after a nice warm bubble bath to get the machine oils and grime out of the yarn, the finished scarf headed to the stripped down "blocking bed" (formerly known as the guest bed). I gave the scarf a nice block, but not as severe as I typically stretch my lace. I was concerned about the fine, cobweb wt fibers breaking, so I was gentle. From previous experience I have learned that alpaca does not hold a crisp, sever block anyway and I'm thinking a gentle block has a better chance of keeping it's structure. We shall see. Anyway, I was so surprised to find my finished scarf measured 77" long and 6.5" wide. That's at least 10" more than I anticipated and I'm so pleased! By the time I add the beaded tassels to the points it'll be 80+ inches! Cool!

The finished shawl used only about 40g of yarn. After some fancy calculating I used roughly about 236 yds. of the triple stranded yarn. That's pretty much spot on with what Sivia used in her original scarf out of Kid Silk Haze, so that's also good. Oh, I forgot to mention how I solved them problem of the HOLE. Some careful scrutiny revealed that I had dropped a yo stitch from a k2tog. After playing with it a bit I realized I could do a repair job that would be essentially invisible, thus avoiding having to tink/frog back the better part of a repeat. So after casting off, I went back with a single strand of the cobweb fiber and caught the yo loop up to the next row where it belonged, weaving the yarn tail before and after the catch-stitch. You can't even see it and I'm happy. Those of you who know me well know that I could never just leave a boo-boo like that. If I couldn't have made the invisible repair I would have frogged back for sure :-)