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!

Monday, March 17, 2008

And so it goes

It's Monday morning, St. Patrick's Day, so I suppose I should say "Top 'o the Morning to You!" But then that would be a terribly Irish thing for a little Dutch/Deutsch girl to do, now wouldn't it? My mother always wore *orange* on St. Patty's Day to make sure folks knew she was Dutch. I thought it was a bit strange then, but I think it's cool now. but enough of that....

The wild, weird weekend is over. Tennessee basketball fans are not happy. they did not get to see their team play in the SEC tourney because of the change of venue required by the tornado that hit downtown Atlanta. Then the team lost in the closing seconds of the semis to Arkansas, which was stunning. Even more stunning was the fact that the worst team in the conference this year, Georgia, won the SEC tournament by overcoming outrageous odds. You have to be happy for them, because it was such an amazing feat! The the NCAA announced the brackets for the "Big Dance" last night and we got a no. 2 seed (not happy, but not surprised) in the East bracket...which has the strongest teams including No. 1 North Carolina. That's like ranking TN 8th, or the lowest among the No. 2 seeds. That a really rotten deal. Placing the Vols in the East sends them first to Birmingham where they should win their 1st two games, then on to Charlotte. Upsets notwithstanding, the Vols will have to get past a tough Louisville team to arrive at the elite 8 with the golden opportunity to play North North Carolina. Good luck're gonna need it :-) It was pretty interesting watching Bruce Pearl & the guys maintain their composure at the post-announcement press interviews after getting such a raw deal. So much for having the highest RPI and playing the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation...and winning almost all of the games. It didn't pay off as much as it was supposed to.

So enough about the Vols, let's talk knitting :-) Being sick with a nasty virus and lots of basketball tournament games to watch make for productive knitting time. I just finished off the 1st 100g ball of yarn on my Orkney Pi yesterday. I'm up to row 154, which is the latter part of the 4th repeat of the swirling diamonds/640sts section. I should start the 5th and final repeat tonight, which places me a couple of days ahead of schedule and ready for the next clue which I think comes out on Friday. Designing Pi shawls by inserting various lace patterns into the distinct sections of the shawl is not as simple as one would think. Oh, the process of choosing your favorite laces and using them is simple, but getting the right combination to produce an cohesive and esthetically-pleasing look is challenging. i say this because I've seen some less than attractive (to my view) Pi shawls. But trust Liz Lovick to know just how to put classic Shetland Lace patterns together to get that just right look. It's a great shawl!

With the Orkney Pi being so time consuming, and sickness keeping me at home (no need for portable knitting), the Swallowtail Shawl has been neglected for more than a week. I'm using the white Jaggerspun Zephyr I had in the stash left from the Spring Things Shawl which I frogged because I ended up not liking the design. I knew I had an issue with the lace patterns chosen for Spring Things, but I also blamed the yarn for my unhappy experience. I just couldn't see what it was that makes so many knitters go "Zany for Zephyr." I used Zephyr for one of my earliest shawls, a Nancie Wiseman design, and it turned out OK, but not wonderful in my view. But the idea of knitting Lily of the Valley nupps in white lace yarn has been in my head for more than a year now, so the white Zephyr seemed perfect for Swallowtail. To cut to the end of the story, I get it. After knitting the upper body of the Swallowtail with the Zephyr, I now get why people adore this yarn. It is wonderful for lace work!

Success in lace knitting is in the details. Each little detail must be evaluated, then carefully combined to yield success. You have to choose the right fiber(s), the right yarn, the right needles, and the right patterns. When one or more of these is off, then knitting is frustrating and the result less than pleasing. Find the right combination and knitting lace becomes a joy to work and the project a treasure. You don't have to use the most expensive yarn or the most complex or fancy pattern to knit a stunning piece of lace. But when a project is thoughtfully planned then executed with reasonable precision (not perfection), the end result can't help but be something wonderful. My somethings wonderful are starting to accumulate now that I'm a confirmed lace knitting addict, and I'm amazed at the joy these little beauties bring into my everyday life. It's something wonderful indeed!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

When a tornado hits Atlanta, or Vols win?????

Let's see, yesterday was March 14th, or 3-14 aka Pi Day for lovers of all things mathematical, or fans of Elizabeth Zimmerman's approach to knitting circular shawls based on the concepts of the Pi formula. One could also say that on 3-14, what goes around, comes around...and around it did indeed come last night in Atlanta! Still in my somewhat zoned out funk from the nasty little virus that I picked up, I was watching yet another of the SEC Men's basketball tournament games from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Vols already escaped with a win over South Carolina earlier in the afternoon, but I was interested in seeing who our potential competition would be in the semi-final and hopefully final rounds. The 1st game in the evening session was a close one between Alabama and Mississippi State. A last second shot tied up the game at the end of regulation and they were playing the 1st OT period when suddenly the hardware suspend from the roof of the Dome started to sway wildly and stuff was falling from the ceiling. By golly, it was a tornado!!!!

The nightcap game of the tournament was postponed until this afternoon. The news footage this morning revealed the massive amounts of damage that were done to the heart of downtown Atlanta, including all the facilities key to the SEC tournament. So the games were moved to the arena at Georgia Tech University, the schedule changed, and the fans sent away as there was no way to fairly accomodate all who had purchased tickets. I think it may just be a sign of good things to come for the Vols. The Vols haven't won the SEC tourney in who knows how long...decades. It's kind of like the Vols will win when hell freezes over...or a tornado hits downtown Atlanta in the middle of a game! I *know* Bruce's Boys can pull it off :-) They just need to beat Arkansas in tonight's game to prove me right :-)

Stay tuned for the next installment of As the Vols play Ball, which will include an update of all things knitted during tournament viewing and other "sickie" activities :-)