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!