Sunday, March 30, 2008

Harbingers of Spring

Blossoms on our plum tree:

Close up:

Cat, warming her tummy in the sun:

I would have added a picture of boys playing baseball, but I forgot my camera yesterday.

And yet, it's still cold!

It's been busy here, and there's been relatively little (OK, no) knitting. Between birthday parties, baseball games, errands, and post-game dinners, complete with junior mosh pits, we've been out of the house a lot. I tend not to bring my knitting to baseball games, because I help out, talk to the other parents, and chase after the non-playing kid. But it's all great fun.

Tomorrow, I'm going with Jr. Jr.'s class on a field trip to see "Horton Hears a Who." Somehow, they're going to get 120 kids and 80 or so parents coordinated enough to walk down to the Metro station, get their farecards and get on the Metro, get off at the right stop, and take over the movie theater, and then attempt to get everyone back to school. Should be quite the experience. I'll remember to bring along the Advil.

Fun Reading Material

The most recent Interweave Knits (I think, I don't have it in front of me) did a feature on Japanese knitting pattern books. Some of the featured stitches looked beautiful and unfamiliar to me, so I set off to find these books. Amazon came up empty, and I took one look at the Japanese Amazon site and realized that I wasn't going to be able to figure it out. Then a couple of other bloggers mentioned Cool! I ended up purchases four or five books, two of which arrived yesterday:

I haven't finished going through both books yet, but there are definitely some beautiful and new-to-me stitch patterns. Given that I already have almost every stitch dictionary printed in English, this is quite a feat. It's not hard to figure out how to knit these patterns, either. They're all charted, and there are very helpful diagrams along the bottom of the pages showing you how to perform the stitches. So when I come to a symbol I'm not familiar with, I simply look at the diagrams.

The books contain some neat ways of charting things, too, that I'll have to try to replicate in my Knit Visualizer software. When I was charting out the motif for my Deco socks, I followed the charting system used in the German stitch dictionary from which the motif was adapted. This required hand writing some stuff on the charts. This worked wonderfully for me, since I thought the notation was intuitive, and since there aren't any Euro/American symbols for some of the stitch manipulations used. It wasn't so great, however, in the event I wanted to pull the pattern together for future sale, since I can't easily replicate it on the computer. These books have a symbol for exactly what I was doing. Now I can play around with adding that symbol to the Knit Visualizer library and re-charting the pattern. (Yeah. Right. Since only three people seem to read my blog, it's not like there's a large outcry for this pattern.)

I'm ready to sew up the Flutter Sleeve cardi. I went to my LYS on Friday and got some buttons, but I don't love them. There wasn't a huge selection of the right size buttons. I guess I'll have to bop over to G Street Fabrics at some point this week to see if I can find anything better.

After that, I get to ponder what to do next. Start a doily? Probably. Design a sweater using some of those neat new stitch patterns? Possibly. We'll just have to wait and see :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

AFO -- Almost Finished Object

Look what's blocking --

The Flutter Sleeve Cardigan, almost done. I have some shopping to do tomorrow that will take my near my LYS (Uniquities, Vienna, VA, wonderful place), so I'll stop off and get some buttons. After it's dried, I'll just sew it up, do the seed stitch border on the sleeves and the little tabs (if I decide to do them), and I'll be done. Looking at that picture, I see I need to go upstairs and do a little adjusting. Because my gauge was spot on, and because I was worried about this growing when wet, I didn't have to do too obsessive a job about blocking it. (Plus, I usually re-block it after all the seams have been sewn and all the trim added.) Overall it was a fun, fast knit, and I hope it looks good on me.

I did cast on the new Socks That Rock sock kit socks, even though I haven't finished my Spring Willow socks yet. The Spring Willow socks (aka Will Spring Never Come?) are knit on size 0s, while the STR socks are knit on 2s, so when I want to feel like I'm making quick progress, I work on the STR socks.

I was hoping to use the yarn that I'm in the progress of spinning to knit a doily, but I may not have the patience to wait until the yarn is done to cast on for that project, either, so keep your eye on this here bloggy thing for some pictures of that.

Spring is finally arriving, however, and that means two things here Chez T -- yardwork and baseball. It was 70 degrees yesterday, so I raked all the leaves out of the front garden and dug up a Mountain Laurel and a rhododendron (sob) that didn't make it through the drought-ridden past two years, even with my diligent watering. I have some ideas about what I want to replace them with, so it's off to the nursery for me soon.

Things get very busy with the baseball schedule. Sr. Jr. has practice three times a week, and Jr. Jr. has two practices. Add in all the other after-school activities, and it's a rare day when we're not rushing off somewhere. Games start next weekend. Some of Sr. Jr.'s games don't start until 7 pm, meaning we won't be home those (school) nights until around 9. In addition, he's on the "M1 call-up list." He plays in the M2 league for the 9,10, and 11 year olds. M1 is for the 12 and 13 year olds, but occasionally, due to illness or other conflicts, those teams are short a player, so they have this list of kids from the M1 league who are good players that they can call to fill in. I'm thrilled that Sr. Jr.'s coaches think he's good enough to be on this list, but it means there will be weeks with even MORE baseball than normal.

I'm still waiting for Vogue Knitting and Knitter's to show up, but Spin-Off arrived yesterday. I love Spin-Off. I usually read it slowly, savoring every last article and picture. I marvel at the beautiful skeins of handspun yarn that readers send in for the galleries. The Fall issue, however, was the only issue of Spin-Off I've ever been disappointed in. I actually skipped several articles! I know! Shocking! This issue looks great, though, so I'm going to savor it.

Finally, election politics. As I predicted, the extra long primary season has resulted in me being utterly sick of the whole thing. I thought Obama's speech on race was beautiful and brilliant. Like Jon Stewart said, "Wow. Someone's talking to the American people about race... as if they were adults!" Unfortunately, I don't think that the 24 hour news babblers are capable of acting like adults. In fact, I think it's in their contracts that they must scream and yell about everything and avoid any and all complexity or nuance. And it's not the point of opposition campaigning to act in an adult manner, either is it? Who will challenge McCain for accepting the endorsement of the religious right -- the same group that said America brought 9/11 on itself because of "the feminists, the abortionists, the gays, the lesbians, and the ACLU"? The very same people he once called the "agents of intolerance" are now his good buddies. This is just a slightly more sophisticated -- but no less cynical -- version of Willie Horton.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Back to the Grind -- With a Smile

The boys had a great time in Florida visiting their grandmother. MIL lives in Bradenton, but Mr. T grew up on Anna Maria Island, where practically everything was in walking distance of the beach. (Can you imagine a more idyllic place to be a kid?) One of the greatest things about Anna Maria is that it's on the west coast of Florida, which means that you get to sit on the beach and watch some spectacular sunsets. There's a great restaurant called The Sandbar, where you just sit out on the deck, eating dinner, watching the sunset, while the dolphins frolic in the water.

So while I had my Mommy Vacation, the kids had a genuine fun vacation. I was really rejuvenated by my time off, so I was in a very good mood when they got home. We had a nice dinner out, too. And this morning, when it came time to start the laundry and do the grocery shopping, I was still in a good mood. I made one of our family's favorite recipes for tonight's dinner, too, Chicken Gyros with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce. One of the nice things about the recipe is that everything gets made in advance. The yogurt sauce is in the fridge, getting flavorful, and the chicken is marinating. When dinnertime rolls around, I just put up the rice, quickly saute the chicken and nuke some peas, and dinner is done.

At the bus stop this morning, I ran into J, with her kids M (in kindergarten), and K, who's in preschool. K is an adorable little boy, but this morning he was still in his pajamas in his stroller, wearing a very cross expression. "It's been one of those mornings, huh?" I asked J. "Yeah," she said, "you had The Best Vacation EVER!"

Not much knitting to talk about, since I've been reuniting with the kids and doing household stuff. I did finish the main knitting on the Flutter Sleeve cardi, so I get to work on the buttonbands now. I'd like to power through them, but I suspect that a couple of feet of seed stitch will get tedious.

So, what next? I still need to work on the Bleeding Hearts Stole, which has gotten lost in the shuffle; the Will Spring Never Come? socks, (not even to the heel on the second sock); and the current spinning. When the socks are done, I'll start the next Sock Club installment, but I'll probably change it around a little bit, to carry the patterning all the way around the sock, rather than just on the front.

I've been hearing rumors around Ravelry that the Spring Vogue Knitting has started arriving in the mail, but I haven't gotten mine yet. Hmmm. I don't love each and every knitting magazine out there, but I do like to read them, and in the case of Knitter's, laugh at them.

So, any nice vacation/holiday stories anyone would like to share?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ahhhh, A Mommy Vacation

Wednesday evening, I dropped Mr. T and the boys off at the airport for a trip to Florida to visit with my MIL. Since then, I have been blessedly alone. No arguing, no whining, no repeated requests to play video games. No making meals for anyone but myself. No one to wake me up in the morning. No baseball practices, no carpools, nothing. This is the first time I've been alone for this long since Sr. Jr. was born, 10 and 1/2 years ago.

I've been relishing this little vacation from mommy-hood. (Mothers everywhere will admit that family vacations, while wonderful, aren't true vacations for moms, who still worry about sunscreen and snacks and still have to hear all the whining.) It's not that I don't love my children, obviously, but it's been quite rejuvenating to be able to focus only on myself for the first time in a long time.

I got a lot done on the Flutter Sleeve Cardigan:

This is the back, left front, and some of the right front. I knit quite a bit more on it this afternoon, but due to user stupidity, didn't really get too far. Blithe complacency led me to fail to read the directions closely, so I had to rip out a bunch and remember to read ahead, to the part that says, "And at the same time..."

I also did a little spinning:

I still haven't finished the first 2 ounces of the 4 to be spun for this project. I'd like to finish it so I can get moving on some of my newer fibers.

I snapped some stupid cat pictures, like this one of the cat sunning herself while wedged in between the rockers on the rocking horse:

The other cat got all commando and decided to quell the insurrection that her tail was mounting, but I didn't get any good pictures of that.

I watched movies both girly ("Pride and Prejudice") and punk ("Repo Man").

And today, the new Socks the Rock sock club package arrived! I quite like it, both the color and the pattern. Very appropriate. I'll say no more lest I violate my sacred Sock Club oath.

When Monday rolls around again and I face the mound of laundry, the long grocery list, and the dirty bathrooms, I will smile, and enjoy what I am doing because of this nice little break.

Isn't Mr. T wonderful for doing this? More importantly, isn't my MIL wonderful for immediately understanding what was going on and wishing that I have fun?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five Fruitless Years

Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. Part of me feels like going on a very long-winded rant about what a waste this war has been on so many levels -- lives lost, trillions of dollars wasted, goodwill squandered, progress against al Qaeda stalled or reversed. Part of me is so very tired and feels like I've been beating my head against many brick walls over the years. I actually did oppose this war from the start. I loathed the way the Bush administration seemed to be careening headlong into the war, cynically manipulating the country into supporting war against a straw man. I also loathed the way the press fell down on its job of investigating and speaking truth to power. (But, man, give them a good sex scandal...) I was very grateful for the few voices out there who dared to speak out against the administration and the war. Seymour Hersh and Hendrik Hertzberg, in particular, wrote some amazing pieces in the New Yorker that I wish had been more widely noted.

I still loathe the way "patriotism" has been narrowly defined to consist of wearing a flag pin on one's lapel, ignoring that patriotism means not just standing up for your country, but actively working to make sure your country does the *right* thing. Free speech is patriotic. Having a yellow ribbon magnet on your car doesn't make you patriotic if you're supporting the erosion of our civil rights at the same time.

McCain wants to stay in Iraq, for one hundred years, if necessary. Clinton and Obama want to withdraw our troops. OK, but what then? We broke Iraq, but how do we fix it?

Other than those very depressing thoughts, I'm actually having a very nice Spring Break. It's quiet here, so I've gotten a lot of knitting and relaxing done. If only the weather were nicer, I could go out and get some exercise, too. I finished the back of the Flutter Sleeve cardigan, and started on the front. I'll be much further along by the time I go to bed tonight, but you get to see where I am now. Mr. T has the better digi camera, so the following photo was taken with the old Kodak:

The top looks big, right? It has the sleeves already knitted in, so I'm reserving judgment. This is a fast and easy knit, so maybe I'll actually have it to wear this Spring, when the weather calls for it.

Tomorrow, I think I'll get some more spinning done, as well.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Online, Again

Rumours of our internet connection's demise were premature. It was touchy for a day or two, but appears to be back of its own accord. I'm not sure if I should cancel the appointment with the cable guys or not. If I cancel it, the connection will fail again, I'm sure, but if I don't cancel it, they'll get here and wonder what's wrong. Hmm...

I finished the first of the "Will Spring Never Come?" socks. Just for fun, I added a ruffle at the top. If I wanted to push the Spring metaphor, I could say that the ruffle reminded me of the unfurling of plant leaves at the beginning of the season. But I've never been known to beat a metaphor to death, right? I didn't make the ruffle too big, because I wasn't sure how much of the extra little coordinating skein I had.

These are turning out to be quite cute, and are satisfying my need for something green.

I've also started working on the Flutter Sleeve Cardigan. I'm using the yarn called for in the pattern, Classic Elite Silk. I'm rejiggering the pattern a little. I've decided that I like the sweater best with 1 1/2 inches of positive ease (see my last post), but for me, that's a little bit more than the smallest size of the pattern. The medium would definitely be too big. However, while adding an inch and a half to the bust measurement works, adding that inch and a half to the bottom of the sweater, i.e., the hip, would make that part too big. So I cast on using the numbers for the small size, but I don't want the waist part to come in as much as the small size does (my hip/waist ratio isn't that big), so I'm not decreasing as much for the waist. So, small size for hips, small 1/2 (as Sr. Jr. calls it) for the waist and bust. I hope this works, or I'll have the mutant Frankensweater from Hell. So far, it looks innocent just lurking there, doesn't it?

Oh, Eliot

One of the favorite shows here Chez T is the British show "Coupling." We own the DVD set, and watch it whenever it shows up on BBC America. It's one of those shows that we can watch over and over again, and it still cracks us up. (BBC shows are getting me through the writer's strike, but that's another post.) One of the running jokes in the show is how one character's mother always says "Oh, Jeffrey," in this exasperated, disappointed tone of voice whenever she catches him doing something vaguely perverted (or even just sexual). So the first thing I thought when I heard about Eliot Spitzer's recent, um, troubles was "Oh, Eliot!"

Friday, March 14, 2008

I Aten't Dead

We're having some trouble with internet access and I may not have good access again until Tuesday.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Alas, (Almost) No Pictures

Today I'm working upstairs on the laptop, because the main computer appears to be fighting with them there intertubes. Unfortunately, the laptop doesn't have any recent photos, so I can't show you my finished "Will Spring Never Come?" sock, made with that springy green duet yarn I showed you in a prior post. I did a straight stockinette toe-up sock, but added a ruffle at the top using the coordinating skein of green yarn, just to symbolize the flowering plants that I want to see, and soon. It came out very nicely, but you'll just have to take my word for it, right?

I also haven't gotten back to the spinning wheel since last week. Every time I think life will slow down, it speeds up. I think I will designate Friday as spinning day this week, because my calendar appears to be empty that day.

Baseball practices started yesterday, with both boys needing to be in different places at the same time, of course. Practices are 2-3 times a week, depending on which child you are. This makes dinner planning very awkward, too, but we all have fun, especially once it starts to warm up.

I think I will start swatching for the Flutter Sleeve cardigan this evening. It's cute, but I'm not sure how the sizing will work. The folks at Interweave Knits have an email thing going, called Knitting Daily. One of the neat things about Knitting Daily is that they do "sweater galleries" for the sweaters in the Knits issues. They put the featured sweaters on a bunch of different women who work there, and tell you what their measurements are compared to the sweaters, so you can see how they fit different women. This has been very educational for me! I've always worn my sweaters a little big, partly because I'm never sure exactly what size I am, and partly to avoid getting the girls too much attention, YKWIM? Looking at the gallery for Flutter Sleeve, I decided I liked the fit best when it had one and a half inches of positive ease, meaning that the sweater was one and a half inches wider around than the body it was covering. At my widest point(s), I measure 36 inches around, so a 37.5 inch sweater would be ideal. However, the sweater is sized for 36 inches or 40 inches. I'm going to look at the pattern more closely to see whether I can just add a few stitches to the 36 inch size, or whether a more complicated fix is required. I'll lay it all out for you when I figure it out.

In the meantime, here's a great picture of Mr. T. Isn't he a hottie?

(photo by Kevin Dillard,

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Now That We've Arrived in Hell, Can I Get Out of This Handbasket?

Every time I think the current administration has reached its nadir, George W. Bush proves me wrong. I won't repeat the litany of stubborn stupidity that has characterized the administration from 2000 until now, because that's well documented almost everywhere. Yet even now, in the twilight of his term, the man can't help but continue to foul things up. It was bad enough that he refused until only very recently to concede that the economy is in tatters. It's even worse that he somehow believes that a quickie cash payout will make any bit of difference to an economy in which people are losing jobs and homes at a pace unseen in a loooooonnnnnggg time. But the worst -- the icing on the shit-filled cupcake of this adminstration -- is his veto of the bill that would have banned waterboarding and a host of other torture techniques. His rationale? "Why should we give up on a technique that has gained us so much in the war on terror?" Never mind that military intelligence experts have repeatedly said that torture doesn't produce any reliable information. Never mind that our standing in the world just clunked down at the bottom of the sewer. And most certainly never mind that we won't have a leg to stand on should other countries or terrorist groups torture our soldiers and citizens.

How can John McCain -- himself a survivor of torture -- look that man in the eye, shake his hand, and accept his endorsement? I'm not a huge John McCain fan, nor do I have extremely strong feelings against him. I don't support his candidacy for President, and I have many reasons for doing so. But the hypocrisy embodied in just that single act of accepting an endorsement from a man who supports the use of torture would be enough, on its own, to keep me from ever voting for him.

As for the economy, it's anyone's guess as to when things will get better or how. I went to get my haircut last week, and while I was there, the woman who had the appointment before mine called to say that the gasoline had been stolen out of her car while she was there. In broad daylight.

Deco Socks -- Better Pictures

The stars aligned. The sun is out and Mr. T is home. Alas, the pictures: not so good. I'll include the two that came out the best, just to give you a clearer picture of the motifs:

I may (may) write the pattern up for sale.

Current knitting has been scarce. Spinning has been nonexistent. Mr. T is about to take the boys out to do some errands, so I think I'll grab the Bleeding Hearts stole and get to work!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

SLWY -- Now With Even More Woolly Goodness!

I mentioned in my last post that I had gotten some nice Springy fiber and that my spinning wheel had been calling out to me. Well, dear readers, I answered that call. I didn't start in on the pretty new fiber. It's been a while since I sat down to spin, so I got out some plain-Jane merino top to get back into the swing of things:

I got this some years back at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. (I'm SO going this year. I haven't been since 2002, I think. I can't wait!). I'm aiming for a heavy laceweight/fingering weight yarn after plying:

My wheel is a Jensen Tina II, with a Woolee-winder. I love both of them. As someone who is somewhat tall, I like upright wheels so I don't feel like I'm hunching over to spin. The Woolee winder allows me to spin without having to stop and move the yarn from hook to hook, which makes the spinning go a lot smoother. Plus, it's just plain much more fun when I can just keep going and going until I run out of fiber.

The thing I find challenging about spinning is judging how thick or thin to make my singles in order to get the finished yarn the right size. Think about a laceweight yarn, for example. You have a general idea of how thick a laceweight yarn is, but in order to spin a laceweight yarn, you have to remember that the separate plies are even thinner. After knitting for a while without spinning, my sense memory focuses more on the final yarn size than the ply size, so I have to consciously make the singles thinner.

So far, it's going very well. I'm about a quarter of the way through this batch of fiber. I can't wait to see what the final product looks like, and to knit something with it.

I haven't neglected the knitting, of course. The Bleeding Hearts Stole is going, but slowly. I don't think progress pictures would be very interesting, because it doesn't look that much different.

Now that I finished the Deco Socks (FO pictures coming soon, I promise), I needed a mindless sock project to work on in between the stole and bouts of spinning, so I cast on using the spring green Duet sock yarn from my last post:

While this isn't a color I generally wear, it's making me insanely happy right now. After a long, dreary winter, I need to see shades of green. I love the yarn, too. It's very soft. The main yarn comes with a smaller skein of coordinating yarn for the heels and toes which blends in very nicely(as you can see in the picture). I'm knitting these on size 0 needles, so they won't go as fast as my last couple of pairs of socks.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Spring in a Box

And a closer look at the colors:

I'm really craving Spring. It seems like this Winter has gone on forever. I think you can see my cravings made manifest in my most recent fiber purchases! Here we have some Duet "Skinny" sock yarn in Spring Willow. It's unbelievably soft, and looks like it should be knit on size 0 or 000 needles. The colors remind me of the greens of the shoots of plants sprouting for Spring. The fiber with blues and greens is Tempted's handpainted merino and silk roving in the "Heavenly" colorway, while the roving with the apricots and browns is Blue Faced Leicester "Rufus Lupus." All of these tempting goodies were purchased from the lovely people at The Loopy Ewe. Did I mention that my spinning wheel has been calling out to me?

I probably won't start any spinning this weekend, however. My sister in law is in town with her husband and son, visiting my father-in-law, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for lung cancer (not too severe or advanced, thank goodness), so we're going out to spend the afternoon with all of them. SIL's son, M., is the same age as Jr. Jr., and they get along wonderfully.

Soon I hope to have pictures of the finished pair of Dove Socks (I'm halfway through the second). Hopefully these pictures will be better than the last, so you can see the detail better.

I'm also anxious to see what happens in the primaries on Tuesday. The Democratic race is certainly getting heated. Curiouser and curiouser!

On the funny kid note... I had Jr. Jr.'s school conference yesterday. It was all very good, but you've gotta love a teacher who says at the end of the conference, "He's less of a weasel now than he was at the beginning of the year," referring to said child's propensity to try to bat his adorable eyelashes to get out of trouble!