Saturday, August 30, 2008

Score! With a Quick Reading Report

I have pictures of the finished Gathered Pullover to show you. I really love how this sweater turned out. It fits perfectly and it's really comfortable. Here's a close-up:

And here's a more full-length shot:

The specs: Gathered Pullover from Interweave Knits, Winter 2007. Yarn: Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed. I made the size that would give me zero ease around the bust, knowing that the cable motif would pull it in a little. I did make some modifications to the pattern, including lengthening the sweater by a couple of inches, replacing the rolled hems at the sleeves and bottom with a knitted-in hem, and giving the sweater a bit of an A-line shape by making it wider at the bottom and decreasing down to the final size as I knit upwards.

I think the sweater looks great with jeans, but it's got enough of a tailored look to it to go well with a skirt or a nice pair of trousers.

Alas, I broke my "no new yarn for a year" pledge during the Loopy Ewe's most recent Wollmeise sneak-up. People go nuts for this yarn! I've never used it or seen it in person. Typically, the Wollmeise is listed on the site surreptitiously and then it's like a shark feeding frenzy -- lots of blood in the water, but over quickly. This yarn supposedly sells out in a matter of minutes after it's put up on the site. I knew Sheri was going to put it up in three different lots over the course of the week, but I don't have the time, the energy, or the desire, quite frankly, to hover near a computer waiting for it to happen. So imagine my surprise when I checked in late one afternoon and there it was. Remembering that people have said that skeins they'd put in their carts had been sold out before they had a chance to reach check out, I picked out three skeins that seemed like colors I'd like. Two of them were sold out by the time I got to check out, so I got one. That's all I need, really, anyway.

It's very pretty. It's red with some black and purple, very hard to capture with my meager photographic skills. It's almost like the yarn was a dark red and purple, overdyed a bit with black.

So far I've had it for about an hour, and I have yet to lose the five pounds I gained this summer, win the lottery, or have David Tennant swear his undying lust for me, so maybe the magic from the yarn hasn't been released yet.

We spent some time last week doing middle school orientation stuff. Sr. Jr. is excited. I hope it will be a good time for him. He's most anxious about his math placement. He's "tagged" as gifted in math, so we know he'll be in one of the more advanced math classes, but whether he'll be in the 7th grade or 8th grade placement has yet to be determined. We met Jr. Jr's teacher as well. She's very young, but she seems nice, and we've heard good reports from friends whose child had her last year. Most of his good friends are in other classes, but he does know several of his classmates.

So, what shall I knit now? I feel an urgency to get something started so I have something to work on next week when the kids go back to school. It would be ironic indeed if, after complaining all summer long about how little time I've had to knit, I don't have anything ready to go when I finally do get the time.

Reading Report

It's been a while since I've given you an update, so this will be a quickie.

I read two books by Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders and People of the Book. Year of Wonders was a story about a 17th century village that voluntarily quarantines itself for a year after some of its residents come down with plague. While there was a bit too much "male medicine bad, female herbalism good" for my taste, the novel as a whole was engrossing, with interesting, well-thought out characters. People of the Book was based in part on the real-life story of the Sarajevo Hagaddah, a rare 15th century illustrated Jewish Passover hagaddah. The New Yorker had a wonderful story about the history of the hagaddah a few months ago that brought me to tears, so I was interested in whether a fictional representation could move me as much. The book travels through time, using a modern Australian conservator's experiences with the book as a framing device. We experience the lives of all the people who have participated in the lifetime of the Hagaddah, from the manuscript maker who created it in Inquisition-era Spain, to the Bosnian Muslim to smuggled the book out of Sarajevo in World War II to keep the Nazis from destroying it. The real-life story translated well to fiction, enabling me to learn a lot more about the day-to-day lives of Jews in different places and times than I did before.

I also read The Gravedigger's Daughter, by Joyce Carol Oates. It was a bit bleak and depressing, but well-written.

I caught up on more by one of my new favorite authors, reading My Lover's Lover, by Maggie O'Farrell. This one was a bit of an odd beast. It seems at the start to be a bit of a ghost story, but turns into more of a psychological examination of paranoia and obsession. While I didn't like it quite as much as her other books, it was still well-written and hard to put down.

After a quick David Sedaris palate cleanser, I'm reading Dear American Airlines, a novel whose narrator tells his story in a long complaint letter to the airline of the title while he's stuck at O'Hare airport hoping he doesn't miss his chance to attend his estranged daughter's wedding. It's cute. When this is done, I have a couple of books from a longtime favorite author of mine, Eric Kraft, to look forward to.

So my task for this weekend is to find something new to knit. I had said I'd do a cabled vest, but now I'm not so sure. Will ponder the possibilities...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I have actual knitted items to show today. Amazing, I know. I finished the first Gumdrop sock from this month's Socks that Rock sock club installment. I wasn't crazy about the earlier offerings, but I'm happy with this one. The colors were interesting and the pattern was fun to knit. Here's a close-up of the toe:

And another shot. It's hard to take good sock pictures when the socks are on your own feet. The patterns calls for a garter stitch short-row toe and heel, because they are reversible, allowing the sock to be worn with its inside facing out as well. I didn't think I'd ever care to wear these the other way around, so I stuck with a stockinette short-row heel and a regular toe.

I also finished the second sleeve to the Gathered Pullover, and got the whole thing blocked in preparation for sewing it together:

It blocked out very nicely. I didn't have to pull or stretch any part of it. I just laid it down and smoothed it out. I can't wait to see how this fits and looks with the modifications that I made. (Added some length and made it more A-lined.) The yarn (Jo Sharp Silkroad Tweed) was wonderful to knit with and softened up considerably after its wash. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get this sewn up and the neckline knit before next week, but if I do, I'll post the pictures.

I started the little socklet for my MIL. The Regia Silk is luxurious to knit with! It's so soft. I have some in different colors down in my stash, so I may have to knit some socks with this for myself.

In the meantime, summer's winding down. The weather here is exceptionally cool, which kills the idea of going to the pool. Mr. T took Sr. Jr. in to work with him today, so SJ could "work" in the copy/mail room. Mr. T will pay him $4 an hour. I think this is hysterical. I can't wait to hear how it goes. They both rode downtown on their bikes, too. I told Mr. T that he should worry when the mail room guys start snickering behind his back when they see him after today.

We had one visit to the middle school last week, and there's an open house coming up on Thursday at both schools. Jr. Jr. is haunting the mailbox waiting for his teacher assignment to arrive. All school supplies have been purchased, desks are being cleaned off, and children are slowly getting acclimated to waking up earlier. They're both excited, and so am I.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Today Sr. Jr. turns 11. This is what an eleven year old boy looks like, complete with sneer:

But not so long ago, he looked like this:

He was just over four years old in that shot. That's about the time we had the "African squirrel" discussion that has long been the story I tell when I want to give someone insight into his personality. We used to (still do) take lots of walks around the neighborhood. The owners of one house around the corner from us often leave out bowls of peanuts for the squirrels to take. (In fact, it's the same house that was nearly demolished by a tree a couple of months ago, pictured in an earlier post.) One day when we were walking by, I commented that the squirrels must really like the peanuts.

"But Mommy, they haven't eaten any," said SJ.

"Yes they have," I said, pointing out how the shells had been broken and the nuts removed. "The squirrels eat the nuts from the inside and leave the shells behind."

"Well, mommy, those are the American squirrels. The African squirrels eat the shells, and they haven't been by yet."

"Oh," I said, playing along to see where this was going to go, "African squirrels? Really? How do they get here?"

"They walk, of course."

"But, sweetie, there's a really big ocean between here and Africa. How do they get across the ocean?"

"They get on the boats and sail. And then they get off here and walk to our neighborhoods."

"Oh, that's really interesting. How can I tell which squirrel is an African squirrel and which is an American squirrel?"

"The African squirrels eat the peanut shells."

Then and now, the boy will NEVER admit he's wrong about anything, and will contort himself verbally and rhetorically in all sorts of ways to minimize any wrongness there might be. As one of his teachers put it, "he likes to have the last word."

About a year earlier, we had our first cross-examination experience. It was holiday time, and we had a tree up in the living room. We had baby gates around the tree, mainly to keep SJ from getting over there and possibly breaking something or pulling the tree down. We told him that the gates were there to keep the cat from getting to the tree. One evening, I was busy cooking and baking when SJ decided to question me about the need for the gates.

"Mommy, are the gates in front of the tree to keep the kitty away from the tree so she won't break the ornaments?"

"Yes, sweetie."

"Mommy, cats can jump, right?"

"Mmm hmmm."

"And the cat can jump on the couch, right?"

"Yeeesss," I said, seeing where this was going.

"And once she's on the couch, she can just jump off the back over to the tree, right?"

"You're right, sweetie."

"So the gates don't really do anything, do they?"

*Sigh* Beaten in a cross examination by a three year old. He did something similar to me in the produce department of the supermarket once, gathering a following as we went along. At the end of it, three people looked at me and said, "He's hysterical. You're going to have your hands full!" Yes, SJ WAS that verbally talented when he was three.

Here he is on the first day of kindergarten:

And with his little brother, later that year:

Now we get into the bike racing and hiking years:

I am amazed at what the little tiny bundle I cuddled for so long has turned into. He's ferociously smart and opinionated. He's so strong! He's passionate about nature, the environment, and politics. He loves baseball, biking, tennis, and hiking. He's beginning to be interested in girls. He's responsible and conscientious (mostly). He never stops talking. He loves to argue. Way too many of his sentences start "Actually..." He can be arrogant when it comes to people who don't understand things as quickly as he does. He can be surly one moment and sweet the next. He's a pretty good judge of character, which I hope will serve him well in the coming difficult years of adolescence. He's my Doctor Who watching buddy.

Middle school seems scary to me. I know he's ready for it, but I'm not sure I'm ready. I know the issues he (and we) will face will be much tougher than those we've faced so far. I think he's got a good head on his shoulders, but temptation and peer pressure can be strong. I'm encouraged by the way things have evolved this year. There was a bit of a friendship group realignment this year, which started out painfully as his best friend moved in one direction and he in another. But I think (unfortunately) that his friend moved into a crowd that will end up getting in trouble later on, while SJ moved more toward the group of kids who won't. I know all of that will change as he makes new friends from new schools this year, but I hope that his judgment holds.

And in only a few short years he'll be going off to college. I already miss him.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pictures of Knitting, Not Kids!

As much as I adore my kids, I do recognize that this is a knitting blog, and people come here for the yarny goodness. I said at the beginning of the summer that it would be a bit knitting-lite around here for a while, and it was. While I'm sure that my putt-putt pictures were enthralling, I'm pleased to announce that I have officially finished the Thelonious socks:

Specs: Pattern, linked above, by the amazing Cookie A. Yarn: Shibuiknits sock, Peony colorway. I love the yarn. In the skein, it looked like a semi-solid. I didn't expect it to be as stripey as it turned out, but the colors are subtle enough that they don't compete with the pattern. In person, the contrast is more subdued. The pattern itself was a pleasure to knit, both in terms of the knitting and in terms of the quality of the pattern writing. I modified the sock a bit by extending the motif so that the two lace panels meet up on the top of the sock, just for shits and giggles. I like the sock my way, and as written.

I also started the latest installment of the Blue Moon Fiber Arts sock club, the Gumdrop sock, in STR lightweight, Goody Goody color. Here's the front view:

Here's a view of the side, where, if the picture were a bit clearer, you could see how the motif grows diagonally:

This pattern is also fun to knit. Clearly, it's going pretty quickly. It's written with a garter stitch short row heel, because the sock looks good inside out, too, apparently. I'm not sure I'll use the garter stitch heel as written, or convert it to stockinette. I don't think I'd wear the sock the other way around, so I prefer to stick with a less bulky stockinette heel. I may change my mind when I get there. Who knows?

I'm perilously close to finishing the second sleeve on the Flutter Sleeve cardi, as well. If I actually get some time this weekend, I could get it blocked, and possibly sewn up. I'm not holding my breath.

The hurricane ended up hitting land south of where my MIL lives, so they didn't even get any rain. However, it's supposed to cross over Florida, then turn back and go west over northern Florida/southern Georgia, where my SIL lives. We're still in a holding pattern, therefore.

Coming up Thursday, another special birthday! (no knitting content, for those of you planning ahead)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Birthday Extravaganza

My mother in law and her boyfriend (guy? fella? significant other? boyfriend sounds weird) were here this weekend for a much-anticipated visit. It's been a while since she's come north; I think Sr. Jr. was in kindergarten the last time she was here. Friday was her birthday and Saturday was Mr. T's, so there was much fine dining and eating of rich desserts.

For an extra special birthday treat, we played putt putt. Here's Jr. Jr., lining up a putt:

Sr. Jr. tries to guide his ball to the hole:

And I do my best to break 100:

Both my MIL and her friend have leg/feet/knee issues that mean they can't do too much walking. That does limit our options a bit, especially when the weather here is as spectacular as it was this weekend. I can't remember an August when we've had so many lovely, sunny, not-too-hot, not humid days.

But my MIL decided that she needed some socks. Store-bought socks just don't feel good to her. She doesn't like the ridge by the toes, and the material around the ankles is too tight for her. Aha! I said, and had her try on some hand-knit socks. She said she wanted little cotton golf-style socks, so I had her try on some hand-knit cotton socks. I also brought some wool socks down so she could try those on as well. My personal feeling is that many hand-knit cotton socks feel kind of rough on your feet, while she was afraid that wool would be too hot for Florida. She loved the way the socks fit, but agreed that the cotton was a bit rough. So she put on the wool socks and kept them on for a while. Loved them. Soft, good-fitting, not too hot, even in summer.

So off we bopped, she still wearing my wool socks, to Knit Happens, to get some sock yarn for me to make her some socks. (Just in case you're wondering, no, I don't have what she wanted -- plain white or khaki -- in the stash. This is yarn that I'm buying as a gift for her, so it doesn't count against my stash-busting pledge, according to my very fluid rules.)

We got some Regia silk (so soft!) in white, khaki-ish, and grey, and for kicks, some Lorna's Laces in the Aslan colorway, because it would look good with khaki pants. Since all she wants are little socklets with rolled tops, I should be able to crank out several pairs from each of those Regia balls. It's pretty much as simple as casting on, knitting for a few rows to create the roll, then immediately doing a heel flap/turn/gusset.

How cool is it to have a mother in law who wants me to knit her some socks?

After we finished up at Knit Happens, we wandered down to the Alexandria waterfront to take advantage of the beautiful weather. It was nice just to sit there and watch people play with their puppies.

Unfortunately, they had to leave yesterday, instead of today, so they could get home ahead of Hurricane Fay. The storm is supposed to go right over their part of Florida, and MIL's friend didn't want to take the risk of not getting home and leaving his mother home alone during the storm.

I actually did get some knitting done this weekend. I finished the pattern part of the foot of the second Thelonious sock, so all I have to do now are the toe decreases and the kitchenering. That's easy enough to crank out, so maybe I'll get started on the next STR socks or my MIL's socks this evening.

School starts two weeks from tomorrow! Sr. Jr. is getting very excited about starting middle school. On Thursday (his birthday) we go an meet with his guidance counselor, and next Thursday is a big open house. I can't wait to start on this adventure with him.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brought to You Today by the Letter S and the Number 2

S is for Sleeve, on the second I have knit some:

S is for Second Sock. Since we last met, I have knit none.

S is for Sweep, since my mother in law's to come. Sweep, sweep, sweep.

S is for Sleep, I'll do that when the Olympics are done.


I've been enjoying the Olympics, with one major caveat, discussed below. Michael Phelps is astounding. One of the Washington Post sportswriters dubbed him Giant Squid Boy, and it fits. Every time he breathes near a pool, he breaks a world record it seems. Watching him really is watching history being made.

Gymnastics is always fun to watch, too, but the controversy over the Chinese gymnasts is seriously deserving of investigation. CNN, the New York Times, and Sports Illustrated are all reporting on evidence from Chinese records that some of its gymnasts are 14 or even 13 years old, when the rules state the competitors have to turn 16 during the Olympic year. This is just flat out cheating that shouldn't be swept under the rug in an attempt to avoid insulting our hosts.

The age thing is far less of a distraction to me than the whole Chinese sports system is. During the gymnastics event, the announcers mentioned that the Chinese team captain, who is now 20 years old, was identified by the Chinese government as being potentially talented in this area and removed from her family to attend a training institution when she was three years old. She was allowed one visit per year with her family. At one point, she wanted to quit, but didn't. I don't know if she was literally forced to stay, but in the Chinese culture, talk of "honoring your family and your country" is tantamount to coercion. This is child abuse, pure and simple. Worse, this is a form of slavery. I have a very hard time watching those little girls, as beautiful and as talented as they are, without wondering what kind of emotional damage has been done to them.

Like I mentioned in my little ditty above, my MIL is arriving tomorrow and staying until Monday evening. There will likely be little knitting, and probably no posting until next week, so have a great weekend, everyone.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Curb Your Enthusiasm

It's a sleeve! Whee! I can hardly contain myself. Well, I guess I can.

One sleeve, a little seaming, and a neckband to go. I'll probably get at least the sleeve done this week. My MIL and her boyfriend are coming to visit this weekend, and they will be occupying my blocking/guest room, so I couldn't get this thing wrapped up until after that anyway. I'm enjoying this knit, with the luxury of the yarn, the meditative aspect of stockinette in the round, the fun of the little cable panel.

Firefly Nights commented on my last post that she hadn't tried cables yet. You should absolutely give it a whirl. It's remarkably easy and fun to do. I remember, back in the Dark Ages (b.i. -- before internet) when I was teaching myself how to knit, cables scared me. But I was so inspired by all the beautiful cables in the Barbara Walker treasuries that I had to try it. After that first cable twist, it was like the light of heaven shone on me, with a choir of angels singing in my head. OK, maybe not that dramatic. But I immediately designed a beautiful cabled sweater for my mother. It was in a light grey heather Lopi, with just the cast on and bind off done in a contrasting navy. I'm not sure she ever wore it, but I did find it in a drawer after she died. I hadn't thought about that sweater in years, but it stood the test of time. If it weren't for the fact that I'm a good 5 inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than she was, I'd have taken it back for myself.

This yarn diet thing is beginning to get to me, especially now that I'm starting to think of the Fall wardrobe. I want to go buy more yummy tweedy yarns! Some people go shopping for back to school supplies, I lust for yarn.

Speaking of back to school, I'm amazed that it's almost the middle of August and I haven't seen a single back to school ad! For the past couple of years, the ads would start in July. Now, not a peep. Moreover, when my friend and I went shopping last week, we couldn't believe that all the summer stuff was still out. There was hardly any Fall stuff at all. Is this a function of the economy? Are retailers doing so poorly that they don't want to bring stuff out early and pay to promote it because no one's shopping?

I got the Fall IK at the end of last week, too. There are some very pretty sweaters and socks in this issue. The Bacchus socks are a definite must. I also liked the Sidelines Top, the Whisper Stripe Pullover, and the Abigail Tee.

Sporting Events

We went to see the Legg Mason tennis tournament this weekend. The weather was beautiful, which is rare for Washington in August. In years past, Andre Agassi would be so overcome by the heat at Legg Mason that he'd throw up in the courtside planters between games. We watched all or most of 4 matches. They were all qualifying matches with players we'd never heard of, but it was fun for the boys to see their newfound skills taken to such a high level. Plus, they got lots of autographs. And I got to watch shirtless guys on the practice court. What more could you ask for?

I normally give Olympic opening ceremonies a wide berth. I most cases, I find them to be pretty ridiculous spectacles. So you can imagine how surprised I was to be absolutely riveted by this year's opening ceremonies. Instead of being a spectacle, it was spectacular :) The choreography, the music, the dancing, the blending of Chinese tradition with modern technology -- astounding. It was one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a long time.

Added Later

Someone on Ravelry posted a link to a site that lets you figure out what song was #1 on the charts the day you were born. I love mine! It's "Respect," by Aretha Franklin :)

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I don't have much time to blog today -- spending most of the day with a friend, then I have to get the boys, clean up the mess in the house from yesterday, then run off into the city to pick up Mr. T to go to a work function. So here's a quick peek at my progress on the Gathered Pullover:

I'm finished with the front and I've started the back. I hope this fits nicely. The fit is highly dependent on the placement of the cable motif, which draws the fabric in around the bust. So I'll just cross my fingers and wait.

Yesterday my brother was here, filming an interview for a documentary with an expert who was himself in town for a conference. We had originally discussed having the filming take place in the living room, which was pristine. When they got here, they decided to film in the family room which was, well, um, not pristine. That's the room we live and play in, so it has all my knitting and spinning projects, as well as a ton of magazines and Legos, etc. Somehow they managed to push stuff aside to get a clean shot. But now I have to get it all cleaned up and rearranged.

After a couple of days of intractable headaches, I took some allergy medicine. It helped the headaches, but left me feeling tired and woogly-headed. Even now, at 10 am, all I want to do is crawl back into bed and go to sleep. I can't imagine that I'll be sparkling with wit and charm this evening, either. Oh, well.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cables & Tweed

I love cables knitted in tweedy yarn.

Automatically makes me think of crisp fall nights. I'm almost to the part in the Gathered Pullover pattern where I separate for the armholes, so it's going quickly. Stockinette in the round usually does.

I've also turned the heel on the Thelonious socks. I really like these socks. As soon as I finish them, I'll start the new STR sock club socks.

This week both boys are at tennis camp. Normally I would enjoy this time to myself, but like I mentioned earlier, my brother is planning to film an interview in the house, so I've got to get it straightened up and in visitor condition, plus filming will kill a day, and then another day is given up to shopping with a friend. Not a terrible imposition, clearly, but given that this is my only kid-free time this summer, it means that I won't get as much knitting done as I'd like, and I certainly won't get that spinning wheel going, either.

Last week Sr. Jr. was at his Adventure Links camp. On Thursday, they were supposed to go sailing on the Chesapeake, then camp out and go mountain biking on Friday. There was no wind on Thursday, so they went kayaking instead. He still had an amazing time. When he got home on Friday, he went straight upstairs to take a shower, then we spent about an hour de-ticking him. We pulled at least 15 ticks off his body, even from the underside of one of his toes. I'm keeping an eye on him to see if he gets sick, but so far he's doing fine. We know one boy who's been dealing with Lyme disease for a year now, and it doesn't look like fun.

We also went ahead and got Sr. Jr. a cell phone. I resisted this for a while, but now that he's more independent, I think it's nice for him to have. The principal at his middle school even recommends that kids get one before school starts. This way, he can call from school to tell me that he's going to a friend's house, or I can call him when he's at the pool and I want him to come home. Part of me still feels it's ridiculous for an eleven year old boy to have a cell phone, but I'll just have to suck it up.

He, of course, is acting all macho and grown up. He's feverishly planning what ringtones to get. Oy.