Sunday, December 30, 2007

First Book Recommendation

I have always been a reader, but I've tended to neglect reading for pleasure lately in favor of knitting, and also because I do so much job-related reading of literature. I have, however, begun to pick it up again, thanks to a library committee assignment and to discovering the availability of inexpensive free audiobooks through my library consortium that I can listen to while spinning. Aren't MP3 players great?

Keep in mind that I read good literature all the time. At the present time I'm rereading Wuthering Heights and Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees because I'm going to be teaching both of them in January. I want to be able, however, to recommend some books that are just a good read (or listen), even if just for entertainment purposes. I am going to provide Amazon or Barnes & Noble links wherever possible, but I recommend a visit to your local public library first. Save money for sock yarn!

My first selection is Mary Higgins Clark's Mount Vernon Love Story--a novel about, of course, George and Martha Washington. I had the audiobook. Although it is obvious that historical research forms the background for this book, the reader should note that this book focuses on a personal relationship which we can factually know only from the outside. Nevertheless, we are reminded of facets of the personality of the first President that we don't usually think about. For example, it is hard to visualize that stern face on the dollar bill as belonging to someone with the reputation of being the best dancer in Virginian society. Somehow that fact seems more interesting than mythological stories about chopping down cherry trees. Coupled with the story of the two lovers is the story of Washington's love for Mount Vernon and the land. From some other history I have read, I know that he was a statesman, a general, and, above all, a farmer, and his pride in the estate forms a backdrop for the story of the marriage. I must admit that I enjoyed the book also because I've walked the grounds at Mount Vernon and stood on the porch and looked across the Potomac. For me, the beauty of that magnificent home made the narrative even more real. (By the way, the tale mentions a purchase of spinning wheels and a spinning house where the textiles for the estate were evidently processed although I'm sure many of the finer fabrics were imported.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas Surprise

As I was waiting for the service to begin last night, my childhood best friend arrived with her brother's family. She had made a quick trip back home, sans hubby who was recovering from some surgery, to see her nieces and their families who were coming home all at the same time with their little ones for Christmas. We enjoyed the services together and got in a few minutes of visiting. What a wonderful blessing!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Probably the Last FO of 2007 and a Christmas Wish

This is the Knitting Pure and Simple V-Neck Raglan from Noro Silverthaw. I finished it on December 21, but due to our family Christmas on the 22nd, I didn't get it on the Wooly Board until last night. I know that it looks short and wide, but it doesn't look that way on my body--probably because the body is also short and wide. The fabric is wonderfully soft and cozy. My only complaint is that the yarn had lots of knots. I spit-spliced, so I hope that the wool-angora-nylon blend holds.

Merry Christmas!

As I said, we had our family Christmas on Saturday. Our DD and her family arrived safely in spite of an early-morning ice and snow storm. Our DS and his family are local, so they were here, too. We had two baby girls at the cruising stage, and the two 4 yr. olds were sitting at a children's table nearby. They had a blast without so much adult supervision. It's amazing how entertaining children can be. Watching the little ones try out various unfamiliar tastes at the table was the greatest sort of fun. Then, of course, there were the presents and watching the kiddies have fun. I'm glad that we got to share. Both families moved on to dinners with the other side of the family today, and then they'll have their own Christmas Day at home.

DH and I drove to the nearest city today, ate a nice breakfast at The Cracker Barrel, watched other people frantically trying to finish Christmas shopping (and felt superior), had lunch at Red Lobster, and drove home. We did run into an old friend who used to live here, so that made the day special.

Tonight will be the Christmas Eve candelight service at church. I always need this one--quiet, beautiful, peaceful--music and communion. I particularly need it because Christmas is always a bittersweet time--my father died at midnight on Christmas Eve a number of years ago. It's at this time I remember the Christmases of my childhood, being carried to the living room on his shoulders on Christmas morning to see the tree and the presents, and the special Christmas that he carried me into the backyard in my coat and footed pajamas to sit me on the seat and adjust the chain length on the swingset that he had welded for me from pipe. I hope our children and their children will remember the special things. . . . Thank you, Daddy!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Better than Knitting--or Anything Else

--a sleepy 4-year-old tucked into bed after a bedtime book and a Bible story.
--the lights from a Christmas tree.
--a sleeping baby on my shoulder for an hour.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cheap Thrills

Both my husband and I are the children of older parents, which means that our parents were young married adults during the Great Depression. In fact, my mother’s family homesteaded in a dugout in New Mexico Territory in 1906, and the other parental units were not exactly rich to begin with either. In fact, our families actually made it through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl quite well, managing to stay employed and get ahead even though they worked very hard. However, we both grew up relatively frugally on a pay-as-you-go-basis although we really never wanted for anything.

This tendency toward economy has not always carried over into our daily lives. I do not can vegetables because I can get them more cheaply at the supermarket even though I occasionally break out into a batch of pickles or jelly. I no longer wash and reuse aluminum foil. Actually, with a microwave I don’t use much foil. I gave up the little plastic “shower cap” food covers for plastic wrap long ago. I drive a mid-size SUV with a lot of bells and whistles and leather seats, but I bought it used. (Before I get jumped on, I need a vehicle that can haul freight back for our business when I go to nearby cities.) We have a number of satellite channels. As empty nesters, we pretty much go out when we want to, order what we want at a restaurant, and otherwise try not to count pennies too much, but in truth we do not go too far from our heritage--otherwise, guilt takes over. So we tend to economize in ways that probably don't matter too much, but make us feel better. Occasionally we go on a real spending spree. Our latest? We finally have trash bags with drawstrings! We’re currently having a little celebration every time the garbage goes out. Do we know how to have fun, or what?

Our family has grown in the last two or three years. This year, we finally got our efficient woodburning stove from our previous house installed in our fireplace, which means that we can no longer hang this many stockings from the mantel. My DH picked up this old (and fake) brass coatrack at the local salvage yard. I think it works very well. Now I just have to fill the stockings. My goal for after Christmas is to take time to embroider the names on the ones that don't have them. I haven't been able to keep up. I think I may spring for a Santa hat for the top as well.

Actually, the coat rack gives me a thrill. I think every young woman of my age was inspired to some extent by the old Mary Tyler Moore show and that nifty apartment in Minneapolis. She had a brass coatrack that I always envied but didn't have the money to buy back then when a beginning teacher's salary didn't buy much. Now I don't really need the coatrack--I use it to hang sewing projects in my sewing room--but it's nice to have a celebratory use for it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

No "Visible" Knitting Content

What have I been up to as far as knitting goes? Well, I am knitting madly a few rows at a time on the Noro Silver Thaw sweater. It is going very smoothly--the wool/angora/nylon blend feels great going through my fingers. The yarn does have more knots to deal with than I would prefer.

I'm getting more and more practice at knitting continental-style. I am also knitting another pair of socks for my DH. I ordered some Kroy in what I thought would be a variegated gray--the color was "Glencheck," I think. Well, they are coming out even more solid than the last gray pair. However, since I am worried about being a little short of yardage on these, I'm going to use some bits from my leftover sock yarn stash and do something a little bit crazy with the heels and toes. These are going rather fast because I'm knitting the Kroy on 2s--tried 1s and the fabric was too stiff.

Ravelry--I'm finally exploring the possibilities. I have not listed my stash, primarily because I don't have much of one other than sock yarn, and we all know that "sock yarn doesn't . . . yada yada." I'm listed as panhandlejane.

Otherwise--Most of my Christmas shopping is done except for stocking stuffers. The tree is up, the houses are on the mantel, and this afternoon I will place the Christmas cat. (This is my private ceremony. For some reason, no one else in the family is interested!)

School--This blog would be much more entertaining if I could tell stories from school. However, the combination of federal privacy laws, professional ethics, and living in a small town keeps my lips zipped and my fingers off the keys. This is the time of year--the end of a semester--when I want to throttle some students who are choosing not to work and hold on to others and not let them go because they are such a pleasure to teach. I have the privilege of dealing with young people as they step, sometimes shakily, over the threshold into the adult world. Some of them have the support of loving families; some of them are already carrying responsibilities far beyond what anyone could expect; some of them have backgrounds that not only do not provide support but even drag them down. I can really count my own blessings. (Note: I am writing this on Saturday morning. You should have heard me venting my frustration on Thursday afternoon. Right now I'm in the mode that moms of preschoolers experience during nap time. "Aren't they cute when they're asleep" is pretty much the same feeling as "Don't they look great in those caps and gowns or prom dresses and tuxes or ____uniforms.")

Every year the invitation people or the cap-and-gown people sell too-expensive senior T-shirts, usually along the lines of "13 years in school and all I have is this crummy T-shirt" or something like that. This year I am told that the T-shirts just say "DONE!" Sometimes understatement is an effective diction choice.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Special Day

Today is our 30th wedding anniversary! We celebrated quietly yesterday because we were afraid the weather was going to be too bad to go anywhere today. For us, "quiet" means a trip to Clovis, NM for lunch at Chili's. Yesterday, though, my husband closed our business for the 1/2 day we are open on Saturdays, and we went earlier in the morning. We cruised through pawn shops and secondhand stores, found a place on the way there that had gasoline well under $3.00, found a ball of Magic Stripes at Hobby Lobby for $1.36 (sock stash enhancement), and finished up a little Christmas shopping. We were home by 1:00 p.m., even allowing for the time zone change. He napped, and I knitted. When you get older, it doesn't take much to make something a real celebration!

This is NOT our wedding picture, but obviously we have known each other a LONG time! We were much cuter then.

I am so thankful for my DH. His steadiness is often what gets me through difficult times, and like everyone else, we have faced those. He is absolutely dependable, and I really don't deserve him. We both came to marriage a little later, 28 and 31, and we have been blessed with beautiful children and grandchildren. We have a nice home, a business, and I have a teaching career. We are blessed indeed.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Yo habla. . . .maybe

I live in the same community where I grew up. I teach at the same school I graduated from in 1967; however, over the years the makeup of our town and school has changed. I would estimate that the town and school both have a Hispanic majority now. It is quite possible to go about one's daily business without having to speak English.

My Spanish is rudimentary, at best. For one thing, I know my pronunciation is so bad that I am very shy about using it. I have a strong Texas accent, and I can't roll an r no matter how hard I try.

The school has provided home access to Rosetta Stone for any teacher who wants to use it. I started last night. It was hard to judge, since the beginning lesson covered mostly things I knew. I also have the kind of mind that gets distracted by questions like, "What makes one airplane an avion and another an avioneta?" Obviously, it is the size, but what is the dividing point? Ditto for nino (can't remember how to get the tilde over the n) and muchaco. Is it adolescence? Preschool? Oh well, I certainly have a lot of students who will be glad to help, particularly if they can get a laugh out of it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What the Yarn Wants to Be

I recently ordered some Noro Silver Thaw, color 9, from Webs to make a ruana that I saw on another blog. It looked like a good, practical garment that I would enjoy. Then I got a look at this beautiful yarn, and I convinced my DH to be my swift as I wound all 7 skeins of it. I started worrying about the pattern. Nevertheless, I began knitting and completed about 3 inches of the back. The colors were lovely, but the yarn was stripey enough that I began to get the feeling that I would only need a cigar, a sombrero, and a revolver to belong in one of those Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. What could I make that I would actually wear?

After rummaging through my pattern notebook and some internet sites, I finally decided on the v-neck neckdown woman's chunky pullover from Knitting Pure and Simple. The last sweater of theirs I made (Big Blue) fit perfectly when I knit to gauge, but I want this one to be a little looser to wear a turtleneck underneath and have more of a tunic feel. I am using a needle a little larger and knitting 3.5 stitches to the inch instead of 4. IF I have calculated right, and math was my worst subject, that should give me the ease I want. This afternoon, I tried on the top with the v-neck completed and almost one ball of yarn used up. It seems to fit fine, although I may have to make the neck edging a little wider than the pattern calls for to compensate for the change in gauge. I still love the yarn.

Of course, meanwhile I have gotten on Ravelry, so I looked at all the Silver Thaw projects and almost decided to rip out and order the KP&S Wrap Cardigan. However, I will wear this sweater much more if it turns out OK. All I know to do is to just keep trying it on while I'm making it.

I love my Knitpicks Options, but I do wish the cables had one of those little connector thingies to connect cables so that you could just slide off to a longer cable for try-ons or to shorter ones for stitch holders without having to put on a tip and knit or slide stitches off via the points. My old Boye set from the '60s had those, and they were handy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ravelry at Last!

I'm finally on Ravelry with some projects posted although there's nothing there that I haven't posted here. I'm on there as panhandlejane.

I think that database is going to be very useful when I want to look up a particular pattern or yarn, but it will never be as interesting as looking at people's blogs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Very Plain Gray Socks

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though they don't look like it, these are very special socks. One of my fiber goals for 2007 was to learn to knit continental. For some crazy reason, I did not start with a swatch or a scarf, but with a sock. When did I begin thinking of socks as simple projects? The first one is rather messy--uneven tension, skipped stitches on the heel stitch because knitting was one thing, purling was another, and a rather sloppy toe decrease. Fortunately, the tweedy yarn covered a multitude of sins. The second sock is better. I did cheat on the ribbing and knit English because I was still having trouble with the purling. I have decided that purling Norwegian style may be the way for me to go. Someone has said that EZ purled that way, so if it was good enough for her. . . .

The yarn is Meilenweit Mega Boot Stretch Soft Color. It made a wonderfully soft sock. I was knitting on 2s, so the fabric is a little loose. It was, however, a poor choice for learning a new technique because it is about the splittiest sock yarn I have ever tried. Even though the socks look OK, I don't think I'll buy any more of this yarn because I like others much better.

The gray is for my DH, and I am starting another pair out of Paton's Kroy in Glencheck, also a gray. I'm trying to talk myself into trying toe-up, since that's one of my remaining fiber goals for the year. I could perhaps finish that one. I don't think I can whip out an Alice Starmore in the next 3 weeks!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What I've Been Doing Instead of Knitting

I have often envied teachers of the more "hands-on" disciplines the opportunities they have for field trips, museum visits, experiments, and projects that make learning more fun. Often the teaching of grammar and writing can seem like a tremendous amount of hard work for little reward. It is nice to sometimes have a chance to have fun.

Students at our high school participated in a school wide reading project in which all the students read the legends and tales about King Arthur. Because our school is heavily multicultural, we chose this topic to examine a particularly rich part of British and American cultural heritage. King Arthur, the Holy Grail, the Round Table, chivalry, knighthood, and Camelot itself are often referred to in the news, in other works of literature, and in visual media.

All the classes read the script to the Broadway musical Camelot. Individual teachers chose to examine other parts of the story in different ways, including film clips, reference books, the "original" tales from Chretien de Troyes and Thomas Malory, Chaucer, John Steinbeck’s retelling of the stories, a little Walt Disney, and other sources. Some classes struggled with reading parts of the tales in Middle English. In addition, teachers added research projects about medieval ideas such as courtly love, the wheel of fortune, and the great chain of being. Some students designed shields and heraldry projects.

Teachers in other disciplines also participated in the activities. The physics class built a catapult. United States history classes studied the idea of the Kennedy Administration as Camelot and produced a visual project on that subject.

The King Arthur study culminated with a day of activities hosted by our local chapter of the National English Honor Society. During the early part of the day, NEHS members dressed as King Arthur, Queen Guenevere, and a herald visited classes. They knighted or "ladied" selected students in a ceremony that involved the traditional dubbing of a knight or presenting a lady with a wreath of flowers for her hair. As part of the ceremony, each recipient donned a T-shirt to wear the rest of the day with the shield of the Knight of the Round Table on the front and his individual story on the back. The ladies’ shirts had artwork representing their characters. Students also participated in a chess tournament and backgammon games. Some students even spent time in the stocks.

NEHS members decorated the cafeteria with royal blue tablecloths with red and gold accents. English classes contributed the shields they made to decorate the walls. Society members dressed as medieval servants served the meal as King Arthur and Guenevere welcomed guests to the banquet. The meal, served on genuine foam pewter plates, was eaten with only spoons and fingers. The cafeteria staff duplicated a medieval stew and added baked chicken legs, breadsticks, and apple cider and a pudding for dessert. Two students wearing jester suits juggled while the musical Camelot played on the cafeteria televisions.

At the end of the day, students went to the football stadium to watch an archery demonstration by a local physician who spoke to the students for a few minutes about medieval weaponry, showing some of the weapons, such as spears and battle axes, that would have been used in medieval hand-to-hand combat. He explained why the bow and arrow was an improvement over such weapons. Then he demonstrated the use of the bow by shooting a large artificial boar as a target. The school choir hosted a jousting tournament. Each class had four elected champions who competed on stick horses using pool noodles tipped with powdered chalk as lances.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why I LOVE the Panhandle. . . .

Weather forecast for this week--
Thanksgiving--snow in the late afternoon/evening

Of course, all this is subject to change at a moment's notice. I have seen the 80s to snow all in one day, but that doesn't happen too often.

I have been knitting and doing school stuff. I'm waiting for a picture before I post the school info.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Thanksgiving Poll

My DD sent me these poll questions from Cranium:

1. If you could stuff a turkey with anything, what would it be? Cornbread stuffing, but I don't actually like it in the bird--I cook it as a separate dish.

2. If you designed a giant balloon for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,what would it look like? An elephant, preferably Dumbo.

3. You can pick anyone to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for you, who would you choose? My mother and her sister Dessie, who loved doing turkey and dressing together so much that Aunt Dessie would come to spend the night just to be there to help cook the turkey.

4. What invention are you most thankful for? At my time of life, central heat and air and the ability to switch quickly from one to the other.

5. What's the best part about sitting at the kids' table? Being able to be silly without adults reprimanding you all the time.

6. If you had to eat only one kind of Thanksgiving food for an entire week,what would it be? Stuffing with cranberry sauce.

7. What's your favorite Thanksgiving memory or tradition? Sitting around the table with family eating nut pudding, our traditional holiday secret recipe.

8. What's the one thing that could make you brave day-after-Thanksgivingshopping? H__ __ __ __ freezing over.

9. This fall, instead of a pile of raked-up leaves, I'd like to jump into a pile of _grandchildren_.

10. A Thanksgiving food I wouldn't want thrown at me in a food fight is__noodles in hot broth_. I had a bowl of those explode in my hands a couple of years ago--not fun.

11. Next Thanksgiving, everyone should wear Native American costumes to the dinnertable!

12. How many times can you say the word "cornucopia" in ten seconds? 12

Monday, November 05, 2007

Great Adirondacks

Here are my new socks--Great Adirondack Silky Sock, color Antique, on size 1 KPs, generic top-down pattern. I wore them today, and they were very comfy.

A month or so ago, there was quite a thread on the Knitter's Review forums about the perils of pooling and flashing and general gaudiness with handpainted yarns. Notice that the colors on the legs spiral perfectly and the spiral continues on the feet. There is only the slightest hint of pooling at the ankle. The heel flaps are very attractive as well, even though you can't see them.

I found the yarn to be very nice to knit with although it was somewhat hard and smooth, probably due to the silk, instead of being soft and fluffy. It was certainly not splitty. I am very pleased, and I will look for another colorway that I like in this brand.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Heraldry the Modern Way

It's amazing what can be done with the internet, MS Word, transfer paper, an iron, and T-shirts. We are doing a schoolwide study on King Arthur. Every student in our high school has been reading and studying the Arthurian legends. We selected this as our English project this year because we felt that many of our students were missing a significant cultural background that forms the basis for understanding all kinds of popular and academic references. Consider, for example, Indiana Jones or The Da Vinci Code. We are finishing up this coming week with a dinner, some mock jousting, class projects, and an activity in which Arthur and Guenevere will draw names and knight and "lady" selected students. Each student chosen will be presented with a T-shirt describing his character's part in the legend to wear for the rest of the day. I just finished the shirts; the descriptive paragraphs are on the back.

From L to R, top row: The Lady of the Lake, The Lady of Shalott, Sir Percival, Sir Galahad, Sir Bors, Sir Gawain, Sir Bedivere, Sir Lancelot. Bottom: Igraine and Sir Thomas Malory, who compiled the stories, represented not by his crest but by a manuscript page of his text.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Knitter's Tea Swap 4

Look what I got from my pal Kandie! I am particularly excited about the washcloth--beautiful colors--, the great Kroy yarn, and the sock book. It's great to meet a new friend from another part of the country.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gone Fishing

This is what I've been doing this weekend--working on costumes for the school musical--Seussical. I've made this fish skirt and a purple one, which I left at the rehearsal after the fitting this afternoon. The yellow is actually much brighter than the picture shows. It is made from a satin organza and is semi-sheer, which is fine because it will be worn over leotards and tights. The "fish" will be all different colors--I think I have 4 or 5 more to make.

Friday, October 26, 2007


After getting the 3 inches of seed stitch completed on the sleeve edge of the FLAK sweater, I started figuring my decrease rows. That's when I discovered that I had not made either the front or the back long enough because my armhole measurements were off. It is an easy enough fix--just make both the front and the back longer before I start the sleeve, but I did lose all that seed stitch, which I don't look forward to having to do over. At least I didn't knit the whole sweater and then discover my sleeves were too small. . . .

Monday, October 22, 2007

FLAK Documentation

I'm knitting again on my FLAK sweater. Now that the weather is getting chilly, I'm in the mood to wear something like this. The back and front are completed. Next, I will pick up the stitches for the sleeves. The body will then be knit in the round. In this picture, the saddles look distorted, but they are actually straight. I think the sweater must not be lying perfectly flat.

This sweater is a pleasure to knit. The yarn--Elann's Peruvian Highland Wool--is extremely smooth and easy to knit, and the pattern instructions are so detailed and helpful. This is an excellent way to learn about sweater construction. I also just like to knit cables, so I am happy with that. The KP Options needles make the job much easier. As you can see, I'm using the cables for stitch holders.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Two Projects Finished!

This is the Knitting Pure and Simple Neckdown Child's Bolero, one of their newer patterns. The yarn is my own handspun, made from lilac Falkland roving from Abby's Yarns. The actual color contains a little more fuschia (That's a fancy word for purple.) than shows with the flash. I was rather horrified when I realized how much thick and thin there was to the yarn. So much for my spinning skills! It has a more rustic look than I had visualized. I loved making the pattern, though. The only hard part was the sleeves because I was alternating balls of yarn every two rows. That made the underarm join a little thicker than I would have liked. I'd like to do this pattern again out of one of the cushy cashmere-wool blends or something similar. It was a fast knit, about 10 days at odd moments.

I also finally finished the Hemlock Ring Blanket. I am moderately pleased. I knitted with the Ecowool, and I loved the yarn. However, it seems that my cast-off edging is a little full for the actual edge of the knitted piece. I also don't think I did a very good job of pinning it out to dry, but I do have a good excuse for that. As I was about 1/3 of the way around, a bug flew into my mouth. Of course, I did the usual sputtering and spitting. It was a tiny triangular beetle of some sort. A minute or so later, the corner of my mouth began swelling, the gums on that side got very sore, and it stayed that way for about three hours. Needless to say, I did the rest of the blocking in a hurry! I am not sure how much practical use this item will be as a blanket, but it is pretty, and I did learn some techniques for keeping up with lace patterns that will be very helpful.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Swap!

The Knitters Tea Swap (link button in sidebar) has caught my interest for several months, and this time I'm participating. I got my swap partner yesterday. Her name is Kandie. It's been interesting reading her questionnaire answers and her blog. Just planning what to put in the package already has me in a dither of excitement!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Oh, No!

After coming home from the Folklife Festival at the museum this weekend, I kept thinking about weaving. I dug around in closets, coming up with a Harrisville Lap Loom that I had gotten for my DD when she was a child. (Yes, I have a potholder loop loom, but that doesn't count as a craft, but a necessity.) Then, I remembered another possibility and headed for a dresser drawer, and there it was--a 1936 Loomette in its original box and with original instructions. I had tried this one as a child, but never mastered it. It turns out there is even an internet site. I've been looking for something to do with leftover bits of sock yarn, and this looks like a fun possibility. According to the info on the site, it takes only 7.5 yds to do a square of plain weave, so I could make lots of squares. Exactly when I would do this is another question, but it is somehow more appealing to me than the other leftover sock yarn alternatives, and I think that some of the self-patterning yarns might produce interesting effects. Of course, then I would have to take up crochet again to put the squares together.

I did investigate some of the options on the Internet. There are some attractive items made from the squares, but there are some really UGLY items out there as well.

I am knitting steadily on the bolero for my DGD. I am also working hard to finish some socks that I have on needles for myself so that I can start another pair for my DH, who has decided he likes hand knit wool socks. It took him about 6 months to actually wear the pair I made for him last spring.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Finally, a Fiber Connection!

I have been looking for a fiber-related group within some sort of driving distance. Even though I know that Whimsy Knits not only spins and knits beautifully, but also lives in the largest nearby community, she didn't know of anyone either. Then, last week, my local newspaper carried a tiny article about a planned event at the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, TX. This museum is one of our great area treasures. When someone around here speaks of taking a field trip to the museum, everyone knows which one they are talking about. The article referred to a Saturday afternoon folklife event and mentioned that the Palo Duro Handweavers Guild would be demonstrating weaving and SPINNING! Sure enough, I found this going on right there in public on the museum lawn.

Children were having a chance to take instruction on a 2-heddle? harness loom. It was interesting to watch. I turned down the offer to try. I was afraid I would be in the market for a loom if I didn't watch out!

Of course, I caught this spinner just as she was getting up to leave, but if you look in the basket on her chair, she has a number of spindles. Not only had she been spinning her own Rambouillet fiber on her Ashford Traditional, but she had been showing children how to spin on some wooden spindles. I couldn't get a good picture of that because so many were crowded around when I tried. We are going to have a medieval fair in connection with our school-wide reading of King Arthur, and I got some good ideas from her on how to demonstrate fiber skills for that.
In the foreground is a table with various woven items, some more spindled fiber, and a very nice lady demonstrating a CD spindle. To demonstrate beginning weaving, they had one of the loop potholder looms. This particular lady showed me a beautiful scarf she had woven on a triangle loom. It was a lovely weave, and it was in "my" colors.

Best of all, they told me that their guild is not exclusive--there are knitters as well as weavers. They are going to e-mail me before the next meeting. It would be a little more nighttime driving than I may want to do in the dead of winter if the weather forecast is bad, but I should be fine the rest of the year. I'm very excited!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A New Teaching Resource/Knitting Progress of a Sort

Have you seen this new site? It has interesting possibilities for class projects.

I have made some recent knitting progress. I am now working on the bindoff for the Hemlock Ring Blanket. I am finding it somewhat tedious because I really want to be working on a little bolero out of handspun for my DGD. If I can, I'm going to swatch tonight for the bolero just for fun. Notice that I just wrote that swatching would be fun?

I am also tired of summer heat although the fall days here are beautiful. The light is more golden and it is a wonderful time of year, usually one of my favorites. This year, however, we had more rainfall than usual during the summer, and everything is going to seed. My allergies are flourishing, and it's too hot to wear the sweaters I would like to be wearing right now. It's definitely too warm to have an excuse to use the wood stove that we just had reinstalled after a move 5 years ago.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Big Blue is Finished!

I began this sweater last February out of some stash yarn as a sizing experiment. I'd not knitted myself a sweater since 1969. I got most of it finished except the bottom edge and sleeve edges and put it away for the summer. Now it's done! The pattern is a Knitting Pure and Simple Woman's Pullover, the one that calls for worsted size yarn. It is very easy to knit, but in this very plain solid color, it was a boring knit. I would make the pattern again, but I will use a heathered or semisolid or tweedy yarn, not absolutely solid. The yarn is Paton's Classic "That's Blue!" and indeed it is--very blue. I did change the pattern a little bit--kept the rolled neck, but got rid of the rolled bottom for loose ribbing and used a garter stitch edge on the bottom of the sleeves. I don't need another roll of anything around my hips! The sweater is not see-through either. That's a trick of the flash--I suppose because the woolly board has a shiny finish that reflects.
I have been interested in reading the That Laurie posts on the Yarn Harlot's blog this week. As I lose weight, I am getting more and more pear-shaped. In fact, I think I'm beginning to resemble an upside-down lightbulb. Her comments about using top-down sweaters and putting the color or pattern emphasis on the yoke to address this figure type are really making me think about using this pattern again as well as getting the video and pattern to the Zimmermann/Swanson spiral yoke sweater.

Because I saw a remark about this on another blog--we have been remodeling this fireplace, putting a woodstove in as an insert. You can't see it because it's behind the sweater. Yes, I do know not to have the kindling sitting that close to the fire. In honor of the new fireplace remodel, I have one of those copper wash boilers that I am going to use for kindling and logs and it will sit a safe distance away. I could have cleaned that up last night or I could have finished my sweater--what can I say? It was in the upper '80s here yesterday! The wash boiler is still in my car.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Intimations of Mortality

It’s my class reunion—40 years since we graduated from high school and 52 years after most of us started first grade together. Amazingly we are mostly intact—as far as we know we have only lost three class members, including those who went to school with us for a few years but did not necessarily graduate with us. And we were of the Vietnam generation.

We are older, grayer, and differently shaped. Some of us have battled cancer and won. Some are still fighting. Three have lost spouses recently. We have all sorts of different careers, some unexpected, others exactly what everyone expected. Case in point: the boy we all thought would be a rocket scientist—the epitome of the science geek (didn’t have that word then) in the ‘60s, slide rule and all—is indeed a scientist working on alternative energy sources and missile systems. I became an English teacher, to the surprise of no one. On the other hand, the student we all figured was headed for a criminal career seems to be a productive and pleasant and conforming member of society. Some of us have retired already; some, like me, are almost there and looking for information on how to handle the life changes that another stage of life will bring. Many of us chose to become educators, probably because our own small town public school experiences were close to idyllic.

Our elementary and junior high principal, junior high football coach, and driver’s education instructor (small town—that’s ONE person) and two of our class sponsors were also there, as well as one of our 4th grade teachers.

And—we are no better at getting everyone to behave for a class picture than we were at age 6 or 16.

Tonight we will have a final cookout and go our separate ways, knowing that we have reached the stage of life that will bring many changes before the next time we’re together.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I've Been Bitten!

Yesterday, the Eco Wool came in for the Hemlock Ring KAL. After supper, I used my ball winder and handy-dandy yarn swift (my DH) to wind it into balls. After posting to the group that I would begin knitting this afternoon after work because it was certainly too late to begin a project that required all that counting last night (We keep relatively early hours.) , I walked directly to my knitting spot, just to look at different cast-ons, you know, and stood up 16 rows later. Everyone is right--this is addictive, and fast! I hope I still feel that way at the end.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Another Fibonacci Sweater

This one is for my DGS. It is again from the Knitting Pure and Simple pattern. The yarn is LB Wool Ease from my stash. The Woodland Print has a more striped, less camouflaged effect than I expected when I saw it in the skein, but I do like the way it turned out.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Subject: Education (Knitting/Spinning Content is Peripheral)

WARNING: This post is both a compliment and something of a rant, of probable interest only to teachers, and even then probably only secondary English teachers. (I fondly remember the chairman of the English Department at my university--who was a Hemingway look-alike and cultivated it--advising us not to betray that we taught English, particularly when trying to socialize on vacation, in a bar, while driving down the length of Baja, or while trying to get a car repaired in a strange town. He insisted that any meaningful communication was likely to shut down immediately because people become so self-conscious.)

Yesterday, I attended a conference at Amarillo College. Under the umbrella idea of helping students make better transitions to the college world, we were presented with several workshops to choose from in a 4-hour period. The sessions were short enough that there was no room for idle fluff--the ones I attended were practical: methods, some of them innovative, were soundly backed up by years of experience, coherent explanations, and scholarly research. Each presenter sent us away with annotated bibliographies, sample handouts, and links to helpful Internet sites. There was no wasted time. We were also given the opportunity to say what we liked and disliked and what we would like to see added for next year.

Administrators, curriculum planners, directors of educational service centers—this is what teachers find both useful and motivational!

I had the same reaction to two other recent workshops—Jim Burke at the Panhandle Literacy Conference this summer and a workshop at Region 16 by Carolyn Coil last spring. For the record, I also found that I had the same reaction to some of our staff development this year, particularly the presentation by a school law attorney from San Antonio. Her subject was Special Education law; she was informative and entertaining, but she obviously respected us as professionals.

What do I not find to be of much value? Entire days spent listening to some very expensive consultant who has all the answers if every teacher in America will just do it his way—including, evidently, becoming a member of his particular ethnic culture and giving up knitting (Yes, I noticed. I never knit at school, but now I’m getting the urge to represent). I also do not need a day of singing songs or ringing bells or doing monkey skits, only to go away feeling that now I may be evaluated not on course content or student progress but on whether I have students pass papers in sideways or from back to front. Or even worse, that to be taken seriously, I need to strew education textbooks around my living room, replacing the copies of Pride and Prejudice and Ethan Frome, and, I suppose, my spinning wheel Matilda. After all, a teacher is not supposed to teach the subject--she is supposed to teach students. Teach them what? The idea that knowledge of subject matter automatically flows from classroom management tricks just doesn’t hold up.

I'm certainly far from being the perfect teacher--I'm constantly revising and evaluating how I do things, and I'm very aware that there are some aspects of my job that I don't do as well as I would like.

Some will say that I am missing the main point of the "motivational" presentations, but I’m not. Is good classroom management important? Of course. Can it be achieved by gimmicks or devices? Only to a limited extent. Does it have to be exactly the same for every subject or every teacher and age group? Students, particularly high school students, see through form without content very quickly. Furthermore, our students will enter a wide world of different college professors, different jobs, and different communities. I come out of those sessions as fired up as anyone—they’re pep rallies, after all—but, just as I suspect most coaches will tell you, they are of very little use if I don’t have any plays to run on the field, and they certainly don’t replace good coaching and a knowledge of the game.

For the record, I do know there are some sentence fragments in the preceding paragraphs--I'm working at a conversational tone. Loosen up!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

No Photos for You (Again)

Yes, I'm knitting--working diligently on the second Fibonacci sweater from stash. I'm also spinning more of Abby's lilac Falkland roving. I did some a month or so ago and then decided I had a specific project in mind. Tonight I am ready to ply a couple of full bobbins.

I have been really busy with all of the first-of-school tasks that are time-consuming and not very fulfilling--keeping records of graded papers on legal pads because the computer rolls are not yet accurate enough for the computer gradebook to be opened, trying to convice students that I meant it when I specified a looseleaf binder with six properly-labeled dividers, deciding who does not need to sit by whom, and trying to learn the names of students I don't already know. (This year's seniors contain members of my last 2-year-old Sunday School class. Some of the personalities have changed; some have not.) In spite of the aggravations, beginning a new school year is full of the promise of new beginnings--of new faces eager to go out into the world, of trying a new technique to get a point across, of finding the opportunity to help a student who needs something extra, and of sharing with colleagues whose opinions I value. This weekend, I'm off to a short conference on bridging the gap between high school expectations and college expectations, a real concern where I teach because many, many of our students are first generation high school graduates and even more are first generation college enrollees.

I got up extra early this morning and spent an hour knitting a sweater sleeve and peacefully listening to podcasts. All seems at least temporarily right with the world. Oh, my, I forgot that faculty pictures are this morning!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Spinning Content--No Picture

There is no picture because I just finished spinning about 300 yards of solid black alpaca and wool blend for a Christmas project. Did you ever try to make a picture of black yarn that showed anything but a large black blob? I know it could probably be done successfully with a lightbox or something, but I didn't have the patience to keep trying.

I have also been knitting steadily on Fibonacci sweater #2. I need about 2 rows on the body, both sleeves, and the neckline finish. I hope to be through this weekend. This one is a "guy" version--he's 4.

Haven't touched a sock all week.

This week is the first back-to-school week with students. That is a good thing. The obligatory week of teacher training was especially irritating this year because it continued into this week with two afternoons. That meant running a full 8-period schedule, including lunch, between 8 and 12:30 each day. I'm sorry, but that just means frustration for everyone. You can't accomplish much in two days of 25-minute periods. It was a real relief to actually have real class on Wednesday and Thursday. We're back to shorter periods today due to the pep rally for the first football game tonight, but 5 minutes shorter is not such a big deal. Besides, game day means I can wear jeans, a spirit shirt, and crocs and these socks!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fibonacci Stashbuster Sweater

After making the two Baby Surprise Jackets, I was going to put the leftover yarns in my stash. This, however, is a Knitting Pure and Simple Child's Pullover (sort of), size 2-4 (sort of). I changed the sleeves by adding knitted cuffs. I don't really care for a rolled edge on the sleeve and on the bottom, and I remembered EZ's comments about how ribbing could make a too-long sleeve fit, so I have attempted to add some "grow room" by doing the sleeves this way. I first put ribbing on the bottom sweater edge, but I didn't like the way it made the stripes look, so I added a seed stitch edging that maintained the Fibonacci sequence. I had plans to stripe the sleeves, but the ends of Cotton-Ease are more difficult to weave in securely than wool, and I decided it was making for too much underarm bulk. My DGD has not tried this on yet, but my DGS tried it on last night so I could see how to size the same pattern for him, so it should be a good fit for her.
The colors in this picture are fairly accurate, and they are the "new" Cotton-Ease colors. I am mentioning this because they call that blue color "Violet," and it is much more blue than violet. The other colors are Stone, Lime, and Berry. They are very nice colors, but I really liked some of the old Cotton-Ease colors as well.
The sweater was blocked by washing on the handwash cycle on a Maytag front-loader and laying flat to dry. Some fuzzies from the woven-in ends poked through from the washing, and I had to trim them. I hope it stops doing this.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I Love It!

This blog redesign is by Susie at Bluebird Blogs. I absolutely love it, and I think it expresses my feelings about life. The redesign is a birthday gift from my DD. Thanks, Boo!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Knitting Content at Last

A scarf for the 2008 Red Scarf Project. The deadline is early this year.

It's knitted from LB WoolEase in Ranch Red. I found the stitch pattern online, but I don't remember where. It is: *K1, YO, K2tog* over a multiple of 3 stitches cast-on. I used 24 on size 10 needles.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I've Returned!

Wow! I just read the last three books in the HP series, including a straight read through of the last book in my motel room last night. It was great fun! I also went with my DD and infant DGD to see the OOTP movie.

I liked the movie, even though, having just read the book, I realized how many really good things were left out by necessity. I also liked the books. As always, I admired the richness of detail and character, and I admired the twists given to the archetypal quest motifs in the last book.

I also fell in love with this sweater and some others. Someone on line has already attempted a duplicate. Of course, this would look really good on my AARP-style body! I would, however, like to make one for a child. Any suggestions from experienced crocheters would be welcome.

I got very little knitting done for the past few days. I know some people say they can read and knit, but I can't read anything as textually complex as the Harry Potter books while knitting.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

No Knitting Content--On Vacation at Hogwarts

I just realized that school starts on the 27th, and I have not caught up with Harry Potter. I had not read the last 3 books. I just finished The Order of the Phoenix a few minutes ago, and I'm planning to see the movie tomorrow. I am going to read madly to finish the next two this week. I have avoided spoilers so far, but someone will say something in the faculty meetings next week. My DD taped the J.K. Rowling interview so that I can watch it after I finish the book.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Variations on a Theme by Zimmermann

I had previously published a picture of the first jacket, the one on the left, but I was dissatisfied with the overly stretchy front band and with the way the buttons were attached. On the second, I single crocheted around the edge, and it made a much more satisfactory finish. I "ungifted" the first sweater and redid the edge on it. I also resewed the buttons, using backer buttons. On the first BSJ, I followed EZ's suggestion to put buttonholes on both sides and use them as a guide for where to sew the buttons. I do not like the weakness of button attachment that this system created. On the second garment, I made only one set of buttonholes, so I felt the button attachment was easier and firmer. The yarn is LB Cotton Ease.

The BSJs will be worn by my two DGDs. One thing I like about this pattern is the way the backs look. When a baby is being carried upright or on the hip--both these girls are healthily sturdy--the back is often on view.

I'm taking a little pause from anything new right now and trying to finish some UFOs before school starts.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Getting Your Money’s Worth out of Handknit Socks!

There's been a rather heated discussion about the price of sock yarn on one of the forums. Here's how to get your money's worth out of your handknits--wear two pairs at a time, of course.

The socks on the "rear" feet are the new blue socks that we dyed together using Wilton’s. You can’t see the pattern, of course, but it is the Basketweave Ribbing pattern from Stitches of Violet. It made a wonderfully cushy sock.

At this point, I’d like to make a book recommendation to all the mothers and grandmothers of little girls—Fancy Nancy and Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy, written by Jane O’Connor and wonderfully illustrated by Robyn Preiss Glasser. The illustrations will fascinate both children and adults, and the books do a wonderful job of stretching budding vocabularies. Who knows when a girl will need words like "posh" and "dressing gown"? I bought the books on Amazon, but I know I’ve seen the book at Barnes & Noble, and there’s always the local library; however, these books really need to be owned because they are suited to repetitive rereading—both to explore the detailed illustrations and to savor the new words, which are fancy ways of saying ordinary things.

I also finished the Regia Bamboo socks that I have been working on. These are plain stockinette, cuff down—my usual pattern. Since some reviewers of the yarn reported slightly less stretch, I added a couple of extra stitches to the gusset pickup. I found the yarn very nice to knit with in a silky sort of way, but not the soft wooly squeezy feel of Fleece Artist or Bearfoot. I’ll try to remember to report on how they wear.

The little bag that I plan to use for small projects is from Japanese Handmade Etc. at Etsy. I heard about the bags a couple of weeks ago on Etsy Friday on the Sock PrØn site. The bag is well made and beautiful, fully lined. The knot is a wonderful finishing touch. And, most importantly, the bag is my favorite color. I would never have the nerve to walk around wearing this color of brocade, but I can use the bag. Her service was amazingly fast and courteous as well, and I think her prices are very reasonable.

And, finally, some progress on the FLAK KAL sweater. I have completed the "back." No, the sweater is not short; the section called the back just goes to the bottom of the underarms. Next will come the "front," and then the "body" is knit below that. Sleeves are in there somewhere. I'm trying to learn from this, so I'm pretty much just going step-by-step.


FLAK KAL sweater

2nd Tidal Wave Sock

Exercise Total to Date--4 miles

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My Plans for Today or Why Am I the Way I Am?

First of all, understand that I am a teacher in the last days of summer vacation--the days in which my thoughts, at least, are often prepping lesson plans and changes for the coming year. I am also trying to assemble in my non-fashionable sort of way, a wardrobe for the coming year and take care of last-minute business before the school year starts. Even though we teachers have the summer "off," not counting workshops and working at home on school work and keeping up with professional reading, a downside of the job is that you pretty much have to be there when it's going. I have gone to school really sick before because I was at a place where there was simply no way to think up anything that a substitute could do that would keep the class where it should be. Therefore, I try to cram every forseeable interruption into the summer.

Actually, this small town where I teach now is pretty wonderful about this sort of thing. The staff has a tradition of helping each other out with short absences from duty, for example, to pick up a sick child from another building or to attend that child's kindergarten concert.

Many places are not like that. During the Vietnam War I worked for a school which allowed a day off if your husband or son was leaving for combat but not if he was returning, on the theory that if you knew he was ok, you didn't need to go meet him.

At that school, I was subpoenaed to testify in a capital murder case because a student had robbed a convenience store and killed the clerk. The student was expelled from school at the time of the incident, but later readmitted by the administration over the protest of the teachers. (At that time no one knew who had robbed the store.) When the culprits were arrested a year or so later, three teachers were called to testify as to the ability of the student to read the statement he signed. The defense attorney obviously was not going to call administration and risk the disciplinary record coming up. The school tried to dock our pay for being gone a day because there was a school policy about jury duty but not one covering this situation. Then they tried to force us to pay them our expense money--gas money to the change-of-venue city and lunch. We fought it and did get it straightened out eventually, but the fallout was such that I was afraid to take off for my wedding day a couple of weeks later, so I taught that day until a friend covered for me the last period, and then I got married at 8! Sorry. That was almost 30 years ago, and I've never been able to rant about it until now!

Anyway, I sometimes have a tendency to indulge in false economies. I will put up with something that irritates the fool out of me, rather than spend the minor amount it would take to fix it. Growing up with parents who had moved from being from poor backgrounds--my mother lived her first years in a dugout on a homestead in New Mexico Territory--to being young marrieds during the Great Depression (relatively prosperous--both employed for the duration) to building and operating a successful small business for 35+ years, I learned a great deal of "waste not, want not" philosophy, usually voiced as, "Do you really NEED that?"

For the last few years--about 7 or 8--I have had an alarm clock that I absolutely hated! I had grabbed it in an emergency when mine had gone out, so that I would be sure not to be late to work. It was hard to set. If I got up before it went off and turned off the alarm, it went off anyway about 80% of the time. This delighted my husband on the extremely rare days when he had the opportunity to sleep late because inevitably I would have to come running from 3 rooms away to shut it off. Would I get a new one? Of course not, because this one still worked, didn't it? Well, the other day, the buttons on the top fell into the clock. It does still show the correct time. Yesterday I went to Target and bought myself a new clock RADIO. It is not a particularly expensive one, in fact it was cheap, but I picked it because it fits my night table space. It also shows the days of the week--I've been know to bounce out of bed for school on Saturdays--and promises to reset itself when the power has been out. If it can do that, I don't have to worry about oversleeping when the power has been out during the night. Today I am going to install it. Then I am going to THROW THE OTHER CLOCK AWAY even though it still keeps time perfectly well. I am not going to plug it into another outlet somewhere in the house that I don't need a clock in anyway. In fact, I've hated the thing so much that I should burn it, but I don't know what I would get into trying to burn this plastic thing in the backyard.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Weekly Fiber Report

What have I accomplished this week? Well, I washed some more fleece. I'm just storing the washed product right now until I get my carders. However, I did decide to try crockpot dyeing with Wilton's on some of the uncarded fleece. I used 1/4 t. Wilton's Periwinkle per oz. of fiber, and here is the result! This is definitely not Periwinkle blue although it is interesting. What did I do wrong to make the colors strike in separate places like this?

I also spun some black alpaca/wool pencil roving that I am planning to use for a gift project. I am learning from this. Other spinners have said or written about the fiber having opinions about how it wants to be spun. I attempted to spin this fiber using the short backward draw worsted spinning that I had been using with the other prepared rovings. I was getting a thick and thin yarn that felt like it had lumps in it. I finally looked at a video and some books and switched to a long draw technique. It is spinning wonderfully! With my usual lack of coordination, however, I'm not sure that I am achieving the goal of "bringing my drafting hand back in a graceful arc." I plied two bobbins and finished the skein just to check the twist. It seems to be drying straight even though it was a little twisty when in came off the niddynoddy.

And here is the obligatory amoeba shot of the second Baby Surprise Jacket. This one has gone much more smoothly although I'm still not entirely pleased with the firmness of the band edge. I think I'll try a little single crochet edge for firmness before I add on the sleeve cuffs and the collar.

Oops! The picture shows the wrong side.

OTN--FLAK Aran Sweater
2nd Bamboo Sock
finish BSJ
2nd Tidal Wave Sock

Deadline Knitting--2 pairs of kid-dyed socks for the beginning of preschool
I'll cast on the first this weekend. Fortunately, the feet are small.

Exercise total--2 miles

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Absolutely No Knitting Content in this Post!

I usually spend much of my summer thinking about school. One of the great things about teaching as a job is that you get to stop, evaluate, change things that did not work, and start over. Very few opportunities in life are like that. This summer, however, I could not get my thoughts going. For one thing, I was waiting to hear if the College Board had approved my syllabus for one of the courses I teach. I am not going into all the hassle here about the approval process for the AP English Literature courses, but it was lengthy, time-consuming, and controversial among the teachers that are on the discussion list for the course. Well, my "authorization" came through day before yesterday. Suddenly, the juices are flowing again, and I'm in the mood to put in time planning new things for this year. Finally! After all, I return to teaching on August 20.

I have also started an exercise program that I am going to blog about so that I will have some accountability. I have sort of a tricky knee situation that really acts up if I walk on very uneven surfaces or on concrete for a long period of time. I can either go to the high school track--one of those soft things made from what looks like ground-up tires--VERY early in the mornings or do something at home. Right now, I'm using the Leslie Sansone mile walk DVD. I have gone to the 1/2 mile point two days in a row. Yes, I'm starting slowly, but I haven't been exercising at all. In the past year and two months, I have lost between 90 and 100 lbs. (poor record keeping--scales do not work well when you're that big), and I still have a lot more to go, so I need a real exercise boost. I plan to give myself a treat when I reach the 100 mile mark.

Oops! Knitting Content--What have I been doing instead of eating? Knitting and spinning. It's what is keeping me sane when I am tempted.

Projects OTN--Regia Bamboo second sock
Fleece Artist Tidal Wave second sock
BSJ #2
FLAK Aran Sweater
Spinning-- washing fleece
Black Alpaca/Wool pencil roving for Christmas present
New Spunky Fiber Club selection--"Celebration"
Mileage-- 1 of 99

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Weekend Projects

The first two green peppers from our garden, which is so small that it really doesn't qualify as a garden in farm country.

The yarn is my handspun from some Brown Sheep mill end rovings from the Sheep Shed Studio. It's 200 yards of light worsted weight. I think my spinning is getting a little better, but I also think most of the improvement can be credited to my finally getting a tensioned Lazy Kate. I had just been letting the bobbins flop around in bowls, and my plying was really inconsistent. Then I tried the built-in holders on my Ashford Traveler, and that was even worse! The Lazy Kate makes it so much easier.
I also began washing a Rambouillet fleece over the weekend and finished the first of a pair of Regia Bamboo socks. I hope to finish the second one this week. With a little cooperation from the mail fairies, the Spunky Fiber Club selection ought to be here soon--I can hardly wait to see what it is.

I've Been Sorted!

I don't yet have the book, but I did sort myself.

Want to Get Sorted?

a Gryffindor!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Handspun Project

I wanted to do something from my handspun, so I looked up a pattern that could use some of the thick-and-thin irregular stuff from my first wheel spinning. I found this pattern on line, the "Simple Triangular Shawl" by Janice Farrell Pea. I used larger needles for a more lacy effect, as well as trying to get as much as I could from the amount of yarn I had. The final result is about 60" x 25" after blocking. This will work well for me for school this winter--warm enough for a fast run to the car--about 20 yards--and to stand in the hallway between classes and not too warm to wear pinned on in the classroom. I'm wearing it as I type just because I can and because the Kookaburra that I washed it with smells so good!
OTN-FLAK KAL sweater
2nd Tidal Wave Sock
Regia Bamboo Socks

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Spinning and Blogging

This lovely lilac color is from Abby Franquemont at Abby's Yarns. Her frequent postings on the spinning groups have been of great help to me, as have her videos on YouTube. I bought it from her Ebay store. The wool is Falkland.

A few months ago, my DH came across a wool site from the Falkland Islands while surfing the web. I was interested in what they said about their sheep, and I tried to find a site to buy yarn from there, but I did not have any luck. They also seem to have a unique sweater style that is interesting and appealing. I am not sure if this fiber is actually from the Falklands or is just made from the same breed of sheep but grown elsewhere. I did find it very easy to spin, and I like the subtle color changes.

I have also been busy blogging this week. I teach three different courses at our local high school--actually four, because one class is a combined high school course and freshman course from a nearby junior college. This year there will be a blog for each class--used to post copies of handouts, reminders of due dates and assignments, and links to helpful web sites. Because I teach seniors, time management and scheduling skills are life skills that they need to practice before college and jobs, so I'm hoping this will be another method of helping develop those skills. (Of course, the first thing I put on both senior blogs is a ticker that is counting down days to graduation.) I have isolated my school blogs from my "life" as much as possible, so I am not going to post links to those blogs here. I have also not enabled comments; in today's world I cannot afford that kind of interaction with students: I have seen what some of them do on MySpace.
OTN--FLAK KAL sweater
2nd Tidal Wave Fleece Artist Sock
simple shawl from b&w handspun

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This Post has a Title!

Thanks to a Blogger group, I found out that the problem is not my settings or my computer. Blogger did something last Friday. To get a title on your post, creep the cursor up slowly from the bottom. It will have to get almost to the top of the box before it appears. THEN click. Irritating, but at least it works, and I can temporarily quit looking for a solution.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Baby Surprise Jacket

For some reason, I have been unable to put titles on the last two posts. I don't know what's going on with Blogger. . . .

The Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmermann is a classic pattern, but I don't think I did a very good job of the one I just made. For one thing, I chose to use Cotton Ease as the yarn. I have used this for a previous baby sweater, and it was great, but it lacks the body and the ability to be blocked that a wool product would have. Garter stitch is sooooo stretchy, and it really needs the springiness of a wool fiber. Furthermore, in worsted, which I needed to use to make the jacket big enough, this jacket is very heavy. For those of you with New England winters, it would be just great, but it is probably too heavy for Texas. We do have very cold weather in the Panhandle in the winter, but it is likely to be followed by mild weather in the '50s or '60s in the next day or two. In fact, we sometimes have that kind of weather change in the same day. I did enjoy making this clever pattern though. The video was very helpful, and I learned about shaping a collar so that it rolls nicely.

Here's a picture:

I have more Cotton Ease and a Knitting Pure and Simple pattern for a hoodie that I think I'll make for the babies. It will be much more practical, I think.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another Baby Bubble Model!

Here's another baby bubble model. This DGD is not quite old enough to sit up--or to reach some of those toys hanging tantalizingly out of reach!

Friday, July 06, 2007


On July 3, I took an all-day spinning lesson at Three Stitchers, a country yarn store near a nearby New Mexico town. It was truly a wonderful experience: sorting a Rambouillet fleece, scouring it, and spinning--both in the grease and with washed, carded fleece. I also got a quick lesson in hand carding. It was accompanied by lunch with the family--sandwiches with homemade bread. I learned a lot. I managed to come away with a little yarn and turned down buying a fleece. However, I came home and dreamed about fleece all night, so I'm going to call and tell her that I want a fleece when my carder order comes in!

Above is some of the handspun that I bought from Three Stitchers--the colorway is Mountain Blue Jay. This yarn was spun in the grease and then washed and dyed. The colors appear to be almost painted on, giving it a very rustic appearance. I love the yarn because I enjoy watching the blue jays in our backyard right now.

And here is the spinning I've been doing. First, this is the second of two black and white skeins from roving from the Sheep Shed Studio. I had begun these before the lesson. I found this fiber a little difficult to spin--actually, everything is a little difficult to spin right now--mainly because the black was a little coarser and seemed to have a different staple length from the white. This skein has 142 yards of two-ply and is a worsted weight. The first skein is the same weight, but is only about 70 yards.
Finally, a post-lesson product--the June selection from the Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club, a color called Tulip. It is also two-ply worsted weight--208 yards. Now I just want to drop my other knitting projects and make something from this yarn!
Still OTN--
Fiber Artist Tidal Wave Socks
Baby Surprise Jacket
FLAK KAL Sweater

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

It Always Looks Better on the Model!

Here's one of the bubbles from the last post being "modeled." Notice the high-fashion-model pose!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Vintage Baby Bubbles

I have been knitting, but everything is still in the UFO stage.
These, however, are made from one of my favorite patterns "Vintage Baby Bubbles," by Wendy Schoen. The real design features embroidery and lace, but I enjoy making bright-colored bubbles from quilting cotton. The lining fabric and rickrack were purchased at Malouf's Fabrics, a local store; the print is from stash.

As you can see, the design is an American traditional, usually known as Sunbonnet Sue. The bubbles are for my two infant granddaughters; the quilt was appliqued by their great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother during the Great Depression (a lot of "greats" in one sentence). They referred to the pattern as Dutch Doll.

OTN--Baby Surprise Jacket of Cotton Ease
Socks--Fiber Artist Forest in Tidal Wave Pattern
FLAK KAL Sweater

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Book and a Prayer

I have decidedly NOT been doing academic reading since school was out. Candide is still lying there looking at me accusingly. I have three new methods books by Jim Burke also waiting. Plus, I need to do quick rereads of Pride and Prejudice, Ethan Frome, Ender's Game, and Killer Angels before school starts in August, so of course I'm reading mysteries and romances.

When I find a mystery writer I like, I tend to read everything written up to that point and then move on to someone else. A few years ago, one of those writers was Carolyn Hart. Her books featuring a sleuth named Annie Darling, who owns a mystery book store on a South Carolina island, led me off in fascinating directions toward other writers mentioned in the books. I picked up another Hart mystery a week or two ago for motel reading, Dead Days of Summer. It was, as usual, a good read. It also included a prayer that I had not heard before. I googled it, and it is evidently a poem by Walford Davies:

God be in my head
And in my understanding
God be in my eyes
And in my looking
God be in my mouth
And in my speaking
God be at my end
And at my departing

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Project Spectrum/Spirit Socks 2007

It just worked out that our school colors fit the Project Spectrum colors for June and July--red, black, and metallic. I left out the metallic, of course, because that sounds rather scratchy for socks, but here are my special hand-knit socks for Football Fridays. They are Mountain Colors Bearfoot that I had in my stash. I think the color is Ruby Ridge--I bought the yarn on ebay. This was my first skein of MC, and it is absolutely wonderful to knit with! I just want to sit around and squeeze my socks. The pattern is adapted from Knitty's Thermal sweater and posted on the Knitting Haven message board. I kept the foot plain because I find that to be more comfortable in the athletic shoes that I wear on Fridays. (Not that I do anything athletic myself, but they're more comfortable when standing at pep rallies.) They went fast because I knitted the legs on 2s.
However, when I soaked the socks to block them, the water was blood red. I rinsed them several times, and the water was still colored. I guess I will be sure to hand wash them so that they don't bleed on my other clothes. I sent an e-mail to Mountain Colors to ask if there is any way to set the color, but I have not heard back from them.

OTN--FLAK KAL sweater

Socks--Tidal Wave in Fleece Artist Forest

Baby Surprise Sweater--swatched

Friday, June 15, 2007

Can this be where Fisher-Price got the idea?

My infant granddaughters love their musical cradle swings by Fisher Price. One has the Rainforest model with wildlife and moving leaves; the other, a model with bluebirds and butterflies. They are wonderful childcare devices, and you don't have to wind them up.

Here is Mother Nature's model. We have had swallows nest on our porch light for a few years to raise their babies. We just rinse off the mess they make and tolerate their presence because we appreciate the fact that they reduce the mosquito population. While washing dishes, I like watching the tiny blue and reddish parents swoop around the front yard in pursuit of insects. However, we now have another addition to the neighborhood. This nest is not attached to anything stable, just to the windchime. Last week we had 60+ -mile-an-hour winds! There is always a breeze in the Panhandle, and these chimes get a pretty good workout, but this nest is in active use.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Another Dye Job!

My DGS dyed his sock yarn this afternoon. We used Wilton colors again--Teal and Kelly Green. He was enthusiastic about doing it himself!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dyeing Socks

My DGD, age 4, and I dyed sock yarn with Wilton's food coloring, following the directions in Spindle and Wheel. I put the dye in separate squeeze bottles so that she would have better control. These socks will be bright! We used Sky Blue and Teal with a little Kelly Green added to give the Teal more differentiation. Now I have to knit really fast!

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Productive Week

I finally found the mistake that I made last weekend on my FLAK sweater. Isn't it amazing how something just pops out at you when you haven't looked at it in awhile? I frogged back to before the mistake, picked up the stitches and began knitting again. Much to my surprise, that process actually worked!

Until a day or so ago, I did not know any local knitters. I drove down to our hardware store one afternoon to look for an open bottle of Gorilla Glue to stick my well-used KnitPicks classic circs back together. I was showing the needle to my husband when a customer there begin telling me that his wife was taking a knitting class, but she was just knitting knitting--she hadn't started a project yet. I did not know that she was sitting in the car. When he told her that I was in there with knitting needles, she came in and started asking questions about purling. I gave her a demo on a broken needle, a size 1 at that. She asked me about yarn suggestions for a baby blanket, and I made some. She also wanted to know if it would be ok just to use the knit stitch for a blanket. I said yes. She has a physical condition that limits her use of her left hand somewhat, so that will be easier for her to work with I think. She left happy, and I am excited to know another local knitter. She also gave me names of two more.

I needed a sweater-size knitting bag. Thanks to textbook adoption freebies, I have plenty of really big bags for afghans or blankets, and I love my sock bag, which is an old Walkman bag, but I didn't have anything middle sized. I decided on a quick whim to make my own. Here is my prototype. I used McCalls M5283 because I had never made a purse or bag before. (I made a hang-type suitcase once, but that was from a kit.) Using very inexpensive materials from JoAnns making do with the purse handles they had, the total bag cost came to about $30, but the pattern cost was a big part of that.

Here is a picture of the outside of the bag. As you can see, the fabric is vintage-looking and the handles are not. The gathered fabric also wants to ooze up the ends of the handles. I am already looking for a different handle design for the next bag. I will also use better upholstery fabric that does not need an iron-on interfacing.

I said starting out that I was not going to make any changes, but instead make the bag just the way the pattern said. Well, that resolution did not survive. Why did I think it would? Obviously, the pattern designer was only knowledgable about straight needles, and I almost never use a straight, so I adapted those skinny needle pockets for circulars. My zipper installation following their directions is unsatisfactory--I will do something differently next time. I added a loop for my keychain tape measure and a yarn guide. I will also put a nice ribbon binding over the edge of the handle turn back instead of just serging it. I will probably also use some ribbon with velcro to hold the extra balls of yarn in place at the end of the bag.

Now, for the TOTAL cost of the project. You will notice that there is no fastener. I have a really cool button and was going to attach a fabric loop closure. I was tired, having done the whole bag in one sitting, and I attempted to zigzag with my zipper foot still on the machine. The machine goes to the shop tomorrow. I also have a couple of tucks on the end where the topstitching caught the lining--I'll fix those when I get the machine back as well.

OTN--FLAK sweater
Mountain Colors Bearfoot socks--one finished, one to go

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Color Trend?

This last week has been a real joy. Monday was a holiday for both my DH and me, so we got to spend a quiet day together. Tuesday and Wednesday were "grandma time" with two of my DGDs--aged 4 years and 4 months. Of course, I enjoyed the visit with my DD and DSIL as well. And I get to do it again this week!

On Friday, my DGS went to the library with me to sign up for the summer reading program. We came away with a Thomas the Tank Engine movie, two Thomas books, and another book about Trains. Guess what his interest is? We also had a green helium balloon and some ice cream. Alas, his little sister--3 months--greets anyone with screams who is not momma right now. That will change, however, and we can at least enjoy looking at her from across the room.

I have also been organizing and throwing away clutter. One of my goals is to declutter my walk-in closet so that it will actually BE a walk-in closet. I have a chest in it with shoe shelves and three drawers. One drawer is going to be for my handknit socks. Here it is. I actually have 3 more pair that are not pictured, but as you can see, I still have a long way to go.

I have finished the Magic Stripes socks. They are plain vanilla, but I know that after a few machine washings they will be extra fluffy and warm for next winter although the texture of the yarn when it's being knitted is something like string--not at all a pleasant knit.

Here's the back-in-progress to the FLAK KAL sweater. I am generally pleased with the cable definition and with the way the pattern is coming out to gauge so far; however, I either goofed with my Katcha-Katcha or a grandchild helped it along. I am going to have to study to figure out exactly what row I'm on. It shouldn't be too hard, but I couldn't do it and watch Deja Vu last night.

And, finally, here's my first "real" spinning on my wheel. This is Crown Mountain Farms pencil corriedale in Tourmaline. I redrafted for a smaller yarn and Navajo plied. The first skein was horribly overspun. The second fluffed up a bit after washing. I am hoping to spin enough to do the Lauren sweater from Knitty, without the "bum flap," since my bum does not need enhancement.

I have started on some red socks for spirit socks for this year. They are from Mountain Colors Bearfoot, which is a real pleasure to knit after the Magic Stripes. I don't know exactly what prompted the purple color trend for a week or so there.

OTN--Bearfoot socks

FLAK KAL sweater