Friday, August 29, 2008

Timely Reading?

I haven't had time to make pictures. This is the first week of school with students, and it is going beautifully so far. Nice classes--we have a smaller senior class this year--and good organization on the part of the new principal have made this year so much better already!

I will post some knitting pics sometime this weekend.

I did, however, finish an audiobook in odd moments here and there. It's taken awhile because I was having some MP3 player difficulties. Tin Roof Blowdown, by James Lee Burke, is a Dave Robicheaux mystery set in New Orleans and the surrounding area right after Hurricane Katrina and during and after Rita. Some of the descriptions included in the book were heartrending. I wish I could believe it was all fictional, but I'm afraid much of it was based on fact. To finish reading it just as Gustav seems to be aiming for that area again is disconcerting.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Crossing the Finish Line!

I finished the Ribwarmer for the Ravelympics Vest Vault on Aug. 20. Now you can see the results of those strangely shaped pieces that I showed in the previous posts. I was more than a little bit nervous.
The front:
Yes, the fronts are even, but my captive photographer didn't help with making sure the vest was straight.
The back:

Information and evaluation:

I knitted this following only the directions on the DVD by Meg Swensen. I took measurements and did not exactly follow the "multiples of ___" idea from the original instructions in my copy of Knitting Workshop. The yarn is my own handspun, spun mostly during the Tour de Fleece from Brown Sheep Mill Ends Roving. The edging is a handspun that I spun from some alpaca/wool pencil roving that I bought on etsy. The size is a 48" bust measurement with 2" negative ease.

I fulled the gray yarn with 4 hot-to-cold baths. I think that was too many. The vest will be really warm, but the yarn was so changed in texture that I could not make it slide across my fingers to knit continental. I had to pick up and throw every stitch. I could not even separate the plies to spit splice properly. It does give a nice body to the vest, however. When I blocked it, I used a wash of Eucalan with some hair conditioner added, and that seems to help some. I had originally intended to use a nice multicolor-on-gray handspun for the I-cord edging. The two grays were not compatible, so I pulled this black out of stash. It is probably a little bit too soft for the stiffness of the fulled gray yarn, but it worked although I couldn't approach the pretty perfection that Meg Swensen had on screen. I think the sizing is about right, but I would change the way I shaped the armholes. I did increases every 5 rows all the way down and then made up the rest of the inches needed in the underarm area. When I knit another one, I will do that kind of increase about halfway down the armhole and then increase about every 3 rows or 2 rows so that more of the shaping will be in the front and back instead of just under the arm. I do really like the classic simplicity of this pattern. I would like to make another out of some really eyepopping colorful yarn.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


After fretting about the alterations to the ribwarmer and the weird form my pieces were taking, I worked like crazy this morning to get it to a trying on point. I had to come up with some way to attach the back to the front at the shoulders, so this is what I did. I left the flexible Knit Picks Options in the back and picked up the front shoulder stitches and the neck on another needle and left it in as well. Then I loosely crocheted the two needle cords together with a single crochet. I did not bother matching stitch to stitch, but just crocheted every three or four stitches. Then I tried it on. I am actually fairly pleased. The back looks great. The front sides over the bust are a little narrow. I should have increased more, perhaps two stitches on each increase rather than one, beginning halfway down. I'm going to put that in my notes. If, however, I wear this as an open vest, it will look fine, so I'm not going to bother with fastenings. The garter stitch gives the fabric a nice drape. So, now it's on to the I-cord. I had planned to use some beautiful handspun from some Spunky Eclectic roving, but I've discovered the grays clash, so I'm being brave and using some black alpaca/wool that I spun awhile back. At least I'm not going to need to frog the whole thing. Of course, I still have to get that I-cord edging on.

A second yippee--

Yes, that is GREEN moss on a tree. For those of you in other parts of the country, this may not be exciting, but in the Texas Panhandle, we don't see too much of that because our weather is much too dry. Of course, this tree has moss all the time on its north side, but it's mostly a grayish brown. However, we have had three or four days of heavy rain--for us that's 1-2 inches per day. We are on flash flood watch right now, which is great. Rain now means that the corn crop probably won't need another watering and that moisture levels will be great for planting winter wheat which will be used for pasture for cattle this winter and harvested early next summer. We're not farmers, but this is money in the pockets of everyone in the community. Thank you, God!

Yippee #3--Great job by Michael Phelps. However, all the reminiscing reminded me how "hot" all we single young things thought that Mark Spitz looked in '72. I think we were all quite taken with the photos in Life. Looking at the films now, it's hard to see past the hair. Isn't it funny how your perspective changes with the years?

And the best yippee of all--I got to share, and share, and share one of my favorite board books with my DGD last night. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb was a favorite of my own children, and little M enjoyed the drumming as much as they did.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Crunch is Here

School starts for teachers on Monday. My second job bookkeeping is finished; my insurance visit is taken care of; my dental work is almost finished--one more visit should do it. I've had two workshops this week. I have notes to compile and lessons to plan and housework to finish, and what am I doing? Ravelympics, of course. My ribwarmer is still looking unribwarmer-like, but it is looking very much like the shape of a fabric vest that I quilted a few years ago. Maybe it will turn into a wearable garment.
We have a new computer system for grades and attendance and communication with parents this year that is going to be a problem to learn, I think, but will be a big improvement when we actually get going on it. We are also going to have to adjust to Word 2007 on the school computers when students have miscellaneous forms of word processing at home. I am, however, beginning to look forward to returning to class. My horse-going-back-to-the-stable mood kicked in later this year than usual, but it's beginning to inspire me again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ravelympics Progress

I'm knitting away on my Ribwarmer for the Vest Vault, but I'm concerned. I'm carefully following the sizing instructions on Meg Swansen's video. I don't think the problem is in the instructions, but in my personal very-pear shape. I made the shoulders exactly to fit, and I have added increases to the sleeves to get closer to the bust size. Then I still had to add under the arms. This is a picture of one front. I think it is coming out as a vest, a traditional weskit-shaped vest, instead of looking like a ribwarmer. I only hope the underarm area doesn't want to bulge out. Since the fabric is fairly firm, I think it should be ok. I think I'm producing a usable garment, but not the style I wanted. Given that my shoulders are so much narrower than my lower area, I don't know what I should have done. I suppose a top-down raglan sweater would have been a good solution. I know I can make that fit properly. Oh, well, we'll see. I have the back corner knitted to the v-shaped vent, and I've started on the neck for the second front.
This is TECHNICALLY the last week before I go back to school. However, I had two days of workshop last week, and two days this week. Both of these days are actually 1/2 days, but when the 1/2 day comes in the middle of the day, it pretty much messes up the whole thing. I also have a dental appointment, which at least means I can finish a sock, perhaps. I will be fine as soon as school actually starts, but this summer seemed extraordinarily short for some reason, perhaps because many of my plans for the summer had to be put on hold due to the schedules of others. I also think the down economy hasn't helped any. It is hitting our small agricultural community very hard.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

"The Best Laid Plans"

may "gae oft agley," but they don't necessarily bring grief and pain, in spite of what Robert Burns wrote. I left home for three days to go to a teacher workshop and to take care of some "grandma" fun.

  • My audiobook would not play on my MP3 player so I had to drive all the way without fiction.
  • The meeting start time had been moved up 30 minutes, and I hadn't been notified, so I was late. Other people had the same problem, but it was still irritating.

  • I was spending two nights in a hotel, and I forgot my nightgown.

  • I carefully packed a ball of sock yarn, a stitch pattern, and a circular needle in my really cute blue brocade sock bag, so that I would look really impressive knitting in public, only to discover I had packed one very short circ. Couldn't make a sock.


  • I did get a lot of reading done at the hotel, finishing a Kathy Reichs novel I had already started and starting and finishing another one.

  • I had an excuse to buy a new nightie, and I haven't done that in awhile.

  • The schedulers announced two different start times for the second day as well, which just made them look stupid instead of me because everyone noticed.

  • In the very short period of time that I had my yarn out, another teacher saw me, asked what I was doing, and then pulled her project out of her bag. She was doing a baby blanket for an expected grandson in Swedish Embroidery on monk's cloth. I had seen pictures, but I'd never seen the real thing. I had always thought the cloth would be stiff, but it was incredibly soft. She was copying one that her grandmother had made for the baby's father. She insisted on sending me away with a complete copy of the directions. All I need is one more fiber hobby!

Other good things--Gretchen Bernabei, the consultant for the conference, was excellent. She really helped us in targeting writing strategies to improve student writing and to work toward higher test scores. My favorite quote--"You don't fatten a chicken by weighing it every week."

Other good things--

  • a presentation by the education director at the American Quarter Horse Museum and Hall of Fame. They have a really interesting writing project that I think we can use. I also got to examine an interesting artifact--an antique braided horsehair bridle--very fine work in four colors.

  • a short workshop on using Microsoft Office Photo Story. I've already thought of a jillion ways to use this program in the classroom and personally.

Other highlights--

  • watching the opening ceremony from Beijing

  • spending time with my family and granddaughters. Only one granddaughter is in this picture. Guess what she wants to be for Halloween?

This picture was made at the Red Robin restaurant. Back when television was brand new in Amarillo, one of the early daytime local variety programs was hosted by a man named Gordon Suits whose nickname was the Red Robin. He used the song as a theme song.

Note: The trip made me late in beginning my Ravelympics project, but I cast on tonight, and I'm ready to start the short rows on the first side of the ribwarmer.

Sidenote--I'm using the DVD from Meg Swensen. I watched it through on the DVD player in the living room a couple of weeks ago, but tonight I put it on the computer so that I could have the Olympics on the television. I noticed that there are extras to click on that I either did not see before or else they didn't show up on the television screen. I think I'll get my Knitting Workshop DVD out and see if it is the same way.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A First

One of the things I enjoy about the part of the country in which I live is that everyone is fairly laid back about most things and also relatively courteous. That is probably an overstatement, but when you live in a very small town, you know who the discourteous people are and either avoid them or accept their behavior as an eccentricity.

There is an even smaller town nearby that has really good prices on gasoline, probably because the owner of most of the convenience stores in a two-state area considers it his home and sells cheap--I'm not sure. We were going through there last weekend and filled up for $3.62. We were through there again yesterday and decided to top off our tank from the week before with gas that was $3.75. There was a line of sorts, so we picked the shortest one--a car and a pickup were in front of us. We were third. We dutifully turned off the ignition, rolled down our windows, and waited patiently for our turn. As soon as the pickup pulled ahead, we drove up to the pump. A woman had driven in from the other direction after we got in line, but she was much further back than we were. No one was in line behind us, so she could get in line there, but evidently that did not satisfy her. While my DH was out on the driver's side of the car getting the gas, she pulled up by my side on the way to get in line and began shouting. Isn't it amazing how inarticulate human beings can be when they are in a rage? I only understood the shaking fist and the f-word--everything else was garbled. We got our 8 gallons or so and drove away, but I still felt I had lost something. The week before, everyone in line had been laughing and joking because they were happy about the price.

A Pleasure and a Disappointment

I finished my reading from my Barnes & Noble binge last week. I've discovered a new author that I like and been disappointed by an author I've formerly enjoyed.

The new author is Kathy Reichs. The book is Bones to Ashes, a forensic mystery. I understand that her character is the basis for the Fox series Bones, but other than the name and the fact that the character is a forensic anthropologist, I didn't see much similarity. This is the sort of book that makes me wish my French was better. In fact, it's almost nonexistent, considering how many years it's been since college and how little use I've had for it in the meantime. In spite of that, however, the plot was riveting, and the characters were developed. I was reminded of some of the early Patricia Cornwell books. I only hope that this author does not descend into the darkness and weirdness that seem to characterize much of Cornwell's later works. The setting of the French part of Canada also makes the book more entertaining for me because this is an area that I know very little about. If only a little knitting were included. . . .

Note: I've agonized over was/were in that last sentence and decided on the subjunctive. There are times when being an English teacher is maddening.

The other book was A Killer Stitch by Maggie Sefton. This is a Knitting Mystery. I've enjoyed two previous books in the series, finding them entertaining, light-hearted, "cozy," reading. I found this book, however, to be less than I expected. For one thing, the plot was weak, I thought. Most of the action seemed to consist of one woman telling another something and saying be sure you don't tell anyone. Then the hearer would immediately decide that for the good of the person being talked about, she needed to tell another person, and so on. Reading this book was like spending a day as a high school--or worse, junior high school--girl again. I definitely expected more for my money and my time. There is obviously a setup for another book at the end of this one. I hope that book is better because we need all the good knitting series that we can get.

On the knitting front, I finished reknitting one of the DGD socks last night.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Frustration Sound!

I couldn't type a frustration sound as a title that didn't look like I was writing a pirate post. My "surprise" project that I was squeezing in between my last socks and the Ravelympics is a ball's worth of Sock Ease socks for my toddler DGDs and the older sister. I checked current shoe sizes, added 2 for growth, checked my gauge, and knitted 2.5 socks. They were so darned cute, but they looked entirely too big, so I took them when I went to the knitting meeting on Monday to try them on the smaller of the two DGDs. They were just a fit--barely. I brought them home and tried them on the DGD with the chunkier legs. The bindoff and ribbing are too tight. After trying to figure out other ways of fixing these, I decided on the foolproof one--I'm reknitting. I am casting on 4 more stitches with a looser cast-on, adding a slightly taller heelflap for the larger child, and adding more length for both. Fortunately, I have previous socks to go by for the older DGD--I can alter from my notes because I had her do a try-on. This means, though, that I will probably not be finished before the Ravelympics, so I will have a side project going. I have planned only one Ravelympics project because the timing coincides with the beginning of school. We do not officially start until the 18th for teachers, but I have two days of out-of-town workshops next week and two the following week.

Grandchildren grow entirely too fast!