Monday, January 31, 2011

Books and a Puzzlement

While knitting, spinning, and doing assorted household tasks, I’ve been listening to the various books in the FBI series by Catherine Coulter. I first read this author as a writer of historical romances, but these suspense novels--and there are several of them--are good listening. When some romance writers make the leap into suspense, they either remain too “romancy” or fail to develop any characters except the original romantic duo. That is not true of Coulter. These are not great literature, but they are entertaining listening or reading.

In the months since I’ve retired, I’ve rather avoided “Literature,” academic subjects, and the problems of teenagers. However, I can’t give up previous interests entirely. This pattern was mentioned on Knitter’s Review this morning. Later I discovered it is available as a Ravelry download as well. How cool is this? The first page of THE Beowulf manuscript in Anglo-Saxon (Old English) knitted into a pair of socks! You have to read both socks to finish the page, and since I don’t personally know anyone at the present time who actually reads Old English, knitting them seems to be an exercise in futility. But I need to work on my colorwork skills, sort of an unstated goal for this year, and what could be more perfect? And then my mind kind of moves on. . . . There are these mittens by Nanette Blanchard, available on Ravelry and Knit Picks, which contain the text of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Could I make a matching pair of mittens for my Beowulf socks? I’ve never knitted mittens, but why should that stop me? I think it may be a curse.

Finishitupitis report—working on that last sock. Yesterday afternoon was spent with grandchildren and finishing a dish cloth.

I’m off to do another repeat of the sock lace pattern!

Friday, January 28, 2011

It Must Be Catching

I notice that the Yarn Harlot’s post for today discusses Finishitupitis. I think I have also been struck. I decided day before yesterday to finish some projects that I have on needles before I proceed with the Clapotis. The first one of those was my Three Way Wrap, begun last October. Here is the finished result. The yarn is Plymouth Encore Chunky Tweed in Medium Blue. The buttons are oak, made by The Hickory Tree from Etsy. I like the way that the rustic buttons complement the rustic look of the yarn, which is actually very soft after its blocking bath.

Changes to the pattern:

  • I am more than ample in size, so I added about 8” in length to the pattern. I kept the distance to the buttonhole and to the first button the same, so that the extra went into the “around me” part of the garment.
  • I did not want to deal with the rolling stockinette edges. I think they look lovely on the cashmere in the original pattern, but I didn’t like the way I thought they would look on the tweed, so I added a five stich garter edge and hem. That did indeed take care of rolling edges, but wherever the wrap is draped in a curve the garter edge folds under. At least it is a sharper fold. Sigh!
  • I sort of followed the directions for the buttonhole, but I added a single crochet edge to keep it from being so stretchy, since the buttons are so big. When I saw the Tulip Buttonhole information on Knitter’s Review, I wished, but not hard enough to rip out a foot of wrap to get back to the buttonhole. The big buttons completely cover it. I changed the placement of the buttonhole from the edge so that the center of the buttons would be just a little less than even with the inner edge of the hole. I learned that from sewing.
  • Attaching buttons. I wish these buttons had BIG holes so that I could have used the chunky yarn and tied them on in a primitive-looking way, but they didn’t. I considered having my DH drill bigger holes, but I worried about splitting the wood drilling into the end of the grain. If I order any more buttons from this supplier, I may ask them to make bigger holes. I sewed them on with needle and thread after placing a small four-hole button on the wrong side of the wrap. I sewed through the holes of both buttons so that the weight of the buttons is carried by the buttons rather than the yarn of the wrap and so that sewing thread will not have a tendency to cut through the yarn. The inner buttons are a fairly good match for the yarn color.

I like the way this wrap feels, and I like the color and the buttons. I think I will enjoy wearing it as a “go to” garment instead of a jacket or coat for trips to the store and around town. I absolutely detest a winter coat/seatbelt combination, and I’m fortunate to live in a climate where that is not a necessity very often, and even then trips from car to building are so short here in town that I usually just dress warmly and go for it. I studied the various ways knitters are wearing the wrap on Ravelry. I am sure I will not wear it with the panache that some have, but I think I’ll look as good as the others. Be warned, though, that this pattern is an extremely boring knit. In spite of being knit from chunky yarn, it seems to go on forever. It is great, however, for knitting when you want your attention on something else. Even if you make a mistake, it is extremely easy to drop down and pick it up. I will not say that I won't make another one if I like this one, but not right now.

The next project to finish is a pair of socks from July. Sock one was all finished except for the kitchenered toe. I finished that this afternoon and cast on for Sock two.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Little Listening; a Little Knitting

DH was down with a cold yesterday that really made him miserable.  He almost never complains or lets anything slow him down, so I know that he must really be feeling bad if he says anything.  As a result, we stayed in and quiet all day with cornbread and a big pot of homemade cowboy stew.

I listened to the end of one audiobook and all of another.  The first book was not worth mentioning, but the second one was fun.  It’s a mystery that is more of the cozy type, and it appears to be the first of a series.  The setting is in a fictional coastal town in the San Francisco area of California.  Anteatercover-210The protagonist is a daughter of one of the founding families of the area which has fallen on hard times.  Ignoring her socialite background, she has found a fulfilling career as a zookeeper, but when a member of the most prominent family in town is found mauled to a bloody pulp in the enclosure of the Giant Anteater, she has a crime to solve.  The man had been shot, but, nevertheless, the crime threatens her charge, and subsequent developments threaten her own life as well.  This book is a fun listen.  I look forward to the next book in the series.  I downloaded this one from the Free Library of Philadelphia.  I must admit that I found the title irresistible.  I am ready for number two.

I did knit yesterday.  I completed a few more inches of the Three Way Wrap that I started a few weeks ago.  I also finished a set of dish cloths for my etsy shop.  I am basically trying to complete one item a week for a little while until I get enough inventory to make it worthwhile for people to even look at the shop.

Today, I’m going to do my best to get a few more inches knitted on the Three Way Wrap after I run some errands in town.  It looks like a lovely winter day outside, the kind that we often have at this time of year.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Romance Review

When I’m in a quirky mood, nothing is as amusing as the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovitch; however, I had not read any of her other books until this one: wife for hireWife for Hire, a rather nice little romance novel using one of the standard romance-type plots, but imbued with Evanovitch’s trademark sense of humor. It is not great literature, but it has moments that raise it above the ordinary fare, and it is able to do it without the pages and pages of rather explicit sex scenes that seem to be regarded as a necessity in much romantic fiction today. This is pure romantic fiction. The hero, Hank, is neither darkly mysterious nor fabulously wealthy. Pages are not devoted to describing his rippled muscles. Maggie, the heroine, is a little uncertain of herself and looking to make a change in her life. It is a good entertaining read. I downloaded and read the ePUB version from the Free Library of Philadelphia. I mention this in order to comment on one of the quirks of reading electronically. By now all of us are familiar with the tricks sometimes played by spell check in which one word is replaced by another and no one notices until it is too late. The same sorts of things can happen with electronic books, particularly when one resizes the font. My Sony Pocket Reader has a small screen, so I usually go one size up to reach the font size of most paperbacks. This zooming resets the page formatting somewhat. It can also make interesting word changes that go right past spell checking. It does slow down reading a romance novel if the word “pleasure” is rendered as “plea sure,” every time it appears. Ditto for “red silk pan ties.” Nevertheless, the convenience of ereaders is definitely worth the quirks.

No knitting to report, other than that I’m working on a dishcloth and thus being reminded of the news about Pisgah Yarn and Dyeing. I really enjoy using their product and knowing that it represents American jobs for American workers. I can’t say that about every fiber product that I use, and I certainly mean no disrespect to Canada.

No spinning to report. I was so puzzled trying to figure out the edge question on my Kink that I forgot that Fridays were for spinning. I’ll have to catch up this week. I’m going to use some black and white Brown Sheep mill ends from Sheep Shed Studio. My spinning really needs skills practice for awhile before I move on.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ramblings and Relief and Reviews

This post comes close to being a Random Saturday post, so please bear with me while I jump around from topic to topic.

First of all, my DH and I drove to Amarillo today to stock the larder and to spend some time babysitting the youngest granddaughter while her parents attended a meeting. Until August she lived in the same town with us, but it has been a couple of months since we spent an extended time period alone with her. She is talking nonstop, explaining in detail how things are done and why, and backing up her opinions by citing authority—Daddy, Mommy, or Aunt Carrie—depending on what area the issue falls under. She was so much fun to watch, and she never got grumpy in spite of the fact that she entirely missed her nap. The fact that she was wearing the purple Wallaby I knitted for her didn't hurt my feelings either.

DH and I shopped madly for groceries. I happened to hit several staple items that were significantly, as in $2+, cheaper each than the regular price at home, so I bought extras. Our freezer is now full. Some of the meat items were less expensive because they were in bulk packages, so I broke those down into small, couple-sized freezer bags when we got home. Other items went in the pantry. I was ecstatic because I bought garlic. The grocery here in town has been out of the real stuff for at least 2 weeks! Evidently, it doesn’t take much excitement to make my day anymore. I have makings for 6 batches of chili, 3 crockpots of stew, 10 pork chop dinners, a liver and onion bash, and 6 meals of chicken fried steak, the entrée that Larry McMurtry ate as an act symbolistique. I tend to judge the appearance of my chicken fried steak by his description.

Side note: Several years ago, I was teaching Out of the Dust to a class of nonacademic track students. If you have not read this YA novel, you should do so. It won’t take long, but be warned, it is written in poetry. I was looking for projects and came across one that suggested students research and compile a cookbook of Dust Bowl recipes from the 1930s. I diligently researched the topic first and found that since we actually live in what was once the Dust Bowl, we are still eating most of these recipes although we don’t shoot that many rabbits anymore. (There was a huge glut of rabbits eating crops during the 1930s. My mother drove dinner to the field to my father and grandfather accompanied by her .22 semi-automatic rifle.) One of those recipes was for “Depression Steak.” Now we call it something else, but we still eat it, and we are proud of it!

Today, we had planned to eat seafood for lunch at a favorite catfish restaurant. (Why do we refer to fish as “seafood” when they are freshwater?) When we drove up, the business name had changed, and the sign advertised burgers and steaks. We knew that the original had a drive-through take-out branch about 2 miles away, so we went there on a cold, windy, and gloomy winter day. We ordered, not getting exactly what we wanted. For example, instead of my oyster and shrimp dinner with salad, baked potato, and roll, I ended up with shrimp (delicious), typical takeout coleslaw, and fries, accompanied by iced tea from a Styrofoam cup. And we had to eat in the car in the parking lot. As it turns out, the original restaurant is still in business at the same location—they just named it something else when they added steaks and burgers to the menu. I was not happy. We have been cutting back on eating out since we retired, both because we have more time and desire to cook and because working does not provide a convenient excuse, so I tend to expect “more” from the experience, particularly when we drove 70 miles.

I finally got an answer on the I-Cord question, sort of. (Notice the smooth transition from one topic to another?) GFTC knitted a sample and came out the same way I did, with an edge that looks like I-Cord in the front, but is not attached in the back. At least I know I’m not crazy. I did wear my Kink today, and it felt really good in the cool wind. I hate wearing coats in the car, so I took a chance and wore a long-sleeved cotton knit shirt, hand knit wool socks, cotton knit slacks, and my Kink. It was a good layer of warmth for neck and shoulder tops, and I loved the way it looked.

Review One: Film on Netflix Watch Instantly. The Botany of Desire about man’s relationship with plants, and I do mean relationship. Featured in the film are the apple, the tulip, cannabis, and the potato. The author focuses on interaction and how it changes both the plant and humans. His thesis is quite thought-provoking, so much so that as I was selecting from the many varieties of apples today (I chose Fujis.), I found myself wondering if the fruits were manipulating me. And I looked for some of those bags of the mixed little gourmet potatoes that are all different colors. I would have bought them, too. The film is based on a book. I will have to see if more plant varieties are discussed there.

Review Two: Audiobook. I was trying to beat the film on this one. Water for Elephants. The official review on Amazon is pretty much on the mark, but I want to Water_for_elephantstell you my emotional reaction to the book. First of all, this is an audiobook that lent itself to that type of performance. Since the protagonist/narrator of the novel is either 93 or 21, depending on where you are in the book, having two narrators who actually sound old and young enhances the experience. I found many of the chapters narrated by the 93-year-old to be quite painful, perhaps because I have had to face the experience of putting a loved one that same age into a nursing home. In fact, those chapters bothered me so much that I almost didn’t finish the novel, but I am very glad I did finish. The circus chapters were very interesting historically, but the brutality brought about by some immoral circus operators and the extreme poverty of life in America in 1931 became almost unbearable in places. However, since I have frequent encounters with a dog who only obeys commands in German, and I always forget that, I found Rosie the elephant, who only understands Polish, to be a sympathetic character. I’m glad I stuck with the painful parts of the book and came out the other side. In fact, that’s rather the point of the whole work, I think.

Now I’m off to eat an apple if I don’t have a conversation with it first.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Kink, with a few Kinks

This is my finished Kink, not exactly as planned—what is?—but nevertheless I like it. For all of its nubby texture, it is incredibly light. However, for anyone planning to knit one, I need to caution about the pattern itself so that you won’t make the same mistake I did. This item is knitted from one end to another, like a scarf. The neckline side has a knitted-as-you-go I-cord; the right side is much larger due to short rows and has the points that you see in the photograph. My problem was with the instructions for the I-cord, and although I knew I was having trouble, I could not find information on line. I found cast-ons and bind-offs, and any number of instructions on the kind of I-cord that EZ used, in which you pick up stitches around a finished object and knit on an edge—one of my favorite finishes, by the way.

This pattern gave directions for working with regular knitting needles as follows:

Row 2 [RS]: K4, [slip these 4 sts back to left needle and knit them again] twice, k14, yo, k1, 20 sts.

These are the instructions I followed. What I came out with was an I-cord-looking edge that was not attached on the back. It rolled to the back just fine.

In another place on the pattern, these instructions were given for DPNs. I will admit to just glancing over them and not thinking much about them other than they wouldn’t be of much use to me since I didn’t have any size 10 DPNs:

In rows 2 and 10, you’re working an I-cord edging. If you prefer not to return stitches to the left needle to rework them, make your Kink with double-pointed needles and substitute the following for these rows:
Alternate row 2 and 10 [RS]: K4, [slide these 4 sts to right end of the right dpn. With a 3rd dpn and holding yarn snugly behind stitches, k the same 4 sts] twice, k14, yo, k1.

I still haven’t worked out what I did wrong, so if anyone has an answer, please tell me. Since I was working in bumpy handspun, which covers a world of sins, I blocked and then used a loose overcast stitch to anchor the edging on the inside. I am pleased with the result, but not with my failure to understand the directions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Something New and Books to Review

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the chance to rhyme!

I am starting an Etsy shop. The button is in the right sidebar of this page. Right now, the shop contains only one item, but it is a beginning, and I’m sort of excited about it. At the very least, I’m having fun. I have a background in retail as well as in education, but I’ve never done anything on my own, and this is a way to try something with very little overhead and without being tied down to regular hours.

Now for the audiobook reviews. All three of these books are from the Free Library of Philadelphia’s OverDrive collection.

The first selmurder artistection is The Murder Artist, by John Case. This book is about one of a parent’s worst nightmares and how one uniquely qualified protagonist deals with the situation. The settings are interesting—everything from a Renaissance Faire near Washington, D.C., to coastal California, to Louisiana. In addition, you meet a wide array of secondary characters who add interest and local color. If the plot sometimes stretches the limits of belief a little bit, that’s ok. The audiobook is read by Dick Hill, who is always a treat to listen to.

The second and third books are the beginning of a series by Linda Castillo, a Texas writer. Both books are set in the Amish country of Ohio. The protagonist is Kate Burkholder, the police chief of a small town. She was raised Amish, but chose not to join the church when she reached adulthood. The novels, however, are very positive toward the Amish culture. These books are suspenseful mysteries and at times quite intense. I always think that one of the most difficult burkholder 1tasks for the author of a series is cueing in the reader of the later books to what he must know as burkholder 2background if he has not read the previous titles, without becoming unduly repetitive for the series-style reader. I think that Castillo has not yet quite worked this out, but, in truth, that is only a minor distraction. I will gladly await other novels in this series.

I have just begun listening to Water for Elephants. So far, it is as good as I had expected it to be from the reviews I have read. I understand a movie is coming out before too long.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kink-y Knitting

Well, after a couple of days of knitting at every available moment, including while watching Shutter Island, 3 episodes of Murder, She Wrote, and listening to the major parts of two audiobooks, I finished knitting Kink. I had thought—wrongly—that this would be a quickie-knit. After all, the distance around one’s neck is not very far. Of course, I did not allow for the fact that the distance around the neck is the INSIDE of the circle; the circle itself is bigger by a significant factor and is a little bit slower to knit from the handspun than from perfectly smooth commercial yarn. In addition, the circle is made using short rows, with wrap and turn.

I added the crocheted loop for the button, not the button I had planned because it is too big. Then I soaked the finished item in Soak for about an hour, squeezed it with a towel, and pinned it out according to the instructions on my blocking board. I am emphasizing “according to the instructions” because left on my own, I would have chosen a circular shape, as I noticed a number of people on Ravelry did. The directions, however, specified a U, and so a U it is. If you look closely, you will see that the YO holes on different points are different sizes and the same is true of some of the lacy parts between the short rows and the I cord edge that will be around the neck. That is a factor of the unevenness of the thick and thin yarn. I do, however, like the texture that the less-than-perfect yarn gives to the finished object. When it is dry, I will decide on placement and sew on the button. Then I will try to get up the nerve to wear it. I’ve actually joined a Ravelry group that encourages the wearing of one’s handknits. It is good to know that I finally finished something for myself after a rather long dry spell. Speaking of dry spell, I'm heading out for Happy Hour at the Sonic--Diet Sprite, here I come!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back to Beginnings

Here’s an example of some beginner-looking yarn.  There’s a lot of thick and thin to it, but mostly there’s one ply that has much less twist than the other because that ply had relaxed over the year and a half it was just sitting on a bobbin.  The resulting two-ply reminds me of Lion Brand Homespun, a yarn that I’ve always hated knitting with.  At least this knits better.

I am absolutely determined that I am going to make something from this AND actually wear it.  The final yardage is slightly over 100 yards, so I looked hard for a pattern that would take unevenly spun yarn in that amount, and I came up with this one:

kinkALThandspun

This is Kink from Knittyspin, designed for beginner yarn.  (The name of the pattern refers to its being suited for kinky yarn, not to the personality of the knitter.)  I like the asymmetrical effect and the way it uses a special button because I have a special wooden button that came as a lagniappe with a recent order.  I am not sure but what I will feel like an old Victorian lady sitting in my drawing room with six layers of velvet curtains and a glass dome full of wax flowers on the table, but I am going to give it a try because the colors in the yarn are pretty.  I have completed three pointy things worth already!

Next week, I’m getting out some mill ends of roving from the Sheepshed Studio and working on EVEN, both in size and twist until I get my technique going again.  I am back to inchworming and a little bit of supported short draw.  My long draw is gone completely.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Spinning and Reading

My spinning venture has been only moderately successful. I finished spinning in just a few minutes yesterday, but when I tried to ply, the singles which had been on the bobbin for a year and a half were not satisfactory. They had lost twist. I was able to salvage enough of them to ply with my one bobbin of new singles. The old bobbin was bigger, and I finally just cut off the remaining spun fiber and tossed it. I wound a skein, washed it, and hung it to dry. It is reasonably soft, and I think there is about 140 yards of sport-DK weight. I am planning to knit Kink, from Knitty. The quality of my spinning is not yet back where it was before I stopped, but I suppose I should not be surprised by that. I’ll post a picture of the yarn when I wind the ball.

I have not been satisfied with the way I’ve been handling reading using the Shelfari shelf. Sometimes I read just for fun, very light reading that I don’t particularly want to review, but I feel almost forced to justify my literary choice by the Shelfari shelf. I’ve decided that I’m going to read what I want to, and when I find something worthy, I am going to review it in my blog.

I have two reviews today—both for audiobooks.

The first review is for Beachcombers by Nancy Thayer. I added this to my list after reading an article about the author in a magazine. She is a year round resident of Nantucket, and the protagonist sisters of her novel share her background. This is another novel about women finding themselves, but it is interesting, and the setting makes it unique. It is available on OverDrive from both the local library and FLP.

The second review is about a series, the Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon. Leon is an American who lives in Venice, and Venice is the setting of her novels, which rely heavily on setting for their unique feel. Since I know little about Venice, much of this material, if accurate, is entirely new to me, but it is clear that the Venetian way of life is quite different, as is to be expected when you consider the geography. Brunetti’s struggles to find the criminals in spite of the corruption of the system, the secretive customs of Venice, and the fact that he is exhausted because he never gets to take his vacation add to the twists and turns of plot. I have only one more audiobook available to me, and then I may have to look for Dead Tree versions of the other novels. The author’s web site is interesting, by the way.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Frustration!

I wanted to lead this post with a graphic, but when I googled “knitting frustration,” I got picture after picture of finished projects, some with smiling knitters attached. Non-knitters just don’t get it, do they? Fortunately, yesterday’s post by the Yarn Harlot made me feel better. I took all my needed items, including stitch markers, to the quilting group meeting yesterday. I don’t have a quilting project at the moment and someone is always doing handwork. Although I am a marker person, I decided to knit using the purl stitches to mark the drop rows—on fingering weight, rather dark-colored yarn. I should have known better. Then on the increase rows, I got to going on the pattern without noting that the ending of each row was a little bit different. In short, today I have to frog back at least two complete repeats. I’m hoping to be able to stop at the end of the set up section so that I don’t have to reknit that as well. Of course, I didn’t put in a lifeline. I also didn’t have the sticky notes that I usually use to mark my way down the page.

Retirement note: As much as I am enjoying not teaching right now, I was still carrying my keys on a lanyard until last week when I took the car keys off to put the car in the shop. I still need to find a key ring of some sort, I suppose.

Today I have a to-do list of laundry, some bedroom box emptying, and SPINNING! We are eating our way through a refrigerator full of leftovers that we created at the beginning of the week, so I won’t have much cooking to do.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Windup

Winding Dream in Color Smooshy (Ruby River) from The Loopy Ewe with a ball winder and a Mama Bear Swift I love the cherry swift, and so does my husband, who doesn’t have to hold the yarn anymore while I wind on. This time, I am weighing yarn because this yarn is for a Clapotis, and I need 1/5 for the beginning section, 1/5 for the ending section, and the rest for the middle. The yarn was a Mother’s Day gift from my daughter’s family. Every available Clapotis chart is downloaded; I joined the “How Do You Pronounce Clapotis?” group on Ravelry; I looked at numerous projects to decide on yarn and needle size. The time has come to start this project!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Yarn and Pattern Rave

When my husband, who is almost always very supportive of my fiber interests, saw the scarves that I was boxing up for Special Olympics, he said that he would like to have a scarf, too. I excavated in my stash and came up with some of the Plymouth Encore Tweed, Denim, that I had used for my grandson’s sweater. I thought it looked suitably male. The pattern is the One-Row Handspun Scarf by the Yarn Harlot, available for free on Ravelry or on her blog. I wish my photography skills were adequate to show the results well. I have used this pattern before on scarves that I have made, most recently on one of the Special Olympics scarves. I like it because it is reversible and unisex. However, this yarn and pattern combination is outstanding. I can assure you that it is not anything special that I did because I just knitted the way I have before. The stitch definition makes every pearl bump row in the garter sections look like beads, and the columns of twisted knit stand out proudly. I also like the slightly rustic feel of the tweed combined with a denim blue. After its bath, the finished scarf is also very soft and squishy. I’m very pleased!

Friday, January 07, 2011

St. Distaff’s Day

Today is St. Distaff’s Day, the day in medieval Europe when women traditionally returned to spinning in every available moment in order to keep the family clothed.  It followed Epiphany on Jan. 6, which marked the end of sort of a holiday break from usual routine.  If you Google the term, there are some rather interesting web sites.  I thought this would be a fitting day to return to spinning after an absence of more than a year.  It was most enjoyable, and I did quite a bit, as you can see.  I only hope I didn’t overdo since my knees are out of practice.  Notice also that I now have a belt made from the pony bead lace material.  This works great!  I am a little disappointed, though, because I put it on day before yesterday, and it is supposed to glow in the dark, and it doesn’t seem to.  I already have one bobbin of this roving spun from before.  I can’t remember where I got it.  I had originally intended this to be spun and plied in color sequence, but that plan got scrambled with the time gap, so this will be mixed instead of having gradual color changes.

Now I’m off to the kitchen to make chili. 

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Literature

Mark_Twain,_Brady-Handy_photo_portrait,_Feb_7,_1871,_cropped

So The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is stirring controversy again, this many years after its US publication in 1885. I doubt that Twain would be surprised. I’ve been following the on-line discussions about the current issue, and while I have my own opinion, I think it best to let the author himself, through the voice of Huckleberry, speak about the issue of race in the novel:

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking-thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time, in the day, and in the nighttime, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: "All right, then, I'll go to hell"-and tore it up.

It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter, I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.

--Chapter 31

Perhaps the current fuss will mean that more people will read or listen to this important work of American literature. That will be a worthwhile outcome.

A Belated Thank You

I have not used my spinning wheel in about a year and a half, but that is about to change. I spent yesterday and part of today getting my spinning stuff in order and cleaning and adjusting my wheel.

About a month ago, I won some beautiful fiber on the KnittySpin part of Knitty. It is from Miss Babs. And look what kind of fiber it is!

And look how much of it there is!

The color is Bog, lovely shades of gray-green. I am so excited! Thank you, Miss Babs and Knitty! Needless to say, I’m not starting out with this lovely fiber after so long an absence from my wheel. I stopped in the middle of a spinning project, so I’m going to go back to that and get my mojo going first!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Organizational Baby Steps

For some reason that I don’t quite understand, I seem to have some devices that plug in to USB with cables with a USB miniplug on the end, but that don’t quite fit other miniplug cables. That means keeping up with a cable for each device. That can be something of a nuisance. Amazon was kind enough to label their cable, and it has a microplug anyway, but no one else seems to have done that. I have been toying with the idea of masking tape labels—I can be frugal--but my daughter’s family gave me a label maker for Christmas. I had these little flip top boxes that I used for organizational purposes at school—still have crayons in one and markers in another. Add a label to the outside and labels to the individual cables on the inside, and I’m good.

I need to get some of that two-sided velcro to loosely wrap around each cable to avoid tangles. I’ll have to put that on my list.

These boxes are very nice because they stack rather securely, particularly when they are going into a corner with vertical support at right angles so they can’t be accidentally bumped. I’ve had these for awhile; I need to check and see if I can get some more. And, of course, I am going to want to get label cartridges of different widths and colors, so I did this:

I resisted the impulse to stick a label on the labelmaker itself. You can tell that spending a couple of hours in an ESL classroom yesterday had an effect on me.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Marpling Has a Hitch

Two days into my plan to Miss Marple my way through finishing a wrap, I’ve hit a hitch--or two. First of all, even though the Roku shows 2 DVDs from Netflix, not all of the episodes on each DVD are available for watching. When this happens, I think it has something to do with legalities not worked out for Instant Watch yet. There are not enough episodes of Miss Marple available to finish my project. That’s a pity because I really liked the word “marpling.” However, I can finish out with episodes of Murder She Wrote, even if that choice doesn’t produce a good word for the process.

Furthermore, and this is a good thing, my DH looked at the scarves I was packing for Special Olympics yesterday and said, “I’d really like to have one of those things.” This is from a man who waited almost two years before actually wearing the wool socks I knit for him and who is just now really into the felted clogs in retirement. I dug around in my stash/leftovers and came up with leftover balls of the Plymouth Encore Tweed in Denim that I used for my grandson’s sweater. The washability will be a plus for what DH wants to wear the scarf for, and the yarn is suitably masculine and very soft. However, it is the same color as my Three Way Wrap from the Chunky. If we happen to appear at the same time, we are definitely going to be one of those color-coordinated elderly couples that you see places and think you will never be. So my knitting time yesterday was devoted to six inches of “guy” scarf in the Yarn Harlot’s One-Row Handspun Scarf pattern. I am making the scarf two repeats wider as well.

I’ve also knitted a stack of dishcloths for a friend with a new house. These will go into the mail this week as well. The yarn is Peaches and Crème, an American made product. I’m not really much of a yarn snob, and I use yarn and needles from all over the world, but it is nice to know that I’m contributing to jobs for American workers now and then. The colors are Red (no kidding) and Fiesta. The pattern is the One Bump Dishcloth, available on Ravelry.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Still Life: Special Olympics Scarves with Vacuum Cord and without Grandchildren

On my “to do” list for the day of the Christmas Dinner was to get a picture of my grandchildren holding the Special Olympics scarves that I have ready to send. In all the excitement, I forgot. Here are the two lonely scarves

I always have mixed feelings about posting items I have knitted for charity because I am aware of the Biblical injunction not to do alms to be seen of men; however, I think it is important to spread the word that there are opportunities to help others with our knitting. This opportunity comes up each year, and it is our chance to help the Special Olympics be a little more like the other Olympics by giving each athlete and the helpers a chance to wear a unifying symbol of that year’s games.

The yarn is Coats and Clarks Red Heart Super Saver in Blue and Turquoise; the pattern on the left is a combination of an idea from the project web site and the Yarn Harlot’s One-Row Handspun Scarf. The scarf on the right is my own made up pattern of sampler blocks.

Marple report: I used my “system” again last night. The project still seems to be moving slowly, but I’m enjoying the films.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Reflections for the New Year

Note:  This is my second post using Windows Live Writer to compose.  It really is easier, Boo!  That’s to my daughter, who recommended trying this about a year ago—I’m a little bit slow sometimes! 

First of all, I want to thank Barb Cooper of So the Thing Is Blog for today’s post.  I needed to hear this in regard to my own life.

Over on the Knitter’s Review Forum, there has been a real tribute going on for a few months to Fran, who left all of us knitters a real treasury of helpfulness and an example of courage when she passed away this past year.  One of her techniques that came up again this week was her idea of working on stalled projects for 10 minutes a day.  Most of us have found that this works admirably, particularly when you have several stalled WIPs.  I am determined to experiment with my own variation of a system.  I have had a couple of not-very-interesting-to-knit projects going recently—you know what I mean, row-after-row of stockinette.  Necessary to connect the more interesting parts together, but boring to knit.  This kind of knitting can be a relief after a particularly intricate project, but sometimes it can also seem that the rows add up very, very slowly.  We now have a Roku box which enables us to watch Netflix videos and some other items on our tv via our DSL line.  We’ve enjoyed the movies, but a real surprise has been watching old-and-loved tv series or new-to-us television series from Britain and Australia straight through.  I knitted my Special Olympics scarves this past couple of weeks to an audiobook and an episode of Miss Marple.  I am still working on the extended stockinette of the Three Way Wrap, and I have plenty of Miss Marple left to go.  One episode pretty much uses up my limit of straight knitting time for the day without aggravating my shoulder.  I can squeeze in a few random rows of something else in addition, here and there.  I’m going to see if I can Marple my way through to the end of this project!