Sunday, February 27, 2011

More Spinning Practice

This is definitely not the world’s most even spinning.  However, neither is it as uneven as the color mix makes it appear.  This is not one ply of white and one ply of black. The roving was mixed in long strips, and even though I tried, it was impossible to separate the colors accurately, so there is some solid black ply, some solid white ply, and a lot of various grades of mixed.  The spinning is still somewhat uneven, both because of my skill and because when the two colors were mixed, I found that the black, which was coarser and drier in feel, drafted out of my hand differently than the white.  That was easy to deal with when they were separate, but harder when they were together.  On the other hand, let me say that the white is incredibly east to spin, and the black is not far behind.  They are just different.  The fiber is some of the mill ends from Sheep Shed Studio.  Their service is great, the fiber is relatively inexpensive, and I recommend it highly for practice and for use. 
I also put a new brake line on my Ashford Traveller.  I use a two-spring setup, but the last fishing line I used was extremely fine, so much so that it was almost invisible.  I replaced it with a heavier line, and I think my spinning is much smoother.  The other must have been giving when I didn’t notice it. 

Sunday Afternoon

Outside, Texas sandstorm; inside, chicken-fried steak, spinning on Matilda, and NASCAR.

Edit: I did have a nice spinning afternoon, and Jeff Gordon won, but the high winds resulted in a number of wildfires in nearby communities with substantial property loss for a number of people. They are still burning, but the winds that had gusted up to 70 mph are beginning to die down.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Knitwear Sighting

From the soon-to-be-released Jane Eyre:


Check out the shawl. The ruffle reminds me of the Coquille Shawlette from Knitty, but this shawl appears to be garter stitch. I think it does have the curved back, though, from the tiny glimpse you get when she swings around. There is a better quality clip on the imdb site, but I couldn’t get it to embed. Alas, I should be looking at St. John Rivers, and instead I’m analyzing knitting.

The video should be embedded on Firefox, but you will have to click on the link to see it on IE. Sorry.

If you want to refresh your memory of the novel, the audiobook on Librivox read by Elizabeth Klett is outstanding--and free. Just download to your MP3 player or listen on your computer.

And, when I listed favorite historical romance writers the other day, I suppose I should have included both Charlotte and Emily Bronte and, of course, Jane Austen. Darcy and Rochester and, to some extent, Heathcliff, have set high marks. And Jane Eyre's and Lizzie Bennet's standards are exemplary.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Rave

One of the aspects of yarn craziness I have wondered about is the lightning speed with which Wollmeise sock yarn becomes unavailable when it is posted on The Loopy Ewe’s site. Sometimes I think people just go for things because they are hard to get. I’m just naturally suspicious. So, when I won a skein of Wollmeise Twin last year, I looked at it, thought, “Nice yarn!” and put it in my stash. It was, however, one of the skeins that I packaged for my delayed Yarn Harlot-style private sock club. When I pulled out the bag for my second month, I drew that yarn. As you can see from my last post, I have been knitting some lace socks with it. It is a nice yarn to knit with, but it does not feel as smooshy going through the fingers as some others I could name, and since the color is solid, I can hardly rave about the interesting dye job. Then, however, I arrived at the heel flap, which I knitted in the usual slip-stitch pattern. Oh my! The raised stitches are beautiful! They absolutely pop! I’m going to continue with the lace, but my ambition is now to get another skein of this yarn and do one of those twisted knit patterned socks with the raised stitches. And to figure out subtle ways to get people to admire my heel flaps when I am wearing them, of course. The skein has enough yardage that I have hopes of a pair of socks for one of the little granddaughters if her feet are not already too big. We’ll see. Thanks again, Sooner Be Knitting, for the prize!

Joshilyn Jackson's blog, Faster than Kudzu, has a contest for a new book by Mark Childress. Click on the link to go there and enter!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Updates

I am back at work on my red socks:

Laundry, as it applies not to the ordinary washing of what we wear but to a roomful of things that only need to be washed on occasion, is underway.

I am also listening to the audiobook of Kim Edwards’ The Lake of Dreams. I am not quite through with the book. It is long, but it is also emotionally intense. There are books that I just can’t put down, but there are also books that become almost emotionally painful that require me to stop occasionally because reading or listening is too intense and I need a break. This is one of those. I had the same reaction to her previous novel, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. (If you’ve seen the movie, but not read the book, you missed a great deal.) The novel is excellent. I could not hope to summarize the plot or categorize the type because both aspects are complex. The audio narrator does a great job as well. Another reason I’m stopping occasionally is that I have the feeling that I must appear to my husband to be becoming like Mildred in Fahrenheit 451 wearing those earphones all the time. With a novel like this, it is easy to drift into the setting of the novel and lose awareness of what is around me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

FO and FB

Finished Hug Me Socks:

Size—for my husband

Yarn—Zitron Trekking XXL, colorway 90—hard to photograph. See previous photos for better color and depth of pattern picture.

Pattern—Hug Me Socks by Terry Morris, a pattern from the Six Sox KAL on Yahoo.

I really like this pattern. I modified the heel to fit my husband’s feet. The stretchiness/hugginess quality of the fabric is going to be very comfortable.

After I posted last night, I decided I was going to finish the socks no matter what, so I stayed up till 1 something. Privilege of retirement. The extra heel idea I had did not work out, so I dropped it. Perhaps the fact that these socks are tightly knit and 25% nylon will help with wear.

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One mystery series that I think has improved with time is the V.I. Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky. I just finished listening to one of her mystery novels last week. I’m a little behind because I had skipped a few years. I also downloaded a novel by Paretsky called Bleeding Kansas which examines some of the more unfortunate aspects of human nature, small towns, justice, and extreme religious fundamentalism, as well as the effects of history and the distortion of history on the present. One of the aspects of historical events and human nature that has always interested me is exactly how people manage to co-exist in the same communities after some spectacular example of injustice—Salem, perhaps?—I know it happens constantly, since most injustices are less attention-getting than Salem. Of course, religion tells us that the answer is forgiveness. A documentary that I saw recently suggested that the ability to forget is a great asset to brain development as well. And then, there is the age old practicality of having to get along together to make it as a community, both economically and socially. Bleeding Kansas made me uncomfortable, but it made me think.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Favorite Historical Romance Writers

Knit ‘n Teach asked, so I decided to just share with everyone. Some of these go waaay back.

  • Anya Seton—the only title I remember right now is The Winthrop Woman, but I know I read several in high school.
  • Eleanor Hibbert wrote about 200 novels under the pen names Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, and Philippa Carr. For some reason, I never read any of the Plaidy books. Victoria Holt was an early favorite and mostly Gothic. The series of books under the Carr pen name is fascinating. When taken in order, they trace the female line in a family throughout the English history. In addition to the plots involving the heroines, they provide a fascinating glimpse into interesting periods. I had to get a list of the books and work with interlibrary loan to get them when I wanted them, but it was worth it.
  • Among the authors more easily defined as Romance writers, my first favorite was Jude Deveraux, most particularly the Velvet series. I have enjoyed others of her historical books, but none of them as much as those first ones.
  • Johanna Lindsey’s series about the Malory family—great fun. I’ve read a few of her other books, too.
  • Julie Garwood. I enjoy her humor. I enjoy her historical books much more than her modern ones.
  • Judith McNaught. I haven’t read one in awhile. I’ll have to look.

Before long, I’ll try to list some romantic mystery writers that I like.

Knitting—I am on the toe of the last Hug Me sock. If the Daytona 500 had not been so exciting, I’d probably be finished. I am planning to do a little extra to these socks when the knitting is finished in an attempt to make the heels a little more hardwearting. If my attempt looks acceptable when I finish, I will share it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday Fragments

All good books have one thing in common - they are truer than if they had really happened. --Ernest Hemingway

I have been thinking lately about the value of literature to a person and to society. As a teacher, I was occasionally challenged to justify the teaching of literature by people who felt that only nonfiction has value. I often remembered this quote from Hemingway about the value of fiction as a distillation of actual human experience. I know that in my own life, there have been times when literature, or more precisely the memory of literature that I have read, has popped up and helped me deal with tough times. My greatest comfort has always been from the Bible, but there are situations that scripture does not directly address. While great comfort comes from knowing that God is with us, and we are not alone, it is also good to know that we are not alone as human beings. As a child, I lost a dear family member about my own age. I must have read Little Women a hundred times, crying over what happened to Beth. I even memorized the long poems in the book that were written about her, and I found comfort in my grief. As a college student, I read the mysteries of Dorothy Sayers, and memories of what she wrote about Lord Peter’s ambivalent feelings about the death penalty helped me when as a young teacher I had a couple of students charged with terrible crimes. In the last few days, I’ve been thinking about Noah’s Compass and the meaning of that phrase in the book and its implications for my life at this time.

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Friday was a good day. We had a short visit with our son, including a good laugh about his 3-year-old daughter’s flock of imaginary chickens. Our daughter emailed about the progress her children are making with homeschooling. We are so fortunate to have children who have turned into such fine adults. I’m so proud of the contributions that both of them are making to the world.

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And finally, there are few more perfect experiences than ending a day by turning the heel on a sock. I am not much of a mathematician. I know that what makes the heel work is math, but it still feels like magic. I think that’s why I love making socks—just as the leg pattern begins to get boring to knit, there is the magic of turning the heel, followed by the interesting decreases of the gussets. When the decreasing gets old, there is only a fairly swift bit of tube knitting before shaping the toe. I have even come to enjoy grafting the toe. So much entertainment in such a little space!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We All Live in the U.S.A., but . . .

One of the knitting sites I read frequently has raging political discussions in a little separate section. I just can’t help reading them even though I seldom participate. In following the arguments, I can’t help but believe that at least some of the misunderstandings are due to the fact that the United States is a geographically and culturally diverse nation. In this instance, when I use the term “cultural diversity,” I am not speaking about ethnic or religious differences, but about differences created by geography, population density, transportation availability, and historical factors.

Today’s Wall Street Journal had an article that illustrated something of what I am talking about. The title of the article is “Get Out of My Way, You Jerk!” and the subject of the article is sidewalk rage, similar to road rage. The subject is not what I am concerned with. I live in a little bitty town out here in the middle of the U.S. Much of the town doesn’t even have sidewalks. A partially federally funded highway update came through a few years ago so that in some parts of town we have very elaborately built handicap sidewalk ramps leading from the Highway 60 bypass over the curb to no sidewalks. What fascinated me in the article, however, was this list of “rules” for sidewalk traffic:

Slower people keep to the right. Step aside to take a picture. And the left side of an escalator should be, of course, kept free for anyone wanting to walk up.

When I visit a city, I do try to walk to the right on a sidewalk, but I thought that was just to cut down on confusion. I did not know there was a slow lane. Where does one step aside to for that picture? And the escalator? Where we live, escalators are something of a novelty. Let’s see. In the nearest city, there are two stores in the mall with escalators and a set at the airport. That’s it. And we tend to stand still and enjoy the ride. Furthermore, rather than the rider standing on the step being considered rude, it would be the person walking up the escalator. That’s what stairs are for! In reading the comments to the article, I see that people from that part of the country would not fit in well in most places out here in the middle of the country, even in big cities. If a little item like differing escalator manners can cause “sidewalk rage,” is it any wonder that all kinds of misunderstandings are abundant? In touchy times like these, it is going to take a lot of patience on both sides to keep discourse civil and to come up with solutions that fairly represent all parts of the U.S.

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Noah

I have had my eye on this book for awhile, but I had not taken time to listen to it. This latest sock, coupled with the lack of good tv right now, prompted me to download it and listen. This is not a book about someone named Noah. It is, however, a book about a sixtyish teacher who is out of the profession and starting the next phase of his life. At the very beginning of his new life, he is placed in a very unusual situation which causes him to reevaluate his past. The title comes from a conversation about Noah and the Ark that he has with his preschool grandson. This novel is written with the humor and the insight into the human condition that characterizes all of the Anne Tyler books I have read. I always see something of myself in her characters—sometimes a positive, other times a less pleasant experience.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Series

My favorite entertainment reading genre is definitely the mystery/suspense novel in several of its variations, but like most women, I do enjoy a good romance now and then. Back at the first of the year, I read in someone’s on-line resolutions that she resolved to read at least one romance novel a month. That seemed like a resolution that would be easy to keep.secretssummer125h

I do have certain preferences for romances:

  • They must be reasonably well written. Leaving plot lines dangling is not acceptable.
  • The heroine must have spirit and must not be a nitwit.
  • The hero must be Darcy-like, not just a body.
  • There must be a goodly dose of humor, or humour, since I’m fond of British historicals.
  • The setting must be interesting and well researched.
  • The proportion of sex scenes to the rest of the book should be small.
  • I also have a few of the standard romance plot lines that I prefer to others.ithapautumn125

When I went looking for a romance to read in January, I came across the author Lisa Kleypas and her Wallflower series. The series was fun to listen to and to read. The first three books were available to me on audio; the last was available as an ebook. I still would not rate this author quite so high on my list as a couple of others that are my favorites, but I will definitely seek out more of her books. Note: This particular series should really be read in order—summer, autumn, winter, spring. (For those of you who rememberdevilinwinter125h the old Howdy Doody Show and Princess Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring, that should be easy.)

On the knitting front, I’m still knitting on the Hug Me Socks. I’m really enjoying the squishiness of the pattern. It will be hard to give these up to my dear DH. I’m going to knit a pair for myself, and I’m visualizing some grandchildren socks as well. Scandal125h

Spinning is still on hold, but getting closer. I think if I put a bandaid on that finger, all will be well. The internal soreness seems to be gone. I have also ordered a ruler handle for my quilting ruler so that perhaps I can avoid another rotary cutter accident.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Better Sock Portrait

Both color and pattern show better in this shot:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Valentine Gift for my Hubby

These will not be ready on time; however, I would not have had the pattern if I had made them earlier, and I really like the way these socks are turning out. The first picture is a fairly accurate representation of the color. Ironically, this pic was made with flash.

This picture, in natural light, is too bluish,

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but without the flash you can see the wafflely, ribby texture of the sock pattern. It is also wonderfully stretchy and will conform to the foot well. I recently joined the Six Sox KAL group on Yahoo. I became interested in them from reading Terry Morris’ blog, The Sailing Knitter (a wonderful read) and from finding patterns on Ravelry that I did not have access to because they belonged to the group. This will be my first pattern, and it is one of Terry’s designs. I plan to stick to the pattern except in the heel flap area. My DH has a very high instep, so I will add extra rows to the flap in order to make the gusset taller. The yarn is some Trekking that I had in my stash. I chose it because of the masculine colors and because of the yardage in the skein which should give me some comfort room for bigger socks.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Those of you who live up north

can feel entitled to roll your eyes.  I just want to point out that it does, indeed, get cold in Texas. 

Everyone locally was circulating pictures of the local cable news weather screen last night:

wind chill

In the interest of truth, I will add that I looked up that temp and that wind speed on a NOAA chart and came out with –31 rather than the pictured –52.  I can also tell you that the snow is not deep, except where it has drifted, and it is very dry snow, so that monthly precipitation will not increase very much.  I’m sitting by the fire knitting wool socks, just in case you were wondering. 

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Gilly Rose Socks

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Pattern: Gilly Socks by Lorraine Umbers, available free on Ravelry.

Yarn: All Things Heather Hand Dyed Sock Yarn in Shades of Rose.

Purchased: Not purchased. This yarn was part of a prize that I won last year from The Loopy Ewe.

Comments:

Pattern--I liked this pattern, but it was not the easiest pattern to follow although it was easy enough to knit. I think the way certain instructions were given might confuse a beginning sock knitter. I do like the top ribbing, which is a 5 and 3. I’ve never used that before, but it gives a plush look to the socks. The lace pattern on the leg and the top of the foot is very stretchy and comfortable. I did change the heel. The eye of partridge heel that was in the pattern just did not look right with the mottled color of the yarn, so I used a regular heel stitch flap. I don’t think I even looked at the pattern’s toe instructions because I made my toe in the way that I know fits my feet well.

Yarn—The dye job on this yarn is lovely. I really like the shading. There is enough color variation to be interesting without causing pooling or flashing problems or being too loud or detracting from the pattern. I do have some concern, however, about the durability of the yarn. When I made a couple of mistakes and had to tink, this yarn was so lightly spun that it came untwisted and was very hard to knit back. I am not crazy about sock yarns that are so tightly spun that they resemble string, but I do like enough twist that I think that the yarn is going to take a lot of wear. I am a sock wearer as well as a sock knitter, but I much prefer not to be a sock darner. A few yarns of this type have surprised me in the past, and I’m hoping this will be another one.

Friday, February 04, 2011

February is the Month for Red

February is heart month. Here’s my contribution to the theme. Socks—yarn data to follow later—in the pattern Sheri’s Lace by Sockbug. I did finish my other pair of socks last night, but they are still wet from their soak, and with the temps as cold as they are right now, I do not want to put them on for a photograph until they are fully dry. They will have to be photographed on feet in order for the pretty lace pattern to show. I did not get to my spinning today because the fire was warm and cozy and my knitting chair was comfy, and I fell asleep. A very nice winter nap.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Good Day

First of all, we actually built a fire in the woodstove for the first time this year. I know that seems strange, but until this week we a. had an extremely warm, DRY winter, and b. had been under a county-wide burn ban. I don’t think the burn ban actually applies to fires in fireplaces or woodstoves, but should the slightest thing happen, it would be tremendously embarrassing, so we had to wait for snow. I am not going to post snow pictures because ours are pitiful—about 2 inches, roads mostly clear. Today, though, we decided to spend in the living room and fired up the woodstove. I may stay up all night just to bask in the warmth and watch the fire through the big window on the stove. As a result, I spent the afternoon knitting—not finished yet—and spinning in front of the fire. I kept thinking I needed a long skirt, an apron, and a mob cap.

Here’s my spinning production. IMG_0511This is some of the black and white fiber from Sheepshed Studio. I had this left from another project, and I really need to work on my skills. I stripped out mostly white and spun it. Tomorrow I’m planning to spin mostly black and then ply them together. I’m hoping to have enough to make something when I get through.

While knitting, spinning, and working a few National Geographic Jigsaw Puzzles on-line, I listened to an audiobook--themapoftrueplacesthe map of true places by Brunonia Barry. I read her intriguing novel, The Lace Reader, about a year ago. I was impressed with that book because I felt it did many things well. I found it difficult to review without spoiling it for those who haven’t read it. This novel is also set in Salem, and shares the same background as the other novel. The protagonist is a young woman exploring the past that she thinks she knows about—her own past. In addition to the journey of discovery, there is outside threat, and one piece of rather clever suspense building that makes the reader or listener want to scream at someone to do something about it NOW! I did find the narrative technique easier to follow than the previous book.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Grandparenthood Style

Rotary cutter, ruler, fabric, and . . . .

A Go, Diego, Go bandaid!