Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Knitting Wrap-Up

This has been an adventurous year for me, knitting-wise. I've tried new techniques - knitting with beads, mitred squares, steeks, spinning on a drop spindle, to name a few. The report is positive - I learned new things and enjoyed the experiences. Some things took longer than others to learn, lots of them aren't perfected, but I'm very pleased with the experiences I had this past year. (Note: I'm only referring to knitting and spinning here, in many other areas this year is one best forgotten. I say this while hoping that my kids' college funds will magically regenerate themselves before they're out of college!)

So I will share a few photos and wish everyone a happy, safe, healthy new year.

Buddy sings when the Princess plays his favorite song. I need to get a video of this soon....



The kids all got jammie pants for Hanukkah. Aren't they cute?


My last FOs of 2008: Sorry for the photo quality. Darkness and hurried photo-taking make for dark and imperfect photos.



Socks for Mom
Pattern: Southwestern Socks by Wendy Johnson
Yarn: Zen String Serendipity Sport, Jay Colorway


The Amanda Hat
Yarn: Hand dyed, handspun yarn from Etsy shop, UnderThe Plum



Waterfall Scarf
Pattern: Waterfall Scarf from 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders
Yarn: Misti Alpaca Hand painted Worsted


Here's some spinning that actually is starting to look like yarn! It's some Interlacements Wool and Silk fiber that I got from my friend, goatlady (Ravelry name). It's really beautiful fiber, and I'm finding it easier to get it more consistent than what I've tried before. I'm using my pretty stone whorl drop spindle that I got from Zebisis designs on Etsy, and I like it a lot. I've plied some of this and I think it will come out fine when it's all done.



Our holiday card photo, complete with kids and snow. Life doesn't get much better than this!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Winter Wonderland Part II

I like snow as a novelty, but if I wanted to walk around with snow up to my knees, I'd move to North Dakota. Hello, this is Seattle...... Today it's finally warming up to the mid 30s, so the heavy snow sitting in all the big fir trees is starting to melt and drop. Sometimes the limb drops with it. I'm going to stay inside the house.


Here's the snow on the roof. It's tile and steep, so no one's going up to shovel it off.


Collegeboy and the Princess agreed to pose.



Buddy has to leap around like a rabbit. He likes it!



It is pretty, I have to admit it.



Time to shovel a little bit of the driveway!



Buddy, did you catch that rat yet?


The sun came out for awhile one day.

But not for long.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Wonderland


Here in Seattle, we normally have very moderate weather, but not right now. In keeping with much of the country, we are living with snow, ice, and cold temperatures. In fact, I'm looking at icicles hanging from the gutter outside my window. They're quite pretty. And right now, I'm looking out at snow; falling from the sky in small, gentle flakes, blanketing the trees, shrubs, and driveway. I like it. I don't have anywhere I have to go tonight. The Princess is gnashing her teeth since she'd like to be with her friends and unfortunately for her there's to be no more driving today.

This is what I've been looking at the past few days:


I love the powdered sugar look of the snow on these seeds, which are still hanging on the strawberry tree.


I've been working on some knitted gifts. I finished the first a few days ago and presented it to its recipient. She seemed to like it.


Aran Scarf from the booklet, Knitting Scarves
Yarn used: Misti Cotton
Needles: Size 9 US

I've made this scarf before with Cascade 220 Superwash, and I like how it looks. This one is very soft.

I also finished my Forest Canopy Shawl in record time. DH told me we would be attending his office holiday party, so I cast it on. Barely a week later, I had my shawl finished and wore it to the event. I made three extra repeats, and it was nice to wear over my shoulders and tied slightly off center. It also worked well with my winter coat.



Forest Canopy Shawl
Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock, Wild Cherry colorway
Needles: Size 7 US

Remember this?
My tiny, first bit of yarn that I spun in the drop spindle class I took. Well, I went back to the LYS and got a couple more ounces of this BFL so I could practice. I got it all spun up (no photo documentation) and I decided to make something out of it, even though the yarn was so incredibly badly made it was almost funny. Thick and thin is one thing, but when some of it was the consistency of sock yarn and some was bulky, then it was all plied together....Well, it wasn't too pretty. I didn't have enough to make much of anything, but I managed this headband.

Not the most attractive item of apparel, but I wore it on a 5K walk I did last weekend and it worked just fine. I'll keep this to gauge how far my spinning has come when (if?) it improves. Actually, I am doing better but I am definitely not a natural. I'm working at it.

All for now. I plan to knit by the fire tonight and enjoy the view. I hope the gnashing doesn't get too loud.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Too Many WIPs, Not Enough FOs

Too many ideas, not enough time. Too many beginnings, not enough endings. You can see where I'm going with this.

I've never really gotten frazzled by the idea of holiday knitting. There haven't been that many people who've requested hand-knit items and I sure don't want to go to all the trouble to have my hard work underappreciated. So, unlike the lovely and talented Yarn Harlot, I don't tend to get into a frenzy.

Until now. I'm threatening to frenzy, just a bit.

Here's the scorecard: I decided to make a few items for gifts. I won't be too specific, but I had planned a couple of weeks ago to make three things. They are in progress. Then the Princess "sort of" asked for a scarf in Seahawks colors, since she works at the football games and it's getting really cold. So I put other things aside and made her scarf.


Then I got caught up in the Noro scarf craze, and found some Cash Island on closeout. It feels a lot softer than the Silk Garden does. Maybe DH would like a scarf? That's waiting to be cast on.

Then, after saying that we wouldn't go to the annual company holiday party, DH announced last night that he decided it was okay to go after all. Well, last year I wore my MS3 Swan Lake stole to the party and thought I needed another appropriate knit wrap for this year. We're being a little more casual this year, so I decided black pants, black blouse or sweater, and red shoes would work. For over my shoulders? I need a red scarf or shawl. My flower basket shawl is purple; won't go with red shoes. Answer? Cast on for a Forest Canopy with a skein of Cherry Tree Hill in the Wild Cherry colorway. Perfect, but now this has to be on the front burner because it has to be done in just over a week. Will I make it? Stay tuned.



In the meantime, spin, spin, spin until decent yarn is made. Still not perfect, but getting a heck of a lot closer.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Success!



As I write this last post of NaBloPoMo, I am looking back on what I've written each day. I saw a question on one of the forums I read on Ravelry asking if people had written something meaningful each day, or just taken up Internet space. I think I've done some of both.

My blog was begun for me to document my knitting, display photos, and commemorate family gatherings, events, and milestones. I think I've succeeded in doing that. I don't aim for insightful social commentary and I like to keep my entries light and short for the most part. I use the blog as a journal, diary, and scrapbook and a place to share with my family and friends.

So in posting every day during the month of November, I've taxed my little brain a bit to come up with daily ideas and I've accomplished a couple of things. I learned how to spin (sort of), I finished a big project (my Kauni sweater) and I've documented the autumn changes in the garden and commemorated a couple of family events. All in all, I'm pleased with the monthly exercise and, although I won't continue to post every day, hope to do so more often than I did in the past.

DH had an idea to perk up our Thanksgiving gathering with a little singalong. Now we don't usually do this, and some people grumbled and some looked askance, but he passed out lyric sheets and put the song on the CD player. Everyone laughed, listened, sang along and smiled when it was over. The song was "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by Eric Idle from Monty Python's Life of Brian. In these troubled times, the message is even more appreciated, and the catchy music can make you whistle the rest of the day. (Caution: If you don't appreciate Monty Python or seeing several dozen men hanging on crucifixes, skip the link to this YouTube video.)


A couple of verses:

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...

And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...

If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing.


I will now go back to my determined attempts at spinning on the drop spindle, and wish you all a happy December. See you soon.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kauni Completed

At last! I started this sweater last January, put it down for the summer, and decided to complete it for NaKniSweMo. I finished a few days ago, but had to wait for someone to help me take photos.


Pattern: Kauni Rainbow Cardigan by Ruth Sorensen
Yarn: Kauni Effektgarn 8/2, Rainbow
Needles: US 4 and 5, circular

I had quite a bit of extra yarn, so I was able to pull off sections until I got the sleeves to match pretty well. I was also able to decide on the colors for the button band and search through until I got to a blue and a purple section.

Here's a button:

Photos are courtesy of The Princess.


America's next top model? I don't think it will be me.




Friday, November 28, 2008

The Generosity of Friends

Today I received a package in the mail. That's not totally unusual, but this was something I didn't buy for myself. I had arranged to swap sock yarn scraps with my friend Goatlady (her Ravelry name) and she said she'd include some fiber, since she had a lot and I'm trying to learn to spin.

This is what came:

A box STUFFED with goodies! Lots of Cormo wool in a beautiful natural shade for me to use to perfect my technique. That will take awhile! Then there are beautiful braids of Interlacements fiber and a lovely, soft piece of cashmere to pet. I'd be afraid to try to spin it. Maybe someday.

The plastic bag is full of little sock yarn balls for my blankie. (Scroll down and you'll see the beginnings of it.) I haven't counted them, but there are a lot! And many of them look big enough to make more than one square, so I can trade them later with other people. I can't say enough how much I appreciate all this fibery goodness.

I also bought myself two more spindles in the hopes that one of them will click and I will suddenly get the hang of this. Not yet, but it sure is fun to try and play with these beautiful pieces of art.

The one on the left is a little stone spindle made of lapis that I got from an etsy seller. I also bought a beautifully dyed braid of corriedale and she included two samples of gorgeous hand dyed silk.

The one on the left is a Grafton Mala spindle, also very beautiful. I bought this from an ebay store and got wonderfully fast service.

Tomorrow, my finished Kauni. Hopefully the day won't be too cloudy and dark so a photo will be possible.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving








A day full of family, friends, food, and fun. I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting Ready

The pies are baking and the guys are busy putting up the extra table.




We are thankful to have such good helpers!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Old Fat Women For Peace

Today after yoga class, someone asked, "Have you seen the Old Fat Naked Women for Peace video?" I hadn't, so I came home and looked it up.

I thought it was worth sharing.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OINStsPwgQ4

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanskgiving Prep

Since we moved into the "big" house about 12 years ago, we have hosted most of the big family dinners. After all, that's why we picked the big dining room, wasn't it? I enjoy the preparation and having the family here and, after the first time, have managed to make pretty good food.

This morning I was making my shopping list and the page quickly filled with all of the ingredients I would need to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, complete with three or four desserts (the most important part, in my opinion).

After I made my list, I came in to my computer and made donations to two of our local food banks, Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline. I try to do this several times a year, but today I was thinking again about the troubling times we live in and how many more people are in need this year than usual. We are lucky enough to still be able to pay our bills, provide clothing, shelter, food, and college tuition for our kids, and spend a little money here and there on other essentials such as yarn, drop spindles, and fiber. I am counting my blessings which include health, a loving family,good friends, and a loyal dog. :)




I knit for charity as much as I can and also donate money. For years I volunteered in the schools, but now that our youngest is a senior, I have scaled back quite a bit, but I still feel the need to give back to the community. I think I'll look into the possibility of volunteering at the local food bank or doing some tutoring. If each one of us gave a few dollars or a few hours of time, what a difference that would make.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday's Garden

My question this week is this:

When so many trees look like this after a couple of rainy and windy days,



why does the Wisteria vine still look like this?


No doubt the fact that it is located outside the two entrances to our house and provides weeks' worth of falling leaves blowing in the doors has something to do with it.



It's very fall-like to walk through crackling dry leaves, but not such a treat when they're in your kitchen!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Obsessed again, naturally

Thank heavens I didn't start on a wheel. I've spent much of the last few days practicing on my spindle, buying more inexpensive roving to try to improve my spinning, and reading about spinning on Ravelry. Of course, reading about spinning technique leads to reading about the best fiber to use, which leads to reading about the best spindles to get. Which leads to looking up all the spindle makers and drooling, if not ordering.

So reading and shopping has replaced practice spinning. I've purchased another spindle and some more roving and I fear that I'm not through yet.

One sensible thing I did was turn down the offer to buy a spinning wheel from a friend of mine. I don't want to have that much invested and a bigger item to move when we get around to downsizing the house in the next few years. It also gives me more money for spindles and fiber because look at all I saved on the wheel I didn't buy!

You can talk yourself into anything.

Yesterday while sitting here at my desk, I was fascinated watching two hummingbirds chasing each other around the feeders. Usually one will chase the other away and that's that, but these two had quite an interaction going for some time. Sometimes they sat on opposite sides of the feeder, but they sat like this (see photo below) for a long time. If you click on the photo, you can make it bigger to see the second hummingbird sitting on the branch above and to the right of the feeder.



Ain't nature grand?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hemlock Ring


Would be a lot bigger by now if the darn ............(insert name of one of multiple projects otn) didn't keep getting in the way. Sheri talks about KADD. I have it big time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Buttons!

Buttons have been selected but they refuse to sit for a successful photo on this gloomy day. I will meet with my Kauni "mentor" tonight for last minute advice and will get this sweater finished by the weekend. I'm a year late to be wearing it with everyone else who made it, but I still like the design and really enjoyed the process of knitting it all in the round. Even the steeks were a breeze. Of course, this yarn is extremely sticky and I didn't even stitch beside them before cutting. I suppose with smoother yarn the stitching would be a necessity and I'd have to determine if the old sewing machine indeed still works.

A problem for another day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mother Nature's holiday decorations

I love the look of the small, colorful fruit that is so abundant on these trees, but I just noticed the little, white flowers. It looks like someone has decorated these Arbutus unedo (strawberry trees). Definitely the easiest decorating is that which is done for you!







And then there are the rosebuds, struggling to believe that it's still summer.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's True

Backbends give you energy.

This morning in my yoga class (Iyengar), we did backbends. We worked in partners a lot, thank heavens, since my back doesn't bend very much. I don't dislike some of these poses as much as I once did, but I'm resigned to the fact that I'll never look like the person in the photo.




Oh, well. I still have energy!

Monday, November 17, 2008

I know I'm way too picky

but discrepancies in pronunciation, spelling, or grammar drive me crazy! When I read, I notice every time the wrong form of a word is used (too instead of two or to, loose instead of lose, the various spellings of there, their and of course they're, and on and on). Misplaced hyphens are also noticed; it's vs. its is a particular annoyance and also your vs. you're. All the spell checking in the world doesn't make up for having a basic understanding of the English language.

Today I noticed another thing that bothers me (what a surprise!) I was listening to an audio book while I worked in the garden. I have developed a great fondness for this method of "reading" as it allows total multitasking. Anyway, I usually get a list of books from the bookstore or newspaper, then request CDs from the library. I usually download them onto my computer so I can put them into my ipod. So, by the time it comes to listen to the book, I can't remember where I heard about it, what it's about, or why I requested it. I'm always surprised, usually pleasantly.

David Guterson is a favorite author of mine. He's from this area and his novels have been set in the Pacific Northwest. I began listening to The Other today. His writing is beautiful and the stories always draw me in immediately. Yet, I find that when books are set in my town, discrepancies in small details can be very jarring, whether I am reading or listening. What bothered me today was the pronunciation of Alki (Al-kye). This is a beach in the West Seattle area where the first white settlers to this area came ashore, and everyone around here knows where it is and how to say it. The reader says "Alky" as if it were a neighborhood set aside for alcoholics.

It seems to me that when books are recorded, a little research could be done so pronunciation of names that are repeated several times or are important to the story wouldn't be so glaringly incorrect.

Or is it just me?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Before and After

November is half over and my first NaBloPoMo is going well. I've posted every day so far and am quite enjoying the task of thinking of something to say each day. Not that I've said anything terribly important, but just sitting down and grouping photos or writing a few sentences has been enjoyable.

We are having mild weather so far, after being treated to spectacular fall colors. I've documented some of them here. Last week was rain and wind, which put an end to most of the display, in addition to flooding many unfortunate residents of the state of Washington who happen to live close to riverbanks. I thought it would be interesting to revisit a few of my favorite photos and show how the subjects look now.

Remember the "burning" tree?


All the flames are out, with no damage to the firs.

This colorful scene at the end of my driveway appears fairly bare and drab now.




The pink dogwoods have lost all of their red leaves.





I planted my garlic today. After it spends a cozy few months under the ground, it will emerge with green shoots and lovely, large bulbs which will last us through quite a bit of the year.


And for knitting content, this one little square

has become this. There's still a long way to go.