Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Cats Hate Me

I’m not exaggerating. There are not enough adverbs in the dictionary to adequately describe their disdain. In the interest of honesty, I should state that I’m only talking about two of my cats. That’s less than 50%. The other three are only slightly annoyed, and they are only annoyed because the two that despise me are taking it out on them as well.

Case #1: Caper
We discovered a wound on his chest Sunday afternoon. A trip to the vet is a typical last-minute task before going out of town, but it’s not usually for wounds. And Caper has been remarkably healthy over the past year. Either he has grown out of his desire to eat screws, Advil, and any other small deadly object that might be laying about, or we have learned to pick up a bit better. Whatever, he hasn’t needed more than an annual vaccination visit for quite some time. Then came Sunday and the wound.

Sure, it was a small wound. He had a bald spot on his chest about the size of a nickel, and smack dab in the center was a gouge that looked suspiciously like a fang mark. Cat bites are very toxic, and owners have to be very vigilant to clean the wounds. And I know that a bald spot on the skin often indicates an infection below the surface. (Side note: ringworm and other conditions can also create bald spots, but I a pretty good idea that this was a bite wound.) So that was Sunday of a three-day weekend, and we were going to be going out of town in a few days. So I mixed up a batch of antibiotic and began treating it topically with peroxide. That is doing quite a bit of good, but yesterday afternoon the area looked juicy, so I scheduled an appointment for this morning.

Case #2: Eclair
Last time we went out of town Eclair starting puking so bad that my pet sitter took her to the vet. So when she started barfing a few days ago, alarm bells went off. I suspect it’s a hairball, but giving her cat laxative isn’t eliminating the barfing. And I’ve got a trip coming up. Time to take her in too, which has a certain justice to it because I’m pretty sure she’s the one that inflicted the wound on Caper.

Caper’s wound is actually in pretty good shape, but it’s juicy because he’s been cleaning it. Not good. So he got a shot to dry the wound, and an Elizabethan collar to boot.

Eclair got her usual shot to calm her stomach. But that’s all it calmed.

Upon returning home she started attacking poor Caper who was bumping into things with his collar. Then she began howling at me.

Caper was extra-jumpy and when he finally settled in a spot, he stared wide-eyed out at the world.

Things finally went quiet about an hour ago when Eclair began howling at me again, but this time was padding at the wool blanket on the bed behind my writing table. I understood the command and complied, lifting the blanket and letting settle over her. She squirmed around for a few minutes and then it all went quiet.

I went downstairs to check on Caper. He had finally settled on the bed in another room. I pet him, and he felt cool, so I took a blanket that was fresh out of the dryer and threw it over him, but because has the cone on his head, I positioned it so his head was at an edge so he wouldn’t be trapped.

Oh the humiliation.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Beating the Tam, Tam

I have finally begun my initial tam experiments for the Chilean Scarf Set. I’ve made quite a few hats in my time (that being the 1 1/2 years of my knitting life) but not a single tam among them. And, of course, my design is one without a published pattern. So what to do? Find something close, as in the Sunflower Tam in Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan.

Her child’s tam pattern is made with a yarn close to my own, so I applied proportions to approximate the number of stitches to cast on. After I work the ribbing to the depth I desire, then I’ll use her pattern to help me choose when to work increases, and when to decrease. But that is where the similarities end.

I first cast on yesterday, worked the ribbing, and then took the knitting off the needles so I could give it a test fit. It was a little loose, but not too loose. I wavered about frogging and reworking with fewer stitches per round, but opted to continue. And I did, until I had knit several rounds of the plain stockinette, checked the directions and saw that I had made a grade school error. I had worked the ribbing on the same size needles as my main hat body. Ribbing is always worked in a needle one size down. Always. At least every pattern that I have ever made, and that’s a lot of patterns. Der.

So here I am again, knitting the ribbing. But this time using size 4 dpns instead of my trusty 16" #5 circ. (Not worth driving to Lawrence to buy a #3 16" circ.) And I work every stitch knowing that maybe, possibly, the tighter knit of the ribbing may make the hat too small and I’ll have to frog it once again.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Musings on the Industry

I’m done. Bound off this morning and threw the moss grid hand towel in the wash. Did it full? Did trusting the linen like an Outward Bound exercise work as advised by the project caption? Um, no, at least not the extent it needed to. In fact, I had to leave off the last grid repeat because I was running out of yarn. And then I only had about 15" left.

It looked loose to me when I cast on for the project, and even so, I had to increase by one needle size to get the gauge the book specified. There is no errata for this project. I did it as the authors specified. And yet it didn’t work. Do I blame them? Do I get all hate-y and join the KAL just so I can voice my annoyance at a targeted crowd? Um, no. I have to remember that the publishing industry has changed significantly in the past ten years.

It used to be that book contracts were awarded to authors who had proven credentials in their fields. In the case of crafting these were authors who both had years of experience teaching in their respective fields, and a library of marketable patterns. But the internet has changed all of that.

Now publishers are looking for new voices and innovative patterns. If a knitter who designs a little has a blockbuster blog following, then presto-chango, the blogger has just been handed a contract and a mandate to design 20 new patterns in six months, plus an additional four months to knit up samples to be photographed. There is no time for true pattern testing.

It’s a cart before the horse scenario. Form becomes more important than function. The book contract comes before the patterns.

And it’s not just in book publishing. I heard one podcast this weekend (I think it was an early episode of Yarn Thing) that stated that a well-known host of a knitting television show was awarded that position - not because of her experience in broadcasting, or her years of experience instructing others in knitting - but because she had posted a web page about her stitch and bitch group that she described as hip and cool. And it popped up when the producers, who wanted to have a hip and cool knitting show, did a google search. If this is true, it could explain why I find very little on that show that I want to make, or useful technique information.

At the same time, well-known and respected teachers in their field such as Alex Anderson, have been axed from their shows because they are not perceived as young, hip or cool.

Do I blame the media? Do I blame the authors or hostesses? Do I blame the editors or producers? No. They are still doing their jobs. It’s the job description that has changed.

But I need to remember all of this when I sit down to make a swatch and things don’t look right. Knitting isn’t an Outward Bound experience. The whole point of Outward Bound is to trust that the people around you are not going to let you fall, and the OB counselors are there to ensure it. An author’s role, on the other hand, is to sell the book.

And it is my job, as the end consumer, to appreciate the good qualities of a pattern, and know when to improve its poor qualities.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Irrationally Angry at my Knitting

I am nearing the finish line for the Mason & Dixon Moss Grid Hand Towel, and it’s none too soon. Now, there is nothing technically wrong with this pattern (except for maybe the gauge instructions - but I still hold out hope that the first wash will prove they were right), and every bitty part of it is something I’ve done happily in other projects. But for some reason, this pattern really ticks me off.

The towel is comprised of a field of hollow moss stitch squares on a base of stockinette. I happily knit the stockinette boundary preceding the next row of squares. I happily knit the moss stitch base of that row. I happily knit the sides (though I’m ready to stop the sides about three knit rows too early). But by that time I want to knit the stockinette boundary again and dive right into the next row of squares. But I can’t because unbelievably these squares have tops, which means I have to do the moss stitch top before I can do the stockinette boundary. I mean, have you ever heard of anything that unreasonable? Square motifs with bases, sides and tops?

Yesterday was the icing on the cake. I was absolutely certain that I only had three more repeats to go. When I completed the first of these three, I held up my work and counted. I should have seen ten repeats. Instead I counted only nine. NINE!!!! Is a gremlin sneaking over to my work basket in the night and ripping back? That is the most reasonable explanation.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Day of Lame Jokes

Perhaps it was the finish line in view for one of my two monster projects, or the barometrics from the cold front that had moved through, but I was cracking myself up today with bad jokes. Warning: each example hints at both my age and my regional heritage.

Case #1:
Researching one of my assignments, I have discovered the sand on one beach in Hawai‘i has a strange acoustic property. When walking across it, the sand makes a sound like a dog barking. How cool is that? And knowing that, I want to walk across that beach with a companion, pause to rub my feet, sigh and say “boy my dogs are BARKING today!”

Case #2:
The building where my office is located has two “garden” apartments in the basement. I can see the door to one apartment as I enter, and the new tenant has set up an odd assemblage to the right of her entrance: a shallow bowl filled with black river rock and unlit votive candles, and a series of three easels each bearing a credo like “Love is…” etc., all arranged on a sisal welcome mat. What would you call such a creation? An motto-mat, of course!

Yeah. Groan all you want, but my assignment is done three weeks before the deadline, and before the holiday weekend. Oh, if only that meant I could take the weekend off, but alas no.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Rainy Day

Yesterday afternoon I checked radar and saw a line of thunderstorms develop about 150 miles to the west. It was long; it was red; it was slow moving. So slow moving, in fact, that it only this morning (about 6:30 a.m.) hit my city limits. Of course, a line of storms that strong that stay over one area of land for 12+ hours is sure to cause flooding, and indeed it has. Hutchinson received almost 10" of rain, and authorities are asking residents to stay home.

The barometrics preceding such a storm have made the cats a bit crazy. Particularly Eclair, who spent the bulk of the night racing across us like we were Turn 1 at the Kansas Speedway. Aspera, on the other hand…

This is the once-feral cat who was severely injured during a severe thunderstorm a few years ago. It was likely a car v. cat accident, and it resulted in all her organs guts, except the anchored collin and bladder, getting sucked through a tear in her diaphram and wrapping around her lungs and heart. That’s when we adopted this feral cat into our home. Her guts are all where they should be now, thank-you-very-much. But given the severity of the injury, it was no surprise that for the first two years of her indoor life she waited out storms under our bed. This morning?

Time heals all wounds, as they say.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New Passport Requirements

Wouldn’t you know it: our long-held passports are set to expire the same year that the Passports regulations changed. Now it is a requirement to carry a current passport when traveling to and from Canada, the U.S. and Caribbean, so as citizens make plans for spring and summer vacations, the U.S. Passport office has been flooded with applications and renewal requests. Applications and renewal requests normally took 6-8 weeks. Well consider those the good ol’ days. The passport office initially reported that processing time had increased to 8-10 weeks. Now the reported processing window is 10-12 weeks.

My application? 13 weeks.

At least all those new-fangled security features they’ve added have transformed my passport photo. I no longer look like a slightly spongy sun-deprived Midwestern woman. Now I look like a shiny wild-haired middle-aged woman with a wicked sunburn.

In more important news, my coveted sour cream-based potato salad recipe arrived today from the heart of Lexington, KY so I immediately reserved the potato salad slot in the Memorial Day family dinner line-up. There will be much testing to be done, and my extended family accepts their role as willing victims.

That same day I will be delivering the pumpkin basket to my eldest sister. A normal person might wait four months until her actual birthday rolls around to give it to her, but I say, “Life’s short. Why wait?”

The entire process will be a drop-and-run. My brother schemed and decided it would be the perfect combination Mother’s and Father’s Day present to have a work day at their home to replace their toilet, paint the living room, and clean up the yard. That might work for normal people (or better children) but this is high travel season in my household and we can barely keep up with our own small yard. Besides, I have three huge projects that are all due on June 1 and…let’s check the countdown calendar…eight days to complete them. And three of those are weekend days when I’ll have zero ability to reach anyone to verify information.

That’s okay. A shortness of people able bodies is not something my family lacks. And besides, my mother panicked at the thought of all of these able-but-unskilled bodies painting her walls and trying to replace uber-important bathroom fixtures, and reduced the work assignment to clearing brush in the “back forty.”

Monday, May 21, 2007

And the Winner is…

The Busan Fish Market Shawl!

The yarn is a ribbon yarn that I purchased in Chattanooga last year at Great Balls of Yarn. They don’t seem to have a web site. I used to be on their e-mail list but I haven’t received one since September when I wrote to tell the owner I would be interested in adopting a blue dilute feral if she were lucky enough to trap one. You see, the owner is a big proponent of Trap/Neuter/Release, as am I, and, well, I may have scared her.

(addendum: I found a post from a fellow blogger who reported that Great Balls of Yarn has gone out of business.)

Anyway, this is the perfect project for such a trip because it has no pattern, and I simply knit to my heart’s content, inserting yo’s here, and increasing there, until it is done. This is my first foray into knitting with ribbon, and I know from asking the right questions of my lys last year that one of the best ways to show off ribbon is to make yarn overs of various wraps, but then refrain from knitting into them on the next row. Another method is to drop a stitch and ladder down, but that isn’t the look I’m interested in. So quick will this be, I believe, that I will likely be done soon after we return home. Especially since I will have hours of valuable knitting time in the car on the return trip—something I will not have on the drive out.

This trip will be an odd one, because Mike leaves a few days ahead of me to shoot photos with “the dudes,” and the plan is for them to drop him off at a hotel on their way home where I will meet up with him. Then we’ll attend the Mesa Verde trip together. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of driving I-70 across Kansas, let me tell you that it will be many hours of boredom. Must...dig out...road tune...CDs... There is a yarn shop in Gove, according to an ad in the back of Interweave Knits. Maybe a leg stretch will be in order.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Approaching a Knitting Project Crossroads

In a smidge over two weeks from today, I will be hitting the road again. This time I’m heading to Mesa Verde, Colorado – a destination I’ve only traveled to in my infanthood and not in my adult writing life. Before that date arrives I need to finish two boogerish projects assigned by my favorite publisher, so free time between now and then is something of a rare event. When it does happen, cleaning is a must. A nice thorough pull-everything-out-of-the-pantry-and-reorganize cleaning. The pantry portion of the process alone takes days.

I always get the house pet sitter ready, of course, but things like closets and pantry are rarely attended it. Unfortunately, the last trip (due to Eclair’s barfing ramping up to the point that medical intervention was a necessity) my pet sitter had to dig into my pantry to find a serving saver so she could bring Eclair her special food while she was being nursed back to health at the vet’s office that weekend. This isn’t the “requirement” of an overly cautious pet-carer. Eclair is really truly allergic to some mysterious component found in Hill’s Science Diet dry foods, and since we cannot be certain which component it is, the vet and I have banned all Hill’s food from our home. (And I am not slamming Hill’s any more than someone whose child has a peanut allergy slams Skippy brand peanut butter. They are very good at what they do. But, Miss E is a senstive cat with special needs. I mean, this is a cat who gets an upset tummy from seperation anxiety.) Of course, Hill’s is what the vet’s office feeds the animals at their office, and not the magical Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach formula which has rounded the rough edges of Eclair’s temperamental personality and caused fur to regrow on a tummy that has been fur-free since her she was spayed at around 3 months of age. So that required the pet sitter to take a package of her special food so she would have something to eat over her weekend stay/recuperation. And what did she see when she opened up the pantry? An avalanche of cookie cutters, Tupperware, and canned goods that had spilled from the shelves and covered the floor. Stuff happens. No time. Grab what you need and move on. That mindset eventually catches up and results in all-weekend pantry cleaning.

So what does this have to do with knitting? Well, between the boogerish projects, and the 12:01 felted pumpkin basket, I am way behind in my other knitting. Only through serious butt-in-chair time did I finish the third skein of yarn in my Chilean Dreams scarf. (I should have been done with it for the weekend so I could begin modifying an existing tam pattern to both fit an adult head and use DK weight yarn.) If I work on the charting for the tam, perhaps I will be ready to start on it next weekend. But is a tam in a design of my own creation the best option to take on a road trip?

I’m also working on the first of the three Mason Dixon hand towels, but I’m not even halfway done with it. When I do finish it I’ll want to wash it before I make the rest because the gauge doesn’t look right to me even though, per instructions, it is spot on. And if I were to get it done, I’m not sure that this is a good project to knit on a press trip because I would “need to pay attention” as my mother-in-law says.

Factoring in writing time and cleaning time, do I move forward with these two options, or do I swatch up a third project in time to bring it? And if I did, which project would it be???

In other sewing news, I recently checked out the Repro Depot Fabrics web site...and I am in LOVE. They have some truly wonderful fabrics that I will never find in my local JoAnn’s or Hancock stores. But fabric such as these deserve the perfect project. I’m not one to buy fabric without some sort of an end goal. The inspiration? This bag from the May 17 post. Not an exact copy, mind you, but a little bit of this and that combined with my own thises and thatses. And a little bit of fabric left over to use for my eldest sister’s Christmas present.

For the first time in over three decades, our family has decided to do Christmas by lottery - and not just this person buying a present for that person, but the present must be under $5. It requires extra creativity and ingenuity to come up with the perfect under-$5 present. In this case I plan to make one or two fabric sleeves to fit a Starbucks to-go cup.

With this, my quilting projects, and my goal to learn to spin, it sounds like I’ve got my fall all lined up.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

One of Those (Really Good) Days

I think all of us have had more than our fair share of stinky work days when nothing goes right and our bosses or clients simply cannot be pleased. Today was not one of those days.

I got a call from a co-worker of my favorite editor. She was working on another part of a job I completed a few months ago, and needed me to resend the digital version so she could work on it at home today. And you’re thinking, “Yeah? So what?”

Here’s what: She couldn’t stop raving about my work. Rave, rave, rave. She raved to my editor. She raved to me. She quoted me back sections and said she’d laughed out loud, which alone wouldn’t be anything to write home about except that this was a fact checking job. Yes, that’s right. Fact checking. thinks I will get more work from this publisher...

Speaking of raving, I dropped off the Cervical Cancer Survivors Action Hero illustration my middle sister had requested for the Relay for Life. Did it hit the mark? You bet. She left a message on my cell phone and it was a bit hard to understand through all the squeals but I heard “cute, whimsical” about a dozen times, and “perfect, perfect, perfect.” ...and she hasn’t noticed that the “C’s” on the monogram double as boobs...

The handles of the 12:01 basket from MagKnits are dry and out of blocking. The innards are still stuffed with plastic sacks, but I think it’s time for the reveal:

I’m not sure how my eldest sister will use this, but it would certainly be appropriate to fill it with candy and leave it by the front door. Felting is so cool! The orange is Cascade 220 color 9444, and the contrasting color is 9445.

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts over the past week, and there is one subject that I continue to puzzle over: stash busting. I understand letting stash get a bit out of hand and needing to rein it in before buying more fiber, but I don’t understand this obsessive need to find any and every way possible to knit it up. Since I just listened to Stash & Burn this morning and that subject came up again, I’ll use it as an example. They read a list of various listener suggestions such as double stranding, knitting lots of baubles, making cozies, felting...

Here’s a thought: Why not find the perfect pattern that you or a loved one would want to wear or use, and find the perfect fiber in the stash to create it, and knit it? Because if a knitter fell in love with the fiber enough to add it to their stash in the first place, doesn’t it deserve to be turned into something wonderful instead of treating it like it’s leftover turkey a week after Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Blocked Pumpkin

It’s done!!! I wouldn’t say it is perfect (nothing ever is) but it certainly does the job.

Here’s a photo of it this morning before I put it through the wash cycle three times:

And here’s a photo of it post-wash:

I’m blocking it in the bathtub, stuffed with plastic grocery store sacks, where it can sit and slowly dry over the next week or so. (Before you “oo gross” on me, regarding my apparent plan to not take a bath for a week, I assure you that everyone in the house will clean themselves daily but in a different bathroom) I meant to pull it out of the washing machine before it hit the spin cycle, but on the last load I got engrossed in Act I of “It’s a Nice Job if You Can Get It” from This American Life, and totally forgot about the pumpkin in the washing machine. Turned out okay, though, with no creases permanently set.

I purchased a different CC than called for in the pattern, so I’ll give project details when I post a picture once it is out of blocking.

The pumpkin is destined to be my eldest sister’s birthday present. I already know what the card will read: “Another unusual storage vessel knit by your sister” as a nod to the snatchel I gifted my other sister for her birthday. My eldest sister’s birthday isn’t for a few more months, but I will likely give it to her over Memorial Weekend.

My other sister called yesterday with a weird favor. The Relay for Life is coming up, and apparently she needs an action hero for her team - or her cancer-type - I’m not really clear on that. At any rate, she asked if I knew anyone who could draw that for her.

Yes, I said.

And it needs to be cute. Whimsical, she said.

Absolutely. And it needs a purse, right? I asked, thinking of the snatchel.

No! No purse!

She’s desperately worried about what I’ll come up with (knowing now that I’m the type of woman who would knit something like that), but I think the anime-ish action figure should suit her purpose. And I’d show it to you here but I am not an illustrator, so to get her something that would work I had to “borrow” inspiration from a published source. It is varied a bit of course, and this isn’t for a commercial use, but I will still refrain from reproducing this action hero lest a cease and desist order come my way.

My mother and I are sharing a joke about this cartoon. Part of the instruction my sister gave is that it should have the initials for “Cervical Cancer Survivor” emblazoned on her shirt. I chose to do the initials like a monogram where the center letter is larger than the outer two, and represents the last name. In this case the initials are “cSc”. The joke is that I have done what she asked, but in doing so I gave her action hero boobs. C-cups, as Mike puts it. When I called her last night to tell her it was done, she expressed concern that I might have put the C down low for that “word our Uncle uses.” “No,” I replied. “They are up high exactly where they should be.”

This sister is a grandmother, and I distinctly recall her coded conversations with my eldest sister about her sex life when she and her husband-to-be began dating oh so many decades ago. And yet, she only recently has become somewhat comfortable using the term “va-j-j”. Apparently my mother taught her that term a few months ago.

If I had only known years ago that I had the power to completely embarrass the sister who made a hobby of deriding me.

I promise to only use this power for good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An Ode to I-Cord

I was listening to Ready, Set, Knit this morning while I prepared to make the I-Cord handles of the 12:01 Felted Pumpkin Basket, and ironically Kathy Elkins was complaining about I-Cords in that episode (February 17, 2007). She and Pixie were sharing the instructions for making the handles on their felted purse. Might have been the Vermont Bag, but I’m not sure. At any rate, Kathy said she hates doing I-Cord, so instead of that she created the handles in stockinette so she could take advantage of the natural curl of stockinette to duplicate the I-Cord effect.

Why, oh why, would anyone hate doing I-Cords? I mean, I’ve heard of plenty of people who hate purling, and to do stockinette that isn’t in the round, as in the case of her bag, requires purling every other row. Whereas I-Cords are straight knitting. Get to the end of the row, slide the knitting to the right end of the dpn, pull the yarn across, and knit, knit, knit. It goes super fast.


I’ve got more work to do on the handles. If memory serves the first handle should be around 16" long, then I work a second adjacent to the first that twists around the first before they are attached on the opposite side.

We woke to storms this morning, and it appears the overcast sky will stick around until noon. I have newly seeded grass that is just beginning to sprout, and surprise of surprises, a few of my blueberries seems to have survived the late hard freeze we suffered. When my plants are happy, I’m happy.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Pumpkin at Light Speed

I’m nearly to the rim of the 12:01 felted pumpkin basket from Magknits. This thing is freaking addictive! I anticipate being ready throw it in the washing machine this weekend.

The last few days have been hot and dry, and for that I am grateful. The flood waters have receded and most of the 600 people on waiting lists for disaster restoration companies (including my pet sitter) have now been helped. There’s a lot of carpet and padding in the landfill, I gotta tell ya’.

Today I found myself with a very unusual item on my appointment calendar: Call Amanda at 11:58 a.m. What you should be asking yourself is why that time? Why 11:58 and not 11:30 or noon? Well, it’s because Amanda is from Florida, and during an innocent chat over dinner our last night in Lexington she began asking questions about tornado sirens. Actually, all the people from Florida were peppering me with questions. Tornadoes seem to terrify them as much as earthquakes or hurricanes terrify Midwesterners, and the recent tragedy in Greensburg did not help matters. I promised her I would call so she could hear the sirens during their weekly test, which in Topeka happens at precisely noon on Monday. And being that my office is located across the street from one of the sirens, I chose that spot to make my call. It was well received (“eerie” was how she put it), but she knew that one of the other employees at her firm would be disappointed when she found out she’d missed out. Looks like I have another appointment for next Monday.

Friday, May 11, 2007

My Mother’s Explanation for Why I Can’t Find the Tools I Need in Topeka:

Because I knit weird things.

Okay. My first instinct was to argue this point. I mean, it’s not my fault we have lousy fiber stores in this town. And what did I need that I couldn’t find here? A simple 24" US13 circular needle. A circular needle. That’s all.

Then I considered this for a moment and realized I didn’t have a leg to stand on. I mean, I’ve felted a freaking bulletin board. I’ve knit and felted a mobius cat bed. I’ve knit a purse in the design of the female reproductive system. Sure, I’ve knit some normalish things like sweaters and such, but I needed this particular needle to make a felted pumpkin basket. My mother may have been right.

This particular knit object is destined as a birthday present for my eldest sister. She lost many of her Halloween decorations in the house fire that killed her husband, and I recall very clearly attempting to wash her soot-coated quilted pumpkin baskets and having them disintegrate into teeny tiny bits in my washer. When I saw this Magknits pattern I thought of her immediately.

The project is a relatively quick knit. It uses three strands of Cascade, so it builds up quickly. And this is the very first pattern that uses two increases that are new-to-me: RLI and LLI.

I’m so proud.

In more exciting news, I have almost a week and a half of “me time” slated for early July. “Me time” is when the house is emptied of other homo sapiens whose sleep/work/eat cycles have to mesh with my own. I used to make the mistake of accomplishing tasks like painting the picket fence during “me time”. I’ve since wised up. Last year “me time” was spent making paper and dying fiber. This year??? Perhaps it would be a good time to learn to spin...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Back in the Knitting Groove

The Chilean Dreams scarf is coming along beautifully. It is such an easy knit, and the alpaca/wool blend flows like cream through my fingers. As of this morning it measures 31" (out of a target length of 64"), and skein number two is almost spent. I’ll knit only one more skein’s worth before I set it aside to do the matching tam. At this rate I should be working on that the weekend after next.

I also caved in and cast on for the Mason-Dixon hand towels. I’m a bit worried about gauge, but I’ve decided that it will full a bit when it is washed. Not sure about that, though. You see, the gauge is supposed to be 20 stitches/4" on a US 5 needle. When I knit on a 5 I ended up with about 27 stitches/4". Even so, it looked pretty gappy.

I went up one needle size to a US 6, and this came out with almost perfect gauge, but it is TRULY gappy and looks nothing like the photo that supposedly uses the same linen fiber.


I’ll knit up one of the three skeins I purchased, and run it through the wash. If it’s still gappy, then I have the option of either working my next two using smaller needles, or embracing the gauzy fabric that the larger needles created.

Did you see that? If it is a look I decide I desire, then gappy becomes gauzy.

I’m also tempted to start the felted pumpkin bowl from the October 2006 issue of Magknits. Perhaps I’ll check my needle supply now while I’m thinking about it...

But it’s never all play and no work. Earlier this week I got a call from my favorite editor at a major publishing house. Looks like she’s got the summer mapped out for me.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Yarn-y Goodness with an Unscheduled Flooding Break

We had a tough time getting home on Sunday because of a very large, very angry storm system that was sitting on top of Kansas City. Well that rain continued in Topeka until around noon on Monday leading inevitably to flash flooding.

Before the sun came up, neighbors were banging on doors along the Shunganunga Creek and evacuations began. Before I continue, I will assure you that I live nowhere near the Shunganunga nor any other body of water that flooded yesterday. I live on a high spot, which I know because about twenty years ago a portion of our property was assessed for a sewer project in one drainage district. Exactly half of my property is in one district, and half in another. I call that a high spot, don’t you? But I digress.

So the water rose quickly and affected people all through Topeka that live along that creek as well as a few others. Authorities were asking any private citizen with a boat to assist. Thankfully the rains stopped around noon and by five or so the waters had receded sufficiently for most people to return to their homes to pump out their basements, rip out their carpeting, and begin the clean-up process.

Getting to the vet’s office was a bit of a trick because I live on one side of the creek and the vet is on the other, but we finally found a safe route around, and even managed to get my father-in-law to his radiation treatment and back home.

Now on to the conclusion of Lexington and its yarn-y goodness.

We loved, loved, loved watching the early work-out at the Keeneland Race Track. Attendance is free, and you can get right up to the track. Horses race from left to right along the inside rail. They warm up and cool down from right to left along the outside rail. The morning was overcast and misty, and absolutely gorgeous. If I lived in Lexington I would definitely attend regularly.

Later that day we came back to the track for a quick lesson in handicapping. No races were held at Keeneland that day, but we bet on one of the simulcast races at Churchill Downs. Our table was given $20 which we bet three different ways. One of the three won, and the other two lost, putting us in the hole $17. The winnings we left on the table for our waitress - who brought the best potato salad I have ever tasted. I’m used to vinegar-based potato salad, and mayonnaise-based potato salad. This was sour cream. Yummy!

Our final day was spent at the Shaker Village where - brace yourself - I decided it was time to learn to spin. The store at the Village sells a variety of craft items connected to the traditions at the Village. Most are made or produced by area artisans and not produced at the Village itself. There are exceptions - such as the woven dishtowels I bought for our new house. But they also sell carved wood utensils, pottery bowls, yarn... the list goes on and on. I bought 8 oz of baby alpaca roving. The plan is to dye the wool I have left over from my Kool-aid felted Christmas balls project and combine that with the alpaca. I’ve never spun before, but I do own a drop spindle that I bought about fifteen years ago. Time to learn, I say. This bag of alpaca has its destiny in sweater form.

Never saw the Queen, but we heard her motorcade go by while we were touring the Mary Todd Lincoln home.

Watched the Derby from the hotel bar before heading to dinner.

Had the best darned tenderloin (tenderloin cognac) at Portofino’s, which also served a much better mint julep than the hotel bar made.

And now, of course, we are home.

Still working on the Chilean Dreams Scarf, but I’m feeling the itch to start swatching for the Mason Dixon towels. Perhaps I’ll at least wind the linen into balls - just in case.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I’m Home

And glad for it. I’ve got more news of our trip, but it will be a day or two before I post more details.

Please take a moment to remember the families of Greensburg, Kansas. No matter where we live in the world, we are all at risk. Some people have floods to fear, or hurricanes, volcanoes, or earthquakes. This town could have been anywhere.

I was headed to the Shaker Village the morning after it hit. We woke to see CNN reporting from the scene before the sun had risen over the devastation. I’m used to tornadoes. Severe weather doesn’t bother me. I’m smart about it, but not freaking out. But this was bad. I knew it in every part of my soul.

I toured the Shaker Village keeping my focus on the job, but my noon as I waited for my food to arrive I couldn’t stand the information black hole I was in. I called home and got the news. It was bad. Really bad. I let my fellow travelers know about the situation. Most were surprised and compassionate. One was not. I had hoped to find a local radio station on the way back to Lexington that would have an update. This woman said it wouldn’t be in the local news because we “get tornadoes all the time in Kansas.” I said “the Southeast gets hurricanes all the time but I still heard about Katrina in Topeka.” Her reply was that that was because there was a lot of other news associated with Katrina.

Ignorance is a bitch.

Another storm system hit Kansas today and it caused our return home to be three hours late. But I have a home, and friends, and family, and cats... and Greensburg will rebuild. It is a close-knit community, as is all of Kansas. They may live 250 miles away, but these are my neighbors just the same.

Here’s to Greensburg. May it rise again and shine over the Plains as a beacon of hope and community.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I Hate Working in the Rain.

Rain itself is a wonderful thing. Ideally I am at home with my knitting and I spend the day puttering about and maybe slipping in a nap or two. But days like yesterday really stink.

Yesterday was all about the horse. We spent the morning driving long stretches out into the country (with my Relief Band cranked up to high to stave off nausea) visiting horse farms to learn about the stud end of thoroughbred racing. It began raining early in the morning, so it was gloomy and wet, gloomy and wet, interspersed with stops to see horses. I got to tell you, while I am impressed with the science of thoroughbred breeding, it seems cruel. And yes, I know that everything that is done that seems “cruel” is to protect the two horses, that doesn’t change the fact that this machine-like method itself is cruel. That’s only my opinion, of course.

I suppose the highlight of this is when one of the horses was taking to his breeding barn where they could explain the process to us in dryness, but the poor horse is so conditioned that that barn means one thing, that it was showing off a bit. I don’t have to draw you a picture, do I?

After lunch we went to the Kentucky Horse Park and ran around in the rain a LOT. That was the afternoon. All afternoon. By the time we loaded back in the vans I was stick-me-with-a-fork done. Theoretically we had almost two hours at the room before heading out to dinner, but I had other plans. I asked that instead of the hotel, Mike and I be dropped of at ReBelle, a cool yarn shop near the University campus. I had been given a heads-up about this place by a local (Hi, Zabet!) I think that the Yarn Harlot may have stopped here a few weeks ago, too. There I picked up some alternative fibers. I chose banana fiber, corn fiber, and hemp blend yarns to make something - perhaps a purse - in a pattern of my own creation.

I also met the winner of the optional fetus coin purse contest for the Snatchel. Gotta admit that her vision for this is pretty darn cool, but I couldn't leave without showing her a pic of my version because I happened to have it on my laptop which was on and open to that image. And why is that? Because I had been showing it off at lunch earlier that day. I mean, I can’t just describe it. Pictures are essential. And no, I’m not showing it to you because I broke some copyright laws in the process of creating the coin purse.

After we checked out, we dashed a few doors down for a brew at Pazzo’s. There wasn’t time, but the big sign that read “37 beers on tap” left me no other choice. We threw down a pint - me a Fullers, Mike a Dogfish, then practically ran back the 10 blocks to the hotel.

Dinner was a Winchell’s, which serves the best darn food of any sports bar on the face of the earth. I mean, it serves all the staples of southern and Midwestern cooking, but the chef-owners are very keen about their ingredients. I had a chicken friend steak, and the gravy was thick with sausage. The mashed potatoes had sweet tones which I discovered was from the real butter and cream that they add in its creation. Yum-MEE!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chilean Dreams on a Sleep Number Bed

We made it, though the hours leading up to our departure were a bit dicey. Indicators began two nights ago when Eclair, hopped on my MEOUTSIGH time, barfed up a pile of grass in the middle of the night. We have learned to sleep through such things, particularly when they occur on the floor (not the bed). We merely register the approximate location within the house so we can step gingerly around it the next morning before it gets cleaned up.

The next morning Mike told me that Eclair had barfed up grass, rather than hairballs along with ants. Now I had a few more hours of alertness and awakeness, and I am the one who always deals with ants in the house so I know the real scoop immediately. Eclair had indeed barfed up grass, and in those same early morning hours ants from outside had decided to make invade our home. Time to dig out the ant spray and leave instructions for the pet sitter lest they make another run during our absence.

Last night was a blur of cleaning and packing, which always means drawers and doors that are normally closed are open from time to time. Caper was missing when we went to bed. At around 3:12 a.m. we heard a faint mew and padding. We both got up and began the search.

Animal searches happen with some degree of frequency in our home. We go through this at least three times a year. The other animals pace and explore, and I know THEY know where their missing cohort has gone, but do they share? Nope. We finally found him in the drawer of a linen closet happy as a clam. It was probably the best sleep he had gotten in weeks.

Eclair has continued her barf-fest, so we gave her a dose of tummy medicine before we left the house. She hates the taste of it but I think she knows it helps because she started purring as soon as she saw the eyedropper. She has totally convinced the pet sitter that she is a force to be reckoned with, so I doubt that she will continue to receive meds while we are gone, but I hope it was only brought on my mild irritation from the grass ingestion. Our sitter is a vet tech so I am sure (fingers crossed) that things won’t get too bad before we are home to intervene.

As expected, Chilean Dreams was the perfect plane project.

And now we are here. And you know what? The bed in our hotel room came with instructions. Before you get all dirty-minded, I will tell you it is because it is equipped with a Sleep Number bed. I haven’t figured out how to find my sleep number yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

Lexington is all a-buzzy because The Queen is expected to make a short visit on her way to or from the Derby. Apparently the paper ran a long etiquette piece in case the locals encountered said royalty. I have not, so I hope that if there is an encounter I don’t inadvertently commit an offence that will cause another war.

And I have just met some of the fellow writers on a walking tour before the rains began. There is an immediate sizing up that happens, and one has stood out as a bit of a poser. I mean, we just arrived today, and here she is on the walking tour in perfectly pressed eyelet dress, and French manicured toes poking out of her floral wedges with pink ribbons tied at the ankles. Hmmm. Maybe she wants to be ready for The Queen - just in case.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Making Strides and Heading Out Once Again

The Chilean Dreams scarf is coming along beautifully. I worked one skein of a mystery length (the band doesn’t give a length) and tied on a second. The first skein made it slightly over 12", and I hope to make the scarf about 64" total, so I’ve got a few more skeins to go before it’ll be done. The scarf is coming with me on the plane, and the one additional skein should be enough to for this trip in the few hours of free time I have, but I’ll pack a third just in case. But that’ll be it! When I get home I will likely put the scarf on a stitch holder and move to the yet-to-be-designed hat because having bought this fiber in Chile, I can’t buy more yarn if I run out.

To be honest I’m a little afraid of the math involved in converting an existing tam pattern to my size and weight of yarn, but Math4Knitters insists it is easy and has provided me the formulas necessary to theoretically adapt a pattern to work.

The subtle cabling is more beautiful than I could have imagined. It is causing the scarf to curl and pucker a bit on the edges. Some of that I expect will work out on blocking. The remaining curls will add to its warmth and organic appearance. Creating a matching tam and gloves will be a puzzle, but I have a few ideas and the worst case scenario only involves frogging. I can live with that.

Today is all about cleaning, organizing, and packing. Dropped the stop mail notice at my post office today. The clerk gave it a long glance and asked. “Where’re you going this time?” Lexington, Kentucky.