Saturday, October 30, 2010


Day 4 of our October brewing calendar, taking advantage of what may be the nicest weekend day we experience until April or May, 2011. Today was an IPA recipe that is one of my tried-and-true standards. Yesterday was a Rye Pale Ale (new to me). Last weekend we made a Pumpkin Ale (new to me) and an Herb Ale (second time around for this recipe variant). The Herb Ale was a late addition to the brewing calendar based on feedback from the local guild, and the realization that a competition is coming up in a few months that I should enter it in.

I managed to finish planting the tulip and daffodil bulbs. I totally lost count on Day 2, but the total was easily above 200. Could have been 300. It was a bunch.

Checked in with the maternal unit and told her I was winding that project up. “Oh good. You can stay inside and enjoy the winter then.” Um... not exactly. Leaf raking is still ahead of me. I’m just hoping to get the tulips done beforehand so I’m not juggling both simultaneously.

Still very buried in deadlines, but making small progress every day.

With bulbs now in the ground, and 20 gallons of beer fermenting in the basement, we can officially launch ourselves into pre-winter. And to celebrate:

A fire, a hot beverage, and a basket full of knitting by my side. That’s what I call a great Halloween.

Friday, October 29, 2010

More Goodies from the Road

We stopped in Grand Marais, Minnesota ostensibly for lunch, but I was drawn to the Ben Franklin like a moth to a flame.

Most of the Ben’s in my neck of the woods are long gone, taken down by the Hobby Lobby’s and Michael’s of the world. For anyone that hasn’t had the joy of a store visit, it’s essentially a dime store with some housewares, clothing, and dare I say it... craft supplies.

This modest store in this tiny town (population: ~1,400), had the single most comprehensive collection of Sugar & Cream cotton that I have ever encountered. Anywhere.

I picked up several balls of two colorways to quick-and-easy potholder crochet projects this winter. And while there, grabbed up some discounted yardage of an awesome earthy cotton weave that will become a new robe.



Maybe after all the bulbs are planted...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Truest Statement

Even though the task of hand quilting a king-sized spread may seem enormous, it still is only made up of one threaded needle at a time.

And if that is all the time I can spare in a day (which it most certainly is while I juggle multiple work deadlines and plant bulbs as fast as I can before the snow flies), I remind myself that I’m one threaded needle closer to being done.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Casting On

Nothing new and exciting, unfortunately. Oh, one day soon I hope to spend hours in my pattern library, pick a pattern, then spend hours searching for just the right yarn. Not yet. Today I have to look ahead to gift giving occasions and get a start in the hopes that I’m not scrambling (yet again) in the last weeks to make it happen. Scrambling leads to letting stupid mistakes slide. Scrambling takes away the fun in knitting.

So here I am, a good six months before Gift Occasion 1, casting on for a pair of man’s socks. This is for Uncle, who took pleasure helping me pick out the perfect color of yarn to use during his Labor Day visit. He has never owned a pair of hand-knitted socks, so even the measuring step was a thrill. For him.

He, too, is allergic to wool, so I took him over to the display of Panda Cotton. He usually wears dark brown or black, but decided on this variegated skein so “people will know it’s special.” I suspect that every day he wears them he will be hiking his pants to show off his socks to customers and friends. Woe be to them. The pattern will be One-Two Basketweave. With a cast on of 90 stitches (did I mention this was a man’s sock?), and a darker yarn that is difficult to see in low light, it will likely take me all six months to complete the pair.

At the same time, I’m casting on for another pair of birthday socks for Sis, whose next birthday is almost a year away. This, too, is made out of Panda Cotton. Both socks I’ve made for her in the past have been out of bright colors, so this time around I opted for darker more fall-like colors. Another project that isn’t kind to the eyes in low light. Oh, well. Her pattern is Slipped Stitch Rib. The same day I bought the yarn for this sock, I bought a couple skeins for a sock for her 2012 birthday. I mean, I know she likes receiving hand-made socks for her birthday, so why wait until the last minute? She also seems to like receiving photos of her “socks on an adventure,” and there is every possibility that one or more of these will be taken to New Zealand. How would a fully-dressed Maori warrior feel about holding a half-made Sock for Sis? I suspect I will find out!

As for the new and exciting thing I hope to cast on someday, all is not completely lost. More on that later.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Finished Object: Vogue 8497 Marcy Tilton Wearable Art

Another in a recent stint of apparel sewing, this particular pattern had a few curves (literally and figuratively). The asymmetrical lines and neckband of the knit blouse have raw seams, and require the use of spray fabric adhesive—both firsts for me.

I took my time on this, and tried to integrate into its construction things I have learned recently about fit and patience.

The design fit on this top is “loose fitting,” but I was afraid (and rightly so) that it would fall like a big sack. So instead, I made quite a few adjustments to the seam line before doing the final sewing. I also basted the entire shirt first and tried it on more than once to check the fit.

In the end I’m not crazy about what happened at the underarms, but I’m not certain what contour I should have sewn them to make what I consider to be a preferable line. The issue, I believe, is that the sleeves are not inset, but are cut as one piece from the body. Had they been inset I think I wouldn’t have these complaints. On the other hand, I don’t think the end product would have looked as imaginative and “arty” with insets.

The blouse has more ease to it if I’m not posing with my hands on my hips. Generally speaking that won’t be an issue.

The knit fabric is very light, so it won’t move far into fall. Had I made it looser fitting, I could perhaps have worn a turtleneck under it.

I finished the neck and hems in the last hours of “Me Week”. The shirt is very wearable, and feels like I’m wearing pajamas. I just want to curl up with a book and hot tea when I wear it. All in all I think the blouse is a success, which made it the perfect way to end “Me Week.”

Some things in life seem so random. Questions come out of left field involving ancient history for me, but for that questioner it is all new, fresh, and very exciting. In this case, that something is a Knit Along (or KAL) for a pattern that I happened to have made in 2006. Not a pattern that I produced, mind you. I simply made for myself a sweater from this particular pattern the year it was published.

It was so long ago that I had completely forgotten about it.

Oh, I still own the sweater, but the fiber and styling is such that this is special occasion only. Not black tie special occasion, but dressy business meeting or casual wedding. Definitely not a “wear around the house” look. So 99.9% of its life it lives in the bottom of a drawer.

So knock me over with a feather when a stranger sent me a message asking me for more details on the sweater because she was interested in doing the KAL.

And then a few weeks later a second stranger sent me a list of questions about the same sweater and same KAL because she seems to be under the impression that I’m somehow in charge of this Knit Along that in fact I had known nothing about before these questions popped up.

Frankly I’m more than a little baffled about all this. I mean, what do I say in response?

I don’t know who *is* in charge, so I can’t direct them to the proper source.

What I would dearly love to say, I’m dearly trying not to.

The best I could do is send an email to customer service of the publisher who seems to be hosting the KAL, letting them know that they might want to strongly consider finding a way to direct these questions to them rather than a random stranger who probably shouldn’t be the face of the company (given what I’d love to say but am trying not to) and my lukewarm feelings about the project itself.

Just sayin’.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Finished Object Finishes “Me Week”

The “time off” has been anything but, and the long list of things I intended to do either were barely touched or not touched at all. Oh well. Most of that has had to do with client emergencies, and client work is what pays for wool and brewing supplies, right? I’ll get over it.

I can at least proudly display an actual finished object that has been languishing in my UFO pile. It wasn’t travel friendly (due to some amazing yo action), and not knit group friendly (due to the length of needles I was using - POKE!), and required a bit more brain power than I’ve been willing or able to use for evening projects. But with some determination and marthoning the Showtime series Weeds—and definitely at the expense of a few other things, I present to you “Sam’s* Victory Garden”:

These lace curtains are intended to give me a hint of privacy when I’m working in the kitchen, without blocking my view of the yard, and without blocking the light.

The Eye of the Lynx stitch pattern was knit out of 6 ply cotton carpet warp on US size 10s.

Though I washed these in cold water, they did tighten up a bit. I could have easily added 10-15% in width and length and been okay. I’ll know for next time. But they do fit the window, and give me a lovely textured earthy vintage appearance that is at the same time very modern.

*Sam is named for the character of Sam in Foyle’s War, which is an English WWII drama, and one of my all-time favs.

BTW, my FIL is also a fan of Sam but for very different reasons (Me, liking her quiet determination and can-do attitude; he for her good looks. A bit disturbing considering he is over twice her age.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Landscape Demolition

One of the items on my to-do list for this year was the planned removal of not one, but two mature red buds on my property.

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve been hearing this same thing from almost everyone that I mention it to: It’s a waste and a pity to cut down a tree. I’ve heard this from my mother (whose lawn looks as unkempt as a junkyard) and my next door neighbor (I won’t go there).

Here’s the thing. Both trees were sickly. The one in the sunken garden only had two living limbs left. It no longer served a useful purpose (shade, beauty, etc.). And as long as it was there, it prevented us from building a floating deck in the sunken garden.

The other was very large, had a bad fork at its base, and had already lost quite a few large limbs. In fact a 15' section sheared off the top of the tree in one of the most recent windstorms, landing deep into my neighbor’s property. It was dangerous. And we are planning to plant an evergreen near its location to help close up a hole in our privacy screen. The sickly/dangerous tree would only serve to crowd it during its formative years. No. Both trees had to go.

Not only were the trees cut down, but the stumps were ground down, leaving room for a floating deck next year.

The remaining red bud in the sunken garden is also operating on borrowed time. But it still serves a minimal purpose so it stays for now.

And now there’s room for the new tree (Estimated Days to Planting: 13).

A bonus benefit to cutting down these trees, is sliding into winter with a well-stocked firewood supply.

Which became even more well-stocked a few days later when I asked a neighbor why their tree service had left logs at their curb that were still there 48 hours after they’d cut the limbs down, and then (kindly) offered to take them off her hands so it didn’t kill her grass.

There are no ends to my generosity...

Now pass me the chainsaw.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The List is One Item Longer

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had brought home a couple dozen vintage LPs from an Audio Video sale. Today we continue the review with this album, which I can swear is the only Mongolian music I have ever had in my collection.

As best as I can tell from a translation, the album is called Sunrise over the Country sung by tenor D. Zhargalsaikahn. It appears this is a patriotic piece celebrating the Battle of Khalkhin Gol—though I can find very little to confirm this. Assuming that I’m correct, that battle was part of a 1939 undeclared Soviet-Japanese border war involving the Soviet Union, Mongolia, and the Empire of Japan.

Yeah. American education. I’d never heard of it, either.

Since I will probably never be in a position to fully understand the story behind this album, those specifics are relatively unimportant. What is important, however, is that my list of types of music I don’t enjoy has just become one item longer. Let’s recap.

Before, I stated that I have an extremely eclectic taste in music and that the only music that I refuse to listen to is Chinese opera. Well, if I were actually attending a Chinese opera I think I would enjoy the experience. But listening for pleasure in my home is a no-go.

Now, I can honestly say that I also can’t stand listening to patriotic music. If I were attending a military parade, I would enjoy that. But out of context, just sittin’ around my living room? Never again.

I anticipate this gem will soon be donated to a worthy organization for them to sell to a suitable audience.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Nacho Gives “Me Week” Rare Four-Paw Rating

Ahhh, the wonderfulness of a quilt stretched in a quilting frame...

Monday, October 04, 2010

Digging Fall

Is it just me, or is this a crazy amount of bulbs and rhizomes to plant in the coming weeks?

What was I thinking?

And why do I still find myself in the bulb section of every store that sells them, contemplating buying more?

Some standards are here, like daffodils that I’m adding to a planting bed in a naturalized fashion. But I also have some crazy stuff, like chocolate peonies, and hyacinths in some amazing unusual colors. (The hyacinths are in the postal box. I found those in Michigan and had to ship them back to myself before we entered Canada.)

I have two new additions that should help the planting process. First up are my new garden shoes from LL Bean.

I need to wear a second pair of footies because they are made to be a tad loose-fitting, but they are super comfortable and fit all the parameters I’ve set for garden shoes: sturdy, closed toe, modest heel, good tread, and semi-water resistant.

Next is this totally awesome knee cushion I found at Target.

I anticipate many battles in the weeks and months ahead with all the critters that seem hell-bent on destroying my work. Ah well... It will be worth it in the end.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Finished Objects(!)

Since half of this recent trip was going to be a sort of mini-vacation for me, I loaded the car with several projects that I thought were travel-worthy, and and also needed to be knocked off the to-do list.

First up were my sister’s birthday socks, which were already a week overdue. I had really fallen out of love with these socks, and either needed to frog them both to the heel to suss out some irregularities in the stitch count, or frog them back to the cuff to adjust the stitch count so the sock might fit better over the calf (it’s an issue with the lace pattern), or just finish the darn things and be done with it already. I opted for #3, and was determined to finish them before we left Canada.

And finish I did.

I Kitchenered both toes that morning before we checked out of the hotel (I discovered that Kitchenering in the dark is a no-go. Shouldn’t have been a surprise, really), which left weaving in ends for the drive back to the U.S. border.

Socks for Sis II in front of the Sleeping Giant.

A few blocks later...

I restrained myself from asking the border patrol agent to pose with the fully completed pair. You understand. As fond as I am of my ancestors’ homeland, I had cats that needed me at home, and neighbors who were starting to grumble about the decomposing skunk in the year garden after a series of heavy rains had washed most of the lime away.*

Here is the pair home, washed and blocked.

A second project I brought with me was the Ribbed Vest designed by Rosemary Drysdale in the February 2006 issue of Knit n’ Style. I had actually started this vest in March 2006, and “completed” it in April of that same year. But a design peculiarity caused this to languish un-worn in my sweater trunk for the four years that followed. It was, for me anyway, too too short.

I was a beginning knitter when I made this, so I didn’t know how to correctly “read” project photos, which are often or sometimes art directed to hide a project’s shortcomings. In this case, the model was wearing a black untucked turtleneck over black pants. Her waist wasn’t clearly visible. And I have learned (based on this vest) that I hate wearing short sweaters/shirts/vests.

Some well-meaning people in one of my knitting circles had suggested that it looked adorable— and I should especially consider scrunching it up higher and pinning it closed with a shawl pin.

Okay. You know how some fashion looks cute when worn by a 98 lb 21-year-old? And how that same fashion—when worn by someone two decades and some pounds over that—looks creepy? Yeah. It fell in that camp.

So instead I opted to add length to the vest.

The dark band serves two purposes. First, there is no way that I would be able to graft or stitch on additional length without it being noticeable, so creating a color change at this spot makes the seam make sense. Second, the dye lot for my existing vest is long gone, so I would have to use fiber from a different dye lot which might be noticeable. Putting a second color between dye lot #1 and dye lot #2 will help to conceal any differences.

I had already done most of the knitting a few months earlier, but ended up having to collect it along with half a dozen other projects that were scattered about the living room during a rare cleaning-because-company-is-coming-over frenzy. So this project turned out to be extremely fast and easy, even with the stops and starts of the highway paralleling the North Shore of Lake Superior.

I brought with me a fairly simple lace project, too. But (no surprise) that turned out to be a complete car-knitting failure. Oh well. It’s coming along quickly at home.

Many more projects are nearly complete and/or about to be cast on in the coming months.

*The skunk is now gone. It had sort of melted into the soil, so I had to carefully dig it out. Since I was concerned that there was still something that might explode, I made Michael watch me from a distance while I worked. If necessary, I needed a non-stinky person to make a run to the grocery store to buy tomato juice by the gallons. Fortunately for me, the process was relatively non-exciting. However, I can’t promise that there won’t be more skunk updates to follow. A nocturnal animal has been ringing our motion-detector doorbell pretty regularly between 12:30 and 3 a.m. When I’ve been up to witness this, the culprit has usually been a skunk investigating the front door. So it’s now either the ghost of Skunk A, or a very live Skunk B. I remain ever vigilant.
Launching Me Week

Yep, it’s that time again. Time to test out a different daily schedule. Time to slot in some fun new projects. Time to relax. Time to read. Time to catch up (in theory).

My Me Week last year sported a few critical errors, which I hope to avoid this year (though I’ll undoubtedly create new critical errors along the way.)

Topmost on the list of errors last year was failing to look ahead at the nightly forecast to see that a frost was likely before the second human returned. That meant a mad scramble by this one human to bring in all the houseplants that had been summering on the back patio on the eve of a killing frost. And several of these houseplants are in extremely large heavy pots, which made the mad scramble rather pathetic and very nearly ill-fated for the largest of the plants. Because this year we added a pot that was actually one large trough-like pot sitting on two cement-block-like legs, saving this plant solo would have been impossible. Fortunately we managed to bring the house plants inside a few days ago, so this isn’t going to be an issue. I can’t swear that my one and only pumpkin that is still very green and very small will survive to maturity, however.

Three main projects will be the center of Me Week Fall 2010, in addition to work-work. The largest in terms of time will be quilting my new winter quilt. Bulb planting will come in at a close second. Then comes self-lessons for modifying patterns for a customized fit combined with sewing actual clothes.

More on all this—and more—to come.