Saturday, March 1, 2008

Tree of Life Prayer Shawl

In the beginning, there was this great cable pattern on a sweater in the "free patterns" section of And I loved it, and tucked it away in my heart (and my pattern notebook) where it could wait for the right opportunity.

Then, there were Bob and Glenda. Or there was "Bob and Glenda," the pair. Technically they came before the cable pattern, I guess, since it will be their 50th anniversary this spring. But I knew about the "Tree of Life" cable before I new about the 50th anniversary, and it's my blog, so there.

Anyway, Bob and Glenda are having an anniversary service at church, and I'm kind of enthusiastic about the whole prayer shawl thing, and I had this great Tree of Life pattern in the back of my head, looking for a chance to try it out. So I thought, why not put it in the center of a really large prayer shawl, and have the Ames kids wrap it around their folks as part of the 50th anniversary service?
The cable tree pattern looks to be maybe 10" square on the sweater, and I have secured some nice soft bouncy wool that is slightly heavier than the Woolease cited in the sweater pattern. So if I'm lucky, maybe 11" square. Not big enough for a shawl. But if I surround it with lace and let the trees be the centerpiece, I'll bet I can grow the project enough to be the right size.
I went looking for the right lace to put around the trees, and had a rough idea that it should be something fairly substantial that had a more or less arboreal feel to it. I googled "leaf lace" and came up with this sock pattern (free!) in something called, of all things, leaf lace. You can see the pattern here: I have no idea who this woman is, but her blog just became required reading for me.
I was going to leave it at that (get it? "leave" and "leaf lace"?), but I like the idea of some kind of finishing touch out the outside edges, and I really liked the way the Twin Leaf lace cloth (smariek knits, see earlier post for details) looks.
So I think my plan is to:
(1) Knit the tree panel and bind off. (I just read that part of the Harlot's Knitting Rules! book where she talks about adding structural integrity with bind-offs, even if you don't think you really need them.)
(2) Pick up stitches and knit leaf lace above and below the tree panel until it seems the right height - maybe 36" or so.
(3) Pick up stitches and knit leaf lace spreading outward from each side of tree panel until the width starts to look close.
(4) Make two strips of twin leaf lace and get my buddy Tammy to crochet them neatly along the edges.
All this assumes I'm really as comfortable as I hope I am with picking up all those stitches. My baby-sweater-generated new found confidence on this may fail me, in which case I'll make all of those pieces separately, and then show up with them at Tammy's door looking hopeful.
Oh, and my very good friend at Hilton's Fiber Shop set me up with some very nice pale yellow wool. She's got 8 skeins in stock at 99 yards each, and the label suggests a size 9 needle. I'm not sure that's enough, but I'm going to do the tree panel with the 4 skeins I bought and see how far they go. She's also ordering in some not-quite-the-same-but-close wool in a vanilla and soft yellow ombre, and I may use that for the lace while I do the trees and twin leaf sections in solid pale gold.
I'm hoping that I have at least a large enough chunk of this done by next weekend to use it as show and tell for the retreat. Wish me luck!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Duke to Dutch Heart Transplant

Rick says to me, "Don't you want to come out to the shop and photograph the heart transplant for your blog?"
Later he says, "I think you'd better come out and take pictures soon, while you've got the best light. (Oh, and then I need you to steer while I push.)" I think he's starting to like the idea of this whole blog thing.
And something under the "Twilight Zone" category:
As we were tucking Duke back into an outdoor spot and getting ready to drive Dutch into the garage for her part of the transplant surgery, a pick-up truck drove by the house reeeal slow. No biggie - I mean, there were two idiots pushing a car wreck around on an ice-covered driveway, and it was probably a good show. But a few minutes later I hear "crack! crack!" I look down the road, and there's a guy with a pick-up standing beside the road. I'm not a hunter, but I know what a .22 sounds like - so I yell "what's going on?" He
quickly gets back into his truck and drives away. Rick and I get the flashlight and walk down, and there's a freshly killed doe about 5 feet off the road.
Rick figures she'd been hit by a car and this guy put her out of her misery. But I called my neighbor to see if something should be done with the carcass (since they're a hunting family and know these things), and she said I'd need to call the sheriff to come and tag the body before anyone could take it. And when I called the sheriff, they got all excited about someone discharging a firearm and deer being killed out of season (no matter what the circumstances) and did I get the license plate (in deep country night, with the rear lights of the truck shining at me from 1/8 mile away) and "We'll have a deputy out there in 5 minutes" - which they did. Rick still figures it was the humane thing for someone to do, and the sheriff was getting over-excited. Personally, I'm reserving judgment, as I'm never a fan of strangers discharging firearms in the dark right outside my house, even assuming competence and positive intent.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

One Seriously Cute Client

A quick update - a client came into the office holding a baby of all things. I finally scored a model for the green sweater and spaceman hat!
This little guy is 11 months old and his mom says his head is a bit smaller than average. She also tried to buy the sweater & hat right off his back, so I'll take that as a compliment. The hat is a little large on him, but I think it will work. I'm going to sew that button on the sweater tonight, and get the whole thing in tomorrow's mail.

A Quick Break From Reality

Just for fun, I whipped out the Twin Leaf Lace Cloth from Smariek Knits yesterday during Weight Watchers and some quality time in front of the TV. Once again, it's a bit smaller than expected - about 6" x 6" unblocked - but I mostly wanted to try out the pattern and see how tricky it was in real life. (I'm a fan of Marie's patterns, but they're generally not what you'd call brainless knitting.) I do like it, and I'm thinking that I might put a strip in this stitch along each outside edge of the "Tree of Life" prayer shawl, just to keep things interesting and balance out the center motif.

The cloth itself I will probably block and then give to my office assistant, who has been making loud rhetorical remarks about how her grandmother used to give all the kids lacy cloths like this every Christmas, and how they all loved them and treasured them and used them for trivets.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled feather & fan fruit salad of a baby blanket. It's now about 36" x 36", and I think just a few more rows will do it. Then I'm going to start a new prayer shawl to use as a demo at the prayer shawl break-out session at next week's retreat.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sorry, Blog

I'm thinking of you - really I am. I want to write something inspired and lovely and memorable; possibly about perceptions or relationships or my continuing struggle to either (a) lose some more damn weight or (b) learn to be content with myself or (c) all of the above. But even if I treat this blog more or less like a diary, the fact is that my thoughts are made somewhat public thereby and must inevitably be censored to protect those whom I love (or those who sign my paycheck).

Anyway, bottom line is that I have lots of pictures of my family and other people who are important to me, because I'm a completely unapologetic and unreformed shutterbug. But I don't have many pictures of me, and that can be awkward in settings where I'm expected to use one. So last night (as an offshoot of a search for a particular photo on a completely different topic) I went looking for a picture of me that I actually like.

Hmmm - I can judge by the size of the then-kitten (and by the state of my eyebrows) that this is not at all a recent picture.

Luc took this one. Okay, so I got the sweatshirt in the pre-teen boys' section at Younkers, and it looks like some of the "before" pictures from "What Not To Wear."

I'm seeing a red nose, and more than the standard number of chins - and a wonderful, loving man. Maybe this is as good as it gets, and I'll just look at him. Just the same, I feel the day coming when I'm going to experiment with my tripod and take a picture I actually like.

It is what it is, I suppose.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Week From Friday

Last year about this time, Candy talked me into attending the Women's Wild Winter Weekend - a women's retreat up at Moon Beach camp in St. Germain. Now, I've somehow become "one of the faithful" at my church - I volunteer for things, and am there almost every week, and sing in the choir and all. But that does not mean I am AT ALL sure of myself on spiritual matters. I have old, deep scars from the church of my childhood (, and will never be comfortable in any religious situation which requires you to check your brain at the door or demands blind obedience to a single person or group. Just the same, UCC seems to work for me - open and affirming, independent and conscious of social justice - these are things I can accept. But still, a women's retreat sounded suspiciously like being trapped in a 3-day-long church service full of zealots.

I should have trusted Candy. It was great! Yes, there were services every night in the big lodge, where 40 or so of us gathered around an enormous fireplace and contemplated spiritual matters. But it wasn't pushy or offensive, and I loved singing with the impromptu all-female choir. I loved goofing around in a cabin with 15 or so women ranging from 25 to 75, learning to play dominos and mix old-fashioneds. I loved how the deer came right up to the dining room window, watching us eat dinner and munching on the donations left for them. I loved learning how to snow shoe, and having a chickadee land on my hand in the middle of the north woods. And I loved meeting women from all over the state who had a spiritual side and were comfortable with it, but had no interest in ramming it down my throat.

I'm headed back to Moon Beach for this year's retreat on March 7th. I can't wait!

Monday, February 25, 2008


Okay, I ripped out the pilot hat and re-did it on smaller needles in the smaller size. Then I went looking for an actual baby to try it on. No dice.

It's slightly too big for Louie, which is probably for the best (since he's basically a pinhead anyway).
And it more or less fits my camera bag - which gives you an idea of scale, but otherwise has no bearing. I also discovered that it can be put on my head, although it's a very snug skullcap on me. I guess that's good - The goal is to have something that's very stretchy, but baby sized. My boss' neighbor has a 11 month old child, so she's going to take the hat and sweater both home with her and borrow the neighbor baby for a size check and photo shoot. But boss lady is very busy and easily distracted, so I'm not quite sure how effective this plan will be in execution. If I haven't come up with a definite solution by the end of this week, I'm just going to dump the sweater & hat into a box and mail it to California with my fingers crossed. Worst case scenario, the older nephews can use it for dress-up when they're playing space man.(I ask you again - do I not have some seriously cute nephews?!)

In other news . . . well, actually, there isn't much. Luc says that after his recent accident he thought it might be useful to learn how a car actually goes together, and he spent several hours on Sunday in the garage with his father, hopefully learning some things. They got the new car (supposedly named "Duchess," but already shortened to "Dutch") into the garage and got to work removing some of its tin and other pieces in preparation for engine work. Hopefully, Luc has also learned to leave his shoes at the door after one of these sessions, since he tracked a nasty mud composed of oil-dry, melted snow and assorted petroleum products all over the kitchen when they came in. Lovely.

Oh, and have you ever seen the movie "Stay" with Ewan McGregor? I watched it during a late night knitting session over the weekend, and had to watch the end again on Sunday to be sure of what I saw. Higher education in both art theory and dream theory would really help you appreciate some of the finer details, but I still think it was a freakin' brilliant movie! I kept backing it up, nudging Luc and yelping stuff like "Look! Twins again!" A great movie for a quiet night when you don't mind having something really mess with your sense of reality.