Saturday, March 22, 2008


I'm sure the snow isn't nearly as funny to those who sat on the runway at General Mitchell International for hours yesterday while the airport was closed down - or to those who aren't flying out for Arizona tomorrow. We only got 4 or 5 inches, and it's melting already. Isaac got up early today and went outside to "decide whether it was too cold to work on his car." He shoveled the entire driveway, a path out to and around his project car, a path down to the woodshop, and a path to the chicken coop - then came in and proclaimed it was "too cold" to spend time outside. (Let the record show that it is already 26°F, we're expecting a high of 36°F, and the snow is already dripping off roofs and roads and other dark surfaces. It will be mostly gone in a day or so.)

Also on the subject of surprises, look what I got in the mail from Brother Dan yesterday! Dan is a big fan of this local chain of liquidation stores called Mardens, and he regularly has to boast about the odd but useful things he finds there at enormously reduced prices. I'd had a conversation with him a year or more ago about needing very large gauge needles, and how he was going to make me some. He apparently did everything but the final sand on the needles, but then put them down and lost sight of them for a few months. Then about two weeks ago he was in Mardens and came across a bin of big plastic needles for less than a buck a pair. He figured he owed me a pair, and these would be lighter to mail, so he called and asked what sizes I preferred. I told him at that price he should pick me up a pair in every size, and then mail them packed in maple sugar (one of my absolute favorite things in the world). And damned if he didn't do it! And to top it all off, he threw in a packet of Sun Gold Tomato seeds, which I have been wishing for ever since I had some Sun Golds at his farm 3 or 4 years ago. The variety is hard to find, and I keep missing the order cut-off date from Fedco Seeds. This time, he's got my back. Dan may be an eccentric coot sometimes, but he really knows how to brighten my day!
Finally, here's my first attempt at the clip-on drink cozy. The first 12 rows or so are right off someone else's pattern, and so I don't feel comfortable repeating them until and unless I get her permission. (I asked, but she hasn't responded yet.) Just the same, once you get about 6 rounds from the top of a felted can cozy, start carrying a strand of cotton worsted along with your wool. I used Ironstone Harmony bulky and Peaches 'n Creme here. After you complete those last 6 rounds with the two yarns held together, drop the wool and do 10 rounds of Turkish stitch (row 1: k2tog, yo, repeat; row 2: knit) in the cotton alone. Bind off, and work a caribiner clip through 3 or 4 of the wool & cotton stitches as shown. Put it in a garment bag (so the finish on the clip doesn't get banged up in the wash) and run through the washing machine on "warm wash, cold rinse" to felt. Thread a drawstring - a crochet chain here - through the top set of holes in the netting, add your favorite bottle, then sit back and admire. (This is shown with a 1.5 pint drink, but I think it will also work just fine on the smaller .5 l water bottles I'm always carrying around.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's good to have friends

I'm bringing Easter-type goodies on my trip so I can maximize the opportunity to spoil my Western nephews. This would imply the need for actual Easter baskets, but I couldn't figure out how I was going to pack multiples of such an oddly shaped, somewhat fragile item as a basket. The last time I was in Arizona I managed to get one basket there (a hostess gift stuffed with gourmet chocolate - blatant bribery at the time). But that was fairly difficult and severely limited my comfort and carry-on options. I just didn't think carrying on two or three baskets was an option, and I have a clear idea of what would happen to baskets in checked luggage. I've seen how suitcases can take flight all on their own in the hands of baggage handlers.

But then, look what Tammy did!

She painted canvas bags for me as "airline friendly" Easter baskets for the nephews, and gave them to me at choir practice last night. Aren't they cute?

And a meditation for Maundy Thursday: I was raised in a church that wasn't much into symbolism and tradition. They were doing the "Jesus Freak" thing and seemed to take a lot of pride in dumping tradition as too staid and hidebound for their new and exciting perspective on God. So having become a part of a church with a liturgy and traditions and symbols over the last few years, it still surprises me how much comfort I seem to take from them. I like the deeper meanings and the layers of concept. And when we get to the part of the Maundy Thursday service where we recall Jesus being taken by the soldiers, and the darkness closes in, it never fails to make me feel thoughtful and sad. But last night when the Christ Candle - the last light - was snuffed out, it really surprised me how that hit me in the gut. I think some emotions can't be figured out; they just have to be permitted to roll over you on an instinctive level.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Cat Whisperer

Luc has always had a particular connection with cats. I have photos with him at about age 5 with our old semi-feral tom, Tiger, who was at Luc's side whenever the boy set foot in the yard. They would actually climb trees together, and have long conversations. Luc was devastated when Tiger was killed in an accident.

And when Luc was only 3 or so, we applied to adopt a big old Siamese at the Savannah humane society. They were unsure about how a small child would deal with a big cat, and asked us to have Luc hold the cat to see how it went. The boy sat in a chair, and they draped the cat across his lap, and the two looked into each other's eyes and immediately came to an understanding. The woman turned to me and said, "A dream child!" (Which, for the record, was not a description often applied to Luc when he was young.)

Anyway, I love how cats still go out of their way just to be with him.

Also, I finished the golf club cover for my brother's Easter trinket. It better be for a big driver, since doubling the yarn apparently "grew" the knitted fabric more than I expected. But I like how it came out, and for a less conservative golfer this would be a great way to use up scraps. Here's my recipe:
Peaches and Creme worsted cotton - part of 2 skeins
Set of 4 double-pointed needles in size 6 and 8
small crochet hook
  • Cast on 36 stitches on smaller needles.
  • Space stitches evenly across 3 needles and work *knit 2, purl 2" ribbing for 24 rounds or until work is desired length.
  • Adding in second strand of yarn and switching to size 8 double pointed needles, *knit 11, knit in front and back of 12th stitch* and repeat twice more. You should now have 39 stitches, or 13 on each needle.
  • Work even in stockinette stitch for 24 rows or until work is desired length.
  • First decrease round: *knit 11, knit two together* and repeat twice more.
  • Knit one round.
  • Second decrease round: *knit 4, knit two together* and repeat to end of round.
  • Knit one round.
  • Third decrease round: *knit 3, knit two together* and repeat to end of round.
  • Knit one round.
  • Fourth decrease round: *knit 2, knit two together* and repeat to end of round.
  • Knit one round.
  • Fifth decrease round: *knit 1, knit two together* and repeat to end of round.
  • Knit one round.
  • Sixth decrease round: knit two together and repeat to end of round.

Break yarn and draw through remaining loops to close.

Using the crochet hook, single chain a cord approximately 2" long. Form into loop and sew securely to tip of work.

Now, not only do you have a golf club cover, but if you tuck the "turtleneck" inside, fill it with candy and thread a length of yarn through the top of the ribbing as a drawstring, you have a golfer's Easter Egg!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Knitting Content

I think I must have left my mohair mobius project in the choir room at church - which is fine, because (a) who's going to steal it at church? and (b) I can pick it up tomorrow night at Maundy Thursday services. But it raised the question of what I should do with my hands in the mean time, especially since I was going to be sitting in waiting rooms yesterday.
I spent some time flipping through my collection of "patterns I'd like to do some day," narrowed it down to the smaller projects, and ended up with the "Dream Swatch" pattern from I dug in my stash and came across some Sausalito by Plymouth Yarn, a cotton/acrylic mix I picked up at one of those "everything you can stuff in this bag for $5" sales at my not-so-local yarn store in Fond du Lac. The color is a number, not a name, but the yarn looks kind of like a really fine I-cord knitted from one strand of crayola colors held with one strand of white. In any case, I have now accomplished the Dream Swatch. I took it down from 24 stitches across to 18 and used up all but maybe the last meter of the yarn from my sole skein, and it is just about the right length to tie around my head. I was hoping for it to go long enough for a belt, but it was not to be - at least not at my current size. I worried about the edges rolling, and they do, but I guess I don't think that really takes too much away from it's looks or functionality.
Next, I wanted to come up with a small Easter gift for my brother. He lives in a warm climate, dresses conservatively and already has a knitter in the house, so hats, quirky items and obvious stuff are all out. I asked the Knitlist for opinions, and one of the suggestions was golf club covers. I'm not a golfer and don't know much about the accoutrements of golfing, but I found a pattern that looked approximately right and I'm trying one out as an experiment. I'm just starting the part which will cover the head of the club, and that part will be double-stranded on fairly small needles for a nice thick padded cover. Let's just hope the proportions and dimensions aren't too far off. I may need to track down a local golfer to solicit an opinion.
Meanwhile, it's 4 days until I get on an airplane. I have this impending sense of doom related to my office, and I don't know if it's separation anxiety or the fear that they might discover they can do just fine without me.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Guess what I'm doing today?

You know, Mom's sister died of breast cancer. (Remind me to tell you sometime about Aunt Jo. Coolest biker chick I've ever been related to, and she faced her battle with honesty and humor.) And Dad's sister had to have a radical double mastectomy at an age younger than I am now. And Mom has had a couple of lumps removed, and has been warned about pre-cancerous tissue. So this is an issue I'm very sensitive about. Me and the girls are very attached, and I'd like it to stay that way. I squish because I care.

Are you current on your annual exams? Colorectal exam, mammogram, all that really fun stuff? Because, in the words of the very prim elderly organist lady at church, "Cancer sucks."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ooo, I like where this is going . . .

We got the first armoir (minus the doors and still waiting a shelf, but still) in place in our bedroom last night. I'm looking at the large amount of stuff in need of organization, and all that open space on top of the cabinet, and I'm thinking, "books?" (I really, really need a bookshelf and theoretically there is one in work in the shop, but it's not getting a lot of attention at present.) "Television?" (Actually kind of a crappy angle to watch TV from the bed.) "Display of stash yarn?" (I'm not sure I want to put that much evidence of my addiction right where Rick will be constantly reminded of it.) "Hats?" I flopped my vintage green wool hat up there, and it collapsed into a puddle that hid most of its charm.

I really have been wanting hat forms for a while - I like hats, and wear them a lot (especially in the summer) and have lost more than a few to bad storage conditions. But those fake head thingees are not cheap, and I certainly can't go out and pick up half a dozen of them on the spur of the moment, even if I wasn't about to leave on back-to-back trips.

And then my eyes fell on part of my collection of 1 lb. cones of Peaches 'n Creme . . . voila! Part of my cotton collection, displaying part of my hat collection. And I think it looks pretty good!

My cotton shawl

I finally had a chance to have Luc take my picture with the cotton shawl I finished last week. I wore it to church, too - when I wasn't in a choir robe - and got lots of compliments. I just love it, and I'm glad I finally made one for myself.

The recipe is simple, if you want one. You'll need:

- 2 1-lb cones of Peaches 'n Creme worsted weight cotton in coordinating colors
- Size 15 (or so) circular needles
- a stitch marker

Cast on 4 stitches, holding one strand of each yarn together throughout.

Row 1: increase in first stitch, increase in second stitch, place marker, knit last two stitches.

Row 2: Increase in first stitch, knit to last stitch before marker, increase in stitch next to marker, knit to end.

Just keep repeating row 2 until it's long enough or you run out of yarn. Generally, you want the length to be at least equal to the distance from the nape of your neck to just a little past your rear. (If the shawl is shorter, it will still be fine, but it has an unintended effect of pointing a big arrow straight at your butt.)

Optional: 3 rows or so before the end, do a row of "knit 2 together, yarn over" across. You will still need to get your two increases in, and a simple way of doing that is to just slip a regular knit stitch in the appropriate spots instead of a K2tog. This makes an eyelet row across the edge which plays nicely off the eyelet stripe down the center back where the increases were made.

I can't wait to throw the shawl jauntily around my shoulders when I get on the plane next week, and since it's made from very absorbent cotton it will double nicely as a towel when I take the nephews to the pool for a swim. (Hmm - hadn't thought about the chlorine. When I'd talked about using the cotton shawls at towels before, I had lake water in mind.) Just the same - isn't it pretty?
Other news - not much really. I spoke to David in Finland for 16 minutes, and am a bit worried what that will cost me; but I have a pretty good idea now what to send my nephew Robert for his high school graduation this spring.
And yesterday, I had a long and extremely helpful conversation with my friend from church (who not only has the excellent insight gathered through a long history with the congregation, but is in her second year at seminary and has put a lot of thought recently into church leadership and clergy/congregation issues). And after a few more conversations today, I've learned that the whole "stripping people of their membership if they speak negatively" thing is not in the constitution - it's in some parish relations document which is not binding, and which we all agree should be updated next. We're an open and affirming church - our motto is painted right over the door: Doors Open, Minds Open, Hearts Open. Kicking members out is not something we do, and all our governing documents should be corrected to reflect this.
Rick's employer is remodeling one of the hotels it owns in the area, so employees (and their spouses) had the chance to attend a furniture sale free-for-all yesterday morning while the company liquidated their excess hotel furniture and materials. People walked out with everything from ice buckets to sleeper sofas. We picked up two of the big armoir cabinets, the kind they used to keep the televisions in before everyone fell in love with flat panel televisions, for $75 a piece. Rick is going to put shelves across the "tv" space in them, and then put one at the top of the stairs to store the upstairs linens. The other is to go in our bedroom - which means my task for this afternoon is to clear out a space for it and get things ready for it to be moved in. It's a big, heavy thing, and to make room we'll probably take out the excercise machine - another big heavy thing. So basically, I need to have the bedroom organized enough that people with bigger muscles than me can move around freely and safely. This may take a while . . . .