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December 2011
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February 2012

The Vet Visit

Vet visits are so boring now. The vet's office isn't even a five-minute trip by car, and the kitties don't have time to get all nerved up like they used to, so there's no shredded car carriers, no poop on the seat, no pee-soaked fur once we pull them out, and no kitty with a heart that went into arrest while the doctor had the stethoscope to him. My husband even made three separate appointments to take them this time; where's the adventure?! 

Grace was first. She went last Wednesday. Reports are that aside from quaking the whole time, she was fine. As a matter of fact, she lost a whole pound, down to only 16.8 pounds now. It's a miracle. I'd put it down to a wheat-free diet, but she doesn't eat people food, not on purpose, anyway. 

Grace2

Nicky was next, on Friday. Aside from a little difficulty extricating him from the carrier on arrival, he was fine too. Better than fine, in fact; his heart murmur didn't seem that bad. We know different, of course, but he's managed to stay alive for two years when he supposedly only had a few months to live at one point. He's a miracle cat! 

Nicky

Then there's Nora. Nora, the Terrible, who could never get by without peeing or pooping or chewing her way out. Monday was Nora's turn.

Nora

This year, Daddy said that she was "the best kitty of all", but then the fact that she is also Daddy's Little Princess is not lost on me. From all accounts she did perfectly, came out of the carrier just fine,  took her shots well, let the doctor listen to her heart, had her nails clipped, solved quadratic equations with lightning speed. 

NoraSleeping

I'm just glad the little princess is so happy on Daddy's new vest :) 


Recipe

I love breakfast. 

Before I started to eat the way I do now, I used to love to have toast with jam or just butter, or a bagel with with cream cheese and green olives, or pancakes with bacon or sausages. But now, those things are just like a big plate of skull and crossbones, screaming, "Danger, Will Robinson!!" 

I still love breakfast, though, and I do not miss eating wheat. Wheat'll kill you, and I am not making that up. My husband and I have cut down to two meals a day, because we feel too full for more than that. We have a late breakfast and and early supper, and that's enough. I don't need to snack on anything throughout the day; I don't even want to. I'm losing weight, slowly, but that is not my purpose. I'm just trying not to ingest anymore poison that is now being passed off as "more healthy grains".

A friend started being gluten-free because she was watching my progess, and she was getting tired of always having eggs for breakfast .... eggs fried, eggs in an omelet, poached eggs, hard-boiled eggs. Breakfast can be so much more than that, if you stock the right ingredients.

One thing we eat for beakfast is a yummy hot cereal, especially in the winter. It varies depending on what we've got on hand, but here's the basic recipe:

Hot Cereal

 1/4 c flax meal or coconut flour or whatever flour you've got that is not wheat flour, even a mixture is good

1/4 c pumpkin (I used canned, but any kind is good)

big spoonful peanut butter

nutmeg

cinnamon

walnuts or pecans

strawberries, or rasperries, or apples, or blueberries, enough to make you happy (or use a mixture!)

Splenda, agave nectar, sugar or maple syrup (if you're not going sugar free like me) to taste

1/4 c water, adjust it as you see fit

Stir it up and put it in the microwave for one minute, till it's really hot, then stir it well to get the pumpkin and the peanut butter mixed. It's fast and easy and quite yummy.

Even if you have cereal several times a week, this recipe has enough leeway to give you some variety. 

Childe Eating Porridge     Childe Eating Porridge, Frans Hals


Quote of the Day

"It is comparatively easy to become a writer; staying a writer, resisting formulaic work, generating one's own creativity - that's a much tougher matter."  -- Brian Aldiss

Brian Aldiss is science fiction writer, born in England. He has written about a billion things, novels, short stories, poetry. I used to read a LOT of science fiction in high school. I like to listen to what science fiction writers have to say about writing because I understand them; they sound real to me.

I've been writing my blog for years. It was comparatively easy to write, but I was a whim-writer. I would like to have been a regular blogger, but never had the time. Then I noticed, the people who write their blogs regularly tend to have writing a blog as their job. Huh. I have decided to make writing my blog my job (did you notice?) and write every day, except Sunday. Every. Day. Every day is a lot of days. But when people go to work, they go every day, and nobody freaks out much. I have nothing to do, and no job to go to: I decided to work at something that I can do, something I like to do, something people say they enjoy and benefit from reading. Nobody takes taxes out of my paycheck, because nobody pays me. In return, I can write whatever the hell I want to. It's a good life. 

Staying a writer, even a blog writer, resisting formulaic work ... I have found that both easy and hard to do. It's hard because it is every day (see above), and while it would be easy to have some formula to write a blog post, it would be boring, for you and me both. Really, that's the only hard part. I made a Google calendar (I love Google calendar! It keeps several calendars and my project list and my project queue right where I need them! For free!) and every month I put in something on each day that I would write about. If I have a burning issue that comes up and I must write about it RIGHT NOW, then that day's topic goes to the end of the line. Easy Peasy. If I am stuck finding a thing to write about, my helpful calendar is there to save the day, like Mighty Mouse.

The problem is, I have started to have days that I can't stop writing, my brain is on overload. Those days, creativity is just oozing out of me, all over the place, big gobs of creativity .... well, that's a little yucky. But you know what I mean. On those days I write maybe four posts (I can write them to post later; I never ever get up at 6 a.m. to get a post ready by 7 a.m. Sorry.) and then I have to quit, but my brain is still buzzing, so I knit, I think about knitting, I listen to music and knit and design a new thing in my head, which leads to more writing, gahhh. I am generating my own creativity. And it is wonderful.


Book Review

I recently bought 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory, by Mary Jane Mucklestone. It is a book that every knitter should have, and I would say that even if I didn't know that Mary Jane was fabulous.

Basically, the book is in two sections, "Essential Skills" and the "Motif Directory". I found the 2-page "About This Book" to be very helpful too. This is meant to be a real working book, a book that you really get down and dirty with, and it will help if you know what it can do before you start. I am blown away with how Mary Jane, in a very efficient, Fair Isle fashion, was able to get  so much content in so little space so clearly. It's an amazing book.

The Essential Skills section has just the right information that a knitter needs to get started. MJ talks about Shetland wool and how and why it is wonderful it is for Fair Isle knitting, but she also talks about other yarns too, and what you may need to do differently if you use them. She talks about needles and other equipment you will need. There is a very good section about gauge, and how to make a gauge swatch properly, as well as how to choose a gauge properly. See, this is about designing your own sweater or mittens or a cushion ... all you need is a little guidance and it will work.

Then comes casting on, circular knitting, how to hold the yarn (three ways; I will need to look at the left hand method and practice it), stranding and yarn dominance, weaving (again, she has clear pictures, and I am especially keen on the weaving with the left hand), and increasing and decreasing. It's like I asked Mary Jane to show me exactly how I can do Fair Isle, and she wrote me a book. She wrote the book for everyone, really, but secretly, I think it's just for me! 

She also put in correcting mistakes and joining pieces together, the oh-so-mysterious steeking process, which is not mysterious at all with all the wonderful pictures, and blocking and finishing. There's a good explanation of color theory, too. She finishes with some design principles and planning your project. If Mary Jane had stopped there, it would be a very helpful book. 

But no. Now comes the meat of the book.

She starts out by putting a motif selector, pages of just the photographs of the actual knitted motifs that Mary Jane knit, with the design number and the page to find them. How helpful is that! The Motif Directory pages have a stitch and row count; the motifs are organized by the number of rows they use. Every page has a black and white chart for knitting; an easy to read color chart in the knitted motif's colors, as well as a color variation chart. Columns next to these charts are an easy way to keep track of what colors are used in each row, pattern (left column) and background (right column). Amazing. 

There is a large actual photograph of the knitted swatch that you can see up close, every single stitch. She has a black and white all-over chart that you can use too. And finally, there is sometimes (from Motif 186 up) a mix-and-match suggestion demonstrating how to combine motifs to make large desings. Heavenly!

Mary Jane has been addicted to Fair Isle ever since knitting a hat way back when, in the fall before we went on our first yarn show, but she has been addicted to color and fiber, and a joy to be around, her whole life. She used to work with me and Brenda, the original owner of Unique One, and she was a breath of giddy inspiration even then. She came and visited me a few times after I had my stroke, and showed me the piles of the motifs she was making for her book, and I was so proud of her. I'm so glad she wrote this book, and I look forward to many more.

Whether you want to create a whole Fair Isle sweater or just make some thrilling fingerless mittens, this book is one that will keep you designing forever. I am gonna try me some Fair Isle just as soon as I get my courage up, but now that I have this book, I think I can do it. I used to knit with two colors using both hands, keeping one color in each hand, but after my stroke, I thought I couldn't do it. I can't knit like that anymore, but I might be able to knit Fair Isle using a new technique. It will be hard at first, like everything I am learning, but I can do it. (I can hear a very loud little bird, chirping in my ear, saying, "Believe!!")


Why Don't We Knit Sweaters That Fit?

Lots of people knit, but not sweaters, never ever. They knit hats and mittens and washcloths and scarves and shawls and things that look like sweaters, but that don't have to actually fit. We have gotten away from our bodies, hoping things will just fit. 

I used to see it all the time in the yarn store, people getting all excited about a sweater project but when choosing the size their eyes kind of glaze over, and they'd say, oh, medium I guess. I had to tell them I wasn't going to sell them the yarn unless I measured them, and you know, that's what they wanted -- someone to measure them and tell them what size to make.

I had to learn how to make patterns fit in different gauges, different arm lengths, with different necklines. Some people wanted a size large on bottom and a size small on top. These are things they do not teach you in knitting school*. I had to do it all with math.

MATH. There, I've said it. Walk around the word until it isn't scary anymore. Math, numbers, angles. They are things which will not kill you, and if you become familiar with them, you'll control the world.

Well, maybe that's going a little far, but women used to knit sweaters rather than buy them to save the money, and the sweaters they made fit well. Somewhere along the way we forgot that important skill and started to blindly follow patterns and sizes that Somebody said were right, and made sweaters that did not fit, and nothing in the world makes you into a raving loon more than spending the money and the time and have a sweater not fit. And you know what? We got convinced that the reason we got it so wrong was because our knitting was bad. And that's just wrong. And we stopped making sweaters.

It's time to take back control of your knitting. Measure yourself, measure what fits you well, do a gauge swatch that is not miniscule and know how to measure it well. Find out how long your arms are. Draw a diagram for your size, with the increases or decreases that you have to do to make it work, using the diagram that the pattern comes with as just a guide. You are in control of your knitting. These things are not hard to do, but they require effort; spend the time to do it right and you'll be rewarded with sweaters that fit every time. {Rant mode off.}

And remember, math will not kill you. But you could freeze to death if your sweater's too short :)

*There's no such thing as knitting school, really, except maybe in England. The only degree in knitting I ever heard of was from there.


My Knitting

The knitting has been going well. Last Saturday I finished the V-neck vest for my husband:

Vest

He tried it on and it fits perfectly. I was really worried, about lots of things. Doing the three-needle bind off to join the shoulders was pretty hard, but I did it. It used to be so seasy, but this was pretty hard. I did not, however, have to ask for help, not yet. Someday there may be a time, but it will wait. Picking up the stitches for the V-neck and knitting it was hard too, really tricky, but I did it. Knitting the armhole ribbing was fairly easy. Sewing the two underarm seams, I had to get creative. Oddly enough, the part that almost defeated me was pinning it together evenly; I almost had to ask for help, but figured it out by pinning it together (at least to start) by using my mouth, while my hand held the two pieces together. Epiphany! I got it. Sewing it together with a little crochet hook in my crochet hook holder was a piece of cake. After all the finishing that I learned that I could do, I can see how it can be done and done well. It gives me a little glow of satisfaction.

The catnip mouse was knit on Sunday:

CatnipMouse

The scraps of yarn left over from the vest help my afghan:

Afghan

On the Wings of the Ocean Breeze gained an inch and a half -- there's a lot of stitches in that thing! Yikes! 

SeaSilkArroyo

Yesterday I did a few more inches on the Haiku garter stitch scarf. I knit it while listening to The Roadhouse podcast. Easy knitting + good music for an hour = good times. 

MohairScarf

It was 46˚ and sunny here in Rockport today, nice. January thaw, you rule! 


How Did You Learn to Knit?

Honestly, I don’t remember. Or rather, I remember a whole lot of people who taught me, encouraged me. I don’t remember anyone telling me I was doing it wrong, or it was bad, and I just kept going. The very first memory I have of knitting was before I was five, with my mother in the kitchen -- she was trying to do something else, as I recall, and my pestering her wasn’t exactly helping, but she showed me how to do the knit stitch. I did that for a while, and then I wanted to make something, and I had to know the purl stitch too. God bless mum, she didn’t batt an eye, even though I was probably only 4 at the time; she tried to teach me to purl. It ended with me crying, it was too hard, why do I have to learn to purl anyway?? She just said, if you want to make a [insert whatever it was I was trying to make], then you’ve got to learn to purl. Otherwise, keep on knitting, and when you’re older, try it again. 

But I wanted to do it now, of course. Some things remain the same I guess. She died before I ever learned to purl. I think she thought I could knit at 4 because she came from a family of knitters, and I bet they learned early too. Everyone learned to knit in those days. Some just liked it more than others.

I don’t know where I learned to purl. My sister taught me maybe, and my sister-in-law, and the knitting class at the Catholic church. I knit lots of rectangles and “ties” for my dolls. My grandmother’s sister taught me to make mittens. The only thing I remember clearly is that I loved to knit, loved it. 

In high school I even got credit for it in a “clothing construction” class (they wanted boys to take it, and a lot did, too). We had to choose what we wanted to make. I said I wanted to knit a sweater -- I never had knit one before, I don’t think -- and the teacher said, oh, this class is about sewing, not knitting. I countered that “clothing construction” involved making sweaters. The teacher struck a deal with me: I would learn to sew for one semester, and then I could knit for another semester. So, I did. I sewed the most horrible corduroy jumpsuit, with pockets and belt loops and, I think, a zipper -- it was the 1970’s, after all -- and the next semester I knitted a horrid orange and brown “ombre” sweater with acrylic yarn that I bought at Zayre’s. Did I mention it was the 70’s? The No-Fashion Sense 70’s? yes.

I learned a lot from that sweater: don’t make an increase in the exact front of the sweater to make the stitch count correct, because it will show; don’t make the sleeves to short even though you hate making the damn things; and don’t bind off the neck too tight! After I eventually figured out the neck thing, I could wear it, and I did, too. I was pretty proud of that sweater.

About a year before I had my stroke, I met my long-lost cousin in Camden and we reconnected. I showed him Unique One and its many sweaters, wool, needles, and he said, well, it’s not surprising, after all. I looked at him questioningly, and he told me my grandmother knit all the time, constantly. I never knew that. I guess what goes around, comes around :)

Cat Family


L'Oignon

I'm sitting here at the computer, typing away, and Nicky has joined me on his little "bed" (I folded up the prayer shawl that my sister made me, hi Rachel!) and he just look so content and happy. I wish *I* could be as content and happy as he is, but then again, I've never watched myself sleep, so maybe I *look* content and happy then, too. 

I am lookint at a big pile of yarn, gray and off-white marled together, that's destined to be the V-neck sweater for my husband. But I can't take that much gray yarn all together, so I am knitting a couple or three other things in between. I have projects lined up, things I know what they're gonna be. I have a lot more yarn, things that I do not know what they're going to be yet, and through a mysterious creative process I'll provide them with a path to be what they want to be. 

The creative process is harder now. Before a had my stroke, there was nothing I couldn't knit, and everything I did seemed so easy. But now, everything is hard, and for the first time I shy away from things because they are hard, because I will need a person to help me hold it, because I can't knit anything in the round bigger than a size 6 needle (a problem for hats), or because they simply cannot be done the way I imagined them, due to the circular needle issue. Before there were such things as circular needles, people in the Shetlands used to knit great big shawls, and Fair Isle jumpers knit in the round, so I know it can be done. I think I can figure out the shawls, thanks to Nancy Bush's wonderful books, but the sweaters knit in the round are a little bit more problematic. I don't know where to buy 12" or 14" long double pointed needles, if anyone even makes them any more. Ah well. it is a Holy Grail and it gives me something to find. I know a woodworker who could make me nice long double points, but only in sizes 3 and 8, hehe. 

But maybe it's just a shift that I have to make in my creativity. I used to have it pretty easy, I must admit, but now I have further challenges. I have an extra layer in my thinking, like an onion. I can design anything, the way I used to, but then I need to figure out how *I* can knit it, kicking and screaming the whole way mind you. 

Nicky is just snoring now. He thinks a nap will cure everything :)

Nicky

 


Wheat'll Kill You

Starting about the middle of October, my husband and I read Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis. We were amazed at how bad, seriously bad, wheat is for you, and we decided then and there to make a change in how we ate. We’re eating wheat-free and sugar-free now and loving it. One of the side-effects of eating wheat free is being more creative in our cooking. I made a lasagna last week that used sliced zucchini and baby spinach instead of noodles, and it was delicious. I didn’t even miss the noodles at all.

This morning my husband surprised me with a masterpiece for breakfast. It was pancakes, layered with creamy cheesy filling and sliced strawberries, and it was so good, about halfway through I asked him where he got the recipe. Turns out he didn’t use one; he made it up! I am sharing it here with you to enjoy. 

Pancake Parfait

I. Pancakes

1 c almond flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 eggs

1/4 cup Splenda

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons lime juice (to catalyze the baking soda so they’ll be puffy, like pancakes; if they want crepe-like pancakes, leave out the lime juice and baking soda)

enough liquid to make them the consistency wanted; you can use half and half, water, coffee, milk, cream whatever

1/4 cup grapeseed oil or melted butter 

Beat it all up, make little pancakes, about 3 or 4 per serving.

II. Filling

8 oz. cream cheese

3 Tablespoons maple syrup or Agave nectar

 Put cream cheese and syrup or nectar into a bowl a microwave it until it is soft enough to stir. Mix well.

III. Fruit

 Strawberries, blueberries, peaches or other fruit, cut up.

IV. Layers

Put it together in layers. Put one pancake on the plate, put a gob of filling on it and spread it around, top it with a layer of fruit. Repeat two or three more times. Yummy!

This made enough for two people.

  Pancakes        Pancakes2


Silly --And Not So Silly -- Stuff I Found on the Internet

1. In New Jersey, it is against the law for a man to knit during the fishing season.

2. Knitting is Nerdier than RPGs. (I really enjoyed this.)

3. In a post from 2006, I found a working knitting machine made from Legos:

Lego knitting macine
 (from TechEblog)

4. I found a company in the Netherlands that makes lace chainlink fences. They are beautiful!! Check out the link to the projects. Lovely.

5. I found a site that converts any image file into a chart for knitting, cross stitch, or whatever, in 3 sizes, dubbed knitPro 2.0. Just upload the file and wham! it's ready. All in your browser. Pretty slick. And it's free, too. Doesn't get much better than that!

6. Finally, a bit of anti-knitting: Knit Me Sweaters by Smooth-E. For when you've done too much knitting. (I love "Ninja of the needle" though, hehe.)


A Programmer, a Creative Person and a Knitter Walked into a Bar...

What a trip THAT would be. The programmer would absent-mindedly order a vodka martini while she continues to program her app on her iPhone (there’s an app for that!) ... the creative person would order a sparkling water while furiously making plans for an animation involving one scotch, one bourbon, one beer ... the knitter would order a single malt scotch, neat, pull out her knitting and drift off dreamily, planning her next knitting project. Or they could all be one and the same person. Creativity is a wonderful thing.

I read a book a few years ago, Drawing on the Artist Within, by Betty Edwards, who also wrote Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Drawing on the Artist Within is about improving one’s creativity, a practical guide, a series of steps to take, as it were. I found it fascinating. At the time, I needed some way to be more creative with my knitting designs, and I found it to be helpful. 

Shortly thereafter, I took a class from Sally Melville on creativity at a yarn show I went to in Long Beach or San Diego or somewhere, and she touched on some of the same points from that book. She had us do a few exercises in the class and it really made the book come alive. Who knew that creativity could be learned like that? Or maybe it was just uncovered, maybe it was there all the time. Hmmmm.

So now, my life is pretty different. I feel like I am standing on the brink of something, ready to take that step that will take me off in a different direction, but I am not exactly sure what direction it is. Quite a quandry! I think I should re-read, or re-peruse, Drawing on the Artist Within to get some ideas. Regardless, I will keep on knitting, because it’s in my blood, literally. One of the first things I worked at was learning to knit again, even before I could walk. I don’t know where I will end up, what I’ll be doing, but you can bet on one thing -- I will be warm :)

 


Needles

I've got needles on the brain. I always have, and you know it. I've blogged about my Signature needles, Al Mather's remarkable hand-turned needles, my glass needles, my Autumn Hollow fabulous needles with the extra pointy tips, my needles that glow in the dark. I really like my needles.

Recently I searched for needles and I found even more needles to love, hand crafted little sticks of joy. I'll probably never be able to buy any of them (welllllllll maybe just a couple....) but here are the ones I've seen that I love.

If ever I used needles sizes 9 through 15, maybe when my eyesight starts to go and garter stitch scarves become really hot, I would love to have some WoodRose Needles. They are beautiful. The exotic woods used, like bloodwood, bubinga, cocobolo and sugar maple are topped with a lovely rose that is handsculpted of clay. They are gorgeous.

The point's the thing, they say, and when I saw the points on Lee Chesson's knitting needles, I fell in love. They are so pointy! They're only in size 10 1/2, and only in a couple exotic hardwood with ebony tips.... but the points. Oh my, the points.

I love the tops of Montana Mountain knitting needles. They are so old-fashioned looking, like some Victorian knitting needles ... I would knit lace on them. They kind of remind me of the way that Brittany needles used to be, with the black walnut wood. The exotic woods used by Montana Mountain are so beautiful: curly maple, which I just love; the bright red of the cardinal needles; the stripeyness of the tulipwood, very hard and durable; and more. So pretty. Sigh. They even make needles out of American Holly. And they even have a knitting needle club, like the sock clubs and the fiber clubs. Sigh sigh sigh sighhhhh....

 


My Cunning Plan

Nora4

I always run out of time to make catnip mice for every cat in the family for Christmas. I succeeded in only getting two done for Lynne's cats before Christmas; I made our three cats each one after Christmas (they don't know it's Christmas anyway), and while I was knitting them I was thinking, this is stupid. It takes less than an hour to make a catnip mouse, why the hell don't I make everyone catnip mice in time?! 

This is what I think about. So sad. But I feel so sorry when the kitties do not get any presents from me, because I know how much I love our cats. And they love their catnip mice :)

So I have developed and implemented my cunning plan. Every day but one, I'll work on my knitting, whatever that may be, but Saturday or Sunday, I'll knit a catnip mouse before knitting anything else. So far it's been three weeks and it has worked, and the mice have actually gotten faster to knit, and I have kept up. We will see. 

Catnip mice


I found two mice already made before I had my stroke, but the rest are new. I'll fill them with catnip and stuffing when it's closer to Christmas, because the danger of collateral damage from my cats if I fill them with catnip now will be great, and storing 50 catnip mice in the freezer or refrigerator is not an option. And when it is Christmas again, I'll feel very virtuous when I have a stash of catnip mice to give out generously!

 


My Knitting

I was feeling pretty fabulous yesteday about 3 p.m., because I was up to here on the front of my vest:

Before

Then I noticed one side had less stiches than the other. Poo. I would have to rip it out to the beginning of the V-neck shaping and start again. But not now; I had a birthday dinner to go to!  Happy Birthday Arline! It was a great dinner and a really great chocolate cake. Yum!

After we got back, I had to rip out the vest, because I couldn't face doing that in the morning. So I did.

Ripped

It was a lot easier than I thought to pick up the stitches afterwards. The cotton in the yarn (the white ply, I think) seems to stick to the grey ply of wool and cotton somehow, which makes it hard to drop a stitch. 

Nicky looks puzzled:

NickyPuzzled

"You just spent several hours knitting it mummy, why you rip it out, huh?"

Then I very carefully found the exact center stitch and began decreasing again, and I got this far before going to bed:

Again

And in other knitting adventures, here is my mohair/silk laceweight scarf; I haven't knit on it for a long time, but my picture is new.

Scarf

This is my secret sea silk thing I'm making, that I only do about two rows on a week, guiltily working on it in stolen time while my vest is being knit:

SeaSilk

I am calling it "on the Wings of the Ocean Breeze", and I am using Sarah H. Wolf's "Arroyo" pattern on size 6 needles and one skein of Handmaiden Sea Silk (70% silk, 30% seacell, made from seaweed) which I bought in beautiful Nova Scotia. I started this a while ago, but got distracted by Christmas knitting, and I am now picking it up again. The pattern is wonderful and the yarn is amazing. I love how it feels. The hand-dyeing is exquisite: it's like I just pulled it out of the ocean.

Nicky thinks, eh, just like the ocean, but no fish. Bummer. I'll go to sleep, then.

NickySleeps



Books

I finished a couple books recently, and I'm working through a third. Sadly I have not read more on Prehistoric Textiles, but I will. It got put in a weird place and it's not easy to get to, whereas the other three are right here on my computer. 

All three I started a while ago, then set them aside for various reasons. Kind of like those knitting projects, hehe. But like the knitting projects, they weigh on your mind until you have to just finish them off. 

I finally read the sixth book of the Outlander series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes  by Diana Gabaldon. The American Revolution is underway and Claire and Jamie have a lot going on. I am glad I took a break; I really enjoyed this book and now I want to read the last book in the series. I might not have liked it so much if I hadn't taken a break, and as I recall, people told me that they had taken the same sort of break, and then picked it up again and loved reading it. I thought, silly people, I can read anything, I read Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for Heaven's sake, this is just a love story. 

They were right. You can't take that much love without a break. And then there's the constant worry about Jamie, always in danger, and Claire, and Roger, and Bree ... everybody's in trouble so much!!! It's wonderful! Yet exhausting. I needed a break. And I can't wait to read the final book in the series, An Echo in the Bone. It is a really great series.

Last summer I started to read The Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Captive by Kathryn Lasky, a young adult novel, and the beginning of a large series, a fifteen-book epic about some very special owls. The book has 218 pages, and I stopped about page 58. I picked it up two days ago and finished it, but I am not going to read the rest of the series. It's a wonderful story, exciting as all get out, but maybe I have a thing about owls as characters or something, I don't know. It just wasn't my cup of tea. Maybe I have to be in the right mood for it.

Now I'm reading Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History by Patrick Hunt, Ph. D. It goes from the Rosetta Stone to Macchu Picchu to the 10,000 warriors of Imperial China, one chapter encompassing one famous archeological discovery. It's a bit of fluff really, the chapters don't give me much that I didn't know already, but as an introductory book of archaeological wonders, it does the job. If I was still teaching, I'd love to have this book in my classroom library. It's a really good, though basic, discussion of the events, with an emphasis on what effect they had on archaeology and on the world in general. I'm about to enter King Tut's tomb right now, pretty exciting! I think I'll make a cup of tea, pick up my knitting, and join Howard Carter as he is about to make the discovery of a lifetime. Wish me luck!

Books

(Clip Art from Discovery Education , colored by moi.)


Gansey Show on BBC Radio

There's a great show on BBC radio documenting a project to preserve the knitting history of the Moray Firth, in north-eastern Scotland, through the gansey. It's very good, worth the listen. The ladies towards the end are quite chatty, reminding me of any knitting group. I wonder if they add anything to their tea?? hehe. The radio show is 25 minutes long.

My vest is coming along nicely:

Progress 

I've got the back and one-half the front done. Here's a close-up of the front:

Front

Should be done in just a little while. Then come the deep breaths to get me through finishing. It's been since before my stroke that I created a seam, but as Doctor Who says, "I'm full of ideas!" I just hope it looks good when it's done. 


How To Get from Casting On to the Final Stitch

You're so excited, you've just discovered the most perfect, fun-to-knit pattern in the most lovely yarn imaginable, and you cast on and go! It stays fun for about three days ... and then its slows down a little, and then it  slows down a bit more, and you start looking at other patterns and yarn, or the next Knitty comes out ... and you stop. You don't know you've stopped; you just put it down for a while and you cast on for the next project. 

I know. It's so damn easy to do. 

How do you make yourself keep going on that project? It depends on why, exactly, you're knitting or crocheting it in the first place. If it is a present -- especially a present with a deadline -- you can motivate yourself to get it done. Bribery is the key here. Bribe yourself with images of the recipient getting the gift and being giddy with  delight, agog at your thoughtfulness, brimming with smiles ... and contrast it with images of the recipient opening a wad of needles and yarn, half-knit, and saying "thank you" very quietly and putting it quickly back in the box for you to take back. Half-knit things look so bad when they are half knit. 

You can also bribe yourself with promises of wonderful things that you will knit When Gift Knitting Is Finished, wiling away your time knitting on the gray, stockinette stitch boring sweater for your father, while thinking of that raspberry cowl-necked cabled Thing of Loveliness instead. Just don't drool on your father's sweater, unless you have time to wash it before giving it away.

And there's chocolate. Give yourself a piece of chocolate for every inch you knit. Simple, but it works.

But what if it's not knitted for a deadline? What if no one is waiting for it? What if it is just for you?? Scary.

We tend to put clever things made just for us on the back burner, then the back-back burner, then off to the side, and finally in the cupboard. For me, the death throes of a project came when it went upstairs. I'm still pulling things out of the stash that "went upstairs". Socks, mittens, hats, gloves, scarves, I can finish; it's the sweaters on circular needles that I can't. I suppose someday I'll just unravel them all and make something else out of the yarn, but it's still too painful. I keep thinking my hand will just wake up, and my circular needles (and my spindles and my roving and my spinning wheels) will be useful again.

If you're slowing down on your project, there are things you can do. Recapture some of the magic you had when you started the project -- write about it publically on your blog, in a Facebook post, show it off to your knitting group. When other people see it, they will love it and you will love it again too, and you'll want to finish it and show it off! 

Use little pins to mark your progress. Put a pin every ten rows (followed by a piece of chocolate!) or put a pin when you started knitting each day. Those little markers tell us that hey, we are in fact doing something, making progress! Set deadlines for when you'll think you be done to the underarm, done the back, one sleeve: everything has a deadline. Before you know it, you'll be done! 

Think of the fun you'll have shopping in your imagination (but be careful it stays in your imagination), getting ready for the next big project. And most importantly, think about how fun it will be to have finished your current project. Believe me, no one knows better than I how it can weigh you down having 30 unfinished projects in the background. I always envied people who just had one or two things going at a time. Now I am one of them, and trust me, it feels good!


And Now for Our Musical Interlude

I don't know about you, but I knit mostly to music. Audiobooks, lectures, podcasts, all make me squirm slightly, and I'm not sure why exactly, because I used to love having a story read to me as a child. It's been this way for a long time, too; I can't blame it on the stroke. Even television doesn't really thrill me. If it's good television, I don't knit. And when I do knit, it's only plain garter stitch or stockinette stitch with no increases or decreases -- that has changed since the stroke, by the way. I used to be able to knit anything when the TV was on, anything. Now I can concentrate on only the most basic things.

But music, I can do. I love to listen to music when I knit, and I love blues. I also love classical, Celtic, alternative, and a bit of old rock 'n roll -- not the oldies, the hardcore classic guitar stuff. I like big band swing too, that's really oldies. But mostly, I like the blues. They really know how to play their instruments. They write lyrics that exactly fit my mood. Blues doesn't have to be depressing: it's joyful, playful, beautiful.

Here are some of my recent favorites, in no particular order. They all are on Spotify, the whole album, for free:

1. Gov't Mule, The Deepest End, favorite track: "Beautifully Broken"

2. Robbie Robertson, How To Become Clarvoyent, favorite track: "Straight Down the Line"

3. McKnight & Bogdall, Zombie Nation, favorite track: "Red Wheel Barrow"

4. Canned Heat, Straight Ahead, favorite track: "Dust My Broom"

5. Steve Miller Band, Let Your Hair Down, favorite track: "Snatch It Back and Hold It"

 

I'm always up for new music, any kind. What's your top find? Heard anything good lately?

ShineyBluesGuitar

Photo Credit: "Shiney Blues Guitar" by Donna L. Weida

https://www.watercolor-online.com/DonnaLWeida


Stuck on Mitts

Hi there, I'm Beth, and I'm a Mittaholic.

I can't get the Mucklemitts out of my head. They're so pretty, and then I got Mary Jane's book (which I'll review before the month is over) which just started a mental gamut -- gamut, I tell you -- of ideas for Fair Isle mitts. And then I started looking at fingerless mitten patterns online, and the lace mitts, the cabled mitts, the mitts with different colors. Gah! Overwhelming.

So as soon as my vest is done, I will make mitts. So here is my next year's Christmas list: everyone is getting mitts! Well, sort of ... I may run out of my mitt mystique and go on to something else, like socks or funny hats or knitted mustaches or something. You never know.

Fallberry The Fallberry Fingerless Gloves from Knitty, Winter 2011


MuckleMitts!

My friend Mary Jane just put a great pattern on her blog. It's Mucklemitts, and she used Motif #172 from her fabulous book, 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory. It's a great pattern, it'll bust your stash, and I'm gonna knit a pair! I have ordered Mary Jane's book too; I can't wait to get it. The MucklestoneMitts pattern is a good illustration of what  to do with her book -- use it!

MuckleMittsPhoto from https://maryjanemucklestone.com

The vest is coming along well; I've indented the armholes and I have about 6" done on the upper part. That leaves 6 1/2" to go. Then I've got the front and the neckband and armbands to do .... and then sewing it together. Should be fun.

Vest2

The catnip mice I knit for Nick, Nora and Grace turned out great. This picture is them before they were set loose among the cats:

CatnipMice

The have been well played with. I love how my cats love their toys :)

 


Happy New Year!

Last night was a TV marathon night. We watched two episodes of Midsomer Murders and four episodes of Dr. Who (Chris Eccleston/Billie Piper), and by then it was midnight. We heard fireworks, but didn't see them. It was a good New Years! And we drank only coffee, despite there being wine, bourbon, and brandy in the house. All in all, it was fun.

I bought some new games for my iPad: The Adventures of Tintin, Bug Chucker, and Stoneship. I would have gotten Riven too, but the reviews weren't great; I am waiting. Bug Chucker and Stoneship are from Cyanworlds, the same people who made Myst and Riven, but they are more video-arcade style in appearance. (Bug Chucker is free for Android right now!) It's gonna take me awhile to figure them out, but for only about $4 per game, I wanted to support them even if I can't figure out the game. (I am terrible at games.)

The Adventures of Tintin is much more my style, and I quite like it, but for the feature that almost makes it unplayable on the iPad. At various points, you have to run, rather than just walk, to go further, and the "Sprint" button is on the opposite side of the screen from the "Walk" button. Unfortunately you have to hold them down at the same time to make little Tintin sprint, and I only have one hand that works. I can stretch my hand far enough to get him to sprint, but sprinting in the right direction is  almost impossible! It was quite comical having Tintin running around in circles, though. After much trial and error I succeeded in getting Tintin where he needed to go, but perhaps this game would be better played on the iPod rather than the iPad for one-handed people like me!

My vest is going well; apparently it likes TV marathons:

Vest

I am almost up to the armholes on the back, and I have used a little more than half of one skein, so that's good. I actually don't like the bottom ribbing, but it doesn't flip up, and I do like that. I can't think of anything else that would look good as a bottom treatment either, so I guess it will be fine.

It's a beautiful, sunny day for the first of January 2012, a good omen for the year ahead! Happy New Year!