I just read a good book called A Lady of Lunenburg: Nova Scotia 1752 by Laurel Pardy. It is subtitled "The cauldron that shaped a nation and tempered a woman's spirit". Elisabeth Baltzer is a wife to Stoffel, a butcher, of good middle-class standing. She is also a respected healer and midwife, and mother of several children. She is quite a lady. It's her idea to go to Nova Scotia when she find a handbill that had blown free from the wall where it was posted; while she and her husband are fine for the moment, her husband's uncle owns the property where they live, and his new wife is soon having a baby, which will force them out, since Stoffel will no longer be the only heir. Nova Scotia seems a good place to go. 

The story of how Elisabeth endures and keeps her family safe from disease and harm, makes their home, plants their crops, all against the background of intrigue with England, France and the Indians swirling around them makes for a fascinating tale. It's a great book! Elisabeth is a real woman, an ancestor of Laurel Pardy's, which makes it even better.

Another book I'm reading which is equally fascinating is Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, with Special Reference to the Aegean by E. J. W. Barber. I started it a while ago, but got sidetracked by other things; now I'm back to reading about ten pages a day, but it is hard to stick to only ten pages a day. This book is filled with detail! The author is not only an expert in historical details; she is also a weaver. This book is filled with fascinating insight. I read through the sections about domestication of fibers, both plant and animal; spinning; and looms and weaving. Now I am reading about the various textile weaves, from the beginnings, through Egypt, the Bronze age and Mesopotamia. I still have a ways to go, and there is felting and dyes to talk about, and then my dears, then there is the best part of the book: discussion! I cannot wait to see what conclusions she reaches. This woman is simply amazing. She also wrote the books The Mummies of Urumchi and Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Woomen, Cloth,and Society in Early Times, both of which I have read and loved. She has a way of stating very complicated things without getting too bogged down in their complex natures -- or maybe it's her natural enthusiasm that just picks you up and you run along beside her. I don't know... but I love her writing and her books. I think she is fabulous.

Hi! I'm not done!

The Juno Regina is only half done, and the Indigo Waves scarf is exactly at the same point where you last saw it. I've been reading books and planning my trip to Nova Scotia.


One book I've been reading, The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge, is about brain plasticity. "Plasticity" means being able to be molded, formed, like plastic. "Neuroplasticity" means doing that to a brain. It all makes sense to me, and I thought that the research had been done long before, but it is just beginning. Many of the experiments have been done since the 1990's or even 2000's. First time I've read those dates in a book like this, ever. Of course, there's a whole history behind it, and people who had glimmers of neuroplasticity in their research, but usually they were shunted aside because their research didn't meet the "localization" theories which were accepted. Really, people? Are we still living in 1633 when Galileo was imprisoned in his house for defending heliocentrism? Unbelievable. Thankfully, word has begun to spread, and neuroplasticity is a far more common theory now. My physical therapist is behind it, too. And I threw out what the doctors told me a long time ago, which this book reaffirms. No matter what, you, your brain, your limbs, everything continues to improve forever -- as long as you believe it can. Just don't give up! I don't know how to give up. I really don't. I think I don't have that gene. "Stubborn" now, that's a gene I have, and it's gotten me into trouble in the past, but I think it's okay for this.

Another book that I am currently reading is Brain, Heal Thyself: A Caregiver's New Approach to Recovery from Stroke, Aneurysm, And Traumatic Brain Injuries by Madonna Siles. Eve, her housemate, had an aneurism and this is the story of what it was like for Donna, the author, struggling to cope.  It's quite moving, and there is a lot about the side of caregivers. It's very good, and I recommend it to anyone who has the caregiving role. Caregivers are hurt as bad, if not more, than the people they care for. The only way to make it stop is for the hurt people to work to get better, thus lessening the burden a bit. 

Knitting has always been a joy to me, and I'm enjoying reading  Wendy Knits Lace: Essential Techniques and Patterns for Irresistible Everyday Lace by Wendy D. Johnson. I never had time to read knitting books before. I like it! After I read what Wendy has to say, I'm going to knit a few things from her book. It's a great book and there's something for every knitter in there, from beginner lace-knitters to experienced ones. And remarkably, the easy lace is beautiful as much as the harder lace, which is hard to pull off. It's a good book!

Poor Nicky is stuck up a tree; a dog chased him (not the same dog as before, a bigger dog). I have been assured by my husband, the great soother, that Nicky will get down just fine, remember those big hemlock trees he used to go up 50 feet? But I am concerned nonetheless, and I will be glad to see him home safe and sound. I hope he doesn't have a heart attack. It's silly to get so wound up over a cat, isn't it? No, I didn't think so ... he's my little boy :)


Knitting and Books

First, I've been knitting a little.

Mystery Clue #3 of the Family Jewels socks is done:

Clue3Done     HeelGusset

That's the beginning of the heel gusset on the left. I've never done this heel before; it's called the Fleegle heel, and it's supposed to be easier than the short-row heel, which it is so far. I really don't like short-row heels because a) they're hard to hold together and make gigantic holes on the sides which you have to stitch together after and b) I always get little holes on one side,  I dunno why. Maybe I'm just crabby because it's early in the morning and my coffee is cold and Clue #4 isn't out yet, but I really don't like short-row heels, with the exception of garter stitch short-row heels like Lucy Neatby does. They never show the holes. But then, I've never studied her sock video, so she probably shows how to avoid the holes in stockinette stitch too.


Nicky's patiently waiting for Clue #4 to come out too.

SockBeginning     Socks

In the meantime, I started another pair of socks with Toefutsies in pretty Easter colors of lime green, dark purple, robin's egg blue, and pink.


And I did a little work on the random number scarf.

Suddenly I have a lot of books I'm reading. One is The Fiery Cross, the Diana Gabaldon book, but I'm tired of the series a bit, need to take a break.

Then I started Guardians of Ga'hoole: the Capture, by Kathryn Lansky, about talking owls that live in a fantasy world. I haven't got far.

I recently started The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, by Sam Harris, my non-fiction fix. 

And the one I most recently started, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, which is apparently not available on Amazon anymore, but it was when I bought it.

Now I'm going to watch two more episodes of Lost and then take a nap.



Friday, I had visitors. Susan, Mae and Sally came by to visit and help set up my spinning wheel. It needed a lot of help. When it was moved, somehow the footman got disengaged from the wheel, a not altogether disastrous thing, since it does fold up for traveling, but the problem was, we couldn't get it back in. Susan finally did it! And her mom set out to help me spin. When they left, I felt reasonably sure I could do it. I dug out some hand-dyed Blue Faced Leicester in color "Aegean" (Sereknity Yarn & Fiber, good stuff, check 'em out) and set to work. At first I got the big slubs and teeny bits that I got the first time I learned to spin, but then it settled right down, though I'm not the spinner I used to be, not by a long shot. I have the attitude that I'd rather spin badly than not spin at all, and I'm going to work on it. It takes time to pre-draft the fiber so it will spin properly, a lot more time than it used to take. Imagine if you hand to pre-draft with only one hand ... what would you pull against? I take my paralyzed hand, figuring I may as well make it useful, and place it on my thigh, with one end of fiber in between. Then I lean on it with my upper body, and draft with the other. Probably I should get a vise someday. Until the time comes though, this works out well.

Once the fiber is pre-drafted, it is but the work of a moment to spin it up. And then you have to pre-draft again. Perhaps they should call it "pre-drafting" and not "spinning", because that is mostly what I'm doing! Anyway, here are a couple pictures:

Spinng       Spinning2

The Cat's Eye Scarf s coming right along. I'm about a foot over halfway now. Here's some pictures I took yesterday afternoon:

Scarf        ScarfClose

See the little safety pin I attached to the scarf? That's the halfway point. Now instead of endless measuring, which involves battling the tape measure with my teeth (you know those things are spring-loaded, don't you?), I just fold it in half. When it's long enough measured like this, I start the other end and bind off. Easy peasy.


Nora's still hibernating :)

Workin' Wednesdays

Wow, that week went by so fast! 

I finished the red wool pullover and the cotton horse sweater, and they are already shipped, so I can't show you pictures. I am just finishing up a black wool patch pocket cardigan, but I can't show you pictures of that either, because my camera batteries are dead and I don't have any backup batteries here at the store. I will try to get pictures of it before I ship it, though. I finished the punch card for the leaf, and as soon as I finish the black wool cardigan, I will knit some hats with leaves on them, as I try out various color combo's. 

I haven't been working on my hand knitting or my spinning much lately, as I should be, because I have been taking a reading break. I realized I hadn't read a book in about a year, so I have read The Lightning Thief and started the next book in the Percy Jackson series, something about Sea Monsters. Also I finally read the third book in the Tamir fantasy triad by Lynn Flewelling; the book is called Oracle's Queen, and it was a fantastic read. Lynn is such a fabulous writer! I would love reading her books even if she didn't go to college with me. She is amazing, I tell you. I think she's the next Anne McCaffrey. I loved Anne McCaffrey's dragon books, too. 

My "work" handknitting, such as it is, is still the short rows scarf made from Audrey, and I really must start knitting that Hard Alee pullover for the knitting cruise very soon. Yikes. 

Victoria, and Two New Books


Let’s see... what’s new here....

For one thing, Victoria, whom many of you know as my dear friend and the yarn shop manager here at Unique One, has moved on to a far better position at Maine Sport, another fabulous Camden/Rockport store which you must visit if you get to the area. Victoria has more of an office job there, which will be a fun change for her! She is still running my knitting group that meets here at Unique One on Thursday nights, so I will still get to see her regularly! (You can read about my weekly evening knitting adventures that are open to the public HERE.) I wish Victoria great luck and much success in her new job! I know she reads my blog, so if any of YOU would like to wish her well, please do so in the comments :)

Today is a pretty quiet day at Unique One.... I did get a couple new books to share with you, though. I am on an auto-ship program from Martingale books, so they send me a couple copies of whatever new fiber book comes out. Let me tell you what came today :)

The first one is “A to Z of Crochet: The Ultimate Guide for the Beginner to Advanced Crocheter”, Sue Gardner, editor. I am always wary of how-to books for anything that says that they are good for anyone, beginner to advanced. Especially when it is only 160 pages. But I took a look anyway. I consider myself a pretty intermediate crocheter; I get the idea of how to do a lot of stuff, but I don’t actually crochet that much. It makes sense to me though.

I actually like this hardcover book. For one thing, it is spiral bound, so it lies flat, a very important feature for a how-to book. It is divided into logical sections, too... the first section (35 pages) is general information about yarn and the basics of how to crochet, how to do basic stitches, how to increase and decrease... the photographs are *very* clear, the written directions are good, there are sidebars/inserts of Hints that are actually very helpful, and sprinkled throughout are darling little images from the 1920’s or so that are very pretty. The pages have a very eye-catching look, without being flashy, trendy, or cluttered. The first section is pretty much for beginners. The second section, 27 pages, is a series of different crochet stitches ... this part is interesting to more advanced crocheters as well as beginners. In this section the stitches are shown step by step via pictures as well as in written directions. The third section (55 pages) is more stitches and techniques, and these are more advanced. It includes stuff like crocheting with beads, entrelac crochet, Irish crochet, and tubular crochet. I have never even heard of most of the stuff in this section, which just makes me want to have the book even more. Again, all is explained via great photos and written directions. The fourth section is called Added Touches (27) pages, and has good-to-know stuff like buttonholes, edgings, corkscrews, and flowers. Some of this was familiar to me, and some not. Again, pictures and words, very good. The last section is called, appropriately, Finishing (16 pages) and has things like more edgings (less decorative, more for finishing), blocking, and various seaming techniques. Pictures & words, good. And finally, there is a very helpful index! I think it is a great book, and even though it is $28.95, it is a wonderful reference for most crocheters or crochet-wannabe-ers. I have two in stock, stop by or call if you’re interested!

The second book that came today is probably gonna be gone out the door by the time you even read this... it is called Kitty Knits: Projects for Cats and Their People, by Donna Druchunas, whose name should be familiar to avid knitters..... she has contributed articles to nearly every knitting magazine known to man and is also a great knitting designer! I am pleased to find her name on this book.

This lovely 80-page paperback is organized into three sections of projects: Projects for Cats (cats, of course, comes first!) -- 7 projects, including catnip mice and other toys, and beds.... ; Projects for People -- 8 lovely garments: sweaters, slippers, hats, scarves, socks, all with cat motifs of different sorts knit into them. Some have multi-color motifs, some are lace or textured stitches that are cat-related... all are beautiful (my favorite to look at are the Felted Furry Kitty-Cat Slippers, just adorable and funny; and the last section is Projects for the Home, five fun projects, including a bag and a pillow and a lovely baby blanket. The book ends with Techniques, Abbreviations, Resources, and About the Author. This book will appeal to cat lovers not only for the great projects they can knit, but because it is jam-packed with fabulous cat photos! I love to look at cats. However, there are many shots of one kitty model who looks disturbingly like my Evil Kitty Nora, a.k.a. Jungle Girl, a.k.a. The Bad Cat. But I was able to move beyond that and love this book anyway, and I do actually love Nora. Most of the time :)

I have two of the Kitty Knits books in stock right at the moment but who knows how long they will last... at only $19.95, this book is bound to be gone quickly.

Okay, back to work. I have to clean the office a little and I am supposed to be knitting a sweater, too. No rest for the wicked!

Cats, a.k.a. "Devil's Spawn"


The annual vet visit. Just the words strike dismay into my heart.

We have 3 cats, and the two siblings go to the same vet. (I got Grace when Brenda died; Grace was her cat, and had an established vet history elsewhere.) In the past the two kittens fit into a single carrier. I bought a second carrier for Nora this year, a nice soft comfy one made out of fabric that zips shut.

She tore through that thing like it was tissue paper before I had gone half a mile. But since she seemed settled on the back seat, I kept going.

Nicky, in the old carrier, was calm and seemingly serene about the whole thing. So on we rode, a half hour drive to the vet, with a good bit of otherworldly caterwauling from the back seat by a furry demon who lay flattened out, all four legs splayed, wild eyed and with mouth open, panting desperately.

On her way to the back seat, Nora had left a trail of liquid droplets between the front floor and the back. I few sniffs later, I was assured they were not drool, but some other liquid. And for only a few drops, they certainly held a powerful aroma. A couple of miles later, another odor filled the compartment. Nora had moved to the other side of the car, and the vacated seat held its little prize of kitty poop. How endearing. Daddy's little angel, indeed. I couldn't really stop right then, so I just pressed on to the vet and cleaned the mess up before going inside. I had managed to squish Nora back into the cloth case where she stayed quietly enough now that the car had stopped moving.

We got inside and Nora had her checkup. She is disgustingly healthy. Then we pulled Nicky out of his carrier, a nice hard plastic one. Roomy. Did you know, this carrier can hold not only one large, long-haired, 11.1 pound cat, but also about 12 gallons of cat pee? Mm-Hmmm. And did you further know, that a cat's long hair is more absorbent than the Ultra-Best-Bounty paper towels? Uh-huh. The vet and I toweled him off as best we could, and they washed and dried his carrier, but Nicky himself smelled quite heavenly all the way home. He is also, however, disgustingly healthy. They are both outside at the moment, and I'm thinking, good. Stay there.

Knitting news: I've been pretty busy and haven't had time to knit anything for about a week, but I did block the second Kaleidoscope square. The third square is blocking right now, so I'll pull the whole thing together soon.

We got a great new yarn called Renaissance, from Classic Elite. It's simply a basic worsted weight 100% wool, excellent for arans and texture, and comes in pretty colors. I am working up an aran sweater for the knitting cruise. I also am in the early stages of designing a hat & mitten/glove set incorporating a braided cable and an anchor motif, also for the knitting cruise, probably knit from guernsey wool, which I love.

Book news: just finished reading Harry Potter (short review in my Books list on the right). I also am reading a book that Lynne from my knitting group lent me: "Sadie Shapiro's Knitting Book" by Robert Kimmel Smith. I love it! It's a novel about an "old lady" who publishes a book of knitting patterns; as she becomes more popular and famous, she changes the lives of those who meet her. An entirely wonderful read! Ididn't put it in the Book List on the right because it isn't in print anymore; it was printed in the 1970's, so Amazon doesn't have much info on it. I wish it would be reissued. It's a hoot. If you ever run across a copy of it in a used book store or at a yard sale, definitely pick it up, it's worth reading!

Got books?

I have been making a little time lately to do some reading: Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class. It's a great discussion of the major change society is currently going through socially and economically, a change as great as the movement from an agrarian society to an industrial society. Creativity is quickly becoming the most lusted-after trait in the American worker today, and managing creative people is both wonderful and challenging. I'm getting a lot of pointers that I think will help me keep good workers at the store, and it also explains a lot of why I feel the way I do about what I do for work.  Motivation is less monetary and more intellectual stimulation; flexibility of working hours is vital;  place, the location of where people want to work and live, is important; comfort and little perks are important to creative people. Like buying coffee for everyone a couple times a day -- it costs me little but makes them know I appreciate and value them. And who doesn't like a free cuppa, anyway?

Knitting: an entrelac lace stole from Blackberry Ridge. Fun to knit and impressive to look at. Socks, plain knit with fancy yarn from Schaefer. One more seam to sew on Hanne Falkenberg's Pagode. The Helen's Lace garter stitch pie-wedge shawl. And all the other stuff never finished from January: the earflap hat,  the fair isle gloves, the purple gansey in Jo Sharp dk tweed, the baby blanket, the crocheted spiral-medallion shawl, the yellow cardigan from Interweave Knits a year or two ago. Then there's all the stuff not even started, some not even designed yet, that needs to be done by some future deadline: the Christmas stocking, the spiral-cable hat, the Cestari cotton-wool pullover. Well, we will see what gets done and what doesn't.