Tick Tock, People

It's less than a month to Christmas.

Does that sentence fill you glee or with dread? 

It fills me with glee. My Christmas presents are almost all made, the advent calendars are delivered, the house is decorated (well ... we never take down our Christmas village, hehe, it's up all year), and now I'm just waiting for the Christmas spirit to lay it's eggs on me. Or whatever. I really like Christmas.

We have a slew of Christmas movies to watch, and we'll parse them out over the next month. Christmas music will fill the hours when I am no longer working on NaNoWriMo. Oh yes, and NaNoWriMo will be done, and I will have beaten it into submission. That's the best thing of all!

Christmas Countdown

Small Things Make Me Curl My Toes and Laugh

When I finished my NaNo writing for the day yesterday, I felt like I was dragging mightily. You know how it is. Getting everything to come out right, when you don't even know exactly what you're shooting for, is very hard. 

Next year, I will make an outline. Or maybe, next year, how about not NaNo-ing at all? Sounds good to me, right now anyway. Heh.

So anyway, needing a break, I read my blog mail from Typepad because everything else seemed really hard, and there was a post about using CSS to add drop caps into my posts. I do know what CSS is, but like everything else I learned a long time ago, I didn't really learn enough to use it. :::facepalms:::

But this seemed good, so I tried it, and damn if it didn't work! Way to go Typepad! Now I feel all special and stuff. 

You may need to click refresh a few times to see my drop caps. If you can't see them, I'm sorry. I tried. It works for me, and frankly, it made my toes curl with joy.


Things I Used To Do Before NaNoWriMo

Or more appropriately, Things I Used To Do Before NaNoWriMo Sucked All My Energy and Time Away.

1. Knit. I used to like to knit. Remember during the Ravelympics when I knit a whole Aran sweater in 14 days? Yeah. That was easier than writing.

2. Spin. I used to occasionally spin fiber into yarn. 

3. Read. I remember reading, dimly. I think I used to like it.

4. Listen to music. I think music is wonderful ... and if I make it to the end of this month, I plan to listen to it again.

5. Write interesting blog posts that are not lists of one-word items.

I think I need a pep talk. Here are some by a few of my favorite authors:

Neil Gaiman

Robin McKinley

Tom Robbins


My novel is titled "Je Ne Sais Pas" which means "I Don't Know", hehe. Sheesh. Another week to go!


Turkey Sweaters

I read a short story a long time ago, when I was living with Carney, about a family that had turkeys. The parents had to go away for a few days and left the much-older sister to look after the two little boys. She was to make sure that they took good care of the flock of little baby turkeys that had just arrived.

The author spent a hilarious page or two describing how the baby turkeys became featherless, plucked by the boys probably. Anyway, it was their fault, and was the sister mad. The poor little turkeys were shivering, so Big Sister sat the boys down and proclaimed that they had to learn to knit turkey sweaters. Sobered by the thought of their father's wrath when he saw the shivering turkeys, they did just that. With Big Sister's help, they knit little turkey sweaters all day and night, and the turkeys stopped shivering.

Wish I could remember who wrote that story; they deserve a medal.

Somehow when I searched for 'turkey sweaters' I came up with something different, like this:

(photo from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon blog, 2009)

Or this:

(photo from fufufashions.com)

I guess turkeys wearing sweaters isn't really any weirder than what we wear or make our dogs wear.

Baby Blankets

I'm going to make a baby blanket, maybe two next year. Our family has a baby coming: my nephew and his wife are expecting, and that, my friends, is the knock of opportunity. I also didn't make a baby blanket for my niece and her husband's baby, because I was in the hospital at the time. She is two  years and almost three months old now, and I'm think she might need a big-girl blanket. You know, for blanket forts and such.

To crochet? or knit? In blocks or strips? Or whole? Lacy? (Seems to me that lacy designs would get their fingers caught, and I don't want to be responsible for yanking kids' digits askew.) Cables? Colorful? What colors?? Make it up, or follow a pattern? (I never designed a baby blanket before.) The possibilities are endless. 

I've seen a lot of baby blankets that I like. I've thought of a few I'd like to design.  But, as a person who has never had kids before, and I really don't interact with them much -- I prefer kids when they're about 10 or 11 or older; I am the grumpy old lady of  children everywhere -- I ask you, what makes a good baby blanket?

It's fun to go through my stash of patterns!

Oat Couture's Curlicue Coverlet


A Library on Wheels

Since I've been playing around with writing. I've started to really examine the writing in my life. I loved reading when I was a kid. I loved reading -- well, listening to, followed by reading -- Winnie the Pooh with my sister, reading Dr. Seuss' One Fish, Two Fish book, and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, .... basically, that's all I remember from my childhood. I also vaguely remember a blue book about a kangaroo, but I have no details. And I believe my first chapter book was Bambi. I read a lot more; I just can't remember what things I read.

I do remember the Bookmobile. I can still see it, smell the smells of all the books. The bookmobile was a wonderful thing, living in rural northern Maine. When I was a kid, the closest public library was the Presque Isle Library, and that came later as a place to explore. I remember being very impressed by their collection of Nancy Drew mysteries. 

Bookmobiles have an interesting history. They began in Cumbria, England in 1857; needless to say, it was horse-drawn, so it wasn't really a bookmobile as much as a bookcart, but you get the idea. In the U.S., in Chester County, South Carolina they had a mule-drawn portable book system around 1905, carrying books to rural areas. I think it was in the 1950's that bookmobiles really took off; I remember checking books out from the bookmobile in the 1960's.

There are other types of bookmobiles worldwide: there's the Camel Library Service in Kenya (The Camel Bookmobile is a novel written by Masha Hamilton featuring it); there's the library ship, Epos, serving western Norway; and Elephant Libraries in Thailand. All three sound like fun ways to get the word out!

Rockport has a good library about two stone's-throws from my house. I have never been there ... Amazon delivers.

(photo: Syracuse bookmobile, 1969, from www.onlib.org)

Learning to Cook All Over Again

One of the hardest things for me to realize about my stroke is that on scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is being shaky for a day or so, and 10 is dying, my stroke was an 8.5 or 9. Some would say 9.5, but I have to believe somewhere out there is someone worse off than I. 

It's hard to believe. I just keep on going, you know? Keep on getting better, keep on getting around, keep on knitting and spinning. Last week I started cooking supper for us again. With one hand. It's really hard, but it gives me purpose. It becomes one more thing I can do so my husband won't have to do it all himself. It's been three years, I have done cooking before, but this is the first time I've taken it on as something to do regularly, every day.

I find that going slowly, being patient, is the key. Just getting to the sink and back is something I have to think about. Peeling cloves of garlic, such a sticky little chore. Taking the ends off green beans, an endless job. Peeling potatotoes -- no longer can I peel nice, long peelings, I have to make short, little peelings because my cutting board, which has three prongs sticking up to hold the potato, only lets me peel a little tiny peeling at a time. I have thrown out all that I knew before, and I'm finding ways to cook that are different from anything that seems logical. It's like cooking underwater in slow motion. 

It feels good, though. Cooking is good for the soul :)


Baby Blankets

I was randomly looking through my virtual stash, taking stock of what I have for baby blankets. 

I have some white cotton/acrylic that would be good, some brightly colored cotton baby yarn that would be good for crochet, some Baby Ull from Dale of Norway in oranges and greens. What to make? 

I culd go simple:


That's the Swan's Island blanket from Michele Rose Orne.

But I kind of want to make up my own pattern. 



I was driven in the fall of 2007 to knit a long, brown scarf that would wind around my neck twice and hang down long enough to play with the ends when I was bored, or wipe up spilled drinks in the bar, or whatever. I loved that scarf. I wore it all the time that winter, whether I was cold or not. Then after that winter, I couldn't find it and went onto other scarf things.

Long brown scarf

I'm glad I wrote down the particulars; it's 70 stitches on size 4 needles with four skeins of Dale of Norway Baby Ull yarn (that's fingering weight), and I did knit 2, purl 2 forever until all four skeins were used up. Any 700 yards of fingering weight yarn would do it, I'm sure. I did not write down the measurements of the scarf, and I wish I had; you can tell it's about 6 or 7 inches wide from the photo, and probably 6 feet long or so. It was long enough, but not too long; wide enough, but not too wide. It was just right.

I'm getting the urge again to knit another long, ribbed scarf, maybe out of brown, but maybe out of another color I like from my stash. That'll be a good winter project!

Herd Boy and Weaving-Girl

I found this tale while researching something else, and thought, what a great story! It's from about 6th century BC, and tells how a herd boy captured the heart of a celestial maiden who wove for the king and queen of heaven. Look up into the sky on the seventh day of the seventh moon, to see the stars Vega and Altair, Weaver Girl and Herd Boy, and hear their story:


"The seventh day of the seventh lunar month is the Double Seventh Festival in China. The folklore goes that it is the day when Herd-boy and Weaving-girl reunite with each other. The beautiful love story about the origin of this festival is still popular today.

"It is said that a long time ago, a clever and honest man named Niu Lang (Herd-boy) was living in the Niu village at the west of Nanyang city. Niu Lang's parents died when he was very young and he had to live with his brother and sister-in-law. The latter was very cruel and mean to Niu and always forced him to do some hard work. Finally she even drove Niu out of her family. Poor Niu only had an old cow with him. One day the old cow suddenly told Niu, "Tomorrow is the seventh day of the seventh lunar month; the seven daughters of Yuhuang Dadi will come to earth and have a bathe. The youngest one that named Zhi Nv (Weaving-girl) is the cleverest. Hide her clothes and she will be your wife." Niu Lang was aroused by what the cow had said and decided to have a try.

"When it came to that day, Niu Lang hided himself in the reed by the river beforehand. Soon seven fairies descended from the heaven. They took off their clothes and jumped into the river. Right then Niu Lang bounced up from the reed, grabbed Zhi Nv's clothes and dashed backwards immediately. This had terrified the seven fairies and the six of them flew to the heaven with their clothes on, leaving only the youngest Zhi Nv startled in the river. Niu Lang stumbled that he would return the clothes as lang as she promised to marry him. Zhi Nv found that Niu Lang was the kind of man that she loved, so she nodded bashfully. After the marriage Herd-boy and Weaving-girl lead a happy life and they loved each other very much. Later they gave birth to a son and a daughter. How perfect the life was! How ever, the Queen Mother of the Western Heavens was irritated by their behavior and forced Zhi Nv to return to the heaven.

"Niu Lang put on his cowhide shoes and brought his kids with him to chase Zhi Nv back. When it came to the edge of success, the Queen Mother of the Western heavens pulled out a hairpin from her hair. With just one wave of the hairpin, she brought about a billowing river, which separated the two lovers at each bank. They could do nothing but weep with each other. Fortunately, the magpies were moved by their sincere love. That's said to be the origin of the Milky Way, Altair and Vega. Hundreds of thousands of them flew there and they formed a magpie bridge so that Herd-boy and Weaving-girl can get together again on the bridge. Not being able to make any change to this, the Queen Mother of the Western Heavens had to permit them to reunite with each oter every seventh day of the seventh lunar month.

"From then on, whenever it comes to that day, young girls will dress themselves in new clothes and tried to find the Herd-boy and the Weaving-girl stars in the sky at night, expecting to see their yearly reunion and praying to gods that they can be as intelligent and talented as Zhi Nv and can have a happy marriage. That's how the Praying-for-Cleverness Ceremony Originated.

"The Praying-for-Cleverness Ceremony is a very exciting day in the Chinese countryside. Young girls wear new clthes, worship the two stars and "pray to Zhi Nv for cleverness." There are many kinds of prays, the most common one of which is the pray for the talent of threading needles. Young women bring out colorful threads and seven needles. The girl who can pull a thread through these needles will be regarded as 'talented lady.' 

"The Double Seventh Festival is considered as the Chinese Valentine's Day. The story that Herd-boy and Weaving-girl reunited on the Magpie Bridge casts a romantic light on this festival. It is said that you can even hear the sweet whispers between these two lovers if you sit under the grape vine on that day."

from ChinaTravelRUs.com




I've already gone a week and a half into October. This is the time of year when time just starts flying. Pretty soon it will be Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then the hoopla that is the Christmas season, then a little New Years, and then I can relax. It will go by just as fast as that sentence did, too. 

When I put "Mouse 42" up on my blog, it hit me -- ten more weeks left in the year! Only ten! Ten more mice to knit, only ten. I wonder at people who start knitting now for Christmas; they only have nine -- eight and a half, now -- weeks before Christmas. No wonder they are rushed! 

Next year I'm not going to knit gifts for Christmas. People can only take so much of that, after all. How many scarves do people need, really? How many pairs of socks? People have so much stuff already. I think next year will be a food year, you just can't have enough to eat or drink, and after a while it goes away!

Also, I'm not going to knit mice, either. Next year I'm going to knit and crochet lovely things from my stash, spin lovely yarn, read interesting books, and maybe do a little writing, we'll see. It was fun to see if I could do something, and writing in my blog daily and knitting a mouse-a-week was what I chose to do, but now I have done that. Probably I'll continue writing my blog nearly daily. Maybe instead of knitting a mouse a week, I will switch to a square to knit or a granny square to crochet or something. Maybe I'll knit mittens or socks or hat to sell on Etsy. Maybe I'll write patterns. It will be something fun, anyway!

October whirl

The Universe with No Knitting

Capt Kirk: Bones, what would happen if that thing entered a tranquilized body? 
Dr McCoy: Well, it might take up knitting, nothing more violent than that. 

That's the only quote I could find from Star Trek that references knitting. You'd think that in all the years of the Star Trek original series, Star Trek the Next Generation, all of the movies, that show with the woman captain, Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Enterprise, someone on Star Trek might have been a knitter, but no.

Deanna Troi, played by Marina Sirtis, even really knit, but it never made it into the show, even as a prop, for Heaven's sake. You'd think over the years in all the shots of people's personal space, in their private quarters, you'd see in the background a ball of yarn, some knitting or crocheting or sewing, or even a loom set up, but you would look in vain. I guess that says how little-valued "women's work" is -- even though men did it too. During the Middle Ages, men did a lot of it! But times change.

Given the nerdiness of certain knitters, and I mean that only in the kindest way, as I am one of them, seems to me someone would have been a knitter on the show, or worn knitting, or something. Data kept a cat; couldn't he knit as well? Don't having a cat and knitting go together well?

Could be I'm wrong, I hope so, so if anyone has any knitting-related quotes or images from the Star Trek universe, send 'em my way! 
(from StarTrek.com)


Legends of the Shetland Seas

I've been thinking about changing my blog's look. It's pretty basic, black and orange and green, plain white background, and a picture of my purple "Legends of the Shetland Seas" shawl. I get emails asking what shawl that is in my picture all the time. I sold quite a few kits for it when I had the store. People were somewhat dismayed that it only came in off-white; I dyed the yarn purple before knitting it.

Anyway, my blog hasn't been changed since I first made it, back in January 2004 -- almost nine years ago. I bet templates have changed a lot since then, hehe. I was on my old tangerine iMac then, I think. That was when iPods only came in white with a clicky wheel, there were no iPhones or iPads, Internet Explorer ruled the internet, and I think Yahoo! was the go-to search engine. Times change.

So, I think I'm gonna change my blog, too. I'm no longer the same person I was when I started this. I'm certainly not a yarn shop owner, I'm handicapped now, and I've got more time on my hands than I know what to do with. Having a lot of time sucks, really. But I've got my blog to fiddle around with. Everything will still be here, but it will just look different!

What would you like to see in a blog? Suggestions are always helpful! 

Stripping the Yarn Stash

It's coming towards the end of another year of knitting and I'm pleased to say I have reduced my stash considerably -- but then, considering how large my stash is and what a small dent I have made in it, that isn't saying much! I'm pretty happy with my spinning stash, however. My spinning stash is only one bin, and I can see the difference there. Next year, if I keep spinning and don't buy much more fiber, I might clear it out! That doesn't really help the knitting stash, though, hehe. Less fiber for handspinning means more handspun yarn for knitting ... hmmm, or gift giving...

I have about twelve more projects planned for the ol' stash-busting mania, and I'm gonna pull a few old UFO's (unfinished objects) out of the stash, too. Reduction is key. If my stash was gone, we would have an entire room upstairs for something else! Maybe I'd be better off trying to reduce just one bin; it's less scary that way.

How big is your stash? Is it full of the extra-good yarn that you just want to fondle but never use, or is it good, usable stuff that you got on sale, or is it remnants of icky yarn that you have in your stash that you just don't like? Mine is mostly good, usable stuff that I hope to use, the sooner the better. But I need to go through it and weed out the yarns I know I'll never use.

Stripping the yarn stash

Toot Your Own Horn

Every now and then I really miss not being able to play a musical instrument. It's actually a regret I have because I only have one hand that works (so far!); if I had both hands working, would I play? Or would I just go on saying someday I'll play again, someday I'll pick up a sax or a recorder, someday I'll get serious on that piano, someday I'll learn to play guitar. I really, really wish I'd learned to play guitar, but if I had, that's just one more thing I'd regret. 

I've tried to think of what you can play for music with only one hand. There's the harmonica, and a good blues harmonica is a wonderful thing. I don't really know anything about it, but there's probably tons of YouTube videos about it. They say that you can play piano with one hand, but really ... wouldn't that be kind of simple? Doesn't seem like you'd get the full effect. I'd rather play a wind instrument.

So I googled it. Turns out I can play the saxophone if I want to -- someone has devised a way to make one-handed saxes!  Who knew. And, one-handed piano abounds, there are tons of pages on the internet about how to play the piano with one hand. There's a guy out there who has tips on using the guitar with physical handicaps, too, and that's just one of many.

 I may or may not decide to play an instrument again, but it's good to know it's there if I ever want to. For now, I'll just play the radio :)

(artwork courtesy Gabriella Fabbri)

What Makes a Good Hat for a Man?

I'm pondering the thought. I asked my husband, but it was such an open-ended question that he just said, "I dunno." I asked him if he liked cables and he answered "No" right away, but then quickly said "Maybe" upon further consideration.

Men don't usually wear hats, except non-knit caps, like the John Deere variety. Knit hats are considered a slam to their desire to brave the elements, be tough, be manly. Knit hats -- and gloves and mittens, for that matter -- are for people not manly enough to go without. 

That being said, when it's really cold and they have to go out and do manly things like shovel the driveway when the danger of having parts freeze off is more real, that's when the need for a warm hat and gloves or mittens is welcomed. 

That's where I come in. What makes a good hat for a man, in that situation? An earflap hat? A ribbed hat? Something with a cuff? Cables? Plain knitting or fancy? Colorwork? If the pattern doesn't show a man wearing it, forget it -- you are better off having him just not see the pattern at all, I don't care how much it professes to be a unisex hat. 

Unisex hat 1
Unisex hat on a snowman -- GOOD.

Unisex hat on a woman model -- HE'LL NEVER WEAR IT.

Maybe I'll just make wool socks.


Ah September, the first month of fall.  It's getting colder, there's a little nip in the air in the morning; not a lot, just a reminder that fall is here, that winter is coming. It's just enough to make me put a sweater on. There's plenty of summer left, though. 

September means football! I signed up for a fantasy football thing for knitters, and the excitement is growing! I'd take part in the trash-talking, but I don't really know enough about it to trash-talk football, so I'll call this a learning year.  I'm all about the Patriots, though -- Go Patriots!! Woohoooo! (Sounds convincing, doesn't it?) 

September means back to school for the poor folk that have to go back this time of year, whether it's students or teachers, administration or lunch ladies and bus drivers. I feel for ya. Mostly I just grin a lot in September, remembering what it used to be like. 


To Thee I Do Wed

Today is my niece's wedding day, so I thought I would showcase some knit and crocheted wedding dresses in honor of her nuptials. 

Ravelry, of course, has lots to give any bride who knits something to think about, and I've picked out four of them. 

First of all, there's this knit wedding dress from Nicky Epstein:


I love the skirt on this one.

This crocodile stitch wedding dress  by Bonita Patterns is amazing, and she only took three weeks to make it!


I love the skirt on this Wedding Gown by Linda Daniels and Jill Montgomery; it looks like it floats!


This Knit Wedding Gown Dream by Fashion Martina looks like a fairy tale princess gown, very enchanting:


Then, if you didn't want to knit or crochet your wedding dress yourself, you could have it done for you. Here are some pictures of designs presented in fashion magazines and showcased by designers.

And lastly, you could have one knit by a company called Makepiece. "Beautiful clothes with ethics. Natural yarns from sustainable farming. Undyed and natural dyed options. Low impact manufacture. Fair employment. Working to be carbon neutral." They make beautiful wedding gowns, among other things.

And now, you may kiss the bride!

Congratulations Hillary and Wayne! ::smooches::



Mrs. Weasley's Knitting Inventions

(I totally made this up.)

I wish Mrs. Weasley had some of these knitting inventions on the market! It would make knitting so much easier and fun:

Knitting Needles:

1. Needles that are self-measuring needles (both in the length of you knitting as well as side to side).

2. Needles that automatically count your stitches and set off an alarm bell when the incorrect number of stitches is on them.

3. Needles with charmed points that worm their way into multiple or tight stitches (like in a 7-stitch nupp) and then snap back into a rigid state when you finish the stitch.

4. Needles that continue knitting your harder-to-knit project correctly at knitting group while you work on plain stockinette stitch and gab and eat and drink.

5. Needles that you can pick up for mindful knitting, that don't really make anything, just rows and rows of stockinette stitch, which then unravels itself and winds up the ball when you are done thinking about the problem and put it down.

Other things:

1. A finder to run and go find your pattern, find that one ball of yarn you need from your stash, find your tape measure/scissors/pins, or find the glasses you left on your head.

2. A little being like the Quidditch ball that can go to whomever you need the measurements of, takes the measurement, and reports back to you. Also operates in stealth mode, for Christmas presents.

3. A special yarn additive that can make sleeves or body or fingers longer or shorter, body  wider or skinnier in the right places, and also sends the information back to the self-counting-stitches needles.

4. A clock that lets you stop time for an hour so you can just knit or crochet. Works over and over and over again.

5. A special page illuminator that makes perfect sense out of a pattern instantly.

6. The pattern for this fantastic top (I couldn't find it on Ravelry, go figure):

Mrs weasley

I could go on, but those are fresh off the top. What inventions would you like to see from Mrs. Weasly?


Pattern Referrals

One of my biggest referring websites is Knitting Pattern Central. They have my Gansey Gloves, Net Shopping Bag, Rainy Day Scarf (also known as the Wavy Scarf), and the Bobble Hat listed in their free pattern directory. I get about 100 hits a day from them.


I wonder how many hits a day I would get if the Penobscot Bay Pullover, the Catnip Mouse, and the Lacy Scarf were on there, too. The Penobscot Bay Pullover was always popular when I had the store. especially since it was great for men and kids. So was the Lacy Scarf, for that matter.


I also get significant numbers from Tipnut.com and Curbly.com, for my Net Shopping Bag pattern. Who knew such a little thing would be so popular! AllFreeKnitting.com has also got the Net Shopping Bag, and there's a link to it on KnittingHelp.com. Yarnover.net has a link to my Ribbed Leaves Lace Scarf pattern.


I designed nearly all of these patterns for the knitting cruises or the knitting weekends that Unique One used to hold at the Lord Camden Inn. Since my stroke, I have designed only three things. And, I have a few things that I have designed that aren't up anywhere.

How many of my designs have you knit? I'm curious.



I got to thinking about roses. They are so pretty. 

Pink rose

(Photo Credit: George Bosela)

There are tons of roses on Ravelry and on the internet in general -- knitted and crocheted and felted flowers, sweaters with roses, afghans, mittens and gloves, everything. However, nothing struck my fancy til I saw the Travelling Roses scarf from Leanna Cooper.

I originally found it photographed in pink, and it was lovely; you can see it here. It was a lovely little piece of lace. Upon futher exploration I found it on Ravelry and, to my surprise, downloaded the pattern for free! Yay! 

I think I have some red, lightweight yarn that is going to be a perfect match. What could be better than knitting roses this winter!


(Photo credit: Ivan Marecic)