Monday, May 29, 2006

I'm still here

I don't know if it's seasonal or sweateral, or the root canal I had a week ago, but I've just been too blue to blog.

I've taken this sweater front to this point

at least three times, and the Curse of the Yarn Over continues to plague me. For those of you who think I'm just being weirdly obsessive, look! It so shows. Ripping doesn't bother me, as a general rule, but I'm about to reach my limit.

You know what? I know I'm reasonably intelligent, and I know that this is a simple (like falling off of a log simple) lace pattern. Yet I've redone and redone and redone this yoke until I'm afraid I'm going to fray the yarn. This is supposed to be my easy, take everywhere project, and I'm turning it into Rip Our Your Hair central.

And, dang it, I want this sweater. It's soft, it's drapey, I can just imagine it snuggled over a tank keeping the freezing summer breezes of the bay area off of me. Arrrrgh.

Last night I sat down and did a few rows, checking carefully every single time, and when I found a mistake, I declared it bedtime.

Jen, you and your spouse are welcome to come and get the tour. It won't take long and I'll let you guys gather eggs and smoke the bees and see if you can find the queen. On second thought, maybe you should wait until you've really decided about children. Mine can have, um, effects on that decision. Both good and bad, I hasten to add. For instance, if you saw this:

You might think you wanted a lot. Since our wonderful friend came over and taught her, I figured I was set for yarn for the rest of my life. She started asking about planting a dyer's
garden. But then Andrew went away, and many tears were shed. Do any of you know how to avoid over-twisting the roving before it gets pulled onto the flyer? We're ruining gobs of fiber trying to learn how to draft and hold it and ye gods it's frustrating. And you can so stop snickering, Jen, it is too really hard. I'm still in awe of Those Who Can.

And anyhow, after a day of doing some work (I teach online college classes) and some kids and some gardening -- mostly battling the evil incarnate Bermuda grass invading every part of my all of 6,000 square foot lot -- and some cleaning and not running, alas, and some knitting ripping, well, I haven't felt like I had much to say. I'm a little better now.

So some garden pics just for fun. Feel free to go elsewhere if you're not thrilled by unusually badly aligned plant closeups!

If you got this far, you can probably guess that I love fancy lettuce (those were Freckles or Amish Speckles, Little Gem Romaine, Red Oak Leaf, and maybe Lollo Rosso -- I lose track, but they're tasty), that we're going to have tomatoes soon, that if Thing 2 doesn't eat them all before they ripen, we may get one plum and some raspberries, and the chickens are wondering about when the grapes will come due.

So now I'm thinking about Yarnmonkey's Knitting World Cup, since soccer rules supreme here, and what I'm going to knit. I do know one thing.

No yarn overs.

Added later: It appears I've been channeling the good folks at Rowan. Look at this! Seed stitch borders? Check. Flower embellishment? Check. Adorable baby girl? Check. Either great minds, you know, or I'm susceptible to some forces out in the universe that guide pattern choices. I've not seen this picture before tonight. Weird.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Dark Side Beckons

Anyone (who hasn't heard me rave about this in person yet) know what this is?

Somewhere, as Thing 1 would say if she knew the story, there is a portrait of me in Birkenstocks, carrying a milking bucket away from my solar-powered dairy toward my kichen-which-has-no-plastic-products. She stood in the kitchen today, and said, "So, we are now raising bees, chickens, you knit, you make our bread and now. . . you're making yogurt?"

Yessiree bob, I am. And despite my Happy/Crazed Homesteader streak, I'm not making this because it's harder than buying it, oh, no. Somewhat like the polenta for lasagne noodles [I just typed "needles" -- I should clearly be knitting], it's really a trick to not run out of things.

One of our horrible local papers, the kind they keep throwing on your driveway even though you don't subscribe, and use words like "parakeet cage lining" and "execrable editing" to salespeople who call, actually ran an article on homemade yogurt.

They said it was easy. Since we consume about 4 quarts of maple yogurt a week with granola, it can add up. I figured giving it a try seemed reasonable.

So, I simmered a quart of whole organic milk into which I'd stirred in a bit of powdered milk for a few minutes, let it cool to 115 farenheit, stirred in a half cup of plain yogurt with active starter cultures that I'd tempered with some of the hot milk, covered it with plastic wrap, and stuck it in my oven for about 6 hours.

Ha. Yogurt. Who'd'a thunk it? Although when I factor in the cost of the real maple syrup I indulge my children with, it's probably not any cheaper. At least I won't have a jillion plastic quart containers clogging up my kitchen.

I have almost no knitting progress to show. I can't knit on the clockwork vest when I'm tired or distracted, so that means. . . never. The brownish sweater is bopping along nicely.

Later, more garden pictures. It's truly lovely right now.

Thing 2's soccer team got squashed last week. There's always one team, right? When my spouse was cheering up his players by saying, "It's not about winning, it's about enjoying yourself and playing well!" the other team had a parent who felt moved to chime in, "Yes it is all about winning." Tomorrow, they play Suzee's team. They're all new to the game, so it should be a very different Sunday.

So there, I guess.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

My faith in the post office was rewarded. Pancake Goddess got the package I sent last week, with some knitted thingies for her fourth baby boy. In a completely stunning development, the gifts arrived before the baby. This isn't my usual m.o.

Fortunately, she agrees with me that it's the thought that counts, so is overlooking the -- well, the less-able bits of the presents. A teensy stripy sweater:

Since the babe is going to show up in summer, I went with cotton. This is Foxfire organic cotton, courtesy of a long-ago birthday gift from my sister. I figured it will fit him for about 15 minutes max, anyhow, so a light sweater is the way to go.

Along with the sweater, I broke a personal taboo and knit a little stuffed creature. It began with bunny intentions but sort of . . . well, morphed. After trying to make old cotton diapers into stuffing (trust me, don't. I wont', next time), knitting ears seemed like more than I could face. I thought "bear" for a few minutes (bears have much smaller ears than rabbits, I thought). After I noodled around for a moment, trying to minimize the buttockness of the back, my entire family agreed.

It's Squirrel Nutkin.

So, now I'm going to distract Jen specifically by posting garden pictures. For some reason, it cheers me immensely to think of her shaking bangles among my peas. I even saw some of the exotic basils peeking out of our exotic garden mulch of begged/borrowed/stolen grass clippings. The neighborhood gardening crews see us coming and start setting them aside.

You might notice that the little proto-plum has what look suspiciously like fingerprints on it. Hmmmmm.

On the needles now? The eternal orange vest. Now that I'm back to reminding myself that charts read in two directions, it's going much faster and I have hopes of doing more than two rows in the upcoming week. Because I can't knit on that and think at all, I started the "Cabaret Raglan" from the Summer 2004 Interweave Knits. You can see someone else's version here. I believe (without conclusive evidence) that I have enough of that tobacco-colored Foxfire yarn to make the whole thing. We'll see. I also realize that it contains eyelets, whch are not my friends. I'm knitting the front with them first, so I can relax into the miles of stockinette afterwards.

And the girls want matching cotton tank tops, out of Sugar'n'Cream. Apparently, they have caught the Mason-Dixon knitting bug without me even reading the book. I'll be busy.

Oh, and for Mother's Day? Besides the adorable cards and breakfast orchestrated by Thing 1, Thing 2 announced that she's going to make sure that her (three on three, no goalie, under-6) soccer team wins.

I'll be so proud.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over. . .

I've finished what I was working on but can't post pictures yet. So, on to other things.

Today, Mack got his stitches out, which was a good thing considering the state of his bandage.

He had started looking like a cast member for "Les Miserables." And the vet told us that his mass was. . . a wart. No, really, she used the word "papilloma," which besides sounding like "butterfly" in French, and "dove" in Spanish, is just fancy, give-me-$1500-dollars-pronto-speak for "wart." So, besides the worry and the fact that he's still gnawing at his leg, everything is super, dog-wise.

He chased tennis balls today, much to the delight of the little ones. Thank you again to everyone who sent good thoughts. Now I can get back to raving about his food-stealing and shedding.

Once I packaged up what I had been knitting, my thoughts returned to the list of unfinished goodies on needles. Thing 1 reminded me that she "needed" another sweater, as she was certain to outgrow the green wool one by next winter. She has suggested that me ripping out the bottom and re-knitting a longer rib onto it might buy me some time, but I'd rather vacuum up dog hair than do that. She also wants a hat made out of the green wool (cleverly left over by me making the sweater too small) and I could probably accomodate that wish sometime soon.

But another wool sweater for a growing child? I don't think I'm up for that right now. I actually think I had better make a spreadsheet detailing what I've knit for whom among the short set, so that I can prove who really is next in line. It's flattering, in a way, to have the eternal sibling rivalry about who gets what and how unfair it is played out over my handknits, but sheesh.

Instead, I figured I'd unearth the orange vest from way back when. I located the book with almost no difficulty -- funny how putting things back in place helps with that, huh? -- and sat down to reread the pattern. After all the shenanigans the last time I'd attempted it, I had made helpful notes under the cable patterns in the book, so that cable A was annotated "blue markers," while cable B boasted "black markers."

So far, so good. I unrolled all 112 or so stitches on the needles, and got my first shock. This vest has been sitting quietly in my sock basket in my closet since February. In that time, only once have the middle Things been caught messing about in there, looking for spare change fallen out of my pockets. Hey, gumball addicts will stoop to almost anything. I don't think there has been anyone else in there.

So where did all my knitting go? I'm on Row 20 of a much larger pattern. Didn't all that knitting, ripping, and re-knitting mean anything? Apparently not. Row 20 it is.

I took a deep breath, found the markers and arranged myself. I realized I'd have to relearn the symbols on the chart so it would go faster, and I lined up the markers.


It's apparently not going to go any faster. This is the first thing I noticed, in the first cable:

I'm going to relearn the chart symbols by ripping out and re-knitting chart A for starters.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Comment O-Rama

Thank everyone and anyone who comments. While I started this blog to do some self-pushing, I'm not afraid to admit that I'm a total comment junkie. I love me those comments. Of course, everyone who has commented has been so nice, it's been easy to love them. When you guys start telling me that you hate what I do or that I'm being cruel to bees, it might be a tad more difficult to be gracious.

That said, I'm going way back and gathering comments:

The bees continue to fascinate me. When I looked at the frames last week, I didn't see any eggs or capped cells (which is what they do to grow babies). So I'm not sure what's going on. Suzee doesn't want honey (which is nice because we use a TON in our homemade granola), Rain said that chalk would stop the ants, and Suzee said to try cans of water. I ended up using a product called Tanglefoot, which is a horribly sticky barrier product. After a few commando-crawl raids where I snuck up to the hive from below and behind to spread it over the teensy spots the ants had discovered, we have finally achieved ant-free hiving!

B over at BritKnit admits to a woeful lack of bee knowlege! The queen lives about four years. After that in the wild, the worker bees grow up a new queen by feeding a regular egg "royal jelly" and either swarm out or stay home. Also, if a hive gets too crowded -- those queens can lay a LOT of eggs per day -- the workers can grow a new queen and some leave. I think that's how I got my hive.

Oh, for bfmoma, the rose on Thing4's sweater is just a plain ol'rose from Nicky Epstein's Knitting Over the Edge. I tried to make a felted violet, but couldn't do it to my satisfaction. Anyone know how to make a felted violet?

Good Dog Mack continues to do well. The vet saw him again and said his sutures were mildly infected, and they're concerned because it's a bone. So more antibiotics (and another bag stuffed with cash to the vet -- ouch!) and a head collar to keep him from worrying his wrap so much. He doesn't seem to be in pain at all. Maybe it itches.

Sharon, Suzees mom, is right. Mack may look like Cassie, but he is so not like her. In fact, Suzee told me once never to get another lab assming it would be like Mack. Dar is right -- Keith isn't like Mack. I don't know many dogs who are. He's preternaturally calm. Jen is right, he has a lovely face. I used to think he was probably reincarnated from some really attractive, muscular guy who had achieved some kind of Zen master status. It may be true, for all I know.

Sarah sweetly asked what effect this was having on me. To be honest, the week before surgery, when we thought it was probably cancer that had spread, was bad. The adults were having lots of talks about how to deal with the kids, and how hard it was going to be for all of us. While I fantasize (daily) about life without dog hair, I really want him around. After the surgery, things were much better because there wasn't evidence of rampanct cancer. Just regular healing.

Allison cheered me on for running -- we ran again today! What videos do you like best? I'm thinking that I need to do some things on my non-running days. I just got a snazzy pair of yoga pants. . .

Emma is so clearly going to have ten pets the minute she gets out of her apartment. . . Houses are nice, but wait until we start having the thousands of dollars of work done on this house that it needs. Apartment living might seem attractive in comparison. Meredith is using the tired excuse that children take up her journaling time. Ha! Well, if it's any consolation, Thing 1 has a much more extensive set of journals written about her than Thing 4.

Amy noticed that Thing 4 is very, uh, bright, in the last post. It's a new outfit from my mom for her. Every six months or so, she whips out double-thickness flannel pants for each of our kids. They practically live in them, and they enjoy choosing matching or contrasting fabrics so they can alter their look by turning their pants inside out. Mom didn't think she wanted to make teensy pants, so a clown suit. When the little one is walking (any day now) I think I'll ask again for pants. Mmmmmm. Warm and comfy flannel pants.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Low Tech pleasures

In the age of rapid communication, digital everything, and instant gratification, whether it's microwave pancakes (for pity's sake) to click and ship ordering, it's good for me to focus on the slow and complex parts of life. Maybe that's why I garden. I did a search the other night for some Lisianthus seeds (also called Texas Bluebells, I think). I've only been able to find plants. When I found a seed source, I was so grateful I may have ordered a few more things:

Of course, after the order came I did some searching online, and discovered that Lisianthus takes about six months from planting-- during which they have a low germination rate, require both light and moisture -- to blooming. Maybe that's why people buy plants. Fortunately, I still love gardening, although I may wait until fall to start those Lisianthus.

That got me thinking about some of the other things I do that are probably lower on the technology-input level. I started blogging to push me to finish projects, and to have a place to blather on about knitting. The finishing projects part is helping -- for some reason, I've become tremendously committed to finishing the dratted pain project on the needles before starting a new one. I guess I figure if I'm knitting, I need to be finishing them. So far, it's working okay, but I can't post pictures because I'm working on a surprise project.

Outside of the blog, though, I want a record of my projects that will outlast me, and perhaps outlast them. Backstory? My mother made loads of clothes for me. While not all were hits -- the vinyl jumper that made swinging my body around the bar completely impossible comes to mind -- many were pretty nice. Do I have a record of these lovingly made dresses? Nope, not one. They may be in varying photographs, but I don't know anything about them.

When Thing 1 was little, it was tough finding clothing to fit her, because while she kept growing taller, she got not a bit bigger around. I finally took a basic dress pattern, modified it, and made roughly one billion little girl dresses. I don't think I have pictures of each of these, although they're in a box somewhere. They didn't all fit Thing 2, because the girls are built differently.

But the principle is the same -- I don't know why I chose what I did for the dresses, nor if they were made for a special occasion. I didn't write it down, and I have a brain like a sieve. My mother had many doll dresses made for her by an aunt, and she has no record of them, nor does she have them.

I determined that my knitting was going to have a different fate. I may be taking my work overly seriously, but right now, knitting and raising my children are my work, no matter how underpaid. I may not be a famous designer, or even a very skilled knitter, but I'm the only knitting mama my children have, and I want them to take it seriously.

I started a knitting journal:

On each page is a swatch or bit of the yarn, a label, and hopefully a picture of the project or a picture of it being worn. Here's one of a baby set that's already been half-felted:

The notes are the real meat of it -- why the object was made, hopefully when it was made, for whom or what occasion, and any funny things about it. If more than one child wears it, I try to get a picture of them all in it. Even when the item is made to give away, like my first finished quilt:

I have a record of it. Now that my mom is sewing for my kids, I'm trying to take pictures of them and note it in my photo album. Losing our mothers' work through forgetting has to stop somewhere.

P.S. Tomorrow, I promise, I'm going to have a comment-fest and answer everything anyone has asked and finally say thank you specifically.