Friday, March 31, 2006

Sing out, WIP it out

Rain, rain, rain, but the homeschoolers still get together to play and knit. We really know how to have fun while the children romp out some of that energy. Here's two of my friends discussing important things while knitting.

One project is a felted iris, the other a hat to match seven or eight others she's churned out for kids in the group. Thing 2 has her very own, in pink and purple.

The phone rang late last night, and a friend from the homeschooling group identified herself.

"You do remember that you have tickets for 10:30 tomorrow morning, right?" she asked.

"Uuuuuhhhh, no. Just how many tickets do I have?" I asked. I was panicking because I hadn't made any childcare arrangements.


"Does Thing 4 need a ticket?"


"Well, in that case, I do remember, of course I do. We'll be there!"

So, we drove through some miserable weather to go here:

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is still an amazing show. A good time was had by nearly everyone, despite the hordes of screaming schoolchildren. We are fortunate in that we can take advantage of special school concerts without the attendant riding on busses or dealing with other peoples' children. Our adult-child ratio for outings hovers near 1:1.5. (My family skews this a bit, but we're talking average here.)

And, while they're not done, the sleeves did get to go and participate:

Sorry for the rotten picture. I was trying to avoid detection. These puppies have a rhythm all their own (knit, purl, knit, purl . . .) and despite all evidence to the contrary I maintain that I'm going to finish them one day.

In that spirit, here's my WIP it out group. It's not half as bad as I'd expected. Maybe I'm good at frogging things that aren't working, or maybe I've been finishing more than I had thought. On the other hand, I'm finding out where some of my needles and notions have disappeared to:

These are the ones I call "The Anniversary Socks." Once, long ago (two or so children ago, if I recall correctly), my husband and I got away for a weekend, with the help of my relatives. We went to Saint Helena, and spent a night at a winery/inn. The next day, we shopped after breakfast and fell into a yarn store. Since he doesn't want anything wool, I found a some cotton mix sock yarn, and decided to try. I don't think he'll eventually like them, but he'll give it a decent effort. If he doesn't like them, I'll get them. (Maybe that's why I'm making them a tad small.) They remind me of candy, and I think this is my effort at 2 socks at one time.

I started this sweater, the Under the Sea Pullover, when Thing 2 was a wee babe. I got the kit at my first Stitches West, when they still had it at the Oakland Convention Center. I loved the look of this sweater; I still do. Last May, almost a year ago, I decided I'd finish them on a family vacation. So I tore into the sleeve. After finishing one and beginning another one, I discovered I'd used the wrong white yarn to do the little arm checks on the first. Took all of the wind right out of my sails. With a bit of perspective now, I think I may complete the second one soon and then decide if I should rip out the first one. At least one Thing ought to be able to wear it!

Once upon a time, about the end of the first year of knitting, I decided that I was ready for "some color work." This is Vail, Dale of Norway's 1999 commemorative sweater. I changed the pattern so I could do it in the round, got to the color work and for some reason flamed out. Now I'm not 100% sure I want it, but I'm not ready to frog and steam it yet.

The floats aren't a thing of beauty (I don't think I knew about consistency in stranding yet), but they're not the train wreck they could have been.

I am not actually counting the that mate to the missing yellow sock or the orange vest, which has gone off on its own again. I'm not sure where I should look this time. I'm sure I'll find it when I'm ready to work on it. Trust me, it's not any bigger than it was the last time I lost it.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I promised you sleeves

So I've been wondering what they do with all their knitting. You know, the folks who can knit more than about 2 rows per day? Do they have sweaters spilling out of every bureau? Do they gift total strangers with knitted throws, gloves, and hats? Socks for their dogs? Do they inundate charities? Focus on fiddly heirloom knitting? Just have more freaking finished objects than I do?

I'm back at the needles after the Week Where Most Of Them Got Disgustingly Sick. I've done more laundry, wiped more floors, and changed more clothes (and diapers) than I want to even think about. I think it's gone now, though, that horrid something stalking my family's digestive systems. Knock wood, I never got it. I did manage to finish the back of the sweater, which made me cheery in the face of sick kids. Here it is, unblocked. It's less lumpy and curvy now.
Even more excitingly at the time, I used my kitchen scale to turn the one remaining ball into two cakes-for-sleeves: the same weight, wound by different helpers children and one is much tighter. I'm going to have plenty of yarn.

Speaking of cakes, today is actually my birthday. Whoopie! I managed to spend it running around like a whirlwind -- kids to houses for play dates, grocery shopping (to the exciting store far away, then to the regular store in town), back to get the kids, taking Thing 1 to the fencing club. By celebration time, I just wanted to crawl under the table and rest.

How could I, though. See this?
It's not a jumble of dirt-colored food, no, it's a made to order by my kids (mostly Thing 1) ice cream cake. Coffee ice cream and chocolate cookies, topped with more cookies and pecans. The way to this mama's heart, I tell you. And the little packet is a "made all by myself" gift from my dear Thing 2. She drew bunnies on the wrapping, but even better, had an argument with them while she was drawing them. "Be quiet!" "No, we won't!" "Be quiet!" "No!" Makes me wonder if that's how I sound to her.

And that's not all. This, from my spouse,

is enough to make my heart go pitter-pat. It's a real-life adjustible light stand! He geekily made a spreadsheet to calculate the lowest cost per lighted square inch, including tax and shipping. My vegetables and flowers don't care about that, and they are as happy as I've ever seen them. I have fantasies of starting seeds and selling them at the farmers' market, just because I can. Do you think my friends will start to avoid me if I begin to sidle up to them and say, "Hey, take just one more lemon cucumber plant. I've started so many. . ."

During the cake devouring, Thing 2 asked about the "flag salute." (We've been reading a lot of Beverly Cleary aloud -- comfort fiction for the six year old set.) Since I demonstrated conclusively that years of schooling hadn't taught me the salute, hilarity reigned. We segued into the national anthem, which gave me a perfect opportunity to sing aloud, something I inflict on my family as much as possible. Then we talked about the strategic significance of "striking the colors," and I suggested that maybe a flag could be taken down for reasons other than surrender. My spouse suggested that I was demonstrating a sex-linked ineptitude for military leadership. "Oh, my, take down that flag before it gets holes in it!" were, I think, his exact words. I said something about knitting the flag, and he was off.

"'How many stars? Damn! This stripe has seven rows, that one has nine! Why can't I keep this straight?' If you were Betsy Ross, Washington would have been accepting Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown before you had the flag off your needles. They would have been using underwear on sticks."

So, he knows me and my kntting fairly well. (And he gives great present, so we'll ignore his harassment.) This is a long way around to saying that the sleeves aren't actually finished. They're, well, barely started. Back to that revolutionary flag-knitting stuff, and the opening rant to this post, I knit on them more than it appears. It's sort of like hiking with a dog: you both go from A to B, but the dog goes a significantly longer distance. Great. I've just confessed in public that I knit like a dog hikes.

I do like to have it "right," although I'm willing to bag projects, as the infamous Olympic lace attests. So, as you can see in this picture,
if you squint really hard, the cable on the left displays the original plan, which was seed stitch all the way up to the cable. I'd finish things more quickly if I didn't try to reinvent every wheel. There's a reason that cables are on grounds of reverse stockinette stitch -- they look better. (Insert sound of me smacking head.) The right cable displays that option -- option Should Have Done It This Way First. I changed them both. I also used the same cable that's going up the middle of the back. I couldn't find a small, leaf-shaped cable that I liked to put up the sleeves. Thing 1 said, rather pissily, "So it's going to be more of a wave-cabled sweater than a leaf cabled sweater."


Are you hypnotized yet by a yarny closeup?

So I changed the cables by dropping all of the stitches down and redoing them. I was close enough to the start -- insert hysterical laughter here, I can't get these much past the start, no matter what I do -- that it was easy doing it that way. I like the result. And hey! I got to knit without altering the finished size of the object one iota! Apparently, that's my new goal.

I'm hoping to actually have a pair of finished sleeves by tomorrow. I'm not, however, going to tell my spouse that.

P.S. When I'm knitting something like the sleeves, since I'm the total ADD knitter, I write out a list of the row numbers, 1-90 or so, and mark increase rows with asterisks. Notice I always try to knit sleeves, cardi fronts, etc. at the same time? That helps with the no-brain-required part. So, I can read if I look at my list, say, "I'm on row 15, it's a wrong side row, I'm starting with a knit stitch, now, seed stitch, hmmmm, knit, purl, knit, purl. . .oh, a marker, purl purl knit, back of cable, purl purl purl purl, knit knit purl, marker, seed stitch starting with a purl this time. . ." and so on. The inner dialogue makes enough room for some reading, either aloud, like I did today for the reptile-lovers (did you know that Komodo dragons have a "third eye" on top of their head? Neither did I!) or to myself, as long as it's a magazine article or relatively escapist fiction. And that's how I knit and read, at least right now.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fitting end to Winter

Well, it's lunchtime and I've been awake for eight hours already. Thing 3 is having the kind of stomach disturbances that non-parents don't even want to hear about, and parents don't want to recall. Big sister walked with the dog to the local minimart to buy some soda pop for him, and he's sleeping on either the floor of the bathroom or my bed, depending on what feels best.

Thing 4 just dialed 911 (emergency, for those of you not familiar with the U.S. system) for the second time. For the record, it's not on speed dial. She dials the three digits somehow. Now all of the children have done that, at least once -- most more than once. It's protocol in our town for a cruiser to be dispatched so I can show myself and the children and prove that we weren't forced to hang up by some crazed person. Pity the officers; it's raining very hard.

No pictures of the Green Meanie today. I'm two rows away from the neck shaping on the back, and I've just noticed one of those subtle cable errors that makes me stone crazy. The intended recipient said it didn't bother her, but the more I looked at it, the more I could hear it muttering at me, so out it goes. I may redo the other cable, the one that has a one row error in it, just to make myself feel better.

Next time, sleeves, I promise. Now the police are here. Gotta go!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fits and Starts

Most of my accomplishements, day-to-day, are transitory and eminently reversible. Vacuumed floor? Doesn't last. Folded laundry? Look in the basket for the next load. Books read to children? That "lasts," in a sense, but they always ask for more.

Maybe that's why I knit. I make things -- albeit painfully and slowly, with many re-dos, but I make things that last. As I was knitting last night, I remembered how much I love the feel of yarn slipping through my fingers, pulling out another length and watching it loop into more rows of fabric. I told myself, not for the first time, "I love this. Why don't I do it more often?" And that's the way it goes. Days and days where the closest I get to knitting is to move my pile of stuff so I can vacuum or dust near it, and then a few very productive days.

It probably shouldn't be such a pleasant surprise that the front of the green sweater blocked out to exactly the dimensions I'd planned, but it did. I wish this yarn wasn't so anonymous, because it feels wonderful. A perfect hand for a classic sweater, and I love the color. I want more, more, I tell you! Confession is good for the soul, they say, so last night I told my spouse that the real reason I want to knit faster isn't just to shower the people I love with knitted goodness, it's so I can buy more yarn. Knit more, buy more. Seems logical to me.

Per the name of this blog, I love to read, certainly I do, and I do it at every opportunity. Lately, much of my reading time has taken place in front of the laptop, blog addiction being the terrible affliction that it is (Bloggers Anonymous, here I come).

I do, however, engage in the delicious pastime of reading to children. Thing 3 has been specializing in Where the Wild Things Are lately (guess why a four year old boy would love this book), and Thing 2 has been listening avidly to Black Beauty, even though I've warned her that I always cry near the end. My life has been enriched marvelously by having a daughter who loves to read as much as I do, and if I ask nicely, she'll read from Pride and Prejudice out loud to me. Talk about payback of the very nicest sort!

But I am even more blessed. My spouse will read out loud to me at night. Lately, we've been going through the Discworld novels in order, because everyone needs some light diversion in their lives. So when the children are tucked in, we settle down in bed (remember, our house is cold enough to keep food fresh when left out on counters) and begin to read.

When I'm really fortunate, I have a knitting project that doesn't require all of my attention, just enough to keep me interested while I let my mind rove over the story unwinding in that much-loved voice. If the pattern is too complex, I end up asking things like, "Who did that?" and he gets annoyed, rightly enough.

Last night was a good one. We're at the end of the "Death" series, and I am enjoying Pratchett's musings on education, human nature, and the general silliness of the stories. I'm also liking what I've got on the needles:

Since today is homeschool park day, I have high hopes of at least getting to the armhole shaping. The ball of yarn is getting suspiciously smaller. I may have to wind it in half before I start the sleeves, just for insurance.

But that's a worry for another day. Today, I'm going to just knit in the moment. Based on everything I know, that moment won't last, so I might as well enjoy it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Wool Dreams

My dream life is active and, er, somewhat bizarre.

This morning I woke from dreaming that I had a yarn shop and only I knew about the big closeout sale. All yarn was $1US a skein. Whoopie!! I bought a shopping cart full. I could even recognize one of the yarns I chose if I saw it now. Even in my dream, I found the salesclerks weirdly pushy about sock yarn. "Don't you want sock yarn? Here, buy this skein. It makes a feathery top on your sock! Buy some sock yarn -- no one can have too much. Here's cashmere sock yarn!" I caved and bought some sock yarn.

Then, while I was trying to pay, my cart rolled into the street and was hit by a car! Yarn everywhere! My reaction? I was embarassed.

And then I had to go and pick up all of the yarn. It wasn't much damaged, and people were very helpful.

Next, either I or my spouse or my eldest child had enlisted in some branch of the New Zealand military. Cute uniform and all. And what was the new recruit's first task? Why, to learn to spin, of course.

What that says about my priorities or my thoughts about New Zealand are best left to dream analysts, I suppose.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Arrrrrrrrr. . .

. . . which is the punchline to my current favorite joke, or "What kind of movies do pirates like?"

Sewingsuzee asks where I've been, and no, I haven't been trying to protect my seedlings from frost (it was 41 degrees farenheit in the house last night -- woo hoo), but I have begun to protect them from birds, with the expensive netting I mentioned earlier. We actually saw the dastardly sparrows hopping around the ex-pea bed.

But the reason I haven't been posting is that I've been knitting frantically. And the good news is that I made this:

See the pretty eyelet leaf pattern? See the wavy side cables? Pretty yarn.

Here's the not-so-good news. Can you spot the reason I'm going to rip this cable down for the second freaking time? I can!

It's supposed to reverse directions every 20 rows, not whenever I misread said directions. Hence the pirate noise. I cannot understand how I can repeatedly make this sort of mistake.

The really good news is that the front, as knitted, weighs 88 grams according to my scale, and the rest of the ball weighs 339 grams. Probably enough to make a real, long-sleeved sweater.

Assuming that I can figure out the cable patterns. I might be done by September.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Making Way and Odds and Ends

Well, I managed to make what for me is significant progress on that lovely lovely green sweater. So far, the design is pleasing and I think it will be flattering when done. I'm enjoying the yarn so much. It's springy, not splitty, moves nicely over the needles and please please oh please will be enough for one entire sweater.

The intended recipient just had a big day. Not only did she turn 11, but her Destination Imagination team took first place in their category on her actual birthday, and now we get to go to the state competition and see them do it again. It was neat watching them go from being apprehensive about the whole process to really enjoying strutting their stuff.

This is a ring into which you place the same number of candles as the child is turning on their birthday. Any remaining spaces are filled with the wee little woodland folk. I think the idea is that the amount of light increases as they get older. I can't believe that in a mere year, all of her candles will be lit. We spent dinner on the birthday night coming up with wishes for her next year. Party this weekend. Fortunately, she has wonderful friends and it will be a pleasure to see them and their families for a little get-together.

I'm cleaning the house a lot, both for the party and because my parents are coming to visit. Fun and stressful all at once. The invasion of the Middle Ages Men isn't helping one little bit.

Doesn't he look fierce? Tonight, he and his sister spent about 30 minutes "styling" each other's hair. With the vacuum cleaner. It was one of the most delightful funny things they've come up with, and they didn't make any messes. A miracle.

Duct tape is my best friend. An entire case of it, in different colors, would be about the best present any parent could wish for. And no, not to do things like taping them into bed, either. You can make entire outfits out of it. If I had enough, I'd make armor for them.

I've gotten about half of the garden swathed in bird netting. Not much fun in a brisk wind, holding a baby, but we'll see if the perpetrators can get through what I rigged up. If it's birds, probably not; if it's a squirrel, well, we'll see. It should keep the neighbors' cats from using the beds as luxury litter boxes, too.

I know it's spring because we had a visitor in the basement.
This picture is after I carried the formerly-trapped one outside. Haven't seen him or her since. Anyone care to identify it for me? Figure out how it got inside my basement?

Knitting? You want knitting?
As I said, I ripped down and redid the 15-18 rows of messed up cable. For me, this is a big deal. I'm an averagely competent knitter, but also quite able to make pretty large errors. Instead of compounding my problems here, causing many rows to be ripped, I got the cable to wave nicely like the other one (in mirror image, of course). Then I marked up the pattern very clearly so I could read the cable pattern as though it were two separate cables.

Now I need to take some more measurements for sleeve placement, since tonight we decided that saddle shoulders would fit the planned leaf insert on the sleeves better than any other kind. I'm not completely certain I'm up for it, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess.

Tomorrow I'll find better bull riding links. Yee haw.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Knittin' and Rippin'

Because at this point I'd rather blog than knit, here I am. I have been knittin' and rippin' the same 15-20 rows of this sweater for, oh, now three, four days? I think I am at the point where I'm goin' to have to either chart out the wavin' cable or rewrite it as Cable A and Cable B because I'm messin' it up in new ways over and over and over.

Needless to say, no pictures. I'm feelin' Very Grumpy.

Plus, it's raining. I spent $100 freakin' dollars at Home Depot buyin' bird nettin' and PVC pipe to keep the horrid little birdies from beheadin' every single seedling that has the temerity to pop its head up in the garden.

Why no "g"s today? Because of my new guilty pleasure: professional bull riding. My spouse stumbled on it the other night and I've been completely hooked. Rob Smets injured? I know about it. I'm learnin' the names of the top bulls -- how can anyone not feel interested in giant animals with names like Cat Man Do, Yellow Jacket, Pasture Master, and Spin Doctor? Tiny 18 year old cowboys who get spun across arenas in front of shriekin' fans, men who in their mid-30s should know better, limpin' away from just one more ride. Horribly addictin'.

Oddly enough, I'm a bleedin' heart liberal from way back. Hug trees, don't eat meat, etc. etc. But somethin' about this. . . I'm just lost. Maybe when I work out the twists on my cables, I can work out the kinks in my tv viewin'.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Sweet Days

Every once in a while, a family member or friend will reveal some heretofore unsuspected side to them. For instance, my spouse told me once that he actually liked -- to the point that he wanted one -- the '69 Camaro SS396. Muscle cars weren't anything that I expected from him, and it kind of made him even more attractive -- he could suprise me still.

Today (I hope) I suprised my middle children by fashioning a full set of armor, shield, helm, and sword out of cardboard and duct tape. [I have pictures but have misplace my camera cord. I'm not feeling overly organized right now.]

My spouse says my newfound interest in professional bull riding surprises him. Truth be told, it surprises me a bit, too. Generally I watch no television. I'm just too busy and usually have better things to do. The other night, though, we stumbled across some on the "Outdoor Living Network"