Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne...

So it's December 31. All the folks I know electronically have begun wishing Happy New Year to all.

I'm stuck in my office. Ok, it's my home office, but stuck nonetheless. And it's sort of of my own making, on two counts.

First, we gave in to Kid #2's request to record a Marx Brothers marathon. Yes. At least SEVEN movies. In a row. With our set-up, the things have to be on the TV to get the DVR thingie to work. I like the Marx Bros. In small doses. This started last night and it goes through the day. So this has given me incentive in another way.

Second, I'm plowing through my office. It's nearly clear on the floor, enough to have Tippi's bed there by the CD rack and for me to really roll out the yoga mat or set up the meditation cushion.

Third, Hubby is helping his mom with her computer (long distance) and also Skype-ing with his sisters. I'm very quiet; I don't even knit loudly. But I figure I can tune all this stuff out and I can have my own "mini-me day" where I don't have to be sociable - looks like I'm being productive, which I am. But I'm also out of the conversation. Mind you, I like about 90% of my in-laws (he has a HUGE family), but I just need a "re-charge" day and I've got a guitar jazz CD on the player here, there's a candle lit on my meditation altar and it's nice and quiet back here.

I have one more shelf (the goal I set for myself) and a small table to clean off, and I'll dust the altar. Then I can reward myself with knitting. I have stuff for Hubby to take downstairs and he fixed the ancient shredder, giving us probably a month or two before it completely gives up the ghost.

I have all the "stuff" piled in one corner. And it's a small-ish pile. The bags I use for music, the Zonta stuff I carry to meetings, my Free Clinic bag (I'm the secretary of the board; I do minutes on my laptop). And of course yarn bags. At some point, we'll go through this closet again and purge. Then, most of it should fit inside.

As far as goals and resolutions? I set them, but I find the process to have somewhat of a "here's another shot at this" kind of thing, and I need to be a little more serious.

First goal: Whittle down the WIP pile, both in knitting and counted-cross stitch. I'd like to finally get my mother's cross-stitch angel off my plate.

Second goal: Lose weight. Seriously, I got "the talk" from the doctor. And I'm tired of feeling the way I do. I need to lose about 35 lbs. (for a start) and then see what I feel like. I want to consider being a yoga teacher, and I really don't want to be "the fat yoga teacher" - even though that's not always a barrier. And I need to feel better about myself; all-around, it's a sensible thing to do. So instead of making this "I need to lose 35 pounds" kind of resolution, I will resolve to do the following:

  • Exercise 3 to 5 days a week; shoot for even 10-minute whacks at this.
  • Reinvigorate the meditation practice. Yeah, funny choice of words, but I need to have about 10 minutes to focus. I've got the supplies. I just need to actually DO it.
  • Follow the Weight Watchers plan I've been paying for... It really works when you do it!
  • Talk nice to myself. Plan to fail, and then deal with the inevitable failure. Everyone slips; nobody's perfect. It's how you handle the failure that counts. (See, I'm already trying!)
The Dalai Lama told Ann Curry: A happy life must be built. You must act.  So, essentially: nobody's handing anything to you. Do it yourself, be kind, and go forward.

New Year's Eve is sort of a natural time for reflection; I'm not sure we're genetically programmed for that at this time of year because I've heard some folks say that September is the more logical time - change of seasons, beginning of school year, etc. During this dark-ish time, when winter is actually only about half over, you have to wonder if now is a good time to look inside. Why not spring, when things are being "re-born" courtesy of Mother Nature?

I don't know. But I know I have calendars to change and an office that's just about ready to tackle whatever 2012 brings. So, let me leave you in the last bit of 2011 with my favorite quote. It's from Harriet Tubman (1822 - 1913), the African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, knitter and Union spy during the Civil War. Harriet had great wisdom; I give it to you, from her:

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Keep On Movin'....

OK, for a quick weight loss diet during the holidays, have your deviated septum fixed on December 23.

I guarantee that you'll lose weight. Initially, I'd lost nearly 7 lbs., but then my appetite came back so the net loss is about 5 lbs. Not bad, considering that most people ADD at least 9 lbs. during the holidays.

Of course, I was in extreme pain for about 36 hours, had plastic splints shoved in my nose, had to sleep upright for nearly a week and had to breathe through my mouth.... And the worst was the night I awoke in a state of panic thinking I'd swallowed at least a yard of cotton batting. Which I hadn't, but since I was mouth-breathing, my entire oral cavity was dry as a bone and I couldn't swallow.

On the other hand -- there was that 5 lbs. lost... and not having to deal with crazy relatives over Christmas, since I truly couldn't have made it to any celebrations on the 24th or the 25th.

The post-op migraine was a bear. And no matter what the pharmacist tells you, please do not take your pain med WITH your migraine med. I don't think I'd make a good addict; I was so loopy and out of my normal controlling-type-A behavior that I was feeling like my world was all a-kilter.

My ENT, however, is a total hoot. I guess if you work with "snot" all day, you get a unique perspective. He took the splints out on Wednesday of this week, and while I'm still a little stuffy, it's all healing well, and I don't need him to "power wash" my nose. I can and do use a neti pot, so he's cool with everything. His parting line: "I have patients who'd pay big bucks for a nose like yours; now it's straight INSIDE as well as on the outside!"  OK, I guess that's good!

Knitted Easter Eggs
Drumroll here, please!! The eggs are DONE! I finished the last one yesterday and here's a shot of them. They're a baker's dozen. So the bunnies are done, eggs are done...just waiting on the tree.  I grouped them by the skeins I used, mostly. From the top row left, I did 2 out of a navy blue yarn, emulating the original Pysanky, which are usually finished in a dark color. Next up are the "garnet to grey" with sparkles. At the end of the row is a sock yarn I had intended for hacky sacks, but now I'm itching to knit SOCKS (go figure) with it. It's all blue-to-grey, but there are shots of red and yellow in it - can't wait to see what that looks like in a sock! Can you believe that these 2 eggs were even knit from the same ball of yarn?

Bottom row, left: a dessert-colored yarn; next to that is a red-to-brown, then a yellow-blue-white combo, then the "Easter pastel" - those two are knitted one right after the other, and look at how different they are!

The bottom center is Sonda's hand-dyed. This is a gorgeous superwash merino with a touch of nylon in a yellow-to-orange colorway. After lots of deliberation, I think I'll make socks out of the remainder of this yarn. I hate to "waste" it on my feet, but the color is really not suited for my complexion, and I don't want this just sitting in stash. (Did I just commit knitting heresy??) I want people to see and admire Sonda's work, since this and the periwinkle are the only bits of her hand-dyed I have.

I'm working on the March Baby Blanket... Which I thought was the only one, but I got fantastic news! My friend Janet told me her son and DIL were going to have a baby. The reason I'm so excited? Well, they were told about 2 or 3 years ago that because of several medical conditions, Leona would "never have children." Hmpfh. While they had indeed reconciled themselves, this is certainly a startling and happy bit of news.

So while the March Baby Blanket is going well (a bias knit using double strands of Berroco Comfort), I got some self-patterning yarn for the Summer Baby Blanket. And no, I don't have any idea what I'm going to do. I just know that like the March blanket, this one will NOT be traditional colors!!

The March Baby Blanket is a variation on the "Easy Baby Throw" out of Lion Brand Yarns. I changed the yarn, changed the needle and changed the colors... I'm using yellow, white, teal and cornflower. The yellow and white are the "carrying colors" - I'm doing the following sequence of colors:

Yellow + teal
Yellow + cornflower
White + cornflower
White + teal

And it's a bias pattern, so it's increasing to a set number, then decreasing. The yarn-overs add a touch of "lace" to the pattern, and the non-traditional colors mean that it can be used well beyond "baby" years.

I'll post a shot of the work-in-progress soon. For now, I figured y'all would be as excited as I am that the eggs are "done" and ready to hang.

This is a good harbinger to the new year; lots of projects scheduled and I'm just planning on keeping moving. And I'm also planning NO MORE CHRISTMAS SURGERIES! Though that 5-lb. loss is sooooooo nice...  LOL

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Order out of chaos...

Lots of things are coming together, and some things have ended. Our LYS has closed. That's the sad news; the owner has an inoperable cancer and she's decided that while knitting has been a huge part of her life, she'd rather spend her time with kids, spouse, and grandkids. And I'm actually happy about that.

I love it when people have the ability to determine - inasmuch as any cancer lets you have any control - how they want to spend their days. I appreciate her making a very tough decision, and making it with grace.

So the yarn shop is being sold and will be re-opening with a new owner sometime in early 2012. It will be interesting to see how this works, and what the new owner will do. I hope that the community that was established (a) comes back; and (b) lets her make HER mark on the shop. It would be sad if the knitters had 'founder's disease' and never let this gal make her shop her own.

'Founder's Disease' is an ailment known by its chief symptom: "We've ALWAYS done it this way." So we'll see what this new person makes of the shop and life will go on.

Our yarn community is not "dissolving." It's actually "reconstituting" as people make plans to find other places to knit, gather in different groups, and keep in touch; I'm hoping we do keep in touch, because several of us have become good friends, bound by fiber and love of creating.
"Chocolate" Bunnies
On a good note: The bunnies are DONE!! Here's a shot of them. I took a suggestion from one of my knitter buddies and visited the local Fannie May candy store. I plopped them on the counter and said, "White chocolate, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate. Think I could buy some ribbon?" They loved them. They gave me the ribbon. What do you think?

I ended up with pearlized heart buttons for their fluffy tails, and then shirt buttons for eyes. Since these are not toys, the buttons are only secured enough to stay on when they're sitting on a display. If I had created them for toys, they'd have no eyes - I'd have embroidered them using duplicate stitch.

So, on the last day the shop was open, I asked for a smidgen of yarn that she'd dyed herself for an egg. Yep, I'm on egg #9 and working toward a baker's dozen. This is what I got handed. "If you can find the end, take what you want."

Hand-dyed sock yarn
This is what we'd classify in knitting as a "total disaster" - and it would only be a "total and COMPLETE disaster" if the yarn was a mohair or eyelash or something like roving.

This is about 500 yards of superwash merino sock yarn. Now, the shop hours were 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. I got handed this hot mess at about 1 p.m. I worked on it, since I'm a pig-headed person, from 1 p.m. till 10 p.m. that evening, and then was back at it the next day.

I spent about 16 hours unraveling this mess. I have lived with this ball of yarn. I have grown attached to it. Even though it was handed to me, I will mail my friend a check for the yarn. I believe they thought I wasn't going to do it. It's only because she'll never dye any more yarn that I spent that kind of time with it. It's not even a color that looks good on me. However, I see some sort of shawl or shrug or something in its future. It's too pretty to make into socks that might wear out, though I may do that, too.

Order from chaos
This is what it looked like after I got done with it. Plus the egg.

Once I get the eggs done, Kid #1 is finishing up the tree for the eggs. The bunnies are done. I have to figure out how to display this whole thing; and then I'm done in time to photograph and enter it into our contest.

Along with the order from chaos that was this yarn, I also completed the 2011 Ornaments. As you may remember, I do ornaments for the kids each year. Each kid in the family gets 18 ornaments. This year is the smallest year in decades! Here are those ornaments. Of course, OUR kids still get the ornaments. What? I can't play favorites with my own kids? Be serious!

2011 Ornaments
So it's harder and harder to find these plaster ornaments. I'm going to have to suss out a new supplier, since the local big box craft stores don't have much of a selection. Someone suggested I knit them. Thanks. No.

What I could do is take the remnants from the sock yarn eggs and do little granny squares or small swatches and use those as ornaments! Or knit a verrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyy long I-cord for a garland. OK. I'll calm down.

Just to top off our Christmas, I am again having surgery. I have a very deviated septum - which would explain over 5 years of allergy shots that still leave me unable to breathe through one side of my nose! At any rate, I can now be around your cats without a "croup-like" cough. If you're not old enough to know what "croup" is - please look it up. Hard to explain until you have had one.

Surgery is December 23. My mother says I'll do anything to avoid the crazy relatives on Christmas. Hmmmmmmmmmm. She may have a point!

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Solstice! And I'll hold off on Kwanzaa, since it starts after Christmas, and I may be back to the keyboard by then!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Bye-Bye Blago....

A pseudo-contrite Rod Blagojevich is going away for at least 12 years. I officially "heart" Judge Zagel.

He was direct and unswayed by theatrics.  Bleep-o-vich truly did "destroy the fabric" of the State of Illinois, but he wasn't the only "moth in the wool." (Pardon the knitterly reference there... we all know moths eat wool sweaters when they can.)

Blago is the standard-bearer now. Zagel has had it and if the citizens of Illinois have any working brain cells left, we should cheer this verdict. The members of John Kass' "Combine" - the pols (both R and D) who mangle this state for their own good -- they need to start paying attention because I think this verdict brings the point home: We Illinois folk are tired of being the butt of Jay Leno jokes. We are tired of living in a state where "We are corrupt and happy" should be our state motto. We are sick of politics as usual, but somehow, we can't find any UN-usual politicans to run for office, because they've all been bought and paid for, moreso here than even (gasp!) Washington DC.

Yes, it'll be hard on Patti and the kids. But as Zagel justly pointed out, Rod should've thought about that. However - given the toxic stew that is Illinois politics, Rod probably thought that even though Daddy Mell (Patti's dad) hated Rod, he'd do anything to keep Patti happy and keep the kiddies from being hurt. I don't know the details, but it looks to me like Daddy Mell let Rod swing from the yardarm.

And fine. He should. He trotted Patti and the kiddies out as props and never really was a governor. He was a "work-at-home" dad who probably did very little work. Stepped out only for publicity and "me, me, me" opportunities. And screwed our state to the wall.

Sorry, Rod. That first strip search is a bugger. I hear they get easier after that.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Meandering Monday...

So it's 37 degrees out. It's one of my 14-hour workdays. It's dark outside. I'm not feeling too good - can't be what I ate because I already had food poisoning before Thanksgiving... Probably lack of sleep. Yes, I'm hydrating myself.

Good day for a meandering blog...

1.  I'm working on the Milk Chocolate bunny. He's coming along - I'm forming his ears now. I have heart-shaped buttons for their tails. I'll take a picture when they're all done.

2.  Next are the remaining knitted eggs....I have 5 done; need 7 more - maybe 8 of I can get them in.

3.  Newt is now the best hope for the Republicans. Good grief, I hope Huntsmann stays in the background. If I absolutely had to vote (R), Huntsmann would be my choice. Newtie's old news. Bad old news. The others are all crazy.

4.  I'm leaving for Xmas vacation early so I gave my young male student worker his scarf. He loved it. And he'll need it, as the weather will turn frigid this weekend.

5.  I dropped marinara sauce on my light-blue shirt. And in spite of many applications of Tide Stain Stick, it's not coming out.... Magic eraser my foot!! And yes, I do feel like an idiot, because guess where it landed? Yep. There. The left one. Yeesh.

6.  I have almost all my Xmas cards done. Off in the mail tomorrow. We did a link to our Annual Newsletter this time; saving a tree or two, and if you want to look at it, then do. If you don't? Oh well. You had your chance to see adorable pictures.

7.  When the network gets hold of It's a Wonderful Life and chops the crap out of it with commercials, they also axe some good scenes. So if that's your first experience seeing this film, please rent it from Netflix. And yes, it's cheesy. But it's Christmas. Deal with it.

8.  Can I squeeze 2 pairs of wristers out for the Boys??? They've been asking.

9.  I suppose I ought to, because Kid #2 has done fully half of my Christmas baking for me, for which, yes, I really am grateful.

10.  Yes, both kids can bake. Kid #1 does a mean job of rolling out potica dough. Guess you have to be a fabricator to get it down to the micron in thickness!

11. Yes, I've spent a TON of money at the LYS, since she's closing shop. I figure that the family can use the money, since she's got a terminal illness. And I've got most of it logged in my "stash" on Ravelry. With pictures. My goal might be to get the rest of my stash photographed and on Ravelry. But I might scare myself.  

12. I have a gorgeous project for the red Camelino yarn. And it's killing me to NOT cast on before my vacation and getting those *^&% wristers out of the way!!

13. It's very frustrating when someone sees me knitting and says, "I bet you save a ton of money knitting things yourself." Well....NO. A sweater done in a decent wool blend will cost upwards of $200 and a ball of good sock yarn (makes 1 pair) is around $16 - 20. When was the last time you spent twenty bucks on socks??  However ---- I'm glad they're not looking at me as if I'm wasting time. At least I console myself with the thought that they view knitting as a "productive" thing and not a totally idiotic thing to do.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Whew! One More Done...

Well, almost 2 if you count the wristers I may or may not finish for Kid #1's girlfriend...

I finished the scarf for my male student worker. I don't have the pattern here, but I believe it's called "Cruisin' Altitude." It'll be on my Ravelry page as soon as I can update it. I did it in Encore Chunky, since the pattern called for a "bulky" yarn.

The pattern called for about 300 yards, so I bought 3 skeins of the Encore, knowing I'd have some left over. But all it took was a ball and a bit of the 2nd one for a scarf a bit over 5' long, which according to Hubby and Son #2, is "manly length" for a kid the size of my student worker. A 5-foot scarf wouldn't do for Son #2 at 6' 2", but Jimmy's about 5' 7" and that should fit him fine.

Here's the scarf as a WIP. The Encore Chunky is Color 1444, Chocolate. It's a tweed-ish yarn with flecks of gold and dark blue every once in a while. It makes up nicely, being 75% acrylic and 25% wool. The wool makes the stitches pop and the loft of the yarn is amazing. This is a surprisingly bulky scarf.

I have a 3rd ball left, so I get to make myself a pair of socks with it!! The yarn makes socks on size 7 DPNs (yes, I know you size 1 sock-knitters are thinking, "Good Lord, the woman is knitting on TIMBER!" ); but size 7 works well with this and makes a cozy sock for around the house and with my Birkenstocks.

For what it's worth, I got the pattern on a card in the "back of the store" bin for 99 cents at Hobby Lobby. And it had been sitting with some white acrylic (which I may use for the wrist warmers for The Girlfriend...) with about 2 rows knitted. I pulled that puppy loose, and then figured that this pattern was "manly" enough for Jimmy. Actually, it's a nice pattern for either gender: just adjust your yarn and pick a "girly" color if you want to do this for a girl. Frankly, this would look awesome in a hot pink!

Here's a picture of it all finished. I've beefed up the size so you can see the stitch definition and the blue and gold tones in the yarn.

I can't say enough about Encore, available at your LYS (hopefully) or at www.patternworks.com or through Plymouth Yarn, www.plymouthyarn.com - where at least you can take a look at it. I've used regular Encore and the Chunky and done everything from socks to baby gifts with this. It is easy to knit with; holds a pattern like crazy, as you can see.

And.... it holds up to wear!! It washes well, doesn't pill, and it doesn't feel "too" wooly or "too" acrylic.

So now, what's next on the list? Well, I have my mom's cowl to finish. I did actually DO a pair of wristers out of some "unknown" yarn. My friend Joan handed me two partial-balls and said, "Here, we can't sell them - take them and see what you can do." I have no idea as to content or anything, but it's fine yarn, so I doubled it, did a "purse stitch" and ribbing and made some poufy wristlets. Not quite long enough to go over the thumb, but enough to cover the gap maybe between glove and sleeve, or help with a slightly short sweater. Not sure if I'll give those to The Girlfriend, or if I'll use the white acrylic and do some proper wrist/fingerless glove thingies. Maybe if I work it out right, I can do them with a nice lace pattern down the back of the hand! Or - wowza - a cable!!

That will end up my Christmas knitting unless I stash-bust and find some yarn suitable for wrist warmers for the boys. With those long arms, they can use a little extra help in the winter and they said they'd wear them. We'll see.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sad, Mad and Resigned...

As is normal, I went to my LYS on Friday. I was met by my friend the owner's mom. As y'all may recall, my friend is suffering from cancer.

She had a clear PET scan last month. This month, the 3 tumors are back. They're in her brain.

She's talking to the radiologist, who wants to irradiate her brain, and the oncologist, who says that they can't do that if they want any hope of having any other treatment. Seems the brain is an odd duck. It doesn't like chemo, and it doesn't take well to being irradiated.

My friend's mom informed me that they were closing the shop. In all reality, it's a melanoma that's spread to the brain. Anyone can tell you that a "cure" is beyond hope, unless the Creator has a heck-of-an impulse to perform a miracle on par with the Immaculate Conception.

The store will close at the end of December. I'm sad. I'm sad because there are very few Local Yarn Shops around; the era of the small shopkeeper is waning, and the Big Box "don't know anything except that the yarn is in aisle 3" mega-stores are what we can expect. Except for e-tailers where you can buy the yarn, but you can't touch it beforehand - so you could be buying a pig in a poke, though most of them are good at handling returns and such.

I'm sad because she's my friend. She's a year older than me. That puts so much in perspective.

I'm sad because we're losing a knitting community. She was the glue that kept us together. We may *say* we are going to keep knitting together, but ultimately, where? The shop atmosphere, the yarn, the help when you need it, the kvetching over the "idiotic" knitting patterns that you sometimes see in magazines (Who wears that stuff anyway??? And why does it have to cost $300 for a shrug??), the possibilities - that's what adds the fun dimension to knitting together. Hanging out at each others' homes is impractical. Heck, Hubby works from home - between his work and the dogs we have scattered around, we really have no space for a group of chattering knitters! And I don't think the local coffee shops would like us to sit and knit for 4 or 5 hours; besides, we can't afford their drinks anyway! We spend all our money on yarn.

I'm resigned to finding another shop sometime down the road. I'm hoping to find another community of knitters where I'll fit and where the vibe is good.

And I'll always have my friend. She made me a knitter. Her maxim is "You are only knitting one stitch at a time." That's a good rule in knitting as well as life. One step at a time is advice we can all latch onto, isn't it?

Hug your friends close and tell them what they mean to you. It's important, because often, they don't know till you tell them.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Joe Paterno's Legacy...

...was written the day he didn't call the cops. The day he did nothing. The day he let the report go to the president of Penn State and be diluted to "horsing around."

And the grad assistant??? Please. You had to call your dad? Why? To engineer a cushy deal for yourself, since in essence you never left the "Mother Ship." That grad assistant, as everyone knows, is Mike McQueary. Who is now the Big Cheese. Really.

And the judge who let Jerry Sandusky WALK WITHOUT BAIL? She worked with him on the "Second Mile" charity, which is basically "bait" for low-income kids to feed Sandusky's habit. The judge needs to be disbarred.

McQueary needs to be fired.

Penn State needs to do more than remove Paterno's name from the trophy.

A clean house is necessary. In order for Penn State's football program to get back to its former glory, a clean house is necessary.

That also means taking all those Penn State athletes who said, "Yeah, we knew what was going on but we didn't know what to do," -- and telling them, "What you do is learn to be an adult, and step up, and speak out."

College is where you learn to be an adult. Being an adult means that your moral compass should already point somewhere near "North" and that you know the difference between right and wrong. And that you are capable and willing to speak up when you see wrong.

I would kick my kid's butt down the street if he called me to ask what to do in this situation. And he knows that.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Weapons of Bunny Destruction and Mutant Carrots...

No, really. It does make sense.

Painted Zig Zag Scarf
I had finished my student worker's scarf for Christmas. Now to just figure out what to get for the male student worker!! I don't know if I have time to knit him something, and being as he's not my kid, who'll wear just about anything I knit, I have to be a bit choosy. Here's her scarf: It's the Painted Zig Zag scarf from Lion Brand Yarn, and it's out of my stash, a rogue skein of Homespun in colorway "Windsor." I wrote a review. Here's the Reader's Digest version: Great pattern, sucky yarn.

I used to adore Homespun. Great quality. Glorious colors. Wore like crazy, and didn't "feel" acrylic. Somewhere along the line, the quality dropped. I had gotten skeins where the middle part was "unkinked" and in two separate pieces, requiring a couple of cuts and a knot to get it back together, and a friend said she got a good yard in one skein that was white. Which would've been fine - except her skein was green. In this scarf (which you can't see because I hid it), there's a blob of white. In the middle.

So, now that I can't work on my mom's cowl for a bit due to home-made noodles, (yes, there's a story), I figured I'd put it down for a bit and continue to deconstruct White Chocolate Bunny. See, this is what I'm doing for another 3 or 4 rows. Picking out yarn that's "near-roving" because there's literally no twist in it. So it's felted itself as I've gone along. Urggggggghhhhh! Hence the stork scissors. Gotta nip the fuzzies to get the stitches apart. It's a good thing this is strictly ornamental. I have high hopes for Milk Chocolate Bunny because he's an alpaca blend, so I figure he may give me less trouble. Love the Debbie Stoller yarn here, just frogging it is a pain. At least I have till January. Even though I have to start a baby blanket somewhere in here soon.

And wristers for Kid #1's girlfriend. And wristers for both kids. The ones for Girlfriend will be some sort of chunky yarn...gotta ask Kid #1 what her favorite color is. If I'm lucky, I can do the fingerless mitts for her.

So, the noodle story, and I promise, clarification of "Mutant Carrots." I decided yesterday to make Cabbage and Noodles, which we hadn't had in a while. Except that I forgot the egg noodles at the store. Didn't care to go back. Wanted a day where I wasn't running hither, thither and yon. So I thought, "I have eggs, flour and oil - I can MAKE noodles." Which, by the way, I have done, so I'm not a total nutjob here.

Got my stuff together. Made the dough. Had a slight panic when my "volcano" of eggs and flour over-ran its banks. But I did get the dough to cooperate. Ten minutes of kneading stiff noodle dough counts as an upper-body workout, by the way.

Of course, I do have a pasta maker, a Kitchen Aid mixer AND a food processor. But I also have two hands. And a rolling pin. Several in fact.

I chose wrong. I chose the "French" rolling pin, the birch one with the tapered ends. I love that rolling pin. The birch is a nice warm wood, and it's well-balanced. But I forgot something extremely significant. The screw in my thumb. As I rolled the dough out, the rolling pin came right up against where the screw and the joint were. And after Batch #2 (you split the ball of dough into 4 parts), my left hand was throbbing. I was getting cranky.

So I changed to the marble rolling pin, with handles. I don't like it as much, but since it weighs a good 8 lbs., it made rolling the dough go lots faster. I made about 2 lbs. of lovely hand-cut wide egg noodles, and yes, it was definitely worth it.

In the meantime, Hubby was deconstructing the garden. Time to get all the tomato vines out, pull up all the carrots and get all the (still green) tomatoes in for ripening under newspaper. They won't taste "sun-ripened" but since I'm using them for sauce, it won't necessarily matter. I'd have preferred sun, but Mother Nature gave us what she did.

I let the dough rest for the standard 15 minutes. In that space of time, Hubby dumped a sink full of carrots in the kitchen. My job was to scrub them off and get them into a bag for the fridge after they drain. We grew several varieties including some purple heirloom carrots. As I was chugging through them, I came upon The Mutant Carrots. At first I thought, "Good Lord, I hope this isn't alive!" But after a wash-up, this is what it looks like:

Mutant Carrots
As you can see, we have one carrot getting cozy with another one. I told Hubby to thin them out more!

Some of the carrots will go straight to the juicer; others may end up in a salad or in my lunch with some hummus. Hubby thinks we're crazy because home-grown carrots taste soooooooooo good. He says, "It's just a carrot."

No, it's not. It's a miracle of Nature, doesn't taste a BIT like the cellophane wrapped orange things you buy, and each of them (obviously, see above) has attitude! I took some "artsy" shots of this for our literary/art magazine competition -- I thought about texturizing the shots in PhotoShop, but again...don't want to mess with Mother Nature.

Anyway, that was my weekend. My thumb is still sore (I managed about 10 rows on the cowl today and the thumb is still a bit cranky), I'm futzing with fuzzy yarn, and I have to figure out once I get to my stitch marker what row I think I'm on. And I spent an hour re-sewing buttons on a sweater I bought because quality control has left the building!

Oh, and ONE side of my large desk drawer fell off the track. Is it a full moon??

Monday, October 31, 2011

Of Eggs, Frustration and the Time Change...

See if you can follow me here, because today I'm all over the place. Following are pictures of my eggs. The pysanky aren't working out. Out of a dozen eggs, I got two. TWO.... (sigh) But anyway, I'm rushing to complete some Christmas stuff, which also may include some wristers for the kids, if I can keep my needles clicking.

Eggs from Sock Yarn Scraps
Here are the eggs:

As you can see, I've got 5 of them done already. The two "pastel" ones are actually from the SAME end-of-ball of sock yarn. I put out the call for leftovers from my sock-knitting friends, and they helped me out with some lovely scraps.

It looks like I'll get a baker's dozen easily. I have till the middle of January to get this done.

So, the frustration part? Well, that's a multi-faceted problem.

1.  I'm frustrated because I'm eating myself into a hole today. I'm really, really trying to lose weight. It doesn't help that some of my meds have "weight gain" as a side effect. It doesn't help that I'm in my 50s and have a job that's not very active. But somehow, this weather or hormones, or insomnia, or stress...whatever it is - it's activated my "tape worm" and I've been eating like crazy today. I've written it all down, as painful as it is. And I've journaled the frustration. I've just gotta move on.

2.  Can the Republicans get any crazier? Can we just finally break the news that Herman Cain is NOT running for president - he's just auditioning for the Fox Crazy-Train? And speaking of Crazy-Train.... one of Batty Bachmann's longtime allies is dumping her and accusing her of "dodging questions." Really? Just how long did it take you to figure that out? Bachmann needs to realize that Karma has very sharp teeth.

3.  I really need to get some sleep!!! We even got a Sleep Number bed, which in a lot of ways has proved to be very nice. But the hot flashes??? Oy. I could do without those.

4.  I screwed up the White Chocolate Bunny.... her head is twisted because I increased where I wasn't supposed to. And yarn that's "nearly roving" is a pain in the sit-bones to pick out. She's gotta get done. Luckily, I think I'm about 4 rows from being back where I need to be.


The time change is coming up on November 6. Can't we petition to just not do it? What's the worst that could happen? The entire system goes up for grabs? I doubt it. There've been years where we've ignored it and frankly, I'm thinking the energy savings aren't worth it. And since they've moved it from where it's been for what? Fifty years? The dates are all discombobulated. My car's GPS says I have to change the time. I keep telling her that she has to wait...

Yeesh. I'm gonna go read the Yarn Harlot. She always puts a smile on my face!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What Bugs Me: Wednesday

There are just some things that bug the living daylights out of me. And some days I just have to get this off my chest.

1.  "WE" never get pregnant. It's been women lo these many millenia. Men don't get pregnant. Men CONTRIBUTE to the process. But WE never get pregnant. Please stop using that cutesy phrase. It's annoying and biologically impossible.

2.  President Obama has had a remarkable run on his "terrorist" agenda. He got bin Laden. He got Al Awlaki. He got Ghaddafi. Yet Republicans still insist he's "soft on terror." Wake up and smell the coffee, people! The rest of America can see this, even the blind Teabaggie folks. They just don't want to admit it.

3.  The troops are being withdrawn on request. This is how it was always planned. THEY would tell US when they were ready. And apparently, they're ready.  This is not a "monumental fail." This is the agreement. Apparently, Rick Perry and the rest of 'em don't get that Obama wants to ... stick to the agreement - go figure.

4.  Who cares what Lindsey Lohan does?

5.  There's not enough time to knit.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

That Man is an Idiot.

I have not watched any of the Republican circus acts... Oh, sorry, I mean "debates." For one, I've had a really busy work cycle (and yes, I *am* glad I have a job!) and for another, I have only one television. It was my Grandma's.

For the snarky among you, yes, it's a color set. And yes, it works fine, thanks.

Anyway. If I watched the clown-show, I'd toss a shoe through the TV set. And I don't want to have to buy another one. This one works nicely, so I see no need to buy another.

I do, however, look at the internet, and I found the following story about Pizza-Guy Cain. I seriously think this man is an idiot, and I'm going to tell you why.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/18/herman-cain-unemployed_n_1018798.html

Mind you, this is the same kind of crowd that cheered the execution record of Rick Perry, said that it was ok for an uninsured person to just die, and who booed an active member of the military because he is gay...

However, I have a pepperoni to pick with the Pizza Guy. Actually, two of them. Here we go. I have 2 kids. Kid #1 is in his late 20s. He's in the trades. He's now (thankfully) employed full time, but he spent nearly 2 years in my basement because his former company laid him off due to a slow-down in the auto industry. THE AUTO INDUSTRY slow-down (just in case you didn't get it the first time you read it).

According to Pizza Guy, it's MY KID'S fault that he spent 2 years in my basement looking for work. Because, in Cain's World, "if you're unemployed, it's YOUR fault."

And here's my other beef...er, pepperoni... Kid #2 has recently graduated from college with an education degree. We live in Illinois. If you've followed the news at all, you realize that yet another of our idiot-governors (I think it's a job requirement, but I digress) brought the state to financial collapse and has been indicted and faces jail time. So the state's broke; taxes are high enough, thanks; corporations are leaving Illinois like rats off a sinking ship. Schools are NOT hiring.

According to Pizza Guy, it's MY KID'S fault that he can't find a job in a state where they aren't hiring teachers. Because, in Cain's World, "if you're unemployed, it's YOUR fault."

That man is an idiot. There's this thing in the real world called "The Market." And there's this other thing in the real world called "The Government." And when The Market PURCHASES The Government, thanks to Citizens United and SCOTUS, then things go totally screwy and the "Job Creators" do create jobs. Overseas.

Those jobs are jobs that US citizens used to do. But they don't now, because The Market found that their shareholders and CEOs get bigger checks if they ship the work overseas, making the US a place where we don't make anything anymore. Except for very rich CEOs and very big businesses which don't pay taxes here in the US.

And the people who do "service jobs" are now the fundamental evildoers in our society. That would be the teachers, nurses, firefighters, cops... you know - those who educate you, heal you and help you when you're in a jam. The people who are the backbone of a viable society. The people that the rich don't see.

Can you see the argument? Can you see that if you continue to blame people - the average person who's a worker-bee, not a CEO, not a stockholder, not a lobbyist or politician - but a real working person - you are a flaming idiot? You are blaming the wrong person - the wrong people - and you look stupid.

Pizza Guy is the latest clapper to ring the Republican Tea Party bell. Reason flies out the window just so he can be "the guy" that "the base" likes. Doesn't seem to matter that his arguments hold water just about as well as one of his pizzas.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On Knitted Eggs and Too Much Time...

So the pysanky are not going well. I mean, they're not living up to what I'd like and so far, it doesn't look like they'll make the contest.

I looked up an egg pattern. Go to www.purlbee.com and search for it. They have adorable patterns, and also yummy yarns. Dream a bit...

I started Egg 1...luckily, I have friends who have "end bits" of sock yarn, and heck, at $16/ball, I'm happy to have the ends to work with. What would you do with them anyway? Knit rugs for doll houses? Not much demand for that.

Come to think of it, there's probably not much demand for knitted Easter eggs, either. Maybe only on my own little planet. Here's the first half of the first egg. You can see it tucked there next to the end bit of a ball of navy self-patterning sock yarn. And you can also see the gorgeous Kollage square DPNs I'm using.

I'm really liking them. I'm not too jazzed about picking up stitches, since the size 3s feel like toothpicks to me! The eggs are knitted in halves; you do the bottom half first and then pick up the stitches to complete the top half. They go quickly. As you can see, it's an itty-bitty thing, compared to socks. But then again, an egg isn't so big either!

So we're sitting at the LYS yesterday and they're asking me how the egg is coming along; I finished the first half (after having fiber-withdrawal all week because of an insanely busy schedule) at the shop and proceeded to pick up the stitches. Which I did wrong and did backwards. Frog, frog, frog.

Egg hat?
Then we all got loopy. Talked about how if you just did the top half (see here), you could make a little "hat" for a softboiled egg, which would keep it warm till you ate it. Of course, then we talked about putting a pom-pom on it - because every good hat has a pom-pom on it. Then we talked about having egg holders with feet. That way, the egg has some character.

Beading; ribbing; little ear flaps. We were definitely stretching it. We had wayyyyyyy too much time to think about all this stuff! But it was funny to bounce the ideas around as 2 of our Friday Group looked at us as if we had just slipped one stitch too many! Maybe we had. As we chatted, we talked about the LYS owner, and she's doing remarkably well. She's recovering from lung cancer surgery, and the PET scan looks clean. We're all amazed at the power of prayer, and frankly - how lucky she is!

Kollage Square DPNs
So here's a shot of the "scale" of the egg. Yes, it'll fit your average egg. When I get home today, I'll measure it on an egg in my fridge.

As you can see, that's my hand. Holding a square DPN. They were on sale at Patternworks (www.patternworks.com if you're interested). I bought some clearance yak yarn, too - making myself a cowl that I also found on the Purl Bee site.

The square needles are easy to hold, the stitches don't slip (well the first few I picked up did, but I have a very strange technique for doing that, so I wasn't shocked), and for such small - for me - needles, they are comfortable to use. I can easily see myself doing socks on these. They do come in a set of 5, but this project only needs 4 of them.

I have about 4 "ends" and they're all self-patterning, so I think I can get 7 eggs out of this yarn. The navy reminds me of the traditional pysanky, often dyed black, deep red or dark blue as the final color. There's an "Easter"-ish end bit, a red/pink/glittery bit, and a "Southwestern" type colorway. They'll be different!

And for what it's worth, the white chocolate bunny? We're up to the neck. Everything's coming along. This week, I'll probably give the pysanky one more chance. I have some smaller kitska (the apparatus you use to put the wax on) and I think that'll help refine the designs. One of these days, if they're good enough, I'll post a picture of them. So far, not so much.

I'll stick with knitting my eggs for how.

Monday, October 03, 2011

What Project List??

I'll admit it. I'm an anal-retentive planner. I like lists. While I don't always FINISH (or start?) what's on the list, having the list makes me feel secure.

And I had a list. Now blown slightly sideways by a request of my mom's. She called me and said, "I have this picture - and I need to know if you can knit this because I need a scarf."

"What about the scarf I made you for Christmas last year?" I asked.

"It doesn't match my coat."

Ok. Well, she wasn't sure what yarn she wanted, but "I don't want wool - it itches." So I told her to come to the LYS and she could feel the yarn and figure out what she wanted. Only caveat was that "I don't do mohair" because if you've ever knitted with that and had a mistake, you will know exactly what I mean. It's expensive. Lovely. A bugger to take apart if you've made a mistake. And anyway, it can itch. I'm not spending that kind of money and time if "it itches" and the scarf never gets worn!

She came to the shop and talked to her friend. They went around and petted the yarn. I looked at the picture. It's from a catalog - where you can buy this thing. It's sort of a cowl, but not really. It's crocheted in cotton. And it's holey. As in "how does this thing possibly keep your neck warm??" holey.

Start of the crochet sorta-cowl
After they cruised the shop, she picked this:

It's wool. Seriously, can you believe this? I was laughing because she told her friend, "I don't do wool - it itches."

Her friend said, "That's because you've only seen crappy wool."

This is Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash - find it at www.cascadeyarns.com and check out color number 817, dye lot 6974. It's a gorgeous creamy white that has "snow" tones not some of the "cream-to-beige" tones you can sometimes see. The yarn is 100% superwash and has a lovely hand to it. It was around $10 at the LYS (I got the only ball without a price tag on it!) and it's 220 yards - wayyyyyyyy long enough to do this.

So click on the picture and see what I've done. The original pattern was in a double-crochet. I didn't like it. I'm doing something called "Urchin Stitch" using a size N crochet hook.

The "Urchin Stitch" is from The Complete Encyclopedia of Stitchery by Mildred Graves Ryan. It's old. Like, older than Kid #1... so we're talking a book that's nearly 30 years old and still something I reference when I want to look up a stitch for a project.

The Urchin Stitch is super-easy. Google it and see what you can find, since I don't want the copyright police coming after me. It's a no-brain, crochet while you wait, crochet while you're bored, almost don't have to look at it kind of pattern.

The original cowl had a button. My mom says she has a button, so I'll just crochet along, wedging this in between the White Chocolate Bunny, the blueberry tee shirt (that almost has one side done and I was planning to wear yet this fall), and the baby afghan I have to start for a March baby. And the knitted Easter eggs I'm trying to get to just in case the pysanky don't work out! And I still have "wristers" that the kids want me to make, since they both have really long arms, and these wristers can be an "addition" to the gloves (why don't they make mens' gloves with longer wrists?).

It'll all get done. It'll all get done. It'll all get done.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bunnies!

Bunnies, you say? What???

Ok, so there's this contest we have at work. If you create something (music, art, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc.) you can enter it to have it judged and if they like it, you get published in the Magazine. The BIG PRIZES get money.

I won last year, but I got a certificate. So this year, I wracked my brain and I came up with something unique.

Y'all know I knit. So I figured that since the theme this year was "food" I could knit food! But not just any food. No cupcakes, no lobsters, no wedding cakes, no hamburgers. And if you think I'm kidding, just go search for "knitted lobster" or any of the other things I just mentioned. Knitted pizza? Seriously. But no thanks.

I found a "chocolate bunny" to knit. Here's where I found him:  Blah, Blah, Blahhhg: Knitted Chocolate Easter Bunny Pattern. http://ax174.blogspot.com/2006/04/chococlate-bunny-pattern.html  - and yes, I spelled it exactly how the link looks on my paper.

I thought about the bunnies I have received. And I always liked the white chocolate bunnies the best. But I know there are 3 kinds of chocolate: dark, milk, and white. The foodies will tell you that "white chocolate" isn't really chocolate since there's no cocoa in it. But that's ok. Here are the yarns I picked:

Bunny yarn
At about 11 o'clock, the "milk" chocolate is Bernat Cashmere Natural Blends, color 16013, "Earth." It's leftover from a prayer shawl we did for a friend, and it's a blend. It's 65% acrylic, 30% nylon and a mere 5% cashmere. Not sure how they get "Cashmere" right up there at the front of the name, but it doesn't matter. The yarn will make a nice "milk chocolate" bunny.

At about 2 o'clock, the "dark" chocolate is Bernat Satin, color 04013, Mocha. This is a lovely 100% acrylic, and right below the hank, you see the bottom of the dark chocolate bunny. Size 6 DPNs.

At about 8 o'clock, you will see Stitch Nation (Debbie Stoller) "Full O' Sheep" which is a gorgeous 100% Peruvian wool that is almost "roving" in texture. The color, coincidentally, is "Little Lamb." I bought this just because it was on sale. But it's really a stunning yarn. It's so soft that it makes Cascade feel rough. Take a look at these shots. You'll see that there's barely any twist to this.

The pattern calls for using needles smaller than the yarn label indicates, so that it's a tight fiber. Look at this close-up shot; you'll see that this white bunny will be plenty tight!

Check out the ply here!
I've just started the white one; and I have to tell you that though I am no speed-knitter, this little stinker works up quite quickly. I did the dark chocolate one in just a few days. With the texture of this yarn, though, I may go a little slower so I don't pierce the fiber with the needles. Once you get the stitches picked up, you just knit. You're in the round so it's all a lovely Stockinette Stitch without even having to think.

There's some shaping in the form of making the body and then tapering the ears, but seriously, there is NO SEAM on this bunny after you graft the ears. I used a Kitchener stitch for that, but if you've got a better grafting technique, by all means: go for it! The instructions just say: graft ears together.

So. The accessories. If you check out the pattern (and no, I don't know if the link is still alive), you will see that the creator recommends embroidering the eyes. I could certainly see this if you were going to give this as a baby toy.

Since I'm using it as a strictly decorative item, here's what my bunny looks like. Isn't he cute?? I used some old shirt buttons I had, and then some lilac sheer ribbon, since I remember my bunnies coming with a bow. 

Here's a hint: Start stuffing WELL before the pattern tells you because the neck is really, really  narrow. I started right about his belly button.

And here's another hint: I used about 1/2" of pony beads at the very bottom. That gives him a little stability, because you bounce him lightly to make sure his bottom is flat, and with the beads, he stands right up.

So for the white chocolate bunny, I might just use regular snaps...no sewing! The eyes don't need to be embroidered or tightened down, because the bunnies will be sitting on a doily.

The other thing I'm thinking of adding: about 7 pysanky, Ukrainian Easter Eggs. See here for more information on those lovelies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pysanka

For the record,  no. Mine aren't that pretty. And if I can't make them look like I've done them actually with HANDS instead of FEET, then I may skip that part. Heck, I can always KNIT Easter eggs!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Violation of "fairness" or pre-emptive "screening" to avoid hurt feelings?


 Today's Donesbury was pulled in the Chicago Tribnue because the Trib said it "violated its (the Trib's) fairness standards."

Read it for yourself and decide. Was it pulled because it was an apparent scoop which couldn't be verified, or is the Trib protecting half-governor Palin?

I know lawyers who'd argue tooth-and-nail about free speech, and I have to wonder what the Trib's motives were. Doonesbury is executing its own freedom of speech by the cartoonist doing his thing. I realize that the newspapers have syndication agreements and cartoonists have to play by certain rules, but I wonder if editorial cartoons have a different standard. Because they've slammed Obama left, right, and center.

But this strip apparently kicked in some mechanism which caused it to be "verboten" today. The Trib might've considered how much coverage the strip will ultimately get as people pass this 'round the 'Net and jeer at the Trib for its cockeyed standards.


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Facts Sometimes Hurt...

So at the revival meeting for St. Ronald of Reagan the other night (otherwise known as one of the first Republican candidate debates), the various Republican candidates were trying to "make like Ronnie" and prove who could out-Gipper the Gipper.

Let's see -- most of the chatter actually seemed to be at cross purposes because you can't channel the Gipper AND claim loyalty to the tea party, which is actually a very small percentage of the Republican party. And "real" Republicans are now - or should be - trying to pour oil on the tea to calm the zealots down. If they ever want to win something, it won't be on the attributes of the screaming wing-nuts. Just because they're noisy doesn't mean they're great in numbers. Luckily, most people are more moderate - we hope!

The Chicago Tribune, never a liberal bastion of journalism (at least in my memory) had an interesting article on September 7, entitled Revisionism at odds with reality. Go figure, the Repubs are re-writing the Gospel of St. Ron...

Here are the facts in the actual Gospel, all of which have been overlooked as the various candidates jockey for position and attempt to re-write history to fit their own purposes:

1.  Reagan approved several tax increases to deal with a huge budget deficit. Haven't we been told repeatedly that tax increases don't "create jobs"? And that the only way to balance the budget is to CUT taxes? Hmmmmmm. Math, anyone?

2.  Reagan repeatedly boosted the nation's debt limit which is quite the 'no-no' for this current crop of legislators.

3.  Reagan signed an amnesty law aiding millions (yes, MILLIONS) of illegal immigrants and you know how Republicans feel about "illegals." Particularly the brown ones.

4.  Reagan oversaw an increase in the size and spending of the federal government which is also "against the rules" because any good Republican knows that "big government is bad." Which makes you wonder why Rick Perry is asking for FEDERAL aid for the Texas wildfires. I thought that the poor and unfortunate were supposed to "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps" when they had troubles, and not look to the big government to help 'em out. How's that workin' for ya, Rick??

5.  Reagan, as governor of California, enacted the largest (at the time) state tax increase in American history. Almost makes Pat Quinn in Illinois look like a piker.

6.  Reagan signed into law one of the most permissive abortion laws of any state. And we all know that to Republicans, a fetus is important. A child? Not so much. But God Save the Fetus!!

The article goes on to state, "Reagan's willingness to compromise also has fallen badly out of favor in a Republican Party fired by its give-no-quarter ranks of tea party loyalists."

I would like to think that, since in his favor he was rather a pragmatist, he wouldn't have fallen prey to the tea party blathering. The final quote in the article says it all:

"I don't think...you should cherry-pick history."

Kinda sums up the entire Republican strategy, doesn't it?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Here's the Lap Robe...

Ok, remember a few posts back where I showed my pillow for my LYS owner? Well, I saw the finished lap robe.

So it's a bit bigger than a lap robe. The person who put it together went a little crazy with the crocheted border. And she put one square in backwards. It had a cable - it was easy to see but apparently, she missed it. Oh well - there's not much anyone can do about it.

Completed chemo throw
Here's a picture of it:

As you can see, it's quite extravagant. The entire thing is in Cascade superwash wool. I love that the white and cream blocks anchor the entire blanket. I'm not sure that the cream was a good idea to do the connecting and border, but I can say, if you click on the picture, the detail in the border really pops in that color.

I love the top right square with the "sweater in the square" theme. And the grey one in the middle is fun, with its abstract design.

Each square rather reflects the person who knitted it.

They're giving it to her in the next 10 days or so, and I'll probably miss that - but I took the picture before it was blocked, just so we could print the thing and have the photo on the "picture board" in the shop.

This throw is the essence of "crazy" because while everyone picked from 2 main pattern books, there was no organizing of the squares - it's not like everyone said, "Well, let's all do cable variations." The squares are the representation of the knitter's ability and that's what's cool about it.

The pillow
As a reminder, here's a shot of my pillow. I understand that one or two others are making pillows, which is a great idea.

The pillows can be under her arm if she's having an IV treatment; they can be at the small of her back, or under her knees if she wants.

And EVERYTHING is washable!

When you think about this, the warmth of the objects is magnified by the affection with which they were knitted. We didn't have them "blessed" like you would a traditional prayer shawl or afghan, but I think that the "blessings" accrued in the knitting and organization of the project.

Often, when a group of women have been together a while, things get so comfy that we can get ourselves into pickles without realizing it. That just happened at the shop, at a time when we should all be pulling together.

This project was an example of the pulling together. We don't always get along: we're human! And there are spats: disagreements, political stuff (which really shouldn't be discussed when you've got sharp sticks and scissors!), family squabbles that create strong opinions.

But we set that all aside. We had a 2-week window to get the project done. And we did it.

That's a blessing indeed.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Not Quite There...

...but close.

I'm talking about US District Judge Sam Sparks, who struck down a key provision in Texas' new law requiring doctors to perform sonograms before abortions, ruling that the measure "violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients."

Well. Almost good. He didn't strike down the provision ENTIRELY. So doctors apparently are still required to do the sonograms. However, Judge Sparks has determined that the doctors are not required to abide by the provision that they must describe the image to the patients and requiring the women to hear the descriptions.

OK, first off. That's barbaric. And please don't come back and tell me "abortion is barbaric." Having a baby you don't WANT is barbaric. Having to listen to a doctor describe the images on a sonongram while you're laying there waiting for the perfectly legal procedure to begin? It's like a doctor telling you the exact procedure he or she will perform to take out your appendix, which is swollen and ready to burst, and when it bursts, it will spill toxic juices into your core, and those juices will affect every single organ in your body, and the entire system will be slowly and painfully poisoned. And often, there's not much they can do about it once it's burst, in spite of all the medical advances. Sometimes, even in 2011, you still die of a burst appendix.

There's "informed consent" and then there's "deliberate cruelty" - and Texas has followed too many states into the "deliberate cruelty" area when they try to overturn Roe v. Wade, which is the law of the land.

While an unwanted pregnancy isn't toxic, the woman who makes the decision to have the abortion has already gone through enough grief. She has made a difficult decision and doesn't need to be badgered by a doctor, when said doctor is performing a perfectly legal medical procedure.

So, if I get Botox, is the doctor going to make me look at pictures of botched Botox jobs? Will the doctor describe in excruciating detail what could happen if he or she didn't do her job correctly?

If I have any other perfectly legal medical procedure, I am required to sign a waiver that indicates that I have been advised of everything that could go wrong. And I've had enough surgeries to know that being knocked out could cause problems; the surgery could be complicated; the surgery could affect other things such as (in the case of my hand surgeries) future mobility, etc. All of that I know.

But the Texas law, like those other state laws that have been coming quickly across the nation, seeks to do something else. It seeks to reduce women to second-class citizenship. It seeks to deprive us of control of our own bodies. It seeks to render us "permanently labeled" and the label resembles Hester Prynne's scarlet letter.

Sparks wrote that forcing doctors to discuss the sonograms "compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree..." Well, happy day. Someone finally has figured out that not everyone sees the issue of abortion in the same way the right wing uber-nut jobs do.

It is a perfectly legal procedure. Period. It's the law of the land. And part of the Texas law that is the most distasteful (actually, ALL of it is distasteful)? In order to get out of having to listen to your doctor, you would sign a piece of paper saying your pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, or that the fetus had a "irreversible abnormality."

And this paper is part of your permanent medical record. Nice, huh? Let's just call any woman who desires a perfectly legal medical procedure a slut, a whore, or any other pejorative word that demeans her own ability to make decisions about her own body.

Of course Rick Perry is very mad. The state of Texas is appealing. Perry says that "every live lost to abortion is a tragedy." Ok, where's your solution? Where's your support for the woman, who may have a child who is irreversibly damaged? (It happens -- look at the conjoined twins in Chicago recently who were born to a 20-year-old single mother -- and who lived 18 months in a hospital, at a cost of millions of dollars.) What about the woman who's had a child and is unable to support it?

Under Perry's logic, that woman should just "pull herself up and make it work" because of course he HAS no solution. There's no strong plan out there by any of the right wing uber-nut jobs to help a woman once the "fetus" is a "baby."

After it's born, they want nothing to do with the woman who had a child out of the holy state of wedlock (if that's the case). And if she's had more children than she and her husband can support because they can't get or can't afford birth control? Well, that would be THEIR problem. Not the state's. The state which is gradually stripping women of all of their human rights. The state where, if Republicans have their way, you'd have no social support system. No food stamps; no welfare; no heating assistance (it does get cold in Texas); no housing subsidies.

This is the state with the governor who wanted to secede from the Union. If this is how he plans to run the country? Go ahead and secede. We don't want you here. And women certainly don't want you in the White House. Women with brains, that is.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Write About Knitting Because...

...at the moment, it's easier than writing about politics and how screwed up this country is.

Scary Perry, Batty Bachmann, people going off on Obama for a vacation (he's taken less vacation than Shrub, by the way. Look it up.), and an economy where the rich WANT to pay more taxes and the Republicans think that "job creators" deserve tax breaks while people at poverty level "need to pay their fair share..."

That's why I'm writing about knitting. Sometimes, you need to bury your head in your stash and look at the fact that you are able to afford this hobby and you have the ability to create something beautiful with sticks and string.

Which is what I think I'm doing right now. I'm knitting another project, and this one has a reasonable chance of getting done in time for me to wear it in late summer! It's a pattern from Knit One Crochet Too called Tee for Two, pattern number 1652. If you can get your LYS to order it, please do! It's for "advanced beginners" and it's a lovely little tee shirt. Please order from your LYS so that they can stay in business and be your local yarn COMMUNITY. It's kind of like the bookstores. I love my online bookstore, and I have ordered yarn from a number of online retailers.

But I wouldn't give up my LYS for anything; even though she doesn't have the "vast and unlimited stock" of an online store, we have a community, and as a small-business owner in our larger community, she deserves our support.

Color 631, Lot 187
I'm doing it in the Ty Dy cotton. See here: it's called "Blueberry" and it's 100% cotton. The label says hand wash, but there are about 4 gals at the LYS who've made this and one does toss hers in the wash machine.

I figure that I have a gentle cycle, so even if I do that part, I can put it on a drying rack to dry.

You can see the luscious colors I've got here. The cotton has several colorways and this pattern takes advantage of the way the colors lay out.

One of the gals (the one who tosses hers in the wash) has altered this design to give her 3/4 length sleeves. I'm adding a few inches to the sleeve, but that's only because my office is always cold! You knit the front and back panels, then pick up stitches on either side and stitch the sides and sleeves. Seaming up the side and you're done.

Front panel
Here's a shot of the front panel; I have about 3 rows to finish it. You can see that the bottom has that big whack of pale blue on it. I'm thinking of breaking open another ball and starting the back panel with that same big swath of blue.

Yes, that's a little nit-picky. But when the rest of the world seems like it's going down the Big Crapper, it's nice to think that at least my knitting is something I can control!

Click on the photo to enlarge it; it rolls because it's all stockinette stitch, but once you pick up the stitches, you see the whole thing lay much nicer.

I was looking at the design, and it called for a cable cast on; well, I lengthened it. It's a cropped shirt, and there's NOTHING on my belly that needs to see the light of day, thank you!! So I added 2" to the bottom. That necessitated me using a long-tail cast on because it's more elastic than the cable cast on. So, as I was looking at the cable cast-on directions in my knitting reference book, I noted that the author said, "when I use long tail, I make my first row a purl row so that the cast-on edge lays flatter."

Well. Okey-dokey. I did that. And you know what? It doesn't curl nearly as bad as my stockinette hat did! Look at the bottom of that photo: it's darned-near flat!

Reading. Gotta love it! Had I not been dithering about that cast-on, I'd have missed that portion of the book and I probably would've been muttering about the "%&$* rolled edge" as I went on.

Of course, picking up and knitting the sides? That forces the front and back panels to lay flatter anyway, because the sides are knitted long-wise. The whole thing is very "painterly" and is a sweater that's easily 3-season-wear. And I can seriously think about making it in Ty Dy wool, or in a more autumnal colorway. Or even my favorite Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton - where I could use solids and take advantage of the texture of the yarn itself and that gorgeous sheen that this yarn has.

Please patronize your local yarn stores. Please knit. It's very calming. In a nerve-wracking environment, knitting is like mental yoga. It's something we can hang onto, it creates garments and useful things. And it keeps us centered.