Thursday, January 31, 2008

Animal Dream #2

This is my second favorite dream about animals, after the dream that I was taking our gerbils for a walk in the backyard. On a leash.

Last night I dreamt that the representative from the Labrador Retriever rescue group came for a suprise home visit to determine if we are eligible to adopt a Lab from their organization. This part is true. Our Lab, Rosie, died in November, and whatever they say about not rushing out to replace a pet depends, I think, on how you felt about the dog that you lost. I was ready in a day. Maybe less. She was the best dog in the world, sweet, gentle, reliable. Even now, when I open the back door of the house, I expect her to be in the lviing room on her bed. When I leave every morning, I make sure to close the gate to the back yard, then I realize that there's no need, there's no Rosie to worry about getting out.

In December, I admitted to myself how much I missed having a dog and sent the 4-page application in to the rescue group. It's daunting: they wanted references (Shelly - did I mention that I put your name down?), the name of our vet, the name of our dog trainer (do most people have a trainer? I called the vet for a recommendation), the height of the fence in the yard, details about what color and gender and age of dog we were looking for, and the most difficult question: how long are you willing to wait. The choices were: a few weeks, a few months, or as long as it takes. My heart wanted to say a few weeks, but my head said, no, as long as it takes, because we should wait for the right dog for us. Finally, this week, we had an email from the group, asking when we would be home so that the rep and her dog could come visit. We responded, but don't know if she will show up at the door or call ahead.

Here's the dream:
The rep and her dog showed up at our house for a surprise visit. Instead of a Lab, she had with her a very pudgy, waddling, somewhat sausage-shaped type of terrier. The dog wandered over to a table where we had a pile of Rosie's toys. He picked one up, and then Rosie came into the room, and the dogs began to get to know each other in a very nice doggy-friend kind of way. They moved into another room, bumping each other and chewing at each other's fur.

Then it was our turn. We were sitting at the dining room table with the rep, who had a list of questions in front of her. She asked my husband, "who's playing in the Superbowl?" He said that he didn't know. She looked down at the form, made a big black X in a dramatic fashion beside that question, and looked up at us. And I knew, no sports trivia, no dog.

But I woke up hopeful. It was good to see Rosie: she looked young and sprightly and her fur was shiny again. One of my associates at work said that this was a dream about Rosie coming back in a new dog's form. I hate to think that she'll have lost that trim figure we worked so hard to keep (Labs will get fat if you look away for a moment), but she seemed happy. And we're waiting for the visit.

In knitting/blogging news, take a look at serendipity. Very smart and literate and fiber-art inspiring, and lots of good reading and craft book suggestions. In my knitting news, I'm struggling with the collar of the Snap Cardigan. It's half done, but after trying it on, I realized that all of my favorite sweaters have round collars instead of lapels, and I'm seriously considering ripping it out for the fourth time and trying either a garter stitch edge along the neckline and front bands or maybe a hood. And tonight, take-out Thai and Batman: The Animated Series from Netflix, my most favorite cartoon and good medicine after a day off spent at the store dealing with a broken water pipe in the store above us. The guy soldering the pipe held his torch too close to the sprinkler head and set it off. I think thast's great. Would a woman ever do that?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Taking a Holiday

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. Now that I'm back at work - and fulltime again as of yesterday - it seems that the amount of stuff that I can squeeze into one day has exceeded the limit of hours available. Kind of the way that your computer tells you've exceeded the limit for saving data, and you have to start jettisoning something. Blogging is my discard, these days.

Here's some of what I've been doing with the space available:

I've been reading again, which is great. Being home for several weeks gave me the time to get back into the habit of lying on the couch and just reading. Because I am a Very Competitive Person, especially with myself, I keep track of the titles of books I've read in a little notebook that sits on a shelf under my husband's night table. (why under his night table and not mine? not sure, and I didn't even think about how odd that was until the other night, some five years after I started storing it there) Last year I read less books than in any of the previous five years,and that's including all the half-started ones that I decided to list, just in case I ever needed to remember a title or author. But in January of 2008, I've already read 5 or 6 books, so I'm on track to beat my record this year, and spend some quality couch time reading.

And yeah for the public libary! It's one of the few places that you can go, when you're home on sick leave, without spending money. I am now on an almost first-name basis with one of the librarians. Almost, because I have a bad habit of going deaf when someone tells me her name, because my brain is drowning out the person's voice with the sound of me telling myself: I NEVER REMEMBER PEOPLE'S NAMES. If I could quiet that inner commentary, I'd be much better at the name thing. Still, we enjoy saying hello and chatting, and even those little social interactions were beneficial when it was just me and the cat home all day.

I've also returned to weaving: I'm about 18 inches into Pillowcase #2 for my neighbor, and hoping that the warp will be long enough to get the right length out of it. I'd love to finish this project before the next decade opens, and move onto something with a painted or dyed warp, or those napkins that I promised my daughter two or three years ago.

And listening to Children of the Storm, read by Barbara Rosenblatt. After that, Northanger Abbey or Mansfield Park. What was the BBC thinking in trying to compress Austen into one hour on Sunday nights? The whole point is the chance to get lost for long amounts of time in a different world.

And knitting. Despite the guffawing the other night by someone about how long it takes me to finish a sweater, I'm almosssst done with the Snap Cardigan. Just need to do about 4 more inches on the collar, sew in a few ends, and finito. That my friend Joyce bought a pattern and yarn last week after I left her at the knitting store and is already done with her entire sweater is bothering me not a whit.

And working. And cooking. And making actual social engagements to have lunch or coffee with friends. And talking on the phone to my sister or mom or teacher. And baking: cornmeal-blueberry muffins and awesome buttermilk scones and brownies with almonds and No-knead Bread. Next time, I'll post the scone recipe. It's one of those platonic ideals of a recipe: perfect in its own self.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pink

I love/hate the internet. I just spent over an hour searching for a way to dye yarn pink. Here's the link, in case I ever need to find it again. And thank you to Paula Burch, who has one of the best sites on dyeing and color and chemicals on the Web. If you want to play with color and dye, this is the place to start.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Lacey Top

An idea for my two skeins of ruby-red Lady Godiva silk-wool from Handmaiden. Antique Lace by Ilga Leja.

Finishing the Snap Cardigan

One chapter of Children of the Storm, by Elizabeth Peters, on my Ipod. Sitting upstairs in my bedroom, where it is warmest, sunniest, most cozy. The result:

Very bulky seam. The problem started with a strange sleeve configuration, with what seems to be too many decreases so that the edge of the sleeve has more steps in it than the armhole opening. You can see this in the picture below: notice where the seam between sleeve and body veers from a vertical line to an angled horizontal toward the right?
I used the Malabrigo to sew up the seam. That worked fine on the side seams of the body, but it seems to be too heavy for the sleeve seams. Also, I followed the directions for finishing the sweater: sew the sleeve into the armhole, then finish the seam of the sleeve. Usually, I reverse the order: sew the seam of the sleeve first (the one that runs along the inside of your arm) and then fit the sleeve into the body. That's the way that you do it when you sew a garment and that's the way I learned to put clothing together in seventh-grade home ec.

Second go around: I used a mercerized cotton 10/2 thread from my weaving stash and sewed the sleeve seam first. Better, more flexible, not as bulky. But when you stretch the sleeve a bit - which will happen when you wear it - you can see the thread. And it doesn't look good, even though I remember that sweaters that I bought years ago at an Italian flea market were a bulky yarn finished with ordinary thread.

Perfectionism and the learning curve strike again. After lunch, I'm going to redo the sleeve seam with some left-over Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran from the Fetching mitts, then insert the sleeve into the body and try to work the sleeve seam with less bulk.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Swallowtail Shawl in Noro Kochoran


Pattern: Swallowtail Shawl
Designer: Evelyn A. Clark
Source: Interweave Knits Fall 2006
Yarn: Noro Kochoran (50% wool 20% silk 30% angora), color 10, 2 skeins from the Knitche; Tahki Donegal Tweed Homespun, color Lime, about 1/3 skein from String Theory
Needle: size 10 circular
Notes: I love the color play in this shawl. It moves gently through pale grass green to grey to marine blue to acid green, and the slight haze of the angora gives it a cloudy quality. But it's that same angora that makes me shudder when I wrap this shawl around me. Too itchy for me, and truth be told, the yarn, even for my preference for a shawl with some warmth and substance, is a little too bulky. But there's someone out there who will love this shawl, so I'm putting it in the drawer of knitting waiting for a home and will give it away someday.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Breakfast with a Yoga Friend

Went to breakfast with a friend today. This is how much we were talking: she ordered a short stack of pancakes, I ordered the fresh fruit with banana bread. Someone in the kitchen was going wild with the powdered sugar shaker: both pancakes and bread were showered. Very pretty. And my fresh fruit - imagined as a bowl with some pineapple and berries - was a giant platter of quartered oranges, apples, and pears, with a few pity strawberries at the center. It was more than enough fruit to feed an entire nursery school class after nap time. It was so intimidating that I had to put it aside, out of direct sight. I felt like it was looking at me more than I was looking at it.

Anyway, she ate half a pancake. I ate the tiny piece of banana bread. One of my favorite parts of having a meal with a yoga teacher friend: when you try to demonstrate the pose that you are describing. I was telling her about some great poses for carpal tunnel syndrome, which required me to use the table top and booth to try to demonstrate what you do with arms and fingers and wrists. And we talked about her chiropractic treatment. A lot. I'm sure that our booth neighbors loved us.

Then we both walked down the street toward our cars. And kept walking. "I thought I'd stop at the knitting store before I went home," I explained. "That's where I'm headed!" she replied. So on we went. This was the first thing we saw when we walked in the door: a mint-green version of the Juliet sweater from Zephyrstyle. We both tried it on and loved it. The store model was made in chunky Misti Alpaca, which was a bit pricier than we were planning. But definitely a pattern to be put on the list, especially since the pattern includes a full-length version, and the cropped floor model was sweet but a bit younger than I was aiming for.

I finished the Noro shawl last night. Pictures tomorrow. Time for corn chowder, salad, and a glass of wine.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Progress on the Noro Kureyon Swallowtail Shawl

In-progress shot as I was about to change yarn horses, so to speak. I tried finishing off the edging with some Blue Sky Alpaca in my stash, but the color and weight of the yarn were both too light.

Yesterday I met my friend Christine at String Theory in Glen Ellyn. A really lovely knitting shop: great product and wonderful, enthusiastic yet low-key service. Janet, who was working when I came in out of the slush and cold and slippery sidewalks (there were actually Janet-working, Janet-shopping for multiple colors for a Fair Isle sweater, and me all in the store at the same time) kept playing with different choices. She'd wander around the shop, grab a skein of yarn, and bring it over to the table where I had what I was calling a "dog" project: a shawl sitting in my workbasket for months, almost finished, but so rough in feel. We'd look, vote, and then she'd wander off again, quietly examining more green yarns for the right match.

Here's what I ended up with:

Tahki Donegal Tweed Homespun in Lime. Sufficiently acid green to match to a shade in the Noro. Sufficiently itchy and a weight that varies between thick and thin, like the Noro. Christine said that neither yarn felt itchy to her, so maybe it's just me and my affection for really soft yarns, like Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk and Malabrigo.

I'm enjoying working on a shawl so much that I'm looking for a pattern for about 1200 yds. of lace-weight silk-wool in a beautiful mix of roses and pinks and greens, given to me by the Fairy Godknitter. Suggestions welcomed, including ideas that would let me combine the lace-weight with something a bit warmer, say an alpaca, so that the shawl works for a Chicago winter. It's gonna be below zero tomorrow. . .

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My thought after seeing Hilary Clinton asking Barack Obama to co-sponsor a bill with her during this week's (let's-be-much-nicer) debate?
Running mate!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Back to Lace

It's shawl weather in Chicago, and it has me thinking about lace again. I remembered that I had an almost-finished Swallowtail shawl (this is the one that I made for my daughter's host mom from Cyprus) of Noro Kureyon from last year. I started it as a gift to a manager at my old store, but never loved it. The yarn seems itchy and harsh to the hand, and I wasn't crazy about the way the pattern looked in this yarn. I resurrected it from the wicker laundry basket where I keep my yarn, and over breakfast, ripped back a few rows and put it, fairly painlessly, onto a size 10 circular needle.
Painlessly is the operative word here, because it shows how much I've learned since my first shawl. I didn't panic, didn't worry about whether I would be able to figure out where in the pattern I was. I was pretty sure that if I couldn't figure it out, I could wing it: an extra picked-up stitch for a yarnover or one less stitch in a knit-two-together, and who would know? This is one of the unspoken secrets of lace knitting: if your count is off and you have one stitch where there should be two, for a right or left leaning decrease, NO ONE will know. They'll be focusing on the overall beauty, or the "it's so swirly" quality, as a friend in my yoga program describes my Shetland Triangle shawl.

I was surprised that I'd made no notes on this project. I'm not a diligent record keeper. But most of the time, I manage to staple the band from the ball of yarn, with product info, into my notebook, along with notes on the name of the pattern, the needle(s) used, gauge called for, where I bought the pattern and yarn, and notes, after completing the knitting, of what I would do different or the same the next time around. I think that I disliked the yarn enough that I didn't even note the needle size. However, one of my knitting teachers told me, a few months ago, that Noro Kureyon softens a lot when you wash it, and that's what I'm hoping for. No one needs a hair shirt shawl.

Much, much softer here: Handmaiden Lady Godiva (honest, that's the name of this yarn).

It was a pricey purchase and I haven't figured out what to do with it. Actually, this is what had me thinking about lace again. It's a blend of silk and wool. A worsted weight yarn, which is not traditional for lace, but I was looking for something that would give some fairly quick gratification in knitting time and would give me a second shawl to wear through the January and February cold.

Close-up of the Medallion lace pattern.
Hmm, not quite right; seems a bit heavy. Maybe a needle bigger than a size 10? And there's much less color variation that I'd expected to have. I've been craving a Handmaiden yarn for months, but somehow, I was drawn to the red color and didn't notice that this colorway is much more homogeneous than the other color choices. I'll keep playing. And suggestions are welcome. I have two skeins, which is about 500 yards of yarn.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Package from India

This is the way that a package from India arrives.

Outer wrapping of a cloth bag, handsewn around the edges, with name and return address written in a beautiful hand in black and red ink.
Next is a criss-cross of packing tape, with the number of items noted at the center. Then, a layer of plastic to protect the contents from damage.
Within that, a book-folded piece of cushioning material. Also, with the number of items contained within noted on the outside, in a European numerical script.
The contents, wrapped in plastic, with the receipt contained within a business size envelope, with my name on the outside. Once reached, the title of the book seemed either ironic or amusing, because it took a quest to get to it. And some knitting: right front of the Snap Cardigan finished, left front started.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Things that I Learned this Week

  • That Whole Foods is the Tiffany's of vegetables. Maybe I'm the last one to realize, but, wow, their produce is expensive. Has it been making an inverse increase in relation to failures of sub-prime mortgages?
  • I tried to make it out of the store with just the ingredients for a pasta dish from The Greens Cookbook: French lentils, red or green chard, carrots, celery, leek (why do recipes call for the white parts only? no, I refuse to make vegetable stock, and need to find another use for the green parts - maybe roasted?), and buckwheat or soba noodles. But the guilt, the sticker shock. Yes, organic. Yes, beautiful and tasty. But who can afford cauliflower at $2.99 a pound or buckwheat pasta at $3.99 a package? I had a momentary and quickly-squelched thought that maybe Walmart could do organic better. Then I came back to my senses and tried to remember the cost of taking a share in Angelic Organics, then tried to amortize the price per week as I drove from Whole Foods to Nature's Best.
  • Much better. No need to describe this great little grocery store again, except to say that the prices were within reach of the average shopper and the quality just as pretty as Whole Foods. And I love a store where I can't read the ingredients on at least half the packaging: it's a little United Nations of food.
  • You need long, uninterrupted, quietisish blocks of time to read Jane Austen. Especially Persuasion, which has snarky moments about Anne Eliot's family right up against great, restrained, nuanced scenes of love renewing, and it's tough to get her funny, observational, sarcastic tone in a few sentences, and these books are made for lying on the couch, in front of the fire, in the winter. On to Mansfield Park next. And I happened to wander into a screening of The Jane Austen Book Club last week, and I liked it, especially the bike-riding, independently wealthy, scruffy, only-guy-in-the-group, who decorates his house as a haunted house to host the meeting on Northanger Abbey.
  • Navel oranges are better than tangerines.
  • A great latte with lots of foam is better in a big china cup, almost a bowl, than a paper or Styrofoam cup. Especially with an almond croissant.
  • I can knit all the pieces of a sweater - except the back - on the right size knitting needle to get gauge (which is a tough word to spell, too). Especially the upper back, where I somehow seem to pull the yarn tighter and tighter with each row. What does this mean?
  • I have an unusually low voice for a woman when chanting Sanskrit, which is odd, because my speaking voice is in an average range. And my teacher has a higher range than is usual for a man chanting. It's the Goldilocks Principle of Chanting at work: this makes us just right as chanting partners. And I reviewed my notes from sutra class with my mentor, and I'm starting to get this Sanskrit stuff down.
  • Carrie Ann and Bruno are just a bit scary on Dance Wars, and there's no one left in the finals to The Amazing Race that I really want to see win. Could we vote Kynt and Vixen back in?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

not so minimal

Aaaaaargh. The Minimalist Cardigan is anything but. Today, I finished the first sleeve. Then discovered that I'd worked the sleeve as a K2P2 moss stitch instead of the K1P1 seed stitch of the body. For now, the sweater's staying in the knitting bag. If I look at it, I'm going to start ripping back wildly, and I don't want to do that rashly.

What I've learned:
  • no more black yarn projects. I'll buy my black sweaters from now on.
  • no more sweaters on needles smaller than size 8, at least until I develop some patience, which will be, oh, maybe never.
  • no more seed stitch for this knitter, because I throw the yarn and it's maddening to be changing direction every stitch. And I've tried to teach myself to knit other ways, but I think it's like baby geese imprinting on the first face they see: once a thrower, always a thrower.
On the glass is half full front, I knit the ribbing for the Snap Cardigan and am feeling no pain in the elbows or fingers. I let myself knit through the third episode of My So-called Life, and part of Boston Legal. Oh knitting, I've missed you.