Monday, August 31, 2009

Horse Show

It is truly an amazing sight to see your child, on horseback, thundering across a huge green field of dips and hollows and mountains, riding over very large fences and through a big swatch of watery pond and then, jumping her horse over another big fence to exit out of the pond and back into the woods.

We were standing on the highest point of the course, waiting. First, you would hear the cachunk-cachunk of the horse's hooves hitting the ground. Then, a rider and horse would suddenly emerge from the woods, circle up and down the hills over several jumps, disappear down a path, then suddenly emerge again to go through the water element and back down a winding path into the woods again.

It helped that a friend of my daughter's was riding two slots ahead of her. When I saw the friend come through, I had a chance to track the course as well as be ready for my daughter. And she was, helpfully, wearing a cover on her helmet-skull cap, which had white diamonds circling the brim, so I watched for that as well as the sight of her horse. What surprised me most was the predominance and singularity of the sound: nothing else sounds like the echo and depth of horse hooves hitting the ground at a fast pace. Like the sound of an ambulance siren, it was difficult to locate where the sound was coming from at first. We would be quickly walking from one point to another on the course. Then, the sound, and you would freeze for a moment: was there a beast about to mow you down from the front, or was it a horse coming up behind you from the back? Either way, you needed to get out of the way as soon as possible in order to save yourself as well as not interfere with the rider's progress or safety.

The most wonderful thing about being at a horse show - something I did fairly often when my daughter was in grade school, but haven't done in several years - is to see the camaraderie of the riders. I'm told that people who do three-day eventing (I think that's what it's called?) -- dressage, stadium (0ver fences inside a show ring), and cross-country (through the countryside, over logs and fences and ditches and water stuff) -- are particularly nice. But to see such a convivial, supportive group, mainly women, of all different ages, and to shake hands with a number of kind, funny people who are friends with your daughter, is a lovely thing for a parent.

Other than the show, we've been doing lots of good eating. Both of my kids could have a side job, sending tourists from one great eating place to the next. Saturday night we had Ethiopian. Giant, shared platter of spicy chickpeas, tomato salad with jalapeno peppers, and much more. And a dark beer, Ethiopian-brewed, called Hakim. Fantastic. Last night, Chinese. Wok fried salt and pepper shrimp. Also great.

Now, we're going for a walk along the Charles and enjoying some sunny fall weather. Wish that I had my camera to show you all Julia Child's house, which is on the same street that we're staying on.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fishing Gloves

Pattern: Men's Fingerless Gloves
Designer: J. Campbell
Yarn: FibraNatura's Shepherd's Own, color 40009, 1 skein (small amount left over - about 40 yards)
Source: The Fine Line, St. Charles, IL
Cost: $8
Size: Men's Large
Needles: size 1 40" KnitPicks Circular for ribbing and palm, size 2 40" KnitPicks Circular for fingers (both sizes have metal tips)
Gauge before finishing, worked in the round: size 1 needle - 28-30 st and 36 rows to 4" in stockinette stitch
  • The pattern is well-written and easy to follow. I have never made gloves before, and when I was able to work on these consistently, I finished the second glove in about a day, which is very fast for me.
  • Fantastic yarn: the yarn that I have been searching for to knit traditional watchcaps or ragg socks. The FibraNatura label announces: "This undyed all natural wool is hand sheared from herds of the Cataluna, Zaragaza, Castilla regions whihc are known for their exceptional quality." I wouldn't want to wear a sweater in this yarn, but for hard-working gloves or socks or perhaps a vest, this yarn looks like it just walked off the spinning wheel and into the showroom. And economical - 250 yards for $8 - particularly when compared to some of the new eco-friendly yarns, which, like too many things that are better for us, are priced way beyond the average person's pocketbook.
  • Here's a closeup: This pattern, in my gauge, fits a large hand of about 8" long from wrist to tip of middle finger. You may want to size up or down by changing the cast-on stitches or the gauge for a different sized hand.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Still Here

Gave my husband one and a quarter gloves today for his birthday. When he next goes fishing in Canada, he'll have a pair of handmade ragg wool gloves (Shepherd's Own, from sheep in Turkey - suitably scratchy and blended from different colored light and dark fleeces) to wear as he baits hooks and catches and releases, and all that fishing stuff that I can appreciate from afar. Very afar. (Note added after publishing this post: Yikes. Apparently Google gloms so quickly onto a tag that when I posted this entry, including the word "fishing," it immediately gave me an ad from Cabela's. Very scary.)

One and a quarter because I have been - yeah!!! - very busy the last week with yoga work. I considered the Purloined Letter approach of knitting the gloves in full view of him, with the theory that in being so blatant and hiding them in full sight, that he would not catch on. But then I reconsidered and kept the knitting hidden in my closet, taking it out only when he was at work and I had a few minutes. Thus, one glove completed - it fits! yeah again - and the ribbing on the second glove finished.

And the Fiddlehead mittens blocked - they grew a size and then shrank down a bit, but are far larger than before blocking - and waiting for the next step of working the lining. And Vivian. Slogging away. Now on row 140 with about 20 rows to go, and then the hood. Pictures tomorrow, perhaps.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Update on the Fiddlehead Mittens

Glorious colorwork. Mitten #1 is done and today, while being a complete bum and watching (I know, but I wanted to relax) Road to Rio (yes, that one), I moved through the first two sections of the second mitten.

Not that I expect to give Joan a run for the money any time soon. How does she do this? And so quickly. And so beautifully. Yesterday I knit for two hours, holding the Vivian sweater-in-progress on my lap - at this point, a full sweater, including sleeves, as I work my way toward the yoke and hood -- and I managed to do about ten rows.

I did tarry a bit over the mittens as I made modifications to the original sizing. First issue is that I knit incredibly loosely. Even with a size 1 Harmony wooden circular from KnitPicks and using Blue Sky Alpaca sportweight, I still manage to have a fairly loose gauge. And when I really relaxed as I started the second mitten, I managed to work the fabric even more loosely, to the point that you could see holes through the fabric. I ripped back, started over, and concentrated on tightening the yarn up. Much better, though I still could not go up much in either needle size or yarn, which cuts out a wide swath of yarns that other knitters have used with much success, such as Cascade 220.

Second issue is the size of my hands. I'm short and I have short hands to match. (I have mentioned this before. Perhaps because I'm the only one in the family who doesn't have long, elegant, languid fingers.) From the wrist to the tip of the middle finger, my hand measures about 6 1/2 inches. So, even with a sportweight yarn and a tiny, tiny needle, the first finished mitten was large enough to fit my husband's hand and at least two inches too long for mine. I ripped back, started the decrease on row 55, so that my entire mitten measures 65 instead of 72 rows.
The process was repeated with the thumb. I worked it to the pattern specs, admitted that even with the liner that will be knit inside the colorwork mitten that it would be too big, and ripped back. Three times. Including experiential learning that it does make a difference to gauge if you switch from holding one color in each hand to working both colors with the right hand. And to work the thumb only in grey and green, skipping the second color change, because it looked fussy to me. Now my thumb decrease starts on row 7 and the total thumb measures 14 rows long.

In the picture below, a Japanese bookmark from a library conference. It stands in very nicely for the magnetic row markers on sale for knitters.
One last update: thank you, Joan and NeedleDancer, for the advice. I've managed to find one ball of the Cashmerino and am debating whether to do the hood in another color and edge it with the orange, or just go with a different dye lot and order a few skeins from Webs.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Yarn Hunt

If you have any advice on how to look for a specific dyelot for a yarn color that's been discontinued, could you let me know?
I've hunted through the Swaps section of Ravelry and can't figure out where to go if I am looking but not needing to swap.
FYI: it's Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in a peach color, color 16, dyelot 49, and I need three or four more balls to finish Vivian. Thanks-

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Is it August already?

What a strange summer.
It's fall in Chicago in August. Our house is 70 degrees today, tangibly cool, and there's a breeze rifling through the leaves in the trees. The farm near us (a real live farm, not a faux farmer's market with stuff imported from halfway across the country - and it's the last one around here, with all the rest of the land filled with town homes and Office Depots and restaurants) finally has tomatoes in, two days after my mind fully expected them to be there and went down on a special trip in order to make a summer pasta. But you can still tell it's been a cool summer and not our usual hotbox of humidity, still air, and occasional tornadoes.

Some things that I've learned this summer:
  • I can get a whole heck of a lot of weaving done if I stick with plain weave instead of a pattern. Step on the treadle, throw the shuttle from right to left. Step on the opposite treadle to change sheds, beat, throw shuttle from left to right. Continue. Stop occasionally to advance warp or wind bobbins for the shuttle. If I keep this up, I may lose my title as the slowest weaver ever. I produced about two and a half napkins in a weekend, which may be a 500% increase over previous production levels. I am driven by my desire to get this project off the loom so that I can test weaving some samples for making felted yoga bags. My students like mine (from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts) and I am trying to figure out a way to make it semi-affordable to make some for sale.

  • reading poetry is not as bad as drilling a hole into your brain if you stick with Mary Oliver. One of my students brought me a volume as a present, and told me that it was time that I had my own copy. I agree. The first day that I opened it, as I was subbing for a friend whose mother-in-law had just died, I happened upon this poem called Some Questions You Might Ask, which asks the question of why wouldn't animals and trees and nature have a soul. And starts with these lines:

Is the soul solid, like iron?

Or is it tender and breakable, like

the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?

  • listening to a well-read book is a lovely thing to do as you drive. I am working my way through listening to the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King, narrated by Jenny Sterlin, who has nailed every voice, especially the plummy Oxford-accented Mary and the dry, world-weary Holmes. Just having finished O Jerusalem, I need to inter-library loan A Letter of Mary next. In the meantime, the third book in the Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester. Not as dramatic a rendering, but very enjoyable; I never imagined that I would be laughing out loud at a Napoleonic-era sea-going tale of British naval officers.

  • also sustaining me is reading a series of very quirky books. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Flavia de Luce, I love you: the character is a whip-smart eleven year old (I think) and a full-on brain, detective, and lover of chemistry (she has her own laboratory set up in her Victorian home, where she particularly relishes investigating and creating poisons). Full Dark House: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery (the first Bryant and May mystery). In this one, set both during the Blitz in London and in the present, you get a Phantom of the Opera type mystery, a wonderful clairvoyant who carries her stuffed cat familiar with her in a cat carrier (the sawdust's leaking out and one eye is missing), and a lovely little witch, along with some good historical writing and characterization. And A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama. Also neo-Victorian and Dickensian, but with another great female adolescent character who's going to wrestle her way into the kind of world she needs instead of letting fate and some nefarious fake seance leaders push her about.

  • also, knitting (though I know that I am beginning to border on the obsessive when I find myself knitting in the dark on the way home from a concert at Grant Park Saturday evening, or leaving my new Interweave Knits in the car so that I can read it between teaching class, or having more than three projects going at once. The good news is that I am trying very, very hard to restrain my desire to buy yarn and try to make do with what I currently own. (That is, until Stitches Midwest in September.) Lately, I've been working on the Fiddlehead Mittens (see the top of the post, in Blue Sky alpaca that I had in my stash - but next time, it's all about wool in a DK weight - maybe Harrisville or Jamieson's); trying to crank out the last section of Vivian (the sweater is now going on several pounds of cabled weight, lying on my lap, as I work my way through adding the sleeves in and beginning decreases for the yoke); a glorious beginning to a Swallowtail shawl in Brooks Farm Acero (this yarn supplier can do no wrong, I think, either in the feel of their yarns or the colorways - if they are at a fiber festival in your area, definitely take at least a skein of the Acero or Solo Silk home to try); and a Turn a Square hat (that's what I worked on before the concert and in the car on the way home, just to see if I could learn to knit in the dark).

I write this as our dog romps around the back yard with his buddy, an American Standard bulldog from across the street. I look out occasionally to find one or the other hauling his buddy around by a jaw flap or while chewing on his neck. Ah, friendship. Oh, and H: Dad just brought pluots (Golden Dappled, he says) home from the store.