Saturday, October 25, 2008

In Memory of Calico McGoo
Crossed the Rainbow Bridge – October 25, 2008

The Empress of the Universe has entered her proper domain:
the place where laps do not get up and walk away,
where loud voices do not sour a surreptitious slurp from the cream pitcher,
where tuna fish does not make her sick,
and where chicken bones can be stolen just often enough to keep them a treat.
Long live the Empress.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

This is a picture of a baby hat. Okay, it looks really stupid on the cat. As much as I tried to convince Callie that it was the Grand Empress of the Universe's crown, she wasn't buying it. But I wanted a picture of the baby hat, and it looked even stupider just sitting on the table.

Yes, it's a very small baby hat. It will fit a head the size of a nice navel orange. This is the size of a premature baby's head in this part of the world. In some parts of the world this is the size of an average baby's head. And that's why I made the wee thing in the first place.

Save the Children has a program going on now called Knit One Save One. It's part of their ongoing work to help children survive until the age of 5. It turns out something as simple as putting a hat on a baby's head will help them stay alive until their body systems are a little more developed and they can do a better job of regulating their own body temperature.

There's a Ravelry group dedicated to making these tiny little hats will get you there. You can also go to and download their action kit that gives all the information about deadlines and where the caps need to be sent and all that practical stuff. They even have a few basic patterns so you can get the idea about sizing and all that.

Callie is wearing the first of what I hope will be 100 caps finished between now and mid-December. It boggles my mind that the mindless thing I do with my hands while I'm watching tv can actually save the life of a child. I can't image why everyone wouldn't want to do this. Sometimes the simplest things we do turn out to be the most profound.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Okay, it's not quilting, but I do have two more finished objects to show off to the world.

First is the first of the 2008 Holiday Mystery Gifts Group offerings, a hat called Gansey Gayle, created by Terry Liann, who also designed the Handsome Devil Socks. I had some worsted weight wool in a color that I thought would work up pretty, and those bobbles just kept calling my name. So now it's out of my system and I can get on to getting important things done. At least until the next batch of patterns comes out and there's something else that I have to make before sundown.

And then there's the Kitties in a Row Blanket. I made this for MJ's pending grandchild. I wanted something that would work up quickly and let me use up this yarn that I've had in stash for a while. This afghan seemed perfect, and it would be except for working in all those yarn ends. I added an outer border that helped, but there was still a lot of sewing in to do. Still, in the end, it's a cute blanket that I hope the Tweedlet will like. After all, I still have the blanket that was made for me when I was born; who knows what may become an heirloom.

But I had to have my fun with it. Bart glommed on to this little ball of yarn months ago, even though it's not orange. We have played "hide the yarn" with it many times; I wind it up and hide it in a new place and wait to see how long it takes him to find it. He was beside himself with joy when I just set it on the blanket; it was better than putting an open whiskey bottle and a glass in front of an alcoholic. It took a little while to get good pictures, but it was worth it. He looks so proud of himself, you'd think he had crocheted the blanket with his own paws. Of course about 5 seconds after the picture was snapped the ball was totally unwound across the floor again, along with the other ball that was on the sofa that I had used as a "teaser" to get him to sit on the blanket. Right now he is totally passed out on the ottoman; he's sleeping it off. We'll work on the addiction tomorrow; there's no reasoning with him now.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Two more finished objects to show off to the world.

The first is my GA shawl, which I actually finished back in June, but didn't get a picture of until today. I decided that I wanted to make a prayer shawl as part of my preparation for GA. It had to be red, the color associated with the Holy Spirit; I think because of that association wearing red makes me feel confident and empowered. I remembered that I had this red mohair, which I knew would make a very light and airy shawl. And I found the perfect pattern - one that makes up in sections of easy repeats that allow you to adjust the size to the amount of yarn you have and the size shawl you want. I wanted a shawl big enough to wrap up in on an airplane, and the fact that this would be lightweight meant that it would easily fit into a travel bag.

I didn't get the shawl finished before GA started it, but I did finish it before GA ended. In fact I was knitting furiously through the Friday sessions so I would go home with it finished. I've traveled with it a few times since then, and it very nicely fills the need for a wrap for most occasions. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it didn't even really need blocking. I think this is a personal favorite.

This pair of socks is appropriately named Handsome Devils. The designer is one of my favorites, Terry Liann, and I joined a Yahoo group just so I could have access to this pattern. But then when I actually got down to the making, I hit a wall. I didn't have any yarns in my stash that would work together, and I couldn't make up my mind what colors I wanted. Then someone in the group made them in red, white, and blue, and I fell in love. I tracked down her yarn (who knew a true navy would be hard to find in cotton yarn), and started in on the socks. Even though I was translating the pattern to work with 2 circular needles, it was an easy knit, and really fun.

Since I finished them I've had a chance to wear them once. They are as much fun to wear as they were to knit. Finding shoes that were big enough to accommodate them was a bit of a challenge, but where there's a will there's a way. I love the fact that even though I can't find pretty shoes to fit my clodhopper feet I can have fun with socks.

While I had the camera handy I had to get pictures of the kids. Callie went through a spell this week of napping on the laptop. It wasn't ideal; she fell off at least twice. But I found it amusing, so I took the picture.

And then there's Bart. We know about Bart and yarn, especially orange yarn. I want to know how he knows that the tote bag he's curled up on contains a sock knitted from orange yarn. Does it give off vibes that he can pick up? Does he have x-ray vision? Or did he just guess lucky?

This weekend is a mini quilting retreat. I have a couple of projects that I can make progress on with a couple of hours spent, so I think I will try to do that, even though I really should be working on a project proposal. I'm ready to sew the sunflowers together, and free up my design wall for another project. And I got the fabric to make the covered buttons to "fix" the Laurel Burch quilt, so I should be able to manage that with an hour or so of work. If you see the pictures posted tomorrow you'll know I got it done.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

This was the state of my finishing basket this morning. And this wasn't even all the things that needed at least some degree of finishing. Clearly it was time to take action. I declared today Finishing Day, got out my yarn darning needles, crochet hooks, scissors, and the reserved bits of yarn, and tackled the challenges that lurked within. At the end of the day, everyone posed for their picture, and then got put away in their appropriate place (okay, some are still piled on the bed in the guest room, but they're not in the basket).

This batch of baby sweaters wasn't part of the basket. In fact they were completely finished except for having their picture taken. These eight sweaters were my Ravelympics project. I decided to match Michael Phelps one baby sweater for each gold medal. I was trying hard not to jinx the poor boy, but there was a tiny smidge of me that wanted him to lose at least one; eight sweaters in 16 days, even with vacation, was a bit daunting. But I really really wanted him to win. I love seeing what human beings can accomplish when everything works to perfection. He got his eight medals, and I finished the last wee sweater about a minute and a half before the closing ceremonies began. Not quite on the same level of competition, but I did it. And here's the picture to prove it.

Those eight now join these other eight that I found in the basket. Mostly they just needed their ends woven in and their ties added. The whole 16 of them are now in the drawer with the other two that I had finished earlier in the year. This should be plenty to fill the quota for layette kits for the year, so now it's on to hats and mittens.

What else did I find in the basket? There were hats of course. I think the majority of these were the ones I made while I was at General Assembly, but there were some others there as well. They're now sleeping happily with other hats waiting for my trip to DeGray State Park in October, when I will take them to the Knitting for Noggins drop off place in Arkadelphia.

Except for this one. I have no idea why it came out so big. I'd made another hat from this pattern and it was no where near this huge. I've nicknamed it the Troll Hat, because it seems that it would fit the mountain troll in Harry Potter's world. But then I've had a couple of men swear that it will fit them just fine. I haven't had any of them try it on yet. I hope they'll let me take their pictures when they do.

And then there was the Eyelets and Bobbles hat. The only thing it needed was the wee bit of ribbon tied around its topknot. I had found a model for it earlier, before it had its ribbon. Gracie wasn't really happy about this, but she did it. And the hat will always make me think of her, even when I give it away to some lucky baby.

What else was in the basket? There were two scarves made from the Seafoam pattern. I liked the way it worked up in the variagated wool (that's the green one), so decided to try it in a ribbon yarn (that's the other one). I'm not as fond of that result as I thought I would be; the scarf is bulky, and not as drapey as I wanted it to be. I may find a use for it in the winter. But I like the pattern, even though scarves are not my favorite thing to knit. And I think I have some more yarn that I bought to make at least one more.
There were two crocheted baby blankets. These were completely finished, just waiting to have their picture taken. These are a sort of traveling project; they live in a bag on the seat of the car, and get worked on when I'm on the road, sitting in traffic, waiting for an order at the Sonic, and such. It also means that I'm never at a loss for a project when I haven't prepared anything else suitable to work on during a meeting. They're done with a very easy crochet stitch that I haven't gotten tired of even after two blankets (and #3 in progress even now). And of course, color combinations are possible.

There were two knitted baby blankets from Mason-Dixon Knitting, a knitted version of a log cabin quilt square. They had LOTS of ends to weave in, and even a little bit of sewing up. It wasn't much fun, but when the challenge was to empty the basket, they had to get done. Now they are. I'm happy.

Okay, the basket didn't quite end up empty. There are still two Baby Surprise Jackets sitting in the bottom, looking very forlorn. BSJ's have actual seams that have to be sewn. I wasn't up for that, even with the challenge of emptying the basket. They're still there. I'm thinking of them as a sort of nest egg, creating a happy place for more nearly finished items to land.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Today was all about watching and waiting to see what Hurricane Gustav might throw at us. It felt like a day suspended in time. It was a holiday anyway, so lots of things were shut down - banks, mail, and such. It was my Sabbath. And there was the hurricane. It was a day when the rules about what "ought" to be done could easily be suspended. It was a perfect day for playing in the studio.

I guess it started raining here about 3 p.m. So far we've hardly seen what we could call a storm. There's a tornado watch up, but that's not unusual for this time of year. But we learned with Katrina not to sound the "all clear" too soon. By morning we'll know better what we're actually going to get out of this storm, beyond a town full of strangers. For the sake of the farmers I hope it's nothing more than a night of rain.

I spent most of my suspended day in the studio. I started with the slanted star blocks. I sewed up all the ones I had pieces cut for, and when I pressed them out and added their count to what I already had finished I realized I only had a few more to do to finish making blocks. So I cut more pieces and finished that part of the task. I laid out a few to take a picture. For now they're back to hibernating in their box waiting for the design wall to be cleared off. All 192 of them. Actually 193; having a spare seemed like a good idea. And there are squares cut that can be made into blocks if needed for color balance or something.

After I finished those I was ready to work on the sunflowers. And I started by rearranging the pieces I already had, and suddenly the whole thing came together. I cut a couple new pieces, but basically I think I've got it. I'll let it marinate a few days and see if I still like it before I sew any blocks together. But this is the first arrangement that has felt "right," so if I'm not there yet, I'm getting close.

So then it was time to play with the spring quilt, and that's where I hit a sort of wall. The wall was more a lack of knowledge than a lack of inspiration, so I got on Amazon to look for some of the Baltimore album books that are basic primers on dimensional applique. Discovered that I already had one in my library that I had forgotten about. So later tonight I will look through that one more thoroughly and see what I can figure out. The pieces are still sitting on the pressing table; I'll get back to it another day.

But that meant there was still time in the day and I was pretty much out of projects that I had pulled out of hibernation on Saturday. There were tesselated leaves waiting for quilting, but having started on the machine I wanted to keep going on the machine. I started looking at storage boxes to see if I could find something that would be easy to finish and found the New Year's Day mystery quilt from January. The blocks were finished; they just needed sewing together, so that was relatively painless. The snowball blocks now need something appliqued, so I'll study on that for a while. The pieced border called for in the directions is history; I'll do a border in the theme print I've been saving for a winter project, and call it finished.

So not bad progress for one weekend. The studio got cleaned and a bunch of projects got moved forward. I had no illusions of actually finishing anything; I just wanted to get my brain used to the idea of playing with fabric again. Considering that all the flat surfaces are once again covered in fabric, I guess I'll call the weekend a success.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor Day weekend and I'm doing my best to get something quilty done. Right now I have 4 projects in process in the studio, with another one lurking in the wings.

First is the Tesselated Leaves quilt, that is getting hand quilted. It's been a while since I did any hand quilting, so I don't have a good callous yet on my index finger. This means I can only work for short periods of time. But at least the direction is forward, and this hanging may actually get to a wall before it's time to put up Christmas decorations.

Second is the Sunflowers. This one needs some tweaking before it's ready for final assembly. The bright yellow is too much. I'll have to assemble some new nine-patches and audition them. And I have some other ideas too. Right now the sewing machine is still stowed, so I'm just contemplating possibilities. Fabrics are sitting on the card table.

Third is this little wall hanging that started life as a mystery quilt but then didn't seem quite finished. Having just one dimensional element seems unbalanced to me. But then I wasn't sure just where I wanted to go with it. Today I got out a book I already owned on making folded flowers, then did some research on dimensional applique.

I pulled out some fabrics and some other stuff that might find a place before all is said and done. All of that is on the pressing table.

Fourth is the Slanted Stars. This one is still in the piecing stage. Since it will take 196 pieces, or something like that, it may stay at this stage for a while. But it seems like a good place to start when I hoist the sewing machine again. And I did mark all the squares I had cut this morning, so I can claim progress. No new pictures of this one. I think there's one back in the archives, but I can't find it right now.

The possible 5th is that I've bought the covered button kits to "fix" the Laurel Burch quilt. I haven't found the right fabric to cover them yet, so not sure how far I'll get with that this weekend. I may have to buy fabric before I'm finished. Poor me.

It's only Saturday. Watch this page for updates.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Some new things to show off this week. First, I finished part 2 of the mystic light KAL with about 12 hours to spare before the new part came out.

Mystic Lights Shawl Clue #2

I'm really happy with the way this is turning out. The lace pattern is evident, but it's not too open in the plain parts. The cables on the sides and down the middle are not as obvious as they might be in another yarn, but to me it's like the small details in a quilt that has visual impact at a distance and then smaller delights that you only notice when you're up close. I'm really looking forward to having this shawl with me when I travel to Canada this summer; it will be just what I need for cool evenings.

I've recently reorganized my stash, so as to get all the sock yarn together, all the baby sweater yarn, and so on. Each category now has a designated space, and overflow is being temporarily stored in emptied kitty litter pails in the closet (I knew I was saving these for a reason). I still ended up with a pile of acrylic worsted left over, which is just going to live on top of the bed until I either have guests or its gone. In the interests of making the second possibility happen, I've started knitting caps for the Ships Project. I've sort of dragged my feet about knitting for troops; I guess I was hoping the need would go away. Anyway, a good bit of this pile is brown or other "manly" colors. I had thought about laprobes for the nursing home, but right now smaller projects fit into my life better, so caps it is. I finished the first of these this week - a lovely cabled pattern I found in the Knitting Pattern-A-Day calendar for this year.

Cabled Hat

And then there's Bart. He hasn't changed a bit. Last week I had to throw away a skein of sock yarn and a partially knitted sock because he grabbed it off the bar and rewound it all over the living room. When I tried to rewind it I had so many snarls and tangles I finally decided that the sock wasn't far enough along to care a lot about, and the yarn was cheap acrylic, and chucked the whole thing in the trash. Sunday I came home to find a "cat's cradle" he had made from a ball of yarn I had left sitting on my desk for days. Evidently I needed some bending and stretching exercise. Yesterday I was winding up the end of a skein and decided to just make his day by giving him the last bit that was soiled anyway. He is so proud of himself for his "catch."

Bart's latest catch

OTN right now, besides the Mystic Light shawl, is another log cabin baby blanket, this one in pastel shades. There's a seafoam scarf that is an experiment to see if I like the pattern well enough to make a shawl with it; the answer is yes, but I'll have to be careful of the width and be sure I have a needle long enough to handle all the yarn overs. I also bought some ribbon yarn to see how that worked up in this pattern. Mystic Waters is languishing for the moment, as I struggle to keep up with Mystic Light. There's another cap. Other ideas are percolating. I want to try the 2 socks on 2 circs process. I am looking at an aran afghan pattern that is to die for, except I don't want another large project right now. I've gotten some cotton yarns that are new to me to try out on things like baby sweaters and wash cloths.

Today I am cleaning out my clothes closet as I make the transition from winter to spring clothing. I've gotten all the stuff out - now it's time to sort and put things back. It's enough to make me envy the Amish - almost.

Monday, March 31, 2008

I've nearly finished my mitten quota for the spring (last pair is on the needles), so I've been experimenting with some new things before baby sweater season starts. First, I decided to try the log cabin method of blanket construction as outlined in Mason-Dixon Knitting. I have fallen in love with this way of making baby blankets. There's very little finishing to do other than weave in all the ends. And it's a great stashbuster; I moved 6 skeins out of my monstrous acrylic stash with this one.
I've already started the second one in pastel colors and have a pile of yarn set aside for #3. I'm not making them very big, about 36 inches square, but that seems to be a good size for a mobile life style; it's just about the right size for a car seat cover or a nap blanket.

Then I needed something challenging and extravagant to offset all that charity knitting, and the new Mystic Lights KAL seemed to be just the thing. I've finished the first clue and the second one won't be posted until Wednesday. The yarn is Glitter Alpaca from Cherry Tree Hill and the color is called Champlain Sunset, like the Vermont lake. I've been there, so this evokes a pleasant image for me. I love the feel of the alpaca, even though my eyes seem to attract all the fine threads it throws off.
And then, there's the Eyelets and Bobbles hat. It's Mary Jane's fault that Gracie had to model it; she sent me a picture of her Eddie wearing one of the chemo caps I made for her mom, and it seemed only fair to subject another dog to the same kind of indignity. But then of course, having done it once, there was no reason not to do it again, so I found a cap in colors that I thought were more suited to Gracie.
At some point it needs to be asked - why would any color be suitable for a dog? Some questions are best left unanswered.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

This is my finishing basket. This is where projects go to sleep until I get around to sewing up seams, weaving in ends, and otherwise doing the part of the project that I don't really want to do. See the empty basket. There is nothing - NOTHING - waiting to be finished. It's all done!

Okay, that doesn't mean there aren't works in progress. WIPs don't go into the finishing basket; they have other bags to live in until they are at the finishing stage. There aren't too many of those right now - just the right number really. A hat for the next hat/mitten set. A sock. A baby surprise jacket. An afghan. A shawl. Some big things, some small things, nothing really tricky, although the sock is fiddly and the BSJ is a new pattern that I have to pay attention to.

This baby blanket was the last project in the finishing basket. It's the Square Baby Blanket from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Workshop. It needed its start and finish grafted together. I got it done today and it's already in Andrea's hands. Today is her due date, so it was definitely time to get it out of the basket. I'm not happy with the grafting, and the cats made some pulls in it when they nap tested it. But Andrea's happy, so it's a success. Next time I'll look at EZ's diagram of the weaving and maybe I'll get it right.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sometimes when you try hard to stay out of trouble you end up falling into it with both feet.

Last weekend I was in a production of "Hello, Dolly" with Delta Center Stage. I was in the chorus and had a few lines as the second cook; mostly my job was to fill up the stage, sing whatever part needed augmenting, and not do anything stupid. So on opening night I got into my costume for the first act - the one I call my Dowager Lady Ursula costume - and went to sit in a corner out of the way with my knitting while everyone else was getting ready and coping with opening night jitters.

So there I was, practicing my newly learned skill of Continental-style knitting by making a dishcloth, when suddenly a photographer appears and wants to take a picture. The other girls posed around me, I kept on knitting, and the next thing I know I'm on the back page of the newspaper. Of course, i
f I'd known I was going to be in the newspaper, I would have had something more photogenic with me than a measly dishcloth with just a few rows complete. At the very least I would have whipped out a sock in some nicely contrasting color.

The good news is I've landed a part in the next production, which will open on April 17th. Next time I will come prepared.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Today was a Sunday off for me. I mean really a day off. I've been in Austin all the past week working on my latest D. Min. project. The work went well, and the weather was cold and wet, so there was little incentive to do anything but work. Then yesterday the weather broke, and I headed out to do the shopping I wanted to do while I was in the city. That left today with nothing that has to be done. Not exactly a Sabbath, since I also chose to ditch church. But a real day off.

So of course I immediately grabbed my knitting needles. I've been working on this waves wrap for a while and decided it was time to finish it off. I'm a little disappointed; I wanted it to be wider. But from a technical perspective it was a success. It was the first project I used my new Harmony Options needles on, and they turned out to be perfect. The project called for a provisional cast-on, and I just did it over a spare cable, then capped the ends. When I was ready to work the second end, all I had to do was attach the needle tips and go. Then I wasn't absolutely sure of the length. I could just leave the one end on a cable until I had finished the other end, then make the final decision about how many repeats of the last pattern to work.

So another time I will add some repeats to the pattern and make it wider. I do like the way it made up in the mohair; the lace is apparent, but the mistakes are not glaringly obvious.

So the wrap is done. So are two mitten/hat sets. Since I've been here. Ok, I've done a lot of knitting. I even took my knitting with me when I went to Threadgills this morning for the gospel brunch. Talk about stepping outside my usual Sunday routine. I even had a mimosa. Actually a mimosa and a half. I went to get a second plate and while I was gone, my table got bussed. So the waiters apologized all over themselves and got me another drink. It was a good thing I was walking home. Anyway, I worked 4 rows on my jaywalker sock while I sipped my drink and listened to the music.

I've also been on one Stash Enhancing eXpedition to Hill Country Weavers, and another is in store before I leave town. So far I've gotten some merino lace weight that will probably go into some future knit-along, and some Euroflax linen for spa towels. But I patted plenty of other things that will need to come home with me. There's more wool from the South African co-op I like, and there's some yarns bundled together that will make a lovely shawl, and, and, and . . . . Oh, and I need some more sock yarn and a pair of needles suitable to try the socks on 2 circs technique.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I tried to do this on Monday, but I couldn't get my computer to cooperate. I really do want to keep this blog going on a more regular basis, and since Monday is my Sabbath, that's a good day to catch up with all these fun things that get neglected the rest of the week. So much for great ideas.

I heard a saying that whatever you spend the most time doing on New Year's Day is what you will do the most during the rest of the year. I hope in my case that gets translated as "quilting," not "making a mess." As you can see, I did a thorough job of trashing the studio on New Year's Day while I feverishly worked on a mystery quilt, trying to get it finished before the end of the day. I didn't quite finish, and in fact, now I'm making some changes in the design, so it's still sitting in pieces waiting for the final product to come together in my mind. But I had fun, and got some fabrics out of the stash that needed to be used.

Speaking of using things that need to be used, one of the things I'm trying to do right now is use up some of my "ugly" yarn. When I buy large lots on Ebay, some is good, and some is okay but not the prettiest I've ever seen. And when I'm making hats and mittens for kids I want them to be bright and colorful and fun to wear. So I'm acquiring a pile of the other stuff. I thought it would make nice "kitty kosies" to give to the vet clinic. Andrea is always looking for towels and other such to use, and the critters don't care much about color. I've made a couple that are basically a crocheted circle, with the yarn doubled, and a little bit of decorative stitch on the edge. I decided it was time to test them on my own critters to see if they were acceptable.
Clearly this one is. Callie has hardly moved off it since I "accidentally" left it on the bar. And judging from her, the size is just about right. So I have a new project to work on in the mornings while Amy and I have our Literati fest.

Other projects on the needles: the mystic waters shawl is coming along slowly; I'm starting the toe on the first of the Sock It To Me socks; I'm working on some spa cloths to sell at Doorway to the Delta; and there's always a hat or two in progress.