Sunday, August 31, 2008

375 days

Here I was all ready to roll out the balloons and streamers to honor my first Blogiversary, today August 31- one whole year of blogging, and over 140,000 visitors (okay some of them are me just checking things, but not 140k worth), with prizes and everything as a thanks to everyone who has visited, and commented, and passed the word along, and just been here with me for this last year.

And then I checked my old posts because I couldn't remember what I said in my first one (you know, a sort of nostalgic look back), and discovered that my first post was made on August 21, 2007.

No wonder Blog has been sulky and silent for days, giving me the eye and not even thanking me for the flowers I bought this morning.

But I'll make it up, I promise. With drawings and prizes- a copy of I Heart Felt, a copy of 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders, and though neither one is published yet, a copy of Luxury One Skein Wonders (out in October, I have a project in the book), and a copy of The Prayer Shawl Companion (out toward the end of September- not only do I have a project in the book, that's my shawl on the cover). And maybe a couple other prizes to be announced later. Lots of prizes, lots of winners!

All you have to do to enter is post a comment to this post between now and Tuesday. I'll draw names-I'll mail I Heart Felt and 101 Designer One Skein Wonders right away, the others will go out as soon as the books are published.
Do be sure to add your name to your comment- I have no idea who writes anonymous unsigned posts. Winners will be announced on Wednesday!
It's been a great year! Thanks to all!

Friday, August 29, 2008


For most of my life, I was a book-a-day reader. I read voraciously and obsessively- everything I could get my hands on (I have the usual kid-reader stories of the librarian who made me give an oral report on the books I was returning because she didn't think I could possibly have read them all in the time allotted).

Then at age 37, after nine years of designing/writing/reviewing/illustrating for craft magazines, I started to write fiction. I realized almost instantly, that I could not write fiction and read it at the same time, so my reading output (input?) dropped drastically. I only read fiction when I was between my own manuscripts, or on a hiatus during a book (which happened frequently), or when I was procrastinating (which happened a lot more than frequently).

Life continued that way until 2001, when I lost my fiction publisher (the mystery series sort of just fizzled) and the mainstream novel I wrote (that I still think is my best work) didn't find a publisher. So I came back to craft writing, specifically knitting. Now, at age 55, I can read fiction and design knitting at the same time (well, not the *same* time, but you know what I mean), so my volume of books read should have jumped back to earlier levels. Unfortunately, a series of nasty health issues in my family a few years ago (a son diagnosed with cancer just weeks before his daughter was born, the deaths of my mother and two of my husband's brothers in a six week period) and two fantastic things, the births of our two wonderful granddaughters, also in a six week period, conspired to keep me away from books.

I just stopped wanting to read. For awhile, the rhythm of the needles was the only thing keeping me sane, but eventually the urge to read came back, though I have a feeling that it'll never rise to the levels of my youth. Most of the time, I'd rather knit.

But I still do read, and the blog header actually mentions books. And though I have no desire to write full reviews (being reviewed sort of takes the fun out of being snarky at another writer's expense- I don't have the urge to psychoanalyze anyone based on the stories they make up, any more), I realized that I never mention what I'm reading. These aren't reviews, just comments, on a few of the books I've read in the last year or so. I'll continue to post comment-lets as the spirit moves.

Three Bags Full, Leonie Swann ( ) I don't know that I truly buy the resolution of this mystery, but I absolutely loved spending time with this flock of sheep as they solved the death of their shepherd. Yep, the sheep are the detectives, and they're not cutsey talking sheep, they're actual sheep (who behaved exactly like the sheep we raised, except for the murder-solving part). I not only believed in each and every one of them, I hope there is a sequel in the works. This book is a translation, but it doesn't read like a translation.

Odd Hours, Dean Koontz ( ) I came to Dean Koontz late in the game (which means I'll never get caught up on his backlist- dude is seriously prolific, makes Stephen King look like a piker), but I judge all of his books on the Odd Thomas scale. I thought Odd Thomas was haunting and beautiful, and the best book I read in whatever year it was that I read it. Odd Hours ranks fairly high on the Odd Thomas scale, maybe a 7 out of 10. Nothing matches the original, but this one comes closer than Forever Odd and Brother Odd). Odd Thomas sees dead people, and that complicates his life. He's on the road, and finds himself drawn to an odd (not her name, just a description) pregnant girl, and complications ensue. I don't want to tell much about the plot because I don't want to spoil Odd Thomas if you haven't read it yet. If you plan to start this series (which I understand will have 7 books), start at the beginning, and then just read Forever Odd because you need to know the whole story. It picks up again after that. (btw- Koontz is famously against having his books made into movies, but I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be a perfect Odd).

Un Lun Dun, China Mieville ( ) My friend Ann recommended this book to me, and I'm so glad that she did. It's a deeply complex and weird story about two girls who are transported into an alternate London where machines are alive, evil rules (or at least tries to), and magic lives. It's a fascinating story, and though it's aimed at a YA audience, it's not an easy read (even for me, who's Y fled a long time ago). I loved it, and hope there will be a sequel.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thursday Tab- Lowe Vicky #1820

Vicky (Lowe #1820, probably published late 60's or early 70's the cover price is 10 cents, but it is a small, cheap book) looks very much like a Queen Holden doll to me, though there is no attribution on the cover. The clothes were printed on the center spread, with a fold down the middle, but my scanner wouldn't do the entire double page at once.

I am mystified by the hat over the shoes/socks on the cover. It looks like a copy/paste gone horribly wrong.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Maybe someone should tell Mother Nature...

... to tell the Cottonwood tree that it's still August.

The air temp this morning was 54, with a predicted high of 75. The humidity is so low that I no longer have Big Hair.

How much you wanna bet it'll be plenty warm on Monday, when I get to sit in an un-air conditioned tin building at The Fair for two hours?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crabby Appleton

Anyway, is there anything more satisfying than the little *plurk* of hot jar lids sealing? Well, yeah (I do remember my 20's. And 30's. And 40's, come to think of it). But it's still a pretty darn satisfying sound.

I'm glad I was too tired (read:Lazy) to make jelly yesterday afternoon. Letting the juice settle a couple of days was A Good Thing. This morning (I finished, like, 10 minutes ago), I made 2 batches of jelly with the top liquid. I could have kept the murky stuff, and mixed it with any other fruit for a combo jam, but I was out of sugar and ambition. I ended up with 5 pints of crystal clear crab apple jelly, and 6 3/4 pints of lightly tinted, cinnamon crab apple jelly (the disparity comes from having not quite a full pint left from the first batch, which was blended into the second).

I think I absorb sugar through my skin when I make jam, but I also had to taste. It tastes even better than it looks (the plain is wonderful, but there is something really special about the cinnamon). Now to see if it actually jells (or if I have 12 pints of ice cream syrup) (and yes, it very likely will jell- I used the pectin recipe rather than just boiling. But I always worry about that).

Monday, August 25, 2008



I went out to take a picture of the crab apple tree yesterday because this year's crop is the biggest that poor little tree has produced in 24 years. Then I looked down at the ground.

So my granddaughter and I picked up a sack full of crab apples (they're bigger than usual- I think that the root stock took over from the graft, actually, because they're also tastier), and I washed, chopped and simmered them to extract the juice. I also remembered why people invented juice presses.

I let the rest of the solids settle overnight in the fridge. I have some out of town things to do this morning, but this afternoon, I may make Crab Apple Jelly. I have enough juice for 2 batches- one plain, and one cinnamon.


Last Olympic Comment: As gorgeous and stirring as the Opening Ceremonies were, that's how screechy and awful the Closing Ceremony was, though the human torch was cool.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

No Finish Line For Me

I woulda got it done. I know I woulda. Just 10 1/2" left to knit on the sleeves, and the cutting/sewing/assembly of the sleeves, and Genevieve's Graduation sweater will be done. And it would have been done by the end of the Olympics but for work.

But I'm making progress on the sock reknits (for color changes, not design elements, at least- so it's just a matter of following my own patterns, which is a handy way to test knit them), and I've made a bit of progress on the sleeves (about 6 rnds in the last 4 days... sigh...).

Since I was disqualified early on the Sock Knitter's Penthalon, I had so hoped to finish at least one of my Ravelympics 2008 projects.

Oh well.

Olympic Comment of the Day: Go Derek Miles, classmate and Fraternity Brother of my sons- 4th place in the Pole Vault at age 35 is an amazing achievement!

Friday, August 22, 2008


Do you see this? 247 games played. two hundred and forty-seven. And I've won a measly 22 of them. Twenty-two, which Spider Solitaire (2-suit) tells me is a pitiful 8%. And yet I continue.

There is something deeply wrong with me...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thursday Tab- Whitman Children from Other Lands #2090, 1961

I am pretty sure that I had this set as a kid, or one of my younger sisters did (I was much more into the Glamour Girls, than the cute kids). What do you think, #4 and #3? In any case, it's terribly familiar. It's a cute set, and I'm pretty sure that we ignored the obvious *educational* value, and just enjoyed playing with the 8(!) dolls and adorable clothes.
Click on images to enlarge, right click to save as jpgs. Print from any graphics program, clothes on plain paper, dolls on card stock.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Healthy Recipe- Cajun Turkey and Cheese Wrap

This wrap is not only delicious, it's HUGE! And it's low calorie, and really low carb! Go, make yourself one right now for lunch. You won't be sorry. Or hungry again in an hour. (that's a full size paper plate, btw- not a dessert plate)

And if you have not tried La Tortilla Factory tortillas, go find them right now too. They come in lots of flavors and sizes (including Gluten Free, which my Sister #3 should love), and have far fewer calories and carbs than regular tortillas.

Cajun Turkey and Cheese Wrap

1 La Tortilla Factory Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Wrap

1 oz Cajun Turkey Breast, sliced (can substitute any kind of turkey, but this stuff is Da Bomb!)(as my son would say. in 1986)

2 Laughing Cow Cheese Wedges, Garlic and Herb

Shredded lettuce (I use bagged salad, which also has carrots and other assorted healthy things in it)

5 Grape tomatoes, halved

Spread the Laughing Cow cheese over the entire tortilla. Arrange the sliced turkey down the center of the tortilla, leaving at least 1" at either end empty. Arrange the lettuce and tomatoes on the turkey. Fold the empty ends in, and roll the tortilla. Slice in half and serve.

Calories: 270, Carb: 10 gr

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Earn More Sessions by Sleeving

Yeah, I love Roxanne.
Believe it or not, the gold/red portions of this design are easier to knit than the green/white scroll borders. I don't know why- but the gold/red goes so much more quickly, even though I'm increasing the whole shebang by 4 sts every 3 rnds. It helps that I was able to put the sleeves on the 24" circular needle. I really dislike knitting with 16" circulars- there's just not enough wiggle room (and yes, I know I could use a looooong circular, the same way people do with socks, but I don't have a loooooong circular in that size, and I don't want to deal with all that extra loopage every round). Before I'm done, the tandem sleeves will have more stitches than the body of the sweater, and I'll be using a 32" circular, but I have to knit about 8" more before I get to that point.

At any rate, the sleeves are coming along swimmingly, and I'll keep chugging along until the UPS truck arrives with yarn for sock book reknits (which should get here around lunch today).

Olympic Question of the Day: Who knew that trampoline jumping could be so breathtaking?

Monday, August 18, 2008

What's the Word?

...for finishing objects? Finishitis is what we use for starting projects but not getting them done. But lately, I've been getting things off the needles in a pretty amazing fashion. We took a short road trip yesterday, so I finished the Twisted (dyer) Kabam (wool/bamboo) Giles (colorway) ankle socks. This yarn is soft and shiny and drapey but still has a fantastic stitch definition, and the dye job, as with all Twisted dye jobs, has perfect color saturation (you may note that the toes don't match, but this is wonderfully hand-dyed yarn, no one expects exact matches in the stripes). The socks came out very well, with the picot hem and the little bit of texture that adds visual interest (super easy: Rnd 1: *K 2 tog, YO*, Rnds 2-5: K) without fighting with the striping.

And I am making progress on Gen's Graduation sweater. I am past the flower border on the sleeves (knitting both at once), and am nearly to the medallion portion. Only 15 1/2" to go, and I will be done with this project too! (though not as quickly as I'd hoped- the sock reknit yarn will probably arrive today). Note the adorable little stitch markers- I got them from Girl on the Rocks (link in Stash Enhancers). I think I need some more.

Olympic Question of the Day: What is up with that little hair bump where the gymnastics girls bangs are pinned back? They're all doing it, so it has to be on purpose, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why they think a hair tumor is attractive.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Appearance Alert: State Fair and NCFF Here I come

I'll be signing books at the South Dakota State Fair (in the Arts Building, I believe) on Monday, Sept 1, at 1:00 pm, in Huron SD. I haven't been to the fair in a few years, so it'll be fun to go again. Come and talk with me- no purchase required (or maybe even possible- as far as I know, no bookstore has stepped up to bring books, and I am contractually not allowed to sell the books myself)(unless I pay full retail price and shipping to get them here, and there's no point in that, people can buy them cheaper on their own).

I'll also be teaching a short-row heel workshop from 9-noon on Saturday, September 20, in Watertown SD. The North Country Fiber Fair is the only one I ever get to attend, and I look forward to it every year. It's a small, but well run fair, with lots of things to buy and do. In addition to teaching the short row heel class, I am signed up for a crochet with beads and wire class in the afternoon. I already know which handspun skein I am going to enter in the competition, and maybe which knitted projects (the Firefly handspun gloves for sure). I'll keep the link to the right at the top of the page as a reminder, but you can download the booklet and find all of the info here:

I Ignore the Sweater

Well, I didn't ignore it. It would have been impossible to ignore it staring at me balefully. But I did work on other things yesterday- I had yarn on hand for one of the sock book reknits, so I made good progress on that, and then I decided to finish the Mitered Square socks.

I love how these came out (even though they're too big for me)- it was more of a process-knit, an experiment to see if the notion would work at all, so the fact that they don't fit me is irrelevant (and I have someone with that size feet and a whimsical outlook, who will get them for Christmas). These were great fun to make, and a very good use for leftover bits and pieces of sock yarn (of which I have a never ending supply). I made the pair match (right down to the striping on the sole), but totally mismatching socks would be a hoot (to knit, and to wear).

Mitered Square Sock Stats: 36, 21 stitch mitered squares per sock, size 2 (2.75mm) needles, about 100 gr of assorted sock yarn leftover bits.

I do believe that I am going to make a pair for myself, out of Twisted Netherfield yarn (the colorway I wanted the most). This particular yarn base is Arial, which is finer than what I often use for socks (I like heavier fingering weight a bit better), and I got it in a trade (wahoo!- this stuff is devilishly hard to come by, especially this colorway). It's a mutating variegate, meaning that green and pink mottled color bands gradually fade into each other. I think this yarn will make a smashing pair of mitered square socks (though making them match exactly might be difficult. I don't think I'll worry about it). I'll use Size 1 needles, and I suspect that the same 21 stitch squares will work perfectly for my size (shoe 7-8).

I will work on the sweater this evening. I promise.

Olympic Comment of the Day: It's so nice of swimsuit designers to outline all those interesting body parts, makes them (the body parts, not the swimsuit designers) so much easier for us to spot.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

In Which I Learn That I Will Never Accomplish as Much as I Thought

In addition to the text work on the sock book, I have to do some reknitting to adjust colors for photography. As with all deadlines, this new one is very deadliney, and as with all book deadlines, it takes priority over the rest of my life. So as soon as the replacement yarn arrives (Monday or Tuesday), I'll be nose to the needles, which means that I may or may not finish this sweater by the end of the Olympics, and I will very likely not get the handspun beaded lace scarf finished. [insert disappointed face here]

But I still have the weekend to book it on the sweater. I'm knitting both sleeves at the same time, with steeks in between (to be cut apart and seamed before attaching to the armholes). I'm past the cuff and beginning the increases, which are a pain with patterned knitting (and because remembering to make them at the beginning and end of both sleeves, every 3rd row, is sometimes beyond my short-term memory capabilities).

The picture isn't all that interesting, but I scanned it to show off these adorable teensy little stitch markers. Girl on the Rocks makes them (link in Stash Enhancers), and I love them. They add no weight at all to the knitting, they're sized perfectly for little needles (great for sock knitters, of which I are one), and they're totally cute (and extremely reasonably priced). While I was shopping, I also bought this gorgeous dyed Finn roving from her- it's incredibly soft and someday, I'll get to spin it.

And just for fun, I hand-felted one of the cut off pieces from the sweater neckline, to see if Rowan felts. Yup, it does.

Olympic Comment of the Day: I would so qualify for Dwight Schrute's Olympic Centathlon Cup Stacking Team, but I'd rather join Murder Checkers

Friday, August 15, 2008

In Which I Do Not Accomplish As Much as I'd Hoped

I really thought I was going to finish the neckband on the sweater, and have a visible amount on the sleeves to show all y'all this morning, but for some reason, I just couldn't get going on the sleeves last night. I did get them cast on, and a couple of cuff facing rows knitted, but then I put it aside and worked on the Miter-Square Patchwork socks for a bit (about 2" on the sole left to knit, then the toe, and all those ends to weave in before seaming and I'll be done with that pair).

But I did get the neckband done, and it turned out fine. Though you can shape necklines for steeking as you knit, it's just as easy to knit the whole body as a tube (for pullovers and high-necked cardigans- with v-necks, I decrease) and then trim the excess. That way I can fiddle with the neckline placement and curve up until the scissors hit the yarn.

In this case, there wasn't all that much to cut away. I trimmed the excess to about 3/4" on the fronts, and along the back, to reduce bulk in the band. and then folded the cut edge up and the band down, and sewed it into place.

And then just for fun, I set the clasps on the sweater just to see how they'll look. As much as I love these clasps, I wonder if they're too *busy* for the design. I might look for some plainer clasps. What do you think?
I got these from Button Drawer ( ) which has an amazing selection of extremely reasonably priced buttons. Added later: they don't have any plain-clasp styles. Evidently, all sweater clasps are busy. So I'll probably use these. They're gorgeous (though not pewter, as I erroneously thought).

Olympic Question of the Day: Was Mark Spitz always such a whiner?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

LOL Steekz!


I knew as soon as I wrote down yesterday's itinerary, that I wouldn't be able to get it all done, especially since I had sock book work to do until well after lunch. But I did find and mark the sleeve steek positions with highly contrasting yarn. I did get them reinforced with zigzag stitching (and then I had to interrupt the sweater to do some other mending- I don't get the sewing machine out very often, so there is always a pile waiting), the armhole steeks cut, the shoulder seams sewn, the neckline curves calculated (and pinned in place), the neckband calculated (tricky when the stitch number has to be an increment of 16- that is going to make sizing this sweater pattern... um... interesting...), picked up (along the pinned fold), and the stranded portion of the neckband knit. I also calculated out the sleeve pattern (how many to cast on, how many increases needed in the proper length, how soon to stop the regular patterning and go to the last motif, how often to increase).

So today, I will finish the neckband (picot edge, facing, trimming the excess fabric, and sewing the facing down), and probably get the sleeves cast on. I'm going to knit the sleeves tandem- casting both on in a circle with steeks in between. When I get done, there will be more stitches than in the body of the sweater, but I'll have both finished. After which, I will cut the sleeves apart, sew the back seam, and sew them in place. Sewing the seam and sewing the sleeves in place takes time, but it eliminates all those ends to weave in, so it's a wash, I think.

Knitting the sleeves will be so much easier than the bands. It's going to take a few days to finish, but I'm on the home stretch! You'll get your sweater soon, Gen!
Olympics Question of the Day: what sort of stickum do they use on those Speedos to keep them in place during dives?