Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tudoring Myself

I've always been fascinated with The Tudors- not admiring, mind you, just amazed that so many cataclysmic changes came about because Henry couldn't manage to sire a son with Catherine of Aragon. My guess is that a break with the Catholic Church would have happened regardless, but not then, and not that way. How would the world be different if he had? Or if any of the Tudors had been more prone to the Y chromosome ( their only choices in the family were Mary, Elizabeth, Mary of Scotland, Lady Jane Grey...)(and we know what happened to the last two).

The latest fascination with Henry, et al, was triggered by watching the first 2 seasons of The Tudors ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0758790/ ), which played fast and loose with a lot of the history (including keeping Henry young and buff long past his young/buff expiration date), but which also made me sympathetic enough with Anne Boleyn to cry just a bit at her execution.

I went from there to Anne of a Thousand Days ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064030/ )- where Richard Burton made a much more historically accurate Henry, and Genvieve Bujold a totally unbelievable Anne (with 60's hair, regardless of historical era). One thing these fictional accounts all agree on: Thomas Boleyn was a monster- willing to sacrifice three of his children for his own financial gain. That and C of A rocked the unibrow.

Blockbuster bundled Anne M with Mary Queen of Scots ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067402/
) , which I am watching now, starring a very young and beautiful Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson. I'm not very far into it, but it's good.

I also have A Man for All Seasons ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060665/) on hand, which, at least as far as the cast list goes, tells the story of Henry and Thomas Moore without mentioning Anne at all.

And coming, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066714/ ) which is a BBC mini series from 1970.

And what am I doing as I watch all of the Tudor excesses? Finishing Orion's Socks (which do not want to photograph well- maybe those colors confuse the autofocus), and starting a pair of mitered cuff socks from Twisted Playful leftover yarns. I decided, a little late in the game, that I want a new pair of socks for each day of the Sock Summit- despite the fact that Portland in August is absolutely not wool sock weather. I already have 2 pairs done (the Entrelac socks, and Orion's), I'll have the mitered cuff socks done before we leave on vacation in less than 2 weeks, and that just leaves one more pair to knit, which I can do on the road. I haven't knit this many pairs for me in a row since I first gave myself permission to spend money on sock yarn. I have to say that I'm enjoying it enormously.
Side note: I'm having a hard time getting links to copy/paste correctly, and I have never been able to embed the links properly. sorry

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Future Jelly

Even though last year's batch never did jell, I plan to make Crabapple Jelly again. Looks like I'll have plenty of raw material (I'll buy extra Pectin)(extra pectin... extra pectin... extra pectin... I like how those syllables sound together).

And yes, we're that close to the train tracks.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Field Report, Orion's Sock, The Absence of Bugs, and Waves

Soybeans love heat and humidity, and the occasional downpour. The soybeans have been very happy this week.

I finished the first Orion's Sock, the official Sock Summit Sock Pattern. I wound 2 skeins of each color (Koigu, KPPM and KPM) but I might actually be able to squeeze a pair from 1 apiece. We'll see.

The cicadas are emerging. I don't know if we have every-year cicadas, or if the multi-year ones are staggered, but we hear them every summer. However, I had never seen one until this morning, when my husband brought one over to the pool as I was swimming laps. It's a very cool looking bug, and would have made a nice picture for the blog. Unfortunately, by the time I got out of the pool, showered and dressed, it was gone. But this tree trunk is where it would have been, if it was still there.

And it's not amber, and it's not grain, but the hay waves beautifully. It'll be ready to cut soon.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Marvels of Modern Technology

This is something of a test run. I’m writing and posting from my new mini computer. I’m going to be traveling a bit this year (vacation to the west coast in a couple of weeks, the Sock Summit in August, and SAFF in October- and anywhere else people invite me to come and speak) (hint hint), and I plan to blog from all of those places. We have a laptop, but the notion of lugging a 17 incher on assorted planes was depressing (not to mention the fear of computers displacing flight knitting supplies…). I figured a mini computer was the perfect solution- I can post, and surf, and blog while on the road, without weighing myself down.

Isn’t this the cutest little thing ever? (it’s a Dell, 10” screen). It doesn’t have WORD, but it does have WORKS, which I am using to compose this post. It seems to work just fine (and, in fact, looks a whole lot like WORD).

Anyway, in non-computer news: look at this box of yarn. It’s Marshmallow (80% alpaca, 20% merino) from Decadent Fibers (link in Stash Enhancers on the right of the page), in a new set of colors called Nutty for Nuts. This yarn is even softer than it looks, and I just want to take a nap on it. I see a Fair Isle sweater in this yarn’s future.

And here’s Orion’s Sock- the official sock pattern of the Sock Summit (I think you can buy it even if you’re not attending). I love the pattern, and the beads. I wanted to use STR (Socks that Rock) yarns, but I only had 1 skein of lightweight on hand, and it wouldn’t play with any other yarns I tried. I cast this sock on 3 times before giving up and using Koigu. I am modifying the pattern just a bit- I’m working cuff-down, and doing a short-row heel.

Oh, I haven’t made it to the field for a soybean pic yet. I’ll remedy that in a post a little later today.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

1987 Jewel Secrets, #1537

We're into the Really Big Hair Era, and six-pack abs (and very tight shorty-shorts), and extremely weird waistlines.
I know there were actual dolls in this line, but I can't remember why their skirts were so odd.
(Google is my friend: the skirts on the actual dolls also turned into drawstring purses. That accounts for the odd construction, though not for the notion of a skirt that turns into a purse).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Little Shawl on the Prairie

When most people think of South Dakota, they picture Mt. Rushmore. I take nothing away from The Hills (well, okay, maybe I do. I grew up in the shadow of the Cascades, so to me, The Hills are just that- pretty hills with a few trees on them), but there is more to South Dakota than a carved mountain and a drug store that gives away free ice water.

I live in Eas Triver (SD Parlance for the half of the state that is east of the Missiouri River), the land of the 360 degree horizon, where you can watch thunderstorms building up 100 miles away (a handy thing, especially lately), where 20 mph steady winds are considered a breeze, where there truly are amber waves of grain.

I was happy to represent my part of the state as the South Dakota knitter for the Traveling Shawl ( http://www.traveling50statesshawl.blogspot.com/ ). I expected to take some pictures of The Shawl on the prairie (after all of its travels to big cities and the like, I thought a quiet day or two in the country would be a relief), and I knew that I would marvel at this amazing project, and at all of the knitters who have contributed to it so far. I expected to feel proud, both of the knitters, and of myself, for being part of an enterprise that is so much more than the sum of its participants. I expected to be blown away by the beauty of the design and the softness of the yarn, and I worried that my own knitting skills would not be up to that of the previous 45 knitters.

All of those things happened (my skill was likely up to standard, but I was still intimidated by the possibility of making a mistake).

What I didn't expect, and what caught me totally off guard, was the emotional wallop of seeing the shawl, this work of love and dedication, and the accompanying journal, in person.

The shawl itself is gorgeous, worked in a softly variegated dark mauve, and the yarn is incredibly soft (and even the needles are pretty- KP Harmony circulars). I oohed and aahed over it for a bit, before opening the journal to find page after page, each written by a different knitter, most dedicating their work to specific women and men, battlers, survivors, and those who lost their battle with breast cancer.

The stories described on every page of that journal were amazing, and overwhelming. So many people affected, so much love, so much courage. So much grace. I am not ashamed to say that I wept.

I talked about the emotional connection I felt to the writers, and to the men and women mentioned, whom I will never meet, to the TV and newspaper reporters yesterday (one, whose writing was a little slower due to numbness and redness in her hands, from her own chemotherapy), but I'm not sure I got the point across as well as I would have liked. I talked about how amazing it is to contribute to a single piece, crafted by so many hands, each working with love.

I talked about the women I dedicated my work to- our neighbor Paulette, who lost her battle, and my knitting and spinning friend Deb, who is still battling. I talked about the mundane things, like how to go about donating to this amazing cause. And of course, I talked about myself, because that's the way I roll.

But last night, when I was doing the actual knitting, I thought not only about Paulette and Deb, and the other men and women mentioned in the journal, but about all of the people in my life who have faced cancer. I thought about my husband's mother, and two of his brothers, all gone far too young, and his sister, whose cancer was caught early and cured. I thought about my friend Diane, whose mother, and two grandmothers all battled the Big C. And my stepmother. And Betty at the library. And Kevin. I thought about my aunt, dying of lung cancer in her 40's, and a cousin who died before reaching adolescence, and an uncle with brain cancer. And I thought about my son, whose dire prognosis eight years ago, laid me flat. He faced his ordeal with much more grace and courage than I did, and came through with only scars (visible, and non) as reminders of that dark time.

I thought about how much I whine and moan, how little time I take to appreciate just being here, and being with those I love. I knitted my six rows on the Traveling Shawl as a contribution to a cause, to a fight, that I wholeheartedly support and believe in. But The Traveling shawl gave in return- a renewed awareness of my own good fortune and happiness, and a hope that should I face this battle, that I will be even half as brave as the people in the journal, as my own friends and family have been.

I am honored, and humbled, to be a part of this project.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sisterhood of the Traveling Publicity Machine

The Traveling Shawl arrived yesterday, and since then, I've been in a kind of whirlwhind of publicity, and publicity arrangements (not to mention some nasty storms in between, and a 100 mile road trip). I taped a TV spot this morning (for the locals: it will air on KSFY, possibly at 6:00 tonight, though that depends on whether anything actually interesting happens in the interim, in which case the story will be bumped. If that happens, check tomorrow), and did an interview with the Aberdeen American News (not sure when the story will come out- I'll get back to you all on that), and I have one more newspaper interview to do, possibly this afternoon.

The shawl is amazing, and the journal that travels along with the shawl, is even more amazing, filled with stories from each of the knitters- tales of their own battles with cancer, with stories of the survival of friends, relatives, and neighbors, and stories of those who lost their battles. Reading it is a deeply moving experience. I'll add my bit tomorrow, after I finish knitting my rows, and just before I get the shawl packed up for the next knitter. I am #46, so the shawl is nearing the end of its journey.

I'll report more fully on the shawl, and this heart touching/warming/piercing project, with pictures, tomorrow. I may also know, by then, if I said anything really stupid on camera- I never remember what I say to microphones afterward. We'll keep our fingers crossed that I was at least coherent.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Not in Kansas Any More

I present: The Oz Quilt

You can't see the little tornadoes I quilted on the sashings (the downside of invisible thread, I guess), but I am very proud of them.

Next up in the quilting dept: My daughter in law asked me to make a very special quilt from The Grands' baby clothes, and so I spent some time cutting 6" and 4" squares from rompers and dresses and shirts (what an odd experience that was- I remember almost all of those outfits, and bought several of them). I think I'll turn them into simple pinwheel blocks (with white)- that'll keep the project from becoming boring, while still not overshadowing the fabrics themselves (which are the reason for the quilt in the first place).

I also finished the Entrelac Socks (Twisted Fiber Arts, Kabam, Leisure). The Entrelac portion is a little loose, but the bulk of the design itself holds the cuffs up. If I knit this pattern again, especially from heavier yarn, I may drop to 7 rectangles (42 sts) rather than 8 (48 sts). But otherwise, the socks are lovely, and I am glad I reacquainted myself with Entrelac (I took a class once, but forgot all of it. Sort of like the 2 years of Russian that I took in high school).

This week's knitting is already planned- I'm starting Orion's Socks (the official Sock Summit sock pattern), and I am the South Dakota knitter for The Traveling Shawl, which should arrive today or tomorrow, for my portion of the knitting. I have 2 newspaper interviews and a TV spot lined up for publicity for the shawl, so if it's here, my next couple of days will be pretty busy. Check out the Shawl and it's travels here : http://www.traveling50statesshawl.blogspot.com/ . It's a pretty amazing project, and I am proud to be participating.

So I'd best go swim my laps and head to the Post Office.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Let Them Knit Cake

The Best Father's Day Cake. Ever.

Be sure to check out the not so great Father's Day Cakes in the earlier posts.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Field Report 06-19-09

The grands are here for their last visit before moving across country, so I'm not online much. But I did sneak out to the field and get a couple of pictures of the soybeans. We had some rain this week...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Interesting weather we're havin'

The first three were taken an hour ago from my front porch- no rotation, so it's not a funnel. But straight winds and downdrafts are nervewracking too.

And then from our back porch, just moments ago. That's heavy rain, and maybe some hail (going the away from us).
It's always interesting on the Plains.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Strangely Apropos

Yesterday, as I was sewing little tornadoes on the Oz quilt, there were tornadoes on the ground everywhere, including one less than 10 miles from where my husband and son were working (a farm house with no basement. And no root cellar). It was a hairy afternoon, one of those Interesting Weather We're Havin' kind of days that South Dakota specializes in, with storms popping up on top of storms popping up on top of storms, for about nine hours straight. Over the last two days, we got about 3" of rain (so the soybean pic tomorrow should be good), and a whole lot of rumble, boom and flash.

Though I had the laptop, flashlight and cell phone handy, with the TV on for constant weather updates (they do that here, when it's stormy), ready to make a mad dash for the basement if the sirens went off, I (mostly) calmly worked on the Oz quilt. I got the final borders on, the backing/batting sandwiched and pinned in place, and the entire top quilted. I am thrilled with how it turned out. I will never be a machine quilter's machine quilter, but my skillz have improved steadily with each project. I was able to make little faux tornadoes on the vertical sashings, and outline the rainbows on the squares, and highlight the faces and figures on the panels. All in all, I am happy with it (and I remembered to straighten the edges afterward).

Last evening, I worked on the Entrelac socks- I have about 1 1/2 rows of rectangles left on the second cuff. I no longer have to look at the instructions, which is nice. These cuffs are going to be a little loose on me, though the ribbing is tight enough (and the bulk of the entrelac itself will stiffen the sock). I think if I make another pair (and it's probably safe to say that I will), with the same size yarn and needles, I'll drop down to 7 rectangles (I'm doing the Medium size with 8 for this pair). And I'll definitely need to drop down if I knit entrelac socks with a heavier fingering weight yarn.

Today I plan to get the Oz binding assembled, pressed, sewn on, and tacked down. I shouldn't have to duck any more storms until this evening. I hope.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

...and your little dog too

Usually, I let a yarn or fabric to tell me what it wants to be, but I have a deadline on this one, so I couldn't wait for the Oz panels to get chatty. Instead, I just started cutting. I laid out the big panels in a sort of symmetrical arrangement, and then cut up pieces of the coordinating fat quarters and filled in the blank spots. And whaddyaknow... it turned out just fine, even without Dorothy's input.

I still have to put a wider cream on cream border around the whole piece (it's going to be about 55" x 62"- a nice lap/display quilt size), but otherwise, the top is finished. I haven't quite decided how to quilt it. If I had time, I'd do it by hand, but I don't have time. So machine it is, but I'm going to have to be all fancy schmancy with the sewing because I don't want to *texturize* the faces. It'll be an adventure.

P.S. the dark brown print and the one I'm using for the wide border were purchased locally (and they match perfectly- how lucky is that?), but the other prints and panels are all part of Quilting Treasures Wizard of Oz collection http://www.quiltingtreasures.com/content3834.html )

Monday, June 15, 2009


I would have made a pun on the word entrelac (I was thinking of something along the lines of entre vous et moi, but my French is nonexistent, and I don't want to look more stupid than usual). So, no puns this morning.

But I do have a finished entrelac sock cuff to show you all. Once you get going, the process is almost mindless- fiddly but not complex. The color changes in the Twisted Kabam Leisure yarn aren't quite matched to the rows, so here and there we have matching colors together (especially where you have to turn and work back the other direction at the end of a round), but the tones are subtly mottled and they all look so good together, that it doesn't really matter.

The instructions are a little sketchy (pattern link in yesterday's post), and I'm still not sure that I did the ending triangles properly because I worked an additional decrease in each triangle beyond what the pattern called for because it seemed like they each needed one there. But they look okay, and I don't want 66 sts on the foot/heel anyway (I knit my socks on 2.75mm needles with 56-60 sts). The foot will be striped, which will play off the entrelac nicely, I think. (note: the colors in today's scan are closer to the actual yarn colors than yesterday's pic).

I finished the heel (with the coordinating yarn) of the first sock, and then decided to cast on the mate while the process was fresh in my mind. I intend to take/wear these at the Sock Summit (despite the fact that August in Portland can be searing) (I have never been so excited for August to arrive).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Can't Believe I Did This

Normally, I can live with mistakes and bloopies. I ignore them really well. But the *wide spot* in the border on the Merry and Bright table runner just would not allow ignorance (heh). So I gave up and ripped the binding off, trimmed the edge, and stitched it back in place. It's still not perfect, and the other edge (with the narrower border) is simply not fixable, but it's much better. I can safely ignore it now.

In between dips in the pool (it finally turned Summer-like), I started a pair of Entrelac socks. I was going to use my precious Twisted Playful Netherfield yarn, but it's a heavy fingering weight and the pattern I'm using was written for Noro sock yarn, which is very fine (which yarn I do not love, by the way). So I went with Twisted Kabam (wool/bamboo) in the Leisure colorway, with coordinating heel and toe yarn.

I took an entrelac class a few years ago, from Rick Mondragon no less (editor of Knitter's magazine), at the North Country Fiber Fair. The entrelac part didn't stick, but I did come away knowing how to knit back backwards, which has served me very well. But enough of the entrelac process came back that I was able to use this pattern: http://buttercupia.blogspot.com/2008/04/noro-entrelac-socks.html to get my socks started. It's a bare bones pattern, and if you've never done Entrelac before, you might want to find a tutorial for the basics.

At any rate, I got about 4 rows of squares done before I realized that I was using needles that were too big (2.75mm) and the sock was huge (I had already modified the ribbing because I knew that I did not need 72 sts for the upper cuff, but the entrelac portion was way too big as well). So I sighed and tore it out to the triangle row, and dropped down a needle size (to 2.5mm). I'm much happier with the size and texture now, and am becoming re-familiar with the whole Entrelac notion. Twisted yarn is perfect for this kind of pattern- it really shows off the beautiful color changes. The process is fiddly (though knitting back backwards makes it so much easier and faster) and fun, and I love love love the look.

I hope to get more done today, in between laps.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I can't believe I'm going to show you this

The Merry and Bright table runner went together very well. I've done enough machine quilting now to play a bit with the serpentine quilting (varying the direction of the curving lines to match the direction of the pieced blocks). The binding matches well and I got it stitched down in a minimum amount of time. I took a few nice pics (I really like the one with the morning sun showing through the blocks)

And then.... I turned it over.... and this is what I saw.....
Oh well... And no, I'm not obsessive enough to take it out, straighten the edge and sew it again (which wouldn't work anyway- the backing shifted a bit in the quilting too)- this is the back and it looks okay, if not perfect, from the front. But I may end up keeping this rather than gifting it as I had hoped. Or at least I can't give it away without a note saying I know it's crooked, and I'm sorry. This is what happens when you pair me and a pre-printed border. If the backing had been all-white, I would never have noticed it (it would still have been crooked, but I would have remained blissfully ignorant of that fact).
Also, real quilters will notice that the points on my sashing stars aren't quite right- that's because I used 1 1/2" squares rather than 1 1/4". Oops.

But the Firefly Mitered Cuff socks turned out perfectly. I'm not going to bother writing up this pattern. If you want to make some- search the blog for Mitered Square instructions, then make a cuff with 4 rows of 6 squares. Pick up 60 sts across the top and work 4 garter stitch rows. Sew into a tube. Pick up 60 sts across the bottom. Work 1" of stockinette, and then finish the heel and sole as per your favorite Vanilla sock pattern. Voila! (P.S. the socks are not for me- that's why they're too long)

Next up- I think I'm going to try Entrelac with the Twisted Fiber Arts Playful yarn. It'll be an adventure, and it'll probably look better on the back than the table runner.