Archive for the 'knitting' Category

Natural intrusions

I’ve been away from the blog (although not away away….), focusing on work, reading, and knitting. Finished a vest (the Artisan’s vest from Green Mountain Spinnery), which I’m pretty pleased with, although it sparked questions about how to do a better button band (I’m on it, and reading up on ideas for the next vest).

I acquired a new sewing machine, which holds a lot of promise if I can play with it around my work. The days are now punctuated by a desire to get outside and at least look at other peoples’ yards before all the blooms are gone. There was a banner year of figs and grapes.

However, there is a difference of opinions about yellow jackets

(Took a while for me to get to the point of this post…)

The cats think they’re great. I’m less than impressed that the cats are riling up stragglers who get inside. I’ve been spending my free time trapping angry insects in glass jars and waiting until they calm down. Then I slide a stiff card under the opening and march the angry buzzing cargo outdoors. After waiting a while, I tip over the glass jar with a broom. There’s been a lot of shrieking (after muting the work line). The worst was when two cats were tangled up in the barricade towels with one really indignant specimen of wasp-kind. Brr.

I will post thoughts on the current mysteries that I’m reading once I’ve gotten further in. They are helping me feel October-y without having to watch horror movies. The yellow jacket invaders are creepy enough.

Wishing everyone a happy October. Hopefully I’ll be back soon to post about my latest knitting, reading, etc.

Small creative pursuits

It’s been quiet, creative-wise, around here. Due to lack of workspace and cat interventions, I’ve had to put aside some of my bigger projects (sewing machine repair so I can make a muslin, some of my painting), and focus on small things when I have time. While the cats sleep, I’ve found free time and space for:

  • Knitting washcloths
  • Stitching beads onto my counted cross-stitch kit
  • Working on the front of the Artisan’s Vest

And of course there’s reading. Current poetry book: Whereas: Poems by Layli Long Soldier. Long Soldier’s poetry is fascinating, and very different. I think I’ve reread “Steady Summer” multiple times. Link to the publisher’s page: https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/whereas.

Here’s a taste from “Steady Summer”:

"... through half-propped 
windows I swallow
grass scent the solstice
makes a mind
wide makes it
oceanic blue ..." 

Some of the poems are hard to parse, more visual than lyrical. Other poems require me to look things up in history books, because I’m not familiar with Oglala Lakota background, environment (anything, really… and it’s my job to educate myself, since public school did not).

There have been brief travels, now that family are vaccinated, for quick visits. Seeing other environments has helped a little. And I went, fully masked, to see the Philadelphia Flower Show, which was outdoors (and kind of amazing). I’m trying to weigh what I’m comfortable with against what seems to be safe. It’s complicated…. I’ve also been limiting my time online (when not for work) and my time on Rav because I didn’t enjoy the headaches from the interface. Not sure if I will ditch my Rav account (I was one of the second wave of beta testers when the site went live). I think it depends on how weird that site gets.

So what are you reading or creating in your free time?

Revisiting Old Books

I’ve been slowly going through my old PieceWork magazines. Today I’m back visiting January/February 2005, reading “Frocks, Cloaks, and Pumpkin Hoods: Dressing for Winter in Nineteenth-Century New England”. It’s a great article. However, I’m amazed women survived going out wearing thin stockings, silk shoes that look like ballet flats, and low-necked coats. Most of the article’s clothing examples are from the early-19th century. And yes, there is an illustration of a pumpkin hood made of quilted black silk.

I’m inspired to re-read some of my Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, or Dickens novels. Will I feel like I can “see” the pictures created by the authors if I know what a pelisse looks like? Maybe not, but that time period may feel a bit more solid to me.

There are some great knitting patterns: an Old Shale shawl designed by Evelyn A. Clark, Danish wristlets designed by Nancy Bush, a bead-knit tank top designed by Lily M. Chin (daunting), and Selbu mittens that you knit and embroider, adapted from a design by Heidi Fossnes (not listed in Ravelry). I’ve been working on a red version of the Danish wristlets. Now that I’m on the second wristlet, the pattern seems easier. I may end up making a bunch of these for holiday gifting. If you do cross-stitch, the site has a free pattern of a heart with Quaker motifs for the month of February. Maybe a little late for Valentine’s Day planning, but something to consider for next year.

This edition of the magazine is still available for digital download, according to the Long Threads website.

February – October

2020 has felt alienating, strange, and bizarre. From the cold/flu in the new year, to losing a cat, to the whole world sliding into a pandemic… if I could whack 2020 with a restraining order, I’d be down at the courthouse now. If the courthouse was open…

Due to the reduction in commuting, singing, and visiting with friends, there has been knitting. I’ve finished large projects (secrets until Christmas). I started Katie’s Kep for a distanced knitalong (link to the free pattern on the Shetland Wool Week website), I finished a baby knit for an auction for the chorus, and I am about a quarter of the way done with the artisan’s vest. There has been home maintenance (window caulking — very glamorous), as well as (dishwasher-adjacent) swearing.

I’m trying not to count the year’s markers that were missed because choruses can’t sing safely and families can’t meet up. I had the joy of attending a remote wedding over the computer. That was a first. I had the sorrow of attending a funeral over F*cebook. That also was a first.

I’ve attended cat church in pajamas, drinking coffee and singing along from home while using a cat toy to distract the cat congregants. I’ve become quite fond of cat church — I’ll be sad when it isn’t available. In summer and fall there have been conferences, meetings, classes, and family gatherings online. I had one in-person outing, to vote early in the election. Other than that, I only go for walks or visit the grocery store as briefly as possible.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are going to be hard on many people. When the alternative might harm the people you love — or co-workers or children’s parents — I’m hoping more people will choose to say “no”.

Long-term projects

Back in February 2019, designer Kate Atherley tweeted about a new pattern. I looked at the design (Thursday Afternoon shawl) and thought, “sure, why not? I think I can get that done pretty quickly”.

Hah. I could never be mistaken for a test knitter.

If I had chosen different yarn, I might have been able to finish quickly. But here we are, 7 skeins of Mountain Mohair from Green Mountain Spinnery and 1 year and 6 months later, and it is done. The math was starting to work (the narrow side is where you cast-on, and the wide side is supposed to be the same length draped over your shoulder), but I stopped when I ran out of yarn. I’ll post the pictures later, once the recipient has opened it (although the pictures are visible on the Ravelry link I’ve provided).

The result is a glorious, full-body hug of wool that’s earmarked for Christmas gifting (oh heavens I hope we get to have Christmas). I need to put it in a box and wrap it before I’m tempted to keep it. The pattern is intuitive and easy to memorize. Definitely a stash buster.

Yarn: Mountain Mohair is one of my favorites. Sturdy wool, with a lovely haze from the mohair. Colors: Goldenrod, Ice Blue, Moss, Wintergreen, Balsam, and I think the darkest color is a navy color no longer offered by the spinnery.

Book thoughts

The last place I visited before the governor ordered everything* shut down was the neighborhood library. It’s a lovely space, with large ceilings and big windows (possibly it’s one of the libraries built on the Carnegie plan). It’s a lovely space, with just enough books to keep me busy. I returned a book, impulsively picked up a book (not a great one, it turns out), and then read the room.

Each librarian would work for a short while, then go to the back of the library to just breathe. When I got home, I heard the news that as of 5 o’clock, all restaurants, libraries, movie theaters, museums were officially closed. I suspect the librarians were waiting for the official news, but had to come in while police, trash collectors, and hospital employees were falling ill to COVID-19.

Things are opening up again, although the libraries and some yarn stores have curb side service only. I miss being in the space that libraries occupy, with each book a magic portal into someone else’s imagination. Currently, I order a book, and then get a call that they’re ready for me to come in. I set a time, and then call once I’m under a tent outside the front door. Then the librarian pops out, makes me state the last 4 digits of my library card, and places the book on a white table before running back indoors.

It’s challenging to buy or request a book unseen – I prefer leafing through them first. One of my friends asked why I don’t just download books onto my computer or a tablet, and… the computer is for work. I splurged on a ticket to virtually attend St. Hilda’s College Crime Fiction Weekend, because the topic was interesting — historical fiction and mysteries. I listened to authors talk about the research they did for their books, getting pointers and trying to decide which books weren’t too filled with the Midsummer Murders effect. I then researched which books were available from the library and which to buy from the venue. [The Mysteries Ahoy blog had an article about what it was like.] I hope that they hold it online and in person in the future, since cross-Atlantic travel for a conference requires vacation time. Would I rather visit Oxford to attend? Yes. Is that practical? Sigh. Maybe not very.

So, during this time of distance from bookstores and libraries, have you been researching books online, or getting recommendations from friends? I’ve been texting friends who knit, to find out what they think of yarn before I make an order. šŸ™‚ Although right now I still have so much stocked in the house that I should be OK if I just knit what patterns and yarn I have.

* Except grocery stores, drug store, the post office, hospitals, construction places, and liquor stores.

Tiny finished projects

Yesterday I had the joy of seeing a 2-year old boy jumping around in his new kitty hat. I was on my porch, and he was in his yard.

It was important to make a gift for him, because his new baby brother was also getting a jacket to grow into. Both projects were delivered safely, and I’ll see the boys wearing them from a distance. Details are in my Ravelry info. The jacket was an Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern, knit in two different sock yarns. The purple hat is crocheted from cotton…. No pattern, really, just off the top of my head.

Raise your needlework

… if you’ve been doing a lot of stress-knitting recently …or knitting to avoid social media. Or sewing a new dress because spring is coming. For those of you cross-stitching while watching/listening to your favorite mystery, I love doing that too.

Raise your needlepoint or cross-stitch needles if they’re what bring you joy or calm. A lot of us out here are quietly stitching, or ripping back, or consulting sewing patterns. If you’re avoiding being around people right now…. consider this your invite to a virtual kaffeeklatsch and stitch-in.

Me? I’m knitting for a deadline. A happy one. I’m knitting an E. Zimmerman tomten rainbow for a neighbor’s anticipated delivery. Pictures once I can get it done and over to the mom-to-be. Once it’s done, I’m on to test a blouse pattern.

So, what are you working on? I have friends who spin, friends who do polymer clay art, others who do amazing watercolor paintings. Feel free to leave a comment below and share.

Indoor pursuits

Encinitas Beach, California, painting (postcard sized).

It’s just cold and dark outdoors, without the benefits of snow. Blah. In the evenings, I’ve been indulging in playing with inktense blocks, experimenting with blending colors, making one band of colors blur into another. I’ve also been painting watercolors, using photos from last year’s vacation (thinking about warmer days).

There’s been knitting (Kate Atherley’s Thursday Afternoon Shawl, which is lengthening without getting wider… alarming!) and prepping a new project (balling yarn).

When the kitten is asleep, I’ve been hemming up a skirt (it’s an old 80s skirt, made of lovely material, but very … wide at the hem… so it’s slow). I have added pin pricked fingers to the kitten’s inevitably play marks. Unlike knitting, hand hemming is something I can pause to use the cat dancer toy as a distraction. I’m not sure how to handle the sewing machine around an active kitten (the other cats want the machine to kindly die, and leave me alone), so big sewing projects and printmaking are on pause.

Small kitten interruption

Raphael H started small, but he’s been growing gangbusters. Born in a cat shelter, he is a soft, silky boy. His interests are: chasing moving twigs, food, rolling things, food, string, food, chasing the middle cat, and food.

Since he became part of the family, our oldest cat has had a health scare. It’s been a whirlwind of meds for the older cat and the youngest.

Anywho… Christmas and New Years were a blur of caring for cats and dealing with travel-related colds. I recently visited Ravelry to bookmark things I find interesting, and I’m trying to figure out how to get some printing or sewing work done, without kitten assistance. He is very, very helpful with yarn (he sits on the project and tries to incisor the moving string).


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