Saturday, August 30, 2008

Last Hurrah

The kids and I have enjoyed a nice week (DH had to go back to work on Monday, but I had one more week off). We finished up some back-to-school shopping, and did a few day trips. Nothing big, just local stuff.

Yesterday was the Yankee Candle Flagship store in South Deerfield. If you ever find yourself in (or even near) Western Mass (say during your next trip to WEBS?), you really have to make the short trip up the road to Yankee Candle. It's been called the Disneyworld of Candles, and it certainly lives up to the name.

If I had brought the camera, you'd see lots of pictures, but I forgot. Here's a couple from their web site.

Suffice to say this place is well worth the several hours you will spend there. It's absolutely free, and so it's a nice place to go when you just have an afternoon to kill. Yes, there are candles...zillions and zillions of candles... but also this amazing Bavarian village desigined (Disney style) to feel like you're walking through an outdoor town square at nighttime (complete with falling snow and cold air), a medieval castle filled with nutcrackers, and dragons and gargoyles (and you know how I feel about the gargoyles), animatronic characters, Santa's workshop (complete with a year-round Santa), two restaurants, a Build-a-Bear workshop, a dip-your-own candles activity for the kids, a home and kitchen store, and specialty shops selling New England gifts, Department 56 Christmas and Halloween villages, etc., etc. Truly, words don't do the place justice... make sure you visit if you're ever in the area.

If you do go, there's also a butterfly conservatory up the street called Magic Wings. That's also a lot of fun, and I do have a picture of that (from one of our previous visits). Here's a look at Don with a little hitchhiker on his baseball cap. (You have to actually go through a room filled with mirrors as you leave, so you can remove any of the butterflies that are perched on your person looking for a free ride!)

All in all, a great vacation. Now we'll hope for a nice holiday weekend, and... back to reality on Tuesday!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vacation -- the Booty!

What would a beach vacation be without a little bit of pirate booty? And, as a knitter, that booty most likely takes the form of yarn, of course. Between flying kites and catching hermit crabs, I did find a few moments (literally!) to stop into a lovely little yarn shop at the cape.

The shop is called the Ladybug Knitting shop, and it was chock full of luscious yarns and patterns. I picked up some odds and ends ... a shorter pair of straight needles for my red scarf (more on that later), a lovely Dale of Norway baby pattern (for some reason I'm totally hooked on those gorgeous little sweaters on size 1 needles that babies only wear for a few months before outgrowing!), and some sock yarn.

It's Madeline Tosh hand dyed yarn, and I got colors Pool (on the left) and Fireside. The colors are so much more rich and lush in person than they are on her web page! The site really doesn't do them justice at all ... hopefully my picture is a little closer to reality. I just noticed that WEBS has started carrying this yarn... this could be very dangerous for me.

I have another fiber acquisition that arrived when I was on vacation, does that count? I had ordered some roving from Linda Lee before leaving on vacation, and it was here when I got home. It's really amazing... pure Tencel, in her "Prairie" colorway. Just so silky and shiny.... I really love Linda's work!

And, there was knitting. Remember the wee baby scarf from last week? Well, it seems that our vacations include a fair amount of "car time" in getting to the spot, and then driving around looking for interesting things to do. And that time is just perfect for quick hit projects like the red scarf. As you can see, the "wee baby" is well into adolescence at this point.

The pattern is very simple, and memorized after just a few repeats, and the 26-stitch rows just fly by. I love the yarn (very soft and snuggly), but I can see that the merino/angora combination is one that will felt if you even look at it funny. I'm not altogether sure that this is a good idea for a college student (remembering my college-age laundry skills), but then I think about how frequently I would have actually washed a scarf (zero) and it seems like it may be ok. Or it may end up as a very soft scarf for a teddy bear... either way, it's all good.

I can hear some of you out there... "Are you crazy?! Making a garment of handwash yarn for someone who won't even care for it properly and probably ruin it?" Yeah, I'm actually fine with it. You see, I am a strong process knitter (as opposed to a product knitter). I rarely keep anything I make, and even if I do keep it, if someone says, "Oh, I love that," I'm fairly likely to just give it to them.

How can you tell which you are? Very easy. Imagine you are snowed in at a high-mountain cabin. There are plenty of provisions, fire wood and warm cozy clothes to last you, but you are definitely snowed in until spring. You have other distractions -- internet, telephone, cable TV -- just no way to actually leave for a few months. You also have one ball of yarn. Do you use the yarn to make something useful, like an extra hat or warm socks (and cherish your hand knit item until your spring rescue) or do you knit something, rip it out, and knit something else... over and over again until spring? Product knitters, of course, will make something out of the yarn and use it. For process knitters, the joy is in the making, more so than the finished product. I don't care if I have anything to show for it in the spring, but I want to be able to knit all winter.

I suppose most knitters are somewhere in the middle, but I tend to be strong on the process side. So, when I give my knitted items as gifts, I provide washing instructions and hope for the best. I'd much rather that something I make is enjoyed and used and worn out (or accidentally felted) than sitting in a drawer and never put to its intended use. But that's me....

What about you? Are you a process or product knitter?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

The short version? I spent a great week with my kids and my husband enjoying fantastic weather and a really nice, relaxing and fun family vacation. For those who want the somewhat longer version (the one with pictures), read on.

We rented a house in Orleans, on Cape Cod, for the week. It's a nice area with lots to do, but not so commercially built up as the upper cape (around Hyannis). We did all those fun things that you always say would be nice to do as a family, but never seem to get around to.

We had picnics (thanks to hubby for being the official family photog): We flew kites:We jumped on trampolines (okay, only the kids did that):

We went to the beach, of course, where Emma and Molly, along with a couple of friends, buried Austin in the sand (love the seaweed hair):We went on a fantastic whale watch. If you've done one before, you know that the whales are usually kind of hanging around, coming up to breathe and then diving. You mostly see their backs and their tails, when they dive. This time, we had countless whales, and one in particular was amazingly active, rolling around and leaping out of the water. Very uncommon to catch that. As the guide on the trip pointed out, it takes an enormous amount of energy to lift that much weight out of the water!And, since we were in P-Town for the whale watch (that's Provincetown to those who are not familiar with our local nicknames), it turned out that it was Carnival week in town, and we were there on the day of the carnival parade! If you're not familiar with P-Town, it is an old Portuguese fishing town that has been adopted over the years, first by artists and writers in the early 20th century and then, somewhat later, by the gay/lesbian/transgender community. It's a really lovely little town, with all kinds of eclectic shops and restaurants. (and, of course, a few shops that are best not visited with the young'uns). All in all, it's a town that's very open and welcoming, and a lot of fun.

Particularly for something like the carnival parade. Did I mention that the theme was "The Wild West"? Yes, we had cowboys and indians and dance hall "girls" and even a few school marms. The kids enjoyed catching the beads tossed from the floats that went by, and they were especially pleased with the large purple beads from the K-Y float that said "Keep Life Sexy" (!) As you might imagine, that particular float was very popular with the crowd. Fortunately, my younger kids just thought they were cool beads, and we avoided any tricky questions about what the product was! And, of course, we drove around a bit and enjoyed lots of "picture postcard" views like this:

Yes, there was also knitting (and reading!... it's been ages since I could just hang out with a book). And there was new fiber acquisition as well... but for all those details, you'll just have to stay tuned. It's late now, so I'm headed off to bed!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Red Scarf Project

See that? Know what that is? It's a wee baby scarf. No, not a "baby scarf" (as in "scarf for a baby") but a "baby" scarf (as in "scarf just getting started"). And see what color it is? Yep, that can mean only one thing. It's time once again for the Red Scarf Project.

If you're not familiar with the project, it's well worth a visit the OFA site to read about it. The OFA (Orphan Foundation of America) is a group that serves the needs of children in the foster care system in this country that "age out" of care every year. It's a scary thing, since their life and their challenges when they turn 18 are no different than when they were "17 and 364 days," but their safety net disappears. OFA helps them in many ways, including scholarships to attend college.

Which is where the scarves come in. OFA has asked knitters and crocheters to create red scarves to give to their students on Valentine's Day as a way to show that people care about them and are thinking of them. You can include a personal note or a Starbuck's or other gift card as well if you'd like. The response of the fiber community to this cause has been overwhelming. In fact, last year the OFA actually had to scale it back a bit... there are now limits about the maximum number of scarves you can donate. How cool is that?

Please consider this very worthy cause as you plan your fall knitting. There are specific guidelines as well as suggestions on yarns, size, and even patterns on the OFA site. Finished should be sent to: Orphan Foundation of America, The Red Scarf Project, 21351 Gentry Drive, Sterling, VA 20166

Scarves are only accepted between September 1st and October 31st , so be sure to read the guidelines and get knitting!

And finally, when I took the scarf picture, I found a few others that the kids had taken and left on the camera, and so, I bring you Lola...

And Max...

... doing what they do best!

Monday, August 11, 2008

And the Winner is....

Octopus Knits! The winner of my little blog contest is the eight-armed one herself (I imagine a knitting needle in each of those arms.... maybe a new way to knit two socks at once!) For taking the time to comment, and coming up with the lucky, randomly generated number, the Octopus will be making those handwarmers she's imagining. Drop me an email with your snail mail so I can send the booty your way! Congratulations!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


So, I told you a while back that I was trying the Sidewinder pattern. I'd like to report that I finished the first sock. It looks like this:

On the plus side, I will say that it's a very interesting knit, from a technical perspective. Very, very clever, the way that the pattern has been designed to allow you to create all he construction details, working horiontally instead of vertically. And it does fit very nicely, particularly through the foot. Other than that, I don't think I like it.

First off, handpainted sock yarns are designed for color repeats over the 60 - 80 stitches that you would have going around a sock, not the 100+ stitches of these vertical rows. So, to be honest, I don't really like how the colors come out with this approach.

Then there's the garter stitch. The design uses garter stitch and short rows on the back of the calf to help with the fit. I realize I'm in the minority among knitters when I say this, but I've never really like the way garter stitch looks very much.

Then, there are the unusual construction details that the design requires. To create the heel and toe, you need to use paired increases on one side of the sock and paired decreases on the other. However, increases and decreases don't exactly look the same when they're knitted (at least not the ones that the pattern recommends). I know that if I could actually take a picture in focus, this observation would be clearer, but I'm hoping you have the idea.

Finally, the pattern requires that (after you graft the 100+ stitches up the back to seam it closed) that you also graft a short seam under the toe. It's very small, and if you graft it, there's really not a bump or anything, but this little seam annoys me.

So, there you have it. I really enjoyed knitting this sock, but I know I won't enjoy wearing it. Here's my Sidewinder today:

I've ordered the Cedar Creek pattern from BMFA, and I think that may be a happier solution for this yarn. We shall see.

While we're at it, don't forget that this is the last die for the comment contest to own that yummy merino/alpaca blend.

And finally, to Chris and Terri: It was a beautiful day. You were beautiful, the rainbow was amazing, and it was so special to be a part of it. Love you both. (and thanks to Don for the amazing pictures!)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Cool Contests! Free Stuff!

Wouldn't it be nice to win something, and do something nice at the same time? I think so, too. So, with that in mind, I thought I'd pass along some links to fun, interesting and worthwhile contests out in blogland. Check them out and, while you're at it, share the links on your own blog so that others can join in the fun.

First, go visit Stacey at EarthChickKnits and read her story (which will take your breath away, particularly if you're a parent). And then, read about the wonderful opportunity she offers to give back and create a little more good in the world (remember our whole discussion of karma?).

DarcyKnottyKnitter also has a contest. I doesn't benefit anyone in particular, except YOU, since you'll have a chance to browse around the Great Yarn Company's web site, and maybe win some Flat Feet.

While you're at it, MonkeyMan'sMama could use a hand choosing her next project. For taking the trouble to offer your opinion, she's feeling generous enough to enter you in a contest for some gorgeous yarn.

Finally, since mentioning the contests of others increases my personal chances of winning, it seems only fair for me to offer a little contest of my own. I've had these two lovely skeins of alpaca/merino sock yarn from the Natural Dye Studio for quite a while now, and it's a shame not to see this yarn knit up into something yummy.

So, here's my contest. If you would like these two lovelies to come live with you, leave me a comment telling me what sock pattern you might make with them (don't worry, I won't come to your house to see if you follow through on that). You get one entry for your comment, and one more if you post about the contest on your blog and include the link in your comment.

The deadline for entries will be midnight, Sunday August 10th. I'll choose a winner at random and post it as soon as I can contact her/him and get confirmation on the snail mail.

Good luck!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Catching Up... on SP12 Questions

So I think this is my last official "catch-up" post. While my Secret Pal and I have had plenty of email conversation, and I know she's already come up with a package of something special for me (because she's been teasing me unmercifully about it!), I do feel like I should play by the rules and answer the weekly blog questions. Since I've missed a few, we'll catch up with all of them at once.

What is your favorite type of project to take along on holiday/vacation?
Depends on the vacation. For a ski vacation, or anything in the winter, I usually take something small and portable -- a hat, mittens, socks. For a beach vacation, I have to say that I tend not to bring knitting (yes, I know... collective gasp here). I understand why people might bring knitting to the beach, it's just not really my thing. I'd much prefer to bring a book and get in some reading, which is my other hobby that I never seem to have enough time for!

What is(are) your favorite place(s) to knit? and What supplies (besides yarn & needles) make the setting perfect for knitting?
I knit any and everyplace (ok, not the beach, but anywhere else). At home, I have a favorite comfy chair that is right next to my knitting bookcase, has a nice bright light, a table for my drink or snack, and a perfect view of the TV. But I almost always have some knitting with me, so I knit in waiting rooms, in grocery lines and at Starbucks or Panera Bread when I'm waiting for the kids.

What is your favorite supper for a hot summer evening?
I think it would have to be something cooked on the grill. Maybe chicken or shrimp and veggies on skewers with a little teriyaki marinade. Served with corn on the cob, also done on the grill... nice and brown and caramel-y. Ice cold beer and s'mores done over the fire for dessert. Yum!!
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