Sunday, September 28, 2008


Ever sit down to try and accomplish something and have absolutely everything you do turn out wrong? Yesterday was like that. I finally finished the Mystic Meadows shawl, and I decided to block it. Several false starts later, it is sitting in a damp, unblocked heap. I'm not up to the gory details at the moment, so let's talk about something fun instead, shall we?

How about the Big E? The Big E is the local shorthand for the "Eastern States Exposition". It's kind of a state fair for all of New England, and it happens to be held one town over from where I live. It runs for two-and-a-half weeks every fall, and it's a local tradition. It really doesn't change tremendously from year to year, but it's always a fun day.

I took the kids last Saturday, since Don had to work. One of the main attractions, of course, is the food. I don't have any pictures of us stuffing our faces, but believe me, there was plenty of junk food consumed.

There are also concerts.... Fergie (from the Black-Eyed Peas), Sugarland, Natasha Bedingfield and even Mickey Dolenz were just a few on the roster this year. There are buildings representing each of the New England states which highlight the products each state produces, the big companies there (for example, Lego is in the Connecticut building), the natural resources, parks, shore, etc. and, of course, the favorite foods (it always comes back to food, doesn't it?)

No fair is complete without the rides, and we spent a little time on the midway.

Another favorite spot for me, of course, is the livestock area where, depending on the day, there are cows, sheep dogs, hogs, llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats and other farm favorites being judged. We were fortunate to be there at a time when the sheep were in the barn. Take a look at some of the gorgeous wool-on-the-hoof that we saw:

And, of course my own little lambs:

Oops, sorry... here's a slightly more human shot.

Dad wasn't able to join us, but we did have a reminder of him in when we were visiting the Budweiser Clydesdales tent. (Those are absolutely amazing horses, by the way). One of the big fellas that pulls the beer wagon was named "Don".... can't think of anything more appropriate!

All in all, it was a great, and exhausting, day. I'll leave you with a very pretty picture of the setting sun from my backyard, and save my tales of woe about the shawl blocking for another day.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Attention Span of a Gnat

Sorry you haven't heard from me in a bit. I'm knitting. Actually, I'm "finishing". Between all the UFOs I showed you a while back, and the shameless cast-on for the socks and then my sister and the whole baby thing, well, it's getting a bit embarrassing.

What finally pushed me over the edge to actually sit down and finish something? Margene. Simple as that. As you have been reading here about a pathetic pile of unfinished stuff, you will read on her blog about lovely and useful finished objects on a regular basis. I have complimented her resolve in finishing things, and she has read my blog. Need I say more?

She left me some good advice, saying, "Knit on the one project that is almost finished and you'll see just how wonderful it is to finish something. That's a bigger thrill than starting it!! ;-)" Now, I'm not altogether sure about that "bigger thrill than starting" thing.... I get pretty darned thrilled when I start something new... but I'm willing to admit that finishing something would be a really nice thrill, too.

So, I'm hard at work on the Mystic Meadows stole. I have 72 rows to go, and I'm not knitting on anything else until I finish it. I will admit that it's a little bit boring at times, but there is a sense of satisfaction in seeing it grow. The only downside is that I won't be able to fully enjoy this as a finished object until I block it. And I don't own blocking wires at the moment. Or have a readily available place to block a 6-foot wrap (good things to think about before starting a stole, don't you think?). Anyway, I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

For now, I'm knitting.... well, for a few minutes. Until I leave for the fair. I wonder if they'll have yarn for sale?....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Price of Snobbery

Ok, I admit it. Somewhere along the way I became a yarn snob. As I've told you, I learned to knit on Red Heart. For many years, the acrylic yarn at Woolworth's was all I could afford, and it helped me to learn how to knit. As I grew older (and my wallet grew a bit fatter) I discovered Real Wool (it was definitely worthy of capital letters). From there, I found all the other amazing animal and plant fibers that are out there, and developed a predictable disdain of all things acrylic.

So far, a fairly typical path I'd say. Here's where the problem came in. Not only had I dismissed "non-natural" (and in my mind, inferior) yarns, I had also dismissed the companies that made them, regardless of what else they might make. What I did not realize (because of my snobbery) was that (a) in the intervening years, synthetic yarn had come a long way, and that there were actually some really beautiful synthetics and blends and (b) that just because a company sold inexpensive synthetic yarns did not mean that they didn't also offer some perfectly acceptable Real Wool.

Witness the Red Heart Heart and Sole socks in progress:

I just love the colors in this yarn and the intricacy of the self patterning (the repeat goes on forever!). And, my snobbery almost made me miss it. Now, I'll have a cute little pair of Real Wool socks at almost a third of the cost of my usual upscale sock yarn finds.

Speaking of socks, I don't think I ever posted these:

These little house socks are from some of my handspun. It was done from one of Spunky Eclectic's rovings that I got from Amy a while back at Mass Sheep & Wool. (I think it was called "The New Black" or something like that). I was testing out Abby's theory on putting lots of twist into sock yarns at the time. I can see the trade-off -- these are definitely not my softest socks, but they're perfectly comfortable, and they wear like iron. I love them and wear them frequently, although I might still go with something more soft and squishy if I planned to give them as a gift.

And speaking of gifts, I guess I can show you this little cutie now, too:

This is a ladybug tea cozy that I made for my SP12 "spoilee". She was a huge tea fan and a ladybug fan as well, so it was perfect. Since she has received and enjoyed it, and I have "outed" myself to her, I guess there's no reason not to share. I got the pattern from Cakes, Knits and Cosies on Etsy, and if you look at the picture with the pattern, you'll see that there were optional "antennae" that I chose not to make, but I can see where they would be darling, too.

Rainy Sunday here, with the remains of some weather front going through. I'm sure the remains of Ike will keep us wet here for a good portion of the week. Warm thoughts and prayers to all who were in the path of Ike in his more ferocious form.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Finished Object... and some that may be

Yes, you read that right. I have an honest-to-goodness FO to share. It's sort of a big deal for me, since I'm not really much on "finishing".... although I'm a heck of a starter.

I give you, my 2008 scarf for the Red Scarf Project (insert "ta da" trumpet sound here)

It's a simple little pattern I found on the Jimmy Beans Wool website. It's just called Month 5. As the site suggests, it looks much more difficult than it is. Just four pattern rows repeated over 26 stitches... it flies by.

So, now that my charity knitting is done and on its way to warm some college student this winter, what else am I doing? Well, perhaps it's time for a "Walk through the WIPs" (note that this is a long post with lots of pictures from here on out... but if you want to feel better about your own backlog of projects, by all means carry on)

Bear in mind as we go through these that they are the "current" works in progress. There is another batch of things in progress stuffed in closets and tote bags that will probably never get finished. These are the lucky few that have a shot.

If you recall, I made one Sidewinder sock with the "Knitters Without Borders" STR, and I really didn't care for it all that much, so I frogged it. (I don't need to tell you that I'm liking it more, now that it's gone, right?). Anyway... I started the Cedar Creek Sock from BMFA, and it's going ok so far.

This kind of non-descript, oatmeal-y thing is the beginning of the back of Bianca's Jacket from IK, which I started a while back. I got to the underarm bind-off in the back and decided I needed to rethink the length, wondered whether I needed to think about some short rows for the front, how that would work with the patterned yoke and whether I had enough yarn to do all this. Don't count on seeing progress on this one any time soon.

"My So-Called Scarf" in Malabrigo "Autumn Forest". The colors are stunning, and this picture in no way does them justice. An easy knit, but not something that's exciting me these days.

Mystic Meadows shawl. No excuse for this one. It's about 80% done. It's not difficult. It's even fingering weight yarn. No excuse.

This is an older member of the WIP family. It's the Phyllo Yoked Pullover sweater from Knitting Nature. Gorgeous discontinued yarn (again, crappy picture, sorry) from Art Yarns called Fable. I was happily knitting along on this, planning a comfy oversized weekend sweater when I happened to bring it along to my daughter's orthodontist appointment. All of the women in the office were complimenting it, and when the doctor came in (he's about 5 foot 3, with all of the "short man" issues that implies) he said, "Wow, who's that for, that's enormous!" Needless to say, it took some of the fun out of this little project for me.

Recognize this? It's the Mystery Stole 3 KAL, which was eventually revealed to be the Swan Lake stole. I was really loving it at the beginning -- black alpaca lace, iridescent green beads.... and then it turned out that it was asymmetrical, and the second half of the stole turns into a swan's wing. It's beautiful, but I knew that it wasn't something I would wear. So, I decided to knit a second half identical to the first and graft them together (or maybe use the panel that the designer included for that purpose). But alas, it takes almost nothing to derail my concentration, and this became another WIP.

I'm not sure why I even bothered to include this picture, except to tell you about the project. It's His (Birthday) Scarf, and it's knit in baby alpaca. Amazingly soft, and a really nice, tailored, guy kind of look to it. You can't see the pattern here, but it's a pretty woven/moss stitch kind of thing.

Now, with all this in progress, do I have any business looking at yarn? Of course not. But here you go. When I picked up the Cotton-Ease for the amigurumi at Michael's (not my usual yarn store), I happened to see this self-patterning yarn from Red Heart (not my usual yarn company). I actually learned to knit on Red Heart many, many years ago (back when they sold it in little 1 oz skeins, which I could afford with my allowance), and so I have a wee soft spot for it. There was a swatch of this knit up, and it's very cute -- a much more intricate patterning than you usually see with the self-patterning yarns. And it's Wool! So, perhaps one of my girls has a new pair of socks on the way. (It will come as no surprise to you that, in the time since I started writing this post, I've cast on socks with this yarn.... and they are so-o-o cute!)

So there you have it. I have no business whatsoever starting anything new...ever (well, not for a very long time). Except.... my sister called to tell me that she's pregnant!! And you know what that means....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Halloween Critters

I have to confess... Halloween is one of my most favorite holidays. There's something really fun about being scared... just a little bit. And not really scared, just kind of giggly scared, because you know that it isn't real. Which brings me to my current diversion. I found this book, Creepy Cute Crochet, by Christen Haden, at B&N the other day. I have since found out that Christen sells her patterns (as Needle Noodles) on Etsy and Ravelry, too.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of crochet. Mostly it's because crocheted clothes look...well...crocheted. It conjures up granny square afghans for me (having actually made a granny square vest back in the early 70's in hot pink, orange and lime green, I know what I'm talking about). I will agree that many of today's contemporary crochet designs have a lot more style than that vest, but for some reason, it's just not my thing. However.... these little critters (amigurumi, for the purists) are just too absolutely adorable to believe, and they have convinced me that a little hooking once in a while isn't such a bad thing.

Here's a look at the whole cast of characters for which there are instructions:

Too cute to believe, yes? Christen did her figures in Cotton Ease yarn, which is cheap and easy to find. And, of course, a skein makes quite a few characters, since they're only about 5" high. My kids immediately put in orders for a Knight, a Monkey (not sure I see the creepiness there... but he is cute) and a Grim Reaper. As usual (for me), they are all almost finished. The knight needs a felt sword, the Reaper needs a Sculpy scythe, and the Monkey needs a felt and embroidery face. But still.... very cute.

I put beanbag pellets in the bottom part of each figure, so they have a very satisfying weight to them, and they stand up quite nicely. Hopefully I'll get them finished up some time soon.

And finally, just for the heck of it, a gratuitous shot of Lola, lying on my daughter's tummy and making like a dog (forgive the "alien kitty" eyes... I've never figured out how to photograph animals without that). She loves to get her belly rubbed.... apparently no one ever told her that cats don't do this!

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