30 December 2008

Copernicus 1988? - 2008

Some months back, I thought of writing this post ahead of time and having it ready. Those of you who know me personally understand what this passing means to me. The Cuddly Hubby has the week off, so when the precipitating crisis occurred, we were able to go to the vet together. Right off, I need to thank Dr. Friedlander and all the great staff at Cat Care of Vinings. And a special thank you to Lisa, who was there today and had to take my call first thing in the morning.

Copernicus had a major stroke last night, after an otherwise good day and an overall very good December. Cuddly Hubby and I stayed up off and on with him, knowing that it would be his last night. Sophia pretty much stayed out of it. She did come downstairs to see him off this morning, but she is now back upstairs and ignoring us. I do not know what she will be like as she realizes she has the place to herself.

For me, his passing is my first milestone of middle age. Nearly all the major milestones of young adulthood for me had passed in the presence of this great spirit. He was a fighter to the very end. We came home afterward and our home feels like a house, it is somehow empty. Tonight there will be no insulin shots or subcutaneous fluids administered. I have begun cleaning up the medications and equipment that had become particular to his needs. The next trip somewhere will involve less expense with the cat sitters. And yet, I would do it all over again in a moment, even knowing the bad parts at the end. He was such a wonderful pet that it may be a very long time indeed before I dare to have another. I just can't imagine another cat or dog living up to the high standard that he set.

So, a few photos. The one at top is from about May of 2004. Copernicus is in all his glory. The second was snapped in November of this year. He had become the gaunt lion in winter, but he still had his swagger and charisma and powerful will. The final picture was taken just two days ago, as both cats slept peacefully on the couch while the Cuddly Hubby watched football. Last night after the stroke, we propped Copernicus up on the couch so that his head lay in the Cuddly Hubby's lap. And the two of them watched their last football game together, an overtime Alamo bowl victory of Mizzou Tigers over the Northwestern Wildcats. I do not yet know how we will watch the remainder of the bowl season.

25 December 2008

And the shameless pile o' stuff

Well, not all that shameless. Cuddly Hubby and I are of the age that we don't need all that much. And if we need or want something, usually we go get it -- unless the cats have managed another unplanned veterinary expedition. I'll not bother to post pictures of what we exchanged between ourselves. Cuddly Hubby got three hardback books and a stack of filk music. The artists of The FuMP ought to be sending greeting cards to him or possibly writing lyrics about him. As Cuddly Hubby is already paying for my Stitches South excursion, I only did a little bit of yarn shopping the other night. I bought one book, a skein of sock yarn, a skein of handpainted silk lace weight that I had been stalking for two months, and a skein of handpaint in a green and purple colorway that I somehow couldn't resist even though there was only one skein and what am I ever going to be able to do with only 118 yards of this?

We agreed with the Cuddly Hubby's dad and step-mom not to exchange gifts with them, since they were out here for Thanksgiving and we did a lot treating each other to dinner. (Have I ever mentioned on here that I'm not all that keen about cooking? It cuts into my knitting time.) So today we had only two small piles to unwrap. Four gifts from my mother and two from dear gaming friends in Lexington, Kentucky. First, the mom stuff:

The Da Vinci kit has rather nice production values. There are little models to assemble and reproductions of famous pieces of paper. And the whole thing fits in a book-shaped box with a little clasp. Definitely amusing.
Also amusing is Dave Barry. Cuddly Hubby and my mother almost needed oxygen when they sat around the kitchen table at her house and read portions of Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs. So the book will be much enjoyed.
The opener brings a certain glee as well. I hate clamshell packaging. Having worked in retail, I do understand why retailers like it. A properly designed clamshell is easy to merchandise on the ol' peg board, hard to shoplift, and protects the merchandise from spilled coffee and clumsy customers. So the clamshell cutter will be well-liked indeed.
And the Garmin is well-timed. Just yesterday, Cuddly Hubby was thinking that he would just go out the day after Christmas and buy himself a navigation system. We'd been talking about such things for quite some time but hadn't gotten to it. I don't mind reading maps and don't get lost too often. Plus, I do like having a sense of where I am. But the Cuddly Hubby has no sense of direction. So, the Garmin will go live in his car. Now he has no excuses for not being able to find a yarn shop. And it should be interesting to see how well this functions in Atlanta. When my in-laws were here for Thanksgiving, Cuddly Hubby definitely liked the interface on their Garmin.
All around, great choices, Mom! Many, many thanks!

The box from the friends in Lexington contain two cooking experiments, a bowl, and a pretty ombre ribbon that delights the fiber fanatic in me. If you read Elalyr's blog, then you'd know about her culinary hobby. (And thank you to anybody who gave them kitchen stuff off their wedding registry last year. Kudos!) Right away, I recognized the vanilla marshmallows and the apple-pear jam. She also packaged everything in a nice red and brown bowl that coordinates perfectly with our non-Western almost cabin-in-the-woods living room. I had just set out candy this morning in a cut glass crystal candy dish that had been passed down from a grandmother. Very pretty, but even as I placed it on the table in the living room, I was well aware that it didn't match the decor at all. The candy dish is now back in the cupboard, while I doubt the new bowl will spend much time there. And Cuddly Hubby and I are wondering if the dear friends would like to apply for some grant money to continue the culinary experiments? Many tasty thanks!

Lastly, I opened a can of Cougar Gold cheese from our stash in the refrigerator. I am seriously considering having an electrical outlet and a small wine refrigerator installed in the basement so that I have a proper place to stash Washington State University cheese products. (Why I am sharing this link I don't know, as it only means that there will be less cheese for me later.) This is a 3-year-old tin from October of 2005. The Cougars typically age the cheese one year before selling, although it can be aged longer. I currently have a can from 31 January 2001, which would be the beginning of the Bush 43 administration. I am thinking of possibly breaking it open next month in celebration of Barack Obama's Inauguration. The Cuddly Hubby could not help but notice that the shape resembles a certain popular video game of the 1980's.

Well, I ought to go make something resembling dinner. Merry Christmas one and all!

24 December 2008

Christmas Eve

Just had to put up a post of my house on Christmas Eve. The lawn is well-lit due to the overhead streetlight.

Not the greatest picture with the dark. Oddly enough, our house does not have an external electrical outlet anywhere near the front of the building. This makes it a mite difficult to do electric lights. Even if there were an outlet, I wouldn't want to decorate the eaves -- that 45-degree pitch does not make anybody want to crawl up on the roof. And the apex of the roof is plenty high enough that a plain eight-foot step ladder is inadequate to the task. Thus, the classic non-electric luminarias. Maybe some year I'll get fancy and cut out patterns or make colored pictures on them or something.

By the way, these are also very economical. They consist of sand (Home Depot), plain paper lunch bags (Kroger), tea lights (Michael's or Hobby Lobby), and empty glass salsa jars (Kroger or Publix). If you plan ahead, you just save the empty salsa jars from Dungeons and Dragons games, game nights, or football parties. You might be surprised at how quickly you'll have a dozen or however many you need. I keep the sand in a big bucket in the garage. Using a trowel, put a couple scoops of sand in each bag. Place bags along front walk. Straighten the wick on each tea candle and drop one candle into each glass jar. Gather up all the glass jar with candles out on front walk. Using a long fireplace match, light all the candles. Being careful not to put a hand directly above the flame, place one jar with candle in each bag. The sand should help hold the bags in place and also help with leveling the jars. After the holidays, the candle remnants can be tossed/recycled. The sand gets dumped back into the bucket in the garage. The paper bags can be kept for next year or sent to paper recycling, depending on their state of decay. And the dozen (or more) glass jars can be washed and put away in a box to await next year. I can't make any guarantees about fire safety, but I can state that this method has worked well for me personally. The jars are tall enough that even if a stiff wind blows, the tea light flame shouldn't get close enough to light the paper bag. And the jars are tall enough and wide enough that there is some distance from the flame, so the glass doesn't get too hot.

Merry Christmas! Enjoy this special sacred night with those you love.

Edit: The gentle mist that had fallen earlier this evening turned into a solid downpour around 9:30 PM. The candle flames lasted for about two hours before being drenched into oblivion. Maybe those electric thingies aren't such a bad idea after all?

21 December 2008

Another odd knitting gift

I got these as a Christmas gift a year or two ago from a co-worker.

These are just plain glass photo coasters. However, they are also an opportunity to find another use for those Ravelry yarn pictures. So, I now have Noro Kureyon coasters, without having to take any said yarn out of my stash. Glee!

16 December 2008

Odd Knitting Gift Idea

If you are shopping for a knitter who already has everything -- yarn, needle sets, holders, stitch markers, cable needles, scissors, tape measures, gauge measures -- here is an idea. A kitchen scale.

Really. This is one of those advanced knitter gifts. I bought mine back in the spring from King Arthur Flour. It is meant for use in the kitchen, for those baking recipes that are written in weights. (Flour is a particularly poor ingredient to measure by volume, so some traditional recipes are written in ounces or grams.) Mine weighs in grams or tenths of ounces. I'd prefer one that weighed in tenths of a gram, but this one will do.

So, why would a knitter want a scale? If you are knitting socks, gloves, or anything in a pair (or multiple) you can weigh the skein of yarn at the start. Then you can weigh it as you get close to finishing the first of the pair. This can keep you from running over on the first sock and having to tear it out so that you can finish the second sock. And by the way, you weigh the remainder of the skein, not the work in progress. The work in progress has needles and stitch markers in it.

You can also use this for knitting scarves. Weigh the skein after each repeat of the pattern and pretty soon, you'll know accurately how much you need for each repeat. You can use that information to calculate how far to work before binding off. I used this on a clapotis. I got the separate weights for the beginning triangle and for a repeat in the middle section. From that information, I knew when I needed to stop working the middle and to start the decreases for the end triangle.

You can also use this to find out when the manufacturer has made a mistake. Ah-hah! That odd gap in the color progression really was caused by a break in the yarn and a loss of 5 grams of wool.

And when you have scraps lying around, you can weigh them to calculate how much yardage is left. All you need is the current weight of the skein and the original label that gives you both a weight and a length. From there the math is simple -- original length divided by original weight will give you length per weight. Muliply that number by whatever weight you have left on the skein, and that will give you the amount of length remaining. Or you can get the stash section of Ravelry to do the math for you.

Of course, if the knitter also takes up dying fiber, well then, a scale is indispensable, since dye recipes are often based on weight of fiber and weight of dye materials. But maybe we'd best not go there just yet.

01 December 2008

Happy Yule to Me

If you've noticed the lack of posting, that had something to do with having guests in the house during Thanksgiving. I won't bore you with the sordid details. We'll just say that I did spring cleaning in the autumn this year. (Raising the question, was that 2008 spring cleaning done late, or 2009 done early? 'Cause if it's early . . . .)

And I'll also insert a tease here. I finished knitting something nifty, but I might publish the design. Hence, I've sequestered it. So that's why no new knitting up on Ravelry or here on the blog.

I'm glad I have the 2009 pages for my Dayrunner. The postcards confirming Dragon*Con registration arrived last week. I called the Hyatt yesterday and booked the room. Cuddly Hubby and I have upped the ante -- we'll arrive Thursday evening for Dragon*Con. So much goes on the night before, and it will be nice to be ready to go on Friday. The Bard and his wife have also reserved their room at the Hilton -- to be close to the space and science tracks and the good breakfast bar.

But the real reason for this post is that I got online this morning and registered for Stitches South. Woo hoo! I'm very glad that the Cuddly Hubby and I keep the Christmas shopping down to a reasonable amount, because I registered for The Works. After he finishes sleeping in this morning, I do need to let him know what to expect on the next Visa cycle. In addition to the usual banquets and fashion shows, I chose the following schedule:
Thursday afternoon: Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs with Gayle Roehm
Friday all day: Lapland Hand Garments with Susanna Hansson
Saturday all day: Set-in Sleeves Simplified with Joan Schrouder
Sunday morning: Japanese Innovators show by Gayle Roehm
Sunday afternoon: No Wrong Side -- Reversible Fabrics with Gwen Bortner

So, I am very much looking forward to Atlanta in springtime. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

17 November 2008

Our house in autumn

I have two pictures for this post. And I must say, autumn has been lovely this year in the ATL. We had surprisingly colorful autumn last year too, surprising because the drought had many people thinking that the leaves would go straight to brown. Anyway, the first picture was taken on Election Day, 4 November 2008.
As you can see, the dogwood by the front steps has color, but the oaks out back are still very green.

The second picture was taken not quite a fortnight later, on the 16th of November.
At this point the dogwood is empty, but the oaks out back had begun to turn, and there is a tree on the right that is a lovely golden color that looks particularly good with the blue-grey of the house.

So there it is, we have my house in all four seasons. Proof that we do have seasons in Georgia.

04 November 2008

Election Day

I cannot stress enough what a fabulously gorgeous fall day it is here in the Metro Atlanta area. We have some beautiful autumn color and the temperatures are in the low 60s this morning. I just voted at my poll, Mableton 03 at Thompson Park. I rode my bicycle over and back, as I anticipated parking might be tight. I got to my polling place about 9:30 AM and was done voting about 9:45 AM. The poll was set up to double-check voters at the door. One poll worker would ask if you had voted here before. If yes, off you went to the check-in line. If not, there was a station where another poll worker could check to make sure you were in the right place. There was a short wait between receiving the voter access card and getting to a voting machine. I'd say that Mableton 03 could have stood to have maybe one or two more machines, but I already know that every voting machine owned by Cobb County is in use today. Early voting here was about 35% from what I understand. All in all, a very smooth process.

Now I gotta go add my "I voted" sticker to my bumper sticker.

03 November 2008

Be nice

Just a reminder that tomorrow is Election Day. I'll be at my usual post working election returns for Cobb County. Yes, I do expect to be home after midnight, but I'm planning on taking a nap tomorrow afternoon and sleeping in on Wednesday morning.

I just wanted to remind people that I know the waiting in line and all will be a pain. I don't have to remind ya'all to vote, 'cause you know that already. But do remember that, in Cobb County at least, the poll workers work the whole dang day. That means they are there at 6 AM to set everything up so the poll will open at 7 AM. They are there the whole day -- they are not permitted to leave the polling place. Everyone who is in line at 7 PM gets to vote. After everyone has voted, then the poll needs to be closed down, evidence printed and recorded, results transmitted, and items returned to the county election office. For some polls, it will be another two hours or more from when the last ballot is cast to when the poll managers can finally head for home and well-earned rest or a good drink. So please be extra special nice to the people working your poll, especially if you are voting late in the day. Their hard work makes the democracy possible.

29 October 2008

Unintended Consequences

A couple months ago, our veterinarian suggested adding a little bit of pumpkin to the cat food. His Imperial Majesty Copernicus was having some lower digestive tract issues, and a high fiber diet had the potential to improve the situation. The fiber does seem to have helped His Highness. And I think the vitamin A may also be helping. (If there are any veterinary students out there looking for a thesis project, the effect of high doses of vitamin A in geriatric cats might be a topic worth evaluating.) In any case, both critters eat the same food, so both critters have been eating cat food with pumpkin for a couple months.

Today I decided to carve my Halloween jack o' lantern. Because I didn't feel like cleaning off the kitchen table -- be very afraid when the postal carrier has a rubber band around the stack of mail-order catalogs -- I decided to simply sit on the kitchen floor and carve. And this is what happened:
Yes, that's Sophia at top right. The pumpkin is on the left, and the big bowl on the right is full of pumpkin guts. And Sophia is eating them. The Russian Kitchen Mafia now thinks that pumpkin is appropriate culinary plunder. At least it is cheaper than smoked salmon. Just don't ask me to share my butternut squash soup with her. I have to draw the line somewhere.

28 October 2008

An Abundance of Riches

I'm writing this post in response to Amy's post here.

She writes:
It makes me wonder (and I don't KNOW - these are ONLY my own thoughts) if life really IS so expensive? Or is our over-advertised, over-privileged, over-expected, over-processed American lifestyle inspiring us to feel 'poor' instead of blessed and abundant?

It's a great thought. Yes, there are some days we feel poor. There are many wonderful expensive luxurious things one might do in the world. Travel. Collect something fabulous. See all the best shows. Make some major upgrades to the house.

But what do I, personally, most need to feel happy? A little food. Potatoes are my main comfort food -- give me those good ol' time carbohydrates. Hot tea is my beverage of choice. Games are good. Yarn to knit with. Books to read. A few favorite movies. Some good music. Clothes that make me feel like me. My zippy sippy so I can get around. And, of course, my big Cuddly Hubby, my critters, and good friends. After all, how am I going to play the games without someone to give me the competition?

In the final analysis, none of these (except the critters) are terribly expensive. My zippy sippy cost about $17,000 brand new & tricked out, and that is a very good price for a car these days. I buy a new outfit maybe once or twice a year -- if I've spent $2000 in a year on clothes & shoes, then I was really indulging. Then again, my weight has blessedly been very stable. And I tend not to be too hard on clothes. I have many, many games and could spend a lifetime just getting good at the ones I already have. I have a stack of books I'd like to read, and some on the shelves that wouldn't be so bad the second time around. I have lots of cds, although there always seems to be more to explore in the world of music. I fill up the tea stash a couple times a year -- that's between $100 to $200 for a whole year of drinking at least one cup a day and several in the cooler months. It is much less expensive to be a tea aficionado than a wine aficionado.

Right now, I have over 150 separate items in my stash on Ravelry. That's name of yarn and colorway -- some of these items have multiple skeins of yarn associated with them. I could conceivably knit and design in peace for several years without ever having to leave the house. And I have a wonderful library of knitting books. Now are there some ideas I have that would require new purchases? Yes. But there are also lots of wonderful things I could do with what I already have.

I guess my point is that I agree with Amy's implication. Sometimes we have to stop and look around at what we have instead of what we don't have. My home isn't perfect, but it works pretty well. I am surrounded by people I love and critters I love and the few objects I require to pursue the activities I enjoy.

A couple weeks ago, the Cuddly Hubby and I had a date night. He brought home McDonald's food. We watched the pilot episode to Chuck, which I had seen but he hadn't. And we had a really nice evening. We connected over something we both enjoy, just like way back when we met in college. In some ways, it was a better night than our anniversary, when we went out for an expensive dinner in Buckhead. The focus wasn't on the fancy food, it was on just enjoying each other's company.

So, as the holidays come and it is tempting to throw good fiscal sense to the wind, remember that the number of dollars spent is not a measure of how much you love somebody. And remember that it is good to be grateful, and good to give back. You never know when you will be deprived of the opportunity to do so.

27 October 2008


Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair. Doesn't sound too dangerous, does it? Okay, here's a wide view of the main market area:
I would like to point out that I was very well behaved. I bought one skein of TOFUsies in a colorway that I could have bought earlier in the summer, but had balked and it was gone. And I bought a nifty little wooden box thingy for transporting in-work projects on double-pointed needles. I did spend a lot of time talking to independent dyers about a whole lot of special sock yarn, which is part of why I was so well-behaved.

This was my first time at SAFF, and I really didn't know what to expect. I went up on the bus trip that Elyse of Only Ewe and Cotton Too had organized. Many thanks to Elyse and Bill! There were lots of AKG and NGKG people on the bus. We left about 7:15 AM. Had to ask the bus driver to turn on the lights so that we could knit, because the sun wasn't quite yet up. But it was a lovely morning with beautiful fall color by the time we got to Asheville.

There were even more AKG and NKGK people already at SAFF. Many of them were taking classes. Lois took a sock class with Charlene Schurch! (Envy, envy.) The guys were, of course, the talk of the show.
I saw lots of Ravelry buttons as well. And I bumped into lots of people I know. I guess between two guilds and the shop, I'm getting to know a lot of fiber fanatics in the Atlanta area.

This fine gentleman had something I had heard about but never seen before -- a sock machine. I could see that operation of it required the proper balance of weights on the fabric and tension on the yarn. And it doesn't hurt to have good dexterity for using that little hook to move stitches around. At this point in the process, he was bringing the purl bumps from the cast-on edge up on to the needles so that the folded-over cuff could be formed on the next row. This is like making a very large tubular cast-on. An impressive demonstration of a machine that truly could be used for a cottage industry.

And as there were animals, I just couldn't resist one picture of the bunnies:They are so cute. And these two weren't quite as silly as some. There is some breed that has long fur on their ears, so that they look as if the ears are made from leftover 1970s shag carpet. These two rabbits just look like very shaggy rabbits, nothing weird otherwise. I have to admit that I am maybe just a little bit sorry that I didn't buy any loose angora fiber to spin on my drop trindle. Well, I suppose that will just give me a reason to go again next year, yes?

22 October 2008

Happy Critters

By the current standards of the household, this is a very good picture. This is a good picture because it was taken earlier this afternoon, and there are two happy critters, both enjoying their late afternoon naps. Copernicus (in the hidey-hole) had a seizure Monday evening about 4:40 PM. The Cuddly Hubby was home at the time. I had just set Copernicus up on the kitchen table so that I could administer his daily electrolyte fluids. Copernicus started spinning around in a circle. I picked him up and held him closer to the floor, so that he wouldn't fall off the table. After about 30 seconds, I started to figure out what was happening. Still hanging on to the cat, I grabbed my purse and told the Cuddly Hubby that he was driving. The seizure had let up even before we were completely settled in the car, but we drove over to our vet (Cat Care of Vinings) anyway. She did some blood work tests but couldn't find anything wrong. She did send us home with medicine to be administered anally -- "I know I've asked you to do some strange things already," she said -- but we, mercifully, haven't needed to use it. Once again, I am left being deeply grateful for another day with my pets.

And do let me be fair here to Sophia as well. The Russian Kitchen Mafia -- motto: It's all about the culinary plunder -- had a stroke back in February while the Cuddly Hubby and I were on a Valentine's Day vacation along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Again, we have no evidence of what caused the stroke or if we should expect another. Sophia, of course, feels that she is PERFECTLY FINE. To her credit, my determined little furry grey predator made a nearly full recovery in just a few days. So this year, both cats have had sudden unexplained medical crises.

Here's a picture of why we put the effort into the pets. The Cuddly Hubby worked a lot of overtime this year. Last month, he even pulled a couple all-nighters in order to finish a report. One of those nights, he came home about 5 AM. I, of course, stayed in bed asleep. I think 5 AM is a lovely time for REM sleep, don't you? The very tired Cuddly Hubby decided to watch tv for a little to unwind. Within five minutes, both cats showed up, curled up on him or next to him, and purred appreciatively. (The picture above is a representative one I took on another day, while everyone was watching a collegiate football game.)

So, if you have a special pet at home, be sure to give out lots of love.

11 October 2008

Mittens in Atlanta?

Ok, this may sound really bizarre, but we did a mitten knit-along in Atlanta in August. Really. People knitting Fair Isle mittens in the Deep South in August.

The Fall 2008 Vogue Knitting arrived at the shop. Several of us were batting around ideas for the Wednesday morning Knit-Lit / Knit Along. The shop had gotten in the kits for the Potpourri mittens featured in the magazine. People had been talking about wanting to learn Fair Isle. The next thing, somebody said we ought to buy the kits and make the mittens. In fact, so many people signed up and bought kits that the shop had to order extra!

The kits contained two standard 50g skeins, one each of Claudia Handpaint blue boy and natural. There's about a quarter of a ball of citrus and just a few yards of cherries. I used my handy kitchen scale to weigh everything ahead of time. I used about half or a little more of the balls of blue boy and natural. I used most of citrus and just a few yards of cherries. Koigu and Jitterbug are similar to Claudia Handpaint. So if you want to change the colors and have leftover sock yarn lying about, you might be able to use up stash bits for the orange and red. If you made the mittens a little shorter or substituted different colors for a round or two of the pattern or made the thumb different, you might be able to stretch to get four mittens (two pairs) out of the 50g skeins. You should be able to get one adult pair and one child's pair out of the kit. Also worth mentioning, the blue boy yarn in the kit was more variegated than that in the sample pictured in Vogue Knitting. You may wish to compare my mittens and those in Vogue Knitting to see if this effect matters to you.

I should mention that I had a lot of trouble with over-twist in Claudia Handpaint. I can't say for sure that it was the yarn -- it might have been me and the two-handed Fair Isle technique. I can say that when I wet-blocked the finished mittens, the yarn r-e-l-a-x-e-d. Things blocked out nicely and the lumpy tension improved dramatically. The yarn also softened and bloomed. So, do not be afraid to let the Claudia Handpaint take a dip in the sink. It likes water.

The cast-on in this pattern produces a lovely picot edge. I did not follow the pattern perfectly. I prefer a centered double-decrease for the fingertips, so that's what I did. And I extended that line across the tips rather than grafting -- this made the chain stitch I'd established run all the way to the tips. I significantly narrowed but lengthened the thumbs and also repeated my decrease on them instead of just pulling it all together in a circle. One thing I didn't change and am sorry I didn't -- the thumb springs a little too soon for my hands. I should have worked 16 rounds of pattern instead of only 8 before inserting the thumb. The contrasting red line cuts across the bottom of my palm rather than delineating my wrist. Or, if I knit it again, I might want to knit a true thumb gusset.

Another tip for newer knitters -- it is easy to get lost in the pattern once you start the decrease rounds for the finger tips. It might be easier to plot it all out on graph paper.

And for you Fair Isle knitters, I carried citrus underneath but in my right hand and natural above and in my left hand on the cuff. I should have changed on the mitten body, but forgot to. So the mitten body was knit with blue boy carried underneath and in the right hand and natural carried above and in the left hand. Consequently, you'll notice that the ring pattern seems a little stronger and bolder on the cuff.

All in all, a good kit and a good pattern. The Fair Isle pattern is only 8 stitches tall (and the 8th row is all one color), so it isn't difficult to do. There are only a couple rows where you'd need to trap the carried yarn in the middle of five stitches -- most rows don't require any trapping. I'd definitely recommend this project as a class for people who want to learn Fair Isle technique.

Now, where can I test these out on some snow?

29 September 2008

Fil de France

A friend and coworker of the Cuddly Hubby's has a fondness for European vacations. The Bard and his wife like to take a couple weeks in France each year for hiking and bicycling during the day, and eating amazing food at night. The Bard also knows of my love of textile goodness. And the Bard's harp teacher is also a knitter. So, returning from France with good yarn is a way to please two women at once! Additionally, the Bard visited an old mill with 19th century spinning equipment. Very cool!

So, I am adding to my stash, courtesy of the Bard (thank you, thank you, grovel, grovel, thank you)

105 grams, approx. 100m Artisan wool, color mulberry
25 grams, approx. 90m 70% angora, 30% merino, color bright turquoise
25 grams, approx. 90m 70% angora, 30% merino, color pale peach

And I must admit that I love how the angora seems to be glowing in the photographs. Its halo is glowing brightly.

25 September 2008

Glee! I found some!

I haven't put gas in the zippy sippy in over a week. Partly I didn't need it, and partly I did not wish to be any part of the feeding frenzy that is happening here. I truly thought it would blow over by now. I was wrong. Tonight I knew the tank was getting low. And I want to go to JapanFest on Saturday, which is over in Gwinnett County. And I want to go game with friends in Dacula on Sunday -- that's almost exactly 100 miles round trip from my house to theirs. So I knew I was going to need gas tonight or tomorrow.

My drive home from the shop in Woodstock involves cutting across Cobb County. Now, Woodstock has been out of gas for most of this crisis, but the city itself is only about a mile off I-575. I figured that as I got away from the interstate, I'd find gas. In fact, my plan was to just drive to the place where Cuddly Hubby and I always fill up. I couldn't help but notice on my drive home as I passed several gas stations, and they were all empty. Even the off-brand one on the back road was empty. I decided that rather than waste two miles' worth of driving which I might need if I ended up on fumes, I'd just go home and look tomorrow. As I came up to the intersection where I would need to make the right turn to head towards the service station, the tanker (with the appropriate brand insignia) was headed right to left across my path -- i.e. away from having just made a delivery! I had just enough space to guide the zippy sippy nimbly into the right lane and make the turn. In the one mile to the service station, I saw two cars in the opposite lanes execute u-turns. Yes!

The service station was busy, but having a little car means you can scoot to an inner pump. I didn't have to wait long. And the price was under $4 a gallon for regular unleaded. Rarely have I been so happy to have my 8.678 gallons / $34.53 worth. I am increasingly in favor of gas rationing. I don't care a whole lot about the price. As long as there is some, I'm good. And I spoke to one of my friends today who owns a diesel Volkswagen Golf. Boy, is he a happy camper. Great mileage and he only fills up every-other week. Here's hoping this frenzy is over soon.

24 September 2008

Shop Hopping

I know this is sacrilege, but I really don't need more yarn. That's not to say that I don't want more. It is to say that, should I be forced under house arrest, I should be okay for quite some time. In the time that I've been in the Atlanta Knitting Guild, the guild has sponsored two shop hops. I did the shop-sponsored hop last year. And, since I've been around to meet with the local owners individually, I've essentially done another hop by myself this summer. The owners sponsored a shop hop a couple weeks ago. The weather was nice, the gas prices weren't but, hey, that's why I have the zippy sippy.

Now, I do have to admit to a small guild president meltdown in my living room earlier this month. It was the day after Dragon*Con, so I was still recovering from four days of partying like I'm 20, which I'm not anymore. Cuddly Hubby was home -- wise man that he is, he takes off both the day before and after the convention. I had just turned the computer on and was about to check my e-mail when the phone rang. It was Debra, who is doing a fabulous job booking superstars for the guild. Those of you who follow Atlanta Knitting Guild news know that we didn't have our scheduled superstar this month. So, after my cordial if unhappy conversation with Debra, I walked into the living room and told my husband that my reward for being guild president shall be enough yarn to do Lizard Ridge. The Cuddly Hubby has the sort of even temperament that he was not the least bit bothered by either this statement or its financial implications.

This worked out well, because I really did need to stay on a budget for this fifth shop hop. Dragon*Con is always a significant financial event, and we upped that this year by purchasing art. Cuddly Hubby just bought an airline ticket so that he can go meet his birth mother for the very first time in the cool upper Midwest. The zippy sippy turned 30,000 miles yesterday, which means time for a major ($400+) maintenance check-up. And both critters are due for check-ups and tests at the vet. (Can that comprehensive national health care plan cover pets, please, if I have no other dependents?) Thus, the need to be relatively well-behaved. Fortunately, I had two checks from working the August run-off election for Cobb County, so a great deal of what I spent was my pay from helping democracy happen.

Because I worked Saturday the 13th for the SPLOST election, I decided to start the shop hop on Monday the 15th. I drove to Watkinsville. It was a lovely fall day. I had a very nice time in the shop, and even came home with a few springs of fresh catnip which was much appreciated by the Russian Kitchen Mafia. Main Street Yarns has a strong selection of books and also stocks the Lucy Neatby dvds. At some point I will blog about the class I took with her and how completely awesome she is and how, if you have any opportunity at all to take a class with her you should, but that will have to wait for another day. I already had Sock Techniques 2, so I bought Sock Techniques 1. After much internal debate, I also chose a big hulking skein of Mountain Colors Weaver's Wool. And I finished off the purchase with a brown-orange-pink-green skein of Noro Kureyon. They also have Louet Mooi lace yarn with buffalo, but that will have to wait. Then I went to Mirko's Pasta for lunch. You have to drive past it anyway to get back to GA 316, so you might as well go in and eat. Oh . . . my . . . gosh! Between the beautiful yarn shop, the great Italian food at a reasonable price, and the prettiness of the north Georgia countryside, I could almost pack-up and move to the Athens area. So Monday was a good day.

Tuesday I was teaching a class in the morning in Woodstock, so I started there. I bought two skeins of Paintbox that have been lurking around The Whole Nine Yarns for several months. I'm under the impression that TWNY isn't going to be re-ordering this yarn. I might make the shag scarf from Knitting New Scarves out of these two skeins. We'll see. I also bought a pink-orange skein of Noro Kureyon. As this is my main hang-out, it's hard. There's always new Rowan or Jojoland or more of those lovely trindles that Jeremy makes.

Then I headed over to Only Ewe and Cotton Too. I hadn't been out Arnold Mill Rd and 140 before. Did you know there is a house that looks like a castle in Roswell!?! I had to concentrate on driving because my brain was asking my eyes to please reality double-check on that. I had a very nice conversation with the owner of the bead shop next door while we waited for Brian to return with his lunch. She is thinking about buying a red Mini Cooper. Of course, I had to tell her how much I love my Milano red Honda Fit. I picked out a grey and greens skein of Noro Kureyon and the Oat Couture Entrelac Purse pattern. Dale, who I see both at North Georgia Knitting Guild and at Purly Gates Remains has done that purse. I was glad to stumble onto an opportunity to get the pattern. If I make it, I'll probably make it bigger because I like more space in a bag. But at least I now have a starting point. And I would have liked to have spent more at Only Ewe, but it was early in the hop. They are sponsoring a trip to SAFF in October, and I may use that or Christmas as an opportunity to give them some business. The owners are super nice and supportive of both guilds. They also have Shi Bui sock yarn, and I might want to make some socks for the Cuddly Hubby.

From there I went over to Cast-On Cottage and Needlepoint Garden. I got into an interesting conversation with a guild member. Always helpful to hear feedback from the membership, since I need to lead in the direction that is best for the group as a whole. The owner was sitting on the floor and working out which skeins of Noro Kureyon and Silk Garden had been discontinued. I bought two skeins -- one in strong party colors including turquoise, hot pink, chartreuse, and tangerine and the other in orange and pink with some turquoise and orchid purple. Again, I would have bought more if I had been in a more spending mind-set. The broad selection was very nice. And I must keep that mental note that she has Frog Tree Alpaca.

Since I was working election returns that night in Kennesaw, I then cut across the top of Cobb County. I forget what a nice selection is in Knitting Emporium. If I had a yarn shop, these are some of the same choices I might make. I had a mental note that there was something towards the back right corner at the end of the hall. Sure enough, a nice stash of Schaefer Anne. I chose a green and brown skein that seems perfect for late summer/early autumn. And I picked out two more skeins of Noro Kureyon -- one in the same dark green with brown colorway as the Anne, and a bright blue with a touch of purple and green that is like so very much of my stash. But there are also great selections on many other things I like. I am finding myself drawn to Jitterbug. And Knitting Emporium has some beautiful shawl pins that I haven't seen in any of the other shops. I don't know if they are enamel or dichroic glass, but they have some of that shimmering iridescent quality. After that, I got some Chinese food (sesame chicken that, oddly, didn't agree with me). Then I went to the designated parking spot for election return workers and sat and stitched on the baby surprise jacket. Finally, I got on the shuttle and went and worked election night. A good night, too -- all the precincts were in by quarter of ten. November isn't going to look like that.

I started out Wednesday morning again in Woodstock, as that's the time for Knit Lit. I'm not getting through Dragonfly in Amber with the speed I'd like, as there is just too much else to do. But I am enjoying the company of Jenna, Lori, Mary Lou, and the rest who drop in now and then. After lunchtime I headed for the inside the Perimeter shops, beginning with Strings & Strands. This is probably the shop that is closest to my house, and certainly easy to get to as it is just a mile off I-285 on Roswell Rd. I was totally smitten with a skein of Jitterbug. I guess that's what happens after you make a successful Will Save the night before. There was also some very nice lace yarn that might be calling my name after Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer's visit in January. I bought another skein of Noro Kureyon in a nice autumnal palette.

From there I scurried down GA 400 and made a side stop at Lenox Mall so that I could enhance my tea stash. Teavana was packed and it wasn't even lunchtime! I remember when I thought I was the only person in Atlanta who knew what hot tea was. I bought Sweet Lily White and 9 Treasures (green) and some Rare Hawaiian White Honey. The honey goes great with Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls, which fill a permanent slot in my tea stash.

From there I got back on GA 400 and found my way down to Needle Nook. I'm not sure which store is the oldest in Atlanta, but it might be this one. I believe it has been around for about thirty years. She even has an exclusive sock line -- Toasty for Needle Nook. I bought two more skeins of Noro Kureyon -- one grey with green and a dash of turquoise, the other brown and russet.

My last stop on on the official shop hop trail was Knitch in Virginia Highlands. I try not to go in there unless I have at least $100 to spend because the place is full of great stuff. The high-end stuff an artist might want is there. Rowan. Odd things like Habu. A large well-stocked bookcase covering the common and uncommon. As I was near the end of my cash, I bought only a single skein of the rare Socks that Rock and no Kureyon.

By that time, it was 4 PM and I figured I might as well check out Sheepish in Decatur. After all, I wasn't going to beat the evening rush. Sheepish has just opened where Nease's Needlework used to be. The stock is still a little low, but some good choices have been made. There's more of that Weaver's Wool. I bought one skein of Mountain Colors Winter Lace. I don't remember seeing that lace weight before, and I do love all things Mountain Colors. It will go with my post-Jackie multicolored lace yarn stash.

All in all, a good trip 'round the area. Breaking it up over three days made it manageable without being crazy. And if this economy really goes completely to hell, at least I'll be able to knit away merrily for quite some time.

22 September 2008

A Perfect Seam

In spite of the frenetic pace this month, I somehow managed to knock out a Baby Surprise Jacket for the shop. I'm not sure yet if I'll be teaching this as a class or as a knit-along. As this is my third time through the pattern, I'm to the point that I'm making refinements. Some of those I'll save for class, but I thought I'd share the seaming refinement with everybody.

Here's the trick -- in the initial cast-on, use a crochet cast-on. The crochet cast-on, when not used as a provisional cast-on, involves throwing the yarn around the left-hand knitting needle in between the formation of each crochet chain. The result is a chain edge that looks just like a bind-off.

Why is that such a great thing for this pattern? Because there are two unavoidable seams in this pattern. And to make matters even more interesting, those seams involve sewing a cast-on edge to a side-selvage of garter stitch. And those two seams sit on the top of the sleeve, not hidden underneath where they are less likely to be noticed.

On a previous baby surprise jacket, I got around this by using a provisional cast-on. I later picked-up stitches along the selvage edge and used all those live stitches to work i-cord all around, both as trim on the cuffs and bands, as well as the seam across the sleeve seam. But this time, I wanted to try something quieter.

So, use a crochet cast-on. When you fold the sweater together, you'll have a garter-stitch edge meeting a chain-stitch edge. Match each chain of the chain stitch to one ridge of the garter stitch. For me, the easiest way to do this was to take safety pins and pin every fifth pair together. This made it easier for me to keep track as I worked.

There will also be a nice chain-stitch border at the cuff. If you use your sewing needle to good advantage, you can neaten the join so that the cuff chain-stitch appears unbroken.

I worked a sort of mattress-stitch variant. I used the edge of the chain closest to the selvage and one bump of the garter-stitch ridge. I also tried it using the far edge of the chain on the fabric side rather than the edge side, but decided that I liked the other way better. The chain lying across the top looks nice -- at least to me. If you don't like the chain, you could try catching the far half of each chain to make the edge half disappear into the seam, but that might make the seam bulkier.

The end result is very pleasing. As you are just catching the chain, the seam has very little fabric thickness in it. It isn't bulky at all, yet this garment was knit and sewn together with Malabrigo. In many ways, this is very similar to an invisible mattress stitch in garter stitch. I also liked having as much chain edging as possible, because it is easy to pick up into it for edgings. On this particular jacket, I added contrasting crab stitch all around.

For more information, look at Nancie Wiseman The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques (Woodinville WA: Martingale & Co, 2002) pp. 18-19 for the crocheted chained cast-on and pp. 68-69 for garter stitch seams.

15 September 2008

More Dragon*Con

I just had to post this great picture. When someone in the parade says, "Do you want me to pick him up for the picture?" you have got to remember where you are. The Young Mr. Star Wars is the son of one of the Cuddly Hubby's co-workers. I think the young gent was a little embarrassed by the whole thing, as he struck me as a shy child who didn't really want to be the center of attention. But I do hope when he's a little older he'll realize that this is a wickedly good picture! Photo credit here to the Young Mr. Star Wars' dad.

He also snapped this picture of the Young Mr. Star Wars with his mom, the Dear Friend who took my avatar picture last year, and me with the Cuddly Hubby. The Dear Friend is proving that just because one is over fifty, maturity is not required in all behavior. Something about Dragon*Con brings out the fun.

08 September 2008

Dragon*Con recap

It has taken me a full week to sit down and write. For the Cuddly Hubby and I, Dragon*Con is the best weekend of the year -- better than the last week of the year that includes Yule, New Year's, and college football Bowl Week. This was our fourteenth Dragon*Con. The Cuddly Hubby doesn't do any costuming at the convention. I've slowly eased into doing costuming, although I don't do anything too elaborate. And, alas, I don't have great pictures of myself in all the costumes I wore during the weekend. But I did promise I'd post, so here's what I have.

Day 1: Friday about lunchtime at the Dunwoody MARTA station. I've had to adjust this photo a bit, as the bright background behind me and the lack of a flash made for a poor exposure. Most of the MARTA stations have public art, but this array of glass is among my favorites. The outfit was a gift from my in-laws. It came directly from India. Colorful and comfortable! Also practical. I did have another change of clothes for Friday evening, but I got too busy with convention fun and didn't get around to changing outfits. And the luggage in the picture is both mine and the Cuddly Hubby's.

Day 2: Saturday we started out at our traditional spot on Peachtree for a view of the parade. I remember when the parade was brand new, had a different route, and was over in about ten minutes. This year it lasted for about forty-five minutes. I started the day in the Medieval/Renaissance outfit. I didn't bother to tighten the corset, as I wanted to actually eat breakfast. Also, tightening the corset best requires a friend to help. I acquired the gold shoulder dragon midway through the day. I also put my hair up midway through the day and added a brass hair barrette and some ribbons with bells.

For the evening I wanted to go to the drum circle. I am still very self-conscious about my skill at dancing. But, at least I can be suitably attired. The black and green dancing costume came from the Georgia Renaissance Festival.

Day 3: I started off Sunday in my most complicated costume -- elf druid. This required using the pointy ears and my first experience with spirit gum. It worked pretty well -- I didn't feel any discomfort, and I left my hair down so that the ears coyly poked out. I initially developed the costume last year for a Mensa regional gathering. The handwoven shawl was purchased three years ago at the Central Pennsylvania Arts Festival. And I'm very pleased with how the staff turned out. The curly stick came from my own backyard and I added all the decoration including the woven laces myself. I also did the lacing on the potion bottle myself.

For the evening, we were attending the pirate party. I've built up the pirate outfit over a couple years. It was initially a costume for the Mensa Northwest Florida Regional Gathering. The boots of butt-kicking were acquired earlier this year. The red blouse was purchased last year for a friend's October wedding. In the end, we didn't stay long at the pirate party and ended up going to the late-night filking, which was great fun.

Day 4: Since we had to check out of the hotel on Monday morning, there was a chance to wear only one outfit. I chose my other Indian outfit. Again, this was a gift from my in-laws after their trip to India. I know I look a little tired in the picture. This picture was taken about 6:00 PM on the platform at Dunwoody MARTA Station, while we waited for space in the elevator so that we could make our way back to our car.

I still had a couple outfits that didn't make it into the rotation. The sari from last year didn't make it out. And I have a yukata that has gone to the convention twice without getting worn. I must do something about that next year. Still for me, one of the best things about Dragon*Con is that you can wear whatever you want. It is always exciting to see what people will do when this simple restriction of everyday existence is lifted.

23 August 2008

The Big Tease

What's 300 miles wide and a big tease?

A week ago, we Atlantans were salivating and giddy with delight at the prospect of finally getting a good dousing from tropical storm remnants. Although the drought is better, it is still not gone. We really do need the occasional hurricane remnant to refill our water table. A foot or two of rain dumped on Lake Lanier would be just fine, thank you very much. Now we've watched Fay slow waltz over Florida, making a lot of trouble for those fine folk who don't deserve such bother. Today is our second day of dark, heavily overcast skies and brisk wind. But no rain. The forecasters keep saying we're going to get rain, but I keep not seeing it.

So, if anybody knows how to ship water from Florida to Atlanta, please, feel free to speak up now. Or please tell Fay to waltz her windy, wet hurricane butt over here where she'll be appreciated. What a hussy!

By the way, the picture is our house in high summer earlier this week. The dogwood has a few yellow leaves already, likely an indication that it wouldn't pass up a good watering. The stick in the clay pot at the bottom of the stairs is a hibiscus that keeps being eaten by something that doesn't mind cayenne pepper or bitter apple or slug repellent. The last time it bloomed well was in 2004, the year we had three tropical storms. That hibiscus loves stormy tropical weather. And there should be lots of nice green moss in the shade where the Bermuda lawn won't grow, but we haven't had enough rain for that. Sigh. We were so close.

22 August 2008


We needed some photos for updating the Atlanta Knitting Guild blog. So, I got out the yarn, went outside, and took pictures. I'm sure the neighbors were wondering what was up with me as I lovingly laid out skeins and carefully photographed them. Then I burned the whole mass of photos to a disc and passed that off to the webmistress. I've also been listing my stash in Ravelry. Oddly enough, I'm feeling a little stashed-out right now. All this looking at yarn has reminded me of some of the wonderful things I've already bought. Some of these I even have plans for in that I already know what I want them to become when they grow up. Anyway, I thought I'd share some stash pictures here. You can see at left that I keep most of my stash in a stack of rattan boxes in the studio. The boxes were purchased at Hobby Lobby. I must admit to having a tremendous weakness for the basket and boxes section in that store. And they run 50% off sales frequently.

The stash is, therefore, divided into roughly three groups. The big box (right) contains generous supplies of one kind, and most of it is worsted weight. There are 10 balls of Jungle ribbon that I bought on clearance at one of the local shops. I have some Julia in both black and white. I'm not sure what I want to do with it, but it is a great blend. There's a generous pile of Tonalita in the upper right that really ought to become a jacket.

The medium box has a lot of "true" stash. I was planning on making a jacket that would match an awesome pair of earrings the cuddly hubby bought for me at the Monterey Aquarium some years back. So I had been acquiring yarn in the appropriate colors, typically two balls or skeins at a time. I rarely purchase one ball of something. For most yarns, one skein isn't enough to do anything. But two skeins, that's different. Two skeins can be combined with something else to make a bag. Or two skeins are enough to make a trim design on a cardigan or jacket. I also seem to have gone through a mohair phase. Anyway, it is obvious that I have more than enough yarn to make a tastefully arty jacket.

The small box is mostly sock yarn and lace yarn. I've knit one pair of socks for myself. I've also knit a Christmas socking and some small practice socks from Cat Bordhi's book. I've knit one lace shawl and would like to do more. With all the lace yarn, this is the box that, should I ever be marooned, I ought to have with me. Many, many hours of knitting here. Ten balls of Kid Silk Haze that ought to become a lacy black shawl. Three skeins of ruby red Jade Sapphire cashmere silk. A couple lovely skeins of Anne that could become socks or a shawl. And I even have beads to coordinate with some of the shawl yarns.

I also have some stash yarn in the bedroom. The Noro and Karaoke are stored there. And there are several yarns that are project yarns -- set aside and ready to go. And my stash of leftover scraps is there are well. The other precaution I've taken is that I keep a Stash Will in the small stash box. While I fully intend to live a good long life that includes knitting up most of this stuff, I don't want it to fall into ungrateful hands. So I keep a list of knitting friends and what they like so that, should my stash need to be disbursed, it would end up in the hands of people who love yarn and can make beautiful things happen with it. And who would appreciate the joy that comes from having two balls of qiviut.