Monday, December 31, 2007

Keep Moving Forward

There are times when I desperately wish I believed in wallowing. I could use a good wallow right about now. Clare is off - well, she will be if her flight isn't delayed again; the weather's pretty nasty here. One of her cousins and she will be travelling France and Italy for the remainder of her Winter Vac. The cousin will be home Jan 14. Clare will be back 6 months later, to the day. I'd really like to sit around and do the "po', po' pitiful me" bit, but I just can't quite bring it off. For one thing, I know Clare has friends and a back-up network in England now. You have no idea how this eases my heart. For another. She's been so happy, here for Christmas, but also looking ahead to returning to Norwich.

So, rather than descend into bathos, we have packed them off complete with crackers (intended to be popped at midnight on the plane, but which were in fact opened, carefully, with no little explosive sounds to alarm airport personnel, in the terminal before they went through the security check-point), and a gift from the Magi to open on the 12th day of Christmas.

At this point, I can probably safely tell you that Clare's package contains black Cascade Fixation, enough to make the pair of socks she wants for her English room-mate - black Fixation being rather scarce on the ground in the UK. Cate gets something non-knitting but shiny of which I forgot to take a picture.

In turn, Clare left us with a gift from Norwich, a pan of Norfolk Shortcake complete with the recipe obtained from an authentic Norfolk resident. It has been duly added to the permanent collection and will be made at all Christmases to come.

The afghan stays here for a bit longer. There has always been a back-up plan that involved shipping the afghan in time for Clare's return to campus. My new deadline is January 10. I'm in pretty good shape - 7 repeats out of 12 done. Based on the rate I'm using the yarn, I don't think I'll make 60 inches, more like 54. Still, knitting will continue to be a little repetitive for the next bit.

That gives you something to look forward to, though, doesn't it?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

"Oops," he said, as we spilled champagne on my dress.

It's 30 years later. Some things never change.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Geese Are Gettin' Fat

At our house, they get fat on Christmas cookies.

We need a Christmas post. Well. I do, at any rate, so bear with me. It really did happen here at the WoolGathering House. And I cleaned up (of which more another day when I write to gloat). The real fun, though, is in the getting ready. Preparations were late and thus a little harried, but the mission was pared down and accomplished. Behold.

There was baking.

Serious baking.

One might even say, fanatical baking.

There was the arrival of what has come to be known as the Weight Watchers version of a Christmas tree. It really didn't open up much more. Very svelte of it. Clearly a reaction to all the butter and sugar in the kitchen.

Marco was chief fetcher and egg-breaker this year. Clare was chief baker and photgrapher (all of these pictures are hers).

John and Himself got the lights on the tree. I had to wrap - the dining room table disappeared for a couple of days there. I'm not sure I approve of this division of labor. I dibs more of the fun stuff next year. Still the essentials all were achieved, and with only one melt-down (that would have been me).

And that was just Saturday.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Plan D

Plan E? F? I've lost count. I'm also muddled. Clare brought home a foreign invader and I have been felled. Still, I thought you might like to be brought up to date while I try to pull a real post out of my viral-ly befuddled brain. Okay, maybe not up to date. Closer to up to date?

Here are the results of the latest foray into the Internet, along with what we did Thursday when we should have been finishing our Christmas shopping.

Here's what you get before you get levelled by the UK version of the common cold if you knit through the grammar school Christmas concert, before and after dinner at the store formerly known as Fields, and while you wait for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Welcome Yule concert to begin, as well as during the interim.

Better, much better. Definitely more garden-in-the-fog like. Or at least, more like the vision of it I've been carrying around in my head. I still can't quite figure out where I went wrong on The Sea. I loved each of the two yarns while I knit them, but can't admit to anything except disappointment at the result. A case where the whole was radically less than the sum of the parts.

Now, considering the number of typos I managed to squeeze in to this little bit, the better part of valor dictates it's time to stop. I think I hear chicken soup calling.

Monday, December 24, 2007

From Me and Mine to You and Yours

Dona nobis pacem.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Hah! I don't have to knit the sea.

Clare doesn't like it, either.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


There is much excitement here. Clare is coming home today. Giving in to the state of extreme expectancy, The Boys have been allowed to stay home from school. John was up by 5 this morning. Marco was up by 6:30. Don't ask how I know this. We have been checking flight status since we got up. Her flight was delayed 50 minutes. We are indignant.

This is just pathetic. I am so going to have to find something to occupy us. Gee, outside of a trip to Target, I wonder with what ?

Were we less keyed up, I might mention my outrage over a knot in the yarn. I might wax eloquent over the inadvertent increase and dropped stitch(es). I will blame these squarely on Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, most likely the moment Admiral Norrington gets it.

So. Does it look gardenish at all to you?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Knitting the Sea

One day last week, after the boys were off and I had set myself up at the newly re-discovered dining room table, I showed the Light of My Life the progress so far, telling him this, finally, really, no kidding, was the real final version.

He: "So you decided to go for the sea."

I tried to correct him. I expained that I had changed the contrast color. That the afghan looked like seaweed when it was all green, but now it was supposed to look like an English garden in the mist. Or maybe in the rain.

He: "No. For that you need pink. [Actually, I think he may have said "rose" but my mind refuses to process it.] And maybe some yellow."

I tried again. If not a garden, then maybe the landscape, but above ground. On dry land.

He: "It's okay, they're sea-oriented."

I pointed out that Norwich, was, in point of fact, not on the coast. Not to quibble, but it was land-locked. Not a port. The water around it was from the collapsed peat mine.

He (as the epitome of patient spouse): "Dear. England is an island. It's defined by the sea. It gets it's identity from the sea. It's okay to knit the sea for them."

Okay. Fine. I am now officially knitting the sea, the one that separates the knitter and the knit-ees.

I'd ban him except he doesnt read The Blog. Someone should tell him lawyers aren't supposed to have any artistic sense.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What Me Worry?

I don't know why you're worried. This is totally do-able. That tremor in my left fore-arm? Perfectly normal.

All I have to do is let my children revert to a savagery unseen since Lord of the Flies, develop a close and personal relationship with the pizza delivery person, supplement the diet with hot-dogs and fast food, skip the holiday baking, take a leaf out of B.D.'s book and do my Christmas shopping in the frozen foods aisle - better yet, have Himself do my Christmas shopping in the frozen food aisle, increase my ecological footprint by using paper plates, plastic cups and cutlery and the occasional Styrofoam container, allow the condo to revert to the wilderness intended for it by nature and occupancy by three members of the male persuasion plus a cat, park myself at the dining room table until I take root, teach John to make coffee and Marco to use the yarn swift.

Oh. And make the occasional foray outside for Butterfinger Jingles.

See? Totally do-able.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Doing the Math or Meet My New Boon Companion

The good news is, even though I have changed the color scheme (Who said "again"?), I am happy with this. "This" is Filatura di Crosa's Zara in 1757 (variously referred to as "Bluestone," "Duck Egg," and "Light Teal").

Now the other shoe. My ambitions are not nearly so over-weening as the Yarn Harlot's. I simply want to finish this blanket in time for Clare to take it back to the UK. (Have I mentioned she's coming Stateside for Christmas? I mean here, in The Blog.) In my most optimistic frame of mind, I tell myself I have 19 days to finish this. Unfortunately, those 19 days include Christmas Eve and Christmas. That gives me 17. Then there's the picking Clare up at the airport. O'Hare Airport. With Marco and John in tow because they're excited, too. Make it 16 days. Take out a couple of weekends, when the demands of the Crew mean only an hour or so of knitting if I get lucky. What does that give me? About 12 days? 10?

Sixty inches or so of afghan in 10 days means 6 inches a day or slightly over 1 repeat. That translates to roughly 20 rows of stockinette at 218 stitches each and 6 rows of garter stitch at 109 stitches. I figure we're looking at -- 4360 plus 654, let's see, that's -- 5014 stitches per day. Did I say "boon"? I think the world's slowest knitter better learn to knit in my sleep.

The first person to suggest I should have gone with mauve or dusty rose will be summarily banned.

Monday, December 10, 2007

In Abeyance

I'm trying to think how to distract you from my indecisiveness.

Perhaps if I start with the progress? I meant to shut down my brain, deny the evidence of my eyes and get you all to point me down the easy path. I had intended to ask you for your opinion. I wanted you to tell me there was absolutely no difference between these two swatches.

This despite the advice the manufacturer gives and the undeniable difference between the skeins. I wanted you to tell me I didn't need to alternate skeins by row. Sadly, my brain kept sneaking out from where I'd locked it away. I hate when that happens. I'll be knitting this by the Island Embrace method, 3 skeins at a time, changing skeins at the end of every row.

Further, there is even actual (as in not a swatch) knitting. One might think that indicated progress, mightn't one? One would be in error. It is in imminent danger of reversal. My old nemesis, negative progress, looms. I'm thinking of different contrast colors. I am, in a word, dithering.

Mind you, this is close. Very close. It's just, I've been kind of - concerned - by the green-ness of it all. I keep looking at it and thinking, "Hmm. Green. " Now, I freely admit, one of the things I like about the contrast yarn is that, though pale -- indeed one might call it pastel, or perhaps fluffy even -- it is indisputably green. Not a hint of that so-called "mint" color that tries to sneak in some blue while your back is turned and leave you with a baby blanket. Still, I do have issues with green. I'm starting to feel like I'm knitting seaweed instead of an English garden in the morning mist.

Eh, maybe I'll go try to reverse engineer one of these edgings from Nicki Epstein's Knitting Beyond the Edge for my Huckleberry Scarf.

Pull it out of abeyancy, as it were, while the other goes in. (Abeyancy. That's right outside Hesitate, make a left at Shilly-Shally)

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Visit from St. Nicholas

I got so wound up in the great afghan yarn hunt, I forgot to ask if you'd remembered to put your shoe out for St. Nicholas?

You didn't? Oh, too bad. Not that I'm gloating or anything.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What am I making? An afghan. When will I make it? Real soon.*

I am pastel phobic. Pastel allergic. I don't do pastels. I tried. I really did. But I kept coming up with muddy. Dusty instead of fluffy. The problem is, pastels all look like baby quilts to me - entirely too pale and pretty. To combat this, I gravitate to colors like Cloud Jungle, which, while subdued, hardly qualifies as pastel.

Still, I was all set to cry uncle. I was going to suck it up and settle. If I couldn't do pastel, surely I could manage pretty. In pursuit of pretty, I stopped at Knitche on my way home through the Saturday ice storm. They were unpacking an order of Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Worsted. I had gone in hoping for Watercolor. Instead, I bought some Tuscany. I went back Monday and bought the rest of it, along with a new contrast color. I came home fully intending to forget the other swatch(es). The Over There Afghan would rise out of this. Somehow. It is, undeniably, pretty.

Then I got a call from String Theory. While poking around at Dream in Color -- they have an in -- they found this. It's Cloud Jungle, but not really.

It came out too pale. (Imagine being the artist behind Dream In Color. You produce an absolutely beautiful yarn, but it doesn't fit the criteria for the color it's supposed to be, so it sits. I would have called it a new colorway and raced into production with it.) Happily for me, they didn't toss it or re-dye it or do whatever people with artistic sensibilities do before String Theory saw it.

Okay, you need a little back story here. At one point, I had envisioned using Cloud Jungle, despite it being kind of dark, as the main color with Shepherd's Worsted Denim as the contrast. The people of String Theory checked with Dream In Color, but they didn't have any on hand. String Theory called me to let me know. Not being in a position to wait 4 to 6 weeks for a new dyeing, I sighed deeply, and set off on the whole Odyssey thing described above, with a few Internet stops on the way. In fact, when String Theory called Monday, I almost told them no. I had the Shepherd's Worsted. Technically, they had fulfilled my request already. They didn't need to do another thing. Yet they did. Talk about above and beyond. So I said I'd be out and at least look at it.

The weather yesterday chewed rope. The advantage of driving over an hour in a snowstorm to look at yarn? The owner decides you're to be humored and let's you do all sorts of stuff, like show her the picture of the original project on your blog, and try to help you figure out what your daughter meant by "fluffy". Then she starts pulling contrast color yarn from all over the store, despite the fact that the first one she showed you was perfect. I suspect the fact that no one else was idiot enough to venture out I was the only customer in the store helped.

Let me introduce the latest swatch. In order from left to right, the Not Cloud Jungle, Cloud Jungle, Shepherd's Worsted Denim, Shepherd's Worsted Douglas Fir, RY Classic Yarns Cashsoft Baby Dk in SH 804. I'm not going to let on which one String Theory and I decided we like best for the contrast.

Before I make my preference known, I'll wait for Clare to peek in and tell me what she thinks. For all I know, she'll opt for conventionally pretty. In which case we'll have see if I'm feeling compliant, or if the demon of contrariness will possess me.

*That, by the way, is with apologies to John Lithgow and the Red Lectroids of Buckaroo Banzai.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It Snowed and It Snowed

Years and years ago, . . . when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed.

But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky,

it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees;

snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely-ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

Excerpted from A Child's Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas (him for whom Robert Zimmermann changed his name), 1914 - 1953

If you'd like to hear him reciting the whole poem himself, go here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Why Haven't I Been Knitting?

Well, first there was this, a.k.a. John's Science Fair Project, Part 1,

And this, a.k.a. Part 2 (that patch of plastic off the California coast represents roughly the North Pacific Gyre - home to a conglomeration of discarded plastic larger than Texas).

Not that I had to do any of the actual work, thank heaven (in some ways a 13 year old is so much nicer than a 12 year old), but there was all that keeping him on task and cheerleading and moral support after midnight and stuff.

Then there were all those things I showed you in the previous post plus these.

Most disheartening, the one knitting break I attempted resulted in disaster. Behold the sad state of the second Baby Surprise Jacket.

Add to that the first Chicago Symphony Family Concert and working at the Christmas Market.

Not only am I not knitting, I'm barely breathing. If you want me, I'll be head-down, trying to unbury my home from the past week. I know there's a dining room table in here somewhere. Not to mention those booties.

Friday, November 30, 2007


And why should today be any different from the yesterday? Or the day before. Or the day before that. Frankly, I don't expect to have a life again until Tuesday. Maybe. And I am, apparently, not alone. There's a whole slew of people stumbling in here because they've googled that Hamlet quote about "all occasions" *. I take some comfort in that. Misery loving miserable company and all.

Still, it seems unfair to leave you knitting-less for that long. While I'm slogging , you can admire Clare's Christmas Market knitting.

These are the Starfish Washcloths by Cindy Taylor (the same designer who did the Reverse-Bloom Flower Washcloths in Melanie Falick's Weekend Knitting). The pattern was part of our Williamsburg loot. Clare figured if we paired them with soap, packaged them creatively and used the word "spa" in their description, they'd sell.

There's a word for daughters who take off for the far reaches of the globe after having had the fun of knitting, leaving their mother's to do the grunt work. I can't think of it, but I know it's out there.

I wouldn't indulge myself with a picture of my contributions, except I'm puzzled. Something/s is/are conspicuous by their absence, no?

Wondering where the Stupid Booties are? So am I.

*It's Act 4, sc. 4, l. 32-3.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Was Right and I Was Wrong

I was right. The Good Luck Jade finished arriving today.

I was wrong. The expected dye-lot issues aside, it's too much green. No blue or grey in sight.

Let's just pretend I do Yarn Pr0n and call it a wash.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Truth Hurts

You Are a Fruitcake

People pretend you're sweet and precious, but they know how weird you really are!

Other people get to be trifle or gingerbread.

Thanks (?) and a hat tip to Kathleen.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The World Is A Carousal of Color or Brown Is Not the Same as Blue/Green/Gray

One Thanksgiving Feat (also Feast), four pies (3 pumpkin, 1 pecan), 3 loaves of pumpkin bread (to use up the last of the canned pumpkin) most of a Science Fair Project and a great haircut later and I'm back.

It turns out Clare and I were at cross purposes. I was talking main color. She was talking contrast color - specifically something that would work with the Shannon. Seems I neglected to tell her about that little comment on the manufacturer's website. The one that said "For great for felted projects, machine wash your knitting" [sic]. Whether they meant "Great for felted projects; machine wash your knitting" or "For great felted products machine wash your knitting" it was still the kiss of death - now that I have accumulated 22 balls of the stuff.

So. Not brown after all. While the nice people at String Theory are trying to track down more Cloud Jungle, I've been pursuing other blue/green/grey combinations. (Cloud Jungle on the Internet or anywhere else is about as available as hen's teeth, or eye of newt). I'm thinking Good Luck Jade. I started to copy the picture, then got all hung up on copyright issues, so you'll have to click the link to see it. I'm thinking it's beautiful on it's own, looks like it will work with November Muse and qualifies as a fluffy color of the blue/gray/green variety. I have 7 skeins working their way across the continent (really, I found a skein in Minnesota, some more in Ontario and the rest in Ohio). Best predictions have the yarn starting to arrive Wednesday.

You wonder what am I knitting while I wait? Well, there's the Latest Swatch, posted here partly for Clare's benefit, in case I'm wrong about the Good Luck Jade and end up knitting a brown afghan after all. This is actually a wonderful work. For one thing, despite my tension issues, I won't have to try to knit an entire afghan on size 17 needles (the Scribble Scarf was hard enough, thank you very much). In fact, I'm not too fond of that end section knit up on size 15's.

So, although I'm not getting gauge with the US 13's, which is the size the pattern calls for (and why am I even trying? the only thing the pattern and I have in common any more is the basic method), I may decide I like that fabric best.

Hence the decision to order 1750 yards instead of 1500, in case that smaller gauge eats up more yarn than I think it will. Feel free to let me know if you have a preference.

And then there's the 2nd version of the Second Baby Surprise Jacket.

(Sorry Diane, the blue on blue was too boring to knit.)

Hope your Thanksgiving was happy. Hope you all saved room for pie.

Only 29 days until Christmas.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

That'll Learn Me

You just never know, do you? Here I was all bent out of shape because my daughter had demonstrated an independent mind. My knickers in a twist because she had the audacity to question her mother's decision, the sheer unmitigated gall to suggest there might be a better way. Smart woman, my daughter.

After the chocolate turkey debacle yesterday, I stopped at Knitche. I had vague notions of adapting the sort of baby blanket colors they had in Plymouth Encore. Or maybe working up something in lots of Lorna's Laces colorways (getting a single Lorna's Laces colorway in afghan quantities is somewhat more difficult than locating the Grail). I came home empty handed, but with a new yarn to love. They had 2 skeins of Dream In Color Classy (the worsted weight) in Ruby River. The color was useless, but the yarn was, well, beyond beautiful. It's Australian merino wool. The colorways are unbelievable. Really, go look. And it's machine washable. Just to make it the perfect yarn for this across the waters project, the yarn is local produce.

Clare and I Internetted together. She chose November Muse. It took me 12 yarn stores, but I found it. In enough to make the afghan yet.

I tried to ignore her next email, where she told me the living room was blue and green and grey. She's artistic. I really meant to trust her judgement. I wasn't as successful as I could have been. One of these will be the contrast stripe. That's Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Worsted in Douglas Fir and Dream in Color in Cloud Jungle. I never thought I'd say this, but I can hardly wait to swatch.

The source of all this wonderfulness? 45 minutes away in the Western Suburbs.

So it's almost to the ends of the earth. At least this time I didn't come back empty handed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Who Told?

Do you think someone mentioned that reference to my mother? Why else would she have called me to tell me she wants chocolate turkeys for Thanksgiving? I have committed to making the pies. Still, even though I think of myself as the recalcitrant one, I set off for See's Candy in Downer's Grove in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. (Have I mentioned that I actually live in the city of Chicago. Or that 3 of my siblings live in the Western Suburbs? Did I think of this when my mother called to instruct me to get the turkeys?)

Too late, alas, too late. All the chocolate turkeys had been sold.

Bearing the heavy burden of my egregious failure, I bought a pathetic substitute.

Perhaps she didn't mean to send me so far? Perhaps she meant me to go to that local chocolatier, Fannie May? Perhaps she has forgotten that since Fannie May was bought out, they no longer maintain a candy store in my neighborhood? Besides, it seems they are chocolate turkey-less this year.

I wish I had known that before I stalked all the Jewel-Oscos on my way home.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hear That?

That's the sound of me tearing my hair out. Lifting her head from her academic/social crunch, Clare has given me some more information about the intended recipients of the Great Across The Pond Afghan Plan. I'm sure she didn't mean to confound me. The giftees are practical, eco-friendly - and concerned about dry-cleaning chemicals getting into groundwater and poisoning it.

Do you realize what this means? The afghan has to be machine washable (because who's going to hand-wash an afghan, right?). I have spent the entire weekend in a -- I thought, happily successful -- hunt for that rare and therefore precious commodity that is this yarn in this discontinued colorway. I received an email this morning that one of the only two shops that stock it had shipped enough yarn to get my sadly meager 920 "I think I can squeeze an afghan out of this if I fudge the stripes" yards to a comfortable 1472 "whew that gives me 128 yards for a margin for error" yards. While this meant I would be alternating skeins in an attempt to fudge the dye-lot issue, I was so relieved that I stopped looking for fuzzy, multi-colored, attractive, wool acrylic blends.

I could of course, as Clare suggested, wash The Swatch. You may have thought there was a rational mind behind this blog. Let me disabuse you. I feared to test The Swatch. I knew I would lose it to felting. I regarded The Swatch with a deep sense of foreboding - not only would the yarn felt, I would reach the end of the afghan and be short that exact, crucial amount. That these two circumstances are mutually exclusive was beside the point; if the yarn felted, surely I wouldn't be using it for this afghan. I was not, however, in the mood to allow a trivial consistency to be the hobgoblin of my little mind. I abandoned The Swatch and started another Baby Surprise Jacket.

If I'm going to snatch myself bald-headed, I might as well do it to a purpose. Besides, I need something to distract me while I send The Swatch through the washer.