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.