Tuesday, April 29, 2008


"Spring has sprung
The grass is riz
The 'flu is at the door.

And many folks
Are dying now,
Who never died before.

Ah yes, that which always accompanies Spring has laid both boys flat. Okay, that might be an overstatement, a bit of an exaggeration. Tilted, maybe. Put off-balance enough to need to stay home from school. At the moment they are enjoying a respite, comfortably ensconced in front of the TV watching Annie (Albert Finney sings! well, sort of).

I am grabbing a moment to indulge in the sanity that blogging can bring.

This post is really for Clare.

In the course of her studies in the UK she has come up with a final project for I don't know what but which deals with textiles and the history of textiles. She snagged a bit of honest-to-God sheep's wool off of a fence, but she would like roving as well.

For some inexplicable reason, roving is thin on the ground in England. With deadlines looming, she'll settle for images, so here they are.

Note the miraculous re-appearance of the quasi-historical artifact which I wanted for this post. The power of daughters, like the flu, is not to be sneezed at.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Words, Words, Words

I love words. It's why I have shelves and shelves of books. Books in every room. It's why I don't have a library card - the overdue fees I rack up are enough to buy the books outright. It's why I am so enamored of the Pillowbook from Knitalong. It's also why I'm having such a hard time deciding on the text.

Martin from Knitalong left a comment, that he sees the pillow as something to be used, and the text should be something that will hold up (not merely structurally). You wouldn't believe the welter of books I have pulled off my shelves in the quest for that apposite quote, the one I will still want to read the 100th time I've shoved the pillow under my head. Children's books, poetry anthologies, plays modern and not, novels, collections, are piled on the kitchen table, stacked next to my favorite chair, heaped on side tables. I have this ongoing commentary running in my head to the effect of "this one might do, then again this one might, or maybe not, maybe, perhaps, it could." Nothing has struck me with that sense of rightness, that recognition, the conviction that, "Oh, here it is! This one!"

Meanwhile, I continue down the practical path. I've gathered up all the paraphernalia. My sewing skills being less than admirable, I've opted for a "boughten" cotton pillow cover that matches the construction and dimensions Larissa describes, at least reasonably closely. I'll applique the knitting to it.

Once I know what I want to say.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Smug Sense of Accomplishment

I finished. I finished on time. In time, too. Signed, sealed, and delivered. Well, wrapped and sent to school with Marco this morning.

Guess what? All those people who go on and on about what blocking does for lace?

They're right, even for basic feather and fan. So basic that, while I briefly considered expanding this for an afghan, I don't know if I could bear it for that long.

Pattern: Misty Garden by Jo Sharp from Pam Allen's Scarf Style.
Yarn: One skein of Handmaiden Great Big Sea in colorway Popsicle. 50% Silk, 30% wool, 20% sea silk.
Needles: Us 8/5mm 24" Addi Turbos.
Final dimensions: 8 inches by 60 inches after blocking. Astonishingly close to the pattern. Significantly narrower and somewhat longer before, but I have no idea how significantly or somewhat since I didn't measure them before.

Now if I could just get myself to stop chanting,, "Knit on the right side, purl, pattern, knit on the wrong side, knit on the right side, purl, pattern, knit on the wrong side, knit on the right side . . ."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Must Keep Knitting

My back-up plan just fell through. While in an ideal world, Marco would take the rainbow scarf with him when he left for school in the morning, if push came to shove and I blew the deadline, I planned to take it along when we went to the All School Talent Show tomorrow afternoon. Push came to shove with a blip in my other, non-knitting life yesterday.

I just checked with the school about time. They've moved the Talent Show to 9 AM. Fortunately, he has just the one skein, else I'd probably feel compelled to keep knitting.

Must. Reach. End. Of. Skein. "Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow, why then, oh why can't I?"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy Shakespeare's (Probably) Birthday

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man's estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas! to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that's all one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day.

Well, it is National Poetry Month.

Closing Speech, Twelfth Night or What You Will

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Out of Time

All of yesterday's indecisiveness has been set aside. I need a scarf and I need it fast. One of Marco's teachers has been "reassigned." I suspect that's Chicago-Public-Schools-speak for fired. We thought she'd be here through the end of the school year, but she's found another position and has decided to take it immediately.

Way back when Marco modeled Red Scarves for me, he made it clear he had expectations, to wit, I was to knit scarves for teachers. This is something I've never given high priority, since he'll be at his special ed. high school/vocational training school until he turns 22. Besides, there had been remarkable stability in the teacher population so I, in a word, slacked.

This gift is supposed to be more about Marco than the rest of us. Last night we went stash shopping - mine and Marco's. I admit I was delighted when he chose yarn from his. (Let us pause for a moment here in stunned admiration of my sister who, knowing her nephew's commitment to "rainbow yarn" organized, shopped Knitche, and gave him, among other fabulous skeins of which I am insanely covetous, Handmaiden Great Big Sea in colorway Popsicle, for his birthday.)

We chose Misty Garden by Jo Sharp from Pam Allen's Scarf Style for the pattern. Anything less misty I'd be hard pressed to find. I think it's more of a circus tent run amok, but all three of the household males, most importantly Marco, have approved it. In point of fact, they have approved it enthusiastically. Odd behavior from a group who thinks knitting should be kept as dark and monochromatic as possible, but I've decided to find this reassuring. Just as well. There's no time to rip and choose another pattern anyway.

Besides, it's so like Marco to send his teacher off with a rainbow.

Godspeed and good luck.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Model of Indecision

I've bound off the top for the Knitalong Pillowbook (loosely, I hope) in purl. While I await the miracle of blocking (and it will take a miracle to get this to measure 12.5 by 18.5 inches,

I have decisions to make. There's the whole matter of the text, you see. Larissa chose an excerpt from Sei Shonagon's pillowbook of "things that take the breath away." It's just that what worked for Sei doesn't work for me.

I've considered a list of words I like for no apparent reason except possibly the sound they make: davenport, credenza, fallow, meadow, counterpane, hobgoblin, thresh, bobolink, onomatopoeia, sliddery.

I've thought about a list of my children's favorite bedtime stories, back when they were young enough to want bedtime stories: The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies, Goodnight Moon, Heckedy Peg, To Think That I saw It On Mulberry Street, The Napping House, Oom Razoom, Rosie and the Rustlers, The Frog Prince.

I've debated poems: "Summons" by Robert Francis, "Myth" by Muriel Rukeyser, Puck's Speech at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I looked up the definition of sleep in my short OED. Between the noun and the verb forms, and if you include the etymology, it takes up over a column. I'd have to abridge it.

Since this isn't getting me anywhere, I thought perhaps I should turn my mind to more practical matters, like how I'm going to turn this into a pillow. I've ordered a feather pillow (on sale at Cuddledown), so that much is done. The instructions in Knitalong have you sew the pillow-form into the case, making it into a sort of permanent soft sculpture. I''m stuck on my desire to make it into a sham.

I'm wondering if I could pick up stitches below the garter stitch border and knit a back, knitting two together down one side and along the bottom edge. If I did, I think it would have to be in pattern; I can't imaging a stockinette back would respond to the aggressive blocking the pillow front is currently undergoing.

I could, I suppose, treat the whole pillow front as a big applique and attach it to a prefabricated pillow sham. I could knit a rectangle in stockinette and sew it to 3 sides of the front. I could make a second "front" and do a series of three-needle bind-offs.

Or I could say I've done my bit to bring spring in (you're welcome) and go back to knitting sweaters and quilt squares.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I've gone all historical. It must be reading about Colonial Williamsburg on Mason Dixon. I had a post all written, confessing to the one thing I bought this summer that I haven't told you about, but now I can't find it. You'll have to settle for combining things colonial with National Poetry Month; you get historical poetry (note the date).

Paul Revere's Ride

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest.
In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

You won't get any the quasi-historical artifact (although this is pretty close). I must not be ready to face it after all, It lives here somewhere, inviolate, still in pristine, unopened condition. I'm thinking about it though.

There's more than one kind of revolution. And one can have poetry in motion.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Approaching Critical Mass

I've always envisioned this as the point before the explosion. The moment before either the descent onto disorder or the achievement of a new and higher level of order. It happens to me every time I pass the midpoint of a project. I start planning elaborations and extensions. I have only 4 repeats left and the final border for the Sei Shonagon Pillow from Knitalong. I need to get cracking.

I admit, I'm a little concerned. This is supposed to fit a 12" by 16" pillow. I'm relying on the miracle of blocking here, because looking at the current measurement, it's going to take a lot of stretching.

It's currently 20 inches wide, though, which tells me if I had knitted on larger needles, I would have the reverse problem and wouldn't really be in any better shape.

This descent into practicalities, however, hasn't stopped me from planning ahead. Larissa has you make this up as a one-sided pillow. I'm thinking it could be double-sided. All I have to do is make a second rectangle. If I did, I could make this into a pillow case. That way, when it makes first contact with my house (clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy is something I strive to achieve), I'll be able to wash it.

Of course, a double-sided pillow case needs lining for the back. Some type of closure might be nice, too, especially considering how far it's going to have to expand. Buttons, maybe, if I want to get fancy. Although if I want subtle, maybe some variation of hook-and-eye. Or ribbons lacing it up.

This doesn't even begin to address the ideas skittering through my brain for the text for the pillow front.

Like I said, critical mass.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I'm a little freaked out right now. It never snowed. Or if it did, it snowed while I was asleep and didn't stick, which as far as I'm concerned, amounts to the same thing. I don't really think we avoided snow because of my fiber choices. That smacks entirely too much of magic and superstition. I am a person of reason, a believer in critical thought. I know better. Still, it didn't snow.

I'll just keep repeating, "It's coincidental, not causal. It's coincidental, not causal."

Of course, next April, I may start knitting with linen again. After all, it didn't snow.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Am Not as Powerful as I Think I Am

It's a harsh truth. It seems I am not able to bend the forces of nature to my will. Perseph and Dem remain stubbornly independent and unamenable to my knitterly enticements. In short, snow is back in the forecast for tomorrow. Oh well. How about some pictures to ease the pain? Spring is all about potential, right?

I may have found Marco's yarn. This is "Sea," Cascade The Heathers, 4005. Swatching will commence shortly, and yes, it will likely take the form of a sleeve.

In the meantime, I'm having a hard time leaving my dishcloth kick behind. Marco was off today (Marking Day? Possibly. Report cards come out next week.). When we have a day to ourselves we head out to Michael's. This is Sugar 'n Creme Twist, Country Twist on the left, Denim Twist on the right. I'm thinking they need to be made into eLoominator's Diagonal Dishcloth (I can only find the pattern on Ravelry, sorry, although it's free there.) It should make good movie night knitting (Tonight's feature - The Marx Brothers in Horsefeathers).

As for my failure to control the weather - eh. At least I tried. Besides, here's another home truth: I've been missing wool.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's Working

At least, I think it is. The snow has been taken out of the forecast for Saturday. I'm a little worried though. That may have been too easy. Four or five hours of knitting might not make for an acceptable sacrifice. Besides we're still on for snow on Sunday. What if enticing Persephone is not enough? What if one dishcloth is seen as meager? It occurs to me I should have a back up plan. Perhaps I should think in terms of placating Demeter as well. You know how mothers are.

Wool is still on the proscribed list. I need a project (or several) that involves plant material. It all depends on just how cranky Demeter is feeling. I'm thinking linen. Knitter's Stash has those 8 knitted washcloths. The patterns call for the finer grade of Euroflax linen, not the sport-weight I have in my stash. I suspect I could adjust.

Of course, they still may not do the trick. What if the goddesses want something that indicates commitment? Something more involved? Something, how shall we say, bigger than a dishcloth? Got it covered. While running errands in the rain out at the western suburbs today, I ducked into String Theory. They had Euroflax Sport in white, just what the Pillow of Sei Shonagon in Knitalong calls for.

What? You think this is all an elaborate rationalization? Nonsense, hogwash and fiddlesticks. This has nothing to do with a desperate attempt to justify starting the Pillowbook. (Wouldn't something from Through the Looking Glass be great?) This is a genuine, altruistic attempt to lure Spring (and not in the shape of rains so steady and heavy that we spend a month with flood warnings).

You doubt? Well, let's see what Sunday brings.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Desperate Times

I know that I am not the queen of the universe, or even of the general Chicago area. Nonetheless, considering the portents noted in the last post (and how long they've been in coming), I take deep and personal exception to the forecast: snow mixed with rain on Saturday, snow mixed with rain on Sunday. I wouldn't mind an April blizzard if spring had been given the chance to get more than a toehold here, but it hasn't and I do.

I thought perhaps spring colors in my knitting would be enough to entice Persephone to stay above ground for the duration. It would appear I was wrong. The Barnyard Quilt is, after all, made from wool sock yarn. A greater sacrifice is required. Today I have put aside any and all things wool.

This has worked before when the weather threatened, at least to improve my attitude if not actual atmospheric conditions. I am going to knit new grass and leaves (there's not a single leaf on a single tree yet), blue sky and sunlight.

I may have to juggle three skeins of dishcloth cotton to do it, but someone has to take desperate measures.

ETA: I almost forgot to thank AmyArtisan, both for the idea (scroll down to "D is for Dishcloth"), and for emailing me the pattern for "Grandma's Favorite" so I didn't have to hunt all over the Internet for it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Late this Year

I've been most inconstant in my knitting lately. Flitty, one might say. I've done a little bit here on this, a few rows on that. Based on the comments on the Cascade Rainier Heather, lovely as it is, there's no way I can justify knitting Marco's blue sweater with it, so I've dead-ended there.

There's a bit of progress on the cardigan (that would be the "this").

Not much, though.

I started a second barn-raising quilt square (which would be the "that").

I'm not impressed.

I think I know why I've been so distractible, though. I started to figure it out when I saw my first robin last week. I really needed to be done with Winter, or for Winter to be done with me. I am fevered for Spring. The crocuses are only now budding and blooming, but finally, April has "come like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers."

I needed my knitting to know that.

Now it does.

*Spring. Edna St. Vincent Millay. (Which is really a very sad poem, but I love that image anyway.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Either Way

With flash.

Without flash.

It's too purple, isn't it?

Cascade 220 The Heathers, 9454/Rainier Heather.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What Kind of a Swatch Is That?

Well, you see, it all started when I was rustling through looking for a set of size 8 needles, all of which seem to have disappeared (and no I don't have that many projects going). It occurred to me that Diane thought the reason the ribbing on John's sweater hadn't pulled in was because I should have gone down a needle size. I could find size 7 needles.

As I cast on, two more things occurred to me: that I should probably swatch the ribbing as well as the stockinette and that Elizabeth tells you to swatch in the round. I remember that this advice has been offered by other reliable sources as well.

I decide I can kill two birds with one stone if I knit a few inches of ribbing and then 4 or 5 inches of plain knitting. This is starting to sound as awful lot like a sleeve to me. If I knew the dimensions of the sweater, I could cast on accordingly. Diane's comment about the unreliability of using his sportcoat is resonating at this point. I decide to measure one of his sport shirts as well and split the baby.

It occurs to me that there are additional benefits to this type of swatch. If I have to frog, frogging a sleeve wouldn't be devastating. I could also take advantage of a fudge factor and do more or less decreases based on the final stitch count for the body - which I can get once Marc returns and I can measure his favorite sweatshirt, which has accompanied him to England. Besides, I really want to try out the increases I used on the Perfect Sweater on an EZ one. If this is only a swatch, practicing is okay. It's even good. My 16 inch size 8 needles surface. I decide this is a good sign.

What kind of a swatch is this?

One that has confirmed that I get 4.75 stitches and 6 rows per inch using size 8 needles with Cascade 220. Based on the circumference of his Stanford sweatshirt, that just happens to put me dead on. I call that a sleeve. It occurs to me, that's not a bad start.