Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Made Glass


When the kids were little (yesterday, right?), one of our favorite places to visit was Wheaton Village. I'm a South Jersey girl, and it was important to me that they know about salt marshes and pine barrens and glass.

Last year for Christmas, my family gave me the gift of a glass-making class there. (Seriously, who thinks of that? "Let's have Mom twirl some 2000-degree F. molten glass around on the end of a steel pole! She'll love it!" In fact, I did, but how did they know?)

I just got around to scheduling the class. This is not something you want to do on a hot summer's day, and I was happy to be playing by a glass furnace on a bitter cold December day. But I didn't put it off because of the weather, I put it off because I thought I wasn't going to be good at it. Left-handed, clumsy, arthritic - there's a reason I work with nice, soft, forgiving wool.

I had a fantastic time, though. My instructor was right there at every step to make sure I didn't hurt myself or anyone else. And he lent a hand when my weak right hand wasn't up to a task. But I did most of it my own self, right down to pressing the mark in the bottom that says "made by me."

I learned some new words, like marver, which is the metal table glass-makers roll the molten glass on, and the verb for it is marvering. It's from the French word for marble, because that's what they used to roll glass on.

I learned that when you're gathering molten glass on to the tip of your pole, in the glass furnace, the way that you tell where the surface of the glass is (because the interior of the furnace is a pink-orange window into hell, and you truly can't tell) is that your pole-tip casts a shadow onto the surface.

I learned that letting the glass melt to near-liquidity in the glory-hole, pulling it out and letting it drip down about a foot, and then spinning it back up onto the tip, in order to swirl the colors, is a rush right up there with blocking out lace, or seeing the colors progress on a self-striping sock.

I learned that poking dents in the molten glass, and then adding a new gather of clear glass, makes bubbles in the paperweight.

I learned that you may think you've picked out some nice colors, but as far as you can see you're making a red-orange paperweight, and you have to take it on faith that it will look good when it cools.

Thanks, guys! What a great gift!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Snow

The first snowfall of the season was rapidly followed by the traditional invasion of the kitchen. There is now chili in the slow cooker, a pumpkin pie out of the oven, and bread waiting in the wings. DH and I acknowledge that this is a primal reaction to snow, but since it's one that we share, we enjoy responding to it.

We are also enjoying the serendipitous outcome of a minor calamity this summer - we returned from our summer vacation to discover that four (4!) partying squirrels had fallen down our chimney and died. September entailed the animal-removal guy tearing out the gas fireplace and part of the damper in order to remove the corpses. To our surprise, we discovered that the former owners had sealed up some pretty andirons and some well-used fireplace tools in the uncleaned fireplace. The next expense was a thorough chimney cleaning and repair (and a screen and some new tools). I still think it likely that we'll install another gas fireplace at some point, but meanwhile, there's nothing like this:

when outside it looks like this:

The children agree:

In knitting news, let's see. I spent the summer on a dishcloth knitting jag:

as well as knitting Leyburns (Ravelry link) for everyone who held still long enough out of Patons Stretch Sock yarn:

Now Christmas knitting has commenced.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I have Sung My Song

KD wished me a Happy November on Sunday and asked if I had sung my song yet. Then Claudia asked why anyone likes November. Such a happy confluence of events means that I shall sing my song here, in public, as it were.


The Crazy Women, by Gwendolyn Brooks

I shall not sing a May song.
A May song should be gay.
I'll wait until November
And sing a song of gray.

I'll wait until November
That is the time for me.
I'll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.

And all the little people
Will stare at me and say,
"That is the Crazy Woman
Who would not sing in May."

That is possibly my favorite poem ever. And apparently, my children know this.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Spooky Story

KD and I went Up North in mid-October, for a week of reading. It looked like this outside:

and like this inside:

We had a lovely, restful time (and our thanks to our absent hosts!). The last evening we joked of all the ways we could manage to stay a little longer, by getting snowed in (hoped for, but we only got rain), by losing track of the days, etc.

So it was with a considerable start that I looked out the kitchen window the morning of our departure to see this:

There was, for a few moments, that wonderful, ghost-story moment of an observed phenomenon with no apparent rational explanation. We were completely alone, both in the cabin and on the road to it. The only people we had seen all week were in the town up the road. KD denied going out into the night to close the gate. As you can see in the first picture, the gate is usually fastened open. Indeed, I had never seen it closed, and did not know how to unfasten it; nor did KD. We both eventually recalled that the wind had howled prodigiously in the night, sounding like a far-off train before actually hitting against the sides of the cabin. But the gate was fastened with a loop of heavy wire - surely even a strong wind couldn't snap that. It looked for all the world as though the cabin wanted us to stay.

I blame the fact that I was more ready to consider the spirit of the house than a wandering human spirit on my fondness for the works of Barbara Michaels.

While we were packing up, the gate wandered further open, and then closed, and then back into the trees again - a slightly less spooky apparition than seeming to have locked us in. And when we ventured outside to pack up the car, we discovered that the wind had indeed snapped the wire. Instructional Note: do not run your hand down a twisted wire as if it were a particularly thick piece of wool. I had to go back into the cabin for some first aid before we drove off.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Negative socks

I knit a beautiful sock out of Patons FX yarn using the Oliver pattern. I didn't notice until way too late that the pattern called for using another color for the heel and toe. I went surfing in the Ravelry KAL for this pattern and found an assurance from the designer that if one was knitting a smaller sock, one skein per sock would be enough. And I have to admit that I got all the way to the toe-weaving with just enough yarn left to weave (ray!). But it didn't fit the recipient (boo).

So now I get to decide whether to find another skein of the same color (it doesn't have to be the same dyelot - it's the toe of a sock, for heaven's sake!), or knit the yarn into a sock that doesn't eat up as much yardage.

I had one of my now-rare migraines last night, however, so all decisions are on hold until I don't hate everything.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

At last

You have all been very patient (why is that picture a mirror image of reality?).

We spent all summer renovating the study. Picking the paint for the wall color was the most unnerving experience of my life. Props to KD for helping to install the new flooring last weekend.

You will be thrilled to know that after a marathon baseboard/quarter round painting session this morning (miles of it!), the study has been put back together enough to finally unpack my new computer and set it up.

p.s. I may have gotten a slightly too large monitor. I could get lost in here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dome sweet dome

I'm leaving on an adventure tomorrow. I am not offering this as a warning of blog absence - given the gaps in my posting, and the fact that I'll only be gone four days, you'd never have known I was gone. I just thought I'd mention it. I've never been to North Carolina before (to stay - I'm fairly certain I've driven through it a time or two).

Since we are seriously considering putting a dome home on the land to which we are planning to retire, we have taken the manufacturers up on an offer to actually stay in one for a few days, trying it on, as it were.

(photo, not to mention adventure, courtesy of American Ingenuity)

Since the whole point is just to be in the dome, I am packing unread books, unfinished knitting, my camera, and my birthday-present Kindle (currently full of much-read, much-beloved, and free, children's books).

I am on the toe of the last of six socks (pictures when I return). I am nearly done re-knitting a cotton vest I started last summer, which was two sizes too small, in a grinch-like way. I am 1/3 through an unbelievably soft cotton shawl which will be a gift for a women in a nursing home. And my needles are full of a few projects where I matched up yarn, needles and pattern into satisfying projects, knit 4-6 inches, said "yep, that'll work, " and set them aside. I think because I thought the summer was going to be too hot to knit. It never was, this year, reminding me of some childhood summers. Nevertheless, I think I'll pick back up the alpaca scarf (not for me, I can't wear alpaca, I'll gift it somewhere) and the autumn leaves scarf come fall.

Off to pack my suitcase!

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's a little pink

Pattern: Pinwheel Baby Blanket
Yarn: Bernat Softee Baby, Candy Baby

Akasha is going to have a daughter in the fall, an event that has fired up all the family's knitters.

The day I heard the news, I picked up the yarn beside my chair, leftovers from a grandniece's sweater, and started knitting. It was fast and satisfying.

The only problem is, Akasha doesn't like pink (the Akashlette is so far silent on the topic). This would be a minor problem, since what I know about babies is that there are never enough blankets clean at any given moment. Granted, I was doing laundry for twins, but I bet it's still true for singletons. There were many moments when I cared not what the aesthetics or provenance was - if it was clean and warmth-inducing, it would do.

Still, I think a stated preference should be taken into account. Fortunately, there is yet another grandniece on the way. (I am never going to run out of them - my children had 35 first cousins before I quit counting). So this blanket is on its way there, and the Akashlette will have to wait on a more considered offering.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wrapped in Love

I like the way you've all been taking it in turn to nag me about posting. A slow but effective wearing away of my resistance...

A dear friend has now retired from a lifetime of service to this country. I knit her two shawls for bon voyage gifts as she embarks on her new life. The first, because she admired the pattern so, and it was a quick and easy pleasure:

Ravelry here
Pattern: Crescendo Shawl by American Thread Company
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft, 3 skeins
Needles: US 10 1/2
Modifications: no fringe. After experimenting with a picot edge, I went with a simple single crochet in every other bound-off (& cast-on) stitch.

First photo is truer to the actual color, but this one shows off the cables better..

The second, because this was the kind of gift worthy of learning to knit lace for:

Ravelry here
Pattern: Romantic Moments Lace Wrap, by Evelyn A. Clark
Yarn: Yarn Palace Graceful, 1/2 skein (and I'm making plans for the rest!)
Needles: US 4
Modifications: none whatsoever. I did exactly what I was told, and took it on faith that blocking would make this odd lump of crumpled-ness look like the one in the pattern's photo - which it did! I learned that laceweight yarn dries so fast that a wet block is practically impossible. It was dry before I had half of it on the blocking wires. So once it was all pinned out, I sprayed it good.

Taking lace off the blocking wires and setting it free is an absolutely magical moment. I can't wait to make more! But first, I have to post a few more finished objects, and escape from the Slough of Socks.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tune Without Words

I'm going to start calling my dryer Hope.

I washed a duvet cover weeks ago, and I'm still pulling clothes out of the dryer covered with feathers, despite regular lint-trap cleanings. *sigh* I suppose if I put something really fuzzy through the dryer I could get rid of them all at once, but what would I do with the fuzzy/feathered object that would result?

This was a good weekend, since I finished off the tax forms for all family members requiring one. Oddly, despite having a reputation for being tech-savvy, I continue to be a Luddite here and do them without benefit of tax software. I tried it once eons ago and was so offended that it insisted I list my husband first (when he fills out the forms, he can have top billing) that I never went back.

I've also Finished off a couple of Objects. One's a surprise gift, but I've Raveled it.

These were finished some time ago, but I wanted to record my dissatisfaction:

Pattern: Retro Rib Socks, from Evelyn Clark's Favorite Socks

Yarn: Trekking Pro Natura, 75% wool, 25% bamboo

These are my husband's socks, which he likes. I like the pattern, and I loved the yarn in the skein, but I don't like the way it's wearing. Bamboo always blooms a bit, adds a bit of shine, but these are pilling, which my other bamboo socks have never done.

The yardage that would not quit:

These are probably the last orange knit goods for KD, as she prepares to graduate from the College of Orange and Black.

Pattern: Anastasia Socks

Yarn: Regia 4-ply

Mods: I used some graphing advice from Wendy's blog to re-size them, so I had enough yarn left over for these:

Pattern: Piano Mitts, by Catherine Ryan
Yarn: Leftover Regia 4-ply

And there's still some left!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Portable knitting

I always have socks on the needles. Portable knitting, instant gratification. In no particular order, here are a few things I've finished recently.

Jacqaurds for NKD, who swore I had never made her socks (conveniently forgetting these, which she took home and misplaced):

Yarn: Patons Kroy in Crayon (I'm not crazy about Kroy, but she wanted a jacquard and it's all I could find)
Pattern: My standard toe-up sock pattern
Modifications: length, obviously, since NKD has very short feet. I also inserted Wendy's wonderful flap heel for toe-up socks - I loved the way they turned out when I made her Double Eyelet Rib Socks, so I just grabbed the instructions and inserted them into my pattern. This involved quite a bit of math, and all of my mathematical children have flown the coop, but with the aide of my trusty calculator I have now inserted this heel into any number of sized patterns.

Here's another:

I knit KD socks from leftover worsted weight Wool-Ease some time back, and when the weather turned really breath-taking last month out in the midwest, she asked for more. I grabbed some Wool-Ease she had left behind at Christmas (it made a really spectacular hat and mittens for a young Spiderman fan/friend of hers). I used every bit of it up, but here are her new worsted socks, with Wendy's heels - this time I also had to figure out what to do with the one row where she has you knit a complete round in the middle of the heel, since I didn't want a single row of red on top of the sock.

And lastly, NKD got her own pair of clogs this weekend:

In addition to cutting down on the length, I also chose the higher heel-back option. These developed a crease during felting that I never quite got rid of, but she's happy with them - it was all I could do to make her wait until they were dry!

Great merciful heavens - now I have no socks on the needles!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sometimes, knitting is not the right answer

I realize this is heresy. But I need my crafting to be practical.

My co-worker's daughter is a nurse, and a little over two weeks ago she let it be known that she would like to have some baby blankets on hand as she works in her inner city hospital, just in case the mothers on her floor don't have anything to wrap their babies in as they head home.

Of course I immediately cast on a baby blanket from some leftover yarn. And cast on again. And again. I haven't actually made a baby blanket (that I remember) since my very first knitting project, and I had to work out the proper pattern for the amount of yarn at hand. It took me two weeks, in between other projects, to crank out a lovely little "dishcloth blanket," which I delivered today.

Meanwhile, two weeks ago when I was still casting around for a pattern, I stopped by the fabric counter while I was out running errands, picked up the end of a bolt of pale yellow no-sew polar fleece, had them cut it in half, and delivered two 36x30" baby blankets the following Monday, at the whopping expenditure of $2.22 and 2 minutes apiece. The nurse and her mother were pleased with the idea, and plan to replace them with more of the same as needed.

My knitted blanket is nice. And there's definitely a place for hand knits, from heirlooms to practical workhorses. But in this case, there was a better solution.

Dishcloth baby blanket

Yarn: 1 1/2 skeins Simply Soft in white

Needles: Size 9 circular

Pattern: if you've ever made a cotton dishcloth you don't need this, but just in case:

Cast on 5 sts.

Row 1: Knit

Row 2: K3, yo, k to end of row.

Repeat row 2 until desired length (measured on one side of the triangle)

Row 3: K2, k2tog, yo, k2tog, knit to end of row.

Repeat row 3 until 5 sts are left, bind off.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Elucidate! Reiterate! Interrogate! Procrastinate!

My children took my education in hand after my shameful admission last year that I didn't know what a Dalek was. In fact, they gave me Series 4 for Christmas, so I am now All Caught Up. And a fan, of course. I always knew I would be, in a resistance-is-useless kind of way. I just kept postponing the inevitable.

Pattern: Extermiknit
Materials: the same as for last year's faucet-cover Dalek-outfit
Modifications: copper beads instead of bobbles, and a bit of copper wire (leftover from the kitchen remodeling, with the ends bent over, so no sharp edges) inserted into his arm for stability

This particular project gave rise to one of those wonderful, entertaining, family games that just happen - you can never seem to make them work when you set out to do it on purpose. It involved finding all the possible 4-syllable verbal commands ending in -ate that English provides - without recourse to the Internet. We were coming up with them for days!

Son, if you've got a better picture, I'll post it. This one is not one of my better efforts.

Monday, January 12, 2009

a little hitch

in the knitting content, as my computer and camera have decided to stop speaking to each other.

I'll distract you:

When my kids were teenagers but still at home, I would perch on the first step of our staircase, which ends by the front door, to say goodbye. Despite a lifetime of trying, I've never quite reached 5'5", so the step was a good height from which to hug my nearly-grown children as they headed out the door.

As my husband and I headed out the door to a holiday party this weekend, my son (who is pushing 6' if not already there) stood on that step and solemnly intoned, "Remember to be home by curfew. Remember Who You Are. Remember that you can always call me if you need a ride home from anywhere."

I'm still laughing.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Blogging on a regular basis is hard. And feels a bit like shouting down a well. But because I believe that it will get easier with time, and because I've just discovered that my sister-in-law's bloglist labels me a knitting goddess (who knew?), I've decided to keep at it for another year. My goal will be to publish a post every weekend. I think I can do that. Unless we go away for the weekend...

Speaking of which, we went away for the weekend just before Christmas. The family get-together was severely interrupted by the weather, and I learned a valuable lesson about the place to which we are planning to retire, to wit,


results in this:

Or put another way, being holed up in a motel room watching a blizzard, while not conducive to visiting relatives, does result in the completion of ones first pair of argyles. At least in my case.

I vowed to learn how to knit argyle socks over the summer, but didn't actually get around to it until this fall. Since my brother-in-law volunteered to be a guinea pig, he got the first pair for Christmas.

Yarn: Knit Picks Essential fingering weight, in Navy, Ash (looking tan instead of grey in the photo for some reason), Dusk, and Burgundy

Knit Picks was the only place I could find solid colors of sock yarn. The yarn was lovely to knit with, and knit up very smooth, warm, and soft. I am used to sock yarns with a lot of twist, so my brother-in-law is on notice to let me know if they don't wear well.

It took me entirely too long to realize that the Rule of Pull Skeins does not apply to this yarn. Instead of finding the outside loose end tucked in and pulling the yarn from the center of the other side, for this yarn you pull from the same end the outside yarn was tucked into. As a result of my failure to recognize a trend, I managed to eviscerate nearly every skein used in the completion of these socks.

Pattern: Leisure Arts' Argyle Socks


  • used the same color for both cross lines, instead of two different colors (I had enough trouble coming up with these colors; it's not my strong point);
  • changed all the k1, sl 1, PSSO 's to SSK's;
  • refused to wind bobbins, preferring to have my minions unwind the skeinish tangles a la Franklin Habit's wonderful cartoon in It Itches.
I did measure and cut the burgundy lines, I'm not crazy. But they're knit in, not duplicate stitch added later. I considered that option, since the pattern offers it, but my mom (my consultant since she made more than a few pairs back in the day) was appalled by the prospect.

It was so much fun I've cut the pattern down to my size and am knitting myself a pair in grey with blue and red diamonds and navy lines. I'm especially charmed by finally managing to continue mattress stitch from stockinette into ribbing while maintaining its lovely invisibility. I just wish I knew how I finally did it. It just clicked. I hope it stays clicked.