Celtic Cable

Celtic Cable

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Monday, August 30, 2010

A Knitting Room of One's Own ...

     With appropriate apologies to Virginia Woolf, of course. My next online-learning experience is Women Writers. Only two books! One of them is rather large, though. And, not only do I get to slog through "A Room of One's Own" for the second time, I get to read and discuss "The Yellow Wallpaper" for the third time! Or fourth ... I've been in three different colleges/universities since 2001, I can't always keep them straight. "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a perennial feminist favorite, and very easy to write about, so it's in most lit classes.

     Now, I have nothing against Virginia Woolf, but for me, reading "A Room of One's Own" would be far more enjoyable without the very thing that critics laud it for -- the stream-of-consciousness rambling that is basically "I was asked this question about literature, so I'm going to the river to answer it, then I pondered a leaf, and then went to a library at a men's university where they wouldn't let me in because I was a woman." I like flights of fancy as much as the next person, but they make for difficult study, sometimes. Get to the point!

     The good thing about being assigned "The Yellow Wallpaper" yet again, is that I can recycle my essay from a couple of years ago (after I make sure I don't have the same professor, of course). Would I do that? Darn straight! I did it with "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and I'll do it again. Literature is timeless, it's our way of looking at it that changes.

     But, on to knitting. I started a new WIP to replace the FO'd socks ... the Arachne Alpaca Lace Ring by Cherle Oberle, from the Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders (one of my all-time favorite books). This is for a friend's birthday in October. It's knit out of the silk-merino I spun up a few weeks back. Oh, the link is for Ravelry members only, sorry! 

     And my toe-up socks are coming along, but they are bigger than my feet: 


     They had to have a certain number of stitches for the heel design; I had a choice of 28 or 32, and I chose poorly. My efforts to estimate gauge are about as successful as my ability to translate inches to yards without a computer program. 

     Gratuitous pet shot: 
At least they get along. Edgar put up with Petunia for about five minutes, then shoved her off with his back legs.
   Off to bed with me...I just drank a pot of chamomile tea and it's starting to kick in! Good night, everyone! And thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All Quiet on the Blogger Front

     This stack of books is the reason I went several days without a post! I am in the last week of an 8-week African Literature class, and I put off working on the final essay until yesterday. I don't normally do that, but the weather turned cooler, and I just didn't want to stay indoors. My essay is about 1/3 of the way finished, so I can spend some time on this, my 3rd favorite hobby.

     Several years ago, I scoffed at online learning. I wouldn't want to spend hours a night on a computer after spending all of my work day on a computer ... it wouldn't be worth learning by myself, it's best in a classroom ... I don't have the discipline to study on my own and keep a timetable. Well, that all turned out to be hogwash! I spend most my time reading and taking notes, not on the computer. I went to a brick-and-mortar school for two years, and the classroom experience was not that great -- the students were much younger than me, had no discipline, complained incessantly about having to be in class/do homework, and sullenly refused to participate in class discussions. And keeping to a schedule was no problem, because the work is due at a certain time, and you just do it. No TV, no spinning kitten-soft alpaca, no knitting for a friend's birthday until it's done. I hear so many people making those same  excuses, and I just wish they'd try it. 

     On to the knitting ... I have a FO!  
And, from this angle, I can actually see the wicker pattern I thought I'd messed up! They're so warm I only wore them for about five seconds, long enough to take the picture. And I found a dropped stitch in the toe. I don't know why, but I always drop a stitch there. It must be from casting off.

I finished spinning the Wonder Why Alpaca, purchased roving from here.
Here it is, all clean and pretty:

    It is still damp, which is why it looks a bit flat. It's 111 wraps on the niddy-noddy, which equals 7,770 inches, which equals 215 yards (is that right? Melissa?). It was 4 oz to begin with, and I spun it thicker than I normally would. I now have a huge basket full of handspun that I must use up before I buy more roving. But I also still have so much to spin! And sometimes, that's all I want to do. Right now, I have 4 oz of black Suri alpaca partly spun on 2 bobbins, and it's calling to me something fierce. I can just see it knitted up into a little cowl ...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Cat Days of August

     I have been busy with yardwork and housework ... I can only ignore the clutter so long before I have the urge to drop everything and clean! (And no, I don't want to come over to YOUR house and clean ... you know who you are). I'm still working on the pseudo-wicker socks, and the Kroy yarn socks ... finished a skein of alpaca (still looks like chocolate raspberry!) and started a new WIP, an October birthday gift for a friend. I knit most of the new WIP while at the vet's office this morning, for this little twerp ...

...who had her second vet visit this morning. She had a rabies shot, which made her cranky, and some more de-worming medicine, because her stomach is distended a bit. She is sleeping it all off now under the bird cages, giving me and the other animals a welcome relief from all of her normal kitteny energy.  She looks stoned, doesn't she?

     I didn't want a third cat. I didn't really want any cats, but I had mice -- a lot of them, sauntering around as if they owned the place --  and the combined efforts of the Orkin Man and I were not enough to keep them out. It's a rowhouse, and they run free through the walls. I plugged every hole I could find ... still had mice, still saw droppings, still heard skittering noises in the walls.

     Now I have handled vermin before. I've had to deal with the snakes that got into my last apartment after heavy rains. In this neighborhood, I have to deal with mean dogs behind insufficient fences while I'm out walking my dog. I can show you pictures I've taken of alligators in Louisiana, from close range. I can gap a spark plug, drive a 2 1/2 ton stake truck, change the oil in my car ... but when it comes to mice, I am no different than the girliest of sissy girls. I scream and jump in the air and run for a chair to stand on (I do the same with evil cockroaches).

    So, I got a cat. A mellow, laid back, what's-the-big-deal-man sort of cat. Imagine patchouli oil and love beads. That's this cat (Edgar). The mice practically shared food with him. A few more months of mice running free in the house, and I got a younger cat. She was not quite a year old, and frisky. The morning after I got her, there was a dead mouse in my living room, and that was the last mouse I ever saw. It was like something out of a gangster movie, a warning to the other mice. Find a new place to live, capisce? 

     The kitten Petunia came from a litter of kittens a stray cat had on my porch back in April. Three found homes, she stayed with me (long story short--the people I gave her to were not feeding or caring for her, and she got off to a bad start), and one other kitten and momma cat, now spayed, live in my yard. I also watch over a stray who was abandoned by the nasty trashy people that used to live next door a few years ago. I feel trapped by cats. I have to hire someone to come over and take care of them if I want to go anywhere. I don't like it, but the shelters in this area are stuffed with abandoned cats -- when people are evicted, they just toss them out and go. And since they're never fixed, they reproduce exactly as you'd expect. I really think those people should be fixed. It's just callous to toss a pet aside and expect it to survive a Baltimore winter. Some people are able to look the other way when a starving or injured cat turns up, but I just can't. So I wind up taking them in, and setting up warm boxes for them in the winter, and ***ch and gripe about it.

     So that's my cat story. Here is my garden story ....

Clematis ... 

A second round of lavender blooming ... Lavender is my absolute most favorite fragrance. I love it more than vanilla, and the smell of cookies baking. I planted two small 4 x 4 containers here two years ago, and now it's a hedge. It comes back bigger and better every year, and blooms in May and again in August. If my bedroom window got any sun, I'd grow it inside.
     Tiny green oranges, just in time .... they might actually mature before it gets frosty! I don't eat these, as they are bitter, but my friends appreciate sour fruit, so I give them away. The oranges are about the size of a golf ball, or smaller, when they're ready. And the blossoms smell just heavenly!

      And, the five-for-ten-dollars-from-Weis mums. I know I should plant them, but I just don't have any more groundspace. If I get around to it, they'll go in big planters. I have a very special feeling about mums, as it was the last Mother's Day present my mom received from my dad and I ... a pot of purple-and-white mums. 

     There isn't much knitting in this post, though I have been knitting, just not as much. I had homework that got in the way, and I have to mow the lawn in the brief spells between thunderstorms, and cook dinner, and all that stuff that gets in the way! I'm in a spinning mood now, anyway, so I think I'll get back on the Kromski and spin up the rest of the chocolate-brown alpaca ...

Monday, August 16, 2010

One WIP Down, Four to Go!

     Voila! A finished scarf. Chili Peppers Polworth by Misty Mountain Farms, spun on a Kromski by me. Pattern is the Undulating Scarf from Summer 2010 Spin Off magazine. This might be a Christmas gift for someone, or it might be for me. It's very soft, but not really my color. And I have a half-million scarves.

    Progress on the very not-like-the-photo socks I'm making from "Socks a la Carte." The leg pattern is wicker, on page 38. My wicker looks nothing like their "Wicker" ... I think I am doing the RT and LT incorrectly. If anyone can help me with this, I'd be happy! I also seem to have a problem with ptbl ... I can't manage it no matter how I try. Any advice? 

    These will be for me, as they are made specifically for my cankles.
     And finally, more lovely alpaca ... Suri alpaca Sugar Breeze Brown, from Wonder Why Alpaca Farm.  Sam Adams included for scale (yeah, right, the heat index is 103 and my a/c is set on an environmentally-friendly 83 ... I'm drinkin' that bad boy).

     Now off to do my homework ... I'm a perpetual student here and if I'm diligent, I'll have a B.A. in English Literature by the end of the year.

Update: Maybe not at the end of the year. The class I was going to take in September is no longer available. Darn it all! Throws off my whole schedule.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Off with the Merino, on with the Alpaca!

     Merino-Silk done, and suitable sunny-day picture accomplished. I love orange marigolds as much as I love purple clematis.

     If I'd had a ripe cantaloupe, I would have taken a picture of the yarn with that.

     Isn't it gorgeous? I think I'm going to knit it into a cowl for a co-worker who has the perfect skin tone for this bright yarn. It will probably only use about half of it.

Now, on to the alpaca!

     This is Plum Perfect Suri Alpaca Wonder Roving, and Suri Alpaca Sugar Breeze Brown blended with Merino Mojave, from Wonder Why Alpaca Farm. And if you're wondering why it's called that, don't ask me -- I don't know! This is the roving that made me break my lengthy no-new-fiber moratorium.

     This is how the chocolatey-raspberry one looks on the spindle (er, Sam Adams bottle shown for scale). I'm trying to spin it with a lot of air, and thicker than I normally spin, to keep the colors from blending too tightly. I really want the yarn to show both the chocolate and raspberry colors. Gosh, I sure am hungry all the sudden.

     And THIS is the cat that discovered if he lays right against the foot pedal while I'm spinning, he gets his back scratched.

    Oh, and Andrea at Wonder Why tells me that unfortunately, her alpaca are not naturally plum colored. I wonder how long it takes to dye a full-grown alpaca?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"I Believe It's Time for Me to PLY....."

     My apologies to REO Speedwagon.

     I finished plying the last of the merino-silk. It was a punishment; I was a bad girl, and the punishment I chose was to sit at my wheel and spin 230 yards of this gorgeousness and then ply it as soon as I got home the next day. No excuses, no stopping for anything except bathroom breaks and coffee.

     See, I promised myself I wouldn't purchase any more yarn or roving until I used up some of what I have in my stash. The promise lasted three days ... I fell off the wagon while browsing Ravelry, found myself on Etsy, purchasing 4 oz of brown Suri alpaca and 4 oz of plum Suri alpaca (imagining a plum-colored alpaca makes me happy enough to giggle). I was so irritated with myself for giving in so quickly -- not even a week! -- especially since I was halfway through the merino-silk I swore I was going to finish before doing anything else. So, as penalty for promise-breaking, I told myself sternly I was going to sit down and finish that darned merino-silk before I did another thing. Harsh punishment, I know. Brutal. I learned it from a friend of mine, an Air Force Master Sergeant, a master disciplinarian. For privacy's sake, we'll call him "Jeff."

     "Jeff" and his wife have three sons and a daughter. The daughter is currently the baby (I say currently because I'm betting there'll be a fifth baby in the making before the year is out). "Jeff" easily keeps his sons in line, but when it comes to his daughter ... well, let me post a picture of her, and you'll see the difficulty:

     What kind of heartless monster would speak harshly to that adorable child?!

     Jeff -- er, I mean, "Jeff" doesn't speak harshly to her. When she misbehaves, he says "no-no!" in a very tender tone of voice. It actually does make her scrunch her face up and fling her arms over her head in a most dramatic fashion, as if he had really hollered at her. So, in punishing myself for breaking my no-new-purchases rule, I chose a tough-but-tender approach. Spin the merino-silk before so much as thinking about spinning the new Suri. Free up them bobbins!

     Oh, and I stopped on the way home from work and bought a bottle of Chambord. I love Chambord, but I hate to spend $30 on a bottle of liquor ... so it was truly a terrible punishment. That'll learn me!

Monday, August 9, 2010

How Many WIPs are Too Many?

     These are my WIPs (this is why I have so many needles, SLC!). Two pairs of socks, a scarf, a lace-weight wrap, and (in the back) the non-traditional baby blanket. I love to have several projects going at once. I've been working on the lace weight wrap for a long time now, but it's fussy, and I don't always like to bother with it. The reddish scarf is from the pattern on the most recent issue of Spin-Off magazine. I spun the yarn from some Polworth I purchased from Misty Mountain Farm, controller of my crack--er, wool habit (it's all I can do to get out of their tent with any dignity at MS&W). The lovely white doily underneath is something my mother crocheted a long time ago. 

     Here is a better view of the scarf, and my spinning WIP:
     The gorgeous Merino-Silk blend is from these  lovely people. It's called Golden Hibiscus. I am going to take a better picture of it outside, in the sunlight, but this will do for now. It makes me think of cantaloupes. My late mother loved cantaloupes. For some reason, my thoughts keep circling around to her this summer, and just about everything reminds me of her.

      Am I happy with five WIPs? Sure -- the top-down socks are ready to go into the heel flap, I might finish the lace weight wrap this year, and the baby blanket has a definite time limit (I have 7 months to go). The scarf won't be needed for a few months yet, and the purpley toe-up socks are for me, so no rush. I have lots to work on, already on the needles, in progress. 

     So WHY is this all I can think of? 

    And this, one of my top-three favorite pattern books: 

     I believe they are meant for each other. When no one is around, the yarn tells me that it wants to be fingerless gloves, or perhaps a cowl. That's normal, right? Everyone's yarn talks to them ... right? 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Looking Forward to Autumn

     I am not fond of hot weather. I don't like using my air conditioner -- I don't like the way it isolates me from what is happening outside, and I don't like how it keeps me from hearing the crickets and cicadas at night. I also don't like sweating miserably when the humidity is more than sixty percent, so I use the A/C when it's really humid, and forgo it when I can. I love open windows. Today, there was a nice breeze and the temperature dropped to below 90, so I took the essentials out to my front porch and spent a pleasant hour doing homework (the book), then listening to an audiobook (American women authors short stories -- Kate Chopin, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton). I knitted a bit on the baby blanket and some socks, then took some pictures of my WIPs.

     My mindless socks, that I take to work to knit on while in mindless meetings (I hope I didn't give my boss this blog address). I think I should have gotten a closer close-up. The flower is a clematis, which does very well in this area, so long as you cut it back in the Autumn. They come in light purple, pink, and white, also. I might plant a few more next year, and just completely bury the ugly metal fences under them. They don't seem to attract bees, and they're just gorgeous. They drop their petals one at a time, and it makes a lovely scattering on the ground.

     The non-traditional baby blanket. The colors make me dream of Autumn, which I look forward to more than just about anything. I can't wait for that first night when I go outside to walk to dog, and feel that first little nip in the air. As much as I love my flowers and my tomato plants and lavender, I love that nip in the air more. Oh -- these are elephant ears. They get REALLY big. My Louisiana grandmother planted them around the ditch culvert to hide it from view. They grow from giant corms that winter over in the south, but don't come back if it freezes.

Gratuitous cat shot! Petunia attacking Edgar Allen Poe Cat. She's such a pesky little twerp. Sometimes Edgar looks at her as if to say get in my belleh! Other times he runs off and tries to hide, but Petunia is the perpetual pesky little sister. She finds him no matter where he hides.

     Lastly, my friend Melissa has been bitten by the blog bug. You will find her here. To my great sorrow, she is not a knitter. But I think that's only because she's so busy raising four kids and homeschooling three of them and baking and keeping house and doing laundry for six people and cooking for six people and following her own interests, which are photography, serving in her church, and various military spouse duties (I need to go rest just thinking about it all). Perhaps one day when she's old and gray, she and I can sit down and I will teach her to knit with real wool, not acrylic. Perhaps we should start with alpaca ... that's pretty addictive.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What Do YOU Hoard?

    By fanatical-knitter standards, I do not have a large stash. I do not have a S.A.B.L.E. (Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy) although I do buy yarn more frequently than I buy clothing or shoes or purses, or food. Heh. Just kidding on that last one.

     I have a friend who loves shoes and purses like I love alpaca and wool and camel. In the interest of privacy, we'll call this friend "Imelda." Imelda is a stylish woman who owns dozens of purses and has enough clothing to go three months without re-wearing anything. She has more earrings than most jewelry stores. I've never seen the same shoes on her feet twice. By contrast, my shoe collection is pictured above.

Excuse the dark photo. I cannot figure out how to make my fancy new camera go flashy.

     A few weeks ago, Imelda told me she was not going to go shopping any more until October (Why October? I don't know -- must be a crazy shoe fetish thing). I scoffed and doubted this. She had gone on a 40-day dry spell over Lent, and I didn't think she was capable of going another round on the Abstinence Train. Today, Imelda found a great sale on some kitchenware that would be perfect for her Auntie B., so she asked if I thought it would be breaking her vow of celibacy if she went and purchased these items for a Christmas present. I said I figured it'd be okay, and teased her a bit about how many shoes and purses she must own by now, and how she might one day be one of those crazy hoarders on TV with sixteen blenders and eighty-five empty toilet paper rolls and thirty bags of dog food (but no dog).

     Then ... I got to thinking. I may only own 10 pairs of shoes and 2 purses that I didn't knit myself, but I certainly do hoard other things. Shot glasses, for one. I must have fifty, and always ask travelers to bring me one back. Knitting needles -- there's no such thing as too much when you habitually have five WIPS laying around (by the way, I'm STILL looking for 2.25mm 16" circs, metal or bamboo, if anyone has a source). In the last week I've bought FIVE pairs of knitting needles, four straights and two circs.

     So upon careful consideration, I think that teasing Imelda about all her shoes is sort of like the coffee calling the Guiness black -- just a little hypocritical! So in the interest of full confession, so that Imelda can poke fun at me, I present my yarn stash:

   The Ikea Bureau stash ...The bottom drawer and the basket on top, as well as the lamp-shelf to the left, are all unspun fibers. The rest is various store-bought yarns.
     Edgar Allen Poe Cat has a deep love for unspun fiber, and he knows it's in that drawer right in front of his nose. He lusts after corriedale, and he isn't ashamed to show it.

This shelf is mostly FOs, and the basket next to it is full of Knit Picks Peruvian wool. My spindles are in the little basket in front. Not too much, just a couple few dozen danish-sized skeins.
  This is the last of it ... the basket in the back is full to the top of my own handspun, which I really need to start knitting into something. It's so pretty, I hate to use it.

     The little three-tiered thingamajig in the front is a miscellaneous collection of wool, fun yarn, and acrylic.

     Here is what happens when you spend an hour sorting your yarn in the presence of a kitten. You can just see her behind the recycle bin.

     So, Imelda, next time I tease you about shoes or purses or seventy pairs of earrings, just make a sheep noise, or ask me how many knitting needles I own. That will shut me right up.

     And if someone will come over and show me how to make my camera go flashy, I'd really appreciate it. WHY is technology so hard for me?!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Any Excuse to Visit the Yarn Store

These are ceramic eggs my mother made years ago. Aside from knitting, my mother was an expert ceramist (I don't know if I made that word up or not, the spellchecker didn't underline it). If I remember correctly, these eggs were painted over with a glaze that had chunks of semi-solid paint in it. The chunks melted in the kiln; neat! Mom taught my brother and I how to pour, clean, and paint ceramics. We didn't touch the kiln, though. That was all mom's territory. I just remember dozens of little cones that propped up the greenware while it turned to bisque. I sure do miss doing all that!

Today, I had a dental appointment, so I left work early, and decided to reward myself for another cavity-free visit by visiting my local yarn store. Purple sock yarn for me, brown hat wool for the guy who helped me pick out what camera I needed. It wasn't easy for him, because the only technical term I know for a camera is "lens." And I usually confuse that with the viewfinder. The sock yarn is Berroco, the brown wool is Cascade 220, my favorite ready-made wool, the needles are Addi Turbos ... and the tail belongs to a cat that saw no reason to move out of my picture.

Speaking of cat: I may regret buying this cat tree. I looked all over the house for little Miss Molly #($&% today, to clip her nails ... it didn't even occur to me to check the top of the cat tree, which is where she spends 80 percent of her day. Do you think she answered when I called her? No! Why do we even bother naming cats? They only respond to the sound of the can opener or the treat bag, or a human trying to walk down a dark staircase ... then they're Johnny-on-the-spot.

Current project, socks 2 at a time ... not looking a bit like the pattern, but I might just stick with it anyway. I think I don't have the correct definition for RT and LT, and besides, who can purl through the back loop?! That is nearly impossible!

And my fascination with the macro lens continues. I just love the little increases ... really, it takes so little to make a sock aesthetically pleasing. The increases for this are kf&bl, which makes that horizontal line. YO leaves a hole, I find, and so does picking up the horizontal stitch in between. I think I'm just using this whole paragraph as an excuse to document yet another close up of knitting. Oh, well, it's what makes me happy! Too bad I don't have any purple flowers to take a picture with--oh, wait, the clematis is blooming...

     A co-worker was absolutely baffled that this was a sock. I tried to helpfully explain that it was a toe-up sock, thinking that was what was confusing her. Nope -- she thought the toe of the sock was just one toe. I was knitting in the dentist's chair today, waiting for the doctor, and the tech came in and said, "Oh, you're knitting a sock!"

    Whew. Someone understands me.