Thursday, December 22, 2005

Season for learning about others

Throughout this fall and winter, we have frequently asked ourselves, "what were we doing last year at this time when we lived in Barcelona, Spain." We miss Spain every day. I thought I would share some photos and thoughts from where we were last year. For Christmas, 2004, we gave ourselves a trip to Cordoba and Granada. These two cities were seats of power of the Muslim rulers of these areas more than 1000 years ago. I strongly recommend the book "Ornament of the World" by Ana ? Menocal. Her book tells the history of when Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in southern Spain, in mutual respect.

We took an overnight train to Cordoba and arrived before 6:00 a.m. We had the city to ourselves, and strolled around taking photos, enjoying the quiet. Barcelona, as beautiful as it is, is a very noisy city, at all hours.

Here is dawn at the back of the Mesquita, a huge mosque. The Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabela, expelled the Jews and Muslims from Spain in 1492. Yes, this is the same couple who funded Columbus' voyage in the same year! After killing and torturing thousands (F and I were patrons of the Inquisition as well) they expelled the remaining non-christians, and kept their riches. At any rate, this beautiful mosque was converted to a Catholic church, which it is today.

Actually, the mosque was built on the site of an old catholic church, purchased by the Muslim ruler. He began the mosque, using old pillars from that church and elsewhere, to support the gorgeous red and white arches.

This dome, once the roof of a sacred part of the mosque, is now over a smaller Christian chapel within.

And, our favorite travelling teen age travelling companion, adding another decorative element to the mosque/church. Because we were there so early, there was NO ONE else in the Mesquita with us!!!! No other tourists!

Cordoba also has one of three Jewish synagogues to have survived F and I's purge. It was used as a shoe makers shop, as I recall, and was only recognized as a former synagogue centuries later. Here it is.

Walking around Cordoba opened my eyes even more to the tragedy of our current world situation and the ongoing fight for moral and religious superiority.
Give yourself a present this season; find and read Menocal's book; ponder Cordoba's history.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Presents in the mail!!!

A thousand thanks to Jen from Barcelona, Spain and Arizona, USA for the surprise package that appeared at my front door today. I usually don't get packages, so this was a big surprise.

She sent me my favorite yarn! This is well travelled yarn. It was made in Argentina, then shipped to Barcelona where Jen purchased it from Barcelana--my favorite yarn store in the entire world!! Then, she brought it to Arizona, and shipped it to Wisconsin!!! I have to think of something stylish and elegant to make with it. Something in keeping with its jetsetting life!

In addition, she knit me a marvelous scarf, made with turquoise blue cotton yarn that has big blobs of colored roving in it. It is spectacular!! Also, a colorful calendar of Arizona--a place I have never visited but am now dying to see. And a ruler and pencils from Arizona as well. I absolutely love school supplies and I will use my Arizona pencils for my Spanish homework next semester.

In addition there are two christmas wrapped presents. I was about to rip off the wrapping--as is my style--but my 14 year old stopped me. Saying in a firm but tolerant voice, "mom, that's for CHRISTMAS. You have to wait." Now, where did she learn that phrase, I wonder.

Jen, you made my day and boosted my sagging spirits. This morning I had a 7:45 Spanish exam (two hours), returned home and worked feverishly on a paper due today, then went to a doctor's appointment about my hearing loss, then came home to face my paper again--and instead I received a wonderful surprise.

A thousand thanks. And, I can't wait for Christmas morning!! Speaking of which, here is a blurry photo of our Christmas tree. Photos with small, instamatic type cameras do not do justice to Christmas trees. It is easily the most beautiful, best decorated tree on the planet. however, you couldn't tell from this photo!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another square!!

The Second Square in the WTBCLB (wrap that baby in a community of love blanket) has been completed by Carol. The color of the photos is not terribly good; the square is a very lovely pale green in real life! The stitch is Supple Rib from June 23 on the "365 Knitting Stitches a Year Calendar!! I can already see the baby kicking up a storm, wrapped in the "loving blanket."

Meanwhile, I have been feverishly working on my last paper, due tomorrow. I also need to study for my 7:45 a.m. Spanish 203 exam tomorrow!! Arghhhhhhh!!!

Oh, I can't wait until I can knit in peace... But first, I need to clean the house, go grocery shopping, etc.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Lucy's Paradoxical mittens

When I saw this pattern by Lucy Neatby, I knew I had to make these mittens!! In the instructions, she said that she was inspired by some African motifs. My family lived in Africa for two years, and my step-daughter's step-father is African. Therefore, it was a no-brainer--I had to make them!! Instead of black and white, I chose to make them in red and black. They are done on size 1 needles!!

Now, I don't know about you, but I have numerous needles labeled size 1, all of which seem to be of a different size!! You can see that the bottom portion of the red and black, just above the grey cuff (which will be folded to the inside) is tighter than the upper portion of the hand. This is because I began the mittens on size 1 Crystal Palace, and am finishing the mittens on size 1 Addi Turbo. I believe that the Crystal Palace needles are 2.25 mm and the Addi Turbo are 2.5 mm. This is where American needle sizes drive me nuts!!!! I prefer the European needle sizes, then you know what you are getting. With the 2.25 mm needles, the mittens were too tight.

Here is the obligatory photo of the back side!

I am using Dale of Norway, Baby Ull. such softness belongs on the hands. The double thickness and the tight gauge should make them warm enough for the pacific northwest, where my stepdaughter lives. The pattern is great fun to knit--so very different from anything I usually do.

Yes, these are for Christmas, but my husband travels to visit his daughter on December 28, so I have a few extra days to finish these! Yes!!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mittens, mine, all mine

I know that everyone is obsessing with completing their knitted gifts for Christmas or other winter holidays. However, after completing 2/3 of my Christmas gifts, I decided to take a break and make myself some mittens. It is COLD here in the upper midwest, and for some reason my current mittens simply did not "meet my needs." If you read my earlier entries, you saw the mittens in progress.

I knew the mittens would be slightly roomy when they were on the needles. That was ok, I figured, I would simply felt them a little. After all, it is cold AND windy here in the northern heartland. (I know Stephanie "the yarn harlot" brags about the chilly winter Toronto weather. But, here in Wisconsin, we know what REAL cold is!!! Longitudinally speaking, Toronto is actually south of a good portion of Wisconsin, including the area I call home.)

Back to the mittens. you can see that I felted them a bit. However, not so much as to take away the stitch definition of the pattern. The angora I used for the light blue was of a lighter weight than the Cascade 220. It worked out just fine! And, since it is still snowing today, I can use them to go out and fire up the snowblower!! They are still a bit damp, but I can tell you that the fuzzy angora feels SOOOOOO good on my hands, even when wet!

I just started the ribbing for another pair of mittens (which will be a belated Christmas present since I was busy warming my own hands) made from Lucy Neatby's Paradoxical mitten pattern. I am using Baby Ull, which won't felt, of course. These mittens are for a warmer climate! I'll post a photo as soon as I get into the patterned section.

My 14 year old still doesn't want mittens made by mom, she prefers Land's End waterproof mittens. How did I raise such a yarn heathen daughter???

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Ok, the weather outside is frightful, snow is on the ground and it's cold. All good knitters are busy making warm, wooly items for their loved ones. Right? Well, I know that all the knitting bloggers are frantic that their gifts, hand knit with love, are still on the needles! I am relaxed! I just finished my blue and angora mittens for myself. After all, a knitter deserves a reward, doesn't she? Long ago, I abandoned the idea of giving finished objects for Christmas. Rather, I give things still on the needles or in the planning stages. For example, this year I am giving my husband a Dale of Norway sweater, and I haven't even purchased the yarn yet!! I found a pattern and will wrap that in a BIG box. Then, I'll take him to the Local Yarn Shop to select the colors. And, I'll make perhaps a sleeve for Valentine's day, and the torso for his birthday in July, and maybe finish the object for Halloween. See, that way, he will appreciate every stitch, every tear of frustration, every hour spent knitting the sweater. This will be something he will truly appreciate it! Otherwise, if I give him the finished object right away, he will think I knocked it off in two hours flat!!! And he won't properly appreciate it!!

On another note---I just love working on group projects. The finished project is always more than the sum of its parts. currently, I am working on a baby blanket for the baby-to-be of a pastor at our church. Baby #1 is due in late January. A number of knitters in the congregation are making 10 x 10 inch squares, out of one (or more) of four Dale of Norway Baby Ull colors. We will each design our own pattern. Squares are due on January 10. I call this project the Wrap That Baby in a Community of Love Blanket, or WTBCLB.

The first square just came in. Designed and lovingly stitched by Judy, it sets the bar very high for the rest of us. Fair Isle pattern of hearts, cabled hearts in the corner. How cute is that???!!! I have to go back to Barbara Walker to find something!! I know the minister will like anything we make--I taught her to knit two years ago!!

Happy knitting to all and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Personal reward

After all my hard work making Christmas presents, I decided to reward myself! I need new mittens.! So, I began these mittens from the book Folk Mittens. The darker blue background yarn is Cascade 220 and the light blue is some angora from my stash. I hope to full them a bit when I finishe them. Meanwhile, with the temperatures here between -2 and +12 degrees (that's -19 and -10 C) my fingers have been begging for something soft and warm.

Meanwhile, on the soft and warm front, I made two slightly funky hard hat liner/earflap hats from I used Classic Elite's Lush, again from my stash, for both. However, for the light blue one, I had just enough for the hat with about 2 yards/meters left over. However, for the purple one, I was short about 2 yards/meters!! I also used size 6 and 8 needles, since my gauge is loose. I think the hats are very cute, very cozy and will be very warm. My 14 year old, however, thinks they are ugly and she modeled them only to be a good sport--but a warm sport!!

I have been procrastinating the completion of a big project assignment for one of my courses that is due tomorrow. What is it about school work that makes me want to knit???

Keep warm everyone!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Proof that Christmas IS Coming!

Announcer: We are here in a courtroom in the Upper Midwest. The case involves the question of whether Christmas is, in fact, really coming. Let's listen to the closing argument of the attorney for the plaintiffs:

Attorney, Ladies and gentlement of the jury. Let me summarize the overwhelming evidence that Christmas is, in fact, coming. And let me be very clear, Christmas is coming faster than any of us can imagine.

First, snow is flying and is on the ground. It has even caught residents of our community unaware. Exhibit Photo #1 shows that some residents still think that it is Halloween! Snow on the ground and pumpkins still in the front yard!! Obviously, despite the fact that people are in denial of the proximity of the holiday, Christmas is coming!!

Second, Exhibit Photo #2 shows that "things are beginning to look a lot like Christmas." Residents are making an effort to decorate for the holiday. Antique toy wagons, loaded with brightly decorated presents and stuffed animals --what more evidence could you want to show that Christmas is coming!

Third, Exhibit Photo #3 is the most conclusive evidence of all. Completed hand made Christmas projects!!! In this household, we have presented evidence that two handmade Christmas projects have been completed--a scarf for the brother and now, socks for the older daughter! I rest my case.

Announcer: Let's hear the opposing counsel's argument.

Attorney #2: Ladies and Gentlement of the jury. Christmas is not coming. The lady of this household has been spending most of her time completing assignments for her graduate courses. She has stacks of paperwork surrounding the computer and she has deadlines up until Dec. 23. If Christmas truly were coming, and just around the corner, she would be busy shopping, knitting, wrapping presents, writing and sending Christmas cards. Surely, Christmas is NOT coming.

Announder: Well, the jury has retired to make its decision. Stay tuned. What will the decision be???

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Project Completion Award Nominations

Award #1: Announcer: We are pleased to present a Project Completion Award to Gail, for her completion of a three color tweed scarf for her brother!

Judges Comments:
Yes, Gail deserves this award for several reasons. First, perseverance. The Garter Slip Stitch III, from 405 Knitting Stitches, Volume 2, Harmony Guides, was boring, boring, boring. And, the stitch sucked yarn like crazy!! Second, this was a Knitting Black Hole Project, KBHP. At times, three hours of knitting resulted in negative progress, a rare occurrence but real nonetheless. Finally, the project was completed BEFORE Christmas, and in time to be sent in ordinary surface mail.

Award #2

Announcer: Gail has also been nominated for a Project Completion Award for her Mittens from Halland, from Marcia Lewandowski's Folk Mittens.

Judge's Comments: I'm sorry, but this nomination doesn't fly. Gail nominated herself for her award. She argues that she has knit enough to make three mittens, not just two. This is the third time she has frogged and re-shaped the top of the mitten, trying to make it anatomically correct while maintaining the integrity of the pattern. A Project Completion Award is for COMPLETION, not the number of stitches knit. Sorry, Gail, nice try, but NO AWARD.

Award #3
In the category of little knitting trinkets, Gail is awarded an Honorable Mention Project Completion Award.
Judge's Comments: Yes, these little do-dads are cute, but they really aren't knitting. The judges were divided on this award. Some argue that Project Completion Awards should be reserved only for items that are hand knit. The pureness of the award should be preserved. Others argue that handmade knitting paraphenalia should be included because it encourages the knitter, and motivates her/him to higher productivity. Until the judges make a firm decision on what qualifies for the awards, we are giving out honorable metions.

Award #4:
Announcer: Gail nominates herself for a Project Completion Award for the decoration of her fireplace mantel in a Christmas motif.
No award has been made.
Judge's comments: That's right. Awards are NOT made for non-knitting related accomplishments.
Gail's comment: Hey, wait a minute. I can't knit 24 hours a day. AND, decorating the mantel for Christmas IS knitting related!! Christmas decorations in the house spur me on to greater speeds in completion of knitted Christmas presents. Plus, I love to knit by candle light on the sofa in front of the fireplace.
Judge's Comments: Nice try, sweetie pie, but no Project Completion Award. You might want to submit this nomination to the House Cleaning and Decoration Award department......

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Stagnant knitting

Is there anything as sad as stagnant knitting? I haven't had time to knit recently! In a moment of sheer optimism, I invited a number of international students from my graduate program for a post-thanksgiving pot luck on Friday. Luckily, my knitting fairy/goddess was looking out for me!! No one responded to the RSVP by Monday!! I have two choices: I can feel despondent that no one likes me, or I can rejoice that I have more knitting time!!! I take the second choice!!!
Last Saturday I spent the entire day cleaning two rooms of our house in preparation for the now cancelled event. I vacuumed, dusted, washed, polished, moved furniture, put furniture back in place, etc., etc. until I wanted to run away and leave the rest of the cleaning to the cleaning fairy--who doesn't seem to exist!
I am now procrastinating a project due in a course tomorrow, by reading blogs and updating mine.
Meanwhile, my unfinished sock, the almost done scarf, my abandoned sweater and the not yet started baby blanket are all moaning and sobbing in the background, begging for attention and love. Sigh, back to Information Architecture metadata.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

November 14, 2005

OK, vale, vale. Aqui estan algunas fotos! Point well made. Blogs are much more fun with photos!! I agree. On the left is a photo of my mother, selling scarves at a craft fair at our church. Both she and my sister knit the scarves. My sister uses two strands of yarn, one of eyelash or similar yarn and the other of some coordinating chenille or other fantasy yarn. The other is a photo of the birdhouse ornaments that my father was selling at the same craft fair. His passion is wood working and in the past few years he has cut back from making big things and has concentrated on turning things on a lathe. These birdhouses are made of three pieces of wood, each a different type of wood.

As you can see, I come by my passion for creating things honestly! I am the oldest of five children, the first three of which are girls. Our family sewing machine was in the kitchen, across from the family dining table. Often, all of us, including my mother, had sewing projects in the works. It was not unusual to have to clear the table of sewing projects in order to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. Patterns, pins, fabric, buttons and all were always scattered around the room. My sisters were the creative ones; I stuck to the patterns. With knitting, I am only somewhat more creative. I am, perhaps, one of those whom Elizabeth Zimmerman labelled "blind followers." Here are some photos that illustrate the point.

I always have at least one sock on the needles, in a zip lock sandwich bag, in my purse. Ready for knitting at cafes, at stop lights, whenever I have a few seconds to knit a stitch or a row or two. This pattern is from XRX's Socks, Socks, Socks, the Feather and Fan. It is a famous old stitch pattern. I jazzed it up by using two colors and adding stripes of color with garter stitch at intervals on the cuff. I am combining left over yarn and one skein of new yar. I think I will need to make the foot of the sock two colors as well. don't you just love how the increases and decreases of the lace pattern make wavy stripes instead of straight stripes??? isn't knitting the ultimate in cool??!!
Here are mittens in progress that are still posing a problem--I deviated from the pattern with more questionable results. The pattern is from a great mitten book, Folk Mittens, by marcia Lewandowski. They are modelled after Norwegian jerseys from Halland, typically made in red and black. I am using Cascade 220 worsted weight wool and a variegated angora by Lisa Harding. However, I added the ribbed portion at the wrist, to prevent cold air from bothering that sensitive spot on the body!! I also didn't like the shaping of the top of the mitten, so I tried to do anatomically correct shaping, which is not symmetrical. I've done the shaping twice now, and I think I need to "frog" it for the third time and try another shaping. Maybe I'll even go back to the pattern itself!! Enough of innovation. Don't you love the initials on the inside of the right cuff??? The old Halland jerseys had initials on the front, just below the placket. By the way, these are the mittens that my younger daughter proclaimed would not be worn by the older daughter!!! But, just wait until she tries them on. The angora is so very, very soft on the hand and it will feel so inviting when the temperatures are consistently below freezing.

Finally, here is a photo of a scarf I am making for my brother for christmas. The yarn is from Elspeth Lavold's collection, made of wool and silk. I am using a tweed slip stitch, that is in many knit stitch books. This one came from 450 Knitting Stitches, Volume 2, of the Harmony Guides. In that book it is called garter slip stitch III. All rows are knit stitch. I am hoping that this is a good "man" scarf and I think the yarn with silk will be good for the weather in the Pacific Northwest where really cold weather never happens.

This is a close up of the stitch. It's subtle. Maybe too subtle. Definitely for a man who does NOT want to wear a scarf that blares "My sister made me this colorful scarf for Christmas!!!!"

Sunday, November 13, 2005

November 13, 2005

No photos today. I can't bear to take photos of my unfinished projects. If I post a photo, I willl: 1) be embarrassed that I haven't finished it; 2) be embarrassed that it doesn't look as good as I envisioned it would; 3) be embarrassed that I would have to post 2,000 photos to show all of my unfinished projects!! Therefore, please sympathize with me! I can't bear to knit another stitch on a three color, tweed stitch scarf for my brother that seems to suck up knitting time without showing progress; and that I can't bear to measure the sleeves for my brother's aran sweater for fear that the the entire sweater will be too small (can I help it that his girth grew while I was knitting the sweater???); I can't bear to decipher the Dale pattern that tells how to decrease for the sleeves, the neck and the back and the front simultaneously at different rates; and that I would LOVE to cast on for a new project!!!

Also, those of you who have knit for fickle family members, please sympathize with me as well. I am about to insert the thumb in the second of an absolutely beautiful mitten for oldest daughter. The pattern is from Folk Mittens, and I used an angora yarn and Cascade 220 wool. the angora yarn's changing colors, from blue to purple, are irridescent against the deep burgundy of the Cascade 220. Mittens clearly to die for. Unfortunately, daughter #2 has shaken my confidence by declaring quite emphatically that daughter #1 won't like them and won't wear them! Daughter #2 doesn't want them herself. Nevertheless, I took the time to make them and, darn it, they will be wrapped and under the tree as a magnificent Christmas present, knit with love and excitement. If daughter #1 doesn't like them, let her hand's freeze this winter, I say!!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

November12, 2005

My second post!! I'm so excited. I now have a photo of the spectacular Dale christening gown, including the baby Sean Patrick wearing it. I was the godmother and very, very proud. Sean, who didn't realize the value of the new heriloom he was wearing, kept regurgitating milk onto the bodice and kept sucking on the blue ribbons. Luckily, the gown is made from Dale of Norway's cotton Stork, a beautiful 100% cotton yarn that can be machine washed. He was very sweet and cute; his parents loved the gown and as you can see in the photo, I was very proud!!

A little out of date, but still cute, are some pumpkin hats that I made for Sean, his older brother and mother for Halloween time. Older brother refused to wear the hat, Sean kept it on politely. I am still trying to decipher all of the technological aspects of the blog--I through the photo of the pumpkin hats would be HERE, not up there! Sigh.

My knitting time has been cut short by fall yardwork. I planted dozens of tulips and daffodils, hoping for a spectacular show in my gardens come springtime. Knitting time was also cut short by dirty kitchen floor, dirty clothing, leaves needing to be raked, etc., etc. Time to don my housework drudge persona and do some quick cleaning to keep my husband's complaints at bay. How does one convince a husband that knitting time is valuable time, and contributes to the overall good of the universe???

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

October 18, 2005

The pressure has been on to create my own blog, joining many friends in BlogWorld. General theme: knitting. Tangents: knitting crises, life crises, graduate school crises. Recent accomplishments: completion of knitted lace christening gown, pattern from Dale of Norway. Baby is now 3 months old; hope the gown fits. Christening to take place in ten days! Now is NOT the time for a growth spurt.
Because I do not yet have a photo of the christening gown, I thought I'd share a photo of a shawl I made while taking a break from knitting the christening gown!! This is Hazel Carter's "Violets by the River" shawl, made in Barcelona, Spain, while sipping coffee and claras in Turo Park. I used JaWoll sock yarn!! The pattern was a reminder of the wood violets and the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers in my native Wisconsin.