Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Gold!!!

Yes, I won the GOLD medal!! The only gold medal I've ever won in my life!! I finished the sweater (see previous blog) before the closing ceremonies were broadcast in Colorado, where I was on the closing ceremony day. No, I did not travel to Colorado simply to get an extra hour of knitting.
I am having technical problems of hitching my camera to this computer so the requisite photo will have to wait for a few more days!!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Hooray!!! She claims the gold!

I finished the sweater yesterday, Sunday, before the closing ceremonies were broadcast here in Boulder, Colorado. It is all sewn together, blocked and has cute green star buttons on it. I took a photo of it in front of the TV, showing the end of the x-c ski race! Unfortunately, my brother in law's connection wire for his computer has the wrong size ending for my camera! I'll post a photo when I get back, or see what else we can do to get a photo up.

My mom is very weak and doesn't feel well most of the time. She is able to walk from one room to another in the house, around the house "circle", and then goes back to the sofa. I helped her to walk up two steps, then down. And, she balanced on an exercise ball for 2-3 minutes. That's it for the day. She has a good appetite but it is a struggle to get fluids down her. She hates to drink, saying she isn't thirsty. Maybe tomorrow we can walk out the front door and down the drive way to the sidewalk.

Happy crossing the finish line to all you knitting Olympians!!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Closing in on the finish line!

I am sewing up the baby sweater, but I won't be able to post a photo. In two hours I am leaving for Colorado, where my mother has just had two heart catheterization procedures, with three stents. Although she was discharged from the hospital on Sat. morning without a recommendation for physical therapy, she is very weak. She has been weak and tired for more than a year, spending most of her time in bed or on she sofa. I will be in Colorado for a week, taking time out of my student teaching and course work. I plan to do lots of knitting while helping her, but I won't be able to post photos.

I hope that I can help my mom not only rest, but begin some type of exercises to regain strength.

Happy knitting to all.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Warming up for the medal stand!

Ok, we have made progress. All the pieces of this baby sweater are blocked and ready to assemble. Olympic gold is within sight!!!

You can see in the above photo, if you look carefully, that I have had some assisitance. I hope this doesn't disqualify me! Cosmic, the household cat, loves to help block items. At night or when we aren't looking, he sits on the item and pulls out the pins, one by one. To date he has not consumed any pins, he just puts them somewhat neatly next to the item, as you can see on the left and in the photo below!!

I decided not to follow the directions on the shoulders. Rather than bind off, I put the live shoulder stitches on holders and I will do a three needle bindoff. That is much neater, I believe, than binding off and then sewing together. Also, faster!

Here's proof that the sleeves are also done and that Cosmic helped with those as well!!

I hope that Sasha Cohen's fall in the long program is not a premonition of my finish! I plan to finish this baby tonight!!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Progress on all fronts

My Olympic entry is progressing. I finished the front and have begun working simultaneously on the sleeves. (no photo of the front since it looks surprisingly similar to the back and I have to get at my course homework!!) It remains to be seen whether I have enough yarn to complete the project. I did not use the yarn called for in the pattern and I substituted Toasty Toes sock yarn instead. The yarn is wonderful, brilliant colors, soft--all good things a yarn should be. Unfortunately, it costs about $35 per hank. Therefore, I don't want to have to purchase another hank just to do the neck ribbing at the end. the sleeves are typical wide gansey sleeves. Therefore, I have been increasing more slowly than the pattern calls for, in an effort to save yarn. If necessary, I figure i can locate some coordinating color for the neck if necessary, and put a strip of that color at or near the tops of the sleeves.

On another front things are progressing as well. Last week my mother, who was staying for a month with a sister who is a physician, had chest pains. Although she has been weak, dizzy and having irregular heart beats for more than a year, all the cardiologists said her heart was strong and that she was fine. We were frustrated that no one seemed to be taking a weak, petite, unassertive elderly woman seriously. Something was wrong!! Finally, when a pain episode occured while at my sister's, she went to the emergency room at a hospital where my sister knows doctors.
Finally, someone took her seriously. They did a heart catheterization and found an artery that was 80% blocked. They immediately put in a stint. Mom is still recovering. We are hopeful that some of her problems will be solved. Meanwhile, she has been dogged with constant dizziness and exhaustion as well. She has started being on oxygen at night. Let's hope that this helps as well. Unfortunately, I can't knit her new arteries or a cure for the dizziness. I tried shawls, gloves, etc., etc., but nothing worked!

I hope you are making progress on your projects and lives!!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Oh happy day!! Real Winter for the Olympics!

After spending all of 2006 without any snow on the ground, and with temperatures more appropriate for late springtime, it finally snowed!!! And, the schools have a snow day!!! And there are at least 6-10 inches of snow on the ground!! Finally, I am in a Winter Olympics frame of mind. I so envied the east coast for their blizzard a few days ago, and now we have our own blizzard!!! Whoopee!!

My snow photos are not nearly as gorgeous as those of the Knitting Iris, but today is overcast and grey with all the snow clouds and wind.

Instead of sledding and playing in the snow, my daughter and I have been doing our respective homework assignments. I have been working diligently on the new chapter in Spanish and Maddie wrote an essay for history class. As a child, I always thought snow days were for fun, pure fun, playing in the snow and luxuriating in the freedom from school for a day. As an adult, snow days are for completing tasks because you are home-bound. Rats!!

No knitting yet today. However, you can see that I finished the back of the toddler gansey and blocked it to the required measurements. I love the Toasty Toes yarn. The second photo is more representative of the jewel tone colors.

Well, I'm off to the other side of town to pick up my daughter's friend so that they can squeeze in some snow time on the sledding hill.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Olympic issues

The knitting blogworld seems to show that the "needle and wool" Olympians are having some of the same problems as the other Olympians--problems that put us out of the gold! My flower basket shawl was a project to have been completed prior to the Olympics. Well, as you can see in the above photo, I ran out of yarn. The end is curving up to the right of the shawl. I have one row and the cast off to go. I could rip back one pattern, but I couldn't bear frogging this wonderful lace. So, I went off to the LYS to purchase another skein. So, I now have to finish the shawl and my toddler sweater.

I fear I may also run out of yarn for the toddler sweater. I'm using Toasty Toes washable yarn for the sweater. Of course, I didn't match the yardage to that called for in the pattern. I just eyeballed it and said, "oh, this must be enough!" Actually, one skein of the Toasty Toes exceeded the cost that I wanted to spend!!! Follow my progress to see whether I need to invest in another big sum for the second skein at the end!!

Weather today in the upper midwest if a fabulous, sunny 41 degrees F. This weekend we will go back to the deep freeze of winter. Brrrr. Good time to stay indoors, in front of a fire, watch the Olympics and knit!!

I have been reading multicultural children's books this semester for a library course I'm taking and I have lots of recommendations for you with children, or for those of you who also love children's books. For a fabulous picture book, look for "Show Way" by Jacqueline Woodson. A great book for those who love hand craft/arts. I loved "The Birchbark House" by Louise Erdrich, but I know that some kids find it slow going. Try it out for yourself. If any of you have read "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" by Mildred Taylor, you will absolutely love "The Land", the story of the beginning of the Logan family. It will bring you to tears. Try "Shabanu" for a story of a Pakistani girl bound to a marriage she fears. "Bowman's Store" is an autobiography book for adults by an author of books for kids. For a short book that will bring you hope, try "Seedfolks" by Paul Fleischman.

I have been listening to books while knitting, indulging two passions simultaneously!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Brave but bad start!

Problems with Entry!
Well, the knitting Olympics shows that I'm not a very good Olympian. First, I had registered to knit a Tomten Jacket, by ElizabethZimmerman. I should have read the pattern before I registered! This entry is to be a baby/toddler present. The first instructions for the pattern say that one should cast on as many stitches as one needs!! I don't have the toddler to measure! Sorry, EZ, I need to be a blind follower on this one.

Therefore, the first part of the opening ceremonies was spent looking through patterns and books to find a similar hooded toddler sweater. Didn't find one. Meanwhile, the opening acts are continuing and the parade of nations looms. Finally, I decided on a cute toddler gansey from Debbie Bliss, Great Knits for Kids.

Late but Good Start!!
So, here I am with my Toasty Toes yarn, doing the swatch, with the Olympic ceremonies in the background!I've left the starting block, I'm competing!!

Crash and Burn on the Turn!
Next photo is the knitting equivalent of the speed skater crashing on the turn! I realized with the swatch that I knit looser than the gauge requires. Therefore, I decided to go down a needle size. Good. Do I need to do another swatch??? Noooooooo. I need to get rolling on this thing before the torch is lit!!

So, I cast on, and gleefully knit. Wait a minute, this seems much to wide for a one year old. Measure---instead of 13.5 inches wide this back is 15 inches wide. Rip it, frog it!!!

Good Recovery!!
Next day, I go to my friendly LYS and knit away. Looking good.

Sunday morning, I knit at church--sitting in the hallway so as not to disturb non-Olympians. I'm now 14 inches into this back. Happy? Gold medal on the horizon??? NNNOOOOO. The back now is 12.75 inches wide, not 13.5. Time to consult with the coach--do I go back to the starting line and try for the 13.5, or, do I scramble and make the front 14" wide so I can cross the finish line before the Olympics are over??

All suggestions welcome. Meanwhile, I think I'll join Cosmic here for a while and veg out!!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Olympics preparation and FBS

Despite what you might conclude from the title of this post, I am NOT knitting a Flower Basket Shawl for my Team Wisconsin entry in the Knitting Olympics. (FBS photos and helpful hints follow, lower in the blog.) Rather, I said that I would knit a Tomten jacket, designed by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Today, when I searched through my EZ books to find a picture of the sweater, I could not come up with a single photo. Yet, I have a clear image in my mind as to what it looks like. It is a sweet hooded jacket for a child, knit with a percentage system. Pattern can be found in EZ's Knitting Workshop.

EZ's directions, as always, require specific application of experience and brains. This pattern is NOT for "blind followers." The directions are, and I quote, "Cast on sufficient stitches (x) for lower edge." then "Knit to wanted length." Whoa, I need to review the Knitting Olympic rules. Can I swatch and do all the planning BEFORE the opening ceremonies, or do I have to do math calculations while watching???

Meanwhile, I have been trying to complete my Flower Basket Shawl before the opening ceremonies. I am teaching a class on the FBS this spring, and I wanted to make a shawl while taking notes this time.

I am not a counter. I don't like to keep repeating a mantra of each 10-stitch pattern in my head through increasingly longer rows. Therefore, I like to use markers, so that my hands do the remembering, rather than my brain. However, in the FBS, the markers move on three of the five pattern rows. How to convey this to students??

I tried taking these photos to illustrate moving markers. For those inexperienced lace knitters, I thought this might be troublesome. [I recognize that some people do not like to use markers, and certainly moving them takes time and can disrupt rythm. However, since I knit while watching TV, talking, etc., I need something more reliable than my mind to tell me whether I am off-track in long rows.]

So, here goes on my first attempt to write down, rather than demonstrate, how to do something. But wait, I just realized that I didn't do any photos of placing the markers in the first place. Ok, ok....I'll take more photos during the olympics!!

Meanwhile: How To Move Markers in the Flower Basket Shawl

I assume that the knitter has placed a marker BETWEEN each section of the 10 stitch repeat. The problem, dear knitter, is that in order to do each 10 stitch repeat, you need stitches from the next repeat section!!! Whoa, that can be a problem. Luckily, markers can be easily moved.

Why use markers, you say?? Well, dear knitter, my mind is weak. I absolutely hate singing mantras to myself throughout rows that grow to more than 200 stitches. I am frequently interrupted mid row and then I would need to go back to read my knitting and I get distracted from that as well. My hands are smarter than my brain. My fingers feel the markers and know what to do.

Here we are in our row #27 and the pattern wants us next to yarn over, slip 1 knitwise, k2 tog, psso.
See the problem? We can yarn over, slip one, but the second of the stitches to knit together is AFTER the marker!! DO NOT KNIT THE MARKER!!
Simply PASS the next two stitches to the right needle without knitting them. Remove the marker and hold it temporarily between your lips.
Put one stitch back on the left needle. Knit two together. On the RIGHT needle, pass the first slipped stitch over the k2tog stitch.

Remove the marker from your lips (if necessary, wipe off saliva) and place the marker on the right hand needle.


I know, this sounds like a lot of extra work. I admire those mantra knitters who are able to do 10 stitch repeats throughout a row, never get out of place and never get interrupted. I am NOT one of those knitters. So, the extra switching around of the markers helps me. Additionally, if I make a mistake, I can easily catch it and I only need to rip back 10 stitches!!!

Tomorrow, dear knitters, we will have a lesson on planning the appropriate amount of yarn so that we don't end up with, say, two feet of yarn and only two more rows and bind off until the end of the shawl!!