Friday, April 27, 2007

Enjoy the woods with me

Every year one of our neighbors invites all of us to stroll through their woodland garden, when the tulips, daffodils and Virginia bluebells are blooming. Come with me, and enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Confessions of an embarrassed knitter

OK, I know there is a code of conduct and truth-in-disclosure among knitting bloggers. We all have taken an oath not to mislead readers about the status of our knitting. In the past, I have confessed to having a LARGE stash of works in progress. Works in l--o--n--g progress. And, I have proudly posted photos of some of these objects after their completion. However, I confess, I have not disclosed one project. One project has remained hidden from your view because---well---it's been a long time since I've worked on it.

Here it is. A pile of dark yarn.
I know, what was I thinking?? A lace shawl out of dark, dark yarn. And a not-so-simple lace pattern from Gathering of Lace, still one of my all time favorite books.
Let me start from the hopeful beginning. I attended Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp (Meg is the daughter of Elizabeth Zimmerman and has continued her famous knitting camps) in October 2002. Needless to say, I was inspired by the time at camp. I was also dazzled by the array of drop dead gorgeous yarns available for sale at camp. In addition to all the yarn stocked by Schoolhouse Press, two or three vendors from Wisconsin attended. One was Joslyn of Joslyn's Fiber Farm. Joslyn makes outstandingly beautiful hand painted yarn in a variety of weights. Her laceweight (called Angel Hair) is perfect--nice and springy and thin. Lovely, lovely, lovely. And, I fell in love with the colorway that looked like perfectly ripe Bing cherries--a childhood favorite of mine. The slight variations in color, some inch long bits of almost coral and some inch long bits of blue, lent themselves to a lace shawl. I figured the colors would not overwhelm an intricate lace pattern. And, the yarn came in a 1700 yard hank. No ends to join or weave in!!!

I also purchased The Gathering of Lace book at camp, and had it autographed by Meg herself. My project was blessed!! No evil could befall the project!! Or so I thought.

The yarn sat in splendor in my stash until the summer of 2003 when it joined us in a four week cross country road trip following the Lewis and Clark trail from Wisconsin to Oregon and back. While in the car, someplace in Montana as I recall, I wound that yarn by hand into one huge cantalope size ball. And, I started the "little raspberry" part of the shawl.

Then, for some reason beyond my current recollection, the project was abandoned. I dutifully packed the project in my yarn suitcase when we moved to Spain for 2004-05. I am sorry to say that I never took the project out of its plastic bag. I made two other shawls and many other items, but for some reason I did not pick up this shawl. I brought the project back to the US in summer 2005 in my yarn suitcase. This is a well travelled project!!

Filled with guilt and remorse, I dug out the project this year. Now I remember why it was placed on a multi-year time out! I had reached the more complex diamond part of the pattern and somehow I made a mistake. I didn't keep good notes on where I was in the pattern. Or, as I like to think, the notes got lost someplace over the Atlantic Ocean!!!

It took a while to read the pattern to discover where I was, but I finally determined where I went wrong, frogged a bit, and started again. Then, Christmas knitting intervened and the project went back to the bottom drawer.
A few weeks ago, beset with guilt, I again dug out the project. And again, it appeared that I was off on the pattern. So, I put a grey lifeline in. Dear reader, in the interest of full confession, I admit that knit the segment between the blue/grey lifeline and the yellow lifeline (14 rows of hundreds, thousands of stitches!) THREE times!!!

I could have delayed posting about this shawl until the finished product was blocked. I could have bragged that I whipped this baby out in three weeks. I could have hidden the life lines and said that making the shawl was a breeze! But, I faced deep embarrassment and opened my heart to all of you.

I am now committed to finishing this shawl before I go to Knitting Camp 2007 in July. I can't possibly face Meg and the other knitters without completing the project from 2002!! I am at the stage where I knit on the lace edging. At the same time, I am trying to complete all of the projects for my graduate school courses so that I can graduate on May 20! My goal is to finish this elegant shawl by June 1. I'll keep you posted!

Sticking to the shawl will be difficult however. Susan, from I'm Knitting As Fast As I Can, read my last post about running out of left over sock yarn for my 15 year old's blanket. She graciously offered to send me her leftover yarn. In exchange, I sent her some new sock yarn and some other yarn. I got the best of the deal. Look at all this wonderful yarn!! I can't wait to get started on it!!! My 30 year old recently informed me that she was jealous of the 15 year old's blanket and she wants one too!!! The colors of the photo are not good--bad lighting. There are leftovers from Regia, Opal, Trekking and more. Reds, blues, pastels and others. Perfect, just perfect.

Finally, I have struggled to come to grips with the horror of the shootings at Virginia Tech. Here in Wisconsin the trial of a young man who shot the school principal and wounded others has just begun. In addition, the Colombine anniversary is today. I hold my children close and commit myself to supporting more treatment options for the mentally ill and troubled and alienated youth in our society. Although I was a junior member of the NRA when young, and did target shooting, I strongly support increased gun control. In what form, I'm not sure. But, I know that our troubled youth have easy access to deadly weapons when they should have easy access to mental health services. All in all, I feel helpless.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Flushed with success

Do you see those happy, smiling faces??? Those are faces of knitters who have just spent 2.5 hours on their knees and "arses" (as the Yarn Harlot would say) sewing the garter stitch red border strips to the completely assembled blanket. Our faces show a mixture of pride, relief and pain--none of us are young enough to sit or kneel on the floor that long, with legs under or splayed out. The five of us are only half of the group, but we are the ones who put in the last stitch! Dee, second from the right, has the unwelcome job of weaving in all the remaining ends. Although, after I wove in about 35,000 ends 10 days ago, there are not many remaining. Click on the photo to see a larger image.
Here is the blanket in all its splendor. I had a hard time getting a good, non-distorted image without a wide angle lens. And, somehow the ugly fireplace ended up taking a prominent place in the photo as well.

In addition, I finished another strip of 11 squares for my daughter's similar but not so artistic left over sock yarn blanket. Unfortunately, the socks I've been making recently have used up nearly all of the yarn in the balls. For example, the upper right corner has a yellowish square that used up every inch of the leftover yarn from those socks. Same story with the square that is third from the top right.

I now have two friends who are making similar blankets. However they aren't following THE RULES. That is, they purchase sock yarn specifically for the purpose of making squares for the blanket. Whereas, my original RULES required using only left over sock yarn. That is, I have to make a pair of socks first, then use the remaining yarn for the blanket. However, since I have been getting only one square per pair of socks, and there are now 110 squares in the blanket and I will need at least 36 more squares, that means 36 more pair of socks...... I think I may also bend the rules. My friends are swapping sock yarn. Therefore, if they give me some of their remaining sock yarn, the yarn is--technically speaking--leftover, even though the skein was not originally used to make socks. What do you think?? Am I cheating if I bend the rules???
Here is an example of the problem. Do you see this sock?? I have two skeins of JaWoll sock yarn--should be enough to make two socks with a little left over for a square for the blanket, wouldn't you think??

Look carefully at this toe. I had to add solid grey in two row stripes at the toe to extend the yarn enough just to finish the sock!! I must admit that the striping solution worked beautifully, but it means that my plan to knit socks to generate left over yarn will not work.

Mother Nature has bent the rules about spring here in the upper Midwest. The daffodils and tulips were luxuriating in the warmer spring weather and poking up their hopeful heads this weekend when, wham!, Mother Nature sent 6 inches of wet, sloppy snow!! This was after some nights of freezing that bent the flower stems and flattened most of the blossoming daffodils and tulips. However, this little ice coated guy remained upright in the gloom of the dreary, cold day. He gave us hope that spring would eventually come!!

The birch clump in front of our house was especially burdened with the soft wet snow. The clump split in two, with the branches of each side nearly touching the ground, even after I tried to shake off the snow.
Our wind vane was frozen in place and did not move, despite the strong winds.

I hope spring is coming more quickly in your area. I feel positively lighthearted today--there is sunshine and the snow is melting. We can again see green grass in some spots!! The trees are now standing upright again and by tomorrow I should be able to take stock of the daffodils and tulips to see what has survived Mother Nature's test of our patience and belief in springtime!!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Yarn Harlot and I breathed the same air!!

For an hour, the Yarn Harlot and I breathed the same air, were present in the same space and took photos of the same crowd. The place--William Mitchell Law School in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was COLD outside, and windy. Stephanie, and all the other knitters in attendance, needed as much wool on their bodies as possible.

However, the crowd gave a warm, warm welcome to the Toronto knitter/writer/humorist and friend of wool. Here is a fellow Canadian singing O Canada, in English and French, with none other than the Harlot herself!! This is the best photo I took all night!

I was very impressed with Stephanie's humor and insightful commentary on the identity of knitters/women in our society. Here is the obligatory bad photo of Stephanie taking a photo of the crowd.
And then Ms. Yarn Harlot stripped!!! That is, she took off her spectacular Bohus masterpiece and showed off her T-shirt.
I didn't get a photo of me and my knitting along with the SOCK and Ms. Harlot. The line was very, very long. And Ms. Harlot seemed upbeat but very, very tired. After her disastrous attempt to get to Detroit, I thought the woman deserved a few more minutes of sleep. Therefore, I forewent chatting with her in favor of letting her get to her hotel a few minutes early!
Because my photos of Ms. Harlot were turning out so terribly, I took photos of lovely knitted items around me in the audience.

We did not travel from Wisconsin to Minnesota just to see the Yarn Harlot,however. I know, it would have been sufficient reason for ME to drive four hours each way, but NOT sufficient reason for hubby and daughter to drive the distance. We were an inseparable team for spring break. Our daughter is in high school. She is thinking about colleges. Can you guess what we were doing for our week of travel in frozen, windblown Minnesota? Here are some pictures to help you guess.

Yes, we braced ourselves for tours of five colleges in Minnesota!! We saw lots of frozen parents meekly following undergraduate tour guides as they tried to look excited about historic or important campus buildings.

As a reward (for daughter, not for parents) we visited this place outside of Mpls.

Yes, the Mall of America, which is much overrated in my book. Aside from the unusual indoor amusement park and Legoland, the stores are predominantly the same as in shopping malls in my home town. Daughter shopped at all the stores she visits at home and purchased items she could have purchased here. The benefit of Mall of America?? No sales tax on clothing items and the thrill of being there--I guess.

Did I knit during the week? yes. I made two lovely lovely hats to donate at the Yarn Harlot's presentation. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the collection of the hats. We simply deposited them in large bags at the entrance to the auditorium. They were then whisked away someplace and we never saw them again. I would have liked to have seen a display of some sort (just spread out on a folding table) so that we could have admired our collective work.

Back at home I am still piecing together the blanket that has consumed my life!! Remind me never again to organize a group project blanket!!!!!!

As a final note about Ms. Harlot's talk--the venue was particularly important to me. The auditorium was in a law school, where presentations are not typically punctuated with uproarious laughter and good will. I attended law school in the dark ages of the early 1970's when liberated women abandoned hand craft in favor of making a difference in the world. Although I continued to knit during law school, I certainly did it in the privacy of my own home, never in public and absolutely never in law school. Knitting was not for the liberated woman. Decades later I have abandoned the practice of law and have joyously brought my knitting out of the closet, into the public eye and YES!! into a law school lecture hall. True liberation has finally arrived.