Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Still Cold

It seems that winter has finally settled in. As I write this post, the wind is howling outside, making the windows rattle in their frames. We got a dusting of snow tonight, with more on the way Thursday and Friday. Usually, I'd be ecstatic that there's a chance of snow. But not this weekend. This weekend we're traveling to my parents to celebrate...

(Drumroll, please!)

...their 50th wedding anniversary!

It would be fitting, however, for us to have seriously inclement weather on Friday. The day before our wedding (also on February 3rd), the northern Virginia area had 12 inches of snow dumped on it. Regions south of here got ice. Nonetheless, my intrepid parents were undaunted, tossed my grandmother in the car, and braved the wintry weather to attend our wedding. By the time they arrived, their car was coated in ice, making the locals wonder where they were from. The weather was just the beginning of the wedding adventures. But that's a story for another day.

The Swedish twined knitting (also known as two end knitting) class was excellent. If you ever have a chance to take a class by Beth Brown-Reinsel, do so. She explains techniques well and is very patient with knitters who are literally all thumbs (that would be me!). Her handouts are very well written. Beth provided various samples of the twined knitting, as well as a blouse from the 19th century (the knitting was impressive).

We learned how to cast on using three yarns, making the cast-on edge twined as well. The cast on method is the same as Old Norwegian (or German) cast on and makes for a nice stretchy cuff. We then moved on to the basic knit and purl stitches. If you think regular purling is awkward, you ain't seen nothin'! All twined purling is beyond awkward. The tendency, for me, was to purl using my thumb. I was beginning to despair that I would get beyond the first row. However, the twined knit stitch was a breeze in comparison, and the stitch patterns that alternated purls and knits were also easy. I (the world's slowest knitter) actually kept up with the majority of the class.

Beth introduced us to the work of Anne-Maj Ling, showing slides of her work. In addition to the usual hats, mittens, socks, and sweaters, Anne-Maj also knit dresses, skirts, dickeys, and (get this!) slacks! The slacks were stunning...very tailored and not saggy at the back end at all. Warning: Anne-Maj's web site is in Swedish, but browse through it anyway. Click the links in the left navigation panel below the phrase Bilder på några av mina: to see examples of her work. (Alas, there isn't a picture of the slacks.)

Knitting Progress
I haven't made much progress lately. The Jenna sweater grows by about three rows a day. The Christine sweater still languishes. I think I'm going to take the rather desperate measure of redoing the chart, this time including all the repeats. It's probably unnecessary, but it will give me a good sense of how the Fair Isle pattern is behaving. Of course, if I don't understand the marking for each of the pieces of the sweater, I'll get nowhere, other than having another colorful chart.

The knitting group at work met again today, since we can't meet Friday. Attendance was much better and everyone was very enthusiastic. I love the feeling of walking into a group of knitters and knitting with everyone else. It feels like coming home. The Divine scarf will be the primary knitting group project, since it's rather simple.

I'll have pictures of my twined knitting sampler, as well as scarf and sweater pictures later this week or early next week. I probably won't post again until Sunday, depending on what time we get back.

Have a great week and happy knitting!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


It's cold! Admittedly, it's early in the morning, but still, 18.5 degrees is cold. Here I sit, laptop on my lap (sans the laptop cat), in my cozy place in front of the fire. Tom, on the other hand, left a little before 6:00 this morning to go on a 15-mile, hilly run. He wasn't looking too happy as he headed out the door into the cold and dark.

Buddha,on the other hand, is perfectly happy no matter what the weather:

I'll spend the remainder of the morning trying to get the house clean. Every weekend, I've got the same list of tasks I want to accomplish and every weekend, I find reasons to put them off. Now that we've got another cat, the amount of dust, fur, and other detritus has increased. She has a propensity for disemboweling her toys and there are little mouse chunks scattered about.

Emma is definitely challenging. Mostly she's well-behaved, although active, but sometimes she just gets it in her head to do things she's not supposed to do. She'll use the corner of the couch as a scratching post, but only if I'm in the room, even though I've moved the scratching post to the living room. Last night, she was determined to play with the cords on the venetian blinds in the kitchen. I very carefully tucked them behind the slats. Did that stop her? Not at all. She worked her way under the blind and proceeded to climb the window screen. It makes me think that we need to get another cat to keep her amused, but I'm afraid we'll be plucking two cats off the screens and drapes.

Knitting Progress
I finished charting out the sleeve increases for the Christine sweater last weekend. I checked and double-checked my chart against the original. When I started knitting, however, the chart and the knitting didn't match. I counted and calculated. I stared at the chart and the knitting, perplexed. Then I ripped the sleeve out, again. I'm going to give it one more go, then I'm going to call in the reinforcements. This chart has me totally flummoxed. I finally figured out there is a total of five edge stitches and the pattern is a 10-stitch repeat. But the number of stitches on the needles doesn't work out to a multiple of 10 plus 5. Grrrr!

The Jenna sweater is slowly growing and I'm feeling optimistic that I'll be able to finish this sweater before Jenna graduates from college. I've completed 68 rows, which is one row short of three and a half repeats and the back now measures about 7-1/2 inches. The pattern has finally etched itself into my brain, which should make the knitting go faster.

The Divine scarf is also coming along quite nicely. I've worked out the problems with the transition from the border to the main stitch pattern. Going down a needle size also helped improve how the scarf looks. This project will be my lunchtime knitting project, assuming that I get around to actually taking a lunch at work.

I haven't quite worked up the nerve to bring my knitting to meetings at work yet, although I do knit if I'm on a conference call in my office. I've started a knitting group at work. There are four women who are interested in knitting and we'll be meeting every Friday. Unfortunately, only one person was able to attend yesterday, so it's getting off to slow start, despite everyone's enthusiasm.

Tomorrow I head to Old Town Alexandria to attend a class on Swedish twined knitting at Springwater Fiber Workshop. I have a suspicion it's going to be a bit challenging. I'm also afraid that I'm going to forget to go or take the supplies (flashback to the nightmares about showing up for class totally unprepared for the final exam). I need to stash dive sometime today to see if I've got the appropriate yarn. I've got the needles, so no worries there. Springwater is relatively close to Knit Happens. If there's time after class and if it's within walking distance, I'll wander over. I've heard nothing but good things about the store and all the yummy yarns they carry. Of course, Springwater also has yarns and such for sale, so the temptation will be great!

Emma says "I don't care about any of that. Just throw the mouse again!"

Sunday, January 21, 2007

It's Coming From the South

Sunday sky:

It looks like a snow sky! And indeed, the National Weather Service is calling for a bit of the white stuff today, mostly after 4 p.m. Unfortunately, the accumulation is supposed to be less than an inch. And they're calling for a mixture of snow and freezing rain tonight. However, the low pressure cell is coming from that south and historically, that means big snow. Sometimes, however, the big snow is farther east than Leesburg. So, it's time to put on my snowflake earrings and do the snow dance and hope for way more than an measly inch of snow. At this point, however, any snow will do.

There's also a chance of snow (or rain) on Wednesday night and Thursday. Woohoo! To the snow, I say "Bring it on!"

I've completed another half repeat on the Jenna sweater, for a grand total of 50 rows and 5.75 inches (out of 12.75). It's slow going, but the knitting is beginning to flow. Emma was mostly good this morning and I had Tom to help keep her away from the plants. And she even sat on my lap for a little bit and didn't seem to be too interested in the knitting. And that's a very good thing!

After much contemplation, I decided that it's probably not a good idea to start that sexy little lace number, no matter how much I want to. Just check out the WIPs and the UFOs section in the sidebar. Bad news. I really should start working on finishing some of my current projects, don't you think?

Victorian Lace Today should arrive tomorrow and the temptation to cast on for a shawl is going to be immense. Must...complete...current...WIPs...

Something Yummy
The other night as I was digging around in the refrigerator trying to figure out what to fix for dinner, I came upon a container of mascarpone cheese. Hmmm...better use it before it goes bad, but what to do? A flash of inspiration...add it to spinach! Here's a recipe for a very quick and tasty creamed spinach:

1 10-oz. package frozen spinach
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. mascarpone cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the frozen spinach in a pan over medium heat. While the spinach is cooking, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft. By this time, the spinach should be thawed and most of the water evaporated. Add the spinach to the onion and garlic mixture and cook until all of the water has cooked off, stirring frequently. Add the mascarpone cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. This recipe serves two.

A Milestone
Early Friday morning, I became a great-aunt. Tom's nephew Martin and his girlfriend Veronica had a little baby girl, Sylvie Elizabeth. Mother, father, and baby are doing fine.

What's that, you say? What did I knit the wee one? Nothing...yet. I couldn't stand the thought of making another baby blanket, so I think some booties and a knitted stuffed animal are in order.

Truth be told, though, the idea of being a great-aunt is a bit troubling. That means the nieces and nephews are growing up. And that means I'm getting older. Well, duh, no kidding. But in my mind's eye, I still picture the kids as...well...kids, not young adults and certainly not young adults old enough to be having children of their own.

This could be the beginning of a mid-life crisis. Maybe I should start knitting that sexy little lace number after all!

Afternoon Update
Hahahaha! It's SNOWING! The snow started around 12:30 with eensy-teensy flakes (always a good sign). It's been snowing steadily for a couple of hours now and the snow is beginning to cover the grass. I'm so excited! The snowflake earrings worked!

There's something about a snowy day that makes me want to stay inside and bake. Bread, cookies, cakes...it doesn't really matter. Alas, I did my baking yesterday, turning out some lemon biscotti (delicious) and Amish Friendship Bread (a bit rubbery, according to Tom). I'm out of flour, too, so there's no baking this afternoon. But there will be soup-making, as soon as Tom goes to the store to get ingredients.

I think everyone should take a holiday when it snows. You know, suspend the usual house chores and going to work. Slow down, and appreciate the peace and beauty of the snow. Revel in the silence. There's nothing better than waking up after a snowfall and all the normal sounds are muffled.

I love it!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Cozy Place

I'm slowly making progress on the Jenna sweater, thanks to early morning knitting sessions. I've completed two entire pattern repeats for a grand total of 40 rows! My progress is nothing if not snail-like. But it is progress.

I've come to cherish my early morning knitting sessions. The house is quiet and the bustle of the day hasn't begun. I get up between 5:30 and 6:00, feed Emma, then light a fire. I take up position in my favorite chair, pull out my knitting and knit a couple of stitches.


"Emma, no! Don't scratch the furniture!"

I knit a couple of more stitches.

"Emma, no! Don't eat the Christmas cactus!"

This last admonition is usually accompanied by me getting up and forcibly removing Emma from the radiator (which is where the plant lives). This routine continues for about an hour or so, during which I might be able to complete two rows, four if I'm lucky.

Emma's personality if very different from Jezebel's. Jez was a Buddha-cat, very contemplative and calm. Emma is...well...busy. She's still a kitten and that accounts for part of it. But she's much more mischievous than Jez was and is interested in the house plants, the drapes, the food on your plate... She likes to be held, but needs to be draped over an arm, which impedes knitting. I did manage to get her to sit in my lap for a bit this morning and that was promising. Despite the frustration, she's still a sweet little cat.

Other Knitting News
I've made no progress at all on the Christine sweater. I started to chart the increases, but it was late last night and I realized that it just wasn't going to work. For one, the graph paper squares are too big. For another, I had a headache. I'm hoping that I'll find some time to work out the increases this weekend.

And that sexy little lace number? I haven't started it. I did order Victorian Lace Today. I've heard nothing but good things about this book and can't wait for it to arrive. And then maybe I'll start that sexy little lace number.

The extra yarn for Tom's scarf arrived. I worked out the modifications and cast on during lunch yesterday. The seed stitch border was looking good, so I moved on to the pattern rows. Row 1: Perfect! Row 2: Excellent! Row 3: Looking good! Oops...In my rush to get started, I neglected to calculate how many stitches I needed and didn't cast on enough. So it's back to Frog Pond.

There's one more bit of news on the knitting front. Springwater Fiber Workshop, located in Alexandria, regularly holds classes for all types of fiber arts. They also have a visiting artist program and I was very excited to see that Beth Brown Reinsel is teaching this month. I promptly registered for her Swedish twined knitting (tvåändsstickning) class. We'll be making a sock. It should be a very interesting and challenging class.

Weekend Activities
The original plan for today was to go for an early morning run. But low temperatures combined with a fierce wind (and the persistence of yesterday's headache) put an end to that idea. I'll be focused on the domestic arts today, cooking some individual pot pies and biscotti for my mother-in-law, and cleaning house. Tomorrow we'll deliver the food to my mother-in-law. Every year for Christmas we make her a variety of soups, stews, and pot pies so she gets some home-cooked meals. She hates to cook and lives off of frozen dinners.

And of course, there will be some knitting. And if the stars align properly, there might be some spinning as well.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Farewell, Sweet Scarf...

I hardly knew thee.

Even though I enjoyed knitting this scarf with this stitch pattern, there are some things that are dreadfully wrong with it. First and foremost, it's only a mere 30 inches long, which far too short for Tom. It's barely long enough for me. I also had some difficulty following the stitch pattern and realized the mistakes only after knitting far too much to rip back (or so I though at the time). So I did what any lazy enterprising knitter would do and incorporated the mistakes as design elements. This would have worked swimmingly, had it not been for the fact that the scarf was way too short. The scarf is destined for Frog Pond and a reknit and probably a slight redesign (decreasing the width and improving the transitions from seed stitch to stockinette).

I'm pleased with the way the Jenna sweater is coming along.

The only part of the pattern that makes me want to run from the room screaming is the bobble motif. And it's not the bobble making that drives me crazy. It's the working the CR2L and CR2R on both the right side and the wrong side. It really slows things down. But I'm persevering and have completed almost half of the second repeat.

I made no progress on the Christine sweater yesterday. The sleeve remains where I left it, waiting for an increase in pattern.

I stare at the sleeve, I stare at the chart, I ponder my options. I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm going to have to sit down with graph paper and chart out the increases. While I'm sure that I'll learn a lot from that exercise, there's a very good possibility that I'll copy the chart wrong, no matter how many times I check it. The goal of having the sleeve completed by the first weekend in February seems unattainable.

Did I start a new project yesterday? Nope. Did I spin yesterday? Nope. Did I work on the business plan yesterday? Nope.

I did, however, finalize the plans for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration. That took a fair amount of time, but other than planning the food, it's mostly complete.

After a hopefully brief excursion to the grocery store and a quick housecleaning, I plan to be able to make more progress on the knitting front. And perhaps, just to fulfill yesterday's horoscope, I'll cast on a new project. That sexy little lace number, perhaps. Like I really need another complicated knitting project.

Someone shoot me now.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Kitty Antics

So, here I sit, trying to decide what the heck to write about today. The sad state of this nation's political affairs? Global warming (it is awfully warm for January), my inability to finish knitting projects?

How about kitty stories?!

Emma is now about six months old and is developing quite the personality. She loves to play fetch and will bring back her toys to me after I throw them. This provides hours of fun and distracts me from getting to the job at hand, like writing the business plan for the yarn shop or knitting the Fair Isle sleeve from hell. She also loves carrying her little mice around and if I'm cooking, she'll drop a mouse right on my foot, indicating that she wants to play. She also loves putting her mice in in things, like the trashcan, and will very carefully place them there. Then she'll walk away, only to return a few minutes later to root around in the trashcan to perform a mouse extraction. And then there's the variation of "drop the mouse on the foot," which involves her sneaking up on me as I'm working at the computer and climbing my back to deposit the mouse on my shoulder. While this game is endearing, it's not going to be so much fun when she's fully grown.

We're thinking she needs another cat. I think a trip to the shelter is in my future.

Of Dearly Departed Irons
On Monday, Sheepish Annie very eloquently wrote about the demise of her beloved ancient iron, which had been with her since her college days. A couple of days later, I plugged in my iron, and after the requisite number of minutes had elapsed for preheating, I commenced ironing. After a few passes with the iron, I realized something was amiss. I felt the fabric; it was hot. But the iron was not gliding like it should have. I checked the soleplate; it wasn't gunked up with melted fabric. I kept ironing but the job became harder and harder. It was then it hit me. My iron was dead! Hallelujah! Drat! Now I'm forced to get a new iron, maybe this one. Visions of effortless ironing and steam beyond compare danced through my head. So what if it's expensive? Quality and effortless ironing (and blocking!) are worth it! Then a little voice in my head whispered "Maybe you should try plugging the iron into another outlet." I did, and lo and behold, the iron worked. It was the outlet (which is 100 years old) that died. Oh well...I hope our house doesn't burn down now.

Knitting Update
Have I distracted you from the lack of knitting? Before I started writing this morning, I pulled out the camera to take pictures, but alas, the batteries were dead. They are charging even as I type. So, pictures tomorrow.

I successfully completed two rows on the Fair Isle sleeve from hell. The next row is an increase row, within the Fair Isle pattern. So that stopped me dead. Now I have to figure out how to maintain the pattern over increases. Someone shoot me now, okay?

Fortunately, I seem to have gotten into the flow on the Jenna sweater and other than it being fiddly, the knitting is progressing more quickly now. If I look at it as groups of 20 to 40 rows, it's not nearly as overwhelming as the total number of rows. But it's still going to take a long time.

And that why I chuckled with glee to read my horoscope for today:

Finishing up all your errands isn't important today -- starting new projects is.

Hee hee! I have official permission to start another project and ignore temporarily set aside my existing projects. What shall I start? A sexy little lace number? Another pair of socks? A new roving for spinning?

Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thank Goodness I Had My Knitting

Only in a theoretical sense. I wasn't there. But if I was there, I would have been prepared. I'm very, very glad I wasn't there.

To what am I referring?

Denver, of course. And Stephanie's account of her and her brother's trip out to Big Sky, Montana, the day the really big blizzard hit Denver. Sadly, Stephanie is not a knitter. She missed some prime knitting time. I wonder how many people out of 5000 were observed calmly (or frantically) knitting in the midst of all the chaos that was the Denver Airport the Wednesday before Christmas?

Anyway, as predicted on Monday, there hasn't been much knitting. I'm still recovering from the cold and have moved into the guest room. As a result, I'm sleeping so much better. Even Emma is sleeping better; she didn't petition to be fed until almost 7:00 this morning! She normally wants to be fed a little before 5:00. That's much too early, but it does force me to do some early morning knitting.

I actually sat down this evening to work on the Christine sweater and am cursing every stitch. I managed to knit one row and have it come out correctly. The next row was a wrong side row. I knit a couple of stitches and noticed that the floats are on the right side. What?! I was carrying the yarn in the back! Duh. I unknit, and tried again. It still looked weird. I ripped it out again and start knitting one more time. I'm knitting. I should be purling! And how many years have I been knitting? Apparently not long enough.

My goal is to finish a sleeve of the Christine sweater by the first weekend in February, which is the next time I'll be visiting my family. At this rate, though, I'll be lucky if I get another couple rows knitted by then. I'm beginning to think that there's something very unnatural about knitting Fair Isle flat.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Almost There

I decided to stay home from work today, given that the day started with me hacking up a lung or two (I really didn't want my coworkers to have to endure that). This would give me the perfect opportunity to get some more rest, get caught up on some reading, and perhaps get caught up on some spinning and knitting as well, between a couple of well-placed naps.

I did get caught up on some blog reading. I finished Tom's scarf, only to realize that it was too short for me and would be way too short for him. I should have gotten three balls of Divine, not two. I'm not even sure that I like the way it looks. Depending on the availability of another skein or two of the same dyelot, I might just frog it and start over.

Given the weather, it's not like Tom's going to need it anytime soon.

I also spent a fair part of the day doing work stuff, calling in to meetings and reviewing documentation, all of which took longer than I thought. Given my congestion-fogged state of mind, it was really difficult to concentrate on all of the meetings.

So much for the well-placed naps.

But another day at home was just was I needed. By the time the afternoon rolled around, I was feeling much better, the congestion diminished, and both lungs stayed put. However, word has it that one or more stomach viruses are making their way around work. I'm hoping beyond hope that they stay away from me!

So, tomorrow will be back to normal and my blogging will drop precipitously again. The plan will be to have pictures for the weekend's post.

A bientot!

Sunday, January 07, 2007


I was feeling a bit smug about having dodged all the plagues that were dropping folks like flies last winter. I got nary a cold. My immune system rocks!

I'm not feeling so smug now. On Wednesday, I had a little bit of a headache and just a hint of scratchy throat. So I started the megadoses of Vitamin C, l-lysine, and zinc. I took the precaution of working from home Thursday and Friday so as to not infect my team. Thursday was a little worse than Wednesday and by the time Friday night came along, I was feeling a bit rough. That was nothing compared to Saturday.

I woke up Saturday with sinuses that felt like they were filled full of yucky stuff, my teeth hurt, I was cold and hot, and had a 100 degree fever. My throat still hurt and I was much more congested. This state of health was quite inconvenient because my nephew came up to visit for the weekend. I had visions of us touring Oatlands Plantation, the new Air and Space Museum and participating in witty and engaging conversation. I was lucky enough to be able to drag myself out of bed, make pancakes for Daniel, then head to the farmers market to get some of Chef Eloy's extra hot salsa for Tom. After we got back, Daniel and I laid in the sun on the deck and took a nap. Given that the temperature yesterday was 73 degrees, how could I not pass up the opportunity to make like a very large, somnolent cat? Later we had lunch and then spent the afternoon and evening watching football games.

I felt much better today, but Daniel had to leave to head down to college. Oh, well...

Knitting Progress
I actually did get some knitting done. I knit another two rows on the Jenna sweater and worked on Tom's scarf. However, I need to rip what I did since I forgot about the seed stitch border. Duh...friends (or husbands) shouldn't let friends (or wives) knit while sick.

Hopefully, I'll be able to show you some pictures later this week. Or at the very latest, over the weekend.

Stay healthy!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Resolutions Are Made To Be Broken

One of my New Year's resolutions was to blog more frequently and provide more pictures. In order to provide more pictures, that means I'd have to get my knit on more than I have.

I'm failing miserably.

I've almost finished one pattern repeat for the back of the Jenna sweater. That's a mere 20 rows. The back is supposed to measure about 16 inches. 20 rows is a measly two inches. At the rate of two to three rows per hour, I figure that I've got another 50 hours or so before the back is completed. Of course, my knitting speed will increase after we take down the Christmas tree because I won't be distracting Emma from chewing on the lights or swatting at the ornaments.

Tom's scarf is coming along quite nicely. I'm using Skacel's Divine, which is named appropriately. This yarn is a blend of baby alpaca, cashmere, and silk. Yum! The only problem is the winter weather, or lack thereof. Tomorrow is supposed to be in the 70s! I have a suspicion that the scarf won't get worn this year.

All sock knitting has ceased in order to complete the sweaters and scarf. And two of my Christmas gifts are trying their utmost to distract me. Tom gave me Knitting Vintage Socks: New Twists on Classic Patterns. It's a fascinating book and the sock patterns are all lovely and most are knit on small needles, mostly size 1. Sadly, knitting socks from that book will have to wait until my other socks are complete.

The other knitting book that Tom gave me is Traditional Fair Isle Knitting. This book is a bit scholarly, but is very readable. It would have been nice if there were more color photos but it is what it is. It's still inspiring. I didn't know that traditional Fair Isle was always knit in the round. It makes perfect sense, though, because you can see the pattern develop. Flat stranded knitting is oh so painful!

Weekend Activities
Sadly, there won't be much knitting this weekend. My nephew will be visiting, which more than makes up for the lack of knitting. He turned 21 yesterday and is an amazing young man. He's studying biology at Virginia Tech and his GPA last semester was 3.97. His class load included organic chemistry, cell and molecular biology, and physics. I've never made it through a Chem 101 class. I'm very, very proud of him.

Have a wonderful weekend! Knit on, friends.