Monday, June 24, 2013


Last week I had an idea for a great blog post.  Make it sharp.  Make it aesthetically appealing in a minimalistic sort of way.  Include artsy photographs of the socks I'm making by shooting pictures of them from quirky angles and by including natural elements in my compositions.  Then I was scrolling through my Facebook page and saw a blog post shared there. . . .  I clicked on the link for Iamsnowfox and, lo and behold, there was the embodiment of everything I'd planned to do with my sock post, only much better, as the amazingly talented Anja Troschau had achieved the kind of clean, lean design and appealing photos that I aim for but never quite achieve (in blogging, as in housework, I can never quite escape a bit of randomness and clutter, despite my artistic ideals). Troschau's socks, however, were nearly identical to my own and made using the same yarn and even the same colorway!  

Streaky was enamored by the soft feel of these socks, too, and didn't want to let go.  

I shouldn't have been too surprised.  Last Tuesday I attended the weekly knitting group at Cottage Yarn and found Pam, one of the regular members, working on a ribbed pair of socks in the same forest green shade (Lapwing, number 306) that I was using to make my socks.  As I commented on her work and waxed poetic about Rowan's new yarn, which has a super-smooth feel--probably due to the silk and baby mohair contained in the fiber mix--Julie, another knitting group attendee, got up from her seat and purchased a skein in lovely smoky hues to make herself a pair of these eye- and foot-pleasing socks.  

I haven't washed and blocked these yet, but they
still look good.  

While this yarn makes sublime socks, the other garments made from it pictured in Rowan's Fine Art pattern book are beautiful, too.  Check out Knitionary,  the blog created by a talented California knitter and and Rowan Ambassador to get a look inside this stunning volume.  This images in this book and the yarn itself make me want to buy three skeins to make a wrap, but I have to plan carefully before indulging in my desires.  At around $30.00 a skein, this fiber is definitely a splurge, but one that's worth the price.  

In addition to finishing up my socks, I'm busy revisiting a project that has sat in a knitting   bag for several months.  Tucked away in my closet, this long vest project is one that I was sooo eager to start.  I used two gift certificates last Christmas to pay for the Noro yarn and eagerly cast on.  I finished the back and was pleased with the results and even had started the front.  But soon, in an attempt to avoid facing my fears, I put my project bag away--out of sight, out of mind.  Why fear?  Somewhere in the midst of casting on or in the middle of knitting the back, I'd read through the entire pattern and realized that it involves making a steek!  The thought of cutting my knitting, especially work done using somewhat pricey Noro yarn, is a bit terrifying.  

This is the back of the long vest, which includes an interesting pattern
created by doing two yarn overs and then pulling them out and crossing
them over four stitches on the next row.  

I'm not certain what my hiding my work away reveals about the strength of my character, but summer is here now and with it ironically come thoughts of crafting garments for impending fall weather, so I've decided that steek I will.  I'll be sure to share the process and results here.  I'm not certain whether I'll get to this formidable challenge before my July 4th trip to England, but maybe knitting the front of the vest and cutting the steek will help me to avoid thinking about any fear I have of traveling alone overseas.  Fear probably isn't the right word, though.  I enjoy traveling and was actually thrilled when, sans cellphone, I ended up separated from the school group I was traveling with in Italy for an hour or so when we were in the Roman coliseum.  (After two weeks without one minute to myself, I savored the solitude.)  So the emotions I'm experiencing are probably more like anticipation anxiety.  For half of the school year thoughts of my trip provided a useful diversion from dealing with the realities of the school day; now, in summer, I feel a bit lazy and know I should be writing lists and reading a Dicken's biography (I'm taking part in a seminar on Charles Dickens at Oxford) but, instead, I'm busy knitting, drinking coffee, sewing, reading novels and generally goofing off--all the time troubled by a niggling fear that I should be doing more to plan for my trip.  At least I've created some great socks, as well as these nifty project bags. 

This book includes templates for a variety of bags, but this small duffel (roughly ten
inches high with a diameter of six inches)  is so easy to do, you make your own
 template--a circle and two rectangles.  Buying fat quarters (for $1.59 apiece) is an easy
 way to create these inexpensively.  I love the cat fabric I was able to purchase this way.  

I did find time for some cooking last week.  A knitter friend had surgery for carpal tunnel
 syndrome, so I made her these muffins.  (For a knitter, being incapacitated in this way is especially trying.)  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Summer Break . . . or Slacking Off in the South

The summertime magnolias were in bloom at my husband's family home, where we went
for a visit today.  

While today, Sunday and Father's Day, I attended church and spent time with family, for the last week or so I've been enjoying summertime slacking off.  I probably should keep a daily diary and therefore avoid boring unwary blog readers who happen upon this post, but I did have a rewarding time today recalling this past week.  If only life could be this way year-round . . .

Saturday:  Knit and read in the early a.m.  Met two female friends at Katz's Deli for blintzes, lox, and rye bread and then drove to Lake Wylie in South Carolina.  Helped friends--who share similar ages, same profession, and comparable lack of technical expertise--unpack, inflate and assemble new kayaks (which were recently purchased by one of the women).  Lugged monstrously heavy kayaks down long path to lake.  Paddled kayaks in lake--all of us in awkward prone positions with kayaks spinning around in circles.  Decided to eschew problematic paddling for swimming in lake. 

Soon had to drive solo to friend's nearby place to make sandwiches as she was nauseated and shaking a bit from either low blood sugar or the morning's exertions.  Back at apartment saw images on kayak cartons and realized we’d assembled boats incorrectly and had been  facing backwards with seats incorrectly buckled in (hence our flat-on-our-backs paddling positions).  Returned to lake.  Ate lunch.  Remedied kayak problem and spent afternoon paddling.  Met nice young Hispanic couple uncomfortably squished into tiny rubber boat.  Let them have a more comfortable experience trying out one  double kayak while we swam, and then we chatted with them for a while.  Returned home to dinner cooked by thoughtful spouse.  Knitting and viewing of Doc Martin in the p.m.

I'm making these socks with Rowan's new hand painted Fine Art Sock Yarn, a mixture of wool, silk, baby mohair and polyamide.  This new yarn has an amazing texture and comes in beautiful colors.  It is sourced and spun in South Africa. Click HERE to see an interesting pamphlet from Rowan about this new product.  

Friday:  Knitting and reading in the a.m.  Went to local YMCA to take yoga class and swim.  Picked up healthy lunch food from Harris Teeter (vegetarian sushi, fresh cherries, etc.) and visited friend who is stay-at-home mom.  Ruined benefits of healthy activities and noontime meal by eating  large serving of chicken nachos accompanied by sweet orange tequila drink with husband at a Cantina 1511 in the evening.  (Note:  I do have two children who appear glaringly absent from my weekly activities, but my fifteen-year-old has a busy social calendar to manage as well as grueling football workouts each day, and the thirteen-year-old is at the stage where he prefers staying in his room to actually going anywhere with his embarrassing parents.    My husband has been dragging my youngest to the YMCA for much-needed physical activity each day, though, and I plan to force same son to go kayaking this week.)

Thursday:  Knit and sewed in the a.m.   Picked up 1970’s serger (a gift from my aunt) from repair shop where I’d dropped it off on Saturday.  (New sergers are very expensive and this good, heavy Bernina does a great job.)  Bought a Starbucks and then went to Cottage Yarn, where I spent three hours sitting and knitting and chatting.  The store’s owner, Lyn, showed me a great stretchy Norwegian cast on for socks.  Returned home for dinner and knitting socks. 

I finished this dog sweater on Wednesday, using scrap worsted-weight wool.  It's a gift for the dog of a friend who lives in Italy.  

Wednesday:  Knit and read in the a.m.  Had lunch with aunt at retirement village--more like country club.  Enjoyed time with her.  Wished longingly that working moms not of age for senior citizen communities could live with classical music piped in, restaurant meals served all day long, and hair salon, sauna, pool, workout room, and studios (woodworking, painting, and sewing) as well as a library available within short walking distance. 

Next went to mall and shopped for an outrageously expensive but well-worth-the-price bra at Nordstrom's.  (Thank you Peaches for great service and expertise and for pleasing advice that I had a good figure and should wear "tighter pants.")  Had an iced coffee at Dean and Deluca afterwards.  Experienced sticker shock seeing cold green beans in display case for $14.50 a pound.  Drove to Whole Foods with wares that seemed like a bargain after visit to prior establishment.  Purchased some ready-made salad to accompany family dinner.    Finished knitting A Sensible Shawl from Jane Austen Knits Fall 2012. 

I knit  my  Sensible Shawl in a wool-alpaca mix yarn from Debbie Stoller.
I was beginning to wilt taking this picture on a sunny June morning.  

Tuesday:  Knit and read in the a.m.  Traumatized husband by going on a cleaning tear.  Removed mattress and box spring from bed in master bedroom.  Underneath found horrific mess I'd suspected was lurking there--my dog Stella's stash of toys, food wrappers, and even some unanticipated petrified French fries (Stella, for some untold reason, isn't a fan of potatoes and must have inadvertently brought the fries upstairs when she'd stolen some fast food wrappers or bags from the trash.)   Vacuumed and shampooed carpet under bed.  Also washed and bleached dust ruffle.  Exhausted, decided to escape further domestic duties by going solo to discount Tuesday movie, The Internship.  Gleefully gorged on a large bucket of popcorn with generously applied helping of self-serve butter while viewing mindless entertainment.  Later attended Tuesday evening knitting night at Cottage Yarn.  Enjoyed eating chocolate truffles during knitting breaks.

Stella looks so innocent here . . . naughty dog.  

Monday:  Knit and read in the a.m.  Met friend and co-worker Tonya at 10:30 for knitting and conversation at Starbucks.  At home cooked heaping amount of burgers, chicken, and fish on grill for family lunch and future informal meals.  Relaxed.  

I started out the week working on this lace wrap from 101 Designer One Skein Wonders but put it aside for a bit.  It's always good to have lots of WIP to suit a variety of moods and situations.  

Sunday:  Shirked familial and religious responsibilities.  Knit and read and sewed in the morning and went with female friends to see afternoon movie (Oblivion) with a plotline as bizarre as its leading man, Tom Cruise.  Followed up movie with indulgence at Ilios Noche restaurant--two glasses of red wine, hummus and pita, and vegetable plate with risotto, huge Italian beans, and broccolini.  Felt very guilty at end of day for self-indulgent, expensive behavior but, obviously, continued in same direction for remainder of the week.    


Friday, June 7, 2013

Packing in the Pleasure of Ordinary Days

I cannot count my day complete
'Til needle, thread and fabric meet.

I finally finished my spring project--using a Louisa Harding
pattern (Taini) and Rowan Summerspun yarn.  I will
definitely pack this item for my trip. 

Non-crafters, I assume, prepare for a long trip by making lists of what to purchase and pack and by creating detailed itineraries for daily activities.  Not belonging to this group, however, I recently made the decision to make a few items to take with me on my upcoming trip to England, thinking that doing so would be an amusing way to occupy the weeks prior to my departure.  Large portions of my days have thus been consumed with meeting my deadline.  Each day I disappear into the dining room (a space which also serves as a sewing room) and stitch away or I sit in coffee shops, in front of the TV, in the doctor's and veterinarian's offices, etc. and knit away.  

I made significant progress on a thick winter shawl I'm knitting during a particularly long vet visit this past Tuesday.  Our ginger family cat, Streaky, who is occasionally testy but is generally placid, turned into a vicious tiger at the vet's office, making gurgly throaty noises and lashing out with his claws at anyone who came within a foot of him.  Consequently, he had to be anesthetized in order to receive his rabies and distemper vaccinations.  (This process the lowering over his head of  some sort of plastic bubble, but, thankfully, I was excused from observing this procedure.)  He seemed unfazed and was quite affectionate after the experience--but it took several glasses of Pinot Grigio late that afternoon to restore my nervous system to a less-adrenaline-flooded (fight-or-flight) state.  

Froggy will be going to the UK with me, once I add his eyes. 
He's a gift for fellow blogger 
Thomasina Tittlemouse, whom I plan to meet on my visit.  

But back to my projects. . . . It's interesting that I immediately replaced one form of work (teaching) with other employments (knitting and sewing) but have enjoyed my quite labors and am happy that I've just about completed with my projects now, though, and should perhaps start studying some guide books, so that I can navigate the trains and Tube when I get to London, with my new coat and vest and dress in tow.  Of course, sitting on the table in my dining room is a new pattern for a cute floral hat and some fabric to complete it.  This rather romantic-looking item might be just the thing to wear in the English countryside--just perfect for a day trip to Highclere Castle.  Of course, I need to actually figure out how to get from point A to Z before I go to England, so that I'm not wandering aimlessly in my romantic attire, like some agonized Bronte heroine, who inevitably ultimately collapses on the moors. However, I might as well look good (or at least eccentric) in my journeying, rather than feeling inappropriately dressed for whatever adventures or misadventures come my way.  


I am also bringing my typical wardrobe of jeans, khaki pants, clogs, etc. and don't have a single floaty dress or Laura Ashley flowered creation to bring with me--although maybe I should make a trip to the yarn shop.  A lacy shawl might be just the thing to keep me busy on the plane.    

My dress and jacket are almost finished here.  I made a scoop in the
front of hem, since I've seen that style in the stores lately and wanted
to update the style a bit. 

This coat, unlike the simple dress, required lots of tedious work.  I still
have to tack the lining down in places, but otherwise it's done. 

My green item turned out to be a perfect teacher dress,
but I'll still probably take it with me in case the weather is warm.