Lost Arts studio

A lot of the fiber arts I enjoy are things like tatting, netmaking, chair caning, and even weaving, where people will come up to me when I demonstrate and solemnly tell me, "That's a lost art."

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Location: SW Outer Nowhere, Michigan, United States

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a chicken. (With apologies to Peter Steiner.)

30 November 2006

Geeky Weather Link

or, just in case I am buried in ice tomorrow, my power lines go down, and I [gasp!] can't update my blog:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service has a lovely geeky page entitled "Area Forecast Discussions".

Basically, this is a page where the meteorologists discuss the short & long term weather forecasts for their areas, how much they trust the computer weather simulations, and whether or not those simulations are agreeing with each other, or with themselves from run to run.

The "Grand Rapids, MI" one covers most of the southwest part of the state.


Anyway. We'll see if this is a real storm, or one of those "Ha! Missed me!" storms.


Side Notes

Green and furry. Usually these are words I associate with "things that got pushed to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten". Take a look at this sweater at Lucia, the Knitting Fiend's blog, and see how these words relate to knitting!

You can see light through Mr. Stumpy now!

The blur is a raindrop on the camera lens. Yesterday it was 60 degrees at 9am: today it is 37 degrees and raining.

Yesterday I abandoned using the hatchet in favor of using my Korean hand plow, or "ho-mi". I bought it several years ago out of one of my gardening catalogs, and I love it. It worked great on the punky interior of Mr. Stumpy. I'll bet I hauled away ten full garden cartloads of punky wood.

Note to self: Take rings OFF when hacking at Mr. Stumpy. Palm blisters hurt!

Other notes: I was really surprised at how few bugs I encountered. There were insect tunnels of all sizes, from powdery-post beetle to big 3/4-inch, frass-filled "I don't want to meet that beetle" ones, but the only live insects I saw were some lady bugs looking to hibernate.

I also found all kinds of fungal decay going on in there. At least two different kinds of dry rot, a wet carbonizing decay, and probably lots of other stuff that I don't recognize. Mr. Stumpy is mostly a hard outer shell of really tough wood. Inside he is rotten. He is much more likely to slump into a heap of woody compost than fall over.


A friend emailed me to ask, "You post a lot about the weather. Where do you find out about all that stuff?"

When I was a kid, I loved it when they would show the weather radar. So I really love internet weather radar. I have found lots of US weather info at the National Weather Service website. This website is split up in peculiar ways: another part is here, but they are both National Weather Service/ NOAA links.

The internet is a great source for satellite weather data. I like IPS Meteostar. I use the North Central US view, but if you mouse across the menu at the top, there is all kinds of other weather information to explore up there.

Today's cheery Michigan "knitting weather" forecast:

Today: Rain likely early in the morning...then a chance of rain showers in the afternoon. A chance of light snow showers by late in the day. Much colder. Highs in the mid 40s. Temperatures falling through the day.

And Friday's (definitely "sit by the soapstone stove and knit" weather):
Friday: Freezing rain and heavy snow until midday...then snow in the afternoon. Snow accumulation 5 to 9 inches. Highs in the mid-30s. Temperatures steady or slowly falling in the afternoon. Northeast winds 10 to 20 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation 100 percent.

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29 November 2006

Let Us Mess With His Numbers

Acephalous wants to know "What is the speed of meme?"

He says

1. Write a post linking to this one in which you explain the experiment.
2. Ask your readers to do the same.
3. Ping Technorati.

I can do that. (When I remember, I use Ping-O-Matic to send pings after I write a blog post.)

So, what are you still doing here, eh? Go write your blog post! :)

Knitting in Beatrix Potter Books

In The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, the color plate opposite the title page shows old Mrs. Rabbit sitting at the door of her burrow knitting with her yarn ball in the sand at her feet. In the story, it says "Old Mrs. Rabbit was a widow; she earned her living by knitting rabbit-wool mittens and muffetees [sic] (I once bought a pair at a bazaar)."

Rabbit-wool is mentioned again in The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, at the very end. In gratitude for Thomasina Tittlemouse waking Benjamin Bunny and helping him and his wife Flopsy free their children from the bag Mr. McGregor has tied them in, " . . .next Christmas Thomasina Tittlemouse got a present of enough rabbit-wool to make herself a cloak and a hood, and a handsome muff and a pair of warm mittens." She is shown dressed in all these things, but it is impossible to tell if they are knitted, because they look so furry.

In The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan, when Ribby runs to fetch the doctor, and Cousin Tabitha Twitchit says "I knew they would over-eat themselves!" Tabitha is standing in the door of her store knitting with her ball of yarn on the ground.

In The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, Robinson is supposed to buy darning wool for his aunts. He has a sample of the color, but forgets and sells it tied around the stems of a bunch of primroses.

Luckily he meets Sam the fisherman's wife Betsy:

"Why, I noticed the wool round the little primrose posy; it was blue-grey colour like the last pair of socks that I knitted for Sam. Come with me to the wool shop -- Fleecy Flock's wool shop. I remember the color; well I do!" said Betsy.

It's a good thing he has Betsy with him:

Such a shop! Such a jumble! Wool all sorts of colours, thick wool, thin wool, fingering wool, and rug wool, bundles and bundles all jumbled up; and she [Fleecy Flock] could not put her hoof on anything. She was so confused and slow at finding things that Betsy got impatient.

"No, I don't want wool for slippers; darning wool, Fleecy; darning wool, same colour as I bought for my Sam's socks. Bless me, no, not knitting needles! Darning wool."

"Baa, baa! Did you say white or black, m'm? Three ply, was it?"

"Oh, dear me, grey darning wool on cards; not heather mixture."

"I know I have it somewhere," said Fleecy Flock helplessly, jumbling up the skeins and bundles. " . . . my shop is completely cluttered up --"

It took half an hour to find the wool. If Betsy had not been with him, Robinson never would have got it.

In Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes, it says
You know the old woman who lived in a shoe?
And had so many children
She didn't know what to do?

I think if she lived in a little shoe-house --
That little old woman was surely a mouse!
The illustration shows a mouse in a dress and bonnet, sitting in a chair knitting a stocking from the cuff down with five needles.

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Twhacking Mr. Stumpy

I whacked at the giant stump until my arms were tired. The goofy dire prediction that I've heard for years about this stump (about 8 feet tall) is "It is going to fall on the house someday." (15 feet away.) How does that work, exactly?

It rained in the night, so I don't know if I'll get out there today. The weather forecast still says "High in the mid 60s", so we'll see if I can stand to stay inside.

Especially when tomorrow's forecast says
"Thursday: Rain showers likely in the morning... Then a chance of freezing rain...snow and sleet in the afternoon. Much colder. Snow and sleet accumulation an inch or less. Morning highs in the lower 40s with falling temperatures through the day. North winds 10 to 20 mph with higher gusts. Chance of precipitation 70 percent." Sounds like "knitting weather" to me!

I worked on the sock cuffs some last night while waiting for our son to fall asleep. (That way I know he hasn't snuck out of his bed and into mine, and I don't have to carry him to bed and climb a ladder to put him into his loft bed.)

If I don't finish these today, I probably will tomorrow.

We are having a run of our typical weird good bad luck. For example, remember at Easter we drove over 100 miles in our car, got back home, and woke up Monday to a stick in the radiator? Bad luck: radiator had to be replaced. But good luck: it didn't overheat during the long drive.

We took the car (Honday Civic) over the Thanksgiving weekend on Thursday, to drive to my parents' for turkey. We took it again on Saturday for a family Christmas party. But Sunday we were going to take the van (Honda Odyssey) when we bought groceries, and the van wouldn't start.

Bad luck: the timing belt broke. Good luck: apparently Hondas have a problem when the timing goes where the valves can be crushed. So far (cross fingers) it looks like that didn't happen, since it looks like it broke just as we tried to start it.

But meanwhile I have no van, so I can't wander off when I hear knitting needles calling me from afar.

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28 November 2006

What I Worked On

This is a "mainly fiber arts" blog, so the socks are up first. I got another inch or so of the ribbing knitted on both last night.

Both socks are the same, so I only have to show you one. I can almost get a pair out of a single skein of Wool-Ease, but I usually end up striping the cuffs at some point to make them long enough for my taste. I just started adding in some "Blue Mist" last night. The Blue Mist and the Denim Twist colors are so close that the stripes are going to be super-subtle, almost invisible.

But this is what I really worked on.

This thing is the stump (can I call it a stump if it's 8 or 10 feet tall?) of a big maple tree. The five-gallon bucket at the foot is about 14 or 15 inches tall, for scale.

When we moved in 15 years ago, this was already a stump. Apparently it had dropped a big limb right on the roof of the old farm house, since the roof ridge of that house was cracked. In revenge, they cut all the branches off the tree, but left the huge stump standing.

Over the years, woodpeckers and robins have nested in it, and one year owls. But now it is getting very shaky at the base, and pieces have started falling off. So I thought, "I know! I'll climb up on the ladder and pull parts off the top with my four-tine cultivator!"

The wood that I am pulling off is so punky that it weighs hardly anything. I could pick up a six-foot long section in one hand if it wasn't such an awkward shape. It is ridiculously good fun. It's like having comic-book super strength.

My son was watching me do this last night, and he said, "Mom, that tree is turning into dirt!"

He's absolutely right -- the interior of the tree has mostly been turned by insects and fungus into a fluffy wood mulch. I've used some of it on my plants already. When I break away the wood on the outside, the stuff on the inside just flows down like sand.

Today I'm going after the top with the hatchet.


27 November 2006

Nice Weather, Not Much Knitting

Nice weather means I don't stay indoors and knit much. I try to get in a row or two of spiral ribbing (spiralling opposite ways on these socks), then I go outdoors.

Yesterday I snipped at the raspberry canes, removing this past year's dead canes and trimming some of next year's, and chopped down the yearly mulberry sprouts.

We have only a couple of days left of this before the weather switches from "Highs in the upper 50s" to "Mostly cloudy with a chance of snow showers. Highs in the mid 30s." so we are taking full advantage of it to do outside stuff. And I have the thorn scratches to prove it!

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26 November 2006

Bloglines goofiness

I'm subscribed to my own blog via Bloglines. Recently I noticed that no new posts were showing up under it when I logged into Bloglines. I clicked on my feed, and found I have a [!] feed error that claims I don't exist!

Well, that's a bummer! All this time I thought I existed, went around convincing other people I existed, corresponded with people who thought I existed, and now poof! I'm gone.

Anyway. Bloglines is obviously not picking new posts up correctly. Please take my supposed non-existence with a grain of salt.

25 November 2006

Almost Made It Through "Buy Nothing" Day

We spent almost all of Friday, "Buy Nothing" Day, at home. I moved the brackets on some mini-blinds in the house, and my husband chainsawed branches out of a maple tree that was clawing off the foliage of a big white cedar tree.

After he was done, I went out and dragged away the branches. So not much knitting done!

We've been having beautiful November weather. Sunny, "warm" -- well, 50s and near-60s in Michigan in November is warm: I ended up taking my jacket off.

But it looks like the weather is going to make a sharp left turn into winter Wednesday night and Thursday. Wednesday's forecast says "Highs in the lower 50s", Wednesday night says "Lows in the upper 20s" (brrr!), and Thursday's says "chance of snow showers, high in the mid-30s".

In the evening, we went to the nearby small town's tree-lighting ceremony, and Santa arrived in a closed horse carriage, drawn by a horse with yellow reflective safety bands around its ankles. Last year we had a beautiful fall of fresh snow for this event, but (see "50s and 60s", above) not this year.

I actually remembered to bring the camera, but couldn't get a good picture in the dark, darn it. You'll have to use your imagination.

This year the local school had a cookie sale, so it was there that we finally bought something: a plate of homemade cookies to support the parent-teacher group. Yum.


23 November 2006

I Heard These Needles Calling Me

So I interrupted my sock knitting and went to the thrift store and bought them.

I just went to this thrift store in the last couple of weeks and bought some DMC Cebelia in shades of pink for 50 cents a ball. But yesterday afternoon I felt a restless urge to go there again. Even as I was driving there, I thought to myself, "What am I doing? I was just there. It's not like there's going to be anything new."

But there they were, all bundled together with a piece of clear shipping tape: eight sets of straight needles and a size 10 cro-hook, for two dollars.

I had heel-hesitation on these socks. The feet were knitted, and I had to re-do the heel calculations on a piece of scribbley paper, because I can never believe them. Two-thirds of the stitches for the heel? I figured my rows per inch, and how narrow the heel needs to be, and yup, 40 out of 60 stitches gives me a heel cup that fits my foot like . . . well, like these socks were made for me.

I worked one row of the ribbing and put them down. That's easy knitting, now that the thinking part is done.

Now I have to go make cranberry relish and a couple of pies! See you after turkey!

21 November 2006

Paper Art

One of the many things I do for fun is fold origami. A couple of years ago I taught the members of my fiber arts guild to fold a moderately difficult modular hexagon box by Tomoko Fuse. Since then, one member occasionally sends me interesting things related to origami.

She sent me the email/slide show/ etc. presentation that has been going around via email and on youtube. The version she received had the subject "Japanese Paper Art". It had about twenty amazing pictures of paper art, cut out of a single sheet of paper: a castle, a hummingbird and a flower, a river. They were just . . . amazing. Stunning.

These pieces were finally discussed on the origami list.

Turns out the artist is a Dane, and his name is Peter Callesen. He deserves to get the credit, and if you found those images fascinating, there are ever so many more on his website. Most of the stuff going around the internet did NOT include any attribution to the artist, viz. the "Japanese" on the email my friend sent me.

So if you got it, and for some reason are going to pass it on, for goodness sake put Mr. Callesen's name BACK on his work.

And now for a little comic relief, I give you The Origami Boulder Guy.


Odds and Ends of Knitting

Although I didn't get as much knitting done yesterday as I might have liked, I have been getting in a row here and a row there.

I started another frame-knitted potholder to use up some odds and ends of dishcloth cotton. I started it with the Magic Cast-On, but this time I turned it so the purl side was in. That makes the knit side wrap around the bottom. When I use the tubular or grafted cast-off, both ends should look very similar.

I've been doing a row here and a row there on my blue scarf, too. It's about 21 inches long. I like a fairly long scarf that I can wrap around my neck and have one end in front and the other down my back, so I have quite a lot more knitting to do on it. I could have used it this morning: it was 32 degrees F., brrrr.

Then I realized I hadn't posted a picture of my Sampler M in a while, so here is the current one.

From bottom to top, patterns 15, 16, 17 (yes, it does appear to be one repeat of pattern 14) and 18.

I've only done one of the four repeats of pattern 18 so far. This is the first pattern to feature lace rows in every row, without a row of plain knitting between. It would be pretty easy in the round, but in a flat sampler you have to do "p2tog bl", purl 2 together through the back loop.

On the Sampler M list ("Join" button in the sidebar), someone suggested purling the first stitch, returning it to the left needle, drawing the next stitch over, and then sliding the stitch to the right needle. Although this is pretty cumbersome to type out, I find it a bit easier than the p2tob bl.

The guy from the LP gas company came and took the empty tank away yesterday. My husband got the chain link fence back up when he came home from work, so the dogs were able to go out and sniff the spot where the tank sat. I had pruned out the mulberry sprout, but there is some shaggy long grass that was under the edge of the tank, out of reach of the lawn mower.

It was sort of warm (meaning not windy, around 40 degrees F., and the sun was shining), so I got inspired to prune back the scraggly rose heap. I took our garden cart out there and snipped myself a path along the chain link fence, so I should be able to mow along it next spring.

The rose heap is some kind of climbing rose that throws out long canes, with nowhere to climb. The long canes just flop over into a dome shape. I haven't dug it out because it provides thorny cover for the birds that come to my bird feeder. Once I saw a hawk try to chase a bird into it!

But it certainly has wicked, backward-curving thorns, as all the little pricks and scratches on my fingers will attest.

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20 November 2006


One of the fun things about being a mom for me is taking our son to the library. Basically, I will read anything that isn't nailed shut or trying to squirm away. (If you ever saw Bruce Campbell in "Army of Darkness" -- I would read that flying book!)

Anyway, when you're in the library with a kid, it's like a license to hang out in the fun junior and "young adult" book sections. There are a lot of great books in there: Diane Duane's "So You Want to Be a Wizard" series, anything by Diana Wynne Jones, Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl books, Terry Pratchett books . . . I'm always finding new things to read. I love science fiction and almost anything with magic in it.

This weekend I read Debi Gliori's Pure Dead Batty (the US title -- the UK's is Deep Water) and Dinoverse by Scott Ciencin. So I didn't get much knitting done.

We did our weekend chores, plus my husband took a section of our chain-link fence down, so the LP gas company can come and get our empty tank.

Having the fence down means I have to put Ajax and Truffles on the leash and walk them out to the "new" fenced section, instead of just letting them out the door. They don't know quite what to make of this. Usually "leash" means "car ride" or "walk". Instead we are just walking across a section of the yard where they are normally loose, and then I take the leashes off.

When we first fenced our yard, we fenced a smallish section by the house, so we could let Truffles in and out and keep her safe from the road. After we got Ajax, and as he began to grow, this small section started to get pretty beaten up by doggy footprints. So we fenced three more sides, starting from the east-west fence line of the original.

When we fenced the second section, our plan was to remove that middle fence and turn the two squarish parcels into one big rectangle. But we ended up leaving the middle fence, because it made the dogs run more, slowed them down, and kept them from beating paths straight out the door.

This also turned out to be handy when we were doing something in one section, and could leave the dogs shut in the other section. For example, if I try to dig, say to plant or move perennials, the dogs love to come and help me! Having dog paws in my shovel hole is not really "help".

It also defines the yard. I mow all of the "old" fenced section, but I mow paths and certain areas of the "new" section. That gives the dogs a somewhat shaggy, slightly wild place to sniff and explore. And I don't feel obligated to keep it as trimmed up as the part close to the house.


17 November 2006

Two Words

Kid. Cold. Need I say more?

So I finally sanded my knitting rake and knitted a potholder. This item started life as a pair of dishcloths that were ruled "too thick" by the guy who does most of the dishes in this house.

They were also ruled too thick by Michigan humidity and warm summer air. When it's too humid, a thick dishcloth doesn't dry fast enough after being used to keep it from getting "feh".

They still weren't quite thick enough to be potholders, though. I unravelled them and started double knitting this on needles, using Judy Becker's "Magic cast-on for toe-up socks" from Knitty.com. (Do the magic cast-on, then knit from one needle, slip from the other. Slide the stitches back, turn, knit off the second cast-on needle, slip a stitch that was knitted from the first cast-on needle.) Continue in double knitting.

However, I had to start playing with it. (Who, me? mess around with a pattern?) I was trying to do the "knit one, purl one, slip one, slip one" to get the yarns to cross in the middle, because I really like the way that interrupts the variegated colors and keeps them from zig-zagging. And it worked, but my thumb was killing me!

So I got out my knitting rake, (finally) sanded it, and took the potholder off the needles onto the wire brads.
The picture shows about nine inches or so of the sixteen inches of knitting space on my double rake. The wire brads are set back 1/4" from the edge, and on 1/4" centers. I have about eight washers that I use to adjust the spacing in the center.

Although I can easily pick out where I switched from tubular double knitting to "crossing in the middle" double knitting, it's very hard to tell where I slid it off the needles onto the brads. And just to stir up the issue some, I did a row or two of plain double knitting in the middle.

I took it off onto needles at the end and cast off using the tubular or grafted cast-off. So although no one in our kitchen is going to notice, I have a piece of knitting in it with no beginning, and no end.

I was going to start my lecture on whether or not frame knitting counts as "real knitting" or is "cheating". But I'll let this potholder speak for itself.

If you're good, in a while I'll show you lace knitting on a double rake, and exactly how easy that is, and we can argue about whether it's cheating.

PS: The color is Sugar & Cream "Evening Jewels Ombre", also called "Jewels".

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15 November 2006

Rake Knitting on Needles

Although I don't love acrylic, I also don't love putting a scarf around my neck that leaves me prickly and itching. So, *sigh*, this scarf is a poufy thing made out of Red Heart Symphony. Although it fuzzes up instantly and looks like sock lint, it feels super soft.

And since I'm knitting it in the fake rake knitting stitch, it is lofty. Lofty, thick, and super-warm. It's got about a half an inch of air in there. It's like knitting a big blue waffle.

I actually took it off the needles and put it on one of my double rakes for a couple of inches, which was much faster than knitting it on needles. However, my double rake has wire-brad pegs about the thickness of a US size 1 or 0 knitting needle.

When I first started rake-knitting (or frame knitting), I didn't think the peg size mattered much. But at the time I was using string-sized yarns and threads. What I eventually discovered was that if the peg size was too small, the stitch was small, and the "ladder" between the stitches was long.

If I had a scarf board with thicker pegs, I would definitely knit this scarf on it.

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14 November 2006

Lost Art of the Day

Or, "What My Husband Did This Weekend".

This is a 50-gallon bourbon barrel. It has been used (post-bourbon) to brew a batch of beer at one of those "brew your own" establishments, where you show up and they supply the ingredients. Now it is being used to brew a huge batch of the variety of mead called cyser, mead made with apple cider.

This weekend my husband, with the help of friends in his homebrewing club and the local SCA canton, filled it with two five-gallon pails (120 pounds) of honey and forty gallons of no-preservatives-added apple cider. And yeast.

Now it is sitting in our house, fizzing.

This makes me very nervous. I have seen many a carboy foam over in the early stages of fermentation. Proto-mead makes a very sticky mess. This is about 45 gallons of proto-mead. Sitting in my house.

Usually my husband puts the five-gallon glass carboy on a big cookie sheet to catch any foam-over. As you can see, what is sitting under this barrel is -- a towel.

My husband claims that because of the curvature of the barrel, if it does foam over, it will run down the side and drip on the towel.

Boy, I sure hope he's right.


13 November 2006

More Cheerful Knitting Stuff

The Pi shawl is resting. I guess that's what you call it. Resting, dormant, waiting for me to want to knit on it again.

Meanwhile, I knitted a couple-four rows on the fancy knitted cloth, finally, after [cough] several months.

And the blue socks have been resting while I decided if I could stand how the increases looked.

Originally they looked like this (red background). I didn't think I liked how those sudden increases flared the foot of the sock out, and I was waiting to see if time would make me like them any better.

It didn't.

I unravelled them completely back to the cast-on row and re-knitted them, redistributing the increases so they came out as a smooth curve. Now I like them much better, and expect to finish the feet and maybe start turning the heels today.

These are plain old Wool-Ease socks, knitted on alternating US size 2 and 3 needles. If the first needle is a size 2, I pick up a size 3 to knit off with. Size 3 alone was a tad too big, and size 2 a tad too small. Alternating them is, in the immortal words of Goldilocks, "Ju-u-ust right."

I am reminded by my computer that tonight is the West Michigan Lace Group meeting. 7pm, Byron Township Library, 8191 Byron Center Ave., Byron Center, Michigan.

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09 November 2006

I Love Project Gutenberg

And other free sources of old out-of-print patterns.

Even if the patterns are a bear to figure out. You, too, can learn knitting instructions like "narrow", "fagot", and "increase as shown".

Project Gutenberg file 16605 is The Ladies' Work-Book Containing Instructions In Knitting, Crochet, Point-Lace, etc. If you were looking for old instructions for crocheting a miser's purse, look no further than the "Handsome Purse" found here. (Bearing in mind the part about "a bear to figure out".)

How about the On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics?

Lady Katharin L. Hoare's The Art of Tatting and ten monographs on tatting by MML. Riego de la Branchardiere, can be found under "topics", then "Tatting".

The knitting documents were not as yummy, but they do include Natura Exenterata: or Nature Unbowelled, circa 1655. (This is not the whole document, but includes the pages on fingerloop braiding, knitting, and dyeing.)

We had a "family day" Friday. The kid had no school. (Thursday was the end of the marking period.) The husband had the day off for Veterans' Day. We did a lot of driving in lovely November sunshine, did a lot of errands, had a couple of hours at home, and went to a canton meeting in driving, pouring, blowing rain.

I meant to post about Veterans' Day today, but we had some more difficulties with our phone line. (See "driving, pouring, blowing rain".)

My husband has been in the National Guard since 1983. Things have certainly changed in the last twenty-three years. For a lot of those years, if I mentioned that he was in the Guard, I was about 75% likely to hear, "Oh, a weekend warrior, hur hur."

I don't hear that much any more. In parades, when the military units walk by, people clap instead of standing on the sidewalk and talking. On the occasions when we go out as a family when he's in uniform, complete strangers will come up to him in the grocery store and ask to shake his hand. Part of his job involves moving vehicles around the state, and when they stop for breakfast, people have paid for their breakfasts. Once a woman tried to hand him money!

What I hear these days is, "Thank you for what you're doing." They might have no idea exactly what he is doing, but in their minds, he stands in for all the deployed troops. It's touching, and somewhat embarrassing. He says, "I don't know what to say when people come up to me like that."

So I'll say it: You're welcome.


08 November 2006

The Return of "Can't Boil Water" Woman

I can't believe it. I melted the porcelain off the bottom of my tea kettle AGAIN. It's true. People laugh when I say it, but I can't boil water.

No, actually, I can boil the darn water fine, it's the stopping boiling that trips me up!

When my job went bye-bye, and I became a stay-at-home mom, it was not exactly a dream come true. Yes, I did want to stay home with our son, especially since he was a cuddly two-year-old at the time, and work had become increasingly toxic as more people were laid off.

But at the same time, my husband is the domestic one. I married the Perfect Man (at least for me): he cooks, he vacuums, he washes dishes. What can you say about a husband who actually likes to vacuum? (Aside from the obvious, I mean.)

So there I was, at home, in a house he had kept oh-so-tidy, at least to the extent you can in a household containing two dogs and a kid in the "filling and dumping" stage. (What I want to know is, when does the "filling" part kick in? This is five years later!)

And my threshold for "this place needs picking up" is a lot higher (or is that lower?) than his. I tend to pile things, and when they get to the stage where I can't get at the bottom of the pile, eventually I mostly-tidy the pile away. Repeat either ad infinitum, or ad nauseum, depending on whether you're an Oscar or a Felix.

This did not exactly lead to domestic bliss when he was first getting used to being back to work, and I was getting used to being at home all the time.

Anyway, what was my point? I know I had a point laying around here, but I, ah, seem to have lost it at the bottom of a pile somewhere.

Subject U-Turn

A beautiful November day in SW Outer Nowhere. This is one of three combines that were harvesting the soybean field across the road yesterday. Just in front of the right rear tire of this combine is my telephone cable access box! I watched nervously as the operator carefully maneuvered around the electric pole. What a guy! He completely missed the telephone box. Let's hear some applause! And I volunteer him to give lessons in missing the phone box to the guy who mows the side of the road.

It got clear up to 58 degrees F, and I went out and trimmed mulberry sprouts and dead goldenrod stalks around the garden. I had already seen the first combine go into the field, and I heard what I thought was another combine on the road. When I stood up to look, there was a big matching trailer, and two more combines humming down the road. (They sound a lot like street sweepers.)

Friday's forecast is for rain, and Saturday's is for snow, so as long as they have dry weather, they will harvest, harvest, harvest. They got into this field around 5 pm, and at least one combine was still out there in the dark with its headlights on at 8:30 pm.

Knitting Makes My Brain Stretch

Hah! I figured it out.

When I really got into frame knitting, one of my favorite things was plain stockinette on a double rake, which turns out "knitted" on both sides without being a hollow tube. It's thick and lofty and doesn't curl up.

I figured out how to do that on needles. Heh.

It's easy, if you're the kind of nut knitter who doesn't mind K1 P1 rib, or endless single moss stitch: Cast on in multiples of 4. Two stitches will form the front layer. The other two will be the back layer.

Important: the yarn passes between the tips of the needles after every stitch.

K1, P1, slip one with yarn in back, slip one with yarn in front. Repeat until hands fall off.

If you want to do that in the round, take any odd number and multiply by two for your cast on. Then you can just keep knitting your 4-stitch unit around and around, and you will auto-magically shift from inside to outside without needing to do any weird do-si-do at your starting point.

I'm sure this has been done before, but as Elizabeth Zimmermann calls it, I "unvented" it for myself. I worked it out with my own little brain, and I'm all chuffed!

On a double round knitting frame (two concentric circle frames with the same number of pegs), it looks like this.

Okay, Cows of Our Planet was sitting by the chair, and I couldn't resist including it in the picture.

Everyone asks, "What holds those two rings together?"

I always want to answer "Elfin magic," but the truth is more prosaic: Yarn tension.

The hard part at the very beginning is keeping the inner circle from being pulled closer to one side or the other. I use rubber bands on the pegs to get the two frames spaced correctly, then I wrap the frame gently with a non-stretchy piece of dishcloth cotton. After I do my cast-on and the first wrap or two, I pull the cotton yarn out.

If you space the two frames unevenly (technically, the term would be "eccentrically", meaning "not having the same center", but Julie is making me a little nervous about using that word!), you get a knitted tube with shorter stitches on one side and longer stitches on the other, as if you'd knitted one half with bigger needles.

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07 November 2006

Thrifty Goodness

I love thrift stores, but they are as fatal to a stash diet as a specialty chocolate shop to a food diet.

Six balls of DMC Cebelia, size 10, in various pink shades, for 50 cents each. A little blue ball, 25 cents. A whole baggie of vintage tatting thread for 50 cents. Two size 1 (the 2.25mm size 1) dpns for 50 cents. A tube of five US size 3 dpns for 50 cents.

What am I going to do with it? I dunno, that's why it's called "stash".

PS, if you are in the US and haven't already, don't forget to vote!

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Maybe I Think Too Much

But I deny being insane. This is insane. Or this.

What I do love is "complex" and "as small as I can make it".
Knitting with some purple variegated tatting thread on a pair of Havel's 7" doll needles, approximately the size of my 0000 knitting needles. The ruler in the picture, which I dearly love, is a 6-inch steel rule with inches divided into 64ths of an inch.

How do you knit with something that small?

A) I'm nearsighted. Taking my glasses off makes the far-away world go blurry, but up close it's like wearing Mag-Eyes all the time.

B) I knit with my fingernails. Specifically, my left middle fingernail controls the stitches as they leave the left needle. When I snapped this nail short a couple of weeks ago, I had a much harder time knitting with the really fine thread until it grew back out.

C) I really really like "small".


06 November 2006

The demo at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum was fun, but predictably, after four hours alternating between knitting pattern 16 of my "Sampler M" and exploring the museum with a seven-year-old, plus an hour's drive each way, I was wiped out!

Sunday I took it easy and gave my tussah silk scarf its annual wash (just a soak in warm water and a little of my own shampoo) and reblocked it.
I don't have blocking wires, so I just laid it out on a striped bath towel and finger-blocked it to the width of a stripe.

When I knitted this, in order to get matching ends, I knitted from each end and grafted it in the middle. The middle section, where it goes around my neck, is about 18 or 20 inches of plain rib. There is a half-stitch jog on the back where the two ribs join head-to-head, but on the front the join is pretty much invisible.

The lace pattern is "Candlelight", fairly similar to the version found in Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns. This was one of the first finished, usable objects I ever made in lace knitting, so I am pleased that after another year's knitting experience, it still looks good to me.

Pattern 17 from Sampler M was up Saturday morning, but I didn't print it out until yesterday. So that's what I'll be knitting next.

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03 November 2006

Ahhhh, Knitting Weather!

And back to work on Sampler M. This is the start of Pattern 16, with patterns 14 and 15 showing below it.

I am not sure if I want to finish the pattern, or leave myself something to work on tomorrow in Kalamazoo at the Festival of the Arts. (Kalamazoo Valley Museum, 230 N Rose St, Kalamazoo, MI) I could always work on the Pi shawl, as I'm sure I wouldn't finish that even if I knitted for the entire four hours. I have a linen bookmark that stalled ages ago that I can work on if I think about it, but it's probably better if I take something I can work on without thinking about it, since demos usually involve talking to people and getting distracted from the work in hand.

Speaking of distractions, our son will be coming along, since my husband has his November Guard drill the weekend after his October one. By the end of next week he'll have worked three weeks in a row.

Fortunately for our son, the KVM is a children's museum (although my husband and I enjoyed it when we went there during spring break earlier this year), so we will alternate demo-ing with jaunts into the museum, and I think he'll enjoy himself all over again.

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02 November 2006

"She opened the door of the art house!"

The Lakeshore Fiber Arts Guild met last night and made fabric postcards, guided by multimedia artist Kelli Perkins.

Kelli had a wonderful display table of some of her other art, including pillows, jewelry, altered books, and artist trading cards. You can see some of them here.

I really enjoyed looking through the altered books, and handling a cloth book that I thought of as a "cloth book for grown-ups". Beads, buttons, and all kinds of ephemeral treasures were included in these books, lots of textures and visual delights. I wish I'd brought my camera, but you can see a lot of her work at her blogs.

I picked up a lot of ideas for using some of the yarn, tatting threads, and beads that I've accumulated over the years and not known what to do with. Not to mention I gained an excuse for buying beautiful fabric, which I never really had before (because my sewing is pretty rough and unskillful). Uh-oh.

If her name sounds familiar, maybe you have seen it recently in the magazine Cloth Paper Scissors.

One of the things I have always loved about my other group, the West Michigan Lace Group, was that I'd go to a meeting with something to show and tell about that I'd been doing, and I'd see sixty-eleven different things that other members were doing, and go home with my brain fizzing and sparking with new ideas.

The Lakeshore Fiber Arts Guild has been a pretty small group for the last couple of years, but we're making a concerted effort to expand again, and the monthly programs have been part of that effort. And after last night's meeting, wow, did I go home with a head full of ideas.

I really love the cross-pollination that happens when artists in different media get together. For example, Kelli was at our meeting last month when doll artist Jennifer Gould talked about discharge dyeing using bleach pens.

Kelli took this idea, played with discharge dyeing, and used some of her discharged fabric in fabric postcards.

The title of this post comes from the phrase on the fourth postcard down, which I instantly loved. "She opened the door of the art house!"

And I'll bet there was quite the party going on in there!

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01 November 2006

Zip, it's November

As soon as our son was born, time sped up for me. By the end of his first week, he had grown visibly, and I was already nostalgic for him as a newborn. While time goes slowly for kids -- remember how long first grade seemed to last? or the long stretches between holidays? -- it seems to speed up proportionately for the grown-ups around them.

Last night, while trick-or-treating, we saw our dogs' vet and her son, who is about seven months younger than our son. We only had the chance to say, "Oh, hi!" to each other, but wow, how these boys have grown!

It was chilly, in the 40's, but mercifully, there was very little wind. Some of the people had gone all-out, decorating their porches with black lights and fog machines. One lady was passing out candy by the big handful, out of a big orange three-gallon bucket. We coached our son to say, "Trick or treat!" and "Thank you!" and I heard that rarest of all lost arts, the response "You're welcome!"

Our son's costume was his own invention: he had a pair of fairy wings, and he wanted to wear his blue clothes and be an Ice Fairy. We bought a packet of glow-in-the-dark stars at the dollar store, and with these and a bamboo skewer and some tape, I made him a wand. To me, it looked like one of those made-up-at-the-last-minute desperation costumes, but it was all his idea, and he was proud of it. Luckily at age seven a boy can declare "I'm a fairy" and not be instantly teased to death.

This morning he generously gave me a Reese's peanut butter pumpkin. What a nice kid!

The phone guy came yesterday and fixed our connection. He said it looked like mice had been chewing in the cable access box! Plenty of mice at the edge of the soybean field where the access box stands.

I finished the headboard shelf yesterday. Today I want to sand the edges and prime it. When it is finally painted and mounted, the bed will be completely done. It is absolutely rock-steady, and doesn't wiggle or move at all even when my husband climbs on it. I think our total expenditure for 2x4's, 2x6's, plywood, the bolt kit, and paint, is still under $200. Pretty good for a bed that can eventually go to college with him someday.

I haven't mentioned knitting -- because I haven't done any. That's okay: I'm allowed to take breaks even from things I love.

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