Friday, August 19, 2011

Just a Quick One (You Know You're A Knitter When...)

Leonard finished his first sock in fingering weight yarn. He had a lot of challenges to get up to "real" sock knitting.  His view not mine. His first pair of socks were actually felted slippers. He made the Fuzzy Feet from His second pair got stalled out after the first sock was completed. It was a worsted weight pair but the yarn was not a good choice and he wasn't using a pattern and cast on too many stitches so the sock was so big it ended up fitting over a cast. We frogged it.
The reason Len was knitting such big yarn was because he had really bad cataracts and couldn't see. Then he had surgery and suddenly my stash of sock yarn was in immediate danger of being poached. Shelley and I got him some lovely blue/green sock yarn of his own as a present. And now Leonard has a fabulous sock, that fits, and is technically his forth sock. He's still counting them individually... silly man.
The punch line of the joke is, he's over on the couch casting on his second sock and is grumbling and swearing because he's having trouble with the join and I go over to help. As I lean over in my very skimpy nighty to see what's wrong he sits there and counts stitches and examines his joining technique and not once does he do the descent thing and look down my cleavage. He has now graduate to full knitter status!

You know your a knitter when you have a chance at a cheap feel and would rather finish your knitting.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Today is My Birthday

Leonard, me and Ryan at the Seattle Aquarium
 Len has been hassling me to blog, so here it is. We're going to start with a bit of miscellany about what I've been doing the last month or so and then work up to an actual post that may have a point to it.
Since the last time I blogged I have babysat for my Mom. Had Ryan and Jarret for a while. Jarret went home to his Dad's but Ryan stayed. We had a good time. We processed a ton of cherries and ate a ton more. We baked. We painted. Ryan filled an entire sketch book. We did some illustrations for Homeward Pet. If you go into the shelter you can even see one of the "Staff Pick" signs up on the bulletin board.

Knitting at the library
 I went to the library with Leonard while he taught Word classes. I even managed to score a new Nevada Barr hardcover for $2. Between Shelley's Kindle and the library I should run out of things to read sometime next millennium.
As far as knitting goes it's been a low knitting month. I'm almost done with the pink summer socks. I've finished the sock monkey for Teresa and most of the baby sock monkey too. The baby monkey just has arms and a tail yet to go. That's it. I haven't worked on any other knitting.... sigh. I do have some funny things to say about knitting with babies but that's going to be another post.

Steampunk brooch for Ryan. Cold riveted and hand sewn on an old button.
Ryan and I did find something new to bond over. We discovered a similar taste in fashion. Not mine, I have very little fashion sense when it comes to dressing myself, but hers! We went through the fabric I'd been collecting for when she got old enough to dress like everyday is Halloween. I had some fabulous burnt out velvet with skulls and scroll work, and black lace and ribbon. We had a little gothfest and made a dress, a necklace and choker, bracelet, pins and brooches. And I still have fabric left over, I just need to get my sewing machine fixed. Yep, you read that right, the whole project was hand sewn because I'm to lazy to replace a part in my sewing machine. I even have the part, but in my defense I have no idea of how to get it in there and then get it working once the part is in. In the whole fit of sewing enthusiasm I also fixed and re-hand tied an old quilt. It looks so much better with all new yarn ties and no giant holes in it. It was queen sized so you could have lost a whole herd of sheep in there and never found them again.

On my birthday I like to think about all the stuff that has happened in the last year. Most people do this at New Years but I never have the time around the holidays to think of anything but baking. So here's my year in review:

1. Had several months of major health challenges, followed by abdominal surgery. This pretty much took up my year until February.
2. I knit a large and industrious amount of bibs, baby sweaters, and toys.
3. My Mom adopted a newborn baby girl, giving me a new baby sister and someone to foist off all the knitting goodies on.
4. Len adopted a new cat from Homeward Pet.
5. John went and adopted a cat from them the next month.
6. The next day I started as a volunteer. I work cats and reception. They like me enough that they haven't fired me or anything.
7. My iTunes library has expanded to over 10GB.
8. I'm finally getting a divorce, yeah!!

I love knitting. I love life. I love my family. Next year is going to be better. 38 was ok. 39 is going to be lovely. 40 is going to rock on toast. I think I'll do a recap post every year on my birthday.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Busy Week Brings Cherries and Not A Lot of Knitting Time

Len, Ryan and I went to Burbank, Washington to visit Len's folks on Monday and Tuesday. It was fabulous. Len's parents are darling and Bonnie always goes out of her way to make us feel welcome. They didn't even mind us bringing Ryan along at the last minute sticking a quiet gothy teenager on the couch.

Ryan petting baby horse.
Ryan got to see a little slice of farm life. Leonard's dad, Lyle has about a 1000 fruit trees around the house plus a tack barn, a small pasture, a work barn and three horse paddocks. One of the horses was home for Ryan to pet and coo at but she wasn't broken to saddle yet, and the other two were up the road getting breed so we didn't get a chance to go horseback riding this time. We did get to visit the other horses and pet all the new baby horses. Some of the foals and colts we were petting were only a few days old. Ryan had never seen new baby horses up close before. They were sooo cute!

Cherries had just come in while we were there so we spent a couple hours picking some. We came home with two 5-gallon buckets of cherries. One bucket of Rainier and one of Van, Van's are dark and sweet just like Bing.

We also went thrift store shopping and came back with some cool milk glass and another cast iron skillet, like Leonard needs more. One shop had the coolest chandelier. This picture doesn't do it justice.

All in all a fun trip. I wish we could have stayed longer. Once we got home we had to wash and pit and freeze all those cherries. We've actually just been eating some and I gave a couple gallon bags to the volunteers at Homeward Pet. Between the trip and yard work and general business I haven't had much time for knitting. I got one sock done and cast on for the other one. And I started the sock monkeys for Teresa at Country Yarns.
Let sleeping Bosco's lie.
Two year old Tango.
Will try harder to knit more this week.... maybe.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Knitting By Glow Stick - It Can Be Done!

I wish I had brought my camera tonight... not that it would have done a lot of good in the dark but it would have made a fabulous picture.

Here's the story. My fifteen year old daughter, Ryan, got invited to Pump It Up for her friend Shelly's birthday. Pump It Up is basically a big gymnasium with inflatable toys on a grand scale and party rooms for after you bounce, slide, and tumble your way to exhaustion. It's actually a lot of fun. The grow-ups are encouraged to play too and some really smart person even put a drinking fountain in each  room. Ryan beat me on the obstacle course.

One of the things they do to make it even more fun for the teenage crowd is turn off all the lights. They give each kid, and adult, a glow stick necklace to wear and then turn on one lonely overhead black-light. Then the music gets louder and the laser show starts and you can't see much. More to the point, you can't see well enough to knit. This will not do. But I am a clever knitter and if there is a way I will find it.

They'd given me a glow stick too. I broke the seal, shook it up and made it into a necklace. It didn't have a lot of light but when I lay it right over the top of my needles I could just make out the yarn. I was knitting socks. My double points were Knit Picks Harmony size 2, not a light color it turns out. The yarn was better, it had flecks of white in it so some of the black-light glow made it easier to see. First I hung my glow stick over my wrist but that was to far from the tips of the needles for me to see. Then I hung the glow stick of off the needle I was working on. That was better but I dropped a stitch while I was knitting around the glow stick and it was like having and extra needle in the way. I had to go out to the lobby to pick up the dropped stitch. Eventually I landed on a solution. It was elegant and ridiculous, but it worked. I put the glowing necklace in my mouth. I had to lean a little closer to my hands but it put the light just where I needed it. You couldn't actually see the needles, you had to go on faith that they were there. I finished half the foot and started the toe decreases. Ryan's friends and the other parents think I'm crazy.

I am happy I got some sock knitting done.
Yes, the cat really is trying to pick his teeth on my double points.

Ryan actually tells me that her friends like me a bit because I'm nuts and paint and knit and bake. She sometimes feeds them my cupcakes and spent a good part of yesterday experimenting with my acrylics to make Shelly's birthday present. I'm so proud.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Everyday Should Be Knit In Public Day, and Homeless Pets Need Love Too

This is going to be part public service announcement and part random this is what I'm working on now post. Just so you know.

I've started volunteering at Homeward Pet, a no-kill animal shelter here in Woodinville. I love it. I do laundry, answer the phone, feed cats, clean litter boxes and pet more cats. It's just like home! Some day I will graduate to walking dogs. I love kitties. I've always wished I could do more for the ones that don't get adopted. All our pets are rescues. So, now I go in two mornings a week and help out. The staff and other volunteers are very welcoming and friendly, and they do me the enormous honor of eating the cupcakes and cake I bring in after a bout of stress baking. This is a much better thing than having me and my diabetic family eat it all.
Now for the cute cat pictures, here are mine.
Bugaboo stalking the driveway.
Pixel on the cat tree.

Annabelle does not like having her picture taken.
Pixel came from the Humane Society nine years ago and he is still our largest and most cuddly cat.
Bugaboo was part of a litter of five kittens my daughter Ryan rescued from the parking lot of our apartment complex four years ago.
Annabelle and Temperance are both from Homeward Pet.
Bobbie, our ever patient three-legged dog is from PAWS in Lynnwood. He's always happy to have his picture taken with my knitting.
Temperance is only 4 pounds at two years old.
Bobbie under lace wash cloth.... thinks his Mom is nuts.
I also have made good progress on my socks and went to Snohomish and picked up some knitting projects from Country Yarn. Expect Sock Monkey pictures soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Knitting Rules For Chronic Screaming Depression

1. Never knit dark grey socks. This goes for navy blue and white too. Life is just to short to knit boring socks you can buy at Target $6.00 for a package of twelve.

2. Never knit anything grey in the winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder is not just for neurotic middle age women. Why stack the deck? If you live in a cold, rainy, northerly place the absolute last thing you want is a giant pile of more darkness in your lap waiting to become a sweater.

3. Knit bright colors. You don't have to make everything in royal blue or shocking pink but do consider adding a pop of color to your knitting. After knitting a beige cardigan make a few cherry red wash clothes, or lime green cats toys, you'll feel better.

4. Knit something small. Working on a small project can give you a sense of accomplishment when nothing else you're working on seems to be going anywhere. I like interspersing my big projects with baby bibs, booties, dish rags and cat toys, really anything you can pick up and finish in a couple hours is fabulous.

5. Listen to music while you knit. Sing out loud. Some people like background noise, some people don't, I like a bit but not an actual conversation that I have to pay attention to when I'm feeling blue. But I find it impossible to sing and be depressed at the same time. I can listen to Machines of Loving Grace all damn day and still be in a rotten mood but singing off key to the radio perks me right up, and the cats never complain about my lack of singing skill. The extra bonus is you can sing and look at your knitting at the same time.

6. Don't drink and knit. Alcohol is a depressant. This is bad. And when you sober up and see all the mistakes you made on that nice lace scarf you'll feel even worse.

7. Find other knitters. Even if you don't knit in company, even if you have trouble leaving the house, other knitters are a godsend. They will laugh with you, cry with you, and above all understand you when you get teary over a cashmere blend yarn that your dog got ahold of and buried in the yard.

8. Knit for others. Some days it's hard to get motivated to make something for yourself, so make something for someone else. I don't actually use knitted wash clothes, or bibs, and I have plenty of hats. I do have a growing pool of folks to foist off my quick pick-me-up projects.

Pixel under the Icelandic Lace Shawl
9. Knit something gorgeous just for you. Sometimes I don't like my body very much. Some days I don't feel like I'm worthy of having a really nice thing made with really luscious yarn. I'll spend money getting that perfect yarn for the kid's christmas presents but not me. Do it anyway! Knit yourself an alpaca lace shawl or a silk/merino cardigan. If you're a petite then knit a whole bathrobe. If you're on the plushy side then accept who you are and go buy more yarn. Just working with the super soft yarn will make you happier.

10. Life is to short to knit with yarn you hate. Don't do it. If you hate the color, the texture, or if it's just hard to work with, then don't do it. Sometimes you have to fight your knitting, don't fight your yarn too. I don't care if it was a gift, if your five year old picked it out specially because it's their absolute favorite color and they will die with out it, or the wool fumes at your local yarn shop got to you and you bought it on sale, take your crap yarn and give it to Goodwill. Some one there will love it and it will take up less space in your house.

Bobbie thinks his Mom is nuts for putting knitting on him to take pictures.

 Seriously though, depression sucks, and I joke and make light of it because that's how I deal with uncomfortable subjects. And this isn't just about knitting, and this isn't just about dealing with depression. Humor is a weapon I use every day to fight depression. I also knit. Making things makes me feel better. So go out there and knit, and feel better. Maybe life will surprise you with cashmere.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Happy Woman Buried Under Sock Yarn

I have an enormous amount of sock yarn. It's slowly taking over the rest of my stash. But I had no idea how much really until I decided to catalogue it all on Ravelry. I just took 105 pictures of sock yarn to put on my stash. Now this does not mean that I only have 105 skeins of sock yarn, nor does this mean that I don't make socks out of yarns that are in another yarn weight. This does mean that I just took 105 pictures of just the sock weight yarn in my stash that I can find, and is not being used on another project, sorted by brand and color.

And you know what? I don't have enough. I only have three skeins of Socks That Rock, and one skein of Socks That Rock Silkie. That can't possibly be enough to work such a fabulous yarn. I know me. I've done four pairs of Opal socks and still haven't gotten Opal out of my system. Colinette's Jitterbug is very nice, and Fly Dyed Monarch works up with a similarly lovely hand but it's not the same. I've gone over to knitting some Cherry Tree Hill Supersock and Shibui to ease the pain of not having enough Socks That Rock but I still want more. It's like chocolate, more is better.

My housemates have said that that is quite enough and that I don't really need more sock yarn. It'll take me hours to put it all up on Ravelry and if I buy more it'll take even longer. John says I can buy more when I've knit up 105 pairs of socks. I very carefully explained to him that some sock patterns actually require more than one color of yarn, in the case of fair isle, and that some knee high socks actually use several skeins of yarn. And would he really want me to suffer from not having soothing cotton/bamboo ankle socks in summer, and warm merino superwash fair isle thigh highs in winter? Of course not. I even use my sock weight yarn to make other things, gloves, mittens, baby clothes. I even keep all the little balls of leftover yarn for turning into an afghan later.

Leonard says that I can have all the sock yarn I want provided that he gets to pinch as much from my stash as he can get his grubby little sock knitting hands on. He is eyeing my Zauberball Crazy. It may have been an error to teach him how to knit socks.

Just because my sock yarn now takes up an 18" x 18" x 3' bin plus 2 really large baskets does not mean I have to much yarn. My other yarn takes up 7 more bins plus a basket, several sweater bags, a couple boxes and thats not counting the roving. I have not yet reached the critical mass of more yarn than I can knit in my lifetime. I divided up the sock yarn into projects and at my current rate of sock knitting, about a sock a month or so, it should only take me 4 1/2 years. I'm only 38, that's plenty of time.

In fact, it may even be time to get more sock yarn...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The First Day of June Has Arrived With Rain

I know, rain in Seattle, who knew?

This week seems to be all about finishing. Today I have to finish Leonard's bunny, finish the laundry I started yesterday, and finish cleaning the kitchen. This week I have to finish cleaning out the garage, so I can get to my painting things, so I can finish the two paintings I have on commission and the nine or so I've already started but never finished before the last garage clean. This is what I get for putting my studio in the garage. If I had the space I would move it in to a room that has heat. At least I'm making progress. My garage has a lot more floor than it did last week and I've vacuumed it at every step so it's a clean floor too. I've even found my old dear friend the dining room table. Handy for all kinds of crafty projects!
And if you think this picture is a big ol' mess you should have seen it before. I hate when things get disorganized, it makes me grind my teeth.

On to more knitting topics, much more fun. I've started to preliminary drawing for Teto, the fox-squirrel from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. I have the yarn all ready to pick colors. I'll be using Lamb's Pride for the main body and then some Crystal Palace Whisper in cream for the fur ruff around the neck. This should make the neck ruff super soft and fluffy.

Oh, and one more Bootie pic! I just can't seem to get enough making booties. I'm averaging a pair a week. My Mom was talking about hanging them from the mobile. Yeah, a bootie-go-round. That just sounds so wrong.

Friday, May 27, 2011

10 Things To Do With Booties When The Baby Goes And Gets To Big

I love making baby booties. It's usually pretty easy, pretty fast and fairly inexpensive. You can try out new yarns, and new color combinations. It's alot more interesting than making a swatch if you need to see what gauge your getting on the new silk/cashmere/merino blend you just paid a small fortune for. Baby booties are also small, so, like socks, you can take them anywhere to knit while waiting for a beer in your local pub. Sometimes your waiter will even ask to see a picture of the cute little darling you're knitting them for.

But babies themselves have a near fatal flaw when it comes to knitting booties. The little suckers go and grow up before you're done knitting for them. I can maybe forgive this for a sweater, you can always give it to some other baby. You could even donate it to a daycare if you don't have another baby handy, but booties are so small and precious, it's almost an insult to have them grow out of them in the week it takes me to make a pair. OK, so it only takes a couple days but it may be two weeks before I see the intended baby. So to ease my troubled heart I've come up with some things you can do with baby booties once the baby gets to big.

1. Christmas Ornaments - I've had a pair of fluffy white booties my Great Grandmother made for me when I was a wee lass on the tree every year for the last 37 years. If you want to seperate them you can even keep one for your tre and send one off with the kid once they move out of the house.

2. Egg Cozy - A 6-9 month size bootie is just about the right size to cuddle a hard boiled egg. Ask me how I know? Those eggs are really hot when they've just come off the boil.

3. Doll Clothes - If the afore mentioned child does not have a suitable sized doll you can get them a teddy bear. If you're desperate you can even knit them a doll just to go with the booties.

4. Swatch Substitute - As mentioned, it's a slightly more entertaining way to get gauge and it's small enough to keep with the yarn for future reference.

5. Cat Toys - Stuff them with a bit of fiberfill and some catnip and your cats will love you forever.

6. Dog Toys - Felt them, if you can, stuff them and then sew them on to a long stuffed tube to make a many footed caterpillar to play tug-o-war with your dog. My dog Bobbie loves tug-o-war and if he does have a special toy for it you can kiss your good socks good bye.

7. Paw Protectors - This isn't as silly an idea as you might think. Dogs feet can get really cold and in some parts of the county in winter can actually freeze to the sidewalk. Booties with drawstings are really your best bet for this, and felted booties don't work as well either because dogs need their toenails to stick out for traction.

8. Shot Glass Cozy - Ok, now that is silly but they make cozies for every other cup known to man so why not?

9. Satchets - I like mine stuffed with lavender for the linens and cinnamon sticks for my clothes. Draw string booties work best for this one too.

10. Charity - Probably the most important thing you can do is give back to your community. Childrens' Hospitals, homeless shelters, womens shelters, church rummage sales, even pet shelters are great places to give a little gift. What homeless cat wouldn't love a catnip stuffed cashmere/merino bootie?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

LYS Review: Country Yarns in Snohomish Washington

One fine Saturday I was looking for a very specific yarn. My favorite local yarn shop had just closed a few months ago and I needed some Black Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted to start a new project. Lamb's pride is one of my favorite "work horse" yarns for felting and making stuffed animals. It's soft has lovely stitch definition when not felted and is rugged enough to take the abuse toddlers dish out to there favorite toys. It even gets a lovely fuzzy halo. And the shop I always got it at was gone!

So I went to Black Sheep's website and looked up who in Washington carries their products. I knew that the two shops closest to my home, Main Street Yarn in Mill Creek and Serial Knitters in Kirkland carry Lamb's Pride but only in Bulky. I did not want Bulky, I wanted worsted. So I called a couple of shops on the list from Black Sheep. One shop was closed and one shop only had three colors. Three colors? What's the use in that? The other shops on the list were to far away or in Seattle proper, I dislike Seattle traffic, save one precious gem of hope, Country Yarns in Snohomish. I live in Woodinville, thats just up Highway 9. Victory was within my grasp.

I called the shop at the first reasonable opening time, 10 am. Who am I kidding, waking up before noon on the weekend is challenging for my house. I spoke with Teresa, the owner and found that she did indeed have the yarn I sought, she also had the color cards and was placing an order so if she didn't have the colors I wanted she could just order them in for me. At that point I nearly teared up and did a little happy dance at my computer. Now all I needed was a conscious roommate with a car.

After a some caffeine we pulled into the parking lot a little before 1:00. (See, not fast movers on a weekend.) We were greeted by a very perky Teresa who immediately made us feel at home. She even made us tea.

My roommate Shelley has some mobility issues. The shop was perfect for her. Nice open floor plan. Everything was in easy reach. No stairs. The shop has a really big table in the middle of the main room so we could sit down with our tea and look through the color cards and books at our own pace. The back room is full of roving and Shelley had to limit the time she spent in there, not because she couldn't move around but because she spins and the wool fumes were making her want to buy everything in site. She did pick up a beautiful 4oz of wool/silk hand dyed roving and an alpaca fleece. The alpacas name was Geraldine, I think. She lives on Sauk Island.

That was one of the things that I most liked about Country Yarns, they make a serious effort to support the local community. They had yarn from spinners in Snohomish and Monroe, dyers in Snohomish, and fleeces from Montana. One of the spinners even uses wool from her own sheep. While we were there knitters kept coming in to the shop and sitting at the big table. They would get out projects and share stories. When I ask Teresa if we were interrupting a knitting circle or class or something she said "no, this is just what happens." It was fantastic. I got to talk with the other knitters and shop the sock yarn and drink tea and ask questions of the class on spinning that actually was a class in the back room. We had a great time.

So, on to the nuts and bolts. Country Yarns is located at 119 Avenue B, Snohomish, WA 98290. It's a one story brick building with on street parking and a parking lot just to the south. The shop is in the front. Their phone number is 360.568.7611. She is getting her new website back up and running but I don't know what it is yet. She's open M-W,F&Sat 10-6, Th 12-8, Closed Sunday. She carries a variety of yarns with an emphasis on local fiber artists and different textures. You may not find a huge selection of novelty yarns or big name yarn companies but you will find a good mix of yarns for every purpose. She carries cotton, kids yarn, sock yarn, natural fibers, wool blended with silk, cashmere, or alpaca. The floor plan is very open so on first blush you might not think she has a lot of variety, or stock for that matter, but take a second look, and then a third, there's a lot of yarn in that shop.

Shelley and I did end up ordering some Lamb's Pride. Shelley's making a large I-cord table cover and matching rug and I wanted to order some of the colors I hadn't seen before just to have them in my palate. I also got three balls of sock yarn and sense my bin and my giant basket of sock yarn are already overflowing I had to get a new basket to keep it in. I wouldn't want my Zauberball or Schoppel Wolle to get lonely while waiting for me to knit them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Totoro Invades Family Gathering

The Totoro I made for Ryan was extremely popular on Sunday when my Mom came over for her birthday. She brought my sisters, Quinn and Keelin.

Quinn is five and fairly large for her age. She loved carrying Totoro around and using him as a pillow on the couch while she watched Pokeman.

Keelin is only three months old and didn't know what to make of Totoro. He's bigger than her and her car seat combined.
Jarret, my son, kept trying to steal the big guy from either Ryan or Quinn, who ever had him last. And, no, Jarret is not trying to eat Totoro's ear. He's kissing him. Twelve year olds automatically look goofy when kissing stuffies.

The kids had a good time playing with him and running around. It's always so cool to make something for the kids that they actually like!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Time Managements Leeds to Managing Time

So I was reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's blog yesterday after five hours of killing plants in my yard and it got me thinking. OK, mostly I was thinking, gosh my back hurts, and when did the bypass lopper get to be so heavy, but she was talking about how she juggles her crazy life and how family and knitting is more important than housework. And I thought, "Wow, I would much rather be spending time with my family and a good sock pattern than pruning the damn bushes." And then I thought, "How do I really spend my time?" I'd never really thought about it from that direction before. How are my days and hours divided up? Do I really spend that much time doing laundry? So I sat down and really thought about it. It was like Poo Bear in Winnie the Poo going "think, think, think."

Here's how my life stacks up. I work from home, or rather am unemployed and spend most of my time at home as my car died and I have no money to get a new one but that is beside the point, it takes work to make my house function. I live with three other adults, who all work outside the home, a dog, three cats, and one or two children who come for weekends, school breaks and holidays. I live in the downstairs of a 3300 square foot house on one and a half half of the house, the bit I have to clean and maintain, is about 1600 square feet. The property is mostly lawn and flower beds that have been deeply neglected. We, as a group, rent the house but it's my job to try and bring the yarn back from the dead. I'm also the person in the house most likely to shriek in outrage if the house gets to messy, or dirty, or cluttered, and I don't work so guess who does the bulk of the housework. Go on, guess. I also do all the laundry for me, the two boys and the kids and all the linens. The kids aren't here all the time so at least I don't have to wash six sets of sheets every week.
Oh, and sometimes I cook, and when I'm really stressed I bake. A bad stress day could see five dozen cupcakes, four batches of cookies, banana bread and two dozen ham and cheese rolls. I don't make small food.

My life divides itself into days pretty nicely. One day a week is spent on the yard, usually a Thursday. Thursday is the only day we've had good whether the last few weeks. Yesterday I pruned the trees and bushes back so they would stop hitting me in the face when I mow. I got about half the pruning done. I took down two trees that had died over the winter. The big Weeping Willow that came down is going to have to wait until I can get a chain saw. My landlord finally got the greenhouse fixed but I had to clean up the tools the workman had pulled out of it to work. And I mowed the lawn, that takes about an hour and a half on a riding mower, two hours if I'm being thorough and mow around the barn. I love John Deer.

One day a week is just housework. This may get spread over a couple days if it's a holiday or something but my house is never so messy it can't all be done in one day. I'm really screamingly organized so mostly all you have to do is clean the floors and dust and put things away. Laundry always takes the longest. Sometimes I get twitchy and reorganize my roommates things/rooms because it's to messy for me to tolerate, er, I mean... clean up around. This process usually involves moving furniture and several garbage bags.

One day a week is family. My housemates are family too, so even if the kids are elsewhere we still do stuff together. This usually involves food. Some one has to eat my stress baking.

One day is errand day. Leonard is nearly blind and is getting ready to have cataracts removed, so I drive. John and Shelley sometimes need a nudge out the door for doctors appointments, so I drive.

One day a week is knitting. If I'm not just knitting I'm writing patterns or drawing up designs or doing research. I don't count playing on Ravelry as part of my knitting time. And I knit every single day, so my knitting time is spread out a bit, but I try to set aside a "Knitting Day" once a week. This doesn't always work, but I try.

What do I do with my other two days? I read a bit. I run more errands with my roommates. I do special projects around the house. Now I'm going to clean out the garage so I can get back to all my painting stuff. And one day a week I hope to spend volunteering at my local animal shelter. Wish me luck.
Maybe I'll add another knitting day...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I Should Listen To My Mother

Over the years my Mom has given me some very valuable advise, which I have promptly forgotten or ignored, and taught me some fabulous life lessons, sometimes on accident. I love my Mom, and in honor of Mother's Day, and as an apology for having to raise me, I dedicate this post to her. Gods help us all.

Things my Mom taught me:

1. Be kind to your younger cousins, because they are bigger than you and there are a lot more of them than you and some day hiding behind the barn won't work.

2. When your Mom says "Are you sure you want to marry that guy?" for the tenth time you should start listening.

3. Cleaning relieves stress. A spotless house is not always a sign of domestic tranquility.

4. No art on the walls is just wrong. It means they haven't unpacked yet or are mentally disturbed.

5. Hand made quilts are better than any other kind of bedding. Even when they're ugly they are made with love, and we love the ladies that made them, every single one.

6. Finish what you start. Even knitting projects that went terribly terribly wrong some where.

7. Home cooking is fulfilling and cost effective. Making tons of food makes you happy and even if you don't eat it you can fill your freezer with leftovers and never buy a TV dinner again.

8. You don't always have to organize all your books and music and movies alphabetically but if you're that OCD and it makes you feel better then go on ahead and do it.... (It does make me feel better so thank you.)

So here's to Mom and my sisters, and my daughter,and the Grandmas who aren't with us any more. I wish they could all be here to share a cuppa and some coffee cake.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Great Sock Finishing Begins Now

So, I'm working on some Felted Fuzzy Feet for John, and a pair of ankle socks for my self and thinking really deep thoughts when the most amazing thing occurred to me. I've just finishedthe first sock on both of them. How cool is that?

Yes, that is what my coffee table usually looks like. I like to take pictures of the big sock before felting with a regular size sock just for the "wow, that thing is Huge" factor. Off to the right is Leonard's new technicolor bunny. He knits up the pieces at work and then brings me the bits home to sew together. His co-workers are darling and always asking what he's making now.

I also love reading articles about how other artists work, how knit designers arrange their studios and where people get their inspirations from. Once long ago I posted pictures of my stash. It's a little peek at how I think and how I like to organize my yarn. My stash is now 4 times as big and lives in it's own room. Here's a look at my current work station.
I love to surround myself with bright colors. Kaffe Fasset is my hero when it comes to studio workspace. Man never met a color he didn't like. When I grow up I want to have a studio just like his.

I wish I has something more profound to share but now I need to go and rearrange Leonard's room and get furniture ready for Goodwill to come pick it up, and let the cat in, and get a Half-Price Book run ready and..... Knit.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Totoro Pictures

... because the daft program refused to upload the pattern with the pictures included.

John and Len love Totoro.... and so does the cat.
Here are some detail shots that I included in the pattern but that Word and/or Blogger punted.

Totoro for the Masses

King of the Forest Pattern


The Really Big Totoro

Designed by Robin Zillman Jacobson

    Here is the exact pattern I used to knit this giant sized Totoro for my daughter. One of the things that most bothers me about many of the knitting patterns in magazines is a lack of consistency. If you follow the pattern to the letter and knit every stitch as written then you should get something that looks just like the picture, right? I took notes the whole time I was knitting this and I can promise that if you can get gauge, and use the same yarn, you'll get a big fluffy Totoro just like in the picture.

Skill Level: Medium

Size: Large

Finished Height: 22"

Finished Width: 25"


3 skeins of Homespun from Lion Brand (98% Acrylic, 2% Polyester; 185 yds/169 m) in color 312 Edwardian, and 1 skein of Homespun from Lion Brand in color 300 Hepple White (5)

Small amount of smooth black yarn for embroidering eyes and nose. (I used Lamb's Pride Worsted in Black)

Size 8 (5.0 mm) 24" circular needle, or size to obtain gauge.

Size 8 (5.0 mm) set of double point needles.

4 stitch markers.

Tapestry Needle

3 - 20oz bags of Fiberfill.

Gauge: 16 ½ sts and 24 rows = 4" in St st.

Note: The yarn Ryan, my daughter, chose is a fluffy, very soft, boucle' yarn in a bulky weight. It is knitted at a very firm gauge so the stuffing doesn't poke out, but this yarn is a little difficult to work. It splits like mad and has no give at all. For an easier to knit version I would try Lamb's Pride Bulky by Brown Sheep.



CO 20 sts on circular needle. The bottom is worked back and forth in Stockinette Stitch.

Row 1 (WS): Purl

Row 2 (RS): K1, M1, Knit to last stitch, M1, K1.

Repeat last 2 rows until you have 48 sts.

Work in St st 14 rows ending on a WS row.


Turn to right side.

K 48, PM (this marker will become to beginning of the round, Marker 1), Pick up and knit 14 sts along strait edge and then pick up and knit 28 sts along edge of increase rows, PM, Pick up and knit 20sts, PM, Pick up and knit 28 sts along edge of increase rows and 14 sts along strait edge, PM. (152 sts)

Knit for 13".


Round 1: SSK, K to 2 sts before 2nd marker, K2tog, slip marker, K to 3rd marker, slip marker, SSK, K to 2 sts before 4th M, K2tog, slip marker, k to end of round.

Round 2: Knit all sts slipping markers as you come to them.

Repeat these 2 rounds until 24 sts remain between 1st and 2nd marker. (116 sts)

Nose decreases, to be worked at the same time as head shaping. After the 4th marker, K 22 sts, K2tog, SSK, K 22. (110 sts)

Decrease 2 sts every round 12 times, until 20 sts remain between Marker 4 and Marker 1.

Switch to double point needles when necessary.

Continue rounds 1 and 2 until only 2 sts remain between markers 1 and 2. (44 sts)

Place 22 sts on each of 2 double points. Stuff the body, you'll need a lot of stuffing at this point. Kitchener stitch the head closed. Weave in ends.



CO 16 sts. Divide sts 4 per needle. Join in the round.

Knit 4 rounds.

*K1, M1, K6, M1,K1*, repeat. (20 sts)

Knit 1 round.

*K1, M1, K8, M1, K1*, repeat. (24 sts)

Knit 3 rounds.

*SSK, K8, K2tog*, repeat.

Knit 3 rounds.

*SSK, K6, K2tog*, repeat.

Knit 3 rounds.

Continue decreasing in pattern until 4 sts remains. Using a tapestry needle, thread through sts, BO.

Sew ears to top of head over the points left by Kitchener stitching the head.

Hint: This yarn is a right screaming pain in the arse to sew with. You might try using a smooth yarn in a similar color for sewing the arms and ears in place.


CO 32 sts. Divide sts evenly on to 4 double points. Join in the round.

Knit for 6".

Decrease rounds.

Round 1: *K1, SSK, knit to last 3 sts on next needle, K2tog, K1.* Repeat.

Round 2: Knit.

Repeat these 2 rounds 3 times. (20 sts)

Then repeat only round 1, 3 times. (8 sts)

BO by passing tail through all sts. Weave in end.

Stuff lightly and sew in place on body, about an inch below where the decreases start for the head. Exact placement is less important than making sure both arms are at the same height.


In white, CO 20 sts on circular needle. The tummy and eyes are worked back and forth in Stockinette Stitch.

Row 1: Purl

Row 2: K1, M1, K to last st, M1, K1.

Repeat these 2 rows 5 times. (30 sts)

Row 1 & 3: Purl

Row 2: Knit

Row 4: K1, M1, K to last st, M1, K1.

Repeat these 4 rows 5 times. (40 sts)

Knit 10 rows.

Row 1: K1, SSK, knit to last 3 sts on next needle, K2tog, K1.

Row 2 & 4: Purl.

Row 3: Knit

Repeat decrease rows until 30 sts remain. Then repeat only rows 1 and 2 until 20 sts remain.

Next row: P1, P2tog, P to last 3 sts, P2tog, P1.

Repeat Row 1. (16 sts)


Sew tummy to front of body placing the bottom edge 1" above the base of the body.

Using dark grey, duplicate stitch the chevrons at the top of the tummy piece. Work 3 chevrons in the top row and 4 chevrons in the next row.

Note: Sounds simple enough to do right? Not so my friend. The stitches are hard to see and the yarn does not lend itself to embroidery at all. What I did was draw on my chevrons freehand with a water soluble marker in a light orange color. I had to wash off the chevrons a couple of times before I had the proportions I wanted and then I went about doing the duplicate stitch. The edges ended up a bit jagged and it didn't come out a smooth a texture as I would have liked but I'm happier with the look of it than I would have been if I'd tried to use a different yarn. You might try a satin stitch to fill in the outlines of the chevrons instead. I would have but my satin stitch is even worse looking than my duplicate stitch.



Note: I knitted the eyes and they came out a little thick and look a bit like Gir from Invader Zim. This may also be due to a lack of skill at embroidering on the pupils.

You may consider cutting out a piece of felt in white for the eyes or embroidering them on using satin stitch. Here is the knitted version.

CO 4 sts.

Row 1: Purl

Row 2: K1, M1, K2, M1, K1. (6 sts)

Row 3: Purl

Row 4: K

Row 5: P

Row 6: K

Row 7: P

Row 8: K1, SSK, K2tog, K1

Row 9: P1, P2tog, P1

BO last 3 sts.

The eyes form a very slight tear drop shape, sew them on point side down on either side, and slightly below the point of the nose.

Using a small amount of black yarn embroider pupils in center of the eye.


Totoro's nose is more of a sidewise oval than a typical cat nose. Using black yarn satin stitch a 1 ½" wide by ¾" high oval across the tip of the nose.

Embroider a small circle for the mouth between the nose and the top of the tummy.

Have every member of your household pose for pictures with the big cool stuffy, including your cat. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter! A Time For Food, Fun, Dying and Chocolate

Have you ever wondered what to do with the left over colored goop after you're done dying Easter eggs? Wonder no more. I present to you Easter Egg Sock Yarn.

I took some lovely Knit Picks Bare and stuck it in the dye cups with out pre soaking to prevent the color from creeping. I let it soak for about an hour until all of the color had been absorbed in the dye bath.
Then stuck it in the microwave for about 7 minutes to heat set it. Rinsed, dried, and look what I got.
These are going to make some awesome socks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again!

So.... after many years of not blogging, and signing up for Ravelry and then not using it, I'm going to try blogging once again. I find that I do indeed have something interesting to say and perhaps some useful information to impart. The cool cat pictures are a bonus. I can't promise to post regularly but here's a look at whatI'm doing right now.

Socks. I always have at least 2 sock projects going, one for at homeand one for in my purse.

Last summerI taught my partner Leonard how to knit on a cruise in Alaska and I was so proudof him. He took to it like a fish to water. He had 2 hats done by the time we got home. His current knitting obsession is knitted toys. Here's the kitty from Nicky Epsteins Knitting: Block By Block and the bunny from Susan B Anderson's Itty Bitty Toys. Right now he's working on a second bunny in rainbow stripes.

Easter! Or as Leonard calls it "Zombie Apocalypse Day." Isn't the bunny cute?

I'm also making my daughter Ryan a Giant Totoro. I'll post pictures and the pattern tomorrow or the next day. And then link it to Ravelry. They have a group just for folks like me who love Studio Ghibli.