Monday, January 30, 2012

Making good on my threat

It's a quiet night here. Angus is snoring melodically on the couch and the Fool and Jamie are back from a weekend in Minnesota. I got to stay here. All by myself in the house. With all my various projects and not too many commitments, and some friends who came by to visit.
It was awesome.
I spent a lot of time in sweatpants, didn't do very much by way of household chores and futzed around with fabric and yarn and movies on DVD from the library.
Totally awesome. I haven't done that since before Jamie was born.
Anyway, I did reknit the neck on the Fool's sweater and blocked it and wove in the ends just in time for him to wear it on his trip. He complained a little bit, though.

FOOL: This sweater is still damp. I can't wear it.
ME: Yes, you can. It will dry from your body heat.
FOOL: It is making my shirt wet.
ME: It's not that bad. It's more Irish that way. You can pretend you were out walking around in the misty Galway night on the way home from a session.
FOOL: Mrrf.

To my relief, Blackwater Abbey still stretches vertically quite a bit, and the sleeves were much looser once we got the thing wet. The color is supposed to be a wine red, but I plead dark hallway at night.
Now I'm on to a vest I put in time out for no good reason at all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Defying logic in knitting

I'm resurrecting an old project tonight. It's a cabled sweater from "A Fine Fleece," that I started for the Fool in Blackwater Abbey. I think it might have been a Knitting Olympics project, which should give you some idea of the timeline. When were the last Olympics?
Anyway, I knit the whole dang thing, all the way to the neckband, when I decided it didn't have much resemblance to the actual shape of the Fool, so I stuffed it in a bag to ... uh ... magically change shape as time passed. I keep telling myself Blackwater Abbey stretches out when it gets wet and I can block this thing into shape, but I still thought I'd hide from it for a year or so.
The Fool is grumbling, though, because his Starmore is wearing out at the cuffs (because he puts it on in November and doesn't take it off until spring and has been doing this for years) and so tonight, here we go, we'll see how it goes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Not dead yet!

Where’d the summer go? Or the fall, to be more exact. The leaves are still on the lawn (we’re calling it mulch) and there is no snow yet, to Jamie’s disappointment. We’ve had flurries, but I haven’t pointed them out to him. Also, I haven’t found him winter boots yet.

That’s a delicate line to dance with a 3-year-old, whose sense of time is still so fluid that Christmas might be tomorrow, despite the Advent calendar to help him keep track. If I buy boots now, he will expect snow soon. If I don’t buy boots now and wait, then he’ll be stomping around in too-big Hello Kitty boots that I paid an arm and a leg for because that's all they had left. be all gone by the first snow.

Ditto for a sled.

Anyway, Halloween blew by, but I did my best to prolong it because I love Halloween. Jamie was a bat and flapped around the house a lot and did very well at his first trick-or-treating outing where he did all the work. He chose houses based mostly on the quality and quantity of their Halloween decorations, and although he seems to have a thing for Tootsie Rolls (really, kid? Who likes those?), he was satisfied with the haul. My favorite part was when he got excited and ran up to two big kids and said “trick or treat!”

Thanksgiving, we had another family over for a nice, low-key holiday. They have a kid about Jamie’s age, and the two of them ran off to play for long enough that we all sat at the table, sipping our wine and sighing happily that we could each speak whole sentences without interruption. Plus! Plus! I divvied up the leftovers right after dinner, and both houses got enough leftover turkey to make our favorite dishes … but not so much that you start looking on the Internet and make a turkey-gravy layer cake with sweet potato frosting and think that’s a good solution.

So now we are heading for Christmas, full tilt. The knitting will continue until morale improves.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Been knitting

Usually I'm not so single-minded; I tend to flit about from project to project, but this just seized me. I got the pattern (Wing of The Moth by Anne Hanson) and the yarn (Miss Babs laceweight, I can't remember the colorway) at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Festival in late June and I was really excited about it. So I started telling myself I would cast on as soon as I wrapped up some other loose projects … and then I said to myself, Self, this is stupid. If you're excited about knitting a lace shawl, then knit a lace shawl.
Couple weeks later, on vacation with the Fool and Jamie, I cast on and knit like a madwoman for about a month. I had a couple setbacks. On the way home from vacation, driving from Pittsburgh to Chicago, the middle of the center pull ball leapt out and created a string of smaller balls of yarn all making an awful mess, so I rewound it by hand. it took me from Pittsburgh to Ohio and I was mad for most of that. (Note to self: Wind laceweight by hand, moron, not on the ballwinder. How often does this happen? Every time I knit with laceweight, that's how often.)
Then, about a week ago, I was knitting with a friend at the cafe, an indoor playground/ coffeehouse run by a local church. I like to take Jamie there when he's getting in my hair, because sometimes he gets out of my hair long enough for me to think or knit or enjoy not being touched.
But this was not the case, and I screwed up the lace pattern, and my friend looked at it and said "I can't see a thing; I don't know what you're talking about, you made a mistake."
I was already a row and a half past it and fast approaching the end of my patience anyway, and I knit on … only to discover 11 rows later that the mistake turned out to be significant in terms of ruining my life later.
(Note to self: Like it said in that blog post you read recently, tackle stuff when it comes up, rather than putting it on a to-do list to stress you out later.)
I should have tinked when it was a row and a half out and not when it took me two days.
I tinked, I reknit, I cast it off.

Thousands of square feet in the house, and which one does Romeo want? The one with my folded shawl in it.

I blocked it.

Jamie assists with blocking.

And here it is drying.

We rounded everyone up and took them to the vet last week. That was a rodeo. Mab bent space and time to slip between dimensions, as usual, and it took us forever to find her in the laundry room. Angus and Romeo put up a fight, and sweet dumb Spoot had no idea what was going on. It turns out that Mab, who has always been a little overweight, is fine, but the two pounds extra weight-in-cat has gone to Angus. He's on a diet now, if by "diet," I mean I no longer get up and give him some food when he bites me a lot at 5 a.m.
For Angus' part, the biting will continue until meal service improves.

Regardless, I blocked the shawl and sent the Fool out to cavort artistically with it.

I'm already thinking about the other laceweight in my stash and wondering what I should knit next.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Some free advice

Today, I was having a lousy day. So Jamie and I decided to go out to lunch - have ourselves a little treat. We picked a Chinese restaurant that recently opened up; soy sauce and ginger and garlic and green onion often cheer me up. Here's what I was reminded of:
1. Don't trust a Chinese restaurant that doesn't put chopsticks on the table.
2. Don't trust a Chinese restaurant with really good decor.
I left grumpier than when I arrived and had to get an iced coffee and a chocolate chip cookie to even start to turn things around.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bread baking in Indiana

Another summer weekend, another adventure.

You may remember Eric, from the Cosmic Otters. He’s our accordion player and he and his wife are good friends of ours. Now, they have a third member of the household.

Jamming in the bakery while the bread rises, which is why he is wearing a hairnet.

Wee L. arrived about two months ago, and as Eric and Katie make their living baking and selling bread at their farmers’ market, we thought we’d go down to help with the baking on Friday and selling on Saturday (and, to be honest, to see the baby.)

This is from earlier this spring; for some reason, I didn't take pictures when I was at the market last time.

The Fool and I are pretty respectable home bakers who bust out a couple loaves whenever we need bread. We have a nice sedate gas oven with a temperature dial and a thermostat. We have air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. We have a refrigerator if the dough starts to get really crazy and we need to slow it down, because we can always find space for a mixing bowl in there, even if we have to stack a few things.

Eric is a baker in a whole different universe. He makes beautiful sourdough hearth loaves, 50, 60, 70 at a time, bakes them in a wood-fired oven, and does the whole thing in a small kitchen with no air conditioning. (And his pretzels. Oy. The Fool could happily live on these soft pretzels. Eric jokes about starting him a tab whenever we visit.)

Usually, he manages just fine, but this last time was rough. The oven wasn’t at an appropriate baking temperature, and all he could do was wait for the temperature to coast down. The weather was hot and humid, and so the dough was rising fast – too fast. The oven temperature, like a train on an oncoming track in one of those story problems in fifth grade math, was going to intersect with the bread dough at the completely wrong time, and we had nothing to do but reshape the flobbery, quick-rising loaves and try to peel the sticky dough out of the linen-lined rising baskets.

“Ha ha,” I said to him. “Isn’t it fun being on the front lines of the local food revolution?”

He gave me an absolutely filthy look – sweaty, tired, wearing the health-department mandated hairnet - and said nothing. Then he burned some bread because he was helping his wife with wee L.

Everyone I know is having babies, in one case, two at a time, so I decided the smartest thing to do was put the socks on hold and knit Ann Norling’s fruit caps in different colors of Takhi Cotton Classic until I get a good stockpile.

One of the hats stayed with our friends. They keep calling their little baby “Sweetpea,” so it seemed the obvious choice.

Jamie examines baby toes.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Morris On!

In a slight departure from our usual folk music and dance entertainments, last weekend, the Fool, Jamie and I loaded up the van and headed for Lexington, Mich. With some friends for the 2011 Midwest Morris Ale. We only went because our friend Spider talked us into playing music for Braintrust Morris, her Morris team. (She didn’t have to talk very hard; we’ve been listening to a lot of English folk music for the last couple years, so we were predisposed.)

First-ever Braintrust Morris practice with everyone, at the UM School of Dentistry overhang.

On Saturday and Sunday, the nearly 300 dancers and musicians in attendance split up among a half dozen buses and descended on nearby towns to perform. Morris dance is not a participatory dance like contra dancing; it’s a performance dance. (You can read more here.)

Border Morris. Don't they look fierce?

We danced in parks, we danced at historical re-enactments, we danced by the lake where Jamie watched boats. In between engagements with the puzzled public, the green grass and the blue May sky, we visited pubs.

Dozens of people, most of them wearing white with bells strapped to their shins, poured into local watering holes, ordered drinks and literally – within 10 minutes – started singing. In harmony. Loudly. The Fool was thrilled. He never gets to belt out high tenor harmonies for any reason at all, except for one night when he was doing Opera-Singing Clam Puppet to entertain Jamie in the bathtub. One dancer from Minnesota has my eternal gratitude for covering Jamie’s ears during one verse of a song he was leading so that Jamie didn’t learn a new swear word (he learns enough from me, I’m afraid) and for changing another verse so that it was about a sailor who landed on shore and went down to the pub to find a … date. Uh-huh. Still, I appreciate the sacrifice of the rhyme scheme.

Then, because everyone had brought their instruments with them, sometimes, more dancing broke out.

Jamie was utterly enchanted. In many respects, this was an ideal situation for an active toddler. He got to spend lots of time outside, he got to see many different kinds of boats, he got to see many different dogs, and whenever we went to play, he stood between us and watched the dancers.

Now that we are home, whenever I want him to entertain himself for 10 or 15 minutes, long enough for me to unload some dishes or whatever, I put on Spiers and Boden, hand him two dinner napkins and let him leap around the kitchen.

The camp we were at had animals! We went for a walk one morning to visit them all - rabbits, some goats, some horses, a couple dogs, and an alpaca.

(Knitting: one toe-up sock for the Fool out of cotton. I tried to bid on a big bag of mixed laceweight at the weekend’s silent auction, but lost by $2. Just as well. I have plenty of yarn I should knit first.)