Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Knitting on

"Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises." - Elizabeth Zimmerman

And so I have. It's been - understatement of the century - a rough week. My father may have improved slightly, but in the big picture, it was not enough, and so the wake is Wednesday and the funeral is Thursday and I'm still not sure exactly what I spent the last three days doing.

Well, I do know, sort of. In between all the Other Stuff, I worked on my quilt, I knitted on a feather-and-fan scarf out of Noro, I finished an eggplant hat for an impending baby and I did a few more rows of my Blackwater Abbey aran. So the hands are busy and maybe my mind will calm down some.

The amazingly invaluable Fool is doing an excellent job of making sure I remember to wear pants, cross with the light and eat three meals a day, even when I don't want to. There is family in town and we are doing all the eccentric things we do (mostly making wise-ass comments in funeral homes, so far), and there are many friends, so in total, matters could be much more difficult than they are.

Today, in an effort to feign normalcy, while out running errands, I stopped at Fringe and bought "No Sheep For You," and am happily devoting three or four brain cells to thinking about spring and the next big project. One of the women working in the shop and I had a nice talk about men's knitting patterns, which I think I will expound on later.

But now, I think it's time to go see why the Fool is yelling at the cat.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Not knitting

This one's for you, Maura. I was thinking to myself, "If only I had a place on the Internet I could put pictures of works-in-progress to show other people who live far away without having to e-mail them huge files...."

Anyway. Flying Geese blocks, one after the other, until I realized, by spreading them out on the floor, that I nearly have enough to finish an entire quilt top.

Final layout to be determined, of course. Absent from the picture are the cats, who cannot resist quilts-in-progress. They sit on them, hop on the dining table to sleep on them (bad cats!) and generally can't wait until my back is turned so they can mess with them. J. was up late and watched Spoot pounce on one block, skidding it across the floor with her paws before she turned to pounce on the next. Wee terror.

Off to run errands and go back to the hospital. Dad's doing much better, so I'm very pleased. He did not age into a kindly grandfather type as much as he did a cranky old coot, so I suspect he'll be giving the nurses fits when he's awake enough to start telling them what he wants to do. Which is fine by me.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I LIke My Needles Small

So this was going to be a Valentine's Day update, but I didn't get my act together in time, so it's just a nameless update.

This is the swatch for my newest sweater. It's the Kai colorway from Simply Shetland 2. Meg bought me the yarn for my birthday, and I've only now gotten around to finishing the swatch. Swatches in the round are a bit of a pain because of the constant loose end management. However, I think this turned out quite well.

I started the body of the sweater only to realize it would ultimately be a false start. The first attempt was a moebius strip. Damn. The second attempt, as it turned out, was also a moebius strip. Double damn. Several frogs later, Meg supervised my third attempt. The third attempt we thought was good, but then realized that it, too, was as a moebius strip. Fortunately, this time I was smart enough to only knit a few stitches before examining. After a small tink and an untwist, we now both firmly believe that I actually have the first few rounds of a cylinder. It only took four tries.

This is probably insane, but I've never knit a sweater on needles larger than U.S. size 1. Granted, this is only my second sweater, but even so... I'm not sure that I really have a burning desire to knit a sweater on larger needles. I really like size 1. I was even brave enough to admit this in front of Annie Modesitt and a group of men who came out to Arcadia Knitting a few weeks ago (more on that later). Several men gasped, and Annie thought I was crazy. It's generally my favored size for socks, so why not sweaters?

Oops, I lied. I actually knit this sweater on size 6 needles. Kind of ironic that I knit a baby sweater on size 6s but knit full-grown ones on size 1, no? Anyways, this is Jayden, my friend Michelle's 6-month old boy. He's absolutely adorable, and I've been told he loves the sweater. Michelle, who has multitudes of dwarf hamsters in her house, was ecstatic I knit hamsters into it. Thanks to Meg for actually finishing the sweater by sewing the yellow buttons on!

These were completed for Meg in time for Valentine's Day (with a day to spare, as it turned out). Happy V-Day, dear. I hope you love your Socks that Rock, Scottish Highlands colorway knit with a basket weave stitch.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

No clever title here; too tired

This is the sleeve to a sweater I'm knitting these days. It's out of Blackwater Abbey, in kind of an orangey-rust color, which isn't showing up quite right in the photo. It's great yarn, although it's a two-ply and is prone to split some. I'm using an Addi Turbo for it right now, and I think I'll go back to the yarn store (darn!) and see if I can get one of the Addi Natura needles instead. I think the cables will be less slippery to manage.
I tried one yarn shop near my office today, but they were backordered on the size I needed. Got the Fool an extra Addi 1, because he managed to nick a cable with scissors several months ago and the stitches are catching. I also fondled some sock yarn, but such is my devotion to this sweater that I didn't even waver. The shop's dog was scampering around - a miniature Italian greyhound in a corduroy coat (it's cold here). He hopped up on a chair and when I bent over to say hello, he sniffed me delicately with his very, very pointy nose.
I started the body of the sweater a couple weeks ago, while we were on our Missouri tour. It's hard going, because it's 322 stitches, and those go slowly. I'll put up a picture when there's more progress to report.
It's been a rough week so far. My dad is not in good health and went into the hospital. He's 80, so many problems that I would find inconsequential are much more serious at his age. I'm very worried about him, so I go and sit next to his bed while he sleeps and knit. All the nurses ask me about it. I tell them it's like fidgeting, but at the end, I get a sweater. It's probably just as well he's not very aware of what I'm doing; I caught sight of myself in the mirror in the ladies' room, and I look downright Eeyore-like, a mopey red-eyed owl clutching her knitting.
When I got home, Spoot walked around howling at me until I picked her up and petted her and we both felt a little better.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What a Concert

We just got back from a concert of Cape Breton music. Andrea Beaton, Troy MacGillivray, and Kimberley Fraser were up in Milwaukee this week and gave an awesome performance. Each played fiddle, piano, and danced. Andrea and Troy also played guitar. For one of the tunes, all three of them played piano, played fiddle, and danced (they kept "transitioning" the instruments and kept one fiddle and the piano going at all times... neat stuff). They are all amazing musicians with incredible energy. You can here them all for free on the archives of Cape Breton Live.

Currently, I am working on a basket weave sock for Meg for Valentine's Day. It's made of Socks That Rock, Scottish Highlands colorway. I am about to turn the heel on the second sock, so I think this is quite doable. I expect to be doing a decent amount of knitting over the next few days, however, especially because these socks are being knit on 0s.

I have a few comments to make about Annie Modesitt's combination knitting technique, but I think I will save that for another time. It's late and I'm a bit tired.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What the Cosmic Otters did on tour

We got in the car Friday morning with our instruments and our suitcases and our knitting and two otter puppets that come to gigs with us and drove and drove and drove, over the Mississippi River into Missouri.
Because we were in a hurry, we had to get a quick dinner at Panera in Columbia. The Fool likes bread bowls. I tried to take it away from him and he growled and bit me.

This is the Columbia, Mo. contra dance community - a whole lot of fun people. That guy in the black T-shirt on the far right edge of the picture was our host. He invited everyone over after the dance to his house, where we had snacks and drinks and played Irish tunes with a bunch of musicians he found somewhere - all excellent. The Fool played piano and I sat and listened to the music, and then around 1:30 a.m., I got tired and went upstairs to bed, where I fell asleep to the tunes ... and promptly had a really weird dream that I attribute to being in a strange bed.

The next day, we went on to Fairfield, Iowa, where it was so cold my eyeballs got a little glazed over and my nose hairs froze when I inhaled. When I was a kid, I thought that was the coolest thing ever. When I was a kid, I also loved to eat pickled herring, so my judgment may have been a bit off.

The folks in Fairfield did not turn this on for us.

You can't see her in this photo, but there's an old woman at this dance, wearing a magenta velour tracksuit. I thought she was going to sit and listen all evening, but after she got her coat off, she stood up and shuffled back and forth and waved her index finger in the air like she was conducting or jitterbugging. The caller set up a circle dance, really easy, and she found a partner and the men handed her round carefully, each making sure she was in the hands of the next before they let go. They changed the dance for her when it got too hard, sometimes just holding hands and shuffling together in a little circle, four bars round, and then on to the next partner. Her daughter came up to us toward the end of the evening, when the family was putting their coats on to leave.
"Thank you so much for playing," she said. "Now that Mom's heard some fiddle music, I think she'll make it through the winter."
Then we went back to our host's house, where we were sleeping in his guesthouse, and he invited us in for hot tea and stollen, and we sat on the couch and talked and enjoyed the fireplace and his cat, Legolas, came and sat on J's lap and let us pet him for a very long time.
And there were lots of blankets on the futon in the guesthouse, heavy and warm, and the next day, we went for pancakes and coffee and on to St. Louis for the Sunday night contra.
That's the St. Louis contra dance community.
And that's the Fool with Extra Otter Martha, a fine, fine fiddler who we like to sit in with pretty much whenever we can. She is a knitter, too, one who is just returning to the craft after a bit of an absence, and she made herself a pair of nice black wristwarmers.
It was pretty fun for a first tour. The next big one is coming up in April, where we'll be playing in the Asheville, N.C. area.
Mountains in the springtime ... I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Fool is in Dallas

So no pity - it's 70 degrees there. It's also where the digital camera is, so I can't upload pictures from our weekend adventures yet.
I can say a couple things.

1. Hillcreek Yarn Shop in Columbia is a way cool place, where we ogled some yarn and ultimately walked out without spending a cent. I'm not sure how that happened. Especially as the owner saw us walk in with instrument cases (too cold to leave them in the car) and offered to cut us a deal if we played for her. We've played for spare change and dinner - I think yarn is definitely worthwhile.

2. So that cabling-without-a-cable-needle thing that Annie Modesitt showed off at Arcadia? Definitely faster than the way I was doing it. I'm a convert.

3. That being said, this sweater I'm working on has two rows of nothing but 2 x 2 cables in that honeycomb pattern and wow, is that ever slow. Luckily, there's only six inches of it. I think it took me nearly two sitcoms to get through Row 7 tonight. It's a 322-stitch row, but still....

4. Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! - while I was using the ladies' room at the yarn shop, I was studying the promotional flyers posted on the walls, announcing upcoming knitting book titles - Charlene Schurch wrote a sequel to Sensational Knitted Socks and it's coming out in March! Hooray! If that doesn't banish all thoughts of freezing to death, nothing will.

Friday, February 02, 2007

In which one sock knitter is outnumbered

... by male knitters.
Tonight was a good adventure. I left work and drove all the way into the city to Arcadia Knitting
to meet the Fool. He was there to hear Annie Modesitt speak, and I was late. The back room had a group of men sitting on couches, a woman who worked at the yarn shop, and ... me.
"Hey," Annie said, when I walked in, "You've come to where all the men are."
"I really just want the one," I said.
"That's my wife," the Fool said.
"You're a fantastic knitter," she said.
"What? Thanks," I said.
The Fool held up St. Enda. "They asked who knitted it."
I learned a new way to cable without a cable needle, which seems smoother than the way I do it, and the Fool is sitting on the couch right now, practicing his combination knitting and flipping through his autographed copy of "Men Who Knit and the Dogs Who Love Them."
Then we had dinner at Hopleaf, a Belgian restaurant that's one of my favorite places to go, and not just because they have the best frites I've ever had. It's warm and cozy in the back room, with lots of dark wood and a woodburning stove, and in this kind of weather, I'll take all the warm and cozy I can get.
Friday morning, we are off like a prom dress on a madcap three-night contra dance tour of the Midwest.
We'll be playing in Columbia, Mo. that night, then on to Fairfield, Iowa on Saturday, and St. Louis on Sunday. Irish, Scottish and French-Canadian music for contra dancing. If you're in our neck of the woods, come out and ask us what we're knitting -- or leave the name of your favorite LYS in the comments.