Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #31 . . . finished contest, finished sweater

I'm not a big fan of the word closure, but that's what we've got going here today.
The sweater is finished! Completely, utterly, totally finished and I think I'm very happy with it.
Take a close look at the photo of the magazine page. See how strangely the sweater was photographed: one sleeve folded inward, one sleeve a tiny bit bunched? Well, I know the reason now: the pattern turns the sleeves into balloons with room enough for Popeye's post-spinach musculature. Still, it all somehow worked when I pieced it together.
Details: Creative Knitting Magazine, November 2004. (FYI: Creative Knitting didn't keep either a pattern archive or a cache of back issues. I find that very strange. How can you think so little of your magazine, the work that went into it, that you don't make an attempt to preserve the designs, etc.? I'm still mulling that one over.) (They have some old patterns available on a free website and others available for a nominal fee, but not all of them. Again, in this age of easy digital storage I just don't get it and probably still wouldn't get it even if they had to rent a warehouse to store the goods.)
Stylecraft Wondersoft Baby DK yarn in Seesaw for body of sweater
Stylecraft Wondersoft Baby DK yarn in Jack Horner for edging
Knit Picks Options, #4US and #5US
Begun around July 4th, finished July 30th.
And now, with great fanfare, I give you our 31st and final Yarnapalooza winner: Charissa from Pittsburgh! Congratulations to Charissa and to all of our winners with our gratitude for helping to make our first year so much fun!
Stick with us. Lots more fun in the future, including Sock Yarnapalooza in October . . .

Monday, July 30, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #30 (gulp)

Congratulations to Barbara Frey, our penultimate Yarnapalooza winner!

I'm not really here. You may think I am but I'm not. This is an electronic illusion.

Back tomorrow with baby sweater pictures and the perennial question, "Why are men so damn strange??"

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #29

Congratulations to Nicole Tom, our Yarnapalooza (I swear that gets harder to type every day) winner #29!

I've got nuthin' today. Ab-so-lute-ly nuthin'. I finished the baby sweater. Well, at least the knitting part. I sewed the plackets the way they're supposed to be sewed. I added the buttons. Now all I have to do is attach the sleeves, weave in a million loose ends, then admire (I hope) my handiwork.

Fingers crossed.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #28

Congratulations to Trish Darrenkamp, our Yarnapalooza Winner #28!

More tomorrow. I have a sleeve to finish . . .

Friday, July 27, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #27

Congratulations to Ruby Davis, our Yarnapalooza Winner #27!

Did you see the 25th anniversary edition of Vogue Knitting? It just arrived here in central NJ and I'm enthralled. You know I'm not exactly an unabashed fan of the magazine (Meg Swansen's column is what keeps me hooked) but they outdid themselves this time. Two fabulous collective interviews: one with the knitting old guard and one with the new. I don't know about you, but any magazine that features the gorgeous, glorious, supernaturally talented Kaffe Fassett is a must-read for me. Add Meg Swansen and Alice Starmore to his star power and I swear I need shades.

Great job, VK, and happy anniversary.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #26 and some more thoughts on handmade gifts

Photo of my friend Joi's daughter Maria and Maria's daddy Vic, circa 1985. Maria is wearing a sweater I knitted for her. I put my needles down soon after and didn't pick them up again until 2003.

Congratulations, Julie Krick! You're Yarnapalooza Winner #26!

(Still haven't entered? Hurry! Time's running out.)

Some very interesting comments on my last post about giving handmade gifts and where the search for perfection intersects with the joy of giving.

Georg's comment about the "cheesy" paintings she created and gave as gifts resonated big time. When I first started fooling around with watercolors again in 1992, my mother fell in love with a "test" painting I did of a vase of impossibly blue flowers. She wanted to hang it up over her bookcase. I didn't want her to. She told me she loved it. I told her all the ways in which it was badly flawed. Finally I gave in but not graciously I'm sorry to say. I was embarrassed by the painting and let her know it every chance I got. Guess I don't have to tell you what made me cry the hardest after she died: the fact that the stupid painting of those stupid impossible blue flowers was propped up on her nightstand where she could see it.

Maybe we're not the best judge of what will (and won't) be appreciated. Ever spent a fortune on some fancy schmancy sock yarn then spent hours of your time knitting love and powerful good wishes into every stitch only to see that look of dismay on the giftee's face when she realizes the pretty package didn't come from Nordstrom or Tiffany's but from your loving hands. You know the look, the "I could buy a pair of socks at K-Mart for a buck fifty" look. The look that stabs the knitter/artist/crafter right through the heart.

Sometimes the evil knitter in me feels the urge to attach a sales receipt to a hand-knitted item just to show that my time wasn't all I spent on said giftee, I actually spent some bucks too. But the truth is if that's what it takes to impress or delight the giftee, she'll never receive another handmade item again from me. To both of our relief.

When I was a little girl, my mother painted what seemed like hundreds of Japanese and Chinese waterscapes. I remember them so vividly--beautiful, sad paintings of women crying on the shore while their men sailed off to who knows where. Everyone who saw them loved them. And my mother, being my mother, gave them all away. Every single painting. Like it? It's yours. I thought she was crazy. I couldn't understand why she would leap into action at the first compliment, pull the painting down from the wall, and press it into the shocked admirer's hands. Was she crazy? Didn't she want to keep them for herself? Why did an appreciative word from someone trigger such an outrageous response?

It took me a long, long time but I get it now. When you find someone who loves what you've created, you can't help wanting to shower him or her with the bounty from your own two hands. Not everyone appreciates a gift that doesn't come with a 30 day money back return policy or a gift card from Saks. It's a sad fact of life but true just the same. It doesn't mean you love them any the less but it definitely means there won't be any handknitted socks in their future.

Which strikes me as a real shame for both of us.

Gift ideas, anyone?

Barbara's post about knitted gifts got me to thinking. This is the time of year when I like to get a start on my Christmas list. I don't have a very long list -- mainly my husband, his parents and two nephews. I think I'm going to make my FIL a really nice pair of socks out of some very soft, strong yarn. I just have to find that yarn!

I'd really love to make my MIL something too. They live in Texas, so wool sweaters are out of the question. But a cotton cardigan might go over well. Has to be casual, as she is not a dressy person. And lightweight. Any ideas for yarn or patterns -- or other suggestions?

What gifts have you made that went over well in the past? What are you making this year?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #25

Photo: baby sweater in progress. The sleeves are in the other room and I'm too lazy to go get them.

We're in the home stretch now. Congratulations to Donna Arney, Yarnapalooza Winner #25.

I don't know what I'm going to do with myself with July is over . . .

Progress continues on the baby sweater. The sleeves are almost finished and after that comes (gulp) the finishing. I may end up swatching a seed stitch selvedge piece and a garter stitch bind off and playing around with ways to join them up. Even though I'm a slow knitter it's probably well worth the time and effort in order to get it right. I'm not too picky about my knitting (most likely because I'm way too picky about my writing) (book writing; I give myself inordinate slack on the blogs) mainly because the point of it is to free myself from judgment, not impose judgment of a different kind on myself. A certain amount of sharp critiquing seems to go with the knitting territory but for the most part I'm pretty easy on myself. (Except when it's a gift for someone else. Perfection isn't attainable for me so I try instead for durable and easy on the eyes!)
I find it strange that a woman (me) who can be so brutally hard on herself in every other aspect of her life (writing, hair, appearance, foot-in-mouth tendency, etc., etc.) can harbor such a laissez-faire attitude about knitting and painting. Let me be the first to say it: I'm no Van Gogh. I'm also no Elizabeth Zimmerman and unlikely to become one. But nobody, and I mean nobody, loves painting and knitting as much as I do and nobody (at least nobody with eyes) could possibly love the end results more. I am delighted when I finish a drawing or painting or knitted object. I am thrilled with my accomplishment, flaws and all. Some benevolent goddess of delusion pops a pair of slightly skewed rose-colored glasses over my eyes and I ooh and ahh at even the most pedestrian accomplishment as if I'd reinvented the wheel. It's as close to pure happiness as I'm likely to get. It's not that I can't see what's wrong--I can--but I just plain don't care. I created it, it's mine, and I love it.

Unfortunately other people can also see what's wrong and, hindsight being what it is, I kind of regret blithely sending off gifts that I now know were (kinda) (maybe) embarrassingly amateurish but in my defense I did it with a full heart and lots of love. Not a whole lotta skill but lots of love. The thing is, do you hold back on the gift-giving impulse until your skills are where you'd love them to be or do you just let your needles fly and follow your heart and hope that one day your skills will catch up with you?

That, dear knitters, is my question of the day!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Instead of knitting . . .

. . . I've been tending the newest additions to my fiber stash.

These seven French Angora bunnies are the offspring of Ducky & Bunny Boo, who came to live here at the farm a year ago. (Their names came with them .) The youngsters are as amiable as their parents. And just look at that fiber! I have such plans for that fiber.

Yarnapalooza Winner #24

Congratulations to Margaret Stevenson of Wyoming: you're our Yarnapalooza Winner #24!

What a great day: knitting and writing, writing and knitting. Knitting while I thought about writing. Writing while I thought about knitting. Not to mention writing about knitting which makes the whole thing even better.

I transferred all of my crochet hooks and circs to my mother's old picnic basket and I'm loving it. (Pictures tomorrow, I promise.) Right now it's just a big jumble of stuff but sooner or later I'll figure out a way to organize things but I'm very happy with the set up. My old drawing/painting stuff will find a home in my mother's old wooden oil paint box which I have down in the basement. I love finding new ways to use old and familiar items--it's much more fun than going out and buying something without a history.

I'm still trying to figure out what that nest of Maine rocks was doing in the bottom of the picnic basket amid the art supplies. I also found a ticket stub from Rob Roy (way back in 1998 I think it read) and a ticket stub from a visit Goldisox and I made to the Liberty Science Center this very week in 1997. Oh yeah, and beautiful bookmarks from Papyrus at the Mall and tiny Guatemalan "worry" dolls that I bought because . . . well, I guess I had a lot to worry about that year.

My house is a veritable archaeological dig of memories!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #23

Congratulations to Colleen Ponzani, our Yarnapalooza Winner #23! (Where's the month disappearing to anyway?)

On the run so this will be short. Bless wireless connections in unexpected places! See you all tomorrow.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Yarnapalooza Prize--Another Sockaholic Skein

It's the trendy new TOFUtsie yarn again in another fabulous colorway. This one has shades of pink, gray and cream which I think would make lovely socks as long as someone other than me is knitting them. One skein makes one pair.

Remember this yarn is anti-bacterial because it has chitin in it. Don't ask because I don't understand it either.

The winner will be "generated" this coming Friday, thanks to Barbara's cool Random Number gizmo. Good luck!

From Riches to Rags ...

Well, I didn't make it onto Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Not because I didn't know the answers to the questions - I know for a fact that I only missed 2 of the 30 that we had to answer in 10 minutes. Mainly, I think, I didn't know the "system," because the 5 (out of 250) who were selected had all tried out between 4-8 times previously.

Here's what happened: Our tickets said to arrive at 2 p.m. and to wear dark clothes. After a late breakfast, however, we decided we'd walk by the ABC-TV studio on W 67th and check out the scene. People were already lining up so we joined them and wound up being in the first group of 20. Our group really bonded and we held places for people who had to run down to the nearby Starbucks to use the restroom, etc.

Once we were called in, we couldn't leave for any reason and come back. (Thank heavens for those Starbucks' runs!) We were ushered into the studio - it was cold! - and our group got to sit on the front row, right behind the chair where Meredith Vieria sits during the show. We clapped and laughed and hooted and hollered right on cue, and I suspect you'll "see" us (just our dark-clad bodies, not our faces) at the opening of the new season's shows.

After several hours of that we went into a cafeteria and sat at assigned tables. Each of us was given an envelope with our question sheet inside and an answer card just like the ones that are used for SATs and such. Our finished cards were "graded" while we waited and, like I said earlier, they only called on 5 veterans out of 250 auditioners.

But guess what? It was a wonderful trip to New York! We ate in some old familiar places (Cafe Bryant, behind the NYC Public Library) and some terrific new ones (The Palm ... lobster, yum!). Our hotel was all refurbished and was in a midtown location, which meant we could walk everywhere (except for cabbing to the studio). Heck, even in this summer of airline horror stories, our planes were on time going and a little early returning!

Now it's back to writing and knitting. I've about got my proposal ready to submit. Wish me luck on that one! And I've settled on Patches by Plymouth in Brights for the marble cardigan.

Which raises the question: What are you all doing to defeat the dog days of summer that are now upon us?


P.S. Yes, Barbara, I felt the good vibes from everyone and really, truly appreciated them.

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Yarnapalooza Winner #22 and a Technical Question

Chrissey Dormer is our Yarnapalooza Winner #22! Congratulations, Chrissey!

While I have your attention I thought I'd post a technical knitting question. I'm zipping along on the sleeves of the Creative Knitting baby sweater and it occurred to me that the finishing is going to be a little weird. Take a look at the photo then zero in on the brightly colored sweater and you'll see what I mean. I'll be attaching a garter stitch cast-off row to seed stitch selvedge and I'm wondering if anyone has any tips to help me create a non-bulky, sturdy, semi-attractive seam. I've Googled but haven't come up with that particular combination yet.

Finishing isn't my strong suit. It's kind of like bowling for me: I position myself, focus in on the pins, then watch the ball leap into the gutter or head straight for a strike. I'm never quite sure what I'm gonna get . . .

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #21

Today is Leslie's Fischgrun's lucky day! Congratulations to our Yarnapalooza Winner #21!

And today's photo is a scan of the flipside (clearly damaged) of the New Zealand postcard I posted a few days ago. Apparently this was written by my Greatgrandfather Charles to my Aunt Dede (Edith), the daughter they (euphemism alert) "left behind" in England. Just so you don't get the wrong idea (I mean, the reality was unpalatable enough), Dede wasn't sold into indentured servitude or anything. She simply became the companion and daughter-substitute of older relatives who were willing to pay for my Greatgrandfather's escape to New Zealand in return for Dede's company.

It set up a strange family dynamic. Dede became the outsider. My Grandma El and her brother Cass shared incredible adventures in Auckland. (Can you imagine what NZ must have been like at the beginning of the 20th century? Can you begin to imagine the culture shock my family experienced going from Edwardian England [barely out of the Victorian era] to the relative freedom and glorious beauty of NZ? It must have been intoxicating.) Dede lived in a big stuffy old house with stuffy old relatives and a highly predictable existence. She was also tall. Tall wasn't a good thing for a young woman to be back then. My grandmother was short and strawberry blonde and a flirt. Dede was tall, blonde, and reserved. I swear to you my grandmother continued to tease Dede about things that happened seventy years ago right up until the day she died.

Funny thing: they spent their childhoods living apart but spent the last twenty-five years of their lives living across the street from each other in Elmhurst, Queens in NYC. At one point Dede had had enough of my grandmother's smart mouth (a family trait) and she barred my grandmother from stopping by without an expressly tendered invitation. They fought like warring armies defending a dying civiliation and were in the middle of one of their "I'm not speaking to her ever again" periods when my grandmother died in 1989 at 89 years of age. Dede lived another two years. She was 93 when she died. I remember clearly the thunderstorm we had that night. My father telephoned me and said, "Hear that? Ma and Dede must've found each other."

There's so much to tell you. During the early 1960s Dede had a long relationship with a Lebanese delegate to the U.N. A man named Sully who took her out dancing and to glamorous eateries (don't you love that word?) like Top of the Sixes. Amazing to see my reserved and veddy British aunt turn into a tall, blond geisha around the man she loved.

Of course there's more to the story. But then you knew that, didn't you?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Two sleeves or one?

I'm late posting this week because my husband and I took a little road trip to a gorgeous country inn on Lake Waramaug in Connecticut. We had a two day window of opportunity because both children were away at camp simultaneously (one has returned, thank goodness!). To be honest, our house felt so odd and empty that we really wanted to go somewhere else.

That's me knitting on the patio of the inn with the lake in the background. I finally started on the first sleeve of the sweater-that-never-ends. A friend suggested knitting both sleeves at the same time. She says it keeps you from faltering when you finish that first sleeve and face another of the same boring variety and it makes them look more uniform.

I had already started the first sleeve on straight needles and didn't really want to deal with two balls of yarn or shifting onto circular needles (the sleeves end up being quite wide at the top so I needed the room) so upon reflection, I didn't take her advice. I'm sure I'll live to regret it.

I'm curious though: how many of you knit both sleeves at once? How do you deal with the two-balls-of-yarn issue? Is it a good idea that I should reconsider in the future?

Another Contest I Almost Forgot To Tell You About

It ends tomorrow night. You'll find it at my other blog Barbara Bretton - Fresh Content Daily . . . maybe Ten free books to ten winners.

Scroll down past the scary photo of Britney Spears to the even scarier photo of Sean Connery for instructions.

See you there!

Photo of a stretch of Cape May beach taken by yours truly a few winters ago

Yarnapalooza Winner #20

Congratulations to Linda Bennett of North Canton, Ohio! You're Yarnapalooza Winner #20!

I'd write more but I'm in the middle of major reorganization of circs, doodads, and art supplies. I'll admit even I was a bit puzzled when I discovered over a dozen beautiful rocks from the beautiful (rocky) beaches of Maine tucked in with my watercolor paraphernalia. Clearly I have always organized to a very different drummer.

Details to follow later today.

PS to Fran: Could you feel the good vibes yesterday? We were all pulling for you!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Malabrigo Molly winner!

Maureen Emmons, give that Random Number Generator a great big thank you because it picked you as the Malabrigo Molly winner. You go, girl!

All you other entrants, do not despair! I'm planning to hustle down to my LYS and get two more skeins of the Malabrigo lace weight (perhaps in a different shade since they're all so lucious) and offer it as a prize in the near future.

Happy knitting, Maureen!

Yarnapalooza Winner #19A

Congratulations to Carol Turner, our Yarnapalooza Winner #19A! Her Opal sock yarn is on its way. (I think it's Petticoat but it's already with the mail carrier so I can't check.)

Our handy-dandy Random Number Generator chose the lucky winner of Nancy's gorgeous Malabrigo. I forwarded the info to Nancy and she'll be posting it here ASAP.

I don't know about you, but I'm having a great time!

The photo is Sea View, the house in Litherland Park, Liverpool, where my grandmother, her sister Edith (Dede), and their brother Charles were born. This is where Dede lived after their father "sold" her vwexteto another family member. They were all reunited when the family returned to England and emigrated together to the U.S. Apparently their grandfather considered himself the lord of the manor and expected all to bow to his wishes. My grandmother said he died in flagrante delicto with the daughter of the local dairy farmer. They also had an aunt they called "Hairy Toes" (yes, it's a sickening image) because she never said anything, just crept noiselessly about the house, eavesdropping and taking notes.
Sounds like a writer, doesn't it??

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #18

Three cheers for New Zealand Kim, our Yarnapalooza Winner #18! (It's winter in New Zealand and I'm deeply envious.)

The photo is actually a postcard ("Real" postcards were popular in the first decade or so of the 20th century--the "real" refers to the fact that the postcard is an actual photograph.) You're looking at my paternal great grandparents, my grandmother El, her brother Cass, and somebody named Ben. There was another daughter but my Great Grandfather Charles "sold" her to a childless relative for the money to escape from Litherland Park (Liverpool) to New Zealand. He had run a successful family butcher shop then apparently run afoul of someone for some reason (I've been told he had [how shall I say this??] a wandering eye . . . ) and needed to get out of Dodge. So to speak.
I believe they lived in that house on Ponsonby Road in Auckland from approximately 1904 until 1918 or thereabouts when they sailed back to England and then from England to the United States. One of the many incredible stories my grandmother told me about New Zealand (a place she loved with her entire heart) was the one about the earthquake that rattled their house on the hill while they were clearing dinner dishes from the table. My grandmother went sailing across the room and suffered a major gash in her forearm.
Not much knitting content, I'm afraid, but when I saw the Kim was from New Zealand my mind started to wander . . .

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #17

Congratulations to Cathy Beckett, our Yarnapalooza Winner #17! Cathy is the blogger who so generously helped me find the missing portion of my baby sweater pattern and I'm delighted that Lady Luck decided to reward her kindness.

More tomorrow. I'm running on two hours sleep and about to crash . . .

Hurt Book Sale

Interweave Press is having their annual damaged stock sale, and this sale's too good to not share. Most of the books are about half the regular retail price, and one can never have enough books. Some of the books on my wish list have already sold out, and the two at the top of the list apparently didn't suffer any boo-boo's this year. I did score half-price copies of several knitting books I've been waffling over purchasing this last year. You know what I'm talking about -- the book with all those inspiring patterns you'll probably never touch but maybe one or two you'd really like to try. . . the one that's too much for your budget at regular retail . . . the one with all those handsome men in sweaters . . . and that one's a bit hard to justify since my guys aren't sweater guys. Still . . . I'd wear one . . . a sweater from the book, of course. (What did you think I meant?)

So, now that I've got mine, it's safe to share the secret . . .



Summer projects

Back again after a long absence, though I've been reading the posts of my fellow bloggers. Though I haven't shown up here, I have been busy with both my needles and my keyboard, working on a new book and several new projects.

The somewhat off-center picture here is of the sleeveless top and matching lace socks I made with Lion Microspun in Leaf. The yarn is very soft with a nice sheen, but a little splitty. The top is from a free pattern on the Lion website. The socks are the Gull Wings pattern from Socks, Socks, Socks. (And Barbara, how could you give up socks -- what blasphemy!)

Right now I'm working on a simple garter stitch cardigan knit in this wonderful yarn from Knit Picks, Shine Sport I chose Blueberry, a wonderful rich blue, almost denim-colored. This cardigan is to replace the ratty old thing I wear all winter in my office. The pattern calls for buttons, but I'm thinking of putting a zipper up the front. Anyone done a zipper on a knitted item? Any tips.

So that's what I've been up to. What summer projects are you working on?

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Naughty Knotty!

Well, you simply have to see this. Following is a link for the Naughty Needles Knitted Burlesque Revue which debuted last Friday night at the Jackpot Music Hall in Lawrence, KS. The show was coordinated by Nikol Lohr, author of the spicy knitting guide Naughty Needles. Lohr and some volunteers knitted all the costumes ... which were shed by the show's performers.

Here's the link: http://www.KansasCity.com/fyi.

Scroll down to the Naughty Needles article. Then click it on to read and watch the video. Hilarious!

Okay, I'm off to New York on Thursday to audition for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire on Friday. Wish me luck, knit on, and I'll tell you all about the process when I get back.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #16

My second favorite crochet hook, a beautiful Brittany Birch. (My favorite crochet hook is a white plastic N of unknown origin.

Congratulations to a very good friend of mine, Peggy Jaegly, our Yarnapalooza Winner #16! PJ, I actually let out a little shriek when I tracked down Random Number Generator #103 and your name popped up! PJ is a knitter/writer/harpist/all around good person. We met many years ago when we were both new to central NJ and have been friends ever since. PJ lives in Maryland now but what's a few miles between friends?

Goldisox and I had our regular Monday date. We headed down to Cape May but ended up in Atlantic City instead where we enjoyed a free buffet at Harrah's and shamelessly people-watched. I actually saw a man with French-manicured toenails. He carried a floral totebag and wore pale peach-colored shorts. Those three facts almost overpowered the fact that he was staggeringly handsome. Clearly unavailable but movie star gorgeous. (Further strange observations on my other blog.) (Contests there too!)

I worked on my Outback Mohair Scraps Shawl all the way down and back up again. We listened to 1) the end of Bill Bryson's I'm A Stranger Here Myself and 2) the beginning of the first Stephanie Plum One For The Money.

A good time was had by all.

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Yarnapalooza Prize: Malabrigo Molly

I admit it: I have a thing for Malabrigo yarn. It feels good, it looks glorious, it's reasonably priced. What's not to love?

Two skeins (and I borrowed the Lovely Yarn Lady's machine to wind them into balls myself) of 470 yards each of lace weight Baby Merino Wool. You can make a gorgeous lacy shawl out of these. The color reminds me of a stunning pink watermelon. It's slightly shaded so it looks very natural.

Whoever Barbara's Random Number Generator picks on Thursday, July 19th, gets this prize.

Good luck!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #15

The very talented Rusty Morris is Yarnapalooza winner #15.
Congratulations, Rusty!
Our guest pet today is my beloved Perky - the picture was taken in February 1972. That's me holding the leash. Perks was almost three years old. (Goldisox and I were married nine months when we had a toy poodle. What can I say??)
You're looking at the second in a long and happy chain of dog sweaters my mother knitted for Perks until Perks left us in 1984 at the venerable age of 15 1/2. I remember watching my mom zip along on the sweater, her double points clicking merrily, and being amazed that anyone could manage so many needles with such skill. The sweater is a turtleneck, wide ribs (I'm thinking 4X4) from cast on to cast off. Of course there were openings for the front legs. I wish I had the pattern for it; this sweater was as close to perfect as it could be. Definitely had the pooch seal of approval.
Funny how, even after so many years, looking at Perks can still make me teary-eyed. Love, it seems, lives on.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #14 - Happy Bastille Day!

Congratulations to Jocelyn Pradeepa, Yarnapalooza Winner #14. (And our first winner from India!)

(RTY Factoid: We've had winners from Canada and the U.K. and, of course, the USA.)

It's not too late to enter! This is only day 14 and July is 31 days long . . .

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner Lucky #13!

So much for triskaidekaphobia. Friday the 13th is Shanzi Pruitt's lucky day! Congratulations, Shanzi: you're our Yarnapalooza Winner #13.

Suddenly I'm a knitting fool. I don't know what's come over me but I'm living, breathing, dreaming knitting this week. Work continues on the baby sweater. I think I'll be at the divide front from back point on Saturday which means I'll get to introduce a complementary color. I can't wait. I tracked down what I think will be the perfect yarn for the purpose and am eager to see how it works.

The cataloguing/organizing continues after a ten day break. I found the Fiesta La Boheme -- Alaska colourway -- that I'd purchased to make a shawl for someone extremely special and fell in love with it all over again. I think I'm going to cast on for it next week.

And then there's the Outback Mohair still (now and forever) in progress. And I'm almost embarrassed to admit that my embargo on sock knitting probably won't last the month. I'm missing it terribly but this time I'm going to cast on something bright, colorful, and FOR ME!

To be continued . . .

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #12

Hooray for Dee Smith, Yarnapalooza Winner #12!! She wins a night with Colin Firth at -oops.
Sorry. Wrong contest.
Dee wins beautiful yarn instead.
A true knitter, a knitter with fiber lust in her soul, would actually be relieved.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Noro Kureyon Winner!

The winner is Cheryl Strange.

Congratulations, Cheryl. May I assume the address in your email entry is the one where you want the yarn sent? Let me know (just post a "yes" in the comments section if that's the one) and I'll get it in the mail.

Thanks, everyone, for participating. And good luck on the drawings the rest of July ... our one-year anniversary!

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Yarnapalooza Winner #11

Congratulations to Ambermoggie, our Yarnapalooza Winner #11!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bad Influences!

Last Friday I did a terrible thing. I went to my Local Yarn Store just to buy a set of needles I needed for the MIL sweater and to pick up a couple of Yarnapalooza prizes (one of which Shirley just won--congrats!). That's all I was going to buy, nothing more, I swear.

But you all have led me down the treacherous garden path of multiple projects and I am so tired of the black-sweater-in-stockinette-stitch-that-never-ends. So I bought the makings of a felted totebag FOR ME!

It's a subtly striped Nani Rather Huge Carpet Bag. The yarn is Cascade Heathers in soft natural mossy greens. I splurged on a set of handles in a rich brown leather. It's all sitting there in its bag, calling to me, but I am trying to resist. I need to knit two black sleeves and a collar before I heed its siren call.

OMG, this is torture! I can't stop myself...I have to just cast on the bag...someone save me from myself!

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KURE-all Update

First, congrats to all the winners to date. Knit on, everyone! I'm still waiting for my Patches from Plymouth to start my one-piece cardigan but will update on that as it goes along.

Second, yesterday (July 9) was the two-year anniversary of my massive heart attack. I'm still here, for which I'm thankful. And I'm still working on my "Things To Do Before I Die" list.

Third, it's not too late to sign up for the three balls of Noro that I'm giving away tomorrow. Just send an email to Fran AT FranBaker DOT com, with Contest in the subject line. If you've already sent your email, I have it but couldn't figure out how to make an automatic response and didn't want to clutter up peoples' mailboxes with a multi-receiver response. I'll draw a name tomorrow afternoon. Good luck, all!

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New Post from Laura

Make sure you don't miss the new post from Laura. Just scroll down to Saturday July 7th and enjoy!

Yarnapalooza Winners #10 and #10A

Congratulations to Shirley, Yarnapalooza Winner #10. (Shirley won Nancy's gorgeous Tofutsie; how cool is that?)

And congratulations to Dob, YW #10A who will receive Not Tofutsie from yours truly. (Don't worry, Dob. I'll take good care of you.)

Photo of Nubble lighthouse, York Harbor Maine, 2004. Taken with a $59 digital camera by yours truly who loves Maine more than I can say. (Almost as much as I love NJ.) (No sarcasm intended. I mean it.) (I really do love New Jersey.)

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I give up!

It was a nice idea, but I think I'm done with baling twine doormats for now. The fiber is stiff, and while it knits up quickly -- theoretically -- into an ugly but functional item -- I keep breaking needles. Mia (above) helped me find a good use for this aborted project. She thinks that strip makes an awesome neck scratcher. I think I'll just bind off the edge and let her have it. And if I'm lucky, I won't break another needle doing it. Time to move on and admit that this one has me beat. That's not something that pig-headedly stubborn people like me do often, so mark this date on your calender.

Moving on . . . I'm also resisting the urge to shop for my own luscious yarns like those in the Yarnapalooza giveaways. Wow, what wonderful stuff!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #9

Congratulations to Pamela from Knoxville!

I'm about three inches into the baby sweater and loving it. What is it about seed stitch anyway? I could do seed stitch ad infinitum. It's satisfying to do and is easy on the eyes. The sweater is worked in the round until you reach the yoke so I'm zipping along quite nicely. Initially I was going to do it solely in the blue multi yarn (Stylecraft Wondersoft DK) but I've decided that the pattern designer is right (funny how it happens that way, isn't it?) and it needs a contrasting color to divide body from yoke and a second contrasting color for the placket, neck edge, and cuffs. So now the trick is finding it in a reasonable amount of time so I can get this sweater off to Baby Boy before he's too big to wear it.
I'm still amazed how well the two yarns -- different manufacturers, different weights, purchased randomly -- match up together. Sometimes dumb luck really comes in handy . . .

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Yarnapalooza Prize for All You Sockaholics

My Lovely Yarn Lady tells me that TOFUtsies is the hottest new sock yarn. It's made of wool, soysilk fibers, cotton and chitin which is fiber from shrimp and crab shells. Somehow this makes the yarn naturally antibacterial. The skein is 425 meters long so you get a nice pair of socks out of it.

The colors are so gorgeous that it almost (but not quite) tempts me to try knitting socks again.

So, whoever wins the Yarnapalooza prize tomorrow, July 10th, gets this prize from me. Barbara will let me know who the Random Number Generator chooses.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #8!

Yarnapalooza Winner #8: Carol at *******0503@yahoo -- congratulations!

I still can't post a title to this blog. Only Blogger knows why. I can post titles to my personal blog but for some weird reason that privilege is being denied me here. How weird is that?? (Clearly my bizarre electronic karma follows me everywhere. Beware!)

Photo of yours truly circa 1954, taken on the monkey bars at Elmhurst Park in Queens, NYC. (I'm running out of yarn photos!)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #7!

Congratulations to Debbie St.Amand, Yarnapalooza Winner #7!

I'm particularly happy to announce Debbie's name since we go way back to my Writer's Digest days.

(I know there's no title. For reasons known only to Blogger, Blogger won't let me type one in.)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #6

Congratulations to Jennifer Mason, winner #6 in our Yarnapalooza Giveaway!

I'm sure I must have something to say but damned if I know what it is.

The surefire/can't miss baby blanket is finished save for the edging. Turns out it is exactly the same sequence of colors as the yarn I want to use for the sweater so it looks like the baby this is targeted for will be receiving two handknits instead of one. (Of course, one of the handknits is really a handcrochet but that's not really a word so pretend I didn't use it.)

The Outback Mohair Scrap Shawl is still in progress and other yarns have been winking at me and making promises I know they can't deliver. But I don't care. I'm falling for them anyway. Clearly I'm far weaker than I realized . . .
A preliminary sketch I made for the second edition of an on-line charity cookbook that unfortunately didn't get off the ground. I can't swear to it, but this cartoon might have something to do with that. Poor ewe's facer is badly out of whack.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #5

Congratulations to Lisa R. L., Yarnapalooza Winner #5!

And a big loud thank you to Cathy who found page 96 for me!

Is this a great group or what??

Today's drawing is a few years old and again all my fault.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #4 on The Fourth of July

image courtesy my Grandpa Larry. His design, all sailor's knots, in celebration of the Bicentennial in 1976 when he was 80. Not a great photo; that's all my fault.

Congratulations (and a Happy Independence Day) to Janice W!

Belated Happy Canada Day to all -- did I mention that our first winner (selected on July 1st) is a proud Canadian? I meant to add my wishes for a great day here on the blog but in typical fashion my brain went in another direction. As the proud granddaughter of an even prouder Halifax native, the oversight is unforgivable.

Happy Fourth of July!

Fireworks over Niagara Falls.

This seems a fitting time to quote a blog favorite, 1776. One of the great scenes in the musical comes when John Adams stands alone in the chamber where the Continental Congress meets for their endless, inconclusive debates. The room is dark and silent; everyone has gone home for the evening.

Adams recalls the last lines of General Washington's most recent plea for more supplies for his starving army, "Is anybody there? Does anybody care?" Adams adds his own question, "Does anybody see what I see?" Then he describes his thrilling vision:

I see fireworks,

I see the pageant and pomp and parade,

I hear the bells ringing out,

I hear the cannons roar.

I see Americans--all Americans--free


I propose a cyber-toast to the brave men who committed treason by signing their names to the Declaration of Independence two hundred and thirty-one years ago to make that vision a reality.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Oh, isn't that just the cleverest headline? LOL!

How about I draw for a winner on July 11 (7 come 11!) for these three balls of Noro Kureyon, color 92. One is missing its wrapper but they're all the same color. Send an email to Fran AT FranBaker DOT com, with Contest in the subject line.

Now while I'm yammering on ... do you want to hear something fun? I'm going to New York to try out for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire! This is on my list of "Things To Do Before I Die" list. Wish me luck! I leave for NY on July 19 and audition on July 20. I'll report back on the process when I return.

How about y'all? Any special thing you want to do while you're still around?

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Yarnapalooza Winner #3

Congratulations to Ann C, our Yarnapalooza Winner #3!

Remember it's not too late to enter. This contest runs through the end of the month.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Yarnapalooza Winner #2

Congratulations to Vicki C! Your prize is on its way.

Pen-and-ink drawing courtesy of my 14 year old self, created during my melodramatic (but great fun) groupie years

The Argyle Laptop

Meet Elizabeth. I've named only one other laptop in my life (Cleo, 2003-2006; may she RIP) (okay, so maybe I did refer to one other as Baby; it was a fleeting thing) but the second I applied the pink argyle skin to her shiny silvery surface I knew Dell Inspiron 1505 was Elizabeth. Nickname: EZ.

Yes, in honor of Elizabeth Zimmerman, goddess of all things knitting. To me the most fascinating thing about Elizabeth Zimmerman wasn't only that she could knit like a dream, but the fact that she was also a brilliant writer, an incredibly gifted artist, and the kind of mother any woman would wish to be . . . or to call her own. Strong, gutsy, funny, a tiny bit fey, bursting with ideas and the ambition to follow where they beckoned.

If I can tap into even a tiny fraction of the real EZ's spirit when I sit down to work at the Pink Argyle EZ, I'll be one very happy knitting writer.

Or is it writing knitter . . . I'm never quite sure.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007


Congratulations to Kim H, winner of the Lion Brand contest!
Congratulations to Sandra from Toronto, Day #1 Yarnapalooza winner!
Your prizes will go out tomorrow.
drawing courtesy yours truly

What The Well-Dressed 6 Month Old Will Wear

Thanks for all the comments both on- and offline. I'm shelving the socks idea for the moment and waffling between a sweater and my trusty babies-love-it blanket. I know the baby would appreciate the blanket more than the sweater but I'm not feeling particularly crochet-prone right now.
Let me explain the problem. See the brightly colored sweater on the right in the photo? That's the one I have my heart set on knitting for my friend's six month old grandson. The baby has had a bit of a rough start and now that he's doing well again I'd like to celebrate the fact with something handmade. The brightly colored sweater is from Creative Knitting's November 2004 issue which I carefully pulled from the magazine and stored safely in those plastic page protector thingies. Only problem is I didn't pull page 96. Yep, page 96 which contains directions for the front of the sweater and the sleeves.
I went to the mag's website and they don't maintain an online archive of patterns or offer back issues for sale. I emailed the editor and am now waiting with crossed fingers.
I like the other sweater very much--simple top-down on circs. What's not to like? But the other sweater has my imagination. The yarn is Sirdar something or other, very soft, machine washable and dryable, DK weight.
I have to make up my mind today because we're heading out tomorrow and I want a great driving project underway. Any baby suggestions gratefully received.
For a woman who spent the first 18 years of her life in a bedroom with a view of the railroad (maybe 50 yards from said window) and the General Diaper Service factory (mayber 300 yards from said window) I discovered I don't know the half of the diaper situation. Or that there's a diaper controversy out there. Who knew? The funny thing is that it led me to Google "General Diaper Elmhurst Queens NYC" and I discovered it's still there. Need I tell you that there were times when the air floating over Cornish Avenue wasn't exactly redolent of roses? I wonder if there's another curly-haired girl staring out the window at 83-17 and plotting her escape . . .
Back later with contest winners!

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