Friday, December 28, 2007

Knitting Resolutions

I'm looking forward to 2008 as a year filled with knitting and writing, two of my favorite things. Though I'm not much on resolutions in general (many years I don't bother to make them at all) I do have a few knitting-related goals for the coming year. To whit:

1. This year, I'm going to learn entrelac. I have some nice variegated yarn and a scarf pattern I'm going to use as my first project.

2. I also want to try my hand at Fair Isle knitting -- Barbara's snowflake socks inspired me!

3. I'm going to complete some of the many projects I have yarn for -- sweaters and socks I'm eager to wear.

4. I'm going to do some summer knitting -- a sleeveless shell perhaps.

5. I'm going to knit some striped socks in order to use up the bits of sock yarn I've been collecting. The wilder the better for these.

So there you have my knitting resolutions. Would any of you like to share your own New Year's resolutions -- knitting or otherwise?

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Cure for the Post-Christmas Blahs

Here's the cure: Think buttercups. As in buttercup yellow Reynolds Mandalay 100% silk yarn. There's approximately 98 yards per skein (about 294 yards total), and I've got 3 skeins of it all set to go to 1 lucky knitter. All I ask is that you let us know what you've made from it ... maybe even upload a picture to me so I can post it.

Send an email to Fran AT FranBaker DOT com with Mandalay in the subject line and I'll pick the winner on January 1, 2008.

Are you feeling perkier yet?

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy holidays!

Honestly, the tree did not look this big out in the field. It's an eastern red cedar, cut from a poor corner of pasture about 300 yards from the house. The full, bushy side of the growing tree faced southwest and benefitted from the bountiful sunshine such a view offers. The backside faced deep woods, and it wasn't so pretty. It was thin and kind of flat in profile, which is a handy thing when you want to put the Christmas tree against the wall. The major drawback is the bushy side is much heavier than the flat side -- not such a problem for a growing tree with a good root system to hold it in place. In the living room, it's a different matter. I got up the morning after to find the tree tipped over. (We suspect a certain brindle-colored cat of climbing the tree and exacerbating an already unsteady situation.)

My daughter, being a practical sort, suggested we anchor the legs of the tree stand with sandbags. They're 70 pounds each, and they're hidden under the tree skirt.

The minor drawback of choosing one of the native trees growing out back is the branches don't support some of our favorite ornaments -- at least not out on the tips where you can see them. We had to make do with lots of ribbon, bows, and the lighter ornaments we've accummulated through the years -- those that were still presentable. (The crocheted lace snowflakes have had too many adventures with the cats.) Since I love the smell of fresh cedar in the house during the holidays and there's a surplus of those trees around here, I expect we'll have cedar indoors again. We've already planned some of next year's ornaments . I'll knit some cute little Christmas stockings, and some tiny mittons to hang on the tree. And at least one set of these adorable tiny sweaters here on the Berroco site. Seriously, you have to check them out. You'll have to have some.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Night of the Luminaria


(My house with the luminaria along the street.)

We just came in from lighting the luminaria in front of our house. Our next-door neighbors started the tradition several years ago, enlisting every household in setting out white paper bags with candles lit in them. Now on Christmas Eve people come from all over town to drive through our display.


(The street corner.)

What I love most about the occasion is that it gets everyone in the neighborhood out on the streets at the same time. We greet each other, chat about holiday plans, help light each other's candles and smile alot. It's the only time I talk with some of my neighbors; our lives are all so busy and we spend so much time in our cars rather than strolling outdoors. It's a lovely, if brief, moment of getting back in touch with the folks who live all around us.

Happy Holidays to everyone here at RTY, and thank you for being part of my "virtual neighborhood"!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Blair Witch (Christmas) Project

Okay, so maybe I should have thought twice before bringing another electronic device into this house. I mean, I am known as She Who Kills All Things Electronic around here . . . and with good reason. (I think I took out four laptops this spring but who's counting?)

Anyway I took my brand new Flip outside and tried to video Christmas lights. Unfortunately I am still having a wee bit of trouble with the OFF button. (Which, for sake of full disclosure, you need to know is also the ON button. Why it works easily for one application and not for the other is a mystery to me but there you have it.)

Watch closely (although I'm not quite sure why you would want to do that) and you'll see me trekking through the leaves on the way to my front door . . . scary, crunchy leaves . . . ominous silence . . . spooky darkness . . . oh no . . . what's that sound . . . is it that crazy knitting writer again trying to come up with something for the blog . . . maybe she--

Fade to black.
video

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O Christmas tree!


We finished decorating our tree and I'm very proud of it so I thought I would share it with you in virtual reality. Ta-da!
This tree continues a long-standing family tradition in which we put the star on top of the tree, stand back to admire it, and my husband declares, "This is the best tree ever!"
If anyone else would like to share a photo of their holiday decorations, please email it to me at nancy@nancyherkness.com. I'll post any pix on the blog so we'll look nice and festive.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Classic knitting books




Today's "Shelf Awareness", an online newsletter about bookselling, listed the most sought-after out-of-print books of 2007, according to Bookfinder.com. Out of the ten titles, TWO were about our favorite craft. They were in the company of Madonna's Sex, a children's book, and a history of helicopters (?!).


These were the knitting books people truly wanted with their rank on the list:


No. 6. The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt (1988). Ultimate indispensable hand knitting resource.


No. 8. Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore (1997). History and how-to about the Irish technique.


(Note: No. 4 was a 1984 book by Nora Roberts called Promise Me Tomorrow which the list-maker notes she refuses to reissue. I wonder why.)


I'm curious. How many of you own these knitting classics and/or why are they classics?

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Monday, December 17, 2007

TULIP WINNER

Congratulations to TRISHY! The Tulip Baby Cardi kit will be on its way as soon as I have a mailing address.

I have another holiday surprise up my sleeve, knitters, so stay tuned.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holy Snowflakes, Batman!

<== FO!

I finished the Snowflake Socks about two hours ago after a marathon 8-hour knitting frenzy today. My right hand looks like a claw. My shoulders hurt. My back aches. My eyes are blurry. But I am triumphant!

Does "triumphant" sound a little over the top to you? Maybe it does. But believe me when you accomplish something you never thought you could, completion feels like it should be celebrated with a marching band and a parade! How about a knitter's float for next year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? A whole band of knitters and their WIPs waving Lantern Moons and Addi Turbos at the cheering throng lining Broadway to greet them.


And is it me or do you find the inside of the socks even more interesting than the outside? I just might wear them inside out.

<== private side

Details: Snowflake Socks
Interweave Knits - Fall 2007
Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock
1 skein denim
1 skein cream

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Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip!

I finished Goldisox's top-down cardigan a few months ago and I still haven't posted a photo. Well, there's a reason.

I hate it.

Oh, Goldisox loves it. He thinks it's just terrific but I swear to you any time I see him put it on I want to tear it off his body . . . and not in a good way.

Today I finally snapped. "Don't wear that outside," I begged him. "Please don't wear it in public."

He thought I was crazy. "There's nothing wrong with it."

"Yes, there is."

"It's a sweater," he said. "It fits. It's a great color. You did a terrific job. What's the problem?"

What could I do? All I had left was the truth. "It makes you look stupid."

I'm sorry, but it does. Now Goldisox is pretty cute if I do say so myself. Tall. Still has a full head of hair (this becomes important when you cross the 50 marker) and none of it is grey. No middle-aged paunch. I mean, I should be so lucky. But that sweater . . . Holy Elizabeth Zimmerman, that sweater needs help.

It took me a long time to figure out what was wrong with it but a few weeks ago it dawned on me that just because the pattern supplied an alternate collar and buttonbands (both of which Goldisox requested) that didn't mean they were a good idea. Because, trust me, they weren't. Now I haven't seen a man's cardigan in years. I love 'em but they're really not a big fashion item out there except in an L. L. Bean catalog so it took some thinking to determine the following:

1. Men's cardigans should not have collars. Of any kind.
2. Men's cardigans are meant to be low-cut in the front, not bouncing around the adam's apple.
3. This pattern would look infinitely better with a zip-front.

So when Goldisox went out this afternoon I locked the door, set the alarm, and reached for my scissors. Yes, you read right. My scissors. I sat down on the sofa with the sweater, a can of Diet Pepsi, and flipped on The Sopranos for inspiration. (What would you watch if you were going to whack a sweater?) And then I made the first cut.

You know what? It felt good. For the first time since I wove in the last end, I found myself feeling hopeful about the sweater. Liberating it from that damn stupid collar has upped its wearability quotient by at least 50%. Okay, so it needs a little finishing around the edges but that's okay. I can handle it. I snipped off the top button and gently rolled the fabric into an elongated V, similar to what you find on normal cardigans and guess what? It looked like something Richie Cunningham would have worn to Arnold's. And no, that's not an insult. (That's how much I hated the way the sweater looked pre-surgery.)

So now I have to decide what to do next: do I do a little basting and turn the sweater into a normal cardigan or do I rip out the buttonbands and sew in a zipper? Of course then I'll have to add the shawl collar the pattern recommends but I've seen the photo and know it all works well together.

I'd show you a photo but he doesn't know I slashed his collar. I figure I'll tell him tomorrow when he's watching the Jets play the Patriots. He'll already be in so much pain, he'll never notice . . .

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Testing A New Toy

Beware! I just might get crazy with this.


video

Like I always say: what's a little public humiliation among friends?

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Famous Fiesta La Boheme Shawl


That's the pattern's name: The Famous Shawl. What it really is is The Embarrassingly Easy Shawl. Garter stitch all the way, baby. Alaska colourway. Big bad-ass needles. One YO per row.
And considering the way Fiesta Starburst La Boheme fought me, that was more than enough. If you haven't worked with La Boheme, it's actually wonderful yarn and gorgeous in the fibery flesh but it has a quirk that can drive a knitter nuts. LB is two separate strands of yarn: one mohair blend, one sparkly rayon. Which is all just fine. I mean, who hasn't knitted with two strands before, right? Well, the thing is the two strands of La Boheme don't play nice together. The mohair likes to run away from the rayon and before you know it you have an eighteen inch loop of extra mohair wrapped around the nicely-tensioned rayon. Yes, you fall into a rhythm of smoothing and straightening but it's incredibly annoying and I think it would be problematic in a more intricate pattern.
Then again, maybe it's just me . . .
Anyway, the shawl reached its new owner today on her birthday and we're both delighted!

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Tulips in December Contest: Take 2

I've decided I'm in the wrong career field. Clearly I should be a photo stylist. I mean, who else would slap a Tulip Baby Cardi kit down on a laptop tray, slap the laptop tray on a sofa cushion in a dark room and expect Ansel Adams.

First, I couldn't find the camera.. I spent half a day running all over the house looking for it and finally stumbled over it hidden in a shopping bag of Christmas cards and wrapping paper. Then Blogger didn't want to upload the photo. After ten attempts I finally get it into the post then realize it badly, badly needs cropping.

Well, it ain't gonna get it. I'm no fool. If I pull the image now I'll never get back to it. Thursday will turn into Friday then Saturday then all of a sudden it's Monday (I know I forgot to mention Sunday but I figure you'll fill in the blanks) and the contest is over and you never got to see the photo.

So there it is. And here's the contest. Email me at wickedsplitty sometime between now and Monday evening and you just might be the winner! Good luck.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tulips in December Contest

Because if I wait until I actually have a decent photo of the Tulip Baby Cardigan kit we'll all be much older and much slower knitters, let's get the party started today, sans photo, and hope I get off my lazy butt tomorrow morning and actually post a picture.

I purchased it from Threadbear. It's the Tulip Baby Cardigan, Dream in Color yarn, colourway TBT101, and it's simply gorgeous.

All you have to do is send me an email at wickedsplitty and I'll announce the winner Monday evening, December 17th. With a little luck (and a cooperative postal system) the winner will have her/his prize by Christmas.

Good luck!

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Having Way Too Much Fun

I started assembling gifts today: matching the present with the packaging, ferreting out addresses, all the annoying little details you can't help wishing someone else would take care of for you so you could do the fun stuff.
If you were around last year you might remember that I was bitten by the felted bowl bug. Well, it got me again. I started out knitting them but I'm a way faster crocheter so I switched over to crochet and once it's felted you can't tell the difference. I made up a method that seems to work and will translate it into a pattern this week for my sister crocheters out there.
The pink bowl was crocheted with Rowan Fusion, a pure wool sale yarn I scored at Elann a few weeks ago. The scarf is a slight variation on one of Dawn Brocco's Undulating Cables--slightly shorter, slightly wider. I was trying to find a pretty way to present the scarf for gift-giving when I noticed the pink bowl drying in the living room. Hmm. Maybe if I rolled up the scarf and popped it in the bowl . . . who knew it would look like a lovely cream-colored rose? I'm delighted! Three cheers for serendipity!
Yes, the black mitts are Fetching. Yes, they were knitted with Debbie Bliss's Cashmerino Aran. The black is 100% right for the recipient but it seemed a little . . . blah. Out came the trusty beads and the equally trusty needle and ten minutes later the mitts had a wee bit of well-needed pizzazz. (How many Zs are in pizzazz pizaz pizazz pizzaz anyway?) They'll be shipped out in a red felted bowl that's currently drying in the other room.
Remember when I was dithering over the Kata/Felicity scarf from Tara Jon Manning's Mindful Knitting? I didn't like the way the bind-off edge looked next to the cast-on edge. They didn't really match. So I decided to knit it in two sections, Kitchener it together, and be terribly terribly proud of myself. Well, the knitting went well and so did the grafting but I hadn't taken one little bit of information into account: the left and right sides didn't match up and it made a little rippley bump and a disturbing visual break. What to do? I futzed around with a few ideas then decided to thread a tapestry needle with the purple cashmere and lazy-daisy across the grafted seam. I mean, if your eye is going to be drawn to the flaw anyway, why not give it something to admire? Then I attached an amethyst-colored glass bead in the center of each daisy. And, thanks once again to Dawn Brocco's cleverness, I added beads at either end for a little interest. Now I'm happy with it and it's zippy enough for the extremely zippy and wonderful friend I made it for.
And I didn't forget about the contest. I just haven't been able to take a decent photo of the prize. Gimme another day or two, okay? It's a Tulip Baby kit and I want to do it justice.
So what are you working on? Any photos you want to share?

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Pure Bliss!



<--before

It's been a week. A bad week. A stinking bad week. I'll say one word about it and we won't speak of it again.

Dentist.

I needed something to put a smile on my (sore) (swollen) (miserable) face and I am here to tell you that the Vintage Velvet Scarf from Scarf Style did the trick.

Yes, I finished knitting it: 5 balls of luxurious, glorious Muench Touch Me in a rich deep green. Five and a half feet of lush fabric, broken ribbing on either side of a thick reversible 6/6 cable. Now came the fun part: it was time to felt it.

I had to build up my courage before tossing $80 worth of hand-knit scarf into my 20+ year old Whirlpool. I had me a moment there when my life passed before my (red-rimmed) (tired) eyes. But there was no turning back. My dear friend's Big Occasion was nigh and it was do or die. So in it went. I swear to you I held my breath for forty-five long minutes. I checked its progress and literally gasped in delight when I saw it. Sodden, shrunken, but more gorgeous than I ever could have imagined!

And then into the dryer. This really freaked me out. But I did it anyway and I am so glad I did. (Such courage!) (Such fortitude!) I took it out per instructions when it was still slightly damp, stretched it out on my space board and sat gazing at it lovingly for two days while it finished (slowly) drying.





It's a work of art! A triumph! A masterpiece! And no thanks at all to my knitting: it's all due to Touch Me, hot water, agitation, and magic. Yes, magic. Nothing else can explain the transformation. Sheer unadulterated magic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!









I needed a lift this week and oh baby did knitting ever provide one! I'm flying high. I'm writing fast and furious. I swear my (poor battered) jaw doesn't hurt any more. Best of all, the scarf is now on its way to a woman I love very much, sent with 20+ years of friendship and admiration. Happy Birthday, Bertrice Small!

This was so much fun that I feel a contest coming on. Details tomorrow!

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The same only different

Do you remember how I poked fun (in a very friendly way, of course) at some of you veteran knitters for having multiple projects "on the needles"? I certainly remember your polite restraint since I'm sure you were justifiably laughing behind your hands at the newbie's presumption in chiding you for that.

Well, I am duly humbled because I have discovered the virtues of having a project "on the needles" for those days when you don't have the time or the mental energy to start a new project but you desperately need something to knit.



The scarf above is something I started ages ago because I had way too much very expensive cashmere yarn left over from my husband's lo-o-o-ong scarf (below). I wasn't making it for any reason other than I just couldn't bear to waste all that gorgeous fiber. Was I ever grateful that I had it when I finished my Noni Bag (due to the sprained foot) and didn't want to hobble down to the LYS to get something new to occupy my needles. Now I'm thinking it will make a lovely Christmas gift.



It's so interesting to see how different these scarves look even though I'm using exactly the same yarns and exactly the same stitch pattern. All I've changed is the color pattern. They look more like distant cousins than fraternal twins, wouldn't you say?

Is anyone else finishing up an old project for a holiday gift? Tell us about it!

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

All shopped out

Bubba's happy because I promised to teach him to spin too. He ordered 10 pounds of Brown Sheep mill end rovings today from the Sheep Shed Studio -- in the green tones. I swear, it was all Bubba. He must've heard me talking to my daughter this morning about them finally having the green tones for sale again.

I'll bet he used my credit card.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Bubba & me



See that guy there in the middle with the rubber face and the green chin? That’s Bubba, my new alter-ego, with a watermelon from the garden to fill in where his brains & teeth should be. Just looking at Bubba makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

There’s a reason for that, but it’s a convoluted story. You see, this year, the head of the Tarnished Heart Committee for my local writers group was a close friend who I’ve known more years that either of us care to admit. She’s not an outdoorsy type, and she doesn’t knit either. I love her anyway, even if she does give me a hard time sometimes about spending so much time on farm stuff and not so much writing novels these days.
The Tarnished Hearts are a cherished tradition in this group. Each December we celebrate the good, the bad, and the ugly in our writing lives. We give outrageous awards and laugh ourselves silly. Last Saturday, at the group’s holiday party, my friend called out my name and announced my Tarnished Heart award -- The Redneck Farmer Award. She made me join her at the front of the room. She took my glasses. She told me to turn around and bend down, and then she jammed that rubber mask on my head. Of course we all laughed because what could be funnier than a startled middle-aged woman in a braid wearing a Bubba mask and trying not to burp after overindulging on to-die-for fudge chocolate brownies? That moment was magic – pure, silly, healing joy. I needed that because it’s been a rough season in some ways.

In every life there are moments that change how you view the world. Big events and private epiphanies, subtle shifts in the lens of your reality. We’ve all had them. Some we celebrate publicly. Some are too private to even speak of, but we’re changed nonetheless.

Usually I can knit my way through the angst, settle my thoughts, and get back to my usual to-do list. Not lately. A difficult family situation reached a turning point several weeks ago. Choices were made, things were said, and it didn’t end well. Someone I’ve been close to my entire life is now at a distance – in every sense.

The deepest loss, however, was the few illusions I’d been able to hold onto until that point. I miss those comforting illusions – about the person who disappointed me yet again and about myself. For a while, I missed them so much I couldn’t sleep much, couldn’t concentrate enough to write, and even knitting failed to calm my mind into orderly thought patterns. I went AWOL from my usual haunts out of pity for anyone who had to deal with me. I took long walks and tried to exhaust myself with various chores around the farm. The milk cow picked up on my agitation and kicked me a couple of times. She kicked the milk bucket a few more and spoiled the milk several mornings.

That got old fast. So I started a new book, a psychological thriller with lots of action, drama, and twisted family dynamics. Those people gradually became a lot more interesting than my personal pity party. The heroine, of course, handles her personal angst with a bit more grace than I managed. (Okay, maybe a LOT.) A full house for Thanksgiving chased away more of my blues. Saturday afternoon's belly laughs with friends who know me and accept me in all my weirdness provided the finishing touch.
Yeah, life's messy sometimes. So what? I've got Bubba, and I'm gonna teach him to knit!