Not ANOTHER Snowstorm!

Holy Moly!  The Commander told me this morning that another snowstorm is headed our way.  Snow is to begin this afternoon and then get heavier tomorrow with 4-6 inches expected on our side of the river and 6-12 inches expected on the other side of the river.  What always makes it tricky is that we live less than a mile from the river (the mighty Susquehanna River) so it could go either way where we are.  That being said, the logs are stacked in the fireplace and we’re ready to gather around with hot cocoa and watch the snow fall.  Actually, that’s our gas fireplace so the logs are fake but the effect is still lovely.  I can’t say as much for the snow at this point.  We were just starting to see some grass in spots here.  Oy!

In the meantime, I’ll console myself with the fact that my new spinning wheel, a Schacht Matchless DT is scheduled to be delivered today.  I’ve checked the UPS tracking and it made it to the distribution center right across the river yesterday so it should be on the truck today.  I’ve been busy spinning, in the meantime, on the Louet Victoria.  The more I spin on that little beauty, the more I am enjoying it.  For some reason, the height and angle of the orifice is just perfect for me.  I am finding the Lendrum, with it’s downward angle of the orifice, is harder on my back if I’ve been spinning for long periods of time.  Maybe it’s the osteoporosis and the fact that I’m starting to angle downward more now (drat) but there you have it.  With the Victoria, I can comfortably sit back in a variety of different chairs without slouching and still comfortably spin.  Just to give you a physical comparison, I’m around 5 ft. 5 inches tall but my legs are pretty long,  if you are considering buying a Victoria and wondering how it might work for you.

In knitting news, I finished the Julie H. Levy square of the Great American Aran Afghan.  I am almost finished with the Marian Tabler square, which I am knitting in a light brown heathered color.  Tonight I have another class where we will be beginning the Meredith Morioka square.  So slowly but surely our class is working through the squares of this somewhat intimidating afghan.  The trick is definitely to take it one square at a time (and getting pointers in a group setting is a definite plus).

I’ll leave you with a picture of me “entertaining” my little Mika.  I call it “Me and Grumpy.”  I still have the uncanny ability to put my granddaughter into a less than happy mood.  Someone said that this was God’s way of making it easier for me to say “goodbye” to her soon.  It would be so much harder if she were snuggling up to me at every turn and clinging to me.  Right?  Hmmm, I don’t know about that.  I think it’s going to be hard either way.

Well, hopefully tomorrow I’ll have pictures of my new Schacht to show you.  In the meantime, somebody out there has to be enjoying warm, Spring-like weather.  Enjoy it for me.

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Endless Pleats and Late Nights

We have been glued to the TV in the evenings ever since the Olympics opened up in Vancouver this past weekend.  On the bright side, this has given me knitting time while I watch the events.  On the down side, I’m staying up much later than I should.

Last night, for example, the Commander finally abandoned ship, er, left the family room before the last four ice skating pairs had skated their routines.  However, my son and I stayed up to watch the battle unfold.  Who would win the gold?  Would this be the year for the Chinese teams?  With all the build-up, we really wanted to find out.  By the time the winners of gold, silver and bronze medals were determined, it was 12:20 a.m. and they hadn’t even had the awards ceremony yet.  We gave up and turned off the telly and headed to our respective beds.  Yawn!

In the meantime, I’m at the last edging of my Mara Shawl.  It’s the final pleat edge and it seems to be taking forever.  Here I am, sitting in front of the TV for hours, and I can only seem to manage about 4 rows at best.  The bug in the ointment is that the darn thing bunches up so much on the needles that I spend a great deal of time pushing and pulling stitches closer to my needle tips, even though I’m using a 40-inch cable.  The pattern calls for a 4-inch pleat and I measured after it seemed like I had knit forever on the edging and discovered I’d only managed to come up with 2 inches.  Ugh!  Back to pulling and pushing.  The only plus side to this project at the moment is that I’m still loving the yarn (Madelinetosh DK) and the color.  I know I will enjoy the shawl, too once it is done.  I just am ready for it to end.

Last night, I actually cast on for a new project just to give myself some variety.  My daughter asked me to knit her a cowl. I whipped out my notebook filled with cowl patterns faster than you could say “knitting” and had her pick out the pattern she wanted me to use.  She wants a close-fitting cowl so she picked out the “Thermis” pattern by Kris Knits.   I cast on in a 50% wool, 50% Alpaca yarn blend but now I’m pretty sure that I’m going to frog that and cast on again with an ivory yarn I bought today called “Sublime Organic Merino Wool DK.”  It’s a soft single that reminds me of Malabrigo.  The wool/alpaca blend was just a little too rough.  I think it might irritate Laura’s neck and we can’t have that.  This cowl is really the first thing she has ever asked me to knit for her.

And what am I doing tonight?  Our son and daughter-in-law are hosting an open house at our home for their prayer supporters of their missionary work.  I’ll be up in my bedroom with the dog, trying to keep her quiet and hopefully, getting some knitting done while I watch, yup….you guessed it…..the Olympics.

Here We Go Again!

It’s another snowstorm.  We got about 8 inches of new snow overnight and it is still coming down.  The weatherman is predicting the heaviest snow will come today between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  Wow!  We might get another 8 inches of snow just today.  There’s nothing like sitting by a window in a warm house, watching the snow fall while you munch on sweet potato chips.  Yum!

My daughter reports that the wind is blowing so hard out her way (near the West Virginia border …..below Frederick, MD), that they are experiencing near whiteout conditions.  The schools there have just thrown up the white flag and canceled school until next Tuesday.  Her hubby is busy trying to clear snow off of their deck because the weight of the snow is so heavy that they are afraid it might cause the deck to collapse.

Until I can get out to take some more pictures of our latest snowfall, here is a picture of the latest square I’ve completed in the Great American Aran Afghan that I’m working on.  It’s the Julie H. Levy square.  There are a few boo-boo’s in this square but I’m fine with that.  It was a good learning experience and now I’m feeling quite comfortable at working cables without using a cable needle.  And these were my first bobbles.  I gave up on trying to follow the bobble directions in the pattern and just resorted to the directions in “The Knitting Companion.”

On a fun note, I have a blog to recommend to any of you who are librarians, library staff, or former library workers.  One of my former co-workers recommended this on Facebook today and I had to head over there.  The entries are funny and right on target, if you’ve ever worked in a library.  They’re also short so you can get your dose of humor quickly and then be on your way.  The blog is A Librarian’s Guide to Etiquette.  Enjoy!

Ain’t Singing the Blues!

It’s January, a month when the blues can easily catch up with a person.  I recently received an email from a friend with pictures of real letters that children had written to God.  One was asking God to please throw in another holiday after December because things get a little bleak between Christmas and Easter.  Yes, January is when the “gales of November” become the “howls of winter” and any sane person battens down the hatches, grabs some hot cocoa, a good book, a down comforter and stays indoors.  It’s not my favorite month.  But nevertheless, this was a good week and since it is Friday and time for a “Fave Five” recap, here are my highlights.

1.  I received a shipment of glorious fiber to spin up from a very talented fiber artist. Bee Mice Elf has an Etsy shop where she sells colorful concoctions of fiber for spinning like the beauty on the right.  What is even greater is that the name of the colorway of this particular wool is Naughty Librarian.  As soon as I saw it and saw the name of it, I knew that I had to have it.  How perfect is that name for a booklover who has retired from library work?  I’m going to have fun spinning this up into yarn and even more fun knitting it into something to wear.  Just knowing the name of it will have me chuckling whatever I make out of it.

2.  Mika’s quilt is all finished. I’m particularly happy with how the blue binding just sets off the whole quilt.  I think it brightens it right up.  And the bright green backing with little swirls in the colors from the front really adds to the cheerfulness of this little quilt.  I had lots of fun when I was quilting it by quilting words on the quilt.  She’ll certainly never see them now but as she gets older, she’ll have fun trying to pick out where I quilted such words as “Meow, Moo, Yarn, Knit, Cow, Woof, Nana, PawPaw, and We Love Mika.”  I also quilted different qualities that I hope she will grow up to have on the sashes, such as “Joy”, “Compassion”, “Peace”, and “Laughter.”

3.  My new exercise hoop arrived today. If you read one of my earlier posts from several weeks ago, you’ll know that my first attempt at obtaining an exercise hoop ended in disaster when it came all folded up and when I tried to uncoil it, I ended up putting a bad kink in it.  This time, I ordered from another company and ordered a collapsible hoop that came gently coiled, not folded.  I also put it in a sunny room and let it warm up before I tried to uncoil and snap the ends together.  Voila!  I didn’t break it.  And what’s more……I can hula hoop.  Yes, despite the fact that I haven’t done any serious hula hooping since my high school years (many moons ago), I got that hoop spinning and kept it up.  I even walked around the room with it going.  Yay!  I’m telling you, it is a workout just doing that much.  Wait until I start doing hoop dancing routines.  Oh yeah, baby!

4.  I finished my Mondo Cable Shell and it fits.  It’s a miracle.  Usually when I finish a knitted top, I don’t like how it fits.  But this pattern is just right.  It doesn’t gap around the armholes, it isn’t too low at the neckline, and it isn’t clinging tightly anywhere.  I had envisioned wearing it over a t-shirt but I think I could easily wear it just like this in hot weather and it would do fine.  You can’t really see the big cables running down the center because the yarn is pretty busy but they came out nicely, too.  I’ll definitely be using this pattern again but will probably pick a different yarn in a solid or semi-solid color that would show off the textured pattern more.

5.  With my spunky new hairdo, I’m thrilled to see that my granddaughter is taking after her Nana. Actually, I did cut my hair and when my son sent me this latest pic of Mika and her lovely head of hair looking so much like my own hairdo, I couldn’t resist a little fun with my photo editing software to give her a pair of matching “specs.”  Apologies to my little sweet pea.

What were your fave fives this week?  Pop over to Susanne’s site at Living to Tell the Story and see what others are listing for their top five highlights this week.

Modifying An Afghan Square

I mentioned awhile back that I had started on my second square for the Great American Aran Afghan.  This particular square is the Judy Sumner square which is the first square in the pattern booklet put out by Knitter’s Magazine.  Judy, the designer, included a big, honking 3-dimensional spider in this square along with some other bugs.  Since I can’t stand bugs in any shape or form, I decided to leave them out of this square entirely.

That left me with a dilemma.   Should I just knit the vine going up the one side and the X’s and O’s on either border and forget the netting in the upper right corner?  Actually, I’m not entirely sure what that “netting” is supposed to be.  I’m thinking it is probably a spider’s web but I’ve heard other knitters say it was a beehive.  Who knows?  Back to the question at hand.  If I did the first choice, that would leave me with a pretty blank right side to the square.

The second option would be to knit all of the above in the first choice and add the “netting” in the upper corner.  OK, that’s workable.  At least it would add some interest.    And the third option might be to also knit the spider’s “legs” but leave off the body and just call it a design element which would basically fill out the square without the 3-dimensional quality of the original square.

Here’s what I ended up doing.  I had actually started knitting the legs of the spider but decided that would look plain silly so I stopped.  Yup, just switched over to reverse stockinette about six rows into Chart C and I have to tell you, it felt good.  I really started to fly through the square once I did that.  I left the “netting” in, too, because I thought it looked neat and wanted to try knitting it.  So once I had the square finished, I looked it over and tried to decide what I was going to substitute for the spider.  I vaguely had in mind to add something else that was 3-dimensional.  Well, as I examined that lower right corner, the small area where I had been knitting Chart “C” actually looked like the leaf portion of buds to me.  Eureka!  I’d put some small 3-dimensional buds there.  So I whipped up two very short I-cords and sewed them to the square, terminating them at the little “bud” leaf nips.   At that point I jumped to another idea.

A night or two before I reached this point, I had dreamed about this square and in the dream, I had knit up some 3-dimensional flowers.   When I woke up, the idea still sounded pretty good to me (which is not always the case with inspiration that comes to me in a dream).  I had started to look through my knitting library to see what patterns I might have for flowers.  Sure enough, I found an easy little pattern for a rose in the book Beautiful Embroidered & Embellished Knits by Jane Davis.  So I knit up a rose and decided that there was a spot near the top of the square that would lend itself nicely to a full-bodied rose.

Next question that I had to resolve was what color to make this rose.  I could make it in the original color of my square – green.  Hmm, that really didn’t appeal to me.  The other colors that are going to be in this afghan are heathered brown and the pale ivory of my Susan Rainey square.  Somehow the idea of a brown rose wasn’t sitting well with me so I decided to go with the white rose.  Decision made, rose knitted and attached.

Now back to my buds.  I searched for some bud patterns but just couldn’t find any that seemed to suit.  I looked at the remnants of my ill-fated attempt at Chart “C” once more.  You know, it could perhaps be made into two toadstools.  I found some amigurumi patterns for mushrooms or toadstools but looking at them, I couldn’t help but think that they might be mistaken for something a little X-rated.  Back to the “bud” concept.

I basically took the same pattern as the rose pattern but this time I only cast on 18 stitches.  Then I knit only 6 rows of stockinette.   I finished off just like the author recommended, leaving the 12″ tail and pulling it through the stitches but as I pulled, I formed the curling row of stockinette into a bud shape and secured the tail in the back.  Then I took the other tail and used that to further form the bud and again secured it in the back.  Now I had a nice little bud to attach to the top of my I-cord, nestled between the little “leaf” area formed by my few rows of Chart “C”.

The final effect was this……a 3-dimensional square with a meandering rose vine on one side, two rosebuds on the bottom, and a “trellis” in the upper right corner.  There’s nary a bug in sight and I feel safe to lean over and “smell” the roses without worrying about something crawling out to sting me or scare the bejeezus out of me.  It’s a modification that works for me.  And if you also are someone who doesn’t care for bugs on your afghan, perhaps this little discussion will inspire you to tackle a modification of your own.

Judy Sumner Afghan Square – Take Three

Thanksgiving is over and I’ve pretty much finished catching up with the laundry and straightening up the house.  That means it is time to get out the Great American Aran Afghan book again and tackle the Judy Sumner square once more.  This is the square that our group is supposed to be finishing before our next class meeting.  I’m telling you…..a few weeks on the back burner and it’s like I’ve never seen it before.  Oy!

The first thing I did was dig out my handy dandy cable cheat card that I made up earlier.  I am practicing doing cables without a cable needle and this little card helps remind me of the tricks to it.

I’m also on “Take Three” of my attempt to do a pattern modification.  I was never very keen on knitting that honking big spider or those little flies or bees or whatever insects those are at the top of the square.  I started out giving it the old college try but decided that I would leave out the spider and just knit the “X” which are the spider’s legs and then come up with some sort of 3-dimensional flower to applique over the “X” in place of the spider.  Well, after struggling with those silly twisted cable stitches for several rows, I decided that I had better things to do than crawl along, torturing myself stitch by stitch, row by row on this square.  I looked the pattern over again and decided to try another approach.  “Take Three” is going to be leaving out all the bugs and forgetting the “X” from the point at which I became frustrated.  Thus, I am doing plain purl stitches for Chart “C” on the right side of the square and plain stockinette stitches on the wrong side of the square for Chart “C”.  I was not about to go back and frog the darn thing to take out the little bit of the “X” that I had knit so I’ve decided that I shall knit up two I-cord “stems” and applique those onto the front up to the little “blips” that might resemble “buds” if you use your imagination.  And thus a unique “design element” is born.  I’ll still do the honeycomb pattern which is Chart “D” on the top right corner because the chart looks rather pleasant to knit.

I’m finding several tricks to be indispensable for knitting up this square.  The first trick is to sketch out a chart sequence line.  This really helps you keep it straight in your mind as to which chart comes next as you are knitting along, because you don’t want to fall into the trap of following the same chart sequence when you are coming back on the wrong side of the square.  (Ask me how I know!)  For example, if you are knitting up your border stitches and then Chart A, Chart C, Chart B, Chart A and then the ending border stitches on the right side of the square, then when you come back on the wrong side of the square you will be reversing that sequence.  Thus, you will knit the border stitches, Chart A, Chart B, Chart C, Chart A, and then the border stitches.

The other trick is to keep a row count completed by chart for each row.  This is really handy because you might be working row 6 of Chart C when you are working row 10 of Chart A.  You won’t be working the same row for every chart.  It can get mightly confusing if you don’t do this.  Trust me!  You don’t have to come up with anything fancy.  Simple hash marks under the chart letters will do.

And so I’m off to the races (well, crawling is more like it) once again on this square.  I must say that after knitting a garter stitched shawl over the past month which was blissfully mindless, this constant need for concentration is hard to get used to.  The Commander is quickly getting the message that he needs to tiptoe past and NOT interrupt me if he sees me knitting with charts spread out all around.

Fave Five Fiber Whee’s

Today is Friday and it’s time for another list of “five.”  I’m a little late today because of one of my five things I’m going to be listing.  Today all five things are centered around fiber. Are you sensing a theme.  Of course, next Friday, they might all be centered around food and family but there you go….the natural bent of my mind in November, when the winds turn chill and Thanksgiving is on the horizon.  Let’s get started with this week’s Fave Five, shall we?

1.  I have some gorgeous Madelinetosh Worsted yarn lined up for my next shawl project. Isn’t this a yummy color?  I’ve reserved it for a shawl pattern called “Mara” which has a body that is knit in garter stitch and finished off in a pleated border.  I’m almost done with the current shawl on my needles so I’m anxious to start this one, although our local lace knitter’s group picked a different shawl to knit together as a group so I might have to tackle that pattern first.  Then again, maybe I’ll cast on for the group knit, knit enough to give me something to work on at the next meeting and then start this beauty.

2.  I finished another Christmas present. This one is a cowl which will be going to my sister-in-law.  It is the “Thermis Neck Warmer” designed by Kristen Patay.  It was a really easy knit and it is going to be so cozy for her.  I knit it up in Malabrigo yarn which is exceptionally soft and cuddly against the skin.  She lives in Michigan near Detroit.  Detroit has often been referred to as “Motown” in the past but every winter it seems to be called “Snowtown” so I’m sure she’ll be grateful for something to block those frigid winds.  If you’re looking for a Christmas gift that you can knit up quickly, I’d highly recommend this pattern which is available as a .pdf file online through Ravelry.

3.  I attended my first ever spinning guild meeting. Thanks to the kind invitation from a former coworker who belongs to a local spinning guild, I was able to join them today for several hours of spinning and chatting.  Turns out that I know two ladies in the group.  I was SO nervous before I got there since I’m a fairly new spinner that the butterflies were doing somersaults in my stomach.  But the other spinners made me feel right at home.  I was going to bring my Lendrum but decided at the last minute to bring my Louet Victoria, since one of the main reasons I had purchased it was to have something extra portable to take to things such as this.  I’m happy to report that she worked like a champ.  And I’ve found a group of kindred spirits who  like to play with fiber as much as I do.

4.  I’ve started the second square for my Great American Aran Afghan. This is actually the first square in the book but it’s the second square that our knitting class is doing.  It is the square designed by Judy Sumner.  If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that the designer has some lovely “X”s and “O”s on each side and a meanering vine but then she mucks it up with a bulbous spider on the right and some flies or bees on the honeycomb portion in the corner of the square.  No offense to the designer but I am NOT a bug lover.  The thought of cuddling up with a 3-dimensional spider on my afghan doesn’t exactly thrill me.  At first I thought I’d go ahead and knit it up as written but I’m thinking more and more that I might leave off the spider and other bugs and add a 3-dimensional knitted flower or two instead.

5.  I finished another sweater for my expected granddaughter. This is a pattern called “Abagail’s Sweater” designed by Kay Squared.  I used Dream in Color Classy yarn in the colorway “Happy Forest”, which just happens to be the same yarn (and a similar lace pattern) to a sweater I knit for myself earlier in the year.  I think it came out so cute.  Of course, it also came out to be probably around a size 2T but maybe she can wear it earlier.  It is hard to tell.  When your children are in their late twenties, it is hard to remember how big (or small) they were when they were babies.

And there you have my Fave Fives for this week.  Check out Living to Tell the Story to see what other bloggers are listing for their fave fives.  Or head over there to see how you can join in the Fave Five fun yourself.