Week Fifty-Two: All Good Things

This week WordPress sent me a little “happy anniversary” notice. It was seven years ago when I registered my first blog with them — the one you’re reading now. I’ve started several other blogs since then, to focus on different fringe interests, but this is the blog that keeps going and growing, and gradually absorbing the other topics back into itself. I wonder why December 23 was the special day, when I had a six-month-old baby Tommy and three older children to take care of. It was probably time to switch to a blog from my e-mail newsletter, Wisconsin Crafter, because it was the end of a year.  I like starting new things on January 1, on Sundays or Mondays, or on the first day of a month. Launching a new initiative on, say, May 17 just wouldn’t make sense to me. How would I ever keep track of it?

But since WordPress is keeping track of it for me, well, happy anniversary to me! Hallmark’s website tells me that the traditional gifts for a seventh anniversary are wool or copper. (The modern gift is a desk set. I do have an antique desk at which I sit in front of my modern computer and write, and I do have a desk set somewhere; maybe I’ll tidy it up and use it.) I think I have bought enough wool for myself that I could knit up a little something special just for me. Copper is a bit trickier. Jewelry seems like an obvious path to take, but I don’t have pierced ears and I don’t wear rings, watches, or necklaces. I do have a few friends who make custom jewelry, and maybe they can give me some suggestions for some sort of commemorative item. A copper pen? A little hand-hammered copper bowl? I’m not sure.

Scratch that; I just found and ordered a hank of wool/silk laceweight yarn in a gorgeous tonal copper colorway. As my son James would say, “Achievement get!”

Well, now, since I’m closing out the year, I’d better be honest and take one last look at those resolutions I published 52 weeks ago.

Thusly, I resolve that, in 2013 (!!!) I shall:

  1. Blog on Chocolate Sheep again, and regularly. Dare I say, weekly?
  2. Finish the Doctor Who scarf I’m knitting for my friend Ginnie.
  3. Complete my calculus class.
  4. Learn one new cast-on.
  5. Find a Most Excellent Job in my chosen field of technical and scientific editing.
  6. Learn one new cast-off.
  7. Help my kids be awesome.

Seven looks like a good number, don’t you think?

I think I can honestly say I accomplished numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7. Number 6 just didn’t get much attention, and Number 3, as mentioned in greater detail a few weeks ago, was a spectacular failure. Overall, though, I think I did pretty well. The weekly blogging was sometimes a challenge, but I did learn how to use the Schedule function for posts so that I could publish pre-written ones when I was traveling. After a while I got used to the rhythm of writing what was essentially a weekly column, and I found I could usually produce something mildly entertaining by Thursday (sometimes Friday).

So, do I have any new and impressive resolutions ready for 2014?

No… not really. I still have a lot of unfinished business around here. I would like to become more monogamous with my knitting, and finish the really large projects I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. I’d like to start quilting again and make some more durable and functional quilts that the kids and I can use. I’d like to deepen my friendships. I’d like to be braver. I’d like to be a better cook. I’d like to study more math and physics. And most of all, I’d like to keep writing. I can’t (and won’t) promise that I will keep to a regular weekly schedule for my posts here, but it’s quite possible that I’ve picked up a very good habit and that’s when the writing will appear.

All in all, it’s been a pretty good year for me. See you on the other side!


Week Thirty-Seven: The Sheep and Wool Challenge

Last weekend I attended my seventh consecutive Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. Events at my first Sheep and Wool Festival (specifically, the utter lack of anything to do after 5pm on Saturday) inspired me to create an event that is now known as Unwind; I attended my sixth Unwind on Saturday night.

I love the Festival, and I’m proud of Unwind, but this year as I explored the vendor barns and saw what so many fiber crafters had to offer (fiber animals, finer, yarn, patterns, books, artwork, jewelry, pottery, baskets, clothing, wheels, spindles, needles, and more new items every year), I started to feel uncomfortable and melancholy. It didn’t take long to identify the source of this discomfort.

As I walked down each aisle I recognized vendors from whom I had purchased items in the past — items I had not yet used, even though they had been procured with the best of intentions. I had bought fiber from one vendor which I have not spun; yarn from another that I have not knitted; books from yet another that I have not read. I felt guilty, sad, and — somehow — a failure. I had done nothing with the spoils of previous festivals — which didn’t leave me feeling especially festive.

It was time to do something about it.

I have made a new resolution, one that will overlap the 2013 resolutions with which I’ve been grappling (with overall success, the Calculus of Damocles notwithstanding).

Henceforth it is resolved that, prior to the commencement of the 2014 Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, I shall have completed all projects using materials purchased at previous Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festivals, inclusive of the years 2007-2013.

Well, full completion of all materials might be straying into “unreasonable” territory. We’re talking about at least 16 ounces of fiber to spin, and I have neither wheel nor spindle in my possession right now. And I’ve forgotten how to spin. We’re talking about 3,390 yards of yarn to knit. And we’re talking about 514 pages of books to read. Even my short-time readers will note that I do have a current project or two I really should finish (the Ravelry count is over 16, but who’s really counting?) ere I set myself another massive goal and decide which motivation is more compelling, that of carrot or stick.

It’s one thing to decide that you should do something, and quite another to decide, before you’ve even lifted a finger to take action, that you shall probably fail. I won’t let doubts derail me. Who am I to presume what I cannot do? I’ll only know what I can do after I’ve done it. It’s a challenge I issue to myself. Meeting it is its own reward, and there is no punishment for failure.

That being said, it is a mighty challenge. But I’ll take pictures as I go, and try to keep my progress entertaining for any spectators.

I have three types of fiber to spin, which I know as Camel, Wookie, and Jacob. I have nine yarns to knit up: mohair, Rose Tyler, River Song, Killer Rabbit, Shetland, green heather, blue heather, the Sun Valley mini skeins, and natural colored sock yarn. And I have two books to read: Hit By a Farm, and Sheepish.

Rose Tyler.

Rose Tyler.

River Song.

River Song.

Killer Rabbit.

Killer Rabbit.

Green heather.

Green heather.

Blue heather.

Blue heather.

Handpainted Shetland.

Handpainted Shetland.

Fourteen items to check off in a year.

I hope this is all there is, but I fear that it is not. I’d better get a head start on the rest of it. As I read somewhere in the last week, “If you need to be in two places at the same time, you had better move quickly.”

As long as nobody expects anything hand knitted for Christmas, this should all work out just fine.

(Oh, crap.)

A first post for 2009

Well, I survived a New Year’s Eve date with my husband. If we had those more than once a year I don’t know how I’d prepare. We had a fun sorta healthy dinner (Mongolian BBQ) and a Cake concert at the Riverside in Milwaukee, and an overnight in a luxurious hotel. He saved up all his points and miles from his business travel last year to get it. I should have done a photo shoot of the room, but I forgot.

And yesterday I produced the first FO of 2009 — the bamboo socks. Okay, so the vast majority of the work was done in 2008, but still. Weaving in is what makes them done. The aforementioned socks will be appearing at The Sow’s Ear in Verona, Wisc., tonight as part of their Victory Tour. Please stop by and pet them!

Today I picked the first yarn I’ll be using in my Personal Sock Club project. This is a Ravelry thing, part of the Stash Knit Down 2009 group. Lots of people have come up with cool ideas for using up their stash, and this is the one that connected with me. To join our super special sock club, you just pick out the sock yarns you already have and the patterns you want to make, put them in plain or fancy bags, and draw one out every month. A $250 value, for free! I will be making the Retro Rib Socks from Interweave’s Favorite Socks book, using Wildfoote Luxury Sock Yarn from Brown Sheep, in the “Forget Me Not” colorway.

I’ve also got Late Night Knitting tonight — and it’s a must-go because DH is poised to start his big business travel season and will be gone on some of the nights. I must strike while the needles are hot, as it were.

A big HELLO to those of you who have discovered my blog and been gracious enough to tell me you like it! I will try to have more posts and more pictures this year, though I need to upgrade my photo storage subscription to make that possible. I hate working with PayPal because I do it so infrequently that I always forget what to do. But for you, I’ll do it.

I think I have a big round number of posts coming up very soon (this is #296). How shall we celebrate Number Three Hundred?

Published in: on January 2, 2009 at 1:04 pm  Comments (4)  

Iron on Wednesday

Does anyone remember the little verse that told you what day of the week was for washing, for ironing, for mending? I don’t know if Wednesday is really supposed to be ironing day, but it seems like all my ironing must be done today or else.

I got two more vertical sashings sewn on to the T-shirt panels last night, then realized that I had better iron everything I had already done before I did any more, or I was in danger of creating a huge mess. Hand stitching isn’t hard to pick out, but ripping out machine stitching really bites. So I’ll have to iron those.

While I had the sewing machine out, I grabbed two fat quarters and started putting together a reversible drawstring bag for the Hopeful Pages Project. I was so sure I could put together something nice with just two fat quarters and no cutting. If it works out, I’ll post the pattern. I am not really Little Miss Sewing Machine, so it took me at least a month to come up with something so simple that I thought I could do it. (Of course, I haven’t done it yet.) So I have to press the drawstring and the bag fabric before I can go on to the next step.

Tomorrow is the school Mass celebrating all the second graders who have made their First Communion at all the different parishes. I actually remembered to buy lemonade for the reception. But the kids will arrive at this Mass dressed as they were on their First Communion day, and change into regular clothes afterwards. So I have to press his dress shirt and slacks. (And tomorrow I will have to make it through Mass with the Wonder Twins and Big Tom, but that’s a whole other headache, and it doesn’t happen until tomorrow.)

I woke up really early today and got to work on my Harlot-recipe salt and pepper socks while it was still quiet. I am still on the ribbing for the first sock. I am supposed to knit 2 inches and so far I have 1.5 inches according to a red plastic Star Wars ruler, which is the first ruler I could find without leaving the living room.

Tom has been eating like a pig since we got the orders to stuff him. Over the last few days he has had toddler formula, applesauce, instant mashed potatoes, off-brand cheerios, strawberry yogurt, bread, fried eggs, and baked macaroni and cheese. Right now he is making a glorious mess of some honey-flavored Teddy Grahams.

Thanks to everyone for granting me a Stash Emergency Exemption I didn’t even ask for. I do feel much better now. If I don’t make it to September or October or whatever, I won’t beat myself up too much.

Spam Quote of the Day

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Yeah, that’s great design at work. It was tough to click on “Quentin.” Thanks for your recognition of my hours of labor.

Published in: on May 16, 2007 at 8:47 am  Comments (4)  

Knit from your, yeah, whatever

OK, so I was fine with this Knit From Your Stash program (except for the being on probation since January 1 part, but that was an honest mistake and we sha’n’t discuss that) until yesterday. We had a little security scare at the campus yesterday, which ended up being nothing but good practice for the real thing, but still. When it happens right across the corner from the elementary school, at the very minute you are there to pick up your child, and in fact you had to pull over for the passage of an unmarked police car on your way to the school, you tend to freak out a little bit.

I am usually very cool and even funny in an emergency (ask me about my appendectomy sometime, it was a laugh riot!!!), but this time it hit home to me that while I was going into school to retrieve my son, I was leaving the other three in the parking lot even closer to the mystery danger. Karma is one thing, but random disaster is something else.

So I went shopping. First I went grocery shopping because we really did need some things, like milk and cheese pizzas. But I kept throwing comfort foods into the cart, too. If I can’t protect my kids from shooters, at least they will have Pop-Tarts to eat. Don’t argue with a Cancerian Mama when her baby crabs are threatened. That’s what the claws are for, and throw those Ghirardelli extra dark baking chips in there, too, please, homemade fudge will make Mama feel better. I will exercise someday, but right now I just need to feel better.

By the time I got to the checkout lane I knew I would be getting yarn, too. Any kind I wanted. Because I wanted it. So I got cash back from the groceries to pay for the yarn.

I was going to get the Trekking XXL but (thank you Mom for a lifelong training session in value) hit the clearance bins first. Lo and behold, a skein of Sirdar Country Style, cranberry heather I think. Not the same as the wonderful purple I got for Mother’s Day, but coordinating enough for stripes (and only 99 cents). Two skeins of Mission Falls 1824 Merino Superwash (with mismatched dye lots, which is probably why they were there). A skein of Patons Decor in a colorway called Tapestry with all kinds of winey fall jewelly colors. Mine mine mine. And, oh yeah, more pieces parts for stitch markers. If I’m not careful I’m going to look like a beader pretty soon.

Yeah, I feel much safer now. The “crisis” turned out to be that a student brought his lab project to class in something that looked like a gun case. But at least I have my yarn. My children will be protected. And they have three flavors of Pop-Tarts.

So, I might as well kiss Knit From Your Stash goodbye. If I am this unstable, I clearly need more yarn anyway.

And if you need 50 grams of Mission Falls in color 02 to match a dyelot you already have, I’m willing to swap. Let me know.

Oh…I got to pick my prize today from the Charmed Knits KAL drawing. I picked Teach Yourself Visually: Handspinning. The road to you-know-where is paved with free craft books.

Spam Quote of the Day

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Published in: on May 15, 2007 at 8:44 am  Comments (6)  

Another wonderful day in paradise

The sun is out, the air is crisp and clear, the skies are blue, I haven’t killed off the containers of marigolds I planted a few days ago…life is good here.

When I first moved to Wisconsin in July 1999, every day looked like this. Wait, the skies were even bluer. Every day I got up, opened the windows, and announced, “Another wonderful day in paradise!” When I look back on it now, this was probably not helpful. My now-XH had just uprooted himself to move with me for the job I had gotten. Granted, he got a job in his field literally the day we moved in, but the whole circumstance, though necessary for our family’s survival, was probably the beginning of the end. He didn’t say anything about how off-balance all the changes were making him, and I blithely assumed we were on the same page, down to the word. Within months I discovered the error of my ways. (Note to others: Never blithely assume anything.)

That’s enough of all that…but from time to time the skies here are SO blue and clear that it stops you in your tracks. Another day like that was September 12, 2001. All flight traffic was banned for two days and I have never seen a prettier sky. Unfortunately it only served to contrast the fact that, while my co-workers had nobly stood in line for hours to give their blood to the victims of the terrorist attacks… none of it would be needed. Here was beauty, all around us, and over there in that pile of dust was such pain and anger and sorrow.

It’s easy to say it was a symbol of hope, or that things were going to get better, or that there is always beauty in the midst of despair. A little too easy and pat. Douglas Adams wrote that intelligence was the ability to hold two diametrically opposed concepts in your brain and not crack. (I’m paraphrasing. I know someone else will remember this and put the real quote in the comments — it’s from HHGTTG.) In the post-9/11 days, this kind of intelligence was tough to find. It was easier to raise a flag or say a prayer, and those things are worth doing, too.

Now, beautiful blue skies have a dual ability. They give me hope. And they remind me of unspeakable tragedy.

We hold two contrasting things in our hands when we knit for others, using warm, soft wool to counteract all kids of pain. The opposite of cancer is a soft hat. The opposite of grief is a beautiful shawl. The opposite of cold is a thick scarf. The opposite of fear is an afghan. The opposite of loneliness might well be handknit socks.

With all that in mind, I’ve been toying with the idea of establishing an orphanage for unwanted yarn, that could be adopted by knitting groups for their charity work. I don’t have the space or time to do this well right now, but it seems like something that needs to be done. So I think I’ll just put it out there and see what the interest is. What I have in mind is kind of a storehouse for acrylics. Send in your unused skeins and leftovers. Request yarn for a group project. Let us all know about upcoming charity knits that could use acrylics.

Oh yeah, and come up with a catchy name for the whole thing. I’m stumped but I know you guys will come up with something really cool.


Published in: on May 4, 2007 at 10:23 am  Comments (5)  

Caution: Blog crossing

Well, it was bound to happen eventually, and now you will get two sets of photos out of it: the charming Ann K. visited me last night. We flashed stash, compared swap and sale yarn, talked about current and future projects and all kind of stuff, and then we took pictures!

Here is a picture I took, of Ann taking a picture of two of my kids:

Ann K. photographing the kids

She will surely have more pictures up at her blog, including pictures of us together (thanks, DH Bob!) but not including pictures of Colleen’s “knitting” demonstration. She also took the first good pictures of the stitch markers I made for the Hogwarts Sock Swap and will be e-mailing them to me. I can’t wait to show them off!

After she and Bob left and the kidlets were tucked into bed, I got to work on the T-shirt quilt, ironing fabric and cutting who knows how many strips (nod to Brian Regan’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich routine here). I took pictures of that, but it was very boring and hard to see where the cutting lines were. So instead, I took a picture of this, the quilt block that was missing from the layout the other day. The sweatshirt piece is just pinned into place here.

Pacelli quilt block

Then I put all that stuff away for the night. Tonight I will need to run the sewing machine and start putting it all together, and I don’t want to do it in the kitchen right next to where Tom is sleeping. Why did I move the dining room table back into the kitchen again? Dain bramage.

So then I popped in some Remington Steele (one episode and a featurette) and finished this:

Gryffindor cap 3 (wide stripe beanie)

I accidentally knit seven rows of gold instead of six, so increased each color section by one row, remembering how JC liked the taller hat last time. I cast on for another one almost immediately. While Ann was here I found, gadzooks, still more leftover Gryffindor colors, so I guess I will be cranking out these hats for a while. I may never get to buy Hufflepuff yarn!

By the way… if you want an improve kind of ball winder… one of those size 50 plastic needles (QuikStix?) makes a fair one if you already have one lying around. Leave a tail and start wrapping around, and in a while, presto, a centerpull ball of yarn. Be careful how you slide it off the big needle, though. It was easily remedied, but mine got a little tangled.

Back to the Harlot’s house to drool over her new sweater in progress!

Published in: on April 26, 2007 at 9:39 am  Comments (2)  

I can’t take it back, it’s already out there

And boom, the HOT box will be leaving Stevens Point today. I sent it out via a gift-basket shop, so it will look much cuter and cleverer than I could manage. And guess what, the lady who prepares the gift baskets is a knitter. The non-cyberspace variety, so she’s really tickled at this project. I promised to bring the box over to show her when it gets back to me.

There’s no new knitting to show, but maybe Pierce and I will get to work on something tonight. Oh wait…it’s Quilt Week. Well, I will take pictures of that. Aren’t sashing strips fascinating?

And I would like to issue an open invitation to Central Wisconsin knitters to visit the Portage County Cultural Festival on Saturday, May 5. There is so much going on, and it’s free, and I can’t even start to describe the whole shebang. But follow the link and maybe you’ll see that one of the features is a spinning demonstration by the wonderful people at Mielke’s Fiber Arts in Rudolph, from 10am to 5pm. I do not know them personally, yet, but they are the people I want to take spinning lessons from, and I want to go to the festival so I can watch the demo.

Unfortunately, that very date is one of the rare times that Mr. Beth’s work travel overlaps with my weekends with him, so I will be alone with the four kids all weekend, which makes going to something like this kind of… logistically challenging. So if you’re going or interested in going, maybe we could meet up and you could help me keep my kids in line meet my darling children. I’ll buy you lunch… and believe me, the lunch options at this event are staggeringly diverse, and all good. If you’re interested, just comment and I’ll get back to you.

Oh, and Monica? Thanks for keeping me honest, but I’m allowed to buy sock yarn. However, unless I start making socks with it, I won’t be able to justify it any more.

Published in: on April 23, 2007 at 9:50 am  Comments (3)  

Harlot on Tape

I’m still taking names and addresses for the circulation of my Harlot on Knitty Gritty tape. Since there was an old Indy 500 already on the tape, I’ve decided to fill up the whole thing (or as much as I can) with this week’s Knitty Gritty episodes from DiY and HGTV. As long as I’m paying for extended cable, we might as well all get our money’s worth, don’t you think? I have five people on the list right now and there’s plenty of room for more. Just leave a comment here and I’ll chat you up via e-mail.

Also, I’d like to jazz things up a little. Waaaay too boring to just send a VHS box through the mail. When you get the box, you will also get a little treat (and you’ll provide a treat for the next person on the list; it doesn’t have to be homemade, but it could be). And there will be a project to work on while you watch the tape. Details will be in the box.

I finished the Gryffindor beanie for Charmed Knits last night, and guess what? Each child wanted to model it. And they said I should make a hat for each House.

Guess what, kids? That means Mommy does have to go to the yarn store. Think about that one.

But I’m still trying to Knit From My Stash, so last night, after I realized that, yet again, everything I wanted to work on was in my room with the sleeping baby, I cast on.

For another thin-stripe Gryffindor beanie. But this time I’m paying better attention and putting the stripes in at 3 inches instead of 5 inches, just like they should be. It really is a very quick knit, and by tonight I hope to be able to post a picture of each beanie. Last night, while I was watching (listening to) Grosse Pointe Blank, I got past the 1×1 ribbing and just kept going into stockinette until my eyes started to shut (11:30). I picked it up again this morning during the Nick Jr. time, and knit all the way up to the first color change. For now it’s sitting and waiting, just like Alison’s.

Whew! Pictures tonight!

Published in: on April 18, 2007 at 10:19 am  Comments (5)  

Birthday boy

Jack’s birthday party (Saturday) was fun. We keep these things super low-key here, so the most fun part was “decorating” the room with streamers and balloons while Jack was out shopping with Dad. Jack got to pick out his own treat, so they came home with a cake with balloons on it instead of blue cupcakes with blue icing (which I was supposed to make, but I abdicated my baking responsibilities).

Birthday tableau for Jack, 3

JC made up Jack’s name in Duplos — his original idea. And that’s our “happy birthday” banner taped to the table. Jack seemed to like everything, though the presents were very simple: a sailboat for the tub, another Thomas train (Mike), some shirts, and “Blue Mater” from Cars. Colleen offered to wrap up her pink and purple cell phone for him, so we did. And after the big celebration we found him here:

Jack, shelved

Hey, it’s exhausting to turn three. Apparently.

Later in the day, I heard a strange sound from upstairs. All the other kids were downstairs, so I had the feeling Jack was stuck somewhere. I was right:

Jack, stuck

Colleen’s room was trashed, so I assured him that I would let him out as soon as I got the room clean. Which I did. The thing he’s stuck in is the seat to an old baby swing, the rest of which is broken. I thought Colleen would like to put her dolls in it. Every so often, Jack wants to put himself in it. Same results, every time.

Well. Knitwise, I have three projects on the verge of finishing, and I’m going to try to do that tonight. After taking everyone to the Pack meeting, in which JC is part of both the opening and closing ceremonies. Don’t ask how I’m going to accomplish this, because, frankly, I don’t know yet. Pack meetings are held in the school lunchroom, which is down about twenty steps in the grade school basement. So no double stroller. Tom will be in his car seat. And oh yes, JC is requested to be there early to be ready to do the flag ceremony. I don’t know if anyone will be helping me manage the Wonder Twins.

So, after we get done with all that and everyone is in bed, here’s the plan. Finish the baby sock by grafting the toe. Take my newfound Kitchenering skills and put them to immediate use to finish the Moebius. Then pick up the Charmed Knits Gryffindor cap and start decreasing for the crown. It’s a 14-round process to the end, which is all familiar stuff. I just have to throw a stitch marker in there and get going.

If tonight is Finishing Night, tomorrow can be Picture Day and maybe I can get some new stuff on the needles.

Speaking of which…when I was shopping at Herrschners yesterday for my swap buddies, I just about broke my heart at the yarn I didn’t buy. It was a variegated purple with just a touch of blue in it, and there were four skeins of it…easily enough to do a sweater pattern in a German magazine I have. It was marked down to $3.99 a skein. DAMN you, Knit From Your Stash! I’m sure it will be gone the next time I go there, and I’m trying not to think about it.

Published in: on April 16, 2007 at 8:39 am  Comments (2)