Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ringing Out the Old

My last post related my outbreak of hives.  Unfortunately, that episode lasted much longer than any human should have to put up with.  As previously written, my first hives began during the Hobbit, and they continued to appear over the 24 hours, to the point where I had 5 - 6 inch diameter red, burning welts over my entire body.  We tried lots of Benedryl and various other anti-histimines and steroids both at home and in the clinic (including an epi-pin), but when my wrists and feet were red and swollen, and my throat started to swell closed Monday morning, I went to the hospital and was admitted.  Two days and many, many steroids and anti-histimines later, I came back home again, still itchy and with hives to a lesser degree, and completely wiped out. The verdict was severe allergic reaction to an unknown substance.

Our Christmas present to each other and the family was a ski trip to introduce the kids to the sport, have some family time and be in Michigan together.  Instead, my hubby took the hyper, disease-laden rug rats to the slopes, and I spent lots of alone time in the house, recuperating and resting.  There are lots of nasty viruses in our community, and with all the meds I was on, my immunity has been lowered.  Considering the time of year, this could have been a sad and stressful time for me, but I can honestly say with Joseph in the Old Testament, "What [you] meant for evil, God has meant for good."

I had a very centered time of quiet and thanksgiving, and God brought the right people to me in the right time.  It was a joy to see His provision for me, including an invitation by a friend for people with no family in the area for her first holiday open house. Another friend had me over to her house (with no diseased people in it) for a quiet evening and a Chinese dinner.  She didn't know how long eating Chinese at Christmas has been a part of our family traditions! My in-laws brought me two lunches, and a friend contacted me on Christmas Eve day and arranged for another friend to bring me a meal that night, as I was all alone.

Not for long, though.  The kids and my husband cut their vacation short, drove all day and surprised me at the quietest Christmas Eve service I could find!  The kids had fallen asleep two hours previous, and the boys were completely zonked in the pew, going between shoving each other and trying to use each other for pillows. It was cute.  My daughter was more awake and involved, even helping my husband unpack the truck after we all arrived home.

Christmas was wonderful.  Despite the swollen, stiff joints, I managed to finish my husband's vest, The British School Slipover in the Folk Vests book. I thought the Rowan wool cotton was perfect for him:  soft, and not too warm.

I also finished the first pair of my filet crocheted breakfast nook curtains.  They disgustingly took about a month, MUCH LONGER than I had anticipated.  That, and my illness, took a huge chunk out of any other knitted gifts.  Seriously -- I didn't knit for almost a week with my hives and recovery.  After Christmas, though, I got the mittens knitted for my friend Molly in Ireland and another for my cousin in Annapolis.  I got those mailed the last few days.

So, in conclusion, I am overjoyed to be home, in much better shape and have the family home as well.  A belated holiday wish to all you, my friends!  May God bless you in the coming year!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Hobbit and Hives

We went as a family to see the Hobbit yesterday. My husband bought the tickets on-line and read there that it was sold out. We accordingly got there early.

The theater was completely empty. We really had our choice of seats! Halfway through the show, I started to itch. Halfway home I was covered with red welts. I had hives! All I had to eat was popcorn. All I had to drink was bottled water. Perhaps I am allergic to some popcorn additive? Or, perhaps I'm allergic to orcs.

The movie was pretty awful. Chris had read me a review about the IMAX/3D version looking "plasticky," but the CGI looked kind of plasticky to me as well on the regular version. Three hours. Three hours of a third of a three hundred page book. The Onion had a really funny review stating that for 53 minutes Bilbo packing for the trip. Yeah. Peter Jackson added tons of orcs and evil plotting and scheming against the group of 14 adventurers. I can't recall a single orc in the book. I remember the trolls and the town if men, but the rest is bunk.

Here is a picture of my own little Hobbits and one troll. Wouldn't you know, he had the choice of every seat in the house, and he had to go steal mine!

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14

Today was the day the lone gunman killed the elementary kids in Connecticut. Information is still coming out about what happened, but it has left everyone's heart cold and stuttering.

At the time he entered the Newtown school where his mom worked, I was in my daughter's lunchroom watching her and her good friend make a school of their own. What a contrast -- we had fun and sugar and smiles and creativity. The two girls had initially planned an old, ramshackle school with a crooked sign, but they decided to make it old style, but functional. They had a belfry, sign and road to the front door.

The base is old milk cartons. They are covered first in graham crackers with frosting.  LOTS of frosting.

The architects' plans converge.

And... the finished product:

I realize I haven't posted in over a month... Last month I headed down to Pendleton Indiana's The Trading Post owned and operated by Susan Markle.  It was on a cold morning.

 my greeter

Susan put on a great workshop by John Mularky of Malarky Crafts on tablet or card weaving. What a lark! John demonstrated how to warp the small loom threading the cards one on each round. Then, how to weft.

This was my partner in warping.  John set us down in pairs and we spotted for each other.  It took less than 10 minutes for each of us to warp the loom.  Very fun!

These looms are for tablet weaving.  One can also use an inkle loom with a long depth to that top part.  I'm sure there is real vocabulary I should be using here, but, hey!  I did the class, and that has to count for something!

Here is my loom all warped and ready for action:

I made a sample strap during class that day, then, the day after that when I came home, I went to an all day quilt with some friends.  There, I weft the loom and made a belt in a very simple pattern.  Several days later, I ordered a D-ring clasp to sew on it and make it a working belt.

I guess I'll have to do that soon and post it!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards all

Third time this fall, I have found a Norwegian hand knit sweater in a resale shop. This one came from The Trendy Fox shop here in Rochester. Even though I am into Sámi stuff, I'm not wholly into reindeer on my sweaters. These ones are cool, though. I like the slightly large fit, and the sweater is made of fairly soft wool and is light and warm.

For a fleeting minute I considered ripping it apart and harvesting it for its wool. Then, I remembered: it must be a steeked cardigan. I checked inside, and sure enough: the front cardigan opening was created by cutting up the front of a knit-in-the-round tube, then the button bands were added and the seam was covered with a knit facing. That means if I frogged this sweater, I'd have as many strands of one-row-long yarn as there are rows in the cardi.

Recent New Jersey acquisition.

Love my sheep Sherpa!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Alright. This have been done for some time. Clasps from Nordic Fiber Arts in NH found at

The second sweater is a hand knit Norwegian sweater I found at goodwill two days after I returned from the Nordic Knitting Conference.

Ready for Fall!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Traveler's Dilemma

So, I went to Seattle and was gone for four days. I took a carry-on and an admittedly large purse. I packed travelled with three options in footwear, two knitting projects, four knitting books, exercise clothes, and gifts. It wasn't a completely pared down existence.

When I flew home, I knew I was going to be in trouble, and a bit of strategy was necessary. First of all, I flew out with quite a few of my double pointed needles, and I really, really wanted to return with all of them. I prepared for the eventuality of security seizing them by placing the metal ones in a padded envelope, weighing it at the Post Office, and traveling with enough stamps to mail them to myself from Seattle. But at the conclusion of the conference, my needles weren't neatly packed in their holder. I had several sets dispersed through my bags, stuck in samples, mittens, and other projects. It might look a little weirder to the scanner operator.

Secondly, I may have bought some yarn. Just a few balls here and there. Daily. Some was even given to me, and I really didn't want to look ungracious, so, I took it. May have found some, too, and you know what they say about "found" yarn. Then, there were the pamphlets and instructional handouts. And calendars. In any case, I was traveling home with more than I left with.

Once I reached the airport, I found a nook and put down my carry-on, purse, and two bags of yarn. My last purchase had been 1 gallon ziplocks. I opened the suitcase and put on my biggest/thickest/densest clothes, and started the clothing Tetris game. Every bit of space was utilized, and balls of yarn were squished into ziplocks. And... it all fit! I was thrilled!  Then, I hoisted the backpack, staggering under the weight, and practiced a face which looked like it was as light as s feather. In retrospect, I'm not really sure what that means.  I guess I tried to look happy and clueless -- perhaps not the best angle to approach security.  I tried not to grunt when I hoisted my purse, and headed to security an hour early. There was no way the carry-on would fit into an overhead compartment, but I wasn't going to be the one to bring that up.

I queued and de-shoed and waited, inching forward through the "we see you nude" cameras,  until I heard those decisive words, "will you step over here, ma'am?"

It was the backpack.  I smiled and assured the lady that I had been to a knitting conference, and she probably will have never seen so much yarn in her life.  She was very polite as she unzipped the backpack and promptly got both zippers gummed up in yarn.  I gently released it, and she began the searching process.  "Did I have tweezers in there?" No.  Really, I had tweezers and dpns in my purse, but I have no idea what she was looking for in the suitcase, unless it was more needles.  Evidently, she didn't know either as several minutes later, I was free to go, but, of course, the fun had just begun.  Now we needed to fit everything back in.

She strained and pulled.  I pushed and zipped, but I was hampered somewhat by uncontrollable laughter.  She offered to sit on the case; I pushed and laughed.  She finally called a brawny guy over and all three of us finished it off.

Hats off to you, LL Bean, for your strong zippers and fabric.  I half expected it to explode with the force of yarn in the plane's cargo hold, and be delivered to me in a plastic bag, but, somehow, it held it together.

This is the final product, minus all my clothes and toiletries.  That is, this is all the extra stuff I got on the trip for the most part.

And Fall is Ablaze

It will take just one really good sneeze by Mother Nature to make it all go away, but in the meantime, I'm loving this crisp, Fall days!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nordic Knitting Conference

It is Sunday night, October 7, 2012, and I am sitting in the Seattle-Tacoma airport waiting for a flight home. The fourth biennial Nordic Knitting Conference has just ended, and my brain is mush.

It all started Thursday morning, at 4am, when I got up and slipped out to the Indi airport. I checked in and boarded with multiple double pointed needles (thank goodness they made it through!), a project in progress, and fun knitted goods to wear, as well as other goodies.

I flew through Houston and made it on time to Seattle where my friend Karin picked me up, as well as knitting/spinning teacher Carol Rhoades. We boogie to downtown to Carol's hotel, went to the nearby Weaving Works shop, where we ran into some of the other teachers, then went back to the hotel for dinner. What a delight! I got to meet Mary Scott Huff, Evelyn Clark, Pat Brunner, Mary Germain, Sandy DeMaster, and Annemor Sundbø! And, the food wasn't bad, either. For the conference the next day, local teacher Susana Hansson joined the others as well.

The Nordic Museum in Ballard, WA

Classes began Friday morning, early, immediately after the yarn went for sale from two vendors on the main floor and the gift shop with their newly imported yarn from a scrumptious Swedish mill.  Let's just say I was distracted there little while...

After I collected myself, and my new yarn, I boogied over to the Sunset Community Center for my first class, Latvian Mittens á la Irma, taught by Mary Germain and Sandy De Master.  What a delightful class!  These two ladies are knitters and spinners extraordinaire from Wisconsin.  They spoke of their history of knitting, and especially their friendship with an older Latvian mitten knitter in Milwaukee. Their handouts were excellent, and we went on to make a miniature pair of Latvian mittens.

That night, we had a lovely wine and cheese in the main lobby of the museum, and had fun talking with teachers and students and lots of freebies were given away.  

Saturday was Danish Traveling Stitches taught by Carol Rhoades, an excellent teacher, knitter, and spinner.  She is known for her work and editorial work for Spin-Off Magazine, and her multiple translations of books from Swedish and Norwegian to English.  I ended up with a nice wrist warmer, and plans for bigger things.

I also had a lovely surprise of seeing a dear high school friend, Anne, whom I had gotten out of touch with.  She lived in walking distance from the museum!  She came and collected me, and we walked to her house where she regaled me with stories and filled me up with warm potato soup and brownies!  Good stuff!

Saturday night was the banquet where Annemor spoke.  What an incredible story!  I think I will have to comment on it in another post, just so I can get this one published, but she is such a lovely women, so humorous and knowledgable, and just saved thousands of knitted goods in Norway from being shredded, then studied and wrote about what she learned.

Sunday was an all-day Norwegian Design class with Annemor.  Tickled the tired brain.  She really was a hoot as she shared the basics of a Norwegian mitten, insights on the symbols and designs, and a lot of funny stories.  

Lastly, what trip to Seattle is ever complete without a visit to Archie McPhee's?  You know how a picture is worth a thousand words?  I think this one counts.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Color Theory

A different form of color theory.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I think I've been waiting for the buttons to come to post this, but I can wait no longer.  Last week I stopped at Goodwill on my way home from the homeless shelter where I volunteer.  I looooove Goodwill!  Yes, it smells, but I wash what I buy from there.  What I really think I like is the opportunity to try on such a varied selection of clothes -- strange colors and styles that span a great number of years.  No other store has such a selection!

When I go in, I try to choose clothes according to a particular element I think might be flattering:  color or embellishment, for instance.  Often the clothes I pull go far beyond what I would normally wear.  Maybe the label is one that I have a bias against.  I pull them anyways, and take far too many clothes to the dressing room.  I try them on very quickly, though, and reject the vast lot.  What I am left with, however, is a nice, eclectic selection of, well, usually sweaters.

That Wednesday was no different, except in that I got a beautiful, handknit sweater for my efforts! Look at these lovely cables and the fun shaping!

It really is gorgeous:  made of tweedy, 100% wool.  It may even be Rowan yarn!

Why did the poor maker give it to good will?  Well, maybe she didn't.  Maybe it was her recipient.  In which case, this is karma that I found this!  Or, maybe she was disgusted with her zipper.

The zipper really was put on poorly.  A big lip was left over at the top.  It rose and fell in yucky hills down the length of itself.  Finally, the zipper itself was a thick, ugly, industrial plastic one.

It didn't take me long to rip it out.  I had considered installing another one, or doing a similar fastener.  When I removed the zipper, though, the two front facings curled inward.  Quite interestingly, the border was knit with about 4 stitches of stockinette, and then the very outside stitches are 4 stitches of twisted stockinette.  Does this combo ensure a nice folding line?  Has anyone heard of this before?

Because of the natural folding in, I grabbed a lighter weight yarn of similar coloring, and tacked down the facing.  Then, I searched awhile on line to find a gold-toned Norwegian style hook and eye clasp.  I bought five from the Nordic Fiber Arts, after having a nice chat with Debbie first.  Now, I await my package to finish it up, just in time for cooler weather.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

With a cherry on top

To my American readers, I hope you all had a lovely Labor Day! My husband took the kids out for ice cream one night this weekend. It is not my particular weakness, so I made a yarn one instead.

This is a hat I made for my friend's baby, Percy, who is just as sweet as this suggests.

Monday, September 03, 2012

It says it all...

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Yesterday was very exciting, as I received two contracts via email from Interweave Press and returned them along with finished projects.  It's one of the reasons why the summer was so busy -- charting and knitting and writing one of my five patterns.

Anyway, the item will hopefully be acceptable and will be published in the Jan/Feb Piecework's special Knitting Traditions magazine. Happily, this blog and the post of Sámi mittens helped secure the article.

Today's goal:  finish knitting project #5, and proof (for the last time!! Please!!) project #4.1 and #4.2.  Wouldn't that be amazing?  Then, I can get on to things I want to do.

It's not that I didn't want to do those projects; it's just that having to do them, and do them perfectly, sucked the life out of them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

M * T H is a four-letter word

In the middle of our going out of town, having guests, doing softball, baseball, swimming and various other summer employments, we had an unwelcome visitor.  It came from the unknown, and carried a sense of evil with it. How do I know this? Biblical truth. John 10:10 says, "the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and have it to the full." Well, then, he's a messenger of Satan. This fellow destroys, as can be seen in another verse. Matthew 6:19 - 21

Do not lay up for yourselve treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treaure is, there your heart will be also. Mt. 6:19-21

A good lesson hard learned.

I walked into my bedroom about the time when the kids were getting to bed, and noticed a little flutter above and beyond me.  I zeroed in.  A moth!

I quickly squished it and bustled through to get the item I came for.

About five minutes later I was getting in the kitchen and it struck me.  Was this encounter an exception?  A fly-by-night chance?  Really, shouldn't I go back in and investigate? My eldest son was lounging on a chair in my bedroom when I re-entered, head held high.  Oh, Lord!  There was another one on the curtain!  I curtly told my son to go to bed, squished offender #2, and headed downstairs to the hubby.
He was in the process of preparing to leave for a weeklong trip, and I'm so glad he was not already gone!  I appealed to him, and he entered the now-quadroned off area armed with huge ziplocs.  One by one, we emptied my works-in-progress basket, until we saw one more moth.  I mourned over project after project, as Chris squished the bags that held them, sucked out air and sealed the bags.  Is it a lucky thing I have processed no food this summer?  All bags immediately went into our almost empty chest freezer. Thank you, Yarn Harlot, for having gathered jewels in the darkness for us knitters.  You have gone through your own moth trials and I have learned from them!

I still haven't had the courage to face up to the project which probably started it all. I have narrowed it down to one sweater/hat combo, or an clothed antique doll. Chris thought if I went to the ziploc bag in question in the freezer, there might be a little Han Solo moth, wings frozen, moth open, uttering the silent, "NO!"

He can stay there awhile longer, if there's a snowball's chance he would ever unfreeze.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fireworks in Bemidji

... And a Woolen Mill

I had saved a rough draft of this a month ago.  In my effort to catch up from the summer, I post it now.

Monday, the two younger kids and I flew to Bemidji, Minnesota. Hours before we arrived, a storm blew through with straight winds and knocked down a LOT of trees, took out the electricity, and consequently, the water. We're by a lake, so we swim to bathe and haul buckets of water up to the house to flush the toilets. We cook on the gas stove and go to sleep when it's dark.

Except for today! Today is the fourth of July, American Independence Day. We came to town to get a few things (medicine for chiggers), and another storm blew up. It was a solid wall of black, arriving so quickly from the West.

We jumped in the truck making calls and texts to those at home (the resident meteorologist), and, when the tornado sirens went off, made a stop at the Bemidji Woolen Mill.

What a hoot! When my friend mentioned it, i had no idea it was a real woolen mill! They had a complete operation which took raw wool, washed and combed it, and turned it into batting. Throughout the store they had woven examples of their goods -- blankets, jackets and hats, but they also had worsted weight yarn that had been industrially spun off-site. I had such interest that as the storm waned, One lady took me on the behind-the-scenes tour while my daughter cowered in fright from the storm.  By this time, however, it had blown over.

What fun! I had never seen these big woolen machines before!

raw wool

beautiful, washed wool

one of the big carding machines
They washed, carded and made wool batting with the wool, but they also had a complete sewing of knitted goods section.  The only part that made me sad was that all the sewing machines used for making the sweaters, blankets and hats only used acrylic pre-knitted fabric! There were some gorgeous designs they were working with, but despite being in a woolen mill, all the product of that area was acrylic.

a gorgeous baby blanket -- all in acrylic!  What irony!
sewing area.  all for acrylic.  sigh.
some of their finished, woven wool fabric

This finished fabric, as well as their hats, blankets, etc. are available for sale on their website, as well as just purchasing a length of woven wool.  Very intriguing!

Friday, August 24, 2012

All's Fair Love and Knitting

The summer isn't officially gone -- in fact it is supposed to get up to 90F today -- but the kids are back in school, and, for all intents and purposes, it is Fall.  For me, that means a return to the disciplines that slowly fell off throughout the summer.  One of those disciplines is blogging.

Today I catch up with information on the State Fair.

the famous midway

Mom makes a new friend

Indiana's State Fair is, in fact, the sixth oldest in the States.  Founded in 1851, it culminated in 2011 when I won Sweepstakes in Knitting and Crochet.  Well, maybe that culmination was just for me.  Yeah.  Pretty sure that's what it was.

This year, I entered 8 or 9 pieces, all in various knitting categories.  I won four blue ribbons and two honorary mention ribbons.  My mom was with me when I viewed the judged pieces, though, and knows how disappointed I was, NOT because I won those prizes, but because my darlings, my best knitted piece, got no recognition whatsoever.

I wandered from glass case to glass case looking for my mittens, wondering if they were hard to find because they had won something or other.  Finally, I located them, shoved to the back of the display case, covered in their own entry tag with no happy ribbon.  I think they were crying.  One thing that bucked me up a bit, though, is that while I stood there I noticed two more ladies at that case looking at  displays.  One lady was focusing in her camera and taking pictures -- of my mittens.  Very gratifying that at least someone else thought they were interesting.

Mom and I also attended a very interesting presentation by Shelly Miller Leer of ModHomeEc on upholstery.  She teaches classes in Indi and writes for the newspaper.  In her presentation she took us through converting an electrical spool into a really cute and mod ottoman.  I have two chairs that need recovering, and she gave me a bit of hope that it is possible, and a bit of knowledge as to how to tackle them.

the upholstery talk

Well, this Monday was fair pick-up, and I gathered my chicks together once more.  The lady was so kind who led me around from glass case to glass case collecting the knitted goods.  We started out getting Mr. Grumpy Pants.  She laughed as she pulled them out, with their honorary red/white/blue ribbon.  "Look at these," I said, regarding my next pick-up, my white baby lace layette, "they didn't earn anything.  Don't you think they're pretty?" I demanded.  Well, of course, she did.  I must have done some other complaining, because by the time we collected the fourth ribbon she said, "Another one?  I really don't think you have much to complain about! ...Another one?  ...Another one?"  Oops.  Maybe I didn't, but as a mother bear to my mittens, I did feel a mite bit protective of them.

I glanced at the judges notes as I left.  Some made me furious.  Two of the criticisms I completely agree with.  The last one I opened pacified my heart.  It seems my Estonian Lace scarf made tops in the knitted goods, but lost for Sweepstakes to a nicely crocheted afghan.  On the way out of the grounds, one of the State Fair Cows wanted to experience the beauty that is Prince George's shawl: 

this picture says it all

Thanks, Indiana State Fair, for another good show, and another reason to hit the needles hard for next year!