Rhymes With Fuchsia

Friday, February 29, 2008

Eye Candy Friday: Biffle

Roxie wins: I decided to spin the shades of rose, which is very soft BFL from Amy. I thought it looked great in the braid (that would explain why I bought it), but when I opened it and started predrafting I realized what a range of shades it has: everything from pale pink to candy pink to deep rose to raspberry to, well, fuchsia.

Here it is spun up. It's not the sharpest photo (sorry), but it gives you some idea. I love my new wheel, and I love this roving! (does happy dance) (untangles feet) (resolves to sign up for dancing lessons) Love it!

I think I'll go spin now. I can't get into too much trouble sitting down. Can I?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Devil I Know

When my SIL and her kids were here over the holidays, Miss B and Grant did a whole bunch of fun family things with the out-of-towners: a trip to Build-a-Bear, going to Quincy Market, hanging out in Harvard Square. Taz and I mostly held down the fort at home, but I did join an excursion to a nearby pottery-painting studio. It was a lot of fun, and a couple of weeks ago I picked up my finished piece.

We have discussed my tendency to get a bit carried away, haven't we? I should have picked either a smaller piece or a simpler design. This bowl took me forever and a day. They tell you to paint three coats, which I did, including each. individual. flower. petal. (Danielle and Cece, stop laughing.) I had to go back twice to finish it. The results are not bad at all (although it didn't come out quite as well as I'd hoped: you can see my every-which-way brush strokes and white spots at the color joins (stop, I say!)), but I've decided I prefer obsessions hobbies I can carry around with me, doing a little bit here, a little there, working in the pattern of my daily life. As the saying goes, I'm sticking to my knitting.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

Maggie Matchless and I spent quite a bit of time together at SPA, and, with a much-needed assist from Cheryl, we became great friends.

Yes, she now has a name. She looks like a Maggie, don't you think? Among friends she will be called Schatzi when I'm either pleased or annoyed with her.

The truth is that for some time I really hadn't been feeling the love for the Trad. Nothing wrong with her at all, perfectly nice wheel, but I didn't feel the magnetic pull to sit down and make sweet music with her. It could have something to do with the fact that I'd been working on a bobbin of plain natural-colored laceweight, and it was taking me forever. Thinking that a bit of color might be just the thing — heaven knows I could use it at this time of year — I took inventory of my roving stash.

Several things are obvious here:

  • My color range is limited. (If you're wondering how that yellow got in there, it was left over from a craft demo I did with Ruth, and I absconded with it. I'm not about to pass up nicely prepared roving of any color.)
  • I can't resist a good deal. Most of that white stuff is merino from Nick's Meadow Farm.
  • If I don't want to disappear permanently under a pile of wool, I'd best get busy.
But what to spin first, that is the question. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Life in Lace

I've been reading the Moroccan Days/Arabian Nights discussions on Ravelry, where people are sharing their experiences with lace and tips for knitting lace without going (more) insane, and it got me thinking about lace projects that I haven't talked about here because I finished them before I started blogging.

This was my second lace baby blanket and my first complex lace project. I used five lace patterns from the Walker treasuries, from the outside in, Razor Shell (this almost doesn't count as it has only a single pattern row repeated on every right-side row), Triple Leaf Pattern, Little Lace Chain, Dayflower, and Leaf Shadows (of Branching Out fame). I used an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of what row of what pattern I was on, and I couldn't even watch TV or converse meaningfully while working on the front (the back at least was all purl except for one stitch in one row of the Dayflower pattern). Eventually I managed to memorize all of the patterns except Dayflower; it would be interesting to try it again now and see if I found it easier. I finished this project in the spring of 2002, and I've done a lot of lace since then, although nothing quite that complicated. The blanket ended up being 240 rows long, which was one full repeat of the combination of patterns (which have repeats of 12, 6, 16, and 10 rows respectively).

I made these mats for my stepmother for Christmas in 2003. I made the round one up as I went along, and ended up increasing a bit too much in the outer part. If I did more of these I would plan them out better. (I actually did do one a couple of years ago that turned out better because I planned it better, but I seem not to have a picture of it.)

I worked on this scarf for quite a while — it was in fact the scarf that turned out to be easier than garter stitch — and ended up giving it to my sister for Christmas 2005. I used the simple pattern Barbara Walker calls English Mesh Lace, with an equally simple scalloped border.

If knitting a complex lace project I would use a spreadsheet, stitch markers between the different patterns (or maybe even repeats of the same pattern), and lifelines early and often, and I would make full use of all the cheats and shortcuts I've learned for fixing mistakes without ripping back. I hope to do a tutorial on those sometime soon.

Monday, February 25, 2008

All Too Well

Do you know how sometimes you get a gift, not necessarily fancy or expensive, but so well chosen, so epitomizing your style, your outlook, your essence, that all you can do is shake your head and admire the giver's achievement? On my return home from SPA I received such a gift from my husband. Since getting away for the weekend was a huge gift in itself, I wasn't expecting anything more, and I was truly touched.

At least I don't have to wear it out of the house.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Room Full of Spinners

SPA has been great fun so far. I'll have a more detailed update later, but for now let me just say it's a great place to spend a birthday. We even heard a wolf whistle while walking up to the restaurant for dinner. Odds are good it wasn't directed at me (more likely at Cheryl's coat), but on my last birthday that starts with a 4, I'll take it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday Sky

I hope to have a SPA report tonight, but just in case I don't get back at a reasonable hour...

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Quick Eye Candy Friday

Now back to my regularly scheduled packing...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Enough Already

We're gaining about 20 minutes of daylight a week, and between the rain and the sunny afternoons, most of the snow on our front lawn has melted. Things are definitely looking up, I thought when I looked at the forecast earlier this week.

Not so fast. The storm that was supposed to bring us a little freezing drizzle has changed its track, and will instead be delivering... more snow. Just what we need.

"It's going to snow tomorrow," Grant said as we were driving home tonight.
"I know, I heard," I said.
"The driving will be bad."
"The... yikes, the driving!"

We were going to leave for my folks' tomorrow as soon as Grant got home from work. Not being game for another five-hour commute, Grant decided he would work at home tomorrow. Bless him. We'll try to leave by noon and be safely in Yarmouth by the time the snow gets serious.

Are you going to SPA? We'll see you there. We can hardly wait. Miss B is bringing her Hitchhiker. I'm bringing Maggie, for me, and my poor nameless Trad, for Cece. And a checkbook, not that I desperately need any more yarn or fiber, but you never know when you might get snowed in.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Go Ahead...

Lene has honored me with a You Make My Day award, to which I can only say: back atcha. If you don't read Lene's blog, you are missing out: her writing is hilarious and moving and inspirational and sharp and blunt and deep and wide-ranging, and she has the best, time-suckingest links in the world and awesome TV reviews that I love to read although I never watch the shows. And her pictures are unbelievable.

Now, thanks to Lene — thank you, Lene! — I get to pass it on. I had a really hard time with this, because as Margene put it so well, all of the bloggers I read, regularly or sporadically, make my day, and I'm grateful to every single (and married) one of you for making me laugh and cry and nod in agreement and marvel at your knitting. You, yes, you, make my day. (Even if you haven't posted in quite a while. That means you, and you. Also you. Come back, wherever you are!)

When I came to name names, of all the blogs I read, for the most part I picked the ones less traveled by, that still have to me made all the difference.

I have to start with Ruth, of course, friend, knitter, seamstress, traveling companion, mom and writer extraordinaire. (I'm sure I've left out a few of her hats; it's a wonder she can find a shelf big enough for all of them.)

Cece, knitter, spinner, dog person. I'm not a dog person, but Cece almost makes me want to be one.

The phenomenally creative Liz, who has walked in grief, but not languished.

Danielle, who designed the first adult sweater she ever knit. Plus she's totally easy to enable.

Marcy, who somehow manages to unearth knitters of the past where no one else thought to look. How does she do it?

Lady Alwen. I stumbled across her blog while desperately seeking information on double knitting, and haven't been able to avert my eyes since. Go see her latest photo. Just amazing.

Roxie, whom I've known online for ten years, give or take, and who has bent my mind from day one. It seems like every other day a new masterpiece falls out of her head and off her needles. She also writes a mean book.

Knitigator Kathy, knitter, spinner, international chef.

Rainwood the Yarn Pirate. No art form is safe.

Annie, of 40 Days for Others fame.

And, last but by no means least, you. Consider yourself tagged.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Conan's Corner: The Principal of the Thing

A joke book I had when I was a kid included this one:

Teacher: You're always complaining about school, Billy. Why do you dislike it so much?
Billy: It's not the school, really, it's just the principal of the thing.

Those were the days when third graders were expected to get that joke. In this degenerate age, alas, many adults who should know better, such as newspaper copy editors and human-resources directors, can't tell a principal from a principle or a hoard from a horde. I was once hired as a principle technical writer.

The one that used to drive Conan the craziest was affect versus effect. These days people who fear messing this one up just use impact as both a noun and a verb. The latter usage makes Conan cringe (I told you he was a fuddy-duddy), and he wishes people would realize that to affect is to influence, and an effect is a consequence or result. In fact, you could properly use influence as either a noun or a verb, but hardly anyone ever does.

A hoard is a stash; a horde is a throng. A knitter who announces on her blog that she's giving away her hoard of yarn shouldn't be surprised if a horde of stash vultures shows up at her house.

To exalt is to raise up (nearly always in a figurative sense); to exult is to rejoice. The salesman exulted when a promotion exalted him to the position of district manager.

Conan could go on (and on and on), but I've persuaded him instead to draw your attention to this nifty site, which covers all of the above and then some. Language geeks, exult! We may not be a horde, but we're not alone, either. We have blue pencils, and we know how to use them.

I sometimes break the at-least-one-picture-per-post rule, but just in case you patiently sat through that harangue hoping I'd get to something better, or at least less haranguing, here is yet another view of the lovely springtime and the stupid cat.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tabula Rasa

I've been thinking all day about blogging, and... my mind is a blank. Herewith, therefore, a couple of the pictures that I didn't end up using for yesterday's post.

I hope the brain freeze doesn't continue for too long; otherwise there might be lots of nature photos in the offing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

D is for Deciduous

I love the pine woods behind my house. Stalwart the trees stand, season in and season out, murmuring summer secrets, roaring out autumn's blustery songs, whispering in thickly falling snow, rippling with suppressed excitement at spring's approach.

Yet while they wear their staid and sober green, it's their oak and maple sisters that lead the dance.

Patiently they wait under the snow...

watching the sky for signs.

The redbuds begin the spring parade...

soon followed by their gaudier cousins.

(Some people apparently like to be a little too close to the action.)

The lush greens of summer spread their shady skirts.

The panoply of autumn finery comes again (anyone know where I took the picture above?)...

and the ecdysiasts of the front yard make the most of one last wild romp before it's time to sleep again.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday Sky

Friday, February 15, 2008


And just in time, too.

Look, Ma, no ends!

Down to the Wire

Frantically weaving...

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Closing In

Mafia is quite correct, of course. I still haven't had time to spin, but the sweater is moving right along. I finished the hem and the neck today, and found picking up stitches surprisingly painless — that along with seaming being a large part of my sweaterphobia. I still blanch at the thought of picking up stitches along a side edge, as for a button band (why are button bands so often made that way? wouldn't it be easier just to knit them as part of the sweater?), but I'm beginning to believe all things are possible.

I can no longer say I'm knitting the sweater exactly to pattern, as I decided to go with ribbing instead of rolled edges. It's very boring and traditional, I know, but I just think it looks neater.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I just brought a new baby home, and I won't have time to play with her until I finish the sweater. I have about two more rows to go on the body, and then I start on the sleeves.

The new arrival will definitely be going with me to SPA, however. By then we'll have had a little time to get used to each other, and I'll be ready to show her off. She doesn't have a name yet, though, and although I haven't named her siblings, she's telling me she needs one. If I followed a certain blogger's alliterative practice, I could name her Shirley, or Sheila, or Sharona, or possibly Maggie or Marilyn... what do you all think?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Peaceful Easy Sweater

I have to confess something. Relax, it's not about crochet, nor even eyelash yarn. I've always maintained that I am not a plain-stockinette person, that I need at least a tiny rib or cable or something (preferably a cabled rib) to hold my interest, and do not try to tempt me with that multicolored yarn, I alone will decide when the yarn changes colors, thank you just the same. (Control freak much?)

But now I am working on the miles and miles and miles of st st inherent in the incredibly plain sweater I hope to have finished by Wednesday night, and... there's something strangely hypnotic and peaceful about it. I'd take another picture, but it would look a lot like the first one: look at yesterday's, and imagine it somewhat longer. You will also have noted that the yarn isn't even fancy: it's two-ply, one black strand and one blue one, so although it's very soft it has a tweedy look. (It's a Bernat yarn called Alisa, 35 wool/35 acrylic/30 alpaca, that had been marinating in my stash for quite some time.) No space-dyed or self-striping action going on here.

I don't know what's come over me. I'm going to go think about it while I knit.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Humble Knitting

(a Lenten reflection)

It seems like every time I'm riding tall, feeling like I know what's what, some kind of cosmic law comes into play and knocks me off that high horse. Although I don't observe Lent (much: I'll get to that in a bit), I can always use a dose of humility, so in the spirit of the season I'll tell you a story.

To do my bit for fundraising for Miss B's school, I used to run the snack sale during the Saturday community-ed basketball games for third and fourth graders. I had gotten advice from the previous year's snack-sale doyenne as to what sold best and what not to bother with; the former category, sad to say, comprised mostly candy, and I used to feel like some sort of pusher sitting there with my Skittles and Milky Way bars as the parents would try to drag their kids past me as fast as possible. But it was a fundraiser, after all. For about 15 minutes out of every hour, when the players for the next game came in and the previous game let out, I'd be busier than a one-armed paperhanger, and the rest of the time I'd knit.

I worked for a while on an alpaca scarf in a very simple lace pattern (English Mesh Lace in the first Walker treasury), and occasionally people would amble by and admire it. On a fine Lenten morning one such admirer was Melissa, the mom of one of Miss B's classmates. "Lace, wow, I could never do that," she said.
"Of course you could," I said, "it's really a very simple pattern."
"No, really," said Melissa, "I'm a very bad knitter. Look at this." And she showed me an eyelash scarf she was working on, uneven and flawed here and there.
"You just need practice," I said.

A couple of Saturdays later I was back at my post, now working on an eyelash scarf of my own that I planned to donate to the school auction. I had picked out two eyelash yarns, one short and one long, that I thought were really dazzling together, and I was zipping right along, killing two fundraising birds with one stone, when Melissa's husband walked by and praised my knitting prowess. I made another round of deprecating noises, but in my heart things were not so pretty: I was thinking, bet your sweet whatever, you should only dream of being as good at this some distant day. There are no holes in this scarf.

And there weren't, but when I got home I discovered that I had worked about a foot of scarf after dropping two stitches off the end, where there was no hope of retrieving them, and I didn't dare to try ripping, so I tinked all the way back — which isn't as bad as it sounds because I was working with doubled yarn on size 13 needles, but still. It was a painful fall. After that I used a safety line.

(The truth is that a simple lace pattern will watch out for you where garter stitch will not. After at most one repeat you can read the pattern from the work, and you're not going to be off by so much as one stitch for very long without noticing.)

(Also, eyelash is not very forgiving. You can't see what you're doing, and you can't easily rip just a row or two. A beginner should love her yarn, of course, but I don't recommend eyelash.)

Now Lent has begun again, and with it Annie's 40 Days for Others KAL. Coincidentally Lynne's sister is leaving for Peru next week, and Lynne is running a contest for anyone who will knit a sweater to keep a Peruvian kid warm. So that's what I'm doing. I've told you I'm sweater impaired, right? A major reason is that I tend to want to wing it and bite off more than I can chew at the same time, throwing in stitch patterns and cables and intarsia and sometimes intarsia cables with reckless abandon. Also, I live in mortal fear of seams. This time I'm staying within myself. (Favorite movie line: "One of your best qualities has always been knowing your limitations. Don't lose it now when you need it the most.") Ruth has lent me a Knitting Pure and Simple pattern: raglan pullover, top down, no seams. I'm working the pattern exactly as written.

Will I make it in time? I don't know, but so far, so good.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Saturday Sky

Friday, February 08, 2008

Eye Candy Friday

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Campaign Poster


Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Have you ever bought a guaranteed squirrel-proof bird feeder? How long did it take the squirrels to hack it? When I was a kid we had one on a pole, with a perch surrounding a food tray on a spring. There was a hood over the food, and if anything too heavy sat on the perch, the hood came down and covered the food, so that the marauding squirrel or crow or whatever couldn't get at it. This worked very well for several weeks, and we delighted in watching the squirrels come, get frustrated, and leave again — until one day we looked out the window and saw a perched squirrel, shoveling sunflower seeds with one front paw while holding the hood up with the other. I wish I had a picture.

Last spring Taz took to pulling his feeding tube out at the slightest opportunity. In addition to causing me to skip MASW in favor of tracking down a backup tube over a holiday weekend, this habit had us tearing our hair out all summer as we tried to find some way of keeping him away from the tube, meanwhile going through a lot more replacement tubes than the insurance company thought any human being could possibly need. After much experimenting we finally foiled him with an abdominal binder such as one would normally wear for strained ribs or the like (we call it his corset), covered by a bodysuit, covered by shirt and pants. This worked for a few weeks, but he got around it eventually, so we added four socks on his one usable hand so he couldn't get a purchase on the tube. That did the trick (and just in time, too, as I had been in danger of missing Rhinebeck).

But you know how squirrels are. No matter what clever gizmo you come up with, it takes them only so long to circumvent it, and then you have to upgrade.

Behold my latest gizmo-in-progress:

This mitt (it needs to be at least six inches longer) will go on over the socks, with luck being bulky enough to neutralize his improved dexterity.

We'll see how long it takes him to solve this one.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

C is for Crochet

You may not know this about me, but it's time for me to go public: I'm bisticksual. I've been quite open about the fact that I use two sticks a lot, aka knitting, but I also use one stick with a hook on the end, aka crocheting. Occasionally I even use both in the same piece. Shocking, I know.

Crochet occupies an odd place in the fiber-arts world. It's the ugly stepsister, the poor relation, the unassuming beer can squatting on the table while knitting lounges elegantly in the champagne bucket. Even the Yarn Harlot derided crocheters' lack of discretion and taste, declaring, "You find yourself making a ripple pattern freezer cozy out of the 100 percent petroleum knitting product you had left over from the toilet cover and you think you're having fun."

All tongue in cheek, of course (the essay from which I took that quote is titled "Sour Grapes," and it begins with an admission of crochet impairment — which I'm not sure I believe coming from She Who Will Do Anything With Yarn, but I digress), but under this steady barrage crocheters can understandably get a little defensive, maybe even pugnacious in advocating for the craft. I like crochet because it's endlessly versatile and adaptable, not to mention highly conducive to winging it. You can crochet a toilet-paper cover or garish acrylic granny squares, if you so choose, or you can make, well, pretty much anything else you could knit, including stunning lace tablecloths and elegant sweaters. You can put things together in any number of decorative ways. If I want to knit an edging for an afghan, I have to think about it and probably chart it, but give me a crochet hook and a ball of yarn and I'll experiment for a minute or two until I have the perfect size scallop, not too gaudy, not too plain, and I'm off.

My grandmother taught me to crochet the summer before I got married. She went through the basics, single, double, half double, treble (I've never used treble except in some experiments with filet crochet), and within half an hour I was pretty confident and expressed interest in making an afghan. That would be a little big for a first project, my grandmother said, and suggested that I try a pair of mittens instead. This of course was waving the big red "it can't be done" flag in front of a born contrarian, which is how she got an afghan to donate to her church's Christmas craft fair that year. I made a couple more afghans after that, including one for Grant's parents made from generic acrylic I bought at the supermarket (in my defense, we were cash-poor newlyweds), and eventually he began to wonder out loud when he was going to get one. By this time we had moved east, and we were both working, so while this afghan is still acrylic, it's nicer acrylic, in the colors he asked for. It's no great feat of skill, being entirely double crochet with a single-crochet border, but I had fun with the colorwork.

Some time later I was messing around with a diagonal stitch a friend had taught me, and by the time I had had my fun with diagonal stripes I had created a blanket for Miss B, who I think was three at the time. It sat untouched at the foot of her bed for months, until one day she glommed onto it, and she has loved it ever since.

More fun with that same stitch. I really like the almost-entrelac effect. Someday I'll make a whole set of mats.

Maybe someday soon, in fact.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Blue Monday

No, this is not another football post. (Pitchers and catchers report in 12 days.) I made another square in a variation of my basketweave pattern.

It's even more geometrically challenged than the first one, but nothing that a little blocking won't cure. The pattern for it is on the Basketweave Scarf pattern page (scroll down to Variation).

I can't decide which one I prefer, not that I'm under any particular obligation to decide. I think the first one has cleaner lines, but I like the way the alternating knits and purls on the new one make the ribs just a bit wiggly.

The squares are for Maryse's afghan project for Elisa's dad. In case you haven't heard by now, Maryse is running a contest that you can enter by mailing square(s) to her by February 14.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Not So Hard After All

The game is close enough to be nerve-racking. Apparently I really do want the Pats to win. On the plus side, 1) the Giants didn't score on that last Hail Mary, 2) I therefore snagged a piece of the office pool. (I was really hoping the Pats would score before Brady's fumble, even though that would have put me out of the money.)

Oh, and the stupid cat hasn't been out all day.

Update: I can't believe the Giants won. Who is their quarterback, and what has he done with Eli Manning? Seriously, I find a tiny silver lining (on what is admittedly a black cloud big enough for Joe Bftsplk* and a few million of his friends) in the vindication and victory of the underdog. Also, I won a nice chunk of yarn money.

*If you're too young to catch the reference, I'm too crabby to explain it. Google is your friend.

Walnut-Sized Brain

(No, I'm not usually up this late.)

One reason it had been one of those days was that I had more or less booted Callie out the door around 10 this morning, or rather yesterday morning — since the snow is finally melting, I figured she might find a nice friendly patch of ground instead of the aloe plant for a change (the said plant being now deceased, as we finally found something it couldn't live through) — and she hadn't come back all day. Usually she has a low tolerance for cold weather and will appear at the back door, mewing piteously, after 20 minutes or so. I'd walked around our end of the neighborhood a couple of times, once before dark, once after; I'd gone out to call her repeatedly, even though I'd decided around five o'clock that she was probably holed up in someone's garage; I'd been obsessively playing the hamster game all day, not wanting to think about... other possibilities. (We've had coyote sightings in the neighborhood.)

She's sitting on my lap as I type.

Wretched animal.

(She wouldn't tell me where she'd been, either. They never do.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Silent Poetry Reading

It's been one of those days, and when I was reminded of the date I thought I had not a poetical bone left in my body. But I went looking, and I found this. It's by Emily Dickinson, untitled like all of her poems.

An altered look about the hills;
A Tyrian light the village fills;
A wider sunrise in the dawn;
A deeper twilight on the lawn;
A print of a vermilion foot;
A purple finger on the slope;
A flippant fly upon the pane;
A spider at his trade again;
An added strut in chanticleer;
A flower expected everywhere;
An axe shrill singing in the woods;
Fern-odors on untravelled roads,—
All this, and more I cannot tell,
A furtive look you know as well,
And Nicodemus’ mystery
Receives its annual reply.

We're almost halfway there. I guess I'll hang in there.

Friday, February 01, 2008


...because I can call this picture a post and go back to playing with the stupid hamsters.

(I didn't click on Lene's link because a) I was at work b) I know what happens when I click her links, and I didn't click on Stephanie's link because 1) I was still at work 2) she got the link from Lene. But then Ruth had to rave to me about how great it was. It's all her fault. It's also all her fault that we just spent 20 minutes on the phone playing, comparing our scores and laughing at how twelve we were being. What do you mean I called you, Ruth? And that has what to do with it?)