29 November 2007

Let Us Revisit A Hat

I continue to avoid any proper holiday crafting. I think I'm a feeling a bit overwhelmed by some other activities that I've been back-burnering for some time now - writing up the Hayride pattern, a button-band reconfiguring for someone, some more foot garments. So for now, I am re-knitting a hat:You may recognize this from awhile ago - a fairly loose-knit hat made with random handspun. Well, Young Sef has been wearing that hat, and it's stretched beyond belief. But he adores it! So he kindly asked me to re-knit it for him. He rides his bike through the winter, so he NEEDS to have the hat; I've loaned him my hat until I complete this (shouldn't take long!) and it sure is getting cold out there. I've gone down a couple of needle sizes (I think the original was on 8s - I present you with 6s) and I think I cast on less stitches. he tried it on this morning - fits okay so far! It was nice to see how the yarn weathered - quite nicely.

27 November 2007


I'm trying to kick it into high-gear holiday crafting mode, but I seem to be failing. I continue to knit primarily for myself, or I'm working on non-specific-person crafts, which is fine and good and all, but gives me nothing under the tree. I present to you a little something I am working on, that, um, well...yeah, I think it will speak for itself:

That's some Claudia Hand-Painted yarn in the Desert Dusk colorway. I picked it up over Thanksgiving weekend, when I visited a yarn shop on my (seemingly eternal!) quest for 5" metal US1 dpns (I failed.....anyone got any ideas here?). This yarn is lovely to work with and boy is it sproingy. It will most certainly be a treat for someone's feet. Oh, and that HelloYarn footwear from last week? Well, the first one has reached completion - I'll cast-on for the second one later this week most likely.

Meanwhile.......I received my November Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club selection yesterday. This is Pie For Everyone! - a delicious and wonderful to spin bundle of Falkland Wool:
This stuff is pretty darn soft. It spun up real quick-like, and after plying 2 bobbins worth, I've ended up with something in the realm of 246 yards. It's a.....sport? DK? weight. I didn't give it too much twist in the plying and it came out perfectly balanced.

Any ideas on what to do with this? Might make cute mittens, or perhaps a BSJ?

20 November 2007

I Am Worth 700 Cows (At Least)

I had grand crafting plans for last evening - well, writing up that pattern - but was sidelined a wee bit in order to replace this:

Yeah, that's the Symmons Temptrol® Temperature Control Shower Handle Chrome (Model T-31). Ours broke - it had been on it's way out for awhile. So off to HomeDepot for me to find this. I got no love or help AT ALL at HD, but managed to find the part nonetheless (the entire kit was available for a fair bit more $) and brought it all home and hooked it all up. 2 minute fix!

With a screwdriver, I am unstoppable. I will now add plumbing to my dowry list.

19 November 2007

A Scarf, A Sock, A Progress Report.

(There were way too many bad puns that could have gone into the title of this post that I had to just bow out of all of them....)

Although I am supposed to be kicking it into high gear holiday making mode, I've been working a fair amount on things I want to make for, well, maybe me, maybe some for others, I'm not too sure. These are definitely not holiday related items.

Young Sef has been bemoaning the cold and had requested a scarf a few weeks ago. I started to knit something up for him with my handspun Mollusc and a bit of red - the scarf was going to be set up to mimic the pattern found in a Golomb Ruler (order 13). My dislike for scarf-knitting runs deep, and this thing was going nowhere fast. With it getting colder, some drastic action had to be taken.

Enter the loom. Having picked up a rigid heddle loom a few months back, I have not had a chance to get that badboy working. I'll admit I was kind of scared of the prospect of warping this thing, but I knew the weaving itself would be fairly straightforward. Also, Sef wanted to learn. So we got things set-up and did us some weaving:

Mollusc Scarf

I'm pretty pleased with how this turned out - quite nice for a first attempt, no? Our calculations were all over the place and I ended up with a very very long thin scarf. So I folded the whole thing in half, whipstitched it together down the length, and chopped the end. So it is only fringed on the one side. it feels wonderful, though, and this yarn really made a wonderful fabric. Oh, and Young Sef is pleased with it.

I'll admit that when I said I was done with those 2 quilts I still had the edge binding to hand sew around. I worked on that this weekend, and I have one side left on my dad's quilt.

But when I wasn't doing that, I worked on this:

Dusk Sock

This is the Helloyarn colorway "Dusk" and it is the squishiest most plump sock yarn I have ever encountered! It's pooling something lovely, and knitting up pretty fast.

In the world of reverse-engineering: I completed the Anthro capelet, sans proper I-cord tie and pompoms. I ran out of yarn! But with only that much remaining. So I quick-like whipped up a crochet chain, just for an idea of how it would fall. I'm hoping to get to blocking it mayhaps tonight? And also writing up that pattern (test-knitters, please?). So expect to see that progress in the future.

16 November 2007

I did something(s).

While Stacie was reverse-engineering the whole of the Anthro catalogue, making 17 quilts for Christmas...and Max was meditating at Mount Madonna Center (so jealous I want to kill something - hence the need for meditation/quiet/peacefulness/etc)...I made some stuff:

Anna Hrachovec's amazing Woodins:

And Smariek's 3AM Cable Hat:

Oh man, I just finished it whilst watching the newest SVU...Stabler got head-butted and now he can't see anything! I hope he's OK...

XTREME blocking; mixed results

Well, there she is, the blocked Moth. Almost dry by the time I got her into this state. I'm going to try spritzing and re-drying, but first I have to soak my spritzer in a bleach solution. (Yeccch.) Then I have to rinserinserinse, hoping not to inadvertently bleach the rug. And then I think I'll call my KAL Moth done!

In blocking, I discovered yet another dropped stitch. Oi. Unfortunately, this one laddered badly, as a result of the blocking. And you can't see it here, but the neck part has extra fabric, like the upturned collar on the polo shirt of a lesbian soccer mom. If anything, one would want one's shawl to be going the other way. I see I have a lot to learn about blocking, that realization being only one of the learning experiences resulting from knitting this Moth.

Ah, well. As the buddhists say, with the ideal comes the actual. There were several problems that, as they occurred whilst on the airplane, I had to resolve for my own self (just like Buddha said to do!), rather than go running to Stacie. And I did it! That alone makes this effort worthwhile.

Even if I never wear it.

14 November 2007

Mount Madonna

While Stacie was reverse-engineering the whole of the Anthro catalogue, and making 17 quilts for Christmas, and blocking an amazing piece of lace, and generally Ruling my Universe from Orbit,

I was sitting quietly at Mount Madonna Center, a place of deep quiet and beauty overlooking Monterey Bay.

I've been there every fall for the past three years for a meditation retreat with Geneen Roth, author of many books on emotional eating. Geneen doesn't write about diets. Her point and purpose is not to teach people how to lose weight (although working with her has certainly resulted in my losing weight—about 30 pounds that I've kept off for years), it's to show that working with our impulse to eat when we're not hungry can be, at least if you're the sort of person who eats when you're not hungry, a perfect spiritual path.

I haven't spoken very much about this, here or anywhere, but I'm a great admirer of Geneen, and deeply grateful to her. I know of no one out there taking a similar approach, and I'm so glad our paths crossed.

And while flying back from San Francisco, I finished the Moth. Blocking commences in one hour!

A Quilt, A Moth, A Hayride

I've got some pictures this time around:

Dad Quilt

This is a quilt for my father. I finally got around to finishing it, though not in the way that I had originally planned. See, all those little blocks are his old shirts, and they were supposed to continue out to the edge of the top of the quilt. However, they are a drag to cut and sew, I ran into some sort of size issue and had to trim things back anyway, and I just could not bear the thought of cutting more of them. So it got some borders instead.

Dad's Shirt Quilt

I machine-quilted the whole thing, which also proved to be a fairly beastly task. But! It's done. If anyone seeks piles of men's dress shirts, let me know - I've got a ton of them left!

Moth!  Blocked!

Viva La Moth! A completed - though not in action - Wing of the Moth shawl. I know this picture gives you no sense of scale; this thing is pretty big! I'm quite happy with how it came out, and it feels wonderful. The topmost lace pattern was simple enough to read and remember, but bored me to tears when I was nearing the end of that section - all those increases! Going into the second lace panel (Twin Leaf I think it is called?) I ran into a bit of an issue with how the 2 different lace patterns fell together. They don't......"line up" to a specific point in the top pattern, and my OCD-brain thought that it was a miscount in the knitting on my part. But no - the numbers all add up, just not the way that my brain wanted them to. I'm happy with how it all fits together in the grand scheme of things, but that first row really threw me.

But I sense you are really here for X-TREME BLOCKING:


This is the bottom center. I think it resembles a beetle-snout/nose. The corona edging is mildly more even than it appears in this picture; there was a wrinkle beneath it. The blocking process took a bit - a lot of going around in circles. I pinned out the top first with some blocking wires, and then I worked from the center of each side out in either direction. Each corona got 6 pins. I attempted to make the circles between them even, with even spacing, to the best of my ability. Once fully blocked, the whole thing was dry within 3 hours - ah, lace! Such swift gratification in the blocking department.

Of course, there was some knitting progress as well:

Hayride Reverse-Engineering project....

This is the Hayride Capelet I'm reverse-engineering - I've got about 2 more sets of decreases to go and then I get into the top edging detail - this includes some more aggressive decreasing, some eyelets, the usual. This is moving along with shocking haste! It's a simple Horseshoe Pattern - an 11 stitch repeat, with some reverse straight-stitch between the repeats. I'm working the decreases quite blindly, at the first and last stitches of the reverse sections. From the beginning, I cast on for 15 repeats, with 16 stitches between each section, and 10 stitches at either end. After working some garter stitch rows, I got into the pattern repeats, working decrease rows every 16 rows. I've got to check out the pictures some more to see what happens with the topmost section............I'll probably post the pattern for this once I've got it all figured out. It's a breeze to knit and I highly recommend the alpaca........

13 November 2007

Long Weekend

Last week I taught a 5-day Non-Adhesive Bookbinding class. I had 6 students, and we made what seemed like 734658 books! Here are a few:4-Needle Coptic on Boards (2), Historic Longstitch (2), Coptic on Binders Board, Butterfly.
It was nice to be teaching again, especially this class - I've been teaching Non-Adhesive Binding for......7 years or so? And it's still plenty of fun. I tend to teach this course a bit fatalistically - I've seen - and made! - a lot of mistakes when making these, and I let the students know what many of those problems are/might be. They don't make the same mistakes, and we can spend more time making more books! Everyone wins.

So after a long week of teaching bookbinding what's a girl to do? Well..............

This was NOT my original plan for a long weekend - I WAS set to do some long-overdue quilting (finally finishing up a quilt for my father that I "gave" him for Christmas 2 years ago) and maybe get a jump on the holiday crafting. I got a wee bit immersed in the scraps of fabric though:This is the Color-Wheel Quilt form Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts. I added about 13" in border to make it a more useful size. I gotta tell you, this thing went FAST - the entire business took about a day, start to finish. I cut a template for the circle color pieces, picked out 52 (!) fabrics that sort of worked together, and got to sewing. Of course I managed to sew half of the pieces backwards - the transitions weren't working out for awhile. After some un-sewing, I got things back in order, tacked on some white fabric, found a suitable border fabric (and had *just* enough!) and got to machine quilting! ...Which went surprisingly okay. I gotta say, it was getting the color pieces in order that took the most time. My only issue with this is the build-up of thread in the center. As I intend for this to be used as a blanket quilt, it's a bit rough, but not intolerable. If I make this pattern again (I may!) I will probably put some sort of hand embroidered motif in the center.

(I did finish dad's quilt, too, but I haven't taken any pictures yet)

And I got some knitting done a well: Not much to look at, but that there IS progress - I'm through 2 of the 3 balls of yarn, and thinking a bit that i might run out. Not sure though - I'm doing decreases so it is a bit tough to say, and I haven't figured out all of the shaping at the top of this yet. We'll see. I'm hoping to complete this in the next week or so - it's going quite fast and rather smoothly. And man oh man is the yarn a joy to work with................

06 November 2007

On and Off the Needles

Well! Pictures, as promised. The above is a close-up of one of my TWO completed Socks That Rock, and I have to say that these socks do indeed RAWK. They are pretty rad. I'm not quite sure of why this color (Loch Ness) was one of the very few available when I managed to get to the booth dispensing such yarn (and got a free pattern book!), but I think it is just divine.

Also off the needles, after many many years, this blue mercerized cotton lace-ish scarf. I realized that it's scarf-like nature did not NEED me to complete the half ball of yarn remaining; I was never going to get to that. However, 5 rows of garter stitch and an easy bind-off seemed much more reasonable. Now to move it to the blocking pile......
But really what I want to tell you about is some reverse-engineering. Which I love.
I picked up some lovely alpaca while at Rhinebeck, and I think that I had this project in mind for it. I somehow fell in love with this (the drape, the swing, the warm!) and quickly realized that:
1. It's way too expensive for what it is,
2. I'd probably never wear it,
3. Looks easy enough!
and so began the task of reverse-engineering. Made infinitely easier by the most amazing ZOOM feature on that site! You can count the stitches!

Here then is a bit of process: I poked around to see what Barbara Walker had resembling the pattern and quickly found the rather simple "Horseshoe Pattern" - a 10 +1 repeat. Based on the pattern (and the stitch orientation) I could tell that the garment was knit from the bottom up. It was really just a matter of figuring out what the frequency of decreases was between the patterns. Some math, a bunch of random notes, zoom zoom zooming a lot, and a rather large cast-on later (382 stitches) gave me this:
.....and here's the Horseshoe pattern repeat:This yarn is really lovely to work with, and I think my numbers are (thus far) correct. Why am I doing this, if I know that I most likely will not wear it? Process knitter. Through and through. Fer reals.

Meanwhile, this has been beckoning from the "feed me" bin:Quilt pictures soon! Moth - in action! - soon! Handspun soon!

05 November 2007


I had planned on taking a bazillion pictures of: work on the needles, work finally off of the needles, work blocked. But, alas! I have very little to show. I do, however, have a bit of a teaser:This is the Moth! Completed! blocked! BUT folded up.........

It was too dark to get any proper pictures of the Moth IN ACTION ( it is XTREME, recall?) but I will work towards that goal this evening. The blocking portion of this project went fairly well; it was the usual pinning here there and everywhere only to return to where I had started from to do it all again. In other words, the usual. It is very glamourous and I cannot wait to show you all.

I also managed to finish my Socks That Rock experiment - I had originally planned on just knitting through half the ball for each sock, but I ended up tearing the first one back a bit (I didn't care for the pooling changes once I added calf shaping). I gotta say, these things are SPROINGY. They're pretty cozy, too. I completely understand the attraction and STR love now. And of course: THE COLORS.

I got back to the wheel for a little bit, trying to finish up my September Fiber from HelloYarn (I'm quite behind, see) and a wee bit of tackling October's Spunky Eclectic Fiber. BUT! My main project this weekend (and this week - hoping to complete this bear soon) is a quilt that I started TWO YEARS ago for my father. It's made out of his old button-down shirts. It's a BEAST, I tell ya. But I need to just git it done already so I can move on to bigger and brighter pastures.

More pics tomorrow, I promise! Oh, and a tale of reverse-engineering! I'm teaching this week, so there will be books too!

Here's another Moth teaser:

03 November 2007

Tiny and happy!

I decided not to go out thrifting this morning, because we were supposed to have been in the grip of a terrible Nor’easter. (Now it looks as if the Cape and Islands are going to be quite hard hit, which is nothing to be relieved about, but we aren’t seeing much action in Cambridge, though we’re hardly inland.) Anyway, I was home when the postman came, and look what he brought, all the way from New Zealand!

A beautiful pair of baby booties from Melissa of Tiny Happy, made with embroidery thrifted right here in Cambridge, MA. They are darling, aren’t they? And I think they will fit the baby girl (due in December), in the summertime, as befits their motif.

The anti-thrift
As you may know, it is hard to live the simple, uncluttered life if you are deeply attached to the actitivity of thrifting, or treasure-hunting, as some regard it. Nevertheless, I have the occasional spasm of distaste when looking at my foofaraw-laden surroundings, and spring into a frenzy of decluttering. When I have such an impulse, I just have to let is seize me. A few hours later, I wish to report: 65% of cookbooks, gone!

That feels really good, because although there are a few cookbooks I’m really attached to (Tartine, The Feast of Santa Fe, The Savory Way) I don’t really cook from them all that much. One of the El Mariachi trilogy videos has a little featurette about Robert Rodriguez in his kitchen, whose advice about cooking is this: Learn how to make half a dozen really good things by heart, and always have their ingredients in the pantry. Then you’ll never be stuck. At his kitchen table, Robert even has a little printed menu, so when guests come, they just can make a choice.

I was really taken with this idea, and though I have never printed up menus, and sometimes my pantry runs low, there are several things I can make in my sleep: garlic soup, lentil soup, very good guacamole, enchiladas, Frito pie, mac-and-cheese, a wonderful recipe from the poet Ronald Johnson called “Thing,” and currant scones. All homey, simple, quick-to-assemble fare.

Johnson’s cookbook, The American Table, has been a favorite for years. My father-in-law bought it on impulse for me one day at Buck-A-Book (this was way back in the day; Buck-A-Book still existed, and even beyond that, the books actually cost a buck). It’s a collection of outmoded, very regional American recipes, probably chosen with personal preference uppermost in mind. Among the most personal recipes is this one, which Johnson (no longer with us) wrote was the meal he was “most likely to sit down to when alone.”

adapted from Ronald Johnson, The American Table

Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
Cottage cheese (I like Friendship California-style 4% - it’s creamy and not at all liquidy)
Scallions, sliced (whites if you like the whites, greens if you like the greens)

Using two medium potatoes per person, dice into .5" cubes and fry in hot oil over high heat until crispy. Drain on paper, then divide into bowls. Salt and pepper, then top with a generous dollop of cottage cheese and sprinkle with the sliced scallions. Eat immediately, while the potatoes are still hot and the cheese is still cold. This is an inspired dish, and must be eaten to be believed.
I hope everyone is warm and cosy today. The wind is really whistling here now, and I’m back to the Moth. I should have something impressive to show this month!

02 November 2007


This week I was asked for my favorite recipes to be included in a fundraising cookbook. The project organizers, in their solicitation, mentioned that recipes don’t enjoy copyright protection, and that we were free to pass on any we liked, even straight from cookbooks. I thought, “Huh. That sounds a little blithe,” so I checked it out, and it so happens that they weren’t really wrong.

According to the U.S. government, “Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.” Sounds like a grey area, all right. (Read the full extent of the law)

But Joyce Gemperlein, writing in the Washington Post, says you might want to err on the side of being gracious. She suggests that the ethical thing to do is attribute any recipe you publish, even when modified, and mentions that news organizations almost always use the phrase “adapted from...”

So that is what I shall do here, and give you a moderately adapted recipe for

Mushroom and green olive stew
Adapted from Anna Thomas, The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two

4 T olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chopped yellow onion
2 T flour
1 c veggie broth
1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1 t thyme
1.5 pounds mushrooms
1 c pitted ripe green olives
red wine, parsley, salt, pepper

Using a dutch oven or other good-size pot, saute the onions, garlic, and bay leaves in 2 T oil until onions are golden. Stir in the flour, lower the heat, and cook roux for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth and juice from the canned tomatoes. Stir with a whisk to prevent lumps, then add the tomatoes.

Sauté the mushrooms and thyme in the remaining oil (or butter, if you prefer) in a pan over high heat until browned. Add them to the stew pot to simmer for 20 minutes. Then add the olives, along with the wine, parsley, salt and pepper. Serve immediately with a crusty bread.

I’ve left out Anna’s literary expression, and she certainly doesn’t call for canned tomatoes. She also prefers butter, but we’re trying to use olive oil wherever possible. Anyway, this couldn’t be easier or more delicious. I recommend it, as I do the cookbook, a well-thumbed legacy from my hippie forebears. There are some very inexpensive copies available used on Amazon right now.