Monthly Archives: May 2008

Must have been all the good wishes…

(thank you so much to everyone who wished us a happy anniversary, that was so sweet and I really didn’t expect it!) … I had a great day yesterday!

Partly with my husband, celebrating our anniversary; partly (since he does not truly appreciate yarn) in solitary fibery revelry.

The latter because….when I got home from work (and I got home early, wonder of wonders), there were three packages waiting for me on the front porch!

(SPOILER ALERT — BLUE MOON FIBER ARTS SOCK CLUB REVEAL LATER IN THIS POST!)

One was the BMFA sock club kit for May; I’ll show that to you in a moment.

One was a (semi-random) act of kindness package from Lisa!

Now, she tells the story here of part of why she sent me a package; we’ve also struck up a blogosphere friendship over the last year, and have a fair amount in common. See my comment on her post as to why the story came to be in the first place, also.

But here’s what came from Maine:

Wow. Just — wow. A great Debbie Bliss book I don’t have; Cara‘s cards, which just this very selfsame week I was looking at once again on Cara’s blog and thinking, I need to buy those beautiful cards one of these days soon; yarn in every shade of purple there is, picked out with some projects in my Ravelry queue in mind (happening to be ones that echo some of our mutual interests, too! The Bathat and the Entomology Mittens are both on my list of things to do down the road).

And the card up at the top is a hand-made card with a photo Lisa’s husband took of a Maine landmark. Very cool.

So that was so special — to have a knitterly care package picked out just for me, for no real reason!

Next, the BMFA Sock Club for May. Wow again. I don’t blog all, or even most, of the yarn/sock club bounty I receive, partly because it would tend to incriminate me. I just smile and pet it. But this was especially cool. I’m 3 for 3 on loving these Sock Club kits so far since joining. The next one will have to be something outrageously neon involving bobbles (sorry to bobble-lovers out there, Sarah-Hope), just to balance the karma wheel, because this is amazing:

I know you can’t see the sock, since I have the Dyer’s Notes on top of the pattern, and I didn’t get a picture of it, but the pattern is by the fascinating Yarnissima, and involves sinuous travelling stitches swirling back and forth across the sock; it’s called “Cleopatra’s Stockings”. (And a bonus Notorious Sock Knitters’ luggage tag! So cool!)

Was that not more than enough for one day? Of course it was! But there was one more package!

My swap package from the International Scarf Exchange 6 had arrived! Rhonda, the knittingirl, lives in the far off country of Texas ; ) and spoiled me something fierce.

Look at these beautifully wrapped packages, all coordinating with pretty ribbon.

The special package had a very special scarf in it. Look at this!

The pattern is “Branching Out“, so I thought the scarf would want to hang out with the pretty spirea!

Here’s a close-up (it’s so lovely, and look at this gorgeous hand-painted yarn!)

The green packages had wonderful things inside:

Can you see? Flowers to plant, gardening gloves to plant them with, chocolate to refresh me after my labors, a pretty Pansy card; even a catnip toy for the cat! And, very awesomely, the extra yarn from making the scarf, which is a super-soft merino hand-dyed by Laughing Rat Studio, colorway “Poppies”. You know, I was just thinking the other day that I don’t have any fingerless mitts with thumbs, because I’ve given away all the ones I’ve made. This will be plenty of yarn to make a pair. For me, me, me! to match my gorgeous scarf!

So at this point in the day, I’m on a yarn, scarf and good feelings high.

And my husband and I then decide to go out to dinner (we had been pretty free and easy about making plans, it’s been such a busy week for both of us). Hooray for having older girls now (10 and 12), so we can make sure they have food and then abandon them for a few hours!

As we left, maybe 45 minutes after the above photos were taken, the air was still and warm, and the sky had become ominous. As we drove off, a few raindrops began to fall. Within two blocks, this was the scene:

(that was with the wipers ON). The rain came up over the curbs as we drove the mile to downtown. It started to hail as we got out of the car.

(here’s the hail as it had built up later coming off a roof; it looked like snow:

and then the first restaurant we went to was taken over by a wedding party! How apropos. So we went to a really swanky restaurant (look at my meal, sesame-encrusted ahi tuna with yin yang rice….)

And the waitress was an aspiring knitter who was telling me about a yarn shop I NEEDED to go to (I’ve heard of it, never been there as it’s out in the middle of not much with odd hours, run by a rather free-spirited woman who has yarn floor to ceiling, apparently; my husband just kept saying, “sounds like our house”!)

Then the sun came out again.

The restaurant is right on the Mississippi.

As we left, a barge tug was going upriver to get a cargo.

What a beautiful end to a wonderful day.

Thanks for all the happy anniversary wishes, again!

Eye(Ris) Candy Friday

Two days ago, when there was sunshine:

Either the aliens have landed, or my tall irises are blooming!

Just in time for our wedding anniversary, which is TODAY, not the 27th, which is what I said before.  (I can’t believe I wrote that! My only excuse is that the 27th is a friend’s birthday, and obviously I got my special occasion wires crossed. But it had the side effect of making my mother happy that she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, if she can remember her daughter’s anniversary date better than her daughter….)

And indeed the lilies of the valley, the flower I most wanted in my wedding bouquet, are unusually in full bloom still, with our late spring. Mmmm.

White coral bells, upon a slender stalk

Liles of the valley deck my garden walk.

Oh, don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?…

Sixteen years ago today, it was a very nice day on the banks of the Mississippi, as I recall.

I Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

…or perhaps that should be, Springtime on a Rainy Day!

I finished my spring-y Walking Socks today!

With the help of (in the past week) a choir concert, a piano recital, and, yes, walking to work.

Here they are, naked:

“Sherwood in Springtime” Socks, knit in Twisted Fiber Art yarn: Kabam (bamboo/merino/nylon) yarn base, Sherwood colorway. Size 1 (2.25 mm) needles, my own simple-minded pattern with eyelets and a picot cuff (toe-up, short-row heel). I finished the first one on the ferry back from Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sock camp (in the snow); it’s somehow fitting to finish this in a thunderstorm; but it’s all spring, I guess!

I know you want to know more about these, though, too. Confess. Don’t you?

When I saw on a Ravelry thread that Skechers made a clear shoe, in a style I already own in leather that fits my hard-to-fit feet — I had to get it, to show off hand-knit socks! Based on the recommendation of one of the Ravelry posters, I ordered these shoes (Skechers Cali Surfer Girl)* from Shoebuy.com, and had a smooth, fast transaction. I ordered 1/2 size bigger than the ones I have, figuring that plastic doesn’t stretch like leather, and also that I usually wear very thin socks, if any, with the ones I already have. These seem to be perfect with my hand-knit socks on!

Happy, happy!

*Here’s the link to where I found them at shoebuy, and here’s the link to them in the Skechers catalog, if anyone’s interested.

Holiday Weekend Knitting Update

Good weekend for knitting, off and on.

Before the knitting, though, comes the holiday part!

The Preteen marched for the first time in our local Memorial Day Parade. Her middle school band director explicitly wants the kids to see that music can serve the community and honor our veterans (there is no regular funding for middle school marching band, so this is due to his initiative, a small grant, and some hand-me-down drums that they march at all). French horns do not march; horn players often play instead the mellophone (what the Preteen calls a ‘frumpet’), which fills the role of the horn in the marching band. So, in nine classes, she’s had to learn to march (including turning right and left) and play simultaneously, as well as play and finger a new instrument. They looked and sounded great

(other than I guess, whoops, someone’s out of step. Well, leaving out the one trombonist who is marching to his own drummer, 4 of 6 are on the same foot, so I guess the Preteen’s at least with the majority; which would seem to be what counts in a marching band).

When the band has to stop and mark time right in front of you, it’s an excellent time to embarrass your child by running up to her row and taking more pictures.

It was gorgeous weather, as you can see (too bad I had to work before & after, but at least I snuck out and got to see the parade!), and I hope some of the meaning of the day got through to my adolescent.

One of our friends was in the Vietnam veterans color guard:

and there were Vietnam war veterans whom I don’t remember marching before (perhaps they did); I thought this was very cool (click to embiggen for detail):

Many of you likely know the history, but for those who may not, the Hmong are an Asian ethnic group who were recruited by the CIA to fight in Vietnam; upon the fall of Saigon and US withdrawal from Vietnam, the Hmong became targets, and refugees. Immigration eventually was permitted on a limited basis by the United States government, and in the mid-1970s to early 1980s, my home town along with many others in the Midwest and California, most prominently, assimilated a number of refugees. These Hmong veterans truly are Vietnam veterans, but I had not thought to see them marching today; it was very striking to do so, especially as they’re carrying a POW-MIA flag among their flags.

There is currently another wave of immigration occurring, and my daughter told me later that her middle school flag squad (here they are in synchronized action at school last week):

is made up entirely of ‘Newcomers’, Hmong refugee children who have just arrived. Her school is one of the official welcome schools for these kids, who attend a school within a school as they learn English etc. They sang at the winter choir concert too; it was very moving.

One last parade picture, because it made me think of Dale-Harriet even though no one is wearing toques:

Now, onto the knitting! (and of course I was knitting while watching the parade, though slowed by standing up every time the flag came by)

First, the Frozen Waterfall Scarf, all blocked, now wrapped up, and off to its ISE 6 recipient!

I blocked it pretty hard, as the recipient is tall, and also I wanted a lacy look suitable for summer wear; interestingly, it came out looking almost woven after blocking. I probably could have been a little less aggressive, as I think it was plenty big (6 x 60 inches before blocking). But once I get those blocking wires in, the lace instincts take over! Plus I wanted to try to get the ‘wave’ out of the dropped stitches to make it more symmetric.

Specifications:

Pattern: Waterfall Scarf, designed by Linda O’Leary, from 101 Designer One Skein Wonders (note, pattern is written for heavy worsted weight yarn rather than the fingering weight yarn I did it in; Laurie assures me it goes much faster in the heavier weight yarn!)

Yarn: Yarn Pirate merino/tencel fingering weight yarn from the “Booty Club”, Icicle colorway

Modifications: Fingering weight yarn as above; also, I modified the bind off, at first due to inability to understand the bind off instructions; but when I ‘got’ them, I decided I liked mine better.

Here’s the pattern’s bind off on the left, over one dropped stitch, and mine on the right (over two dropped stitches):

It doesn’t look like mine’s stretchy, but I assure you, it is. And more aesthetic, I think.

Anyway, I’m pleased with the scarf and would gladly have kept and worn it, a good sign of a good scarf. I’ll probably knit this pattern again; but in a heavier yarn next time! A slippery-ish yarn that’s not splitty makes the stitch dropping part much easier, also. The merino/tencel was pretty good, but I can tell you just how many times I picked up a few extra fibers with the stitch (many more than I would have thought) and how much more difficult and tedious that made dropping the (2300) stitches!

Then, apparently I was in both a scarf mood and in the mood for a FO, like, NOW. For I started this Friday and finished yesterday!

The “Garter Stitch Loop-Through Scarf” (descriptive though not so inventive name) from the same book, knit in my fav-o-rite Twisted yarn, this being the Orbit colorway, Duchess yarn base. I modified the pattern slightly only because it called for sport weight and this is DK; so I knit on 28 stitches instead of 32 for the body of the scarf to obtain approximately the same width.

I like the pattern a lot, and I think I’ll really like a scarf like this to tuck inside my winter coat. This doesn’t happen to go with any of my coats, so I might reknit the scarf in another Twisted colorway for me and save this for a Christmas present already done. I have 37g of yarn left, maybe enough for matching wristlets, or if not, I can do the ribbing for fingerless mitts in this weight yarn, and I have Orbit in fingering weight too which I could use for the rest of the mitts. Or a hat, with the brim in the thicker yarn and the rest in the thinner yarn. Or mittens, ditto. All sorts of possibilities!

But wait, there’s more! (Call now, and get the free Ginzu knives….)

I also worked on my mother’s belated birthday socks (belated birthday socks seem to be traditional here, unfortunately). Yummy Casbah yarn, same as the Cast Toe Socks I had made her; in fact, the original companion sock was an indoor sock to accompany the Cast Sock, but when my mother decided she really liked it and wanted a pair, I felt I needed to reknit, as I had knit the first 2/3 of the first sock loosely for bedsock/around the house wear. (I did just reknit the heel and foot, though, and left the leg stretchy, why not?) So I’m almost down to heel #2 now.

Oh, and I’m almost done turning the heel on the second Walking Sock. And I cast on for a baby Tomten Jacket to match the little Saartje’s booties that I’d already made for a coworker who’s due in June.

Phew. Enough for one (long) weekend, with two mornings + of work thrown in, don’t you think?

Here’s a Saturday Sky to remember it by:

Hope your weekend was a good one!

J is for Jeté

Petit jeté.

Well, technically, what you’re seeing is coupé derrière en plié, I suppose, but petit jeté begins and ends in this position.

And although I’ll blab a bit and tell you that ‘jeté‘ means ‘thrown’, and is part of the full name of a number of moves in ballet; and that ‘grand jeté‘, what most people probably visualize if they visualize anything when they hear the term, is the exhilarating leap with legs split (but I don’t particularly want to photographically immortalize my gravity-laden version of it, as fun as it is to do), and that petit jeté is a small Jump, starting as above, where the back leg then brushes the floor to propel you up into the air, and you land on the opposite leg in the same position, a very light, springy small Jump (see this glossary with videos from ABT for this and other dance terms in this post): as I say, although you have just been subjected to Jeté 101, this post is not really about jeté, the step.

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I’ve always enjoyed dance (enjoyment, of course, does not mean automatically that one possesses a talent for it). Growing up, I know I subjected my parents to little dance shows in the living room. When I was small, my family lived in Germany for several years. I took a couple years of ballet and a year of tap then; there is photographic and Super 8 movie evidence. I remember the teacher as quite strict, very traditional and European.

By the time we moved back to the United States when I was almost 7, I think I was burned out on my strict ballet classes (though I remember tapping around in my school shoes for quite a while). I didn’t ask to take dance again. I was on my junior high ‘pom pom’ squad (kind of like dance team, but far removed from dance teams of today), and I could do the splits and kick high and shake my booty in time, but I didn’t take dance classes.

Then, in college, one of my acquaintances in the dorm invited me to an adult ballet class she was attending. It sounded like fun. Unfortunately, all the other college students taking it had taken years of formal ballet; I was way over my head; I couldn’t turn my feet and hips out 180 degrees, like some of the others, and I hurt my hip trying. I stopped after a few months, and decided ballet was just not meant to be, for me. Instead, I learned ballroom dance through the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club, which was wonderful. (In fact, the first date that my now husband and I went on, was when I dragged him to the BDC’s Halloween Costume ball; I was Queen Titania and he was an extremely good-looking pirate, as I remember; I taught him to waltz — really waltz — and some new swing moves. Nostalgic sigh.)

Fast forward two decades. Out-of-shape, overweight, overly busy mother of two brings her younger daughter to her first three-year-old dance class at the dance studio where her older daughter already goes. The new artistic director, daughter of the owner, is wonderful with a rather shy Gothlet. O-O-S OW O-B mother sees that a new class is being offered for adults who ‘have never danced or been out of dance for some time’. With some trepidation, she signs up.

Wow. I was in love. We learned ballet and Jazz. We were a range of ages, weights and ability levels, but no one was like the 10-years-of-ballet bunheads I’d had in class as a college student. I liked it all, but I loved ballet. The discipline, the engagement of mind with body, the music, the serenity, were just what I needed in a physical activity (I’d TRIED to like aerobics but just couldn’t get into it). I wanted to do more. We performed in the spring studio recital (to Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary”, the slow part with ballet choreography, the rowdy part performing Jazz); it was so fun! I took the class again, but wanted to move beyond. In a small city, however, opportunities are limited (in, for example, Minneapolis, there are adult classes at different levels, sigh). I took a few private classes, struggled with the ‘advanced/adult’ ballet, dumbing the exercises down to what approached my level (though I incurred a hairline crack of one of the bones of my foot, trying something I didn’t know how to do; should have taught me something).

At about the same time this was going on, the artistic director asked my husband and I if we would play parents in the annual Nutcracker Ballet that the studio puts on. (I think she needed guys and knew I could probably talk my husband into it.) The (now) Preteen was barely old enough to be in the production, but we didn’t think she was nearly ready, she was a wild child, always hanging on the barre and causing trouble. So my husband and I were in the Nutcracker that year, and the kids watched! In fact, we were the parents of Maria and Fritz (and a multicultural family were we, with an Asian ‘daughter’ and a red-headed ‘son’!).

The next year, we reprised our roles, and the Preteen was a mouse (seven years old). But there was a lack of teen dancers for all the variations; there are only so many quick changes one can do, instantaneous changes are not possible, and it was just a number (or lack of numbers) thing that year. So I volunteered, if there was an easier part I could dance to help out. There was, and it would be helpful, so that year I danced Reed Pipes as well (with my sorely-missed young friend Katie).

The following year, the Gothlet was old enough to be in the ballet as well. I actually auditioned this time, and (numbers still being a factor), I was given three roles: Frau Catherine Silberhaus (the mom of Maria again), Reed Pipes, and also Chinese. My husband was asked to be Godfather Drosselmeyer. Now, he can dance; but he’s not a Dancer. (Though he was forced to take ballet when he was boxing competitively, but it didn’t stick.) He is, however, an Actor (where the Preteen gets it from). He worked very hard for months, learning ballet, and he was incredible on stage. The Preteen was a small girl in the Party Scene, and a buffoon in the Mother Ginger scene; the Gothlet was a Snow Angel. Here we are:

Wow, that was an insane time. Talk about ‘jeté‘ meaning thrown — we certainly were thrown into the madness! But awfully fun. (I was working less than full time, and took off essentially all of tech week! Otherwise, there would have been no way.)

Then the next year: there were enough intermediate dancers coming up that newly middle-aged moms weren’t needed any more. A good thing. And the roles rotate (there’s been a different Godfather almost every year, for example). My husband and I wanted to be able to actually see our girls dance; we did watch from the wings, but it’s not the same, actually. So that was the last year we were all in Nutcracker. The Gothlet’s been in it every year; the Preteen took a break (after missing the same birthday party three years in a row, I think she wanted to have time off) but now was in it again last year. It’s still a crazy time, but not nearly as crazy as when we were in the midst. I do miss it, though, at times.

So, before this, if you had told me I would get up on a huge stage in a fine arts university in front of hundreds of strangers, and dance a pas de trois with two girls half my age — I would have questioned your sanity. Afterwards — well, a lot of other experiences in my life have seemed less intimidating in comparison!

I continued to take ballet. And love it. Now I had a goal, achievable for some adult beginning dancers after years of study: Could I do pointe? I was taking 2 -3 classes a week. A friend of mine who taught ballet was encouraging. I took a pre-pointe evaluation class, and was told that I probably could do pointe, though I still needed to work on alignment & strength. But because I was an adult, and listened to my body (much more sensibly after the foot fracture), they trusted that I could take things at my own pace.

A few summers ago, then, I started studying pointe. It was not easy. I had lost weight, but was no sylph; and my flexible bunion-y long-second-toe feet were hard to fit in pointe shoes. But I was enjoying the challenge.

Then, a few months later, in regular ballet class, a simple move, plié passé, involving springing up to one foot en relevé (tiptoe). My right ankle popped audibly, then felt — strange. Then started to hurt a little. Not bad, unless I was on relevé or jumping. When I got home, it was a little swollen. Hmm.

Fast forward again: eventually, after persistent problems for several months (I couldn’t run up steps, bike riding was a bit of a problem, but mostly I just couldn’t dance), an MRI found the problem; a split in one of the ankle tendons, basically a tear that didn’t go all the way through. Next, predictably, surgery; after which I found out that I absolutely was not going to be able to do my job while strictly non-weightbearing (luckily only 10 days), then six weeks of crutches with partial weightbearing and NO DRIVING! FOR A WORKING MOM! And they only told me shortly before surgery!

Then the usual months of rehab; then I could dance again.

I danced and trained for six months before reattempting pointe. But it was no good. My ankle just doesn’t function quite the same way, in the position you are in for pointe (part of a muscle had to be removed for the repair). And I started having a pinched nerve in the foot on that side, probably related.

So I have my old pointe shoes on, above, only for nostalgia’s sake; though I can still fake it

(here’s the painterly version of sous-sus), I won’t be dancing in these. Yes, I’m a little wistful, but it’s OK, I like my soft shoes.

I still take ballet, but I’ve had to increase my work hours back to full time plus, due to the needs of the job, not by my choice, and that’s gotten in the way. This last year, I could only get to one class a week most weeks. Though I’m a little above their level, I ended up taking the same class as my daughters for convenience, as I was starting not to make it to the one class, even. That was fun! I’m not sure they always thought so, but I enjoyed it.

One last little anecdote, then something amusing for those of you who have hung in here with me:

When we joined the church we’re at now, as part of the new member orientation, we were asked to tell about a teacher who had a big influence on us. Well, I was a little stumped; school came easy to me, and though I had many excellent teachers, I didn’t really need encouragement, and I couldn’t think of one particular amazingly influential teacher in high school, college, junior high or whatever.

But then I thought of a teacher who HAD made a big difference to me. The then-new artistic director who had started the adult dance class, who by her positivity and wonderful teaching ability gave me the courage to try dance again. Dance is not something you can study for, or do at home with no one seeing you. It did take courage to get in front of the mirrors and just do it, imperfect as my attempts might be. Her enthusiasm and encouragement transformed me from someone who ‘couldn’t do ballet’, someone who felt clumsy, sluggish, with unshed pregnancy weight, who couldn’t even get her foot on the barre to stretch at first; to someone who loved dance, and who wasn’t afraid to try new things. Even in public. Even, eventually, taking classes with a bunch of slender teen and preteen bunheads, me being practically twice their average weight and three times their age. Even on the stage of a fine arts university, dancing Nutcracker variations. And having a blast! My first ‘adult dance’ teacher truly gave me the gift of dance, of having it back in my life, of saying, “Yes, I can dance.” I’m glad my girls have pursued dance further too, following their own leanings and talents. But even if they didn’t, or when they are no longer at the studio, I still plan to be dancing.

Jeté — Thrown. I plan to keep throwing my heart into my dance, and the rest of me will follow as it can, lame, halt, chubby or what have you.

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Visible proof that after that Nutcracker stage, it’s harder to faze me now:

Here’s the last part of the dance I performed at the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sock Camp Crows Feet last month. A short piece to a Tchaikovsky theme — the world première of my original choreographed piece, “Pas de Corbeille”, “Dance of the Crow”. I actually knit while dancing!

Yes, during much of the dance I was doing dance steps while holding my sock-in-progress in first position, but I did actually, for real, knit stitches while doing bourrées and piqués. (And the stitches looked fine, after.) My friend MJ started filming about two-thirds of the way through, right after I had been doing little jumps, changements and entrechats quatres, and then pretended to drop a stitch. Fear not! I have dpn’s in my bun!

(If for some reason, the video doesn’t work, here’s the link. And, by the way, the head in the foreground taking pictures is Stephen of HizKNITS, blog and podcast. At the end, as I ballet run out into the hall, you can see along the far wall Cat Bordhi with the very blond head, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is the not-too-tall person in green moving fast, and I believe also that’s my new friend Sam who is a frequent columnist on Lime & Violet’s Daily Chum, and my new friend Ariel who is knitting me Sock Camp Souvenirs. And many, many of my friends in the audience! Thanks, MJ, for sharing the video!

Sweet Violet Eye Candy Friday

Sing along with Eye Candy Friday!

Sweet Violets

Sweeter than all the roses….

Oops, I Dropped One

Or 2300, perhaps.

Stitches, that is.

The Frozen Waterfall Scarf is off the needles!

Here’s a preblocking preview:

I do like the way it turned out, even before blocking; which will have to wait until parental obligations allow time tonight. I’ll give you more details about the project once I know the final size (plenty big) and can show you the final finished pictures.

But I think the pain in my wrist is worth it! I certainly would be happy keeping it, which is the sign of a good swap scarf, right?

Note: generous donor/consolation prizes from the Blogiversary Raffle went out Tuesday night, except Lisa‘s. She knows why. No, she’s not being punished, and hers is going out today! Those of you who had gotten emails from me, should be getting something fun by the weekend!