Monthly Archives: December 2008

Snow and Eye-ce Candy Friday

More snow this week.

echinacea-with-dot

Snow….

and ice.

icicle-pov

About 30 inches of snowfall in December so far — unofficially tied for second snowiest December on record in these parts.  They’re saying 1 – 3 more inches tomorrow night….

Non-Secret Knitting

During all the recent extracurricular activities, knitting has been happening.

But of course!  That goes without saying.

Some of it is stealth, but some I can show you.

First, here’s the corollary to the Gothlet’s Noro Striped Scarf, which (if you recall) looked like this:

piano-playing-scarf

It was knit to the Gothlet’s exact specifications as far as length (otherwise, I would have knit to the end of the skeins — two of each color).  Thus,  I had a little yarn left over.

I decided to make a hat.  The remainders looked to be about the right yardage for a hat. The Gothlet declined, but I was happy to have a Noro Silk Garden hat, so it was to be for me.   It knit up fast, and I love it!

noro-striped-hat

Here it is in last Saturday’s snow; the flash making it look a bit brighter than it is, perhaps.

noro-striped-hat-looks-at-s

The hat and I look at the Saturday Sky with Snow.

Front view:

noro-striped-hat-overall

Here’s the recipe if anyone wants to duplicate it:

I cast on 100 stitches stretchily (I have a big head; if you’re knitting for someone less big-headed, choose a smaller multiple of 4) and knit in K1 P1 rib in rounds, alternating colors every two rounds.  I didn’t worry about doing  ‘jogless joins’ since the ribbing tended to disguise the join, but I found the join was less obvious if I joined the new color on a purl stitch rather than a knit stitch. (I did break the yarn and split splice once to avoid two similar greens coming together (just started from the other end of the remaining yarn).)

When the work was just over six inches long, I decreased something like what follows, continuing to change colors every two rounds (I changed color one round and did decreases the next round for simplicity, though this isn’t critical)

*k1 p1 k2 tog* around for 1 round  (75 stitches)

k1 *p1 k2* around (repeat between asterisks to end of round, end k1)  for about 3 rounds

*k2 tog k1* around for 1 round (50 stitches)

k all stitches for about 3 rounds

*k2 tog* around for 1 round (25 stitches)

k 1 round, ending k2 tog (24 stitches)

*k2 tog* around  for 1 round (12 stitches)

Place the 12 stitches on two needles, six stitches to a needle, so as to be able to graft them together, then use the Kitchener stitch to do so, and weave in ends.

This is a slight modification of the cool trick outlined in this tutorial from the Techknitter.  (Modified because the hat she’s using for an example is k2 p2 rib — my usual fave — so the decreases don’t apply.)  It makes a truly flat and not pointy hat top.  Here’s a close-up:

noro-hat-top

If you look back at the first picture:  Look, Ma!  No point!  Even if a smaller-headed person wears the hat.

I ran out of yarn in one colorway (not the other) part way into the decreases, so borrowed some yards from a third colorway.  The teal green is the interloper.

I am verra, verra happy with my Noro Striped Hat.  And it’s surprisingly warm but breathable  (the silk content helps, I’m sure).  YAY for new hats!

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Non-stealth project number two:

We have a Secret Santa exchange at work:  tiny gifts for several weeks, then a somewhat bigger gift the day of our intra-departmental informal Christmas party at work.  (We have a dinner/dancing holiday party in January.)  I happened to draw the name of a friend of mine; so I put a little more into her gift, I admit.

She’s a purple fan.  She’s also a beginning knitter, and appreciates handknits.

So I made her this:

dayflower-detail

A scarf using one repeat of the “Dayflower” pattern from Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Stitch Patterns.  I put a three-garter-stitch edging on each side, six garter stitch rows at top and bottom, and knit till I ran out of time, basically (the story of my life).  I could have put in a couple more repeats, but it turned out long enough.

dayflower-long-view

It’s Dream in Color Classy knit together with Rowan Kidsilk Haze for a bit of extra fluffy.  Classy is soft but smooth, being a superwash merino.  In cold Wisconsin winters, I thought fuzzy softness would be nice, and the KSH would also add another textural and color dimension, and not obscure the lace pattern as much as an overtly fluffier single yarn would.

I’m happy with how it turned out, though unfortunately I did not have my camera at the party to take modeled shots.

dayflower-midportion

If  I can get my friend to pose, I’ll post one later.

It’s about 5 1/2 inches wide, just under 5 feet long.  Nice chunky lace.  My left thumb weighed in about its personal feelings re: p2 tog tbl (it’s anti this stitch maneuver).  However, the stitch occurred only once every 16 rows, so my thumb had to just suck it up and deal with it.

Now back to cleaning and a touch more Stealth Knitting!  From inside, though I have to run errands once (and sing at church tonight).  It looks like last Saturday’s Sky again, but snowing harder.

saturday-sky-december-20-20

I believe this snowfall is getting us to the second snowiest December on record for our area (last December was the 5th snowiest).

Silent Night

The RockStar’s middle school combined grade choir singing and signing “Silent Night” last Thursday.  (Two of the RockStar’s friends appear at the beginning: singing the alto in the duet, and also the signer on the left.)  Watch to the end if you watch: it’s very cool.

Merry Christmas to all that celebrate it.

Where’s That Pause Button When You Need It?

Another crazy weekend done, and now only 3 days until Christmas.

Gulp.  Possibly the least-prepared I’ve ever been.  The house is a disaster area, we don’t have our tree up, I’m not even sure which presents I don’t have yet.

But I haven’t been sitting around eating bonbons!

Going in reverse:

Just got done portraying “Esther”, the matriarch of a nomadic shepherd family coming in to Bethlehem to try to sell a couple sheep. Unfortunately, the village is very full and the village elders (like the one below) wouldn’t let us in to sell our sheep because there was no room yet to do so.  So we pitched our tent outside the city to bide our time, and talked to people coming through for the census.  And I spun wool into yarn, naturally.  Pictures to come at some point (from other people’s cameras).

shepherd-and-elder

(That village elder would be my father!).

Lots of fun, I’m exhausted, and I now have six balls of singles to ply.  Not the best yarn in the world, but it IS yarn (and will be plied yarn soon.  Well,  after the holidays).

Night before that, shepherding not sheep, but six preteens through the snow to see the movie “Twilight”  (the majority for the second time; I think they’re in love with Edward).  Plus an Urgent Care visit (nothing serious, just annoying).

Night before that, a piano recital. The Gothlet’s.  Here she is, demonstrating (under duress) the latest in Wisconsin evening fashion.

the-well-dressed-wisconsin

Well, OK, she changed her footwear for the actual recital.

It’s always fun to see the recitals, remembering that it wasn’t that long ago that she was the size of the kindergarteners at the same recital, whose feet are nowhere near touching the floor.

small-piano-player

And now she looks like this.

10-year-old-pianist

This recital was a bit of a stressor for me, too, as we played a duet; the which I only found out about two weeks beforehand (getting not so good at the telling me about these things, the Gothlet is — or isn’t).  Then, because despite finally getting on the stick and practicing her little fingers off, she was NOT getting the hang of the duet.  (I think it was a little above her level.)  She could have just skipped it, but we ended up changing to a different duet — 3 days before the recital!  LOTS more practicing ensued, on my part too (I’m really not that good a piano player, I only took piano for a few years, and this is starting to approach my limits).  But we pulled off  “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” with a few minor wobbles but a strong finish.

The night before:  The RockStar’s choir concert (she had a short solo).

choir-concert

Though I recorded her solo on my not-so-great-sound-quality camera, I’ll spare you that.  However, I will want to share with you the choir’s rendition of “Silent Night”.  Her choir director performed it in a way that seems to be becoming a yearly tradition now: first sung as an a cappella solo (duet this year) with accompanying ASL signing; then choral singing with accompaniment; then humming with choral signing; then signing silently: truly a “Silent Night”.   It rather gives me goosebumps.  The RockStar’s friend did signing and another friend sang the alto part for the duet.  I thought I had uploaded the song to YouTube, but it was the wrong song.  Thus I’ll add in the YouTube video once I get it uploaded, or blog it later…I didn’t want to delay this post ANY MORE.

Before that:  working late, some child had to go shopping emergently as I recall also, and then there was Nutcracker, of course, with a band concert in the middle.

No action pictures from the Nutcracker performance (not allowed to photograph in the theater), but here’s the Chinese dancer in the dressing room..

dressing-room-chinese

Who received a floral tribute….

nutcracker-flowers

She danced beautifully.  And in a very rat-like manner when appropriate.

Phew.  I think that brings us up to speed.  Now for choir rehearsals tonight and tomorrow night for a Christmas Eve cantata, and a RockStar home puking today.  (Cross our — frequently washed — fingers that no one else gets the bug.)

Now, I’m still looking for that TRULY Universal Remote with the Pause Button!  The one that works on Life too!  Seen one anywhere?

Garden in the Snow Eye Candy Friday

From earlier this week.

daylily-snowcup

So far, in less than a week, we’ve had snow, rain,  above-freezing overnight temps (not usual this time of year), a sudden plunge to subzero Fahrenheit (also not typical this time of year here), another 5 inches of snow (these photos were taken then), a bit of sun (enough to lead to icicles yesterday) and now more snow overnight.  It’s still coming down thickly, so another snow day for the kids.

And it’s not even winter on the calendar yet…

snowcup

Moonset this Morning (Bonus Eye Candy Friday)

1-moonrise

I wasn’t going to have an Eye Candy post today — no real time, and no new pretty pictures (see ‘no time’).  But this morning I looked out the front window to see the moon looking back at me, and had to grab my camera.  (If you click to embiggen, you can see it a little more as I saw it; the white background of the blog makes it look darker than it was.)

It’s the setting moon, tangled in my neighbor’s tree, as seen through the window, hence the refraction of the light.

2-moonrise

(It was -2F (-19C) again, and I was not at that point dressed for such weather to be able to take the photo from outside!)

Slightly later, while running into work (a touch late from taking the time to upload these pictures), I saw the moon again just above the horizon:  all huge and pinky-peach in the pale blue sunrise sky, above the snow-covered river bluffs.  Beautiful.

No picture, though; you’ll just have to imagine!

A little yarn, a little music….

Trying to keep you posted (ar, ar) so I’m not even farther behind!  (I have told you nothing about my trip to the Twin Cities, other than getting stuck in Rochester, nor about spinning and knitting with friends last weekend….)

But let me show you what came in the mail this week!

A Ravelry swap led to this wonderfulness arriving from Janet in British Columbia!

sssk-swappage

(I *love* getting packages from Canada!  Especially from knitters in Canada who have excellent taste and also the ability to pick out my very favorite colors!)  Look at the Opal yarn and its gorgeous shading.  It’s a touch richer and darker than the flash (sadly necessary as we approach the darkest day of the year) makes it look.  But still all my favorite jewel tones, as you can see.

The beautiful ornament next to the yarn will unfortunately need a little surgery, thanks to the postal service; he has a left arm fracture.  However, it’s at the shoulder, and (unlike in real life), that should make it easier to fix seamlessly).  Love (1)! Then, look at the CHOCOLATE!  Some awesome Droste pastilles (I usually only am indulged with this at Christmas, and then not the pastilles, YUM) and then some Nestle’s which I have never had, but which combines two of my favorite flavors, double YUM.  Below that:

lovely-handmade-bookmark

A handmade, hand-woven book mark.

Am I spoiled rotten, or what?

Thank you, Janet!!

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Quick but photo-filled proud parental update:

Today’s Nutcracker school performance apparently went well.  (RockStar alone is in it this year, the Gothlet decided not to audition as she wanted to see it and at her age, roles are limited also.)  More on that Saturday when I get to see her perform.

Few scenes from the band concert:

band-concert-december-2008

(the band gets a bit smaller every year in middle school).

Here’s the RockStar, second row, second from the left:

brass

Two of her best friends are also in the picture, one behind her, and another on the far right of the picture.  Hmm.  Maybe that, as well as locking horns with the new band director, has something to do with her band grades slipping even though she’s a good musician?  Silly girl.

Here are the French horns doin’ that spit valve thing that they have to do, in some musical pieces more than others.

spit-time

And, lastly, here’s another of the RockStar’s friends, who plays percussion (the Gothlet would like to do this next year), who has impressive cymbal technique during their last piece, a band arrangement of “The Great Gates of Kiev”.

cymbals-1

cymbals-21

cymbals-3

They played it nicely.  (Of course, that piece reminded me of this cafepress design which I just gave to my friend, an accomplished horn player.  Love it!  And it’s so true!)

Now for equal Gothlet time: last week was open dance classes at their dance studio (i.e. we get to watch).  The RockStar is only taking two classes this year, due to schedule conflicts/interest/time.  The Gothlet is taking every class she can – probably too much.  But I got to see most of her classes last week.  I didn’t have my camera for all, but here she is in Music Theatre Dance II (turquoise cami), and ballet.

music-theatre-dance-ii-h

music-theatre-dance-ii-i

music-theatre-dance-ii-a1

She and her friend are certainly well matched as a pair in this choreography.

music-theatre-dance-ii-d

Now, a little ballet:

tired-sous-sus

arabesque

Wish I’d had my camera for Tap: I think that’s her favorite and best class.  But that really needs a video to capture!

MidWeek Quick Update (or, Not Dead Yet)

1)  First (of three) Nutcracker performance tomorrow (school performance during day).

2)  RockStar also has a band concert tomorrow night.

3)  Finished the Gothlet’s Noro Striped Scarf.

piano-playing-scarf

long-noro-striped-scarf

She wore it today, out into the -2 degrees F (-19 C) morning.   To do morning safety patrol.  Brrrr.  It seemed to be well received, however; it got a smile.

4)  There was just about enough yarn left to make a similar hat for me.  No pictures yet.  (And I had to borrow about 5 yards of yarn from another skein of Silk Garden to complete it.)

5) Received a wonderful package which I need to photograph and tell you all about.  Thanks, Janet!!

6)  I need to send the corresponding package, which I have pretty much ready to go (I just keep thinking I should add to it, but I need to SEND it).

7)  My girls are “Twilight” obsessed.

8)  Barnes & Noble has ‘Breaking Dawn’ back ordered.  This has caused some angst in our house.  But is probably good for the homework situation.

9)  Kittens make eating breakfast extremely difficult at times.  Especially irrepressible kittens who feel that your bowl is their bowl.

10) Kittens curled up sleeping on one’s lap while blogging are both warm and extremely endearing.

¡Hasta la vista!  Could be on the other side of Nutcracker.  Hopefully earlier….

Y is for Yule

christmas-wreath-oil-paint

(Last year’s photo, ‘oil painting’ style — but this year’s wreath looks just like this again now.  6 – 10 more inches of the “S” word expected today and tomorrow!)

I use the word “Yule” and not “Christmas” very advisedly.  To me, Christmas is church, the beautiful, serious but hopeful Christmas cantata we’re singing at the Christmas Eve service, and the beginning of the church year with marking this religious event (though truly a hugely less important event, theologically, than Easter in the Christian church).

No, Yule is the whole package.  Did you know Yule was a pagan solstice ceremony that got folded up with Christmas later, just as (almost certainly) the date of Christmas was identified with a previously existing Roman solstice celebration? 

Follow the link above to the Wiki article — it’s interesting.  Yule traditions that have become widespread include evergreens and “Christmas” trees, gift-giving, and celebrating and feasting with family and friends around the winter solstice.  Most of us are no longer sacrificing our own animals, I suppose, but certainly many turkeys, pigs and beef cattle are finding their way to our holiday tables.  (Which always reminds me of the Lou & Peter Berryman existential angst Christmas song, “Big Dead Bird”:  first two verses:

The liquor stores are empty, the car won’t start
The Christmas decorations are falling apart
The temperature is dropping, the sky is grey
Gonna have a big dead bird for dinner
On Christmas Day

Papa’s nerves get frazzled, & wearing thin
Mama in her wisdom gets drunk on gin
The kids go build a roadblock for Santa’s sleigh
Gonna have a big dead bird for dinner
On Christmas Day

I love the Berrymans.)

So:  I am using Yule as a metaphor for the entire holiday season, regardless of any religious affiliation (and justifying this by the solstice origin of Yule and the fact that when you Google Yule currently, many of the results that come up are neo-pagan!).  The short days and long nights, the snow on the ground (up here, anyway) covering up the brown and gray, the feeling of anticipation, the baking and cooking, high-calorie but delicious treats everywhere, the plans to be with friends and families, the parties and concerts and events and open houses, winter plays, naturally the Nutcracker Ballet around here, and also naturally (around here) holiday gift knitting.

I get stressed at times, because it all seems to fall on me at my house, between two children who developmentally don’t seem to be able to think beyond the next twelve hours, and a husband who is not much into holidays or ‘traditions’.  Add to that a job that’s really more than full time right now, and the Nutcracker which always consumes a huge amount of energy this week in particular. But over years, I have realized that it will be what it will be, and the most important thing about Yule is celebrating it with the people who are important to you.  The traditions are fun, but family — whether genetic or ‘found’ family — is what makes this Yule season truly a celebration.

So, this winter solstice and Yule, stay warm with your family and friends.  Celebrate the return of the light and longer days.  Don’t stress (any more than absolutely necessary).  And if you’re in the area: feel free to stop by my house.  I’m not guaranteeing when the tree will be up, or that the floor will be clear . . . but hey, the evergreen wreaths are on the front stairposts, a symbol of the ‘wheel of the sun’, apparently!

coming-home-christmas-eve

I’d like to leave you with a wonderful quotation I happened upon while Googling Yule, serendipitously enough.  This is taken from a salutation to a friend by Fra Giovanni, written on Christmas Eve 1513, and found here.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

X is for Xavier

This is the last day of X-posting (no, not cross-posting): we are to the challenging letter X in the ABC-Along.

Who is Xavier?

Well, other than being the surname of a Jesuit priest and Catholic saint (if you ever meet anyone with the initials F.X., it’s a pretty good bet the initials stand for Francis Xavier and he was baptized a good Catholic boy):

THIS is Xavier.

xavier-solo

See, here’s his nametag, below.

xavier-and-blue-house

Xavier is representing a certain portion of my yarn stash, and an addiction of mine.  To Twisted Fiber Art, being the creation of Meg, a dyer with mad math and dyeing skills as well as an eye for color, which allow her to hand-craft some of the most gorgeous self-striping yarn anywhere.

Although you can see the beautiful saturated colors above and below, and how they pick up the blues of the sky (and the house across the street) and the golden browns of the fall vegetation (right before the snow started the next day):

you have to see it knit up to really appreciate it.  I have not used my Xavier yet, but you can see a preview on the store site here.

xavier-looking-south

Why do I love Twisted yarn so much?  The wonderful yarn bases are important, in fact, essential; but it’s the amazing gradations and blends and combinations of colors that have me hooked.

Here’s a mini-gallery of Twisted projects I’ve put on the blog in the past:

moebius-warms-my-ears sweet-baby-cap-head-on pioneer-braid-scarf-cropped braider-baby-hat flower-in-the-floozy-hat hat-on-a-railing tonks-posing meeting-sock-natural-light beaded-necklace-2 saartjes-booties-with-scorched-kabam1 walking-socks bacterium-on-the-front-steps orbit-scarf

(Click on any you’d like to see bigger.)

And that’s just since May!

The amazing color changes are simultaneously limiting and inspiring in designing, or in incorporating the self-striping yarn into existing patterns.  Any significant lacework or pattern stitches will tend to be lost in the colors.  (Which is a lot of wasted effort and shows off neither the pattern nor the yarn to best advantage.)  The color-change yarn absolutely sings in stockinette, just a little less so in garter stitch, and can be shown to advantage with simple or slip stitch patterns.  Also, the number of stitches it’s made on makes a huge difference to the final look of the stripes.  (See the difference between the Scorched booties above, and the baby hat in exactly the same yarn, the orange/brown/green/yellow colorway.)  So, it’s rather like writing a poem in a very constricted style.  (Think haiku; or a long poem with multiple verses in the haiku form.)  The constriction of technique can be very inspiring.

Plus, it’s always nice to have a simple stockinette sock (for example) on the needles, for travel, walking, meetings, etc.; the color changes make it more interesting.  (I seem to have trouble keeping it simple stockinette, see the last two socks above, but that’s another issue.)

Fortunately, however, I’m delighted to report that for those times when one wants to do more complicated patterns (much of the time, apparently, for me, despite my Twisted addiction),  Meg has (by popular request) started dyeing semi-solids.  They started out as coordinating heel and toe skeins (see the earth-tone sock above, which is knit in Netherfield Kabam; the cuff is in a coordinating yarn).  Now they’re available as whole skeins.  (I used this on my Minstrel Moebius I-cord bind-off.)  And in the most recent update, Meg dyed “Subtles” that were ‘stand-alones’ — not necessarily coordinating with another of her yarns.  Wow!  See this page for a sample (scroll down to the bottom); I just received my order, and among the loveliness was two skeins of Inevitable in Arial, a fine merino light fingering weight yarn which I am going to use, in this case, essentially as a heavy laceweight.

So many ideas!  So much beautiful yarn!  So little time!

No wonder I haven’t knit my Xavier yet!