May Showers….

Do at least lead to May (and June) flowers.

New lilacs

Late, but oh, so welcome.

I’m Still Standing

Mostly meant to reassure those of you that know where I live and know that a tornado hit my city yesterday, that all is well with us. The tornado hit just a mile away, where my husband’s business is (it has minimal damage, though the garage next door was demolished and the debris piled four feet high against the back door of his business, so that the door couldn’t be opened; still, just dents and missing shingles, seemingly). Our house creaked and thumped somewhat alarmingly from our basement perspective, but nothing except branches down. Despite many trees down and some relocated, and a lot of property damage, no serious injuries, thankfully. (My heart goes out to those in Joplin, MO.)

Right after the storm:

and an hour later.

(If you are interested in seeing storm photos, you can see the local newspaper’s photo gallery here.)

Although this post’s title is meant to say that we, and our house, and my husband’s business, and our little Japanese maple, are all still standing, it’s also very apropos in that earlier this month, I finally got to see Elton John perform, and indeed perform that very song. After his concert here had been cancelled by more freak weather, our late April snowstorm.

It was a great concert, and well worth the wait.

Still standing, indeed. Almost three hours of non-stop performing, in his mid-60s — wow. A performer, indeed.

Me? Besides still standing, I’m still knitting. More soon.

Eye Candy Friday, Lawn Edition

From last week. Only a few days before, this was under 8 inches (yes) of snow.

Despite winter’s reluctance to leave, spring is here, apparently.

Snowflakes that stick…

to your nose and eyelashes, and your daffodils and your hair, and your car….

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Yes, another weather post. My next post was going to be about Sock Camp and its prelude, but instead Mother Nature got a wild hair and dumped this on us yesterday.

April 19th. Give me a break. Please!

And….sadly, last night I and my two daughters had tickets to go see Elton John, right here in our home town. But the concert was cancelled due to the weather (as were many other events around town; in the afternoon, when his plane would have been landing and some would have been traveling, the snow was coming down thick and fast).

Boo! As some of my friends said, better a concert cancellation than that La Crosse become Elton John’s Clear Lake….

If there is a bright side to all this (besides the fact, which I am somewhat unwilling to admit, that it was pretty and will go away fairly quickly), it is that the snow allowed the RockStar to wear her new mittens again!

(Not actually taken yesterday but during a previous spring snow!)

Yes, I finally finished the Winter of Peace and Love mittens. Technically after the first day of spring. Though you can see how well THAT worked out.

The RockStar approves.

Highly!

Of Hail, Snow, Flood, and Lethal Creatures

Doomy doom doom….

Or perhaps not as bad as it sounds.  Wisconsin weather, with a bit of knitting and travel thrown in!

I’ve been mentally working on Sock Camp posts, but at the same time physically fighting off a nasty respiratory virus, which has caused all my energy to go to trying to turn my lungs inside out.  Lots of medicine and time later, I am definitely on the mend, so take up laptop to try to begin to chronicle.  But first, since my last post, lots has happened here!

I had mentioned that storms were predicted soon in my last post, and indeed, the girls got to hear tornado sirens and head into the basement, for just about the first time that they remember doing so (the RockStar does have vague memories of her toddler tornado warning trip to the basement).  One advantage of a laptop and smartphone: one can keep track of the National Weather Service’s updates on what’s going on, as the winds whip up and the lightning crashes and the hail rattles down.

Ah, the hail.

The hailstone going in the freezer

Have a hailstone (or two, or five)

Our garage is a storage area, and my (new) car was thus parked outside, so I winced in the basement as I heard that hail crashing and bouncing and pictured my car in its sights. Amazingly, it’s almost impossible to see the couple areas where the body is ever so slightly rippled. Everything else except my daffodils was fine. I certainly know people who didn’t fare as well, with broken house windows and damaged siding. But no tornado activity was noted in the area (though one had been apparently spotted to our southeast). Thus the area lives up to its reputation and the legendary Native American saying, that no tornado will hit where three rivers meet….

The weather continued bad, but not that bad, through the rest of the week, and I certainly felt bad. Then yesterday, as I started to feel as though I was going to make it, I woke up to this Saturday Sky:

which had already dumped this:

The robins were not amused, let me tell you.

unhappy robin

After I got over my own disgruntlement and worked yesterday, I stopped down by the Mississippi River, which is cresting well into flood stage right about now. Though the snow melted later yesterday, the weather continued blustery, with a cold north wind hurrying the flood waters along.

No viewing the river from THAT viewing platform today.

These rubberneckers were also checking the flood out.

(To give you an idea of the river’s rise, here they also are in happier times two years ago. The brick walkway goes perhaps four or five feet below the river watchers, and the river is some feet below the edge of the walkway.)

waving at sunset

In this picture, you can see the ramp down to the walkway….or part of it, anyway.

Another comparison:

a view downriver a month ago, when the river was already rather high.

and the same view yesterday, with the same trees.

(Fortunately, our cold spring has caused the water level to not be nearly as high as it could have been, thus flooding has been manageable. Also, because my city has preserved the flood plains (they are primarily parks) and some wetlands to soak up the floodwaters, it tends to do better during floods than other communities on the river. Thankfully.)

All of this snow and hail and flood made me remember my time in the Pacific Northwest with fondness….even if it was typical spring weather there (cloudy, cool, on and off rain), or perhaps even more rain than typical. At least there was no snow, or hail, or flooding….

There were lethal creatures, granted. But that was kind of my own fault.

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You see, this year’s Sock Camp was called “Camp Jabberwonky”, with an Alice in Wonderland theme. There is always homework; and this year’s was to knit a Jabberwonky. Not a Jabberwocky, mind you, but a Jabberwonky. Details here.

After seeing an old photo of my half-stuffed mermaid (homework from two years ago): I had an idea. I would knit a headless Jabberwonky, after the victorious knitter has beheaded it! Complete with gore….

This required dyeing wool top for the gore (I had some that had proved not so good for spinning, due to still having suint — sheep sweat — in it). It seemed to turn out well!

Simultaneously, I cast on with some Socks that Rock and knit a somewhat fearsome creature (with a picot-edge neck). And was, of course, still working on it when I arrived in Seattle the day before Sock Camp started, to visit my friend Astrid and her husband Greg. In between Astrid’s taking me to see the Nick Cave exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, and an excellent lunch and equally excellent dinner, I knit away. And talked. Astrid being a knitter (and dyer) totally understood and kept me company by knitting herself as we talked; her husband is rather used to it, and accepted Jabberwonk-knitting unflappably! Also, Astrid had some awesome ideas for finishing strategies, and invaluably, had SUPPLIES! (Florists’ wire works better than pipe cleaners. Just FYI.)

On our ferry trip over to Bainbridge island the next day, the last bit of stuffing was stuffed, and my Jabberwonky was complete.

I can’t really say that Jabberwonky enjoyed the sights as we crossed Puget Sound to Bainbridge, since he’s headless and presumably can’t see; but I have to think he enjoyed the fresh air! Or something.

Saturday Skies from Three Coasts

Three Saturdays, three coasts.

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Two weeks ago, deep in the Southeast, not terribly far inland, anyway (close enough for this midwestern girl):

I was in Atlanta.

It was a stormy Saturday night

but during the entire meeting that I was attending preceding that weekend, the weather had been gorgeous: 60s and sunny. The southerners thought it was rather cool.  Those of us attending the meeting from northern climes spent every break and every lunch out in the hotel courtyard, enjoying the sun and the flowers.

I didn’t have much extra time, as the meeting that I was at took up essentially all daylight hours, but the short walk from my hotel to the meeting hotel took me past these sky-glass towers

which made it clear that hurricanes generally did not get this far inland, and also spectacularly reflected the lightning above when the thunderstorms happened on the last two days of my Atlanta stay.

Because the bad weather rolled in just as the meeting ended, I didn’t get to take advantage of my six hours or so of free time at the end of the meeting; I had thought about visiting the Atlanta History Center or the Aquarium.  Next time!

Just seeing spring was oh, so therapeutic.

Plus knitting outside.

(This is my Citron…. ‘crazy lace’ variation.  I haven’t really told you about that, have I, being blog-neglectful?  So, it’s a Citron from Knitty, but for the ‘crazy lace’, you throw in small lace patterns of your choice in the stockinette bands between the ruching.  I’m also further modifying by increasing with a yarnover at the outer edges on every right side row to make it more than a half-circle shape, and to echo the laciness of the lace portions.  Last, I have a lot of yardage of the lovely yarn: Arial, by Twisted Fiber Art, in the “Haunting” colorway.  Thus, this will be a lot bigger shawl than the original shawlette size!  I’m knitting on it on and off….)

I then came home for two busy, tiring, and chilly days, then packed up to go to the Pacific Northwest, for a day pre-camp with the lovely Astrid, and thence to Sock Camp.  I have a lot more to tell you about that, but here’s my Saturday Sky from Camp (Port Ludlow, Washington).  (Hence the second coast: East Coast to West Coast in 72 hours!)  The only sun we saw all week was for about an hour, that Saturday morning.

Then it clouded up.  This photo is from the day before, but believe me, it looked pretty much the same for the entire week of Sock Camp.

Of course there was lots of knitting (and other hijinks) at Sock Camp, but again, definitely for another post!

The third coast?

Why, the West Coast of Wisconsin, where I live, of course!  (Seriously, some marketing person dubbed us this at some point.  I do live on the Mississippi River, which is the western border of much of the state….).

Yesterday on said coast:

Grey sky.  But crocuses!!!

(Then thunderstorms overnight.  Then a brief glorious bout of sun this morning with unnatural warmth.  Which of course means even more severe weather predicted for this afternoon….hail, damaging winds, possible tornadoes.  Which will further increase the Mississippi flooding (not severe to date, fortunately).  Springtime in the Midwest!)

Ah, well, at least the snow is gone.

Promise of Spring Fulfilled Eye Candy Friday

I just returned from essentially two weeks away, in two very different parts of the country, where spring already was (Atlanta, and the Pacific Northwest).

To find that spring had crept in at home, in my absence.

A belated sight (it’s a late spring here), but so very welcome.

Almost Spring Eye Candy Friday

My front garden, two days ago.

I can’t even begin to tell you how welcome this sight is, this winter.

Still Winter….

…despite Daylight Savings Time starting this morning.  (Ack.)  Well, a little more time to wear my newly completed handknits, right?

My Big Herringbone Cowl, made out of dreamily soft and lustrous single ply 50% silk/50% merino Catnip yarn from Twisted Fiber Art, in the Intriguing colorway (sorry, a club colorway), dyed Evolution-style.

This cowl is a long circular loop that can be worn like a long scarf that can’t slip off, or can be worn doubled around the neck as above.  It took a while to make, but was fairly straightforward once the stitch was mastered. (Though a warning:  If there is a way to drop a stitch down and fix, I can’t figure it out. I had to painstakingly and carefully undo the pattern stitch one at a time, which was not necessarily easy, to undo any mistakes.  There are a couple wonky stitches in there which remain, to teach me humility.)

At the link above to the pattern is a great photo tutorial about how to do the Herringbone Stitch in the round.  This stitch (also found in Barbara Walker’s Stitch Treasury volume 2, I believe) works up very densely, so that it needs to be done on large needles to have drape.  For this worsted weight yarn, I used US size 17 needles (12.75 mm), just as called for in the pattern!  And the fabric is perfect, to my way of thinking; drapey, but with a bit of structure, as you can see, I think.

The needles were a bit of a challenge. My Addi Turbos seemed so dull for the maneuvering called for in the pattern stitch, especially with slippery silk being knit on huge needles.  So I dug out a Susan Bates circular needle, bought some time ago and never used.

The tips were hollow plastic (light-weight is good, with huge needles!) and nicely pointy and smooth.  But the cable! (The part between the tips.)  Initially SO curly! A double curl, and stiff!  I foresaw fighting the memory in the cable the whole project.

However, I bethought myself of a trick I’d read about and never really had to use (being spoiled by Addis and KnitPicks cables, which are more flexible).  I boiled some water and carefully dipped just the cable part into the very hot water.

The cable went limp just like cooked spaghetti.  MAGIC!

I dangled it straight while it cooled, and the needles and their cable behaved themselves for the rest of the project.  Amazing.  Wonderful!

Other notes about this project: the Herringbone stitch has horizontal elements of what look almost like stockinette columns turned sideways on the ‘wrong’ side, as seen on the ‘on the needles’ photo just above. The wrong side thus also looks good, which is definitely hugely desirable in a scarf/cowl like this.  This is especially beneficial because the cowl does tend to curl.  Granted, I didn’t take the time to block it….but being essentially stockinette based (the pattern stitch is based on knit 2 together or knit 2 together through the back loop, on every row), it will curl up at the top and bottom edge a bit no matter what,, I believe, even with blocking.

Another note: the instructions say to cast off in pattern.  I found that when I did this on the project needles, the bind off was outrageously loose, floppy and sloppy.  So I switched to the approximate size needles (US size 8s, 5 mm) that the yarn would normally be knit on, for the bind off, with good results visually.

Still wants to roll, though.  The roll looks fine, so I let it.   It flips like a little turtleneck.

So:

an amazing yarn and dyeing tour de force (as always from Meg of Twisted Fiber Art), a cool and unique stitch pattern which works well with the color-changing Evolution colorway, and a great pattern combine to create a practical yet pretty winter accessory that goes with my winter-pale skin and my black winter coat.  What’s not to love?

That certainly seems to be the RockStar’s opinion too.  She asked if she could borrow this a week ago. I haven’t seen it since….

Razzle Dazzle ‘Em

Yes, I’ve been razzle-dazzled. It’s been another show choir weekend! As have been most weekends. With the RockStar’s show choir (that is, the parent organization; that is, including me) putting on a show choir invitational smack in the middle of February. Which would be the reason posting was scarce in February….

The Gothlet is done with her middle school show choir after tomorrow night’s performance. She’s done great.

So much progress, and she’s had a good time.  Even though 8th grade girls tend to tower over their partners, in their heels… (well, that’ll change, soon enough).

She’s supposed to be looking pained in this sequence, by the way.  They’re being ‘awkward’ in ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’.

Not awkward in the ballad (not that she usually is awkward, anyway.  My brand new teenager):

However, middle school show choir is for fun and for practice for high school (at least here) and the time involvement is like most other after-school activities.

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It’s high school show choir that takes up all the time, however, as this is a competitive and intensive endeavour which is treated as a two-season sport.  The rehearsals, workshops, performances and travel to such take up a LOT of the kids’ time, and a reasonably good chunk of time for the parents, too!

So, yesterday, this sunset is almost all I saw of the Saturday Sky, for example:

Given work in the morning, show choir in the afternoon, back home briefly, and back to show choir finals in the evening! Then waiting till the awards ceremony (the RockStar’s school didn’t win, but they’ve made finals in every competition, so a very solid season).

I guess I never did show you the RockStar in all her show choir glory, as I’ve been too busy living it.

You saw “City Lights”: here’s another photo from that piece.

Then the tearaway dress is torn away…and it’s “Havana”.

Followed closely by a dance solo for her in “Never Dance”.

The costumes are pretty striking, all together.  The final pose:

The ballad slows it down.  A Disney medley of “Part of Your World” and “A Whole New World”.

Then the boys do a version with added humor of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls”, followed by the girls doing Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”.

Time for a beach party!  The boys join the girls for a medley of “Beach Blanket Bingo”, “Surfin’ Safari”, and “Surfin’ USA”.  The RockStar returns to front and center.

Last, fairly recently added, a new ‘closer’:  “All Night Long”, the Buckcherry version (YouTube link).

RockStar isn’t in the front for that one, so no good pictures of her: here’s the best.

Here are several of her good friends, though, burning down the house.

Isn’t it exhausting just looking at the pictures?  (But aren’t the kids great?  You should see them in person!)

We’re all tired, though.  And the RockStar took one for the team yesterday, with a jaw injury incurred when her partner did a quick turn at the wrong time, and his shoulder hit the angle of her jaw.  She couldn’t quite close her mouth all the way for the rest of the show…luckily, choir involves opening your mouth wide rather than clenching your teeth, and ice, rest, ibuprofen and time have taken care of the swelling, so all is working again.

Sprained ankles (which we’ve had), I expect in dance, but I admit that I didn’t anticipate having to ice my dancer’s face last night!  Ah, well, we watched part of “Fiddler on the Roof” while she iced.  And things are much better this morning.

All this spectating time has led to some knitting progress, though the mittens are not conducive to knitting during other activities nor to knitting in the dark.  So they are showing slow (though definite) progress.  My goal is to have them done before the calendar says it’s spring.

This blog post is quite long enough, though, so knitting progress will have to await another post!  Hopefully all the razzle dazzle will make you completely forget about the fact that this is a knitting blog which has only had one knitting-related post in over a month.  To aid in forgetting:  More razzle dazzle!