Thursday, December 28

Peace and purpose

I recently bought a copy of "Knitting For Peace," by Betty Christiansen. I heartily encourage you to buy it because Christiansen has collected all the different charity organizations and their projects in one book. I had downloaded a few of these patterns already, but reading the stories behind these charities and organizations is truly inspiring. What knitter doesn't have a few odd skeins hanging about? There are 15 patterns that will happily use them up. And there are so many different opportunities for knitters to help locally and globally, that it's hard not to immediately start a project...or a charity knitting group..or join one. All the information is there.

As many of you may know, our dog, Archie, got hit by a car and died in front of the church across the street. One of the associate pastors was helping direct traffic while I bundled Archie up and put him in my car. She introduced herself and asked if I was alright to drive. I thanked her for her kindness and left for the vet's office. Later that night, the doorbell rang and there was the same pastor. She had come by to see how we were coping and she spoke to the boys about The Rainbow Bridge. We then got to chatting about the various activities and groups at the church and I mentioned that I was a knitter and that there were lots of charity knitting projects out there. She got a very interested look....and I may be starting a charity knitting group after the New Year!

All this has gotten me to think about what is peace, exactly? Is it too big a goal for us as humans to really achieve on the planet? Should we scale back and settle for, say, a peaceful family? Maybe one peaceful day in the family? A peaceful neighborhood? A peaceful moment? These questions were floating around in my head because I realized just how much war and fighting has gone on throughout my life. My father served in the Marines during the Korean War. My childhood was punctuated by the Vietnam War and ongoing Cold War. My older brothers narrowly avoided the draft, thanks to President Ford. I worked at the Washington Post during the first Gulf War. Now, I'm watching my children become almost immune to the images of the current war in Iraq, much like I did as a kid watching Walter Cronkite and waiting for the cartoons to come on.

And these are just the ones that the US has been openly involved in. Throw in the wars, attacks, rebellions and genocides that have occurred globally and you're looking at a world full of seemingly nonstop violence. So, what is peace? "The absence of war or other hostilities," according to my dictionary. "Inner contentment, serenity" is a later definition. Hmmmm, good to know, but not much help. I guess we all know what peace is but how to go about achieving it is the big question....

One stitch at a time?

I wish everyone a very Happy New Year and all the best for 2007. We're leaving for the big holiday visit to the inlaws in Miami where the boys will be spoiled rotten and we eat enough Cuban food to blow the South Beach Diet to smithereens. Here's one last pic from 2006:

Saturday, December 23


Wednesday, December 20

Archie 6/8/05-12/19/06

My 10-year old wrote this yesterday after our beloved dog, Archie, ran into traffic and got hit by a car. He died instantly, for which I am grateful. I've got two broken hearted boys mourning their best friend with Christmas just days away. There will be other dogs in their lives, but Archie was the first. Goodbye, dear friend.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Death of Archie
Accidentally hit by a Car

Archie was the cutest, sweetest, most lovable, most trusting and best dog ever. He was my best friend. we liked to play around the yard, wrestle in the house, pet each other, go for walks, play keep away, play with Neko, run around and break stuff.

He was always nice and never mean. He was the softest dog ever and he had the most beautiful eyes, eyebrows and fur.

Sometimes Archie would chew up things like socks and stuffed animals, but we knew he was always playing.

Archie's dream would be to go to his favorite kennel and play with all the other dogs. I hope Archie is having fun with all the other dogs in heaven and knows we love him very, very much.

Tuesday, December 19


We moved into this house about a year and a half ago. The spare room and future yarncave was the holding area/dumping ground for all the odd boxes and stuff. Most of the boxes made their way to other parts of the house, but I was left with the yarn and fabric stashes and all the doodads that go with knitting, quilting and DIY.

Even my dear friends had given me a gift certificate for a 'clutter consultant.' I was going to call her, but not before I did a little decluttering myself. Why waste her time on things I could do myself? The DH went out of town for a few days and that's when I got the idea for the big Destash. I ended up sending 23 boxes of yarn to people around the world, donating about 5 more boxes full of unused crap to Goodwill and moving a lot of the remaining stuff into plastic bins in the garage. I had the rug cleaned. I ordered a futon. I bought a cheap TV at Target.

Then they opened up the new tollroad and I discovered....IKEA.

And so, without further ado, I present to you the new and improved yarncave....
I can personally vouch for the fiendishly clever instructions that comes with Ikea furniture. They work. When you've built an Ikea piece, you feel like you're part of a sleek, well-designed world inhabited by slightly hip Swedish engineers. Like you're the Britt Ekland of DIY. You feel decluttered.

There is still some work to be done--curtains, bamboo shades for the closets--nothing major. Now I have a:
Sewing area
Computer/desk/work space
Cat napping room for felines and humans
Guest Room for crafty visitors
Deluxe Sleepover Den for 8-10-year old boys
Future Gaming Room, thanks to Uncle Redneck who is giving the boys an XBox. (This is what happens when your brother is newly single, has no mortgage or kids.)
Personal Retreat to watch "The League of Gentlemen" and "The Royle Family" at my leisure
Secret Clubhouse for my SnB group
And, just possibly...a future home for a spinning wheel

Boy, I can really use that clutter consultant for the garage!

Friday, December 15

YPF: Strumpetini

Cheers, everyone!

My name's Strumpet and I'm Mary's inner elf. Do you have an elf name, too? Aw c'mon, honey, I bet you do. No? Well, try this! Oh, I could be Dixie Tinsel Toes, but, deep down inside, I'm Strumpet and when I need a glass of cheer I treat myself to a Strumpetini. Nothing like a little Plymouth Wild Thing to put the sparkle back in my smile, the twinkle back in my eyes and the snap back into my crackle and pop.
I've been a very busy little elf what with planning the office party in Lappland and all. I've even knitted up a couple of Loopy-done-lengthwise scarves to give the boys' teachers. Merlinthecat sent me the beautiful socks that she knitted up for my dh's present. Didn't you know that busy little elves delegate their knitting?(Thanks, mtc, I owe you big time.) I'm desperately trying to finish a grey pullover to replace the dh's 20-year old acrylic one that his mom bought him in Madrid. If I can tear him away from Old Faithful, I'll have a scored a huge victory for the handknitting community. In a fit of knitterly madness, my SnB buddy Robincat gave me the Lace Insanity top that she had knitted for her mother. Turns out it was a little big for her, but it fitted me perfectly. I can't remember which yarn she used but I love the shades of blues and greys and the lacework is, well, completely insane. Thank you very much, dear demented spinning enabling Robin.
Well, I'm off to don my gay apparel and see what 'ol Crumpet is up to. And remember, please don't drink and Lapp dance. That's my job!

Tuesday, December 12

Spinning Into my Grave

Remember all the cliques in high school? The stoners, the jocks, the preppies, the nerds, and then the rest of us? That look of concerned alarm that your mother had when she finds a new set of strangers lounging around the kitchen table? Well, knitting has its own cliques...the newbies, the lace set, the aran people, the pattern/no pattern knitters, straights vs. circulars, solids vs. variegated, intarsia vs. fair isle, the frugal vs. the stashers and, then, there's that hardcore crowd....the spinners.

I took a class about 3 years ago where we learned to spin on a Russian spindle and ogle the Orenberg shawls. My spinning was abysmal and, frankly, I was more interested in pulling one of the shawls through my wedding ring than strangling a small piece of wool. I did buy one of the spindles as a memento...

There are a couple of spinners in my SnB group who periodically haul in their named wooden contraptions and spin while the rest of us knit. They have animated chats about the roving someone just sent them, orifices and flyers, drum carders and Scotch tension. I always thought that scotch eased the tension, drums don't get carded, and orifices were...oh nevermind. Thinking of the spinners, I picked up some woolly stuff for gifts at the K&S show in London, but it was so pretty and and soft that I kept a little for myself...

And then I bought a drop spindle and played with it...

Then Entrelac went to the wool festival in Boerne and brought me this little cocobolo beauty...

And now, here I am, checking out wheels on the internet, buying fiber by the ounce and gleefully accepting woolly stuff from Robincat. Mondays are my spinning days where I pile all this stuff on my kitchen table and willingly endure the humbling experience of spinning soy silk, organic cotton and merino top into something that resembles a knittable yarn. There are drop spindles and dropped spindles. Their names are Wilbur and Charlotte. The Russian is Anastasia because I keep forgetting how to attach the leader.

"It's exactly the same difference between reading a bunch of books and then actually writing one. Really!" was the explanation I gave my writer DH about my spinning. He gave me a very blank look as I picked some stray soy silk off of his dark green shirt. Now, about that Scotch tension....

Friday, December 8

YPF or Mary Does Dallas

(left, Colinette Tao silk, marble; right, Noro Kureyon, col.184)


(left, Noro Kureyon, col.184; right, Noro Silk Mountain, col.8 with DB Alpaca Silk)

Three Yarn Shops in Two Days plus Dixie Chicks

I drove up to Dallas on Tuesday to meet Anneke for the Dixie Chicks concert. Anneke is my former boss and a good friend. She owns a yarn and needlepoint shop in Miami. I knew it was useless trying to entice her with The Grassy Knoll, The Zodiac Room or even seeing Southfork.

It was time for a recon....SEX in other words. Simpatico Yarns was the closest, so we hit that first. Small shop, a very warm welcome and color of Kureyon we hadn't seen before. And believe me, honey, we've seen them all. I picked up 5 skeins for a felted bag. (Let me interject that all purchases made on this trip have specific patterns for those of you who think I have backslid into my skein grubbing ways now that I have vast amounts of space in the Yarncave.) They also had Fox Fiber organic cotton sliver. I'm not used to fiber amounts, so when I said 'Oh, four ounces should be fine,' I didn't know I was getting a grocery bag full of the stuff. Ah, the better to learn with, my dear.

We then got on the President George Bush turnpike(didn't they used to name things after dead presidents?)and zoomed over to the Woolie Ewe. We marched in the door and stopped dead in our tracks. Uh-oh, we were in Deep Doo-Doo. This joint carries as many different yarns as Anneke, who immediately set to work looking for the ones she doesn't have. Somewhere in all this I had mentioned that I needed to make a couple of scarves for the boys' teachers. You know, cast on 150 stitches, knit up 6-8 inches, cast off.

Anneke shrugged her shoulders, "That gets so boring. Why not do Loopy from Knitty? Oh, and have you seen the Colinette Parisienne/Tao shawl? It's my bestseller--I've got 3 hanging in the shop. So fast, so pretty."

Two skeins Parisienne, 2 skeins Tao, and some sale yarn for Loopy later, we got out of there(the Woolie Ewe owner kept calling Anneke 'honey' which is hysterically funny if you know her). Anneke had picked up some kind of hyper slubby handspun that, frankly, looks worse than my own. To her, it looked really funky and cool. I was thinking 'Yarn Barf.' I'm becoming a handspun fiber snob in a very short time, thanks to the insidious influence of my spinning teacher,Entrelac.

The Dixie chicks concert was fun, funny and full of really white Texans whooping their asses off and having a good time. The next morning, I drove Anneke to the airport and headed back to north Dallas via President Bush to meet the notorious Monkee. She's a student at UT Dallas which meant that she got some lovely consolation prizes and storage solutions, courtesy of the Destash. Knittyheads know her as being highly irreverent and full of mischief. I know her as the knitter with yarn dreadlocks who can casually knit lace while strolling about a yarn shop. And talk at the same time, while looking for yarn. And not trip over anything. I took pics, but you'll have to take my word for it as my pocket digital bit the dirt. Shop #3 was Yarn And Stitches, medium sized, warm welcome and where I picked a couple of skeins of Noro Cashmere Island(a variegated Cash Iroha)to keep my existing Cash Iroha company, an extra skein of the Debbie Bliss Alpaca/Silk that I'm using for a hat with the Noro Silk Mountain and some sale yarn for felted stockings.

Here's a Kitty Pi bed for Neko and here's a pair of socks that merlinthecat has made for me to give the DH. Go ahead, visit her blog and take a look, I can wait. Aren't they pretty? Yes, I farmed out my Touch 4-ply for someone else to knit. Merlinthecat knits socks in her sleep while I....dream about knitting socks in my sleep.

Saturday, December 2

Destash DONE!

The war wagon is locked and loaded.

Announcement: I will not be able to accept any more names for the destash/goodie bags.

WHEW! What a crazy couple of days it has been--seventeen boxes have gone out and I have about five more to finish. They are going to New Zealand, The Netherlands, Canada and all across the US. Many people requested goodie bags not for themselves, but for sisters, daughters, friends and new knitters which really touched me. Those who requested for themselves often asked to be considered only if there was anything left. What a great bunch of deserving people!

As for me, I had a fun time matching various yarns to different knitters. "Oh, she likes pink...she's got to have this. Canada...cold...let's find something warm and cheery. That teenager needs some sparkly stuff and the New Yorker really needs to play with this!" Almost all these yarns have a story about where I bought it and what I had in mind when I did get it. I didn't include that in the package, because it's time for these yarns to make a new beginning and stop waiting for me. My yarn doesn't need to enter a new life with a bunch of emotional baggage, you know? And if the knitter doesn't love it, that's fine by me. She can share it or hide it in the stash....bwahahahaha!

I have learned a couple of things. I really should stay away from sales and the Anny Blatt factory outlet store. And not a single person liked yellow. Not one.

Now, I can get back to my Yarncave while Neko waits for life to get back to normal.