Thursday, December 27

Seasoned Greetings

Hill Country Yarns sock yarnThe holiday was merry and the day was bright
as I surveyed my work in the twinkly light.
Blue Heron Rayon MetallicSweaters for the teachers and cheese straws for the dear,
cheese straws
I was happy that gifts would soon appear.
Bat HighballsAh, bat glasses from my cousin, Batts that we are,
as my French santons looked on from afar.
The big box appeared and all looked on with fright
for what would DH give Mary tonight?
French santonFrench santon

The paper parted and there appeared
a full length cashmere blend coat, minus the beard.
I smiled, I cringed, and faked my delight
for who am I to groan tonight?
The following morn my DH insisted,
did I love it or was I pissed?

I gazed upon my love as only years can muster
and told him sweetly with my Texan luster,
"Ice cubes to Eskimos and all of that,
please return the coat, mi amor,
and give me THAT!

He started and stamped and finally agreed
that a macro lens was a fine thing indeed.
Noro Kureyon sock yarn, col. S40
Noro Kureyon sock yarn, col. S40

Tuesday, December 11

Putting the Mary in Christmas

A.L. de Sauveterre Estelle cashmereBriar rose

Every year, I drag myself kicking and screaming into the holiday season especially since we've been living in subtropical climates for the past four years. It's hard to even hibernate when it's 80 degrees outside much less get all cheery and bright. One of the ways that I pre-empt this annual malaise is to be my very own 'Secret Santa.' My Secret Santa just knew that I wouldn't be able to resist a sale on A.L. de Sauveterre's Estelle cashmere at Loop. A couple of these are destined to be gifts which makes me a bit of a double agent in the Santa department, if you can follow my logic.
A.L. de Sauveterre cashmereOrion and Hill of Tara
A.L. de Sauveterre cashmereTobacco

My secret Santa got a little out of hand by ordering a Woolee Winder for my spinning wheel last week. In order to appease my Puritan outrage at such excess (yeah, I've got Vermont roots), I agreed to line a bunch of felted bags made by Pretty Purl over on Ravelry. She brought over 19 and I set to work matching bags with various fabrics. And then she brought over 9 more. I don't know who's more OCD--her or me. But, it's quick work and keeps me from stalking our UPS guy.

Death Poncho 2000I was digging through my sweater chest the other day and found this mouldering at the bottom: Death Poncho 2000! This little gem was something I whipped up after we moved to Paris in 2000. I was soooo ahead of the curve. The fug curve, that is. First, it's chenille. Never to be repeated. Second, it weighs a ton. Third, I looked like a reject from "The Prisoner" the couple of times I wore it. People stared and I'm sure I heard some sniggering, but my French is spotty at best. I thought about converting it into a throw pillow, but now it graces the dogbed.
Feliz NavidadOK, so we've got skeletons on the tree. What's Christmas without a little touch of Halloween?

Friday, November 30

FO Friday

Boy, when I wasn't busy giving thanks for a five day holiday, interminable political campaigns and Helio winning 'Dancing With the Stars' in the past week, I was stuck indoors with the dog, cat and kids thanks to cold, wet weather. They played Halo3 and mind games while I finished some WIPs. Let's take a look, shall we?
Really Big Regia 6-ply SocksThese are the huge Regia 6-ply socks that I had been knitting for the DH. Well, now you can squelch all your Sasquatch comments, because they fit him perfectly. I'm not sure what's up with those stripes, but I'm done. Next:
Old Faithful SweaterThis here be "New Old Faithful." I made this sweater for my husband in hopes of replacing the 20-year old indestructible grey acrylic fisherman's rib pullover that his mother bought for him in Spain. Yep, that sweater has got some real emotional baggage. Anyway, I ordered a bunch of Paton's Shetland Chunky in 'Thunder Marl," carefully measured the original and set to work. The sleeves held me up as I picked up stitches and worked them in the round--really bad idea. It was like twirling a beach towel around the needles--over and over again. I got it finished and immediately had Mr. Mary try it on. Too small...what? I glared at him and hissed, "You've gained weight since last year, you gourmet guzzling wine swilling soccer dad! I measured this piece exactly to the old one. Grrrrrr."
FYI--I do growl at people. I even bark sometimes.

It looked great on me but I don't want or need a dead boring drop-sleeved acrylic/wool blend pullover with an Oedipus complex, no matter how great the fit. I figured what-the-hell and chucked it into the washing machine as some kind of ersatz knitter's infanticide. Then, I blocked the dookies out of it and left it to dry overnight. I was awaken the next morning by the vision of my husband wearing a perfectly fitting grey acrylic/wool sweater---mine.

"Uh, can you do something zippy with the neck and the cuffs?"
Zen Turkish Stitch Shawl
My dear friend Sarah wanted to knit something special for a teacher at her kids' school. I gave her an old pattern of mine and she bought a bunch of Berroco Zen. Now, this pattern calls for casting on a gazillion stitches as you're knitting the shawl horizontally. Sarah, being the dutiful advanced beginner knitter, did so and slogged her way through half of the piece...on plastic needles. I offered to finish it for her and immediately switched to my Addis and fairly zoomed through the thing by the time Helio had nailed his last quick step. Apparently, the teacher loved it--a lot. Yay, Sarah!

Noro/Debbie Bliss Pork Pie Hat
This little number is the result of some leftover Debbie Bliss Alpaca/Silk and a skein of Noro Silk Mountain that I had picked up somewhere. I just kinda goofed off with it and then decided I wanted a flat crown, instead of a round one. It has a fun porkpie/80s ska handknit vibe to it, like some rudegirl grew up and became a whack knitter. Uh, I guess that would be me.

Venus Fly TrapI even helped my kid kill some flies and feed to them to the Venus Flytrap for his science project. I'm on a roll, people.

FionaWhat can I say? Even Fiona, the Part-Time Cat, deigned to join us for a little face time.

Friday, November 16

Old Dogs and Tricks

handspun/dyed merino sw/seacell plied with merino sw/tencel
Handspun and dyed merino superwash/seacell plied with merino superwash/tencel

It's done and I'm pretty pleased with the final yarn. I made it a thick and thin bulky weight(well, more deliberately than what happens usually) which makes for a challenge when plying the two different weight singles. It wasn't until after I had set the twist that I thought I'd take another look at The Spinner's Companion for any tips. Wow, I hadn't looked at this book in 6 months and realized that I actually understand what they're talking about. I can't say that I'm any good at it, but there's a few tricks in the old dog yet. A lightbulb went off...handspun/dyed merino sw/seacell plied with merino sw/tencelSpinning is like driving a stick shift. I doubleclutched some handspun a couple of weeks ago by plying it twice, or rather resetting the twist in the plied yarn for more tension. And then, on page 74, it says you can correct excess twist by 'unspinning' a section by slowly treadling in the opposite direction or respinning the whole bobbin the same way onto another one in more dire cases. I'd been killing myself adjusting ratios, the brake band and weighting down skeins to counteract various kinks when, in reality, it's just like forward and reverse. Like aha! and duh!
Gee, I wonder what nuggets of wisdom I've missed in the Dyer's Companion.My handspun at GaugeI felt good enough about the quality of this batch that I took it over to Gauge to be sold on consignment. Three cheers for the Gauge gals! Yep, my babies have gone out into the big world. And if they do come back home in 3 months, well, that'll be a dry run for when Tex and Bandit get out of college.
Not as much as I'd like, since I had to frog a sock back to the gusset. There was some cussin' and then some more. That sock now lives in my purse and has been to guitar and fiddle lessons and the 5th grade music class presentation of 30s showtunes. It's a musical sock. Go take a looksee at the gorgeous sweater Hilde made with the Elann Peruvian Uros Aran I destashed last year.

Here's the wonderful librarian at the boys' school dressed up as Mr. Margorium for the annual PTA book fair and doing her bit to "Keep Austin Weird."

Every little bit helps...;)

Tuesday, November 13

And What Do You Do?

I was recently asked this question on one of those rare occasions when I wear something dressier than a t-shirt that still fits, slap on some warpaint and venture forth from the friendly confines of my zip code after dark. The occasion was the annual cocktail party for the authors at the Texas Book Festival and I was accompanying my husband as 'the author's wife.' A woman professional (as opposed to a professional woman, nudge-nudge) looked at me expectantly.

"I'm a stay-at-home-mom, I knit and then I blog about it."

That pretty much delegated me to the seventh circle of cocktail party hell as she gave me a funny look. And I don't mean funny ha-ha. It's ok, you hear the best gossip from the seventh circle regulars as they have nothing to prove.

This topic has been addressed by many sahms, knitters and stitchers, but it still happens to all of us. Later, I realized that I should have used a more grandiose description, something like:

"Oh, when I'm not multi-tasking domestic arrangements as CEO for a small privately-owned family with a full-time dog and a part-time cat, I'm a fiber artist working on stitch definition, wraps per inch and a photographic portfolio based on my blog."
Handspun/dyed merino/tencel
Handspun and dyed merino/tencel
Handspun/dyed merino/tencelI have about 600 yards of this that I've dyed with Procion and Wilton's. It's being overdyed now to color the tencel. I plan to ply it with this:
Handspun/dyed seacell/merinoHandspun/dyed seacell/merino
Handspun and dyed seacell/merino.
I bought the seacell on eBay from this seller who lists it periodically.

It's true that the Wilton's black icing color separates and comes out a deep blue purple. I overdyed this with some orange and brown to knock off the blue tones. The seacell/merino is wonderfully soft and very slick to spin up. I have some more that I plan to spin up as a sportweight yarn.

The DH has gone to Miami and New York for a few days. House rules and dietary restrictions are greatly relaxed and all hell breaks loose.
Hey, Cupcake! cupcake stand, Austin TXBefore setting off the smoke alarm last weekend during my kid's sleepover and having the security company talk me through manually shutting off the system with a phillips screwdriver because I forgot both our password and passcode while the boys continued playing Halo Three, I picked up some really great cupcakes at this groovy spot on South Congress Ave. It's called Hey Cupcake! and I recommend the Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting. Oh, and they're just across the street from Hill Country Weavers, so you can kill two cravings with one trip.

Friday, November 2

Red Sox Rock

Red Sox Rock
Hill Country Yarns Sweet Feet Sock Yarn, 100% merino, Cherry Red

I'm still in shock that the Boston Red Sox swept the World Series. They've won twice in 4 years? As a longtime Red Sox fan (for reasons too byzantine to explain easily), this has me all startled and confused. I was more in my comfort zone when they were down 3-1 against the Cleveland Indians. The drama, that pending sense of doom and the nailbiting finishes were the stuff that we fans thrive on. Reminded me of the good times when they had to battle it out with the Yankees until 2 am every night back in 2004. And my children are getting a skewed view of the Red Sox because they think their favorite baseball team (it gets passed down genetically) are a bunch of winners. The only way to restore my angst is if they sign Alex Rodriguez and trade Mike Lowell to the Dodgers where he'll play for (gasp!) Joe Torre. Now, that will keep my fingernails short and ragged.

It's been non-stop funfunfun around here. First, there was the school carnival where I stood around for 3 hours watching 500 kids caroming all over the schoolyard, secretly praying that neither one of my boys would win the cake walk.
Cherie Amour then made her debut at the Renaissance Festival the following day. I found a long grey skirt at Goodwill to which I added velvet panels and a bit of trim at the bottom. I was RenFaire Lite compared to the beautifully detailed costumes that Ana and Robin wore. Unfortunately, my camera's battery was dying and I didn't get any decent pics.

We had fun walking around, eating turkey legs and checking out the various festival goers that seemed to fall into different categories: traditional chainmail/kilt guys with women in elaborate corsets/long flowing skirts; goth angels from hell all dressed in black leather, pixie girls with green eye shadow and a few strategically placed pieces of chiffon; fairies who looked just the pixies except they had wings; lesbian pub wenches with leather corsets, heaving bosoms and dog collars; codpiece lovers; and, finally, white fishnet hose lady who left very little to the imagination. Yeah, the boys had a good time checking her out.

All this pageantry got us in the spirit for Halloween.

Here's Bandit as a pin cushion, while I got wacky with the aluminum foil. Yep, I was a sex thimble. Go ahead and groan, but the kid came home with 5 pounds of candy while his brother who went in the 'last-minute bloody shredded t-shirt costume' came home with a very meager haul. Originality pays every time. I think Bandit should be a cockroach next year and I can be a venus flytrap. Oh, the possibilities...

Friday, October 26

Ply It Again, Ma'am

Thanks for the great comments about Cherie Amour. She makes her debut tomorrow and just wait until you see the whack skirt I've cooked up. Goodwill rocks!

Superwash Merino roving, source: unknown

Angelina recently plopped down this roving at our SnB group. Someone had sent it to her and she was destashing. I politely waited a second or two before pouncing on it.

I spun it up and fooled around with using a short draw.

I plied it loosely and had a bit left over that I plied with some merino/tencel. It looked like a bad marriage between soggy ramen noodles and a nursing home lobby in Ft. Worth.

It was time for...


But it was still tired and limp. And no red-blooded woman wants that.

The savvy SNB spinners rode in on their wooden wheels and advised me to ply it again.

And it worked!

I'm knitting it up into a little cardi with a lace edge and 3/4 sleeves. I'm knitting dangerously as I've about 500 yds, more or less.

Now, it's off to the school carnival where I get to turn live people into skeletons for the "Day of the Dead" spookhouse aka "Mary's Revenge on the PTA." Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Friday, October 19

Cherie Amour

Noro Lotus, col. 156
Noro Lotus, col. 156

It all started when I saw Turtlegirls's Cherie Amour on her blog on Oct. 14. I had seen the pattern in the Fall 2007 Knitty, but didn't appreciate the details until I saw her photos. It was soooo pretty, soooo curvy, soooo perfect for my ensemble for our first ever visit to the Renaissance Faire in about a week's time. I shopped the stash for a bulky weight yarn which I don't have a ton of because we live in Hades (90 degrees today, people). I found a bag of Noro Lotus (Attention Yarncave shoppers, there's a bag of Noro in bin 3!) that I scored on eBay because I've always liked this yarn ever since I made the Chinese Charm Bag from Stitch 'n Bitch. It's got lots of preeeety stripey colors, metallic sparkle and knits up on size 13 needles like the way I drive---real fast...unless the kids are present.

It's 57% rayon, 23% nylon, 12% acrylic and 8% cashmere which seems like a total waste to me. I guess if you closed your eyes and thought real hard you'd feel that cashmere, but it's not exactly overwhelming you with it's 8% presence. Anyway, this high falutin' Japanese acrylic-san was perfect for the pattern and our less than frosty winters.

I downloaded the pattern, swatched and knitted like a big dog all week long. And I mean BIG dog.
FYI: Don't let the following notes put you off this pattern. The numbers all work out quite nicely. It's just that I have a habit of pimping my sweaters.
Cherie Amour w/ChuyCherie Amour, front detailYes, my arm is up (again) and I'm convinced that it looks thinner. Hey, let's raise both of them and see what happens!

Cherie Amour with Chuy Alterations:

I made a size medium, thinking that this yarn would have zero memory and relax with time. Plus it looked great on the T-Girl.
I made the bottom lace section shorter than the pattern calls for because the world doesn't need to see 31 rounds of lace traversing my beam at its broadest point.
I used a size 9 needle as called for the 2x2 ribbing but switched to a size 8 for the middle bit to cinch in the waist a bit more. Just call me the Sands of Time because I've got the hourglass, baby.
I read Turtlegirl's observations closely and she mentioned problems with the front decreases. Boy, was she right! I ended up making my own chart so I could get those decreases in line with the 6-stitch pattern repeat. And all of this headache over 20 friggin' stitches to start with. Remember, it's a 6-stitch repeat and stitch markers are your friends. You may end up working a few more decrease rows than shown on the chart. Ok, maybe that's a me thing and not a you thing.

TIP: I worked one row of knit followed by one row of purl on the back and the fronts before that 3-needle bind off for the shoulders--it gives more support for a bulky yarn.
Cherie Amour, back detail
Methinks it's mead time.

Sleeves: I cannot wear a bulky weight long sleeve in this climate plus I wanted something in character for RenFaire. I didn't want thick seams or the pain of joining a sleeve in the round, so I got creative. I picked up stitches around the armhole with a size 10 needle and worked about 7 inches in the 2x2 rib. I tried doing a couple of repeats of the bottom lace pattern, but my brain couldn't handle the lace and the Red Sox in game 5 at the same time. So, I opted for my alltime favorite lace cop-out; YO, K2tog followed by a purl row. I worked it back and forth so I'd have a split cuff and the Maid Mary, Mary thing going.
TIP: I don't like an unfinished edge on a neckline so I worked a row of single crochet around mine with a strand of Anny Blatt Victoria in burgundy to give it a flat edge and a nice finish. (DMC floss or a solid yarn will do, I just happen to have accrued tons of Victoria after 3 years living in France.)

I realize that you may think that all this lace is wasted on such a busy yarn. It's true that you can't see the detail like you would with a solid, but here the lace serves the dual purpose of air-conditioning as much as decoration.

Forty grams left and the Red Sox won!

Thursday, October 11

Komon Kimono

Presenting the Komon Kimono from Knit Kimono. Noro Silk Garden Lite with Noro Cash Iroha for the neckband.

This piece has a backstory that involves LIES, Trickery and deceit. As soon as I bought the yarn and received my copy of Knit Kimono the same day, I just knew it was destined for a very special person, someone dear to my knitty heart--Miss Renee from my SnB group. She had just announced that she was getting a big fat promotion after years of hard work (yay!) and was relocating to Dallas(boo).

Fellow posse member Robincat was all over the idea like a duck on a junebug and she cranked out the fronts and the sleeves while I banged away on the back and the 54-inch neckband. I mention the neckband because at about mile 36 I was getting a wee bit tired of the garter stitch with built-in i-cord over and over again. Blatantly knitting on it in front of Renee gave me the extra gas to get it done. See, Robin and I are such good liars that Renee never suspected a thing, even after reading my blog. This bears thinking about if we ever embark on a career as the knitting embezzlers or the handspun hackers.

The big day arrived for Renee's farewell lunch at Maudie's Tex-Mex and here are the results:

Before margaritas......

and after.

We're gonna miss ya, honey!

Friday, October 5

YPF and then some

Handspun merino(?), 20 gms=100yds. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Regia Kaffe Fassett, col. 4261

This is a pair of Naughty Monkey flats that I bought for $2 on the sale table at a local boutique. Sometimes, I think it's my role in life to rescue the fugliest sale items, find all of the orphaned skeins buried deep in the discount bin and pick yarn in the worst colorway imaginable to keep them from their pending doom of oblivion--that perennially dusty corner in the shop where everything has been picked over so much that the labels are all tatty. I call it The Land of the Misfit Fug. Personally, I like these shoes--they make me laugh with their goofiness. That's why I'm wearing them right now with my yellow La Tejedora t-shirt and jeans.

Last night, we saw "A Ride with Bob", the musical about Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and there was a trio of fiddlers called The Quebe Sisters who are not only crack fiddlers but great singers as well. I bought their CD in the lobby and they all autographed it, plus their guitar player Joey. Great show, gals!
This cd is the perfect soundtrack for reading all about Ree and Marlboro Man.


My friend, Renee, is moving to Dallas and bestowed upon me the honor of babysitting her mother's extensive collection of knitting patterns from The Hamlyn Publishing Group. The company is based in England, but apparently published these patterns in a series of packs in the early 1980s.

"Starmore, MacShmarmore. This bleedin' sweater pattern will never sell."

(just for you, Robin)

"It was Evangeline Henry's solemn duty to break the color barrier for African American models in the knitting industry. Sipping Listerine was a small price to pay."

Sixty years later, Ms. Starmore has the last laugh until...
"Uh, Miss Rashad, Mr. Cosby thought it would be more wholesome if you wore matching sweaters. Miss Rashad? Miss Rashad, please put the ashtray down. Aaaaaaiiiieeeee!"