Friday, December 22, 2006

free pattern friday: quickie cowl


New! Get the printer-friendly free Ravelry download here.

Just three more knitting days until Christmas... Need a lightning-quick last-minute gift? Break into your stash and find just one skein of something soft and chunky, and you'll have this little cowl wrapped and waiting under the tree come Christmas morning.

The cowl can be worn as a scarf or a headband. The modified lace rib looks a little fancy but is easy and quick to knit. Now, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and get to work - time is running out!

size: one size.

materials
One skein Misti Alpaca Chunky (109 yards/100g), shown in color #3317. About 100 yards of any chunky-weight yarn will do - just make sure it's very soft!
US size 10.5 needles
Tapestry needle

gauge
3.5 st/in over stockinette stitch

modified lace rib
Row 1 and all WS rows: *K2, P3. Repeat from * to end. K2.
Row 2 (RS): P2. *K1, YO, K2tog, P2. Repeat from * to end.
Row 4: P2. *K3, P2. Repeat from * to end.
Repeat these four rows.

knit the cowl
The outer edges are made with a 3-stitch border of garter st (K every row), slipping the first stitch of every row with the yarn held in front to create a nice, clean edge.

CO 38.
First row: K3. Begin lace rib patt, knitting until 3 st remain. K to end.
Next row: Slip one wyif, K2. Knit in patt until 3 st remain. K to end.
Next row: Slip one wyif, K2. Knit in patt until 3 st remain. K to end.

Continue knitting in this manner until the cowl measures about 19 inches long, ending on a WS row. BO all st loosely.

cowl1

Now use your tapestry needle to sew the two ends together using mattress stitch. Weave in loose ends. The structure is basically a very short scarf with the ends sewn together to create a tube that can be pulled on over the head.

Have another cup of hot chocolate - you're done!

Got a question about this pattern, or need a little help? Check out the new help page.

important notice: This is a free pattern and you are welcome to use it for all the non-commercial purposes you like. However, you may not reproduce this pattern to sell, and you may not sell what you make with it. You may donate what you make with it to charity, and you may use it for charity fundraisers only if 100% of the proceeds are donated to the charity (and by charity I don't mean your kid's college fund). Thanks for understanding!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

a year tangled in yarn

It's the last week before Christmas and I'm finally getting my knitting/crafting act together. On the crafting side, I have basically given myself permission to not make all the sweet and hilarious gifts I had planned for friends and family, because we are idiots and moved into a new house 2 weeks before Christmas. Maybe we'll make it up to everyone with a slammin' housewarming party in January. Or perhaps February.

On the knitting side, I have revised my "socks for everyone" plan to be a "socks for those I knit in October and scarves for everyone else" plan. Sorry, mom. But she has a birthday in March - still a good time for handknit socks.

All this plan-revision and late-night scarf-designing has left me a without much focus in the daylight hours, but luckily Elizabeth has swooped in with a little questionnaire for knitting reflection at the end of the year. Thanks, Elizabeth! I don't even have to unpack the camera to take a photo!

Year's End Knit-analysis

1. What is your absolute favorite project you've ever knit (one that fulfilled both process and product)?

Gosh, this is a tough question. One of my favorite projects is this little yellow sweater I made in 2004 for my friend's daughter (partly because of the photo). It was my first time knitting any kind of openwork (it has a diamond lace pattern at the cuffs and bottom edge), and it fit her beautifully. As you can see, she enjoyed wearing it.

yelsweater

2. Which of your handknits do you wear the most often?

I wear Claudette and Oliveta all the time, especially under a blazer.

mosaic5418071

3. Which of your handknits are you most proud of?

Actually, I am really proud of the Mossy Jacket, which I just bragged about recently. I designed and knitted it in December for a friend's new baby, and I just love the yarn combination, the structure, everything about it. It was really fun to knit and the recipient (who was a guy, by the way) loved it.

peek at mossy

4. What was your favorite gift to knit?

I had a great time knitting the Girlfriend Swing Coat Sweater, which the recipient calls her "cloak," during the '06 Knitting Olympics. It was a LOT of fun and the yarn - Cascade Siera Quatro - was a real pleasure to use. This is the same kid as the one wearing the yellow sweater in picture #1 - can you tell I like knitting for her? She is adorable.

vi_cloak1

5. Which of your handknits are gathering dust your closet?

Oh geez, so many. I just took a shawl I knitted in 2002 to the thrift shop. The baby tiger scarf is an embarrassment. I have another gorgeous scarf (sorry no photo) that I adore and would wear every day, except that the yarn has mohair content and it makes me want to scratch my own neck off.

6. Which of your handknits have you gotten rid of?

Uh year, see #5 above. I think that was the only one.

7. If you've knit socks, what is your favorite pattern?

Do I knit socks? Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear... never mind. I friggin love knitting socks. I have tried toe-up a couple of times, and I've tried short-row heels and I'm currently eyeing the afterthought heel, but for me the True and Beautiful Way is a top-down sock with a heel flap. They can be done on DPN's or with the Magic Loop, depending on one's mood, and I have come to the point that I can knit them reliably with no pattern and no safety net. I have rhapsodised about the joys of sock knitting many times on this here blog, and I intend to keep it up.

stripey anklets

8. What would you like to make in 2007?

Oh, so many wonderful, beautiful things! For HWWLLB's 2007 Christmas present (I'm planning ahead this year), I'm planning to break my one-color-only rule and knit a Lopi sweater called F├Ânn.

I really and truly am going to knit a few things for myself: a red scarf with some beautiful yarn that Bugheart recently sent me, and a jacket I've been designing in my notebook for a while now - I have a gift certificate to the LYS that has been burning a hole in my pocket since July! I also have a big bag of Jo Sharp Silk Road Aran that really wants to become a cardigan for me, but so far I've had only false starts.

The adorable child in photos #1 and #4 has asked for a green cloak, and how can you say no to that? I'm also planning to use up some black alpaca from my stash to make a vest/wrap for myself, basically as a vehicle for a Moving Mud closure (swoon!), and I have a big stash of sock yarn waiting to be made into birthday gifts.

9. What have you learned about your craft in 2006?

Um, that knitting is the greatest winter sport? Knitting and red wine mix well, but not so much with mixed drinks? I have learned that you can't knit and read a book at the same time; you can knit and talk on the phone at the same time, but only if you use a headset or you'll get a crick in your neck, and only if the other person is very talkative; conference calls totally suck without knitting; don't try to knit in the bathroom or people will start knocking and asking "are you okay?" ("YES I'm fine I just need some PRIVACY!"). I have also learned that when someone asks "did you knit that?" they usually mean it as a compliment, even if they are asking because it looks "rustic," as my friend Heather would say, or "shitty" in common parlance. Because they are impressed that you can knit something at all, even if it looks kind of shitty.

10. What events/sites have you particularly enjoyed in the blogosphere in 2006?

The Knitting Olympics was so much fun I almost peed my pants. I love the community of knitters, and watching everyone proceed towards their own Personal Best was just great. Also any excuse to visit the Yarn Harlot is good by me. I also really enjoyed Lolly's Socktoberfest, most of all for some of the amazing sock photos in the Flickr group (this one was my absolute favorite). Also, I loved Secret Pal #7, in which I got to be pals with Paloma, who is the bomb.

...

I can't believe the year is almost out and I'm sitting here reflecting on what I've learned and whatnot. Last time I checked the calendar it was almost Thanksgiving. I can't believe I'm spending valuable knitting/unpacking time reflecting! I always get sucked in by the memes.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

out with the old


It is amazing how many things we have.

After the boxes and the furniture and everything had been packed and taken away in the big truck, there were just a few things left. Small things, we thought. No sweat.

As it turns out, there was an entire weekend's worth of little things to do to get all the remnants of us out of the old house.

But as of this afternoon, there is nothing from us left behind, except hopefully some good vibes and probably some little genetic scraps here and there.

Thank god/dess for my mom and sister, who turned up early Saturday morning with cleaning supplies (mom) and coffee & pastries (sis) and spent hours helping us clean out the attic (just a few zillion little things up there) and take carloads to the thrift shop and the recycling center.

Thank another kind of god/dess for Tana & John, who came in the afternoon with their two little daughters for comic relief and to force us to rest and have fun for a few hours. We ate subs and then played a Wheel of Fortune board game, which I used to think was extremely lame but for some reason was hilarious when played with a four year-old. John graciously helped HWWLLB unload the big, heavy little things from Red Betty into the garage.

Every time I move, I make this resolution that I'm not going to let little things pile up anymore. That I won't ever again stick something in a corner, intending to deal with it another time, and then just stop seeing it there as the intent to deal with it quickly evaporates. Also, that I will do things like empty the fridge and scrub it down once in a while. Because I really can't believe I was eating food that came out of that thing - ick!

But this anti-thing resolution is probably going to last about as long as my "stop using plastic" New Year's resolution from last year. Luckily, we are planning to never move again.

Friday, December 08, 2006

many works in progress


Thanks to all of you for your sweet and supportive comments about the becoming-a-homeowner post. I apologize for not responding to you with an email, because I really do appreciate your kind words & thoughts. This is a week of many works in progress, so I hope you will excuse me for my inattentiveness.

The main work is moving. So... many... boxes. There are boxes everywhere, and yet so much still needing to be packed. I keep bumping into them and tripping over them; they are multiplying like big cardboard bunnies.

I am also cramming the final unit of my biostatistics class and trying to get the final exam finished which happens to be due... Monday morning. Did I mention that was moving day? tee-hee. Oh look, another gray hair!

But there are nicer works in progress, too.

I have finally got some buttons for the mossy jacket, which will go to its intended recipient on Saturday. It has been sitting around finished-but-buttonless for weeks. Here is just a peek - I am hoping to post the pattern for a Free Pattern Friday before December is out.

peek at mossy

Thanks to a two-day meeting I just got out of, I am about 3/4 through a pair of socks for HWWLLB's dad for Xmas.

Socks in progress

On this final one, please brace yourself for the killer cuteness. I have another colleague with a new baby, so I made some booties with the leftovers from the Wildflower socks:

killer cuteness

Oh, did I mention that another close friend is about to give birth? Righto... so the requisite Blue Skies Organic Cotton just arrived in the mail from Kpixie... I have a great little pullover forming in my mind that I can't wait to get started on... just as soon as we're out of the old house and into the new one. Christmas break can't come soon enough.

This will be my final post until after we're done with moving and the exam is turned in. Til then!

Monday, December 04, 2006

bliss... now with monthly payments!

Today we took two
giant steps deeper into the
world of grownup-hood.

It involved a lawyer,
a banker,
a few salespeople,
a big promise to pay
and a lot of ink.

It has also involved a lot of support
over the last few weeks
from our families and our friends
who held our hands while we held our breaths
and took this big step into...

veryfinehouse1

...home ownership.

This is the cute little house that we will be calling home very soon.

veryfinehouse5

...and this is the amazing backyard that will soon be our garden.

Despite the gray skies when I took these photos yesterday, the day today is very bright and clear. Tonight we'll take the sustainably-grown Christmas wreath we just got from Student Action with Farmworkers and hang it on the front porch - a little flag to stake our claim.

Home!

Friday, December 01, 2006

holiday feelings


It's finally December! I am so ready for the holidays to be here.

We are going to be moving in the middle of December (more on that later), so I am really struggling with the holiday craft plans. On the one hand, I am yearning to spend cozy evenings with the hot glue gun, beeswax, yarn and bamboo needles, glitter, vintage fabrics, anything crafty. I have a million little piles of supplies and a million ideas that probably won't get put to use because there simply won't be the workspace or the unpacked boxes to let me do it. *sigh*

On the other hand, coming up with projects that I can do despite the move has been kind of fun, too. So far I have some good ones in mind, but I can't tell them because you never know who might be reading...

One thing I am not going to do is buy stuff. Well, okay, I have one or two purchases to make, but Christmas-time is too busy with events (and everyone I know too overloaded with stuff already) for me to spend valuable crafting time shopping. This is really not meant to diss those of you who will be doing your Christmas shopping at the Gap, because I know that your giftee is going to appreciate your generosity and use whatever lovingly-chosen item you get them. It is the thought that counts, whether you make your effort fighting crowds at the mall and selecting the perfect item (for which you deserve a medal) or fighting those long strings that come off the hot glue gun. This is more of a personal thing with me - I have a pathological aversion to buying things (some people call it being "cheap," and I don't think I can argue with that).

So to veer back from that tangent... I am really excited about the holidays. I am dying to bake and craft, and fantasizing about making fun advent calendars like this one (is having kids required? Maybe someone would lend me one). I also want to make ornaments for the tree, decorate cookies, sew Christmas stockings for our mantel, and do it all while sipping mulled cider with HWWLLB and listening to John Coltrane (Christmas music is one part of the holidays that I don't get excited about).

So what kinds of craft projects are you all making this year? I want to know about your good ideas (and maybe steal them).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

wrapper wrongs

So... we have a new look going on here. I had some wrapper issues over the weekend. I miss the old wrapper, but it seems to have died some sort of scrambled electronic death. I'm now on the hunt for the New Look, but in the mean time you'll be enjoying this Other Look, courtesy of the contributers over in the Templates division of Blogger. (And BTW, if you are a web designer, I need your talents!)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

seagrove


After a lovely Thanksgiving at home with family and friends, we decided to meet up with HWWLLB's parents and brother on Saturday in Seagrove, NC. Seagrove is more or less halfway between us (they live in the mountains; we live in the piedmont) and a great destination because of the pottery.

Seagrove is a small community in Randolph county, in the Sandhills of central North Carolina, an area with a long tradition of potters because of the excellent natural clay deposits there. There are both utilitarian potters and art potters working there today, and a recent show at the NC Museum of Art, the Potter's Eye, captured much of the spirit and history of our state's great pottery tradition.

The first time I went to Seagrove and the North Carolina Pottery Center was probably in 1999 or 2000, shortly after I moved to Chapel Hill. Since then I have been going back about once a year or so, always to see what's on exhibit at the NCPC and in the studios of some of my favorite potters like Ben Owen III and Dover.

This time we stumbled on an incredible pair of art potters who work together at Bulldog Pottery, Samantha Henneke and Bruce Gholson. The photo above is one of their vases. Their colors and forms are breathtaking, and they are both fascinated with the natural world, especially insects.

WB_Ants

This is one of their wall tiles. There are lots like these with ants, dung beetles, moths and other beautiful insects all out of scale to dominate the scenes they land in. They also make lots of beautiful small jars with scarab beetles on the lids. There is an exbibition of their work right now at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences (with photos of all the pieces online, though the colors in the photos are kind of washed out - you really need to see them in person).

It was so exciting to discover a new favorite artist. It was also a beautiful, warm, sunny fall Saturday and HWWLLB and I really enjoyed spending the day with his family. Now I am busy making lists of the crafty things I want to make as Xmas gifts... a day of nature and art is a great inspiration to get me to making things, too.

Monday, November 20, 2006

mossy


More new babies! There are so many new babies in our circle of family and friends that it's hard to keep up. All my Xmas knitting plans (socks for all!) seem to be fading farther and farther into the distance, but the new-baby knitting is right on track.

This is something I must understand about myself: I love knitting for babies and little kids - much more than for grown-ups. The projects are finished so quickly, babies are just not at all picky about colors or styles, and they look so great in hand-knits. I think it's also a way to create a bond with my friends' kids who live far away, since I don't get to see them very often (of course when I do see them, they keep asking me when I'm going to knit them another sweater...).

I'm feeling particularly inspired lately by the mellow late-fall colors. This photo is a little peek at a newborn cardi that I'm making for a colleauge's new baby. The colors of the yarn look so much like the cool, relaxing late November landscape (so beautifully documented here and here and here).

I'm also feeling inspired by some cardis I've seen lately with their buttons down the side instead of the middle. There was a lovely one that a blogger did recently (I wish I could remember who...) and then when I went to the LYS to get the yarn for this project, there was another hanging in the shop. So I am making this up as I go along - hopefully it will come out just the way it looks in my mind's eye.

Friday, November 17, 2006

free pattern friday: wildflower socks


The days are becoming short and gray - just the time to knit up some bright socks that make you want to dance! These socks are named for the "wildflower purl" stitch pattern (from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns). The stitch pattern is easy to memorize and very forgiving - if you do make a mistake, it will be practically invisible, especially with variegated yarn. If you do use variegated yarn, you will get an impressionist effect of single-color "wildflowers" on a multi-colored background.

You can re-size these socks to fit any wearer, just keep in mind that the stitch pattern requires a multiple of 8 st when knit in the round.

This pattern is now available as a printer-friendly free Ravelry download!

size: women's XS-S (M-L)
gauge: 7.5 st/in in stockinette stitch

materials
  • 1 skein Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (shown in "Gold Hill" colorway) 100g / 430 yd 
  • Size US 1 DPN's
  • Stitch markers
wildflower purl stitch pattern
Rnd 1 - 3: Knit
Rnd 4: K5, *[P3 tog, leave these stitches on the needle, YO, P the same 3 st tog again, then slip them from the needle, K5.] Repeat from *.
Rnd 5-7: Knit
Rnd 8: K1, Repeat from * above to end.

wildflower purl close-up

beginning at the top
Using 2 needles held together, CO 56 (64) st.
Divide evenly across 3 DPN's. Place M for knitting in the round.
Join yarn and knit in K1, P1 rib until sock measures 1.5 inches from CO edge.
Change to wildflower purl stitch pattern. Knit in patt until sock measures 7 1/2 (8) inches (or desired length) from CO edge. End with rnd 8 of st pattern.

heel flap
K 13 (16), turn work, Sl 1, P 27 (31). Place rem st on 2 DPN's to hold for later. You will now knit the heel flap with the 28 (32) st on needle one (your st marker should be in the middle of these).
R 1: *Sl 1, K1. Rep from * to end. Turn work.
R 2: Sl 1, P to end.
Repeat these two rows until you have knitted 28 (32) heel flap rows. There will be 14 (16) selvedge st.

wildflower heelflap - back

turn heel
R1: Sl first st, K 14 (16). SSK, K1, turn work.
R2: Sl 1 purl-wise, P4 (5), P2tog, turn.
R3: Sl 1 purl-wise, K to 1 st before gap, SSK (1 st from each side of gap), K1 turn.
R4: Sl 1 purl-wise, P to 1 st before gap, P2tog, P1, turn.

Rep rows 3 and 4 until all heel flap st have been worked, ending with a WS row. 16 (18) st rem.

Note: If you are knitting the smaller sock size, your stitch marker is a little off-center. As you knit back across, just move your marker over so that there are 8 st on each side of it. This will make your life a little easier during the decreases that are coming up.

heel gusset
K across all heel st, and with the same DPN, pick up and K 14 (16) selvedge st along the heel flap. Using another DPN, K across the 28 (32) instep st you were holding. With a third needle, pick up and K 14 (16) selvedge st up the other side of the heel flap and K across heel to marker. Now you're back to knitting in the round, beginning at the center back of the heel.

Important aside: Now that you're back to knitting in the round, you will be knitting in the stitch pattern again - in fact, you have just completed rnd 1 of the pattern. While making the decreases in the heel gussset, I prefer to knit the heel section in stockinette st, and the instep section in the pattern. Use stitch markers to make this easier - on your next knitting round, place a marker at the end of the heel gusset st, knit across the instep st, and then place another marker at the start of the heel gusset st. It's also a bit easier if these markers are a different color from your first marker, which marks the beginning of the round.

Back to the knitting...

begin heel decreases
Next rnd: Knit to 3 st before end of needle 1, K2tog, K1. [This is a good time to place that marker I mentioned above]. K in patt across instep st on needle 2. [Again, here's where you would place the other marker]. K1, SSK, K to end of needle 3. 2 st decreased.

Knit one round without decreasing, taking care to follow the st patt along the instep st.

Continue decreasing 2 st every other rnd in this manner, maintaining the patt in the instep st, until 56 (64) st rem.

wildflower sock #1

foot
Now you can resume your stitch pattern throughout the whole sock as you did before getting to the heel. You may need to move your primary stitch marker back to the actual beginning of the rnd to get your stitch pattern lined up right. Work even in patt until sock measures 6-1/2 (8) inches from heel, or approximately 2 inches less than your desired overall foot length.

toe
You are all done with the wildflower purl so you can just forget about it now and knit the toe in regular old stockinette st as you start decreasing. If you still have those other two stitch markers on there, you're going to move them around a little.
Knit one rnd in st st as follows: K 14 (16), PM, K 28 (32), PM, K to end. Now your markers are properly placed for the toe decreases.

Rnd 1: K to 3 st before M, K2tog, K1, sl M, K1, SSK. Knit to 3 st before next M, K2tog, K1, sl M, K1, SSK. K to end. 4 st decreased
Rnd 2: Knit.
Continue decreasing 4 st every other rnd in this manner until 28 (32) st rem.

Now decrease 4 st on every rnd until 8 st rem.
Graft the remaining toe st using Kitchener Stitch.

Weave in your loose ends, and then make another one just like the first!

important notice: This is a free pattern and you are welcome to use it for all the non-commercial purposes you like. However, you may not reproduce this pattern to sell, and you may not sell what you make with it. You may donate what you make with it to charity, and you may use it for charity fundraisers only if 100% of the proceeds are donated to the charity (and by charity I don't mean your kid's college fund). Thanks for understanding!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

go blue


A knit-a-long for Democrats! Inspired left-leaning liberal knit-ranting? Political fodder for your Stitch & Bitch group?

Well, at the moment it's mostly blue stash-flashing... but Knit Blue is up and running and who knows what sort of revolution it might launch, thanks to the inspiration of Emma over at Stitch & Sue. Go check it out! Or better yet, join in!

I have joined, though I have yet to post my rant or flash any blue stash. While I typically vote straight on down the 'D' column, it feels funny to identify myself so strongly as belonging to one party. For my whole life I was registered 'unaffiliated,' and I have occasionally voted for dark-horse third-party candidates (and occasionally even a Republican - gasp! - when they were the best candidate, which really is hardly ever). But of course I am overjoyed at the recent pummeling the D's dished out to the bedraggled congressional Republicans, and can't say there's another party I'd vote for even one-one-hundredth as often as I vote for Dems.

So... I guess it's okay to self-identify this way, even if it's not my whole identity, right? It all feels so conformist... and yet, so good to be on the winning team - for a change.

Post-Script
Something weird is happening over at Blogger, as you may have noticed. My font has been changed - with no notice! How I hate serifs. Ick. Hopefully I'll get this straightened out soon... in the meantime, enjoy the new look, I guess!

Monday, November 13, 2006

five pounds of cheese


Cheese seemed to be my crafting medium of choice this weekend. Saturday the whole day was taken up with a meeting that I didn't really want to attend, though it had its highlights. Sunday I cooked, a lot.

Sunday morning I woke up early to drink a whole pot of darjeeling tea and make a dozen sandwiches for the cafe at a charity craft sale. It was fun to get an assembly line going so early in the morning.

First I made the messier ones: avocado and sharp cheddar with red onion on a whole wheat pita with chipotle mayo and salad greens. Then the simpler ones: tomato and mozarella on white pita with pesto mayo and salad greens. I hope the vegetarians got a little thrill from actually having a selection to choose from. I neglected the vegans, though. Sorry vegans. It was a cheesy weekend.

Later on, after the craft sale and brunch with my mom and her sisters, a trip to the Monet exhibit at the NC Museum of Art and a nice, windy walk in the woods with HWWLLB, I got down to making two lasagnas. This is where the other four pounds of cheese came in.

First I made the easier lasagna, which was sort of a Greek spinach lasagna. It had the usual cheese filling: ricotta with lots of parmesan, but I replaced half the mozarella with a very large dose of Greek feta. I also cut the usual amount of tomato sauce in half and punched the spinach way, way up. Each layer had about 1/2 pound of fresh baby spinach in it, plus sliced olives. Tonight before I bake it, I think I'll crumble more feta on top.

The other lasagna was a mushroom lasagna with white sauce that I adapted from one that was in Cook's Illustrated this summer. I did not do quite all the insane things this recipe included, such as cooking each of the four different types of mushrooms separately and with different methods. But it was a long, slow, enjoyable process and the whole house still smells woodsy from cooking all those mushrooms. The recipe uses a porcini-bechamel sauce (a.k.a. white sauce) instead of tomato sauce, a whole lotta mushrooms, and replaces the typical mozarella cheese with fontina.

We will be eating them both tonight at a volunteer appreciation party at my house. Our volunteers are wonderful and it was fun trying a new recipe to share with them (the Greek-style lasagna was not anything new, but an old reliable in case the mushroom thing turns out to be horrid). We have two cases of locally-brewed beer to accompany the lasagnas, so it really can't be that bad no matter how weird the food.

All the cooking was all a good warm-up for Thanksgiving, which we always host as a potluck at our house. It is sneaking up on us quickly. Time to start planning the menu and the games!

Friday, November 10, 2006

giveaway day

The celebration of the f.pea one-year blogiversary continues with a giveaway!

But first, if you haven't joined up with the Craft of the Year group and posted your bestest craft, hurry over! I am dying to see your hot stuff. Check out a little sampling of the Craft of the Year finery currently to be seen in this group:

mosaic1707939
clockwise from the top left: creations from jaypeg, saunshine, me and tomate d'epingles.

Are you inspired yet??? I know I am. Jaypeg's monsters are making my fingers itch to sew up some sock monsters. I am a little behind on my sock monster plans, but I have just received an incredible bag of fabric scraps via the delightful Gray la Gran and I hope to put them to good use for some toy-making very soon. More on that later...

Right now it's time for FREE STUFF!

I have been cleaning out my craft supplies, and these goodies are up for grabs by the first commenter to claim them. Please leave me your email address so that I can get up with you about a shipping address. Enjoy!

scrapbooking/book-making supplies - taken!

freepunch
a set of 3 fiskars eyelet setters/hole punchers and 8 sets of eyelets. i had fun accidentally smashing holes in my kitchen table with these things. this package would be kind of heavy, so this is the only one that i won't ship outside the US (unless you'd like to pay shipping).

wire-bending jig - taken!

freejig
i must admit that i have never used this thing and am not quite sure how it works. it might be an exciting treasure for people who make jewelry or other stuff with wire.

mini jars

freejars
these are ten little plastic jars that are supposed to be for storing tiny items, but what they're really great for is tubs of home-made lip gloss - perfect for Xmas gift-making!

paints - taken!

freepaints
eight tubes of acrylic craft paint in different earthy colors. they have all been opened but i haven't used much of any of them.

If there are any supplies here that you'd like for your holiday craft-making fun, they are yours!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

your gavel, madam speaker


Hot diggity Democrats! What a night. We are doing the happy dance over here at Chez Pea. I am happy to report that of the handful of friends of ours who were running for various state and local offices, all of them have won their respective races. Yay! And on the Big Scene, well, you don't need me to tell you that we have an historic first woman Speaker of the House, or that the R's had kind of a bad night.


goodbye Charles Taylor, don't let the door hit you on the way out


hellfire & brimstone for Santorum


best Governor ever (I'm considering moving to NY...)

It's a good thing I practiced up on my dance moves over the weekend, cause I used them all up watching these election returns come in! I was thinking of knitting Nancy Pelosi a nice gavel cover for Norovember. What do you think?

Monday, November 06, 2006

bhangra monday

I was over on the YouTube last night watching bhangra videos in order to improve my dance moves (yes, all my biostatistics homework is done), and I just wanted to share my favorite one with you. HWWLLB says it's better than ZZ Top.



If you like this one, go check out the hilarious big-group videos of students that look like they were choregraphed by Paula Abdul. They make me want to start a dance team.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

undocumented happiness

A bland and colorless missive is being beamed to you today from the desk of this writer. My apologies - the battery charger is non-functioning, and so the camera is powerless to capture pictures of any of the bright and happy things I wanted to share with you today:
  • the amazing sock yarn that came in the mail from epicurus
  • the vase of marigolds and lavender in a cherry red vase on my kitchen windowsill
  • jackie's ever-more-orange fur
  • the pile of rubble in the back of red betty
  • the hat I'm making for HWWLLB's brother
  • a secret-squirrel package for someone far away
All these colors and more could be yours... if I just had some batteries for this camera. Oh well, you can use your imaginations.

The sock yarn is amazing. It fades to color, so it's intense salmon orangey-pink at one end, and almost white at the other end. A slow fade, perfectly packaged in sock-sized balls, two just alike. I can't wait to use it! But it is in line behind some other projects, and I think all the October sock-knitting wore on my wrists a little - I must knit much tighter when using tiny needles. So at the moment I'm taking a break from the wildflower socks to work on the aforementioned hat, which on size 9 needles feels like knitting with broomsticks, but my wrists sure do feel better!

The other thing is Jackie's fur. It is changing color. Jackie got this mysterious sickness back at the beginning of October, where she seemed to have a urinary tract infection, and was also wiping her poopy butt all over everything. It wasn't pleasant. The vet came and gave her antibiotics, and it miraculously went away immediately. Then as soon as the antibiotics were finished, it all started up again. So he came back with stronger antibiotics, and shazam, all gone. Then, as soon as the drugs were gone, the sickness came back. It made no sense at all.

It took me a few days to realize that it wasn't the antibiotics fixing Jackie's problems at all - it was her food. She had been eating dry food for the last year since coming in from her life on the streets to the bosom of our home. But to give her the pills, I had to mash them up and put them in canned food. Over the course of the last year, she has become morbidly obese (up to 14 pounds from a scrawny little starving 4-pounder last year at this time!). Her weight problem was pretty amazing, considering that we really don't feed her very much at all, and as she got fatter we kept cutting her rations, with nothing to show for it but a cranky, tubby cat.

Okay, so then I read some articles about cat nutrition, obesity and urinary problems on the web. As it turns out, urinary and digestive symptoms and obesity can be side-effects of a grain-heavy dry food diet. Most commercial cat foods contain corn, soy and wheat products for bulk, but none of these ingredients belong in a cat's diet (being as how they are pure carnivores), and are quite hard for them to digest, though many cats adapt to it well. But some cats just become obese, while others puke incessantly and become scrawny. Many have urinary and digestive troubles. Dry food is also a lot lower in moisture than canned food, and cats tend to get most of their fluids from their food. Dehydration is a big factor in urinary tract illness.

So the solution presented itself: Jackie is now eating canned food that is pure meat - no corn, no soy and no wheat. Just lots of chicken, organ meats and chicken fat (yum). All her horrible urinary and digestive symptoms are gone, and she looks so much better. She is steadily losing weight, little by little, though if you saw her, I'm sure you would still think she looks pretty chubby. But her hair - it's turning from dusty tan to bright orange! She has always been an "orange" tabby cat, just without much color. Now she looks like the color of a carrot. It is really amazing.

Simon, on the other hand, does quite well on dry food, though he is pretty tubby, too. I kept him on dry food because he drinks plenty of water (I've never seen Jackie at the water dish), but the kind I'm buying now is pure meat (no grains). He too is losing a little weight, and his hair is darker, glossier and silkier to the touch than it was before.

So my pets are off junk food and looking fabulous... wish I could say as much for myself. In fact, we were just discussing getting some beer and Indian buffet for dinner. Sorry I won't be able to take a picture of it, though. I'm sure you can use your imagination.

Monday, October 30, 2006

bright sky


The last days of October have been glorious. I could hardly stay at my desk today and work; this afternoon I went out for a walk to gape at the colors everywhere.

In general, downtown Raleigh is not the most scenic of locations, but we do have lots of nice trees (hence our official nick-name, the City of Oaks). There are more than just oaks, in fact the dogwoods are my favorite right now. I wish I knew more about trees - I never know what kind they are. This one is... orange. A very nice orange.

Fall makes me so happy. The shortening days are off-set by their intensity as twelve hours of sun are condensed into ten hours. Buildings that depressed me in hazy summer weather seem suddenly interesting for their shadows and clean edges.

october 30th, iii

And of course there are the blazing, spectacular trees.

october 30th, vi

As color goes, fall beats all the other seasons, hands-down.

It also makes me a little itchy. Holidays are coming, and the air is cooler, especially in the bright, clear mornings. I can't think of anything but things to make.

cookies
spice mixes
sweaters
cards
pies
sock monsters
hats
mix CD's
endless cups of tea

Instead I have to write some grant proposals, finish a strategic plan, go to a bunch of meetings, make some presentations, etc etc etc. And of course I have to figure out confidence intervals and t distributions, things which are very important and which I will never remember again once I have taken the final exam in December.

December... when cookie-baking and sweater-knitting should be in full gear. It's not so far away.

october 30th, ii

Friday, October 27, 2006

busy with the crafts


I am so excited to have moved on to sock pair #2 of the Socktoberfest projects. Here is a little progress shot, taken at work yesterday (the socks came with me to a very boring morning meeting where I got a couple of inches knitted).

The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, and I must say I looooove working with it. This is the Gold Hill colorway - apparently my skeins came from a really pink batch, because I've heard from other folk that theirs is way less pink. I'm making these socks for HWWLLB's mom, which is a little trick to get me through them faster because she wears size 5 shoes. Yay! Quick project! The first pair I made this month were men's large, and plain gray, and they went ON and ON and ON... though I do love the way they came out. But it's time for some color.

And speaking of color, here's a quick peek at some of the amazing crafts that are showing up on Craft of the Year:

Peek at Craft of the Year pool
Crafts submitted by (clockwise): Jaypeg, Stacie, Macoco and FurryJumperGirl.

Y'all need to get up there and post your bestest crafts! I am so in love with the crafts people have posted already. The hot pink gibbon makes me swoon. I know there are Socktoberfest projects to be finished, and beads to be threaded on suri (no I haven't gotten to that yet...) but I think I'm going to be needing to make a sock monster this weekend... I have a big tub of tube socks just waiting to be chopped and monsterized.

And by the way... feel free to steal the button! Unless it's not tacky enough for you...

craft_year

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

happy birthday to me!


Okay, not to me, to my blog! Today is f.pea's one year blogiversary. Wheeeee!

To celebrate, I'm inviting you all to a crafty get-together. Just pop on over to flickr and join the Craft of the Year group. Then post your best crafty creation of 2006.

A lot of the time I use this web space to rant or to vent, but I think what means most to me about it is the chance to connect with other crafty folks - knitters, sewers, photographers, screen-printerns, all of y'all - to share our handiwork and to be inspired. So to celebrate, I thought I'd invite a little extra inspiration.

Don't be shy, now... I want to see your best stuff! You can even post more than one creation if you like, because creativity comes in both trickles and torrents. I'll be posting highlights from the group over the next few weeks, and maybe even giving out some prizes. There will be some special mentions and bonus points awarded in the following totally non-objective areas:
  • crafts that are recycled, rescued from the trash or otherwise environmentally superior
  • high fashion innovation
  • crafts that make you pump your fist and start yelling feminist slogans (in a good way)
Thanks for all your ideas, warmth and witticisms over the last year... it has been so much fun for me. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

P.S. If you don't use flickr, just email your photo (size limit: 400 px) to f [dot] pea [at] airpost [dot] net and I'll post it for you.

Monday, October 23, 2006

t.g.i.m.


I have been looking forward to this particular Monday for a looooong time. I spent the day doing only one boring errand, and otherwise thoroughly enjoying a much-needed day off. And upon reflection, it seems that a couple of lists are in order. Perhaps I am just too lazy for narrative, but I like how the list format lets you tell a story so succinctly. I rely on lists really heavily in general - I'm always making lists of things to do or get or make, which I keep in my planner at work, written on the back of my hand, and on scraps of paper in my pockets.

So to celebrate this T.G.I.M., some more lists (you know you love them):

projects completed this weekend
  • our organization's 20th anniversary par-tay (yessss!)
  • the gentleman's shooting stockings
  • a biostatistics test

shootingstockings_fini
now we have to wait around for xmas to get worn.

things i have knitted that were worn this weekend
stuff that went wrong at the big party that nobody noticed, because really they were too busy having fun
  • the venue forgot to order the big tent
  • cold, soggy weather
  • no sound monitors
  • lead guitarist 1/2 hour late for set
  • dessert-related confusion. too many desserts! oh no!
stuff i did with my big monday off
  • started some socks with wonderful lorna's laces
  • went to the doctor
  • thrift shopping
  • completed halloween costume
  • watched 2 episodes of MI-5
  • drank a lot of tea
people who are amazingly, incredibly nice*
  • annie O'
  • lolly
  • my sister's boyfriend, CP
* not a complete inventory

Thursday, October 19, 2006

the suri plan


Y'all are so sweet, I just have to say. I really appreciated everyone's kind & supportive comments on my mopey Monday post. (Except Jessica's - she has a little problem with projecting her desire for another baby onto others - but that's neither here nor there). Hi Jess!

Last week at Stitch & Bitch I brought my drooly silky snuggly Brushed Suri alpaca yarn and my pile of beads with the intention of getting started on the beaded Suri scarf for my mom. I had planned to thread the beads onto the yarn, knit them in on the ends of the scarf, and put a little dazzle under the Xmas tree. Incredible luxurious softness + a subtle bit of glitter = Favorite Daughter status. Right? I should think so.

Alas, it was not to be so easy. Right from the start I knew in my heart of hearts that those beads were not going to thread onto that yarn - the yarn is too fat and hairy. I knew, but I chose to pretend it might work, even as I held the beads up to the light to examine the precise size of the hole, even as I tied sewing thread onto the yarn in a vain attempt to facilitate sliding, even as I yanked and tugged and eventually broke the yarn... more than once. Oh, optimism. How it has tricked me so many times.

The knitting comrades at SnB made several helpful suggestions, including using beading silk as if it were a carry-along. That seemed like a really good idea, so I stayed up late last Wednesday night trying to make it work, but the problem with that was a lack of friction. The Suri, she is so silky, and the beading silk... well, the name gives that one away. The two just wouldn't get together, so I wound up with strings of beads hanging on long loops of white silk like baby spiders launching themselves away from the scarf (you remember that scene in Charlotte's Web, don't you?). The effect was memorable, if not exactly wearable. I wish I had taken a picture (sorry).

So then my debit card started vibrating and it occurred to me that if I just ordered some more yarn, my problems might be over. Okay, so here's the new plan: lace weight alpaca! Yes! Surely I'll be able to string the beads onto lace weight alpaca yarn and use that as a carry-along! Sadly Blue Sky Alpacas doesn't make their lace-weight yarn in the same colorway, so I wound up ordering some Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud, in two different colors. Which one do you like better with these beads and the Suri?

decisions, decisions
on the left: gray beads or pinkish? center: pinkish lace yarn or grayish? on the right: the suri.

I still haven't made up my mind about the colors, so please send me your ideas. I'll let you know how the carry-along idea works. In the mean time, here's the latest progress pic of the Socktoberfest socks (I am really ready to move on to some color after this pair is done):

further progress

Monday, October 16, 2006

monday lists


On Friday I was feeling mopey and wrote a long, whiney missive that I'm glad I didn't post. I think the shorter fall days are getting to me. I'm also crazy busy, fighting off a cold and traveling a lot, and these things are adding together with the less-sunlight to equal more frequent BAD MOODS.

I even considered faking sick so that I wouldn't have to get in the car for a long drive to the Nantahala National Forest for HWWLLB's Family Camping Trip this past weekend. Now I'm so glad I pulled myself together - it was a beautiful weekend. Beautiful weather, good company and time outside worked like a tonic on me, and I got some more perspective on the things I was mopey about.

Instead of whining, I'm writing some lists of the good, the bad, and the other. Making lists helps me look a bit more objectively at what's going on in my life and why I feel the way I do, and also, how to feel better. So here we go:

things i miss
  • going out to see live music
  • drinking tea/coffee in the afternoon with friends (and without having to make an appointment)
  • thrift shopping with pals
  • unplanned saturdays
  • free time

people i miss


stuff i am really grateful for

  • walking to work every day
  • yoga
  • dinners with my sister
  • knitting and artsy-craftsy projects
  • fall colors
  • HWWLLB
  • friends in blogland (and in reality)

abfabulous
a typical dinner with my sis

current projects


recent yarn stash enhancement

100_1793
the recent sock yarn purchases, clashing happily

some things i have learned more about recently

  • short rows
  • global climate change
  • probability
  • the ethics of relationships
  • mortgages

things my cat has wiped her butt on recently

  • the bathroom floor
  • my camping chair
  • the loopy bath mat