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.

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

materials
  • 2 skeins Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (shown in "Gold Hill" colorway)
  • 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 1-3/4 (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.