Sunday, December 30, 2007

goofing off at home

Hi there! Want to see our new house?

gingerbread6

It's more of a temple, really. A gingerbread temple.

gingerbread5

This is my sister's amazing Christmas gift to our family: an incredible gingerbread temple made from candies with flavors like tamarind and guava, with a big old gingerbread buddha meditating out front. Pretty neat, huh? Every year I tell her she should enter the National Gingerbread House Competition (especially since it happens here in North Carolina) -- maybe next year!

Sorry it's been so long since I posted -- like everyone else, I got a little busy with the baking, wrapping and all-night knitting marathons. But we had a lovely Christmas, and I really did get to sit back and enjoy it this year. We just got back from a trip North to visit my grandmothers and some aunts & uncles & cousins, and to eat at every shiny diner we got near. I tend to think North Carolina is just about perfect, but we could really do with some 24-hour baking-on-premises shiny diners (New Jersey, by the way, has the more diners than any other state - or nation! - in the world).

I still have some holiday knitting left to finish, since we'll be seeing HWWLLB's family next week, and there's at least one package that will be a Happy New Year gift for its intended recipient. But the Big Project, HWWLLB's Lopi sweater, is finished! Woo-hooo! Well, the knitting is finished, and I grafted the underarms on Christmas Eve when HWWLLB went out to deliver a pie to some friends. The ends still need weaving in, and it's in desperate need of blocking, but I actually gave him a finished sweater with no needles still attached on Christmas morning, and I have to say it wasn't easy, but it looks great. I'll post some pictures as soon as I can get him to model it (and after I've blocked it).

I hope you all are enjoying some lazy time at home with a little hot chocolate. There are two more days before I have to go back to work, and I intend to laze them away with little thought to 2008. Now off to prowl the internets and check out all of your winter projects...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

countdown

wreath
pretty door in edenton, nc

The days are getting shorter.

I feel that so intensely. Do you? The days are whipping past, with a countdown to the end-of-the-year at work, and of course the general countdown to The Holidays, at which time we will all finally sit down and relax for a bit. Each day is like a race to pack in as much as I can before bed.

But the nights are longer too, and that I like. The things I do at night:

sleeping
snuggling with my favorite person and cat
baking
knitting
making gifts
writing notes to friends
wrapping myself in an afghan crocheted by my grandma
ogling the wonderfully tacky lights on everyone's houses
making dinner with my family

The chilly mornings make it a little challenging to get out of bed, prolonging those longer nights (especially the snuggling part). There is something wonderful about night - mystery, warmth in the cold, quiet - that seems to define winter for me.

One of the things I've been working on at night is HWWLLB's Christmas sweater. I try to make him a sweater every year, and every year I tell him not to get his hopes up, because as I get older (and as I knit more toys) I seem to have less and less patience for great big grown-up sweaters. There is something wonderful about them though, like running a marathon.

The fair isle is dragging along, though.

fairisle

Each row seems to take an eternity. I am very, very, very slow at knitting with two strands. For the last week he's done a lot of traveling for work, so I've been able to make some progress on the sweater at home, but that's over now, and I don't know where I will steal the knitting time (away from his peeking eyes) to get it finished. I may have to go hole up at the coffee shop for half the day on Saturday to get this yoke knocked out.

More than anything else, this sweater makes me feel the countdown. I swear last night I could hear a clock ticking as I was racing through the first row of snowflakes. In a way, I'm glad to have to put it down for the next few evenings - maybe the feeling of being in a race will subside a bit. And it will create the perfect time for baking some more cookies.

Sending you all - and your holiday knitting projects - warm, wintry thoughts!

Monday, December 10, 2007

cheering up

What do you do when you want to cheer yourself up?

dinosock2

I make toys.

This is Dina, the stegozebrasockasaurus who appeared in our kitchen last night. She is destined to be a Christmas present for the sock donor. Dina enjoys fizzy cocktails, long walks on the beach and rainy evenings at home. She has a thing for lip gloss and eats about three tubes a day. I've had to put one of those baby locks on the door of the bathroom closet.

Dina has a brother-in-law named Perry.

nattykitty2

Perry is one of those preppy guys with dredlocks who hates it when people on the street yell out, "Hey rastamon!" or "Natty dreds!" with a fake Jamaican accent. That really drives him nuts. Perry thinks that people should be more respectful of the religious and cultural beliefs of others. He's a vegan and is way into yoga meditation.

There's another monster in the works in the home sockmonster workshop, but it hasn't really taken shape yet.

soon-to-be monster

All I know so far is that it's a kitty, and that it likes to take long trips around the world. After it's finished, it will fly off to Cambodia to be a gift for Essi, who is teaching there, and whom I will really miss at Christmas this year.

The last few days I've been at home baking, cleaning, decorating, knitting and making toys. HWWLLB and I took a short trip on Saturday for some funny 18th-century holiday events in Edenton, NC, but besides that we have dug in deep here at home. Quite a while ago I'd planned to take a couple of vacation days in mid-December to give myself time to get holiday chores done and maybe even enjoy the season. Little did I know how much I'd need them! It's been so good to be able to be at home and take the time to remember Jackie, and to be mindful and grateful for all the love in our lives - friends and family - during this busy busy time.

Thanks to all of you for your kind words on Friday - they really mean a lot to me. I'm so grateful for all of you and the support and crafty inspiration that we get to share. I hope you're having fun with your holiday preparations!

Friday, December 07, 2007

goodbye, sweet friend

jackie_couch

We lost a dear friend yesterday. About a week ago we found out that our sweet kitty Jackie had a big, mean tumor in her belly. Since then she has made a rapid decline, and yesterday we said goodbye to her and buried her in the garden. I can't remember when I've ever cried so much.

About five years ago we moved into a rental house downtown, and she came with the property. Jackie technically belonged to the landlady, but lived outside, and when the landlady moved out of the house, she couldn't catch Jackie. So she became our outside kitty. For about three years we fed her, and slowly she softened up enough to accept a scratch on the head with her dinner. Then one June, she disappeared.

After four months, we had given up hope. She had lived an adventurous life, but we figured some final adventure had taken her away. One night in October, I was fixing dinner and our other cat, Simon, was going nuts at the back door. There was Jackie, cold, hungry, emaciated, covered in parasites, and with a badly injured hind leg.

I've already written the story of how our wonderful neighbor, Dr. D, saved Jackie's life that night, and how she recovered the use of her nearly-severed leg. I haven't written as much about what a wonderful friend Jackie is to Simon, how he became a well-adjusted domestic pet after she came to live with us (after ten years of neurosis worthy of a Woody Allen kitty movie), or how Jackie and HWWLLB became best buddies in our new house. Her favorite thing was to sit with him in his big recliner, and she would always come running when she heard the recliner creak as he sat down.

The last week has been so hard, so sudden. One day she was our happy little housemate, and suddenly she was weak, skinny, starved for affection but unable to eat. Yesterday HWWLLB held her on his lap as she died. She is resting now in our garden, and we have planted a rosebush on her grave, with big juicy rosehips for the birds to enjoy in winter. I scattered sunflower seeds on her grave, and lots of squirrels and birds have been visiting her in her new resting place.

More than once we have joked that Jackie was the spunky, red-headed heroine of a romance novel. She was tough, smart and beautiful, and her life was a series of hair-raising adventures. Last night as I sat at the window looking out at her rosebush, I imagined her walking down the path to kitty heaven, or the kitty ancestral home, or wherever it is that good cats go when they die. Little birds were singing to her and keeping her company along the path. I imagined that somewhere in his mind, Simon might be singing a kitty song to help her find her way, that maybe all the cats in our neighborhood were singing that special song.

Goodbye, sweet friend.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

make a nest

I learned something important from our kitty this week: When you're feeling bad, make a nest.

Make a warm little nest in a quiet corner of the house, eat only your favorite things, and don't bother doing things you're supposed to do... just do what feels good.

Her nest is under the bed, and not very photogenic, and it's occupied with someone who is in no mood to have her picture taken, so there's no photo for you. But here's my nest:

nest
tea, knitting and other kitty are all close at hand

This weekend I blew off most of what I was supposed to do, and instead I snuggled into my nest, knitted and listened to music. There was a little baking and cooking, and some quality kitty time, and that's about it.

One of the happy results is that a certain Christmas sweater is finally showing some progress. I had given up on it some time ago, bored to tears with the endless rows of stockinette stitch, but was inspired to picked it up again recently. Stockinette stitch can be tiresome when you are restless or frazzled, but when you are hiding away from the world's ills in your warm little nest, endless rows of stockinette stitch feel just right. Nothing else is calling but 100 more rows of wooly, charcoal gray knit stitches.

P.S.
Thanks for all the virtual hugs over the last few days... I really appreciate them. Hugs back to all of you!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

don't be discouraged

don't be discouraged

After we came back from vacation, it was hard to pick up the newspaper or turn on the radio again. After a two-week news diet, I was overwhelmed by how relentlessly bad all the news was. And what passes for good news these days is usually just product placement.

This week, there is lots of bad news. Bad news at work, bad news at home, bad news on the radio. Lately every time someone shares a bit of news with me, they end it with "but don't be discouraged!"

I am discouraged.

I want to crawl under my desk and knit a sweater, but all the yarn is at home. I want to curl up with my kitties and forget about the rest of the world for a day or two. I want to enjoy the good news, because of course, there is plenty of it. It's right there behind that big looming sense of impending doom.

But I can't do those things. In the face of all this discouraging stuff, the only option is to grit your teeth and find a way forward, so that's what I will do. I am trying to enjoy the snippets of beauty that are all around in late November - in leaf piles, and in those brilliant cold flashes of sky we keep getting in the afternoons, and in the warmth of home.

november leaves

hot tea
good books
purring kitties
wooly yarn
lists of crafts to make
phone calls with friends
chocolate
crisp, sweet apples
bright red and yellow leaves
pie

It helps to make lists of good things.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

meet the lewisis

Here they are, external gills and all...

Nectorus lewisi, the Neuse River Waterdog, in actual size:

lewisi4

And in size jumbo:

lewisi6

These are the new hot critters around these parts.

In case you don't remember why I was knitting a Neuse River Waterdog, what they look like in real life, or how they speak with a downeast North Carolina accent, flip back to this guest post by Les to learn all about them. But in brief, Neuse River Waterdog is a threatened amphibian species here in North Carolina. I knitted two of them; the first was actual size, and I also made a jumbo version - just to be more huggable.

They're both made from Manos del Uruguay, except for their external gills, which I made with locally-grown and dyed roving from Three Waters Farm. I really appreciated everyone's encouragement on the needle-felting. It was so much fun! It is a lot like drawing with yarn, and I am totally hooked. I want to poke needles into all the yarn I see!

The waterdogs are spending most of their time hiding under leaf litter in the backyard, looking for slugs and other tasty bits to munch on, and writing letters to the Environmental Management Commission about the water quality in their native streams. The big one is considering becoming a Riverkeeper, and the small one prefers to stay home and read decorating magazines.

Mr. and Mr. Lewisi both thank you for your interest in their species, and for not pouring grease down the sink.

lewisi3
off to a public hearing on sediment control

Thursday, November 22, 2007

happy thanksgiving, friends!

fallcolor1

Thanks.

For Peace and Liberty, for Food and Raiment, for Corn and Wine, and Milk, and every kind of Healthful Nourishment...

For the Common Benefits of Air and Light, for useful Fire and delicious Water...

For Knowledge and Literature and every useful Art; for my Friends and their Prosperity, and for the fewness of my Enemies...

For all thy innumerable Benefits; for Life and Reason, and the Use of Speech, for Health and Joy and every Pleasant Hour,

my Good God, I thank thee.

Benjamin Franklin
Articles of Belief, November 20, 1728


postcard

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

making treats

Is anyone else excited for Thanksgiving?

We always have a Thanksgiving potluck at our house. HWWLLB makes the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, and I get to coordinate with the guests on what else to make. I can't wait! Here's what I think I'm making this year:

mashed potatoes
vegetarian mushroom gravy
pumpkin & black bean chili
pumpkin pie
pecan pie

I love making pie crust - maybe because it has so much butter in it? I tend to be of the opinion that anything with lots of butter is inherently good.

This never works out for me, because I always run out of time, but I also really want to make some decorations. I am imagining orange and brown and gold place cards, a table centerpiece with Indian corn and a turkey made of paper-bag paper, and in general a festive fall atmosphere that looks something like this.

Do any of you actually do this? If I believed it were doable and not just some Martha Stewart craziness, I might actually find the time...

Friday, November 16, 2007

birds, bears and sequoia trees

This is some more belated writing about our recent trip to Yosemite and Sequoia. I kept a little journal while we were traveling, so this post about Sequoia is adapted from the journal entries that I wrote there.

sequoia1

birds!
There is no way we will be able to identify all these different birds, although I optimistically bought a birdwatching checklist at the Giant Trees Museum today. The only ones we've been able to positively identify so far are the same ones we have at home: Red-tailed hawk, Cooper's hawk, pileated woodpecker. The rest of them are a vaguely familiar, twittering blur. Sounds like a thrush. Reminiscent of a pine warbler. Seems like a flicker. But which kind? Who knows.

The ravens are huge and curious. The reliable raven has been our constant hiking companion.

birds from our checklist
great blue heron
common merganser
turkey vulture
bald eagle
northern harrier
cooper's hawk
red-tailed hawk
belted kingfisher
white-headed woodpecker
pileated woodpecker
steller's jay
common raven
mountain chickadee
red-breasted nuthatch
dark-eyed junco

kings canyon
The walk today was gorgeous. We parked at the very end of the long road that drops down to the floor of Kings Canyon, and walked up to a lovely waterfall along the South Fork of the Kings River, called Misty Falls. We both marvelled at the color of the water flowing over the rocks - it was incredibly clear, even in the deepest pools, with a sparkling blue-green color that I don't think I've ever seen before.

For the first part of the walk we were sort of nervous about bears, because of a warning sign posted in the parking lot. It said that some people had been feeding a yearling bear at Misty Falls, and that the bear had become fearless. The sign gave the usual exhortations to guard your food and act noisy and aggressive if a bear comes around. It also suggested throwing pine cones at the bear, and as we started the walk I noticed HWWLLB loading some pine cones into his pockets.

We self-consciously talked in louder-than-usual voices and clapped our hands once in a while, but all we startled were a lot of mule deer.

When we got to the base of the falls, we ran into a man who told us what had happened to the fearless bear. It had been euthanized by park rangers two weeks before. The young bear had been harassing lots of people, and had even bitten a guy on the leg who was taking a nap at the top of the falls. Poor guy probably had a granola bar in his pocket. It was a sad story and made us feel sheepish for having been nervous about it. We were both sorry that some well-meaning nit-wits with more snacks than sense had ruined a poor bear's life.

Later that evening, on the drive back out of the canyon, we passed a young bear who was intently sniffing around the side of the road. He was wary and jumped back from our slow-moving car, which made me happy. Hopefully he won't get interested in breaking into cars like some of his wayward cousins.

sequoia
As we were walking through the grove of giant trees in Sequoia National Forest and gaping open-mouthed, we heard a terrible ruckus across the meadow. Some steller's jays were going absolutely nuts about something. As we came around a bend in the trail, we could see why - as we approached, a cooper's hawk took off with a jay in its talons!

Just a moment later, we noticed a coyote creeping through the big meadow. Suddenly it jumped straight into the air like a springbok, bouncing up and down, either playing or chasing something. It bounced and jumped about a dozen times. As a noisy group came around the meadow bend, the coyote laid down to hide in the long shadow of a tree, and just disappeared completely.

The animals here are extremely good at hiding. Once that coyote decided not to be seen, we couldn't find it again in the meadow, though we knew he was there. A while later, we were walking up the Bear Hill trail and walked right past a big buck deer with huge antlers, without noticing it. We didn't see it at all until HWWLLB stopped to take off his jacket and we noticed him on the hillside where we'd just been. Amazing. We keep wondering how many other animals we've walked right by today.

I feel like I ought to write about the giant sequoias and how big and awe-inspiring they are. They are really, really big! They're the largest living things on earth. The coastal redwoods are tall and lanky compared to these trees, which are not as tall, but are much larger around and bigger by volume. The Sentinel Tree, outside the Giant Trees Museum, weighs 70 tons. The trees are adapted to fire, which burns out smaller, competing trees. They can only grow in this narrow band between 5,000 feet and 7,500 feet elevation in the Sierra Nevada range.

I need some of John Muir's Victorian prose to describe how inspiring these trees are. Each time we rounded a bend and came upon the base of another towering giant, we'd gasp or involuntarily say "woowwwwww...." In each one you can see different marks of their trials over the last twenty or thirty centuries - fire scars, galls, bird nests, holes, huge splits and cracks. Some of the fallen trees here fell 2,000 years ago or more. We walked out onto a fallen tree to eat lunch in Crescent Meadow, and it was as wide as a broad sidewalk.

sequoia2

Reading back over these entries, what strikes me most is the memory of stillness on those walks. The birds and animals we saw - we only saw them at times when for some reason we stopped and were absolutely still. Then suddenly, birdsong and tails swishing and someone hunting a mouse became obvious all around us. It is so rarely quiet in our everyday lives. Inspired partly by the silence in Sequoia, I've been turning off the radio a lot more lately. Vanessa recently wrote about conserving quiet as a daily green act. I have found these cherished new moments of quiet to be more than relaxing - just like in the forest, I keep noticing things I didn't know were there: inspiration, new ideas, rest. It is easier to rest than I might have realized.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

yosemite

This is a bit of belated writing about our recent trip to Yosemite and Sequoia. I kept a little journal while we were traveling, so this post about Yosemite is adapted from the journal entries that I wrote there.

yosemite1

Sunday
By the time we arrived in the Yosemite Valley, everything was suffused with a warm, golden afternoon light. The trees are all blazing with fall colors, and leaves are gently falling all around as you gape up at the incredibly majestic rocks. This is the first time that I've seen this place, and I'm so grateful that my first views of Half Dome and El Capitan are bathed in this gorgeous golden light of autumn.

We are staying at the Wawona, which is such a throwback to the 1920's that I am smitten with it despite the very creaky floors and doors. The walls are paper-thin, so you hear everyone coming and going, and laughing in a dozen different languages. Our room is over-decorated with prints of big floppy cabbage roses and matching d├ęcor, and cocktails are served in the parlor from 5:00 to 9:30. It's great.

Monday
Tuolomne Meadows
October is a great time to come to Yosemite. The valley reminds me a bit of Vermont in the fall, with blazing, saturated colors, deep green trees covered in moss, and dark, cold rocky creeks twisting through all of it. But when you look up, instead of gentle green slopes, there are towering rock faces that soar thousands of feet straight up. It's indescribable, awesome, and beautiful.

Today we drove up to Tuolomne Meadows to have a hike in the high Sierras. It took ages to get there because we kept stopping to gape and take pictures at all the overlooks. When we arrived it was getting cloudy, and at 8,000 feet, it was fairly chilly in the meadow, but we were ready and dove in. It was only about a 3.5 mile hike, but we struggled with the altitude and moved pretty slowly. Our first day hiking at that altitude felt like trying to run underwater. It rained on us just a bit, and something kept falling on us that HWWLLB called graupel, which was like tiny spherical bits of snow.

It was a gorgeous walk. We climbed to the top of Lembert Dome and got an amazing 360-degree view, with brilliant sun on one side, and billowy rain clouds blowing in from the other.

After hiking down we sat for a while at a beautiful creek crossing, with ducks and a great blue heron keeping us company while we watched some rock climbers coming down Lembert Dome the hard way. Finally the rain started in earnest and we headed for the car. The rain turned to snow as we drove updwards, and to rain again when we dropped down. The snowy views were wonderful.

Later that evening as the storms rolled along the peaks, thunder and lightning made the whole thing more dramatic. We stopped at one overlook where the Yosemite Valley floor falls away below, and it was completely black except for the stars overhead. Every few moments, lightning would light up the peaks, and you could see the silhouettes of El Capitan, Cloud's Rest and Half Dome surrounding the valley like giants sitting around a flickering campfire.

yosemite3

Friday, November 09, 2007

free pattern friday: pumpkin vine socks

pumpkinvinesocks2

* Now available as a free Ravelry download! *

Oh, how I wanted to post this pattern during Socktoberfest! But pumpkins are a central item in Thanksgiving as well, so I think these socks will hold up just as nicely in November.

I've had a ball making these lacy, comfortable socks and thought you might like them too. You will need to use a stitch counter and a little cheat sheet to keep up with the 12-row lace repeat, so sorry, no knitting these socks on the sly at a meeting or in class. But on your couch with a cup of tea, they are divine.

The lace pattern came from the Bible Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns. It's called "traveling vine," and it reminds me so much of a pumpkin vine with its zig-zag spreading. Use a solid green or orange yarn, especially one that's hand dyed and has some variation in the color saturation, to show off your lace stitches.

[Correction to traveling vine pattern added Jan 4 09]

size: Womens' XS/Youth L (Women's M, Women's XL)

* A note on sizing: the basic template for this sock is the women's M, with a circumference of about 8 inches. Because of the lace pattern's 8-stitch repeat, the XS and the XL are truly much smaller (larger) than the mediums. The circumference for the XS is about 7 inches, and the XL is 9 inches. If you need them just a bit more snug or roomy, just knit the mediums and go down (or up) a needle size.

gauge: 7 st/inch in stockinette. 8 st/inch in lace pattern.

materials
  • 2 skeins Shibui Sock (100% merino, 50 g / 191 yd). Shown in color #7498
  • US size 1 DPN's (2.5 mm)
  • stitch markers in 2 colors
  • stitch counter
  • tapestry needle

traveling vine pattern

Row 1: *YO, K1-b, YO, SSK, K5, repeat from * to end.
Row 2: K3, *SSK, K7, repeat from * til 6 st rem. SSK, K4.
Row 3: *YO, K1-b, YO, K2, SSK, K3, repeat from * to end.
Row 4: K5, *SSK, K7, repeat from * til 4 st rem. SSK, K2.
Row 5: *K1-b, YO, K4, SSK, K1, YO, repeat from * to end.
Row 6: K6. *SSK, K7, repeat from * til 3 st rem. SSK, K1
Row 7: *K5, K2tog, YO, K1-b, YO, repeat from * to end.
Row 8: K4. *K2tog, K7, repeat from * til 5 st rem. K2tog, K3
Row 9: *K3, K2tog, K2, YO, K1-b, YO, repeat from * to end.
Row 10: K2. *K2tog, K7, repeat from * til 7 st rem. K2tog, K5
Row 11: *YO, K1, K2tog, K4, YO, K1-b, repeat from * to end.
Row 12: K1. *K2tog, K7, repeat from * til 8 st rem. K2tog, K6.

note: K1-b = Knit one into the back of the stitch.

pumpkinvinesocks1
vining lace close-up

This lace pattern feels like a set of Beethoven's variations on a theme. Each of the odd rows contains the same elements, rearranged. For the first half of the rows, all the decreases slant one direction (SSK), and for the second half of the rows, all the decreases slant the other direction (K2tog). This makes the ziz-zag vine. The even rows are all basically the same, but they start at a different point each time.

starting at the topCO 56, (64, 72) st using 2 needles held together. Distribute stitches evenly among 3 (single) needles, PM and join to K in rnd.
K in K2P2 rib for 1.5 in.
K 1 row st st.
Change to lace pattern. K until sock measures 6.5 in (about 5 lace repeats), ending after row 12.

heel flap
K across 14 (16, 18) st. Turn work, slip the first st and P 28 (32, 36). Keep the st you have just knit on one needle, and transfer the remaining st onto a second needle. The st you have just purled across make the heel; the rest make the instep, which will just hang out on that needle for a bit while you work on the heel. Turn work.

Row 1: *Sl 1, K1. Repeat from * to end of needle. Turn work.
Row 2: Sl 1, P to end, turn work.
Repeat these two rows for 28 (32, 36) total rows. There will be 14 (16, 18) selvedge st.

turn the heel
K across 16 (18, 20) st, SSK, K1, turn.
Slip 1 P-wise, P5, P2tog, P1, turn.
K to 1 st before gap. SSK, K1, turn.
Slip 1 P-wise, P to 1 st before gap. P2tog, turn.
Continue in this manner until all heel st have been activated.

heel gusset - size XS only
Row 1: Sl 1, K across all heel st, pick up 14 st along selvedge, PM. K2, PM.
Beg lace row 1. Patt to 2 st before end of held instep stitches (this will be three lace repeats). PM. K2, PM. Pick up 14 st along selvedge, K half the heel st. This point marks the start of the row.
Row 2: K to 3 st before first M, K2tog, K1. Sl M, K2. Sl second M. Patt to third M, sl M. K2, sl final M. K1, SSK, K to end.

heel gusset - size M only
Row 1: Sl 1, K across all heel st, pick up 16 st along selvedge, PM. Beg lace row 1. Patt to end of held instep stitches (this will be four lace repeats), PM. Pick up 16 st along selvedge, K half the heel st. This point marks the start of the row.
Row 2: K to 3 st before M, K2tog, K1. Sl M. Patt to next M, sl M. K1, SSK, K to end.

heel gusset - size XL only
Row 1: Sl 1, K across all heel st, pick up 18 st along selvedge, PM. K6, PM. Beg lace row 1. Patt to 6 st before end of held instep stitches (this will be three lace repeats), PM. K6, PM. Pick up 18 st along selvedge, K half the heel st. This point marks the start of the row.
Row 2: K to 3 st before first M, K2tog, K1. Sl M, K6. Sl second M. Patt to third M, sl M. K6, sl final M. K1, SSK, K to end.

all sizes
Continue in this manner, following the lace pattern between the inner markers (across the instep) and knitting the heel and gusset st in stockinette. Size XS (XL) has 2 (6) extra stockinette st between the decrease M and the start of the lace pattern.

You will cont to dec 2 st in this manner on every even row until there are 26 (30, 34) total st in the stockinette section. 54 (62, 70) st rem.

Maintain the lace pattern across the top of the foot and st st on the underside of the foot. K until the foot measures 6.5 (7.5, 8) in (or about 2 in less than desired overall length).

pumpkinvine_progress

toe
Set-up row: K to first M, Slip M, K1, SSK. K to 3 st before second decrease M, removing the extra markers of sizes XS and XL as you go. K2tog, K to end. 52 (60, 68) st rem.
K 1 rnd even (st st).

Dec row 1: K to 3 st before 1st M, K2tog, K1. Slip M, K1, SSK. K to 3 st before second M, K2tog, K1. Slip M, K1, SSK. K to end.
Row 2: Knit.
Continue dec every other row until 28 (32, 36) st rem.
Dec every row until 8 st rem.

Graft toe closed using Kitchener Stitch. Weave in all loose ends.

Now make another one!
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 08, 2007

knitting weather

When we returned from the west coast to North Carolina, the weather had changed dramatically. The day we left, it was sunny, breezy and about 75 degrees. Two weeks later, it is twenty degrees cooler, and Daylight Savings has made it much darker. It's like we went from Indian Summer to late fall overnight! Though I know it took two whole weeks.

Of course, chilly mornings and dark evenings mean one important thing: knitting! Knitting and all the requisite red wine, hot chocolate, and lounging on the couch that go with it. HOORAY! Knitting weather, how I have longed for you. The real Southerners are going around whining about the cold, and while I pretend to sympathize with them and even fake little shivers in solidarity, I am loving this brisk, cool weather.

I love the dogwood trees turning deep burgundy outside my office window. I love to look into the sky and see a rainfall of bright yellow leaves blowing towards me. I love to ride my bike to work in the morning and breathe bright, cold air that wakes me up and makes me glad for the scarf I made last year. This is how you know I am no Southerner (that and the Jersey Girl twang that pops out after I've been on the phone with family).

Okay, so what's everybody knitting? As per usual for this time of year, I'm plugging away on Christmas gifts, including a desperate attempt at a sweater for HWWLLB, which feels like miles and miles of very boring stockinette. But Amisha re-inspired me with her beautiful man-sweater stitchery, and so I'm working dilligently on it.

I'm also needle-felting the external gills for the Neuse River Waterdog - finally! This is my first attempt at needle-felting, and I love it! You get so much control over shape and dimension - once I got the hang of it, it became almost like drawing with yarn. Hopefully the waterdog will get wrapped up this weekend so that he can make an appearance here some time soon.

Tomorrow, there will be a new pattern -- the sock pattern that I meant to post during October for Socktoberfest. Oh, well. Things get away from you sometimes. But I am really happy with how these socks turned out - they really are the perfect cold-weather couch-surfing project for fall.

Some couch-surfing sounds like just what I need right now. Time to make some cocoa.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

you guessed it

We got hitched. Thanks for all the happy wishes!

sequoia2
morning clouds at Tokopeh Falls, Sequoia National Park

And congratulations to Sarah and to J, who will both be receiving some sock yarn - Sarah for being first (but cagey), and J for being explicit (and for guessing on her own what HWWLLB stands for - impressive!). Please email me your mailing addresses, Sarah and J! Yarn is coming your way... f.pea [at] airpost.net

We had a really small, quiet, wonderful ceremony with our parents and siblings, and a little potluck with a few friends at our house afterwards. It was one of those glorious October Saturdays when the sky is brilliant blue and the leaves are dazzling orange, and there is a light breeze, and everything you taste seems like the best you've ever had. It still feels like it all might have a been a very pleasant dream, except that there are all these reminders around - some big, like the rings on our fingers, and some small, like the dried flower petals I keep finding here and there.

We spent about a month planning the day, exactly what we'd say to each other, which poems to read and what kind of iced tea to make, and it was just great. We had a month to look forward to it, and no extra time to fuss about much (despite the temptation to fuss).

I've already posted To the Unseeable Animal, which was one of the poems that we chose, and which was beautifully read by my sister. There was also this poem, also by Wendell Berry, which bugheart read (and made me cry):

WHAT WE NEED IS HERE

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

- Wendell Berry


sequoia1
obligatory romantic photo

Monday, November 05, 2007

home! and a big hint

It's good to be home. HWWLLB and I had a wonderful trip to the West Coast, where we did artsy-fun things in San Francisco and outdoorsy-fun things in Yosemite and Sequoia, as well as visiting with some wonderful friends that we don't see often enough. I will post some pictures and reflections about the trip over the next week or two. I can't say enough about how beautiful Yosemite is in the fall. It was my first time there, and I'm so glad that I got to see it for the first time in October.

I have always loved the fall, but October is by far my favorite month. I love the colors, the first crisp mornings of fall, the new crop of veggies in the garden, and of course Socktoberfest. But HWWLLB and I have a new reason to celebrate in October. This is your big hint about what happened this month, since none of you guessed the right answer to last week's post... if you can guess what happened on October 20th, you'll get this:

meilenweit2
100 g of Lana Grossa Meilenweit Fantasy, one of my most favorite machine-washable, durable self-striping sock yarns, in great fall colors. Click here to see how it knits up.

And now the big hint: a big promise.

Everyone's guesses from last week were so great. It definitely had nothing to do with work or school, or with Halloween, though I love the image that IrishGirl conjured, of being so immersed in a Halloween costume that all else fell by the wayside. It wasn't knitting-related, though I would love to go to Rhinebeck next year! No unexpected visitors, or meetings with publishers (though that sounds really cool - thanks Danielle!), but I think my favorite guess was Stacie's: overindulgence in Oktoberfest due to Germanic ancestry. I think I may try that next year!

Good luck guessing...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

on vacation, and a small game

Bet you already guessed that. Sorry for the unexplained absence; last week was a bit, er... busy. And then we left for vacation.

I'm writing from Salome HQ to let you know that:

a) I'm still alive;
b) I'm sorry for just disappearing;
c) Out of the four knitting projects I brought on vacation, three are socks; and
d) San Francisco still rocks. And Menlo Park is the new Jersey City.

We are hanging out with the Salome crew this weekend and will be in Yosemite next week, and then it will be back to the standard fare of blogging, knitting, whining, etc. I also promise actual knitting content, including a really belated Free Pattern Friday that I had intended to post during Socktober, but somehow the month just slipped away (I know it's not over yet, but I won't be able to post it from the road).

So here's the game (bugheart and les are sadly ineligible for this game): If you're the first person to correctly guess why last week was so crazy, and why October got away from me so quickly, you will win a lovely ball of sock yarn. Leave your guesses in the comments... I have no idea when I'll have internet access again to verify the guesses, but rest assured the sock yarn will be shipped promptly to the winner.

See you in a week!

Monday, October 15, 2007

all workey no knitty

First off: today is blog action day. I already posted an action topic on our blog at work, so rather than write another one, I'm just going to suggest that you pop over to the Pesticide Action Network and sign a letter to the US EPA asking them to withdraw their stupid, stupid decision to bring a very nasty new toxic pesticide onto the market in the US - one that is sure to harm thousands of farmworkers. Sign the letter, and send it to a friend!

= = =

Okay, on to my self-absorbed little blog post:

There is so very little knitting happening here at the pea headquarters lately. My fingers are itching for it, but they are busily occupied with a computer keyboard at all hours of the day and night.

Don't feel too sorry for me; I am working ahead so that we can go on vacation. Two weeks on the west coast! We are going to have some fun with friends in San Francisco, and then go see beautiful Yosemite. I can hardly wait! I've never been there before, but I understand that in Yosemite they have two kinds of skunks - striped and spotted - not to mention all kinds of weasels, martens, and other interesting animals. I'm sure to come back with some lesser-known critters on my to-knit list.

And two weeks of vacation means two weeks of uninhibited knitting: on the plane, in the car, in line at museums, and just plain old leisurely sitting around knitting on places like park benches. It's going to be fabulous. Maybe I'll even finish something for a change!

But in the mean time, it's nose to the grindstone for me. The most knitting I've managed in the last two weeks has been a couple of rows on a random sock. My dreams of posting a sock pattern during Socktoberfest seem to be slowly fading... if I can get away with posting photos of a lonely single sock with the pattern, it may just come to that. How sad. Of course, some of y'all only knit orphan socks (*cough*GraylaGran*cough*), so this would be the perfect pattern for you.

So, I have to fess up to my laziness and stupidity. Last week I did a post for Sew Green in which I wrote about felting without the washing machine, in a technique that uses the dryer. It was an attempt to save a lot of water, and it worked. But I asked whether anyone had methods for felting that also avoided electricity... well, if you're a Knitty reader you know that I didn't bother to do a lick of homework before writing that post (other than trying to figure out how much water my washing machine uses per cycle. Answer: about 50 gallons. Ouch). Christine Olea wrote a great article for the latest Knitty on felting in a bucket with a plunger. Oops. Only half a dozen people pointed it out to me... This is an important lesson. If I'm too busy and distracted to knit, I certainly shouldn't be trying to write about knitting. Duly noted.

Now it's back to work!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

i hope we never see it

I don't like poetry. Well, that's what I've always said. HWWLLB always told me, it's just because you haven't found a poet you like. He is a great lover (and memorizer) of poetry. I've always admired people who can remember a poem they like, let alone recite it from memory.

There are some poems I like, some funny and famous poems by people like William Carlos Williams and e.e. cummings. But maybe I have finally found a poet I like. After reading a bunch of his poems, I am about to go out and buy a book (or two) of collected poetry by Wendell Berry. Here's one I read last night, which he wrote upon inspiration from his daughter, who once said to him: "I hope there's an animal somewhere that nobody has ever seen. And I hope nobody ever sees it."

TO THE UNSEEABLE ANIMAL

Being, whose flesh dissolves
at our glance, knower
of the secret sums and measures,
you are always here,
dwelling in the oldest sycamores,
visiting the faithful springs
when they are dark and the foxes
have crept to their edges.
I have come upon pools
in streams, places overgrown
with the woods' shadow,
where I knew you had rested,
watching the little fish
hang still in the flow;
as I approached they seemed
particles of your clear mind
disappearing among the rocks.
I have waked deep in the woods
in the early morning, sure
that while I slept
your gaze passed over me.
That we do not know you
is your perfection
and our hope. The darkness
keeps us near you.

-Wendell Berry

I find this poem incredibly moving. The first time I read it, I was in awe of Berry's reverence and gratitude for mystery, and I cried at the wonder of it (sappy, I know). I love the deep quiet of it, and the idea of perfection in unknowing.

Monday, October 08, 2007

so what do i do with this stuff?

Yesterday on a rare visit to the LYS in my former hometown of Carrboro, I picked up the final ingredient for the Neuse River Waterdog.

wooltop
lovely roving from three waters farm

Um... so what do I do with it?

The idea is this: the waterdog has these crazy external gills that flap out from its neck like little butterfly wings. I have already knitted and felted the body, but to get these weird free-form gills, I think I need to needle-felt them.

I picked up a great needle-felting tool at a craft swap this summer, but have yet to use the thing. At the other LYS, I was told I should use roving, which as you now know I finally got yesterday. The only solid advice I've received so far is not to hold the roving in my hand while jabbing it with needles. I think I can remember that. But now... I am stuck.

Do I wet it first and mush it into shape? Do I just lay it down and start poking at it with the needles? How do I make it go into the pretty lobed shape that I want for the gills?

I like these pretty lumps of brilliantly-dyed wool though. It's going to be hard to start bashing them into external gills - hopefully I'll have some left over to stare at and fondle afterwards.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

defenses down

Yuck, yuck, yuck. I have a terrible cold. This is maybe the most beautiful weekend of the year so far and I'm spending it snotty, grouchy and tired. I even had to go to work on Saturday, yuck of all yuck, despite my unearthly level of mucous, for a Board meeting which was compulsory for me and could not be rescheduled. While I should have been hibernating in bed, I was reviewing financial statements and saying over and over, "Hello nice to see you I'm not shaking hands because I have a cold."

But after all, it's not so bad. HWWLLB made two kinds of soup last night, and today I get to lay on the couch or sit on a lawn chair all day if I want to, drink all the tea I want and read books or knit mudpuppies. I finished sock #1 of the pumpkin vine socks last night, and I can't wait to share the pattern with you. It was so much fun and they're going to look great with fall clothes.

When you get sick, do you look for explanations why? I caught it from so-and-so, or it's because I stayed out late without a sweater on and it rained and I drank too much, or because I forgot to take vitamins and went to visit so-and-so and their preschooler is a walking petri dish, etc etc? Anyway, my explanation is stress. Too much going on and running runnning running all the time... my defenses were down and I foolishly hugged someone with germs (I think it was my dad) and then whammo! Unearthly mucous and ill-timed Board meetings. Yuck. I hope I haven't spread it to too many other stressed-out unfortunates.

So, as for the post about Ravelry the other day... I feel kind of guilty for starting a Ravelry love-in when much of the knitting population is 4,756,894,327,852,201st in line (right behind J). Perhaps the Ravelry is just a bit too much like sorority rush... (not that I'd actually know, because I was MUCH TOO COOL to care about something like rush, who cares? I mean really? What's the point?) But I will say it's still super-exciting to use it as design lab, and to see all the other wannabe designers like me getting such valuable feedback from other knitters (or at least, from the other knitters who are in their sorority). One day we'll all be there together, in that great big knitters' database in the sky.

Well, I'm off to make my 4,756,894,327,852,201st cup of tea and use my 4,756,894,327,852,202nd tissue. Keep your defenses up!

P.S.
My man is a real man. Check out the quilt he just finished. This is the front:

quiltfront1

And this is the back:

quiltback1

Real men quilt by hand.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

a few words about ravelry...

Do you use Ravelry?

For a long time, I resisted Ravelry (despite Lomester's generous early invitation), because it kind of seemed like MySpace for knitters. And I don't do MySpace, or FaceBook, or any of those other social networking sites, because (as I like to tell HWWLLB), I already have enough friends. The real reason, actually, is becase I don't like to spend too much time in front of the computer, particularly in maintaining friend relationships, when I should be actually maintaining the friend relationships in real life by doing something meaningful like drinking tea with them.

I have lots of other beefs with social networking, but let's not go into all that here now, because I know, as someone will surely point out, that it has its very good points, spying on ex-boyfriends, meeting the love of your life, blah blah blah. This post is supposed to be about Ravelry... I'm getting there. Slowly.

So, I didn't do it. It kind of seemed like a popularity contest for knitters, who has the biggest stash, and which masochist could take on the most projects and so on. And I will say, there is a little of that, though who cares? Because for me, an occasional designer, it is a free laboratory! It's amazing!

One day recently, out of curiousity I guess, I decided to play around with Ravelry, which I had resisted for so long. I entered a project I had just finished making. If you haven't used Ravelry before, when you enter a project you select the name of the pattern. This was one of my own patterns, but when I typed in the name, it was already in the system. Yes.

Someone had knitted my pattern (it was one that had been on Free Pattern Friday) and entered the specs into the system. HOLY COW! I discovered that someone besides my three internet knitting friends is knitting my patterns! This was an astonishing discovery. I poked around some more and found that lots of people on Ravelry have knit my amateur patterns! Someone knit George the octopus! (it was Sarah). Lots of someones have knit the Mossy Jacket! And they leave notes, comments, feedback, suggestions, critique, encouragement... it's a designing dream come true!

Since then I have spent many hours fooling around there peeking at what my friends are knitting, looking for critiques and ideas, and especially getting incredibly valuable real-life feedback from knitters about my designs. It's so cool. It's so addictive. It's so crimping my meaningful time with non-internet-based friends.

I have made it my goal to be "friends" with everyone who has knit one of my patterns. On Ravelry, as on MySpace et al, you convey your deep internet-based respect and cameraderie to people by calling them your "friend" and allowing them to appear in your little digital directory. I have not met most of these courageous people personally, but they have entrusted many hours of their lives and the yarn of their loins to knitting my humble designs, and for that I pledge lifelong devotion (or at least for as long as I use Ravelry). So if I haven't friended you yet... friend me! I love you! Digitally! And I convey my cameraderie to you!

Isn't this a funny world? I'm starting to feel as if I ought to go convey some cameraderie to HWWLLB, since it's late and he's just got home from work and I'm busily pledging my love to knitters on the internet... digitally. Ahem.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

in love with pretty things

The blistering days of summer finally seem to be over. Last Friday we got rain - finally, rain! It had been nearly a month since we'd even had so much as a glancing thunderstorm, and far longer since a real rain had soaked the ground.

On Friday a light drizzle began in the late afternoon. Everyone was dancing and jumping around the office. Rain! Rain! By the time I got home, our rain barrel had filled and was just beginning to overflow. Now the rain had turned to a soaking, and I got drenched running around finding ways to conserve every drop before they overflowed and ran into the storm drains. I stuck a giant bucket under the overflow valve and used our garden hose to drain more overflow out to the sad trees in our backyard.

overflow
this bucket ususally means "kegger!", but today it means "rain!"

When we woke up Saturday morning, it was beautiful outside. Ever since then, we've had the windows open, worn sweaters in the evening, and finally started the fall vegetable garden. Goodbye and good riddance to the 100-degree heat that plagued us all through the late summer. The drought is not over, not hardly, but the weather at least feels more normal. We can breathe again!

And with the relief comes a new appreciation of the beauty all around. One of the coolest things I've seen in the yard since the rain is the amazing other-worldly egg case of the green lynx spider who lives on a basil plant. It looks like something from another planet. Here she is holding it:

lynx-eggs

Another promise of new life and good things to come, even in a crazy world out of balance.

This lovely crisp weather has my fingers itching to knit, of course. Though there are sweaters and gifts and mudpuppies on the agenda, lacy socks kept dancing through my mind. I have been dreaming of single-color sock yarn - maybe hand-dyed? - in a fall color to knit twisting vining lace socks. And then at the LYS I found this:

shibui
the picture doesn't do the color justice - it was a rainy day

Which quickly morphed into this:

addictive sock

I found the lace pattern in Barbara Walker's First Treasury, and it is completely addictive. It's not the easiest pattern, since it's twelve rows long and doesn't exactly repeat, so you have to sit there reading the chart while you knit it. But I find it immensely gratifying, and just can't seem to put it down, even though other things beckon. You may see this again in October when the next Free Pattern Friday rolls around.

Socks! Sweaters! Wool! Rain! I could faint from happiness.

Friday, September 14, 2007

free pattern friday: cris

I am still amazed that other knitters want to make a star-nosed mole! Amazed and delighted. As you know, Cris is short for Condyluria cristata, and if you haven't already read about what those 22 nose tentacles are for, and how Cris is the only semi-aquatic rodent species, then by all means learn more here. Ready to knit him? All you need is a sense of humor and a couple of free evenings - this is a weird knit, but not a difficult one at all. Enjoy!

cris1


materials
You will use less than 1 skein of both yarns.
color A: Lamb's Pride worsted, color #M-06, Deep charcoal.
color B: Cascade 220, color #9477
US size 8 DPN's (5 mm)
US size H crochet hook (5 mm)
stitch markers
tapestry needle
two 1/8 in buttons, black or gray
sewing needle & thread to match body yarn

gauge before felting: 4 st and 6 r / inch
felt shrinkage: around 35% length-wise; around 21% width-wise

measurements (before felting): 6.75 in long, 3.6 in wide at widest point
(after felting): 5 in long, 3 in wide at widest point

The mole is more or less tear-drop shaped, with a narrow head and wide rear end.

starting at the nose

Using color B: CO 6, PM, join to K in rnd.
R1: Kfb every st. 12 st rem.
R2 and all even rows: Knit all st.
R3: * Kfb, K1. Rep from * to end. 18 st rem.
R5: * Kfb, K2. Rep from * to end. 24 st rem.

Change to color A.
K 2 rows in color A, then begin increasing again, this time placing a marker before every st to be increased.
Next inc row: *Kfb, K3, PM. Rep from * to end. 30 st rem.
K 2 rows even.
Next in row: Kfb at every M. 36 st rem.

Leave the 6 markers in place. Knit even (without further increases) until body measures 5 in.
Next inc row: Kfb at every M. 42 st rem.
K 1 row.
Next inc row: Kfb at every M. 48 st rem.

Knit even (without further increases) until body measures 6.5 in.
Dec row: * K2tog, K to next M, SSK, Slip M. Rep from * to end (dec 2 st at every M). 36 st rem.
K 1 rnd.
Rep dec row on every other rnd until 12 st rem.
Cut the yarn so that the tail is about 10 in long. Loosely thread that tail through the rem st but do not pull tight.

nose tentacles

Using color B and crochet hook, you will attach 22 tentacles around the perimeter of the pink nose. Because there are 24 st there, you wil be able to space them evenly (more or less) by attaching one tentacle to every st, skipping two.

To make a tentacle:
Insert the crochet hook into an existing nose st, wrap once and pull the yarn through. Then make a 5 st chain from that loop, pulling the yarn through tightly at the end and trimming closely. Repeat 21 times.

front feet

Using color B, CO 15 st and place M to K in the rnd.
K 6 rows
Divide for 5 toes by combining 3 st into an I-cord (use one st from one "side" of the foot and 2 from the other "side"). You will be able to make 5 of these I-cords, distributing the combined st evenly along the foot. Make each I-cord 7 rows long, then cut your yarn length and thread through the stitches & pull tight, Weave in ends.

back feet

Using color B, CO 8 st, K 24 rows, fold over and sew up sides, leaving end open.

To sew on feet, play around with their positioning on the underside of the mole until you like the way they look. Then sew on, attaching them along one side only, leaving the underside open. (Attach along only 8 st from each foot).

tail

You will attach the tail to the opening at the back side of the mole, taking care not to inadvertently sew the stuff-hole closed. Holding colors A & B together, connect the tail across three st of the stuff-hole, and knit a 3-st I-cord. Knit the I-cord until it measures 4 in. K2 tog - 2 st rem. Knit another inch, then trim yarn and pull tightly through rem loops. Weave in end.

cris3

Trim or weave in all rem ends, then felt the mole.

felting

Place the mole into a pillowcase and tie it shut. Place in the washer with jeans or something else to add agitation, and run through two ten-minute hot wash cycles, stopping each time before the final spin.

Remove the mole, pull and push into shape. Use the blunt end of a knitting needle to poke the nose out to a pointy shape. Stuff with plastic bags to shape, and then allow to dry.

Once dry, stuff with polyester fiberfill, sew feet and butt closed.

Sew on button eyes.

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, September 12, 2007

hot critter: neuse river waterdog

This is a guest-post from Les, who has chosen the next animal to be knitted & felted: the Neuse River Waterdog. And watch for a star-nosed mole pattern this Friday!
===


Nectorus lewisi, or “Mudpuppy” as he known to his friends.

Lewisi has also been known to buy beer and get into “gentlemen’s” clubs with an ID which bears the name Neuse River Waterdog. Keep an eye out for this one, which is rarely seen by human eye. Lewisi is active at night and apparently spends summers buried deep in a leaf bed in the Tar and Neuse Rivers which run through Eastern North Carolina. This is the only place he’s found on earth.

In an independent effort to make it on the NPR show Soundclips, I caught up with Lewisi for a brief interview earlier this year and I recorded it. Here’s the transcript:

Les S: So, what’s with all the names, I mean Mudpuppy, Waterdog… which is it?

Nectorus Lewisi: Well, don’t make a bit difference to me which ya call me by, but some folks say I’m called dog cuz I sorta yelp when I’m picked up, but hell, you’d yelp too, I mean those dang kids u’ll squeeze the dick’ns outta ya… Sides I need to stay in the water, I’m a fully aquatic salamander… I likes it wet, ya know? Suck’n dissolved oxegen wit my external gills, dat’s my thing!

LS: Yeah… those things are wild they stick off your head like little fairy wings… the chicks gotta dig that..

NL: Listen pal, you’re walk’n on thin ice now, dees gills are a pain in my slimy ass. Tween these dang girly gills and dees short arms I was the butt of every Eastern Hellbender’s smartass jokes. And they’re sensitive to boot…

LS: You mean you’re sensitive about them…?

NL: Naw, I mean they’re dang sensitive… you know me and my old lady can only make it in the most pristine parts of the Neuse and Tar rivers… used not to be that way, but all ya’ll two-leggies gots to go and dump pesticides, untreated runoff, hog crap, and god knows what else in the only place I can call da homestead, we get no respect.

LS: Well, I wouldn’t say “no respect” word on the street is you’re up for possible designation as the North Carolina State amphibian.

NL: Yeah?... well, I’ll believe it when I see it.



LS: So, Lewisi, tell me your secret… how DO you keep that slender figure of yours? Lots of rock-slime suck’n and feeding on roe I presume.

NL: Hell naw! We’re carnivores… invertebrates, vertebrates, carrion… long as it’s meat I’ll eat it… [mmmm]…[yelp]… [snap]…. [scream]…

[sound recording goes to static]

And that’s when the little %@#* bit my little toe off. So if you’re reading this, Muddpuppy, know this… I just got my permit from the Wildlife Resource Commision in the mail gunn’n for you!

===
Ha ha, you know we'd never condone violence against threatened species on this blog! Thanks Les for showing us the muddy world of the Waterdog.

This is going to be a fun one to knit. I'm thinking those external gills may present me with an opportunity for my first foray into needle-felting. If you have any design suggestions... send them my way!


muddpuppydraw
waterdog drawing by Les S.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

good kitty / bad kitty

Watch out! Someone is waiting to pounce on you!

kitties11

It's Bad Kitty! Be careful - he has razor-sharp fangs and claws!

kitties3

Don't worry, he's just showing off. He won't really hurt you - he's too busy planning his next prank on his sister, Good Kitty.

kitties10

Here she is sniffing flowers. Good Kitty loves flowers, butterflies, unicorns and candy. Her favorite color is pink, and when she grows up, Good Kitty wants to be a ballerina or a veterinarian, or maybe an astronaut.

kitties1

Bad Kitty and Good Kitty are destined to be birthday presents for Miss Jay, who will be five this week. They are named after her two big lazy kitties at home (they have real names, but Jay has re-named them based on their attitudes towards small children).

Making this pair of sock monsters was a treat, for several reasons. It was my first experience with HWWLLB's fabulous sewing machine, which I have been too nervous to use until now - I guess I was afraid I would break it or something. Ha! That Swiss-made sewing machine laughed at my sock monsters, and they were done in a quiet, blissful blink of the eye. My old machine may never see the outside of the closet again.

It was also fun to make these because all the socks were donated by friends: Mitzi gave me the pink ladybug socks that made Good Kitty's sweater, and Bad Kitty's sweater is made from a pair of HWWLLB's old dress socks. Bugheart recently gave me the boot socks that made both kitties' bodies (and I think I got that green ribbon from her, too).

Bad Kitty's fangs and claws are my first attempt at embroidery in about twenty years (I know I tried embroidery, along with cross-stitch, as a kid). Let me tell you, I suck at embroidery. But I loved it! It was fun to be able to add a bit of detail to the monster - I think I will be doing a lot more of it in future. Check out the embroidery detail on Jaypeg's latest monster - I swoon for it.

I was inspired to embroider after Mitzi came over recently for a mini stitch+bitch and was embroidering on a purse she had knitted. We dug out a bunch of my sewing and crafting books to read about embroidery techniques (it was the first time she had done it since childhood, too). Now I am hooked. And even more in love with the beautiful embroidered things people can make - like the beautiful tea leaf detail my sister added to a shirt she gave me last year. The next sock monster will definitely be full of my sloppy embroidery.

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the end

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

happy campers

I am a bit overwhelmed by the positive reaction to Cris. Who knew so many other people would find a mole with nose tentacles as cute as I do?? Anyway, thank you all for your sweet comments, and rest assured, I will be writing up & posting the pattern soon!

More good news: Les has chosen the next critter to be knitted & felted... but I'm going to let him tell you what it is. So stay tuned for a guest post + exciting announcement... um, some time. Soon. Very soon.

So, speaking of happy, here's me, at 8 am on Labor Day:

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As you can see, I am wearing a jacket and knitting a sock in front of a roaring campfire. Well, you have to imagine the fire. It's right there on the other side of the pile of wood on the ground.

Over Labor Day weekend we went camping at one of our favorite places, Rocky Knob, on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. The weather was just gorgeous - the overnight temperatures were in the 50's! It was so beautiful! I can't tell you how happy it made me to knit in front of a fire after weeks and weeks of evil, sweltering weather. We stopped and bought apples and a pumpkin - a pumpkin! - at a roadside stand on the way home.

Of course, it's back in the 90's again here in central North Carolina, but I know for sure now that fall really is on the way. And if fall is on the way, that means fall leaves, fall colors, sweaters, scarves, nippy air, lettuce in the garden, bike riding without streaming sweat... I can't wait!

I love spending the night outside and waking up to birdsong. Camping is so relaxing, though it used to make me anxious to plan everything properly. Tomorrow I'll be doing a blog post at Sew Green about tools for simpler camping - some of the things that have made it more relaxing for me. Til then... think of pumpkins!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

cris the critter

I always have such good intentions for keeping trains of thought going and connecting one thing to another on the blog... oh, well. I'm easily distracted, I guess. So here we are, just a few weeks behind schedule, with the latest installment of Felted Animals that You Didn't Imagine You Might Want to Knit, But They're Kind of Cute So What the Heck?

Please meet Cris.

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She is a felted & stuffed version of Condyluria cristata, the star-nosed mole. Please note that she has exactly 22 tentacles around her nose and 5 claws on each foot, just like her real-life cousins in the wild (I-cords are a mole's best friend). Read all about the amazing world of star-nosed moles here.

For those of you who find moles kind of icky (I know not everyone gets as geeked on wildlife as I do), I hope that you don't find Cris too freaky. She is a sweet and snuggly little mole, but she's the terror of earthworms and other underground wigglies. If you're a grub, you better watch out. Those tentacles can grab 14 grubs per second. Felted grubs, I mean (should I make some felted grubs for her?).

Poor Cris has been sitting around my house for weeks waiting to be stuffed and sewn shut. I don't know what it is about a needle & thread that can make me procrastinate for so long. I can pick up the knitting needles 1,000 times to start a new project before I'll pick up the needle & thread to finish one.

I'm glad she's finished though. Cris's body is made from Lamb's Pride worsted, which makes her very fuzzy and soft. Her nose, claws and tail are made from Cascade 220. She fits nicely into the palm of your hand or a large pocket, and would make an excellent good-luck charm while spelunking, digging holes, or exploring an underground steam tunnel. Hopefully I'll get to take her on an underground adventure some time soon!

Our next animal for felting will be selected by Les, who had his birthday yesterday. If he picks a cute animal that other people might want to knit & felt too, perhaps I'll publish the pattern. But as for Cris... if you really want to knit a star-nosed mole, I'd be glad to write up the pattern and put it on the blog - she was not very hard. But somehow I am not expecting a clamor... we'll see. It would be fun to see a rash of stuffed star-nosed moles all over the internets!

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off to find a wiggly treat

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

happiness is...

...a moth nursery.

Yesterday I was sitting on the porch waiting for a ride, and I swear I could hear chewing. I looked to the left, and saw this beautiful guy on the moonflower vine twisted around our front porch railing:

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I ran inside to get the camera. And then I saw this one:

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And this one:

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And this one:

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And then I noticed all their poop all over the porch:

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I don't know exactly which kind, but I'm pretty sure these are all the babies of a sphinx moth. I think these are three different phases of the same caterpillar (Bugheart, help me out here....). Their mama, who I *think* is a Carolina Sphinx moth (a.k.a. Tobacco hornworm), was hanging out on the front door last night. In case you don't know, the sphinx moth is a big giant moth that makes beautiful green caterpillars who strip your tomato plants, moonflowers and other things absolutely bare, and then they go on to the tomatoes. HWWLLB is out there right now trying to move some of them into a big bush in the front yard that we don't like. But I think they're too smart for him (and I'm secretly cheering them on).

I love a sphinx moth. HWWLLB calls them "flying shrimp." They are about the size of a jumbo shrimp, actually. Some are scary looking, and some are quite beautiful. I think the Carolina Sphinx fits into the beautiful category, myself. I think I am officially declaring the Tobacco hornworm / Carolina Sphinx moth larvae to be the new Hot Critter.

...happiness is also a long bike ride.

Before the moth nursery discovery, I was feeling really bad. Bad mood, sad, grouchy, just miserable. So Sis and I decided to take a long bike ride. We rode about 15 miles, I think, out to Umstead State Park, a big loop inside the park, and then back again.

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these are our bikes at the park entrance - just to prove we were there.

It's amazing how some vigorous exercise can make you feel better, especially when it comes with a little change of scenery. Riding around the city, you see some interesting things, but mostly you're just dodging cars.

But once you get to the beltline crossing, (which you do over an amazing bridge above the highway), you're in the park system, in this case the woods around the Art Museum. You get to ride through the Art Museum park, full of wonderful statues, then out on the road to Umstead, which is the only road I've ever seen in Raleigh with bike lanes.

We passed horses with babies, long-horned steer, and a pond full of painted turtles. One of the turtles came up to the bike path for some sun. As we descended into the shade of the park, the temperature seemed to drop and drop, and it was like we were entering another land.

By the time we got home, I was pooped, but smiling. There is nothing like a long bike ride to work out whatever funk has a hold of me.

And then there was all that caterpillar poop waiting for me on the porch. A perfect Monday.