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!

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


And this is the back:


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.

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:


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:

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!


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).


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.


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


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!

waterdog drawing by Les S.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

good kitty / bad kitty

Watch out! Someone is waiting to pounce on you!


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


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.


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.


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.

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:


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!