Sunday, June 29, 2008

summer weekend

It's been such a leisurely weekend.

sunday morning breakfast

I've spent most of it close to home, cooking simple meals, wandering around the backyard picking flowers for bouquets, working on a knitting project, and goofing off with HWWLLB and with friends.

Saturday it was going to be 90-something degrees and sunny, and the menfolk were going to be off doing their manly duties someplace, so Ileana and I decided to go for a paddle in the canoe. Being near the water seemed like a cooler place to be than in either of our backyards on such a hot day, so we packed some PBJ's and took off for the Eno River, just at the point where it flows into Falls Lake.

I don't think it was any cooler there. But you could stick your feet in the water or get splashed by a paddle, so options for cooling down were perhaps more interesting than at home. We saw lots of birds - herons, egrets, kingfishers, warblers, and a huge nest with a big papa osprey on top and two baby ospreys inside, squawking at us. There weren't many other boaters out -- too hot I guess -- so it was pretty peaceful. There was definitely some energetic paddling, but we spent the bulk of the trip floating in a shady spot munching snacks and sticking our feet in the water.


It was a good learning experience for me, because I've never paddled from the back of the boat before. HWWLLB is always back there, and I'm always up front goofing off and causing steerage trouble. Our canoe did a lot of zig-zagging while I figured out how to use the paddle as a rudder, and I never quite got down the J-stroke that's supposed to keep the canoe going straight. But we got the hang of it eventually, and luckily for me, Ileana is extremely good-natured. Next time we'll bring the Mr.'s, another boat, and perhaps a larger beverage cooler.

The other big weekend haps is learning how to maintain a fancy stitch pattern across seams. I know, stop the presses. I have been hankering to make a top for myself that's both knitted top-down, and that has a fancy stitch pattern. I have been puzzled by how to keep on top of a stitch pattern when there are increasing stitches coming in from four different points around the thing. I read Barbara Walker's instructions over and over, but she's so breezy in her assurances and it seemed unlikely that it would be as easy for me as she makes it out to be.

So, I dove in, being conservative in my choice of stitch patterns in order to minimize mathematical challenges. I picked a twist stitch called purl-twist knot that is only a 4-stitch repeat and decided to use a whole lot of stitch markers to help me along. You know, it seems to be working out fine. I love the texture -- it's a great old-fashioned stitch that you've seen on lovely vintage sweaters. My new rule of thumb is only one operation per stitch. If you're increasing into that stitch for a seam, don't be thinking you're also going to twist that stitch and purl it too. No sir. That's asking for trouble. You just wait for the next repeat and perform your little operation then. Once I got that down, it became easy.

So not only did I goof off a lot this weekend, I learned something too. If Monday is even 1/10th this good, it will be pretty darn good.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Hello there...

Sorry it's been so quiet over here lately. I've been a bit scattered.

There is a lot going on, including beautiful weather that keeps me outside rather than in front of the computer, so being pulled in a million directions has been tough on the posting. Maybe the fact that it's already hot and muggy at 6:30 AM today is helping sit me down indoors... so I thought I'd just share some of the random bits that are rattling around up there.

Some of the stuff that's on my mind:

I'm sad that George Carlin died, but one of the side-benefits is that he is being commemorated all over the place, and I love seeing lots of clips of him on YouTube and NPR and the like. It seems like everything that comes up lately, there's some George Carlin wisdom on the subject to make you laugh out loud (and think "oh, shit, we're so screwed" at the same time). Yesterday a study I was reading (about phthalates and sperm counts - scary) reminded me of "The Planet is Fine," one of my favoritest stand-up bits of all time.

Knitting focus... I'm trying, I really am. I put one of the blankets I was making into hibernation for a while, and finished the sun hats that were bothering me (do knits ever bother you? These hats wouldn't quit bugging me til I knit them). I also got a box of yarn in the mail (how did that happen??) from Elann for the vintage blouse design that's been on my mind, so I've been swatching for that and really enjoying myself just playing with stitch textures. Now that I'm really happy with one of them, it's definitely time to cast on. That other blanket... it's just going to have to wait a while longer.

Garden troubles. Well, mammal troubles really. Some creature is munching on everything out there and particularly on the melon vines. I think it's a rabbit, or maybe a meadow vole, because we've seen this critter out there that looks most like a meadow vole in our little book of North American Wildlife. Whatever it is, it has bitten off my Kentucky Wonder pole beans at the base of the stem (AAARGH!) and is biting the ends off all the melon vines. I'm trying to keep my murderous impulses under control while we find a way to keep the little varmint out. I have been wheedling for HWWLLB to get rid of the brush pile he's been building out back, which I know is a great big rodent housing development, but so far no dice. Maybe we can find a way to entice our owl back into the neighborhood. I'm sad that we haven't seen him since winter. Last year he was in our yard all the time scaring off varmints.

Why don't we take off work in the summer? In places like Maine, lots of people take the coldest part of winter off, and spend their days traveling (if they're lucky) or sitting at home knitting sweaters and things. When it's 97 degrees and humid, I think we should automatically close everything (except Locopops) and take the day off.

Answering knitting questions. I am really, really bad at answering the questions that lovely knitters email (or Ravelry-message) me about my designs. I mean, I love getting the questions (especially if they do Ravelry or Flickr or a blog and I can see what they're working on) and I always do my best, but knitting is very visual to me. Often people ask questions like "so is it K2tog, YO, K1, YO, SSK then K2 or just SSK?" I just stare at it, staring and staring, waiting for it to make sense. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? The weirdest thing is that I wrote this, right? But I always wrote it with knitting in my hand, and that makes all the difference. I wish that all the people with questions could just come by for a Stitch & Bitch with the knitting in their hands and we'd have a great time and sort things out easily. I love the yarn and the needles and the shapes they make, their drape and texture and heft. The K2tog words.... they just confuse me. It's funny how such a clunkety communication method can let people share such beautiful things.

OK, off to work. I hope everyone has a lovely Thursday today. K2tog to all of you!

Monday, June 16, 2008

another bad kitty


Please meet Another Bad Kitty. A.B.K. was made as a birthday present for my all-time favorite craftista next-door-neighbor Ileana, who has adopted A.B.K. and taken her in when nobody else would.

A.B.K. has several bad habits, including never ever brushing her teeth, drinking the last of the milk and then leaving the empty container in the fridge, leaving the toilet seat up (after drinking from it), kicking kittens, and selling the furniture on Craigslist to get money for beer. She's been a bit of a handful at my house, so I'm hoping that her new friends Applejack and Mr. Henry will model their good behavior skills and maybe even rub off on her a little.

A.B.K. can also be very charming. Her hobbies include blowing fancy smoke rings, playing the drums, mixing cocktails and collecting vintage cars, though I can't imagine where she gets the money for them, unless her squirrel-removal business is more successful than one might imagine. Here's a shot of her after she chased a particularly wily squirrel out of our garden:

and don't come back!

Friday, June 13, 2008

f. o. c. u. s.

I'm having a hard time with my knitting focus right now. I have knitter A.D.D. Or maybe it's designer A.D.D. No sooner do I start on one project than another design pops into my head, makes its way to the sketch pad, and then becomes irresistible.

So I start in on that, and once I feel like I've got it more or less figured out, my mind is already wandering on to the next thing. Usually I have better self-control than this, but lately I can't seem to stick with a project for very long at all.

Part of the problem may be the projects themselves. Two of the projects I have going right now are blankets. What was I thinking? Row after row after row after row.... I might as well be knitting an ocean. It goes on forever! So I get tired of it and put it aside and reach for my other project... eek! Another blanket! Noooooooo! Why didn't anyone warn me?? You can see why I'd start jumping to other things. But the hardly-started oceans of yarn are taking up a lot of space in my knitting basket, not to mention mental space, so it really feels like I ought to drill down on one of them and get it gone.

One is a baby blanket in organic cotton that I'm designing as I go. It will be a patchwork of leafy designs that get crocheted together in the end. The other is Totally Autumn from Knitty Fall 07, which I'm knitting in a slightly smaller gauge with the beautiful Brooks Farm Solana that I bought at MSW.

It would be great to just focus on the little baby blanket for a while and get it out of the way... but I just did this sketch of a summer blouse in a cotton/linen blend that would be so much fun to make! And I have this sun hat design in the works... and I just picked up some new sock yarn that I'm dying to get onto the needles... oh well. Maybe I just need to accept unfocused and unfinished as my current knitting state.

P.S. Thanks for all the sweet comments about the Cowgirl Butterfly Astronaut vest. If you're knitting it, please keep me posted on how it goes!

Friday, June 06, 2008

free pattern friday: cowgirl butterfly astronaut vest


When we were little, we had playclothes and good clothes. We wore our good clothes to church and to other events that required good grooming, and most days I couldn't wait to get home and tear off my fancy clothes to put on my overalls (or as my Grandmom called them, "dungarees"), and go play outside. My little sister on the other hand loved to wear fancy clothes, the frillier the better, and would beg to be allowed to wear her shiny patent leather Mary Janes (which she called "clacks"), out to play.

This vest is an homage to all the girls in clacks, who want to be frilly while they play outside. I imagine it being worn over a T-shirt and jeans, while they play cowgirls or astronauts or whatever else they want to do, and look good at the same time. It's knit all in one piece, bottom-up, starting at the ruffle, and finishes with a ruffle as the cap sleeve. Have fun making this for your favorite dress-up girl.

Edited on 6.19.2010 to correct several errata.

size: girls' 2 (4, 6)

chest: 27 (30, 31.5) inches
back length: 12 (13, 14) inches

1 (1, 2) ball/s Cascade Sierra (color B) 100g/192 yd
2 balls Cascade Sierra Quatro (color A) 100g/192 yd
size 7 (4.5 mm) circular needles
size 5 (3.75 mm) circular needles
tapestry needle
3 (three) 1/2-inch buttons

gauge: 16 st / 26 rows / 4 inches over the K4, P2 rib (lightly stretched)

broken block pattern
(8 row pattern repeat)
R1 and R3: *(K4, P2), Rep from * to end.
R5 and R7: *(P2, K4), Rep from * to end.
All even rows: Knit the K's and Purl the P's.

cast on
You will start with the ruffle at the bottom edge. Using color B and larger needles, CO 248 (274, 288) st.
K 2 rows (garter st).
R3, 5: Purl
R4: Knit
R6: K2tog every st to end. 124 (137, 144) st rem.
R7: Purl
R8: Change to color A. *(K4, P3). Rep from * to end. K2tog 1 (0, 0) times. K to end.
R9 (WS): K all P's and P all K's.
Cont in K4, P3 patt for 6 rows (each RS row begins and ends with K4).
Next RS row: K4, *(P2tog, P 1, K4). Rep from * to end. 106 (118, 124) st rem.
Cont in K4, P2 patt until piece measures 6.5 (7, 7) in from cast on row.


(high) waistband
Next RS row: Change to color B. K to end.
WS: K to end.
Next RS row: Change back to color A and beg Broken Block patt. Patt 4 rows.

divide for sleeves - right side
Patt 26 (29, 30) st, turn. Place rem st on a st holder - you will now be working just these 26 (29, 30) st.
Next 2 WS rows: BO 3, patt to end.
Next WS row: K2 tog 0 (1, 1) times, patt to end. 20 (22, 23) st rem.

shape neck - right side
Cont in patt until armhole meas 3.5 (4, 4.5) in.
Next RS row: BO 4 (4, 6), patt to end.
Next RS row: BO 2 (2, 2), patt to end.
Next 2 RS rows: K2tog 1 (2, 2) time(s), patt to end. 12 (12, 13) st rem.
Cont in patt until armhole meas 5.5 (6, 7) in.
Place the 12 (13) shoulder st on a holder.

Join yarn, BO 3, Patt 49 (57, 61) st, turn work. Leave rem st on holder.
Next row: BO 3, Patt to end.
At start of next 2 rows, BO 2 (2, 3).
Next 2 (1, 1) rows, dec 1 st at each end. 40 (44, 50) st rem.
Cont in patt until armhole meas 4.5 (5, 5.5) in.

shape back neck
(RS): Patt 16 (17, 19), BO 8 (10, 12), Patt to end
Next row and all WS rows: K across in patt
Next RS row: BO 2, patt to end.
Next 2 (3, 2) RS rows: Dec 1 (1, 2), Patt to end.
Cont in patt until armhole meas 5.5 (6, 7) in. Place rem 12 (12, 13) st on holder.
Repeat in reverse for other side of neck. Place rem 12 (12, 13) st on holder.

shape left side
Join yarn and repeat as for right side, above.

Using the 3-needle bind off method, join shoulder seams.


You will pick up all the armhole stitches and create a small ruffled sleeve cap using short rows. The cap sleeve is knit back & forth, rather than in the round. You will sew the small underarm seam when finished.

Using color B and smaller needles:
Starting in the middle of the underarm, pick up and knit the BO st as you move up the front of the garment. Pick up and knit 3 out of every 4 selvedge st, all the way around the front and back of the armhole until you meet the BO st on the other side. Pick up and knit all the remaining BO st until you reach your starting point. Do not join. You will have about 60 (70, 80) st on the needle.

Turn work and knit 3 rows in garter st (not in the round).

Next RS row: BO 9, then Kfb every st until 9 st rem. Place these rem 9 st on holder and turn work.

Next row (WS): Purl. As you work your way back, place a st marker at the center top of the shoulder. P to 20 (24, 26) st beyond M, wrap & turn.
Next row (RS): K to 20 st beyond M, wrap & turn.

Next row (WS): P to 4 st beyond the last turning point, wrap & turn.
Next row (RS): K to 4 st beyond the last turning point, wrap & turn.
Repeat these last two rows 2 more times.

Next row (WS): P to end.
Turn work and K 4 rows in garter st.
Next RS row: BO all st, incl the st rem on holder.
Sew underarm seam.

Repeat for second sleeve cap.

button bands
Using smaller needles and color B, pick up 3 out of every 4 st up the right side of the garment - approx 52 (57, 60) st.
Knit 3 rows in garter st. BO.

Repeat on the left side, picking up st and knitting one row.
R2 (buttonhole row) : K to waistband. K1, YO, K2tog. K to halfway point (towards neckline), YO, K2tog. K to last 4 st, YO, K2tog, K to end.
R3: Knit.
R4: BO.

Using smaller needles and color B, starting at right front, pick up and knit about 17 (18, 20) st on right front. Pick up and knit about 22 (26, 30) back neck st and about 17 (18, 20) st on left front.
K 3 rows in garter st. BO.

Mark button placement and sew on buttons.
Weave in all loose ends.

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, June 04, 2008


"America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for this country that we love.

"The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment -- this was the time -- when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals."

Sunday, June 01, 2008

oops... and here's a monster

Well, I tried. I did work on that pattern, but trying is not the same as actually finishing, so it will be next Friday before that Cowgirl etc. vest pattern is posted. I apologize if any of you were hoping to knock it out over the weekend as a birthday gift (ha ha).

But there's always a new sock monster to peek at instead. This is the Obamonster that Tracey won in the T-shirt making contest:

in the unlikely story that is sockmonsters, there has never been anything false about hope

I can post a picture because I finally mailed it off to Tracey last week. This little monster loves democracy, voting and community organizing, and her/his favorite singer is S/he enjoyed hanging out with the other monsters at my house, organizing anti-war rallies with them and preparing meals for the local women's shelter. I'm sure s/he will find plenty to do at Tracey's house, too, though I hear that s/he is planning on volunteering in battleground states this fall. Maybe you'll run into her/him at a rally in your town!

If you were a contest winner and you still haven't received your prize, it's because I'm having a little logistical challenge related to un-shippable items... but I promise I'll figure it out soon (sorry Angela, and thanks for being patient!).

Off to enjoy vegetating indoors for the rest of this sweltering Sunday. It seems that summer has finally arrived here in North Carolina. *sigh* I was really hooked on spring.

Obamonster - back