Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

The ghosts and the goblins are ready to rumble - or at least make a grab for a whole lot of candy. The excitement in our house is visible - not a child can contain it. Costumes and candy and candy and candy.

This is my 2yo "Vitch." She wouldn't stop twirling long enough for me to get a decent pic. Her shirt reads "Ghouls just want to have fun." The three characters on above the words are "a vitch, a ghost and a mumma," she says.

Thankfully, the weather is warm for October and there is nary a rain drop in site. The pumpkins are carved and set on the step with care in hopes that St. Nick soon will be there... oops, wrong holiday. That other one is coming all too soon.

Meanwhile, my mom is learning to knit - big grin! She's doing great but I think she's finding it to be a struggle. If you ever want to get a sense of how far you've come as a knitter - watch a beginner. It's like watching a kid learn to walk. You can lead, guide and direct but you can't make their hands do what they need to do. It didn't click with me right away. I found it to be hard but interesting enough to keep my attention. It was a double ribbed scarf that got me totally hooked. Maybe it was the sensual nubby yarn. Maybe it was the steady pattern. Maybe my heart just grew three sizes that day. I was out shopping with my family and I asked to be left in the car with the sleeping baby so I could knit while they browsed the after-Christmas specials. That's when my dh knew I was a goner - I chose knitting over shopping! Anyway, "Go mom!"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Red Sox Nation = Happy Nation

I am one happy fan tonight -my adopted Red Sox have won a second world championship in my lifetime! And what a finale - hanging on to a narrow 4 to 3 lead in game 4 against the Colorado Rockies. Historically, the team has let opportunities like that slip out of their gloves time and time again. But this is a new team with indefatigable spirit. It's a team that has been carefully crafted by a master knitter. (Knitting analogy needed because this is a knitting blog, not sports commentary). This team is an inspiration - a symbol of what can happen when there is determination. We are the underdogs transformed. If they can do it - anyone can do it. Just because you have lost doesn't mean you will always lose.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Flying high

I recently had the opportunity to fly from Boston to Wisconsin without my entourage. It's the first time in 5 years that I've traveled without 5 or so kids in tow. I felt like I'd taken off my 50 pound backpack after a long day of hiking - it was like floating. One bag, no one running ahead through the security check, no one begging for money to buy soda and no one to disturb my knitting. Of course I missed my little companions, intensely at times. But still, it was kind of nice to not have to play 20 rounds of 20 questions.

I also discovered the joy of flying as a knitter. It's so much more relaxing? Long lay over? Great- I can knock off a few more rows. Flight delay? No problem. I wanted to get past the heel turn. Everyone else jumped up as soon as the flight was called, milling about and standing around in a long line while I peacefully finished off the seed stitch start to a new scarf. Toward the end of the flight - that long interminable part when the plane has landed but the captain hasn't turned off the seatbelt sign yet - everyone else puts their stuff away and starts impatiently fidgeting. I calmly k, k, spsso, k2tog, k, k. Okay, it really wasn't calm. In fact, it was rather frantic as I raced to finish up a part of the pattern. My only complaint is that the flight wasn't long enough!

Here is what I learned:

If you've missed a yarn over, you can fix it on the next knit row. When you come to the place where the yo should be, gently pull apart the stitches. You will see bars in between them. You need to focus on the top two bars. Take the second bar from the top and loop it around the upper bar as if you are picking up a dropped stitch - et voila, you have a yarn over. Presumably you could do this several rows down if need be but I haven't tried it yet.

Q: When you are doing seed stitch and you realize several rows up that you are off the pattern (knitting when you should be purling) do you have to frog?

A: No! It can be fixed without major surgery. Tink back or knit to the trouble spot. Let the stitch above the mixed up area drop to a row below the problem. Look at the stitches around it and figure out if it should be a knit or a purl. Make sure you loop it over the bar just on top of it in the right direction. Then switch to the opposite for the next bar. Keep switching until you've brought the stitch back to the top.

The picture is a mystery project I worked on while on the trip. Details to follow.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An inspiration

It's interesting how much you find out about someone once they've left this world. People talk about events and accomplishments that go unmentioned when that person is around. And so it was with my grandma. I grew up in an era of raging debate over whether women should have jobs or stay home with their children. My mom worked and that was considered radical. It wasn't so radical, as it turns out.

My grandmother worked on the floor of a shoe factory as long as my dad can remember. She would get up at 6 a.m. and go to the basement to shovel coal in the furnace to heat the house. Then she'd make oatmeal before leaving for work. All grandpa had to do was wake up the kids and get them to school.

The kids got home from school around 3 p.m. Grandma was there by 4. There was no nanny and no after school programs.

After many years of the factory work, grandma helped start a credit union for the workers. She got it up and running and then became the president and chief executive, a position she held for about 20 years.

Throughout her career, she carried the responsibility for keeping the house clean and the household running all without a dishwasher or a microwave. She had a washing machine, but she had to boil water for it and then run the clothes through a ringer. The clothes were hung outside to dry.

In high school grandma was on a championship women's hockey team and the volley ball team. And in 1981, she won an award for getting a perfect Cribbage hand during a state tournament.

I am even more in awe of this lady. And I'm much more appreciative of my gas heat that comes on automatically before I wake up, my dishwasher, my quick-cooking microwave, and my washing machine and drier. I will no longer complain that it takes almost 70 minutes to get the clothes dry.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Good bye Grandma

A very special lady passed away on October 17, 2007 at 10:20 p.m. She was Dorothy Heldt, mother to my father.

My grandma had dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren and even a few great-great grandchildren, and yet she made me feel as special as if I were her only one. She did that for all of us. She always remembered our birthdays. She picked out Christmas presents for each one of us as long as she could. She kept our pictures all over her walls even as the space grew smaller when she moved from her home into assisted living and finally to a nursing home. She was always interested in everything we did. She'd collect stories about cute things this one said or did and pass them on to anyone who would listen. She had a great sense of humor and she was incredibly generous. I don't think she ever met a Democrat she didn't like, or at least she wouldn't admit it if she did. For as along as I remember, she collected donkeys. It started when she needed one for a fund raiser and grew from there. Her grandchildren kept a sharp eye out for them whenever they shopped. If she ever got sick of getting them, she never let on to us.

Her home was always open to us. I spent two summers with her while working at the local cannery during college. Those were precious days when I got to hear about what things were like when she was young and how she started teaching before getting married. Mostly though, she listened to me over dinner at the Pizza Hut or ice cream at the Dairy Queen.

She was strong willed and opinionated. I didn't always like that when I was young because her ideas on child rearing were different from my mom's and I liked my mom's better. Now that I have more children (5) then grandma had (4) I agree with her more than my mom, who had just 2.

Although I am sad to have to say good bye, I thank God for giving her to me for so many years. I am blessed to be the granddaughter of Dorothy Heldt.

These are a few of the things I learned from her:

  • If you want to have friends, be a friend.
  • Your community is what you make of it, get involved.
  • If you believe something is important, support it.
  • Cribbage is a game of strategy but it can't be won without a little luck.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ski Lessons

Back when I was an actively skiing avid skier, we would often say, "If you're not falling down, you're not pushing yourself hard enough."

I remember as a new skier looking at double black diamond slopes that dropped straight down and thinking I had no interest. I thought people who did that were slightly off their rocker. But it turns out that I'm an adrenaline junky. It seems that once I've figured out how to do something, I need to to move on to something harder to keep my interest. The green slopes that once felt so high and steep to me eventually felt flat. The Blues kept my interest for awhile but then I conquered them. The black diamonds weren't far behind, which is how I found myself one day standing at the top of a cliff scared out of my mind but nearly certain that once I leaped off I would be able to stay upright. I didn't, at least not right away.

I find these lessons to hold true to knitting. It's not quite the adrenaline rush of skiing, but it's as much of a mind challenge. This stole on which I'm working - it's probably a black diamond. I'm falling down a lot. But, I'm learning a lot and I'm having a blast with it. It certainly has my attention!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Novel Ideas

The Internet world is a great place where one thing leads to another and another and another. On the Secret of the Stole, there's a post about a group that encourages people to write a 50,000-word novel in a month! That's about 1,700 words a day, which I've done, as a reporter. No problem, I thought. Of course, all my writing is news, commentary and corporate requests. I don't do non-fiction. But out of curiosity, I decided to see how long it would take. Somewhere between 45 minutes and two hours - it's very hard to tell given all the interruptions from my various children and the intervening phone calls. The result is a story about Halloween in a world very much like my own. The whole bit about the Ariel costume - a little too true. If you have some extra time, and are curious, you can find it on my new blog:

If I lose my good sense and decide to take on the novel-writing challenge, I'll post the results there too.

Meanwhile, I'm ready to launch into number 2 clue for the stole. The pics are from clue 1, finished Thursday. This time, I'm going to try marking the chart and putting in corresponding stitch markers to see if it helps me keep my place.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A happy dance a la Dora

We did it! We did it!

We cast on 56 stitches and we knitted around and around. We did it! We did it!

We knit a mock cable cuff and turned it upside down. We did it! We did it!

We turned the heel and decreased back to 56! We did it! We did it!

We knitted to the end and then we kitchnered! We did it! We did it!

Any of you with children under the age of 10 will recognize that as the victory song that wraps up a Dora the Explorer show. The rest of you just think I'm really strange.

Having two children under the age of 5, we hear the show enough that we all go around singing it to celebrate. I caught my ds, 12, singing it after taking out the garbage. (and you thought I was strange)

I finished up with what is quite likely the world's worst kitchner stitch. It's supposed to look just like knitting, right? Not mine. There's a distinct ridge. I'm just happy to have finally figured out the pattern for it - knit off, purl leave on, knit off, purl leave on,...etc. Maybe the next one will be better.

Following the good advice of my friend and veteran sock knitter Lisa over at Saratoga Knits, I immediately cast on for the next one of the pair. I need to get these done - it's getting cold outside.

My dh who thinks I knit too much was even impressed - "It's a "real" sock! One you can actually wear," he said in amazement. The backstory on the comment is that one time for Christmas he was given a pair of red and white striped socks knitted in worsted weight. They would have made fine house slippers, but he's not the sort to wear house slippers.
For some silly reason, when I finished the sock I turned my attention to my satellite studio - aka the coffee table in the living room that has drawers for all my knitting stuff. What a tangled up nightmare - half done projects, needles scattered throughout, pages of patterns, notions that had snuck out of their carry bags. I was shocked, shocked to see what a mess I've made! If I were my one of my kids, I would have given me a good sound lecture. "If you care about your things, you should take care of them. You expect me to buy you new yarn when this is how you treat the yarn you've got? No wonder you're complaining about never having enough, it's all hiding here."

I thought I was being good and putting everything back when I was done with it. I thought I was keeping projects together neatly in their own bags. Maybe some gremlins came in at night and had a party, right?

I do have one organizing tip that is working - I keep the pattern and all relevant tips and instructions in a folder along with a swatch of the project. I even printed out the items on three-holded paper and got the folders for reports that have the posts for the holes. It doesn't fit well in a small project bag, but does keep everything together.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sox on Fox, Fox on Sox

I am sooooooooo close to finishing my first grown-up size sock that I can feel it on my foot! BUT, and it is a big one...I need to learn to read directions more closely, apparently. I have a number of references resources that I am using to guide me through this process because I'm working on Magic Loop and my pattern has very specific instructions for dpns and because, frankly, I'm really nervous about this coming out right. After reading through everything many times, I thought the guides said start decreasing 2.5 inches before the length of the sock.

You experienced sock knitters should all be smugly smiling now, shaking your heads because you know that it's 2.5 inches before the length of your foot, not the length of the sock. Otherwise, the sock will be about an inch short, as mine almost was.

I thought I was at the end, but I put it on and my poor big toe was sticking out all by itself, sad not to be covered up like its buddies. I scoured the directions again and found my mistake. Ribbet, ribbet.

I'm not discouraged, not in the least. I know the next sock will go better. I do like socks, Sam I Am, I will knit them in the rain and on a train and I will knit them in a box, I do so like knitting sox. Okay, maybe not in the rain, but certainly when it's raining.

The frogging was nothing compared to the undoing of the Secret of the Stole. Having made it to the end of clue 1, I realized I just couldn't live with the problem I'd noticed earlier but tried to ignore. So I went backwards, which was no easy task since I had no idea where I ended up. I had to lift the stitches off the row one by one and check the chart to find out where I was. Then I had to figure out what had happened to the missing stitches. Though I'm not making progress in the visible sense of finishing the pattern, I did learn a lot about knitting - reading charts and understanding what the stitches should look like. I wonder if it's possible to follow a chart without counting - just by looking at where the yo and decreases should be relative to the previous row. Use the force Luke

pics to follow later - batteries on both cameras are shot!

Monday, October 08, 2007

A good yarn

If you're in the market for some beautiful yarn, check out LoriBird's newly opened shop on Etsy. The colors are fabulous and I can personally attest to the softness. Lori recently moved from Alaska to Maine is a fiber artist extraordinaire.

Happy Columbus Day

Fall has arrived. It's 58 degrees and rainy for our day off. But it's not too bad because we've been so spoiled. It was around 80 degrees on Saturday - almost too hot to be outside except that I knew it would soon be too cold so we went anyway. This is low tide at Nahant Beach, northeast of Boston. People come to here to fly kites so big they can actually pull along a scooter. They roll around pretty fast along the beach that stretches about a mile or so along the shore. I suppose that works well unless the wind dies down after you've been blown a good distance from where you parked.
We drove out in the Jeep with the top down figuring that it was our last chance for an open air drive. The little girls wore their pink Red Sox caps and kept their hands clampled on their heads so they wouldn't lose them. At the beach, they were thrilled to run just as fast as they could as far as they could. I brought knitting along, but given my last experience working in the Jeep (and having the pattern blow away) I opted to keep the project safely under the seat.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Bead much fun

I intended to order a tiny crochet hook when I ordered my yarn for the Secret of the Stole, but as so often happens around here, I was distracted while working on the computer and forgot what I was doing. With yarn in hand, I was too eager to get started to run to the store, so I improvised. (My philosophy in life is that success is 10 percent preparation and 90 percent improvisation.)

Here is what I came up with - a very cheap and easy alternative. I used a thin wire folded in half. I hook the wire into the loop I want to bead and lift it off the needle. I then slip the bead over the wire and down over the loop. Next, I put the loop back on the needle and continue knitting. I don't know if it's as fast or simple as a crochet hook, but it works in a pinch. I used a headpin for making beaded earrings and clipped off the tip. I found that the best length is about an inch long. Any longer is unwieldy. I also found it's best to fold the wire in half so that both sides are the same length.
The yarn is Shadow from Knitpicks - It's called Sunset, but it's more the color of a tasty glass of Merlot.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


My dh saw me knitting a sock and in a moment of sheer perplexity said, "Honey, I think you need to join knitters anonymous." Well that's sort of what this blog world is isn't it? We are a great support group. Only the goal isn't - nor should it be - to quit something. Instead, we urge each other on and encourage each other to reach new heights with sticks and strings. Maybe what the man needs is his own pair of hand knit socks! Which is good, because I really don't have enough projects cast on already.

I contend that it's not that I have too many projects on my to do list, it's that I don't have enough hours in the day. Unfortunately, that's not something I can order on line. At least I know I'm not alone in this "gift" of having many ongoing projects. I've been noticing several other knitters mentioning the same issue.

I mentioned the yarn buy on the way to the football game. Here a few pics of the quarterback who was the whole reason I was driving up in Northern Mass. in the first place. My ds (#12) is on the little side, but he's quick and determined. That earned him the quarter back slot. I'm not a huge football fan, but this kid is fun to watch. He just doesn't stay down. He's like the energizer bunny of pop warner football. He has so much fun on the field it's exciting to see him play. His determination is inspiring. He gets knocked down and he pops right back up. Other players try to tackle him and he just keeps running, sometimes dragging them along behind him. Just one more yard... (just one more row). My recalcitrant student who does not like to study even made flash cards so he could learn all the complex plays. Maybe someday he'll even be designing a few of his own.

But he's 12. After the game, after I drove an hour to watch him play, he wanted to ride home with his friends. Of course, I know I'm not supposed to take that personally.

Monday, October 01, 2007

stash building dilemma

I am somewhat dismayed to have found a lack of lace weight yarn in my local stores. I do, however, understand that there is only so much room in the shop and there are so many options to offer. Thankfully, there is the internet where space is virtually unlimited.

Ordering on the Internet brings up an interesting issue. All I needed was three balls of lace weight yarn at $2.98 a ball for the Secret of the Stole project. But since I can't really tell what the colors are, I wanted to order two colorways. Still, the price tag isn't too high. But then I saw the magnetic lace chart and that looks useful. And, I've been wanting to try the knitpicks options so I added in a set of 4s and a cable. Now bill is just $10 shy of free shipping. It turns out, however, that free shipping takes 5 to 14 days. It would cost about $10 for 3-day shipping.

So here are my options:

A. Stay with what I have and pay $5 for regular shipping.

B. Pay the extra $10 ensure that the yarn arrives before the KAL starts.

C. Add in a few balls of yarn for a baby hat I've been wanting to knit and get the free shipping.

D. Add in a few balls of yarn and pay $10 for faster shipping so I can get it all right away.

It's like a personality test!

I was really tempted to pony up the extra dough for the quick shipping since I am an instant gratification sort of gal. But I took a deep breath and made an honest assessment of the projects I already have going and opted for the slower stash building option C.

I was feeling very frugal and practical and proud of myself. A little too smug as it turns out.

Later that afternoon, I went North to my son's football game. We got there early. There was a yarn shop nearby. I hadn't brought any knitting with me. (You know where this is going, don't you?)

In less than ten minutes (all I could convince my daughter to give me) I had found yarn, needles and a pattern for socks. Of course, the only needles in the shop long enough for my preferred Magic Loop method were Addi Turbos and the self-striping yarn is from Italy. These will be by far the most expensive socks I own. In fact, they cost more than my entire existing sock wardrobe.

If I am successful, this will be my first full-size pair of socks. So far, I've only done wee ones.