Saturday, October 18, 2008

June, July, August, September ... is it really October?

I'll just whoosh through June, July, and most of August because there's nothing noteworthy in muddling through oppressively hot, unbearably humid days, and the less said about summer in Texas, the better.

At the end of August, I became an empty nester, but not before transporting the fledglings to their respective schools.

The girls say goodbye to the pooches minutes before heading out.

My poor little Subaru was packed airtight, the roof loaded with Liz' bike, and behind balancing a cargo carrier with Claire's scooter, with only a 22" wide slot for one of them to squeeze into behind the driver. Claire said it was even too small knit! The girls took turns riding there; about the only thing one could do was nap, or watch one State after another roll by. Usually it was a retreat for the one who finished driving a leg, so even though it was a close fit, it was a snug little nest for resting.

Three days later, we arrived at my mother's in northwestern PA, for a two day layover to rest up and finish school shopping. The Subaru couldn't begin to hold what they needed, so we raided discount stores in Erie for lamps, bedding, electronics, batteries, art supplies, books, and goodies.

Claire, Grams and Liz

Liz was duly delivered to her apartment she's sharing with three other girls in Philadelphia, then Claire and I repacked the Sube, heading west 90 miles to her college in Ohio. Move-in day was gorgeous: In the low 70s , with nary a cloud in the sky. 

I thought we were going to be in for a long morning of lugging boxes up three flights of stairs, but the college organized teams of returning students to unload cars, running boxes, baggage, and keepsakes to the the rooms! It was AWESOME! 

The scooter attracted a lot of attention, creating a small stir and some head scratching among students and faculty alike. "We've never had one on campus before!" exclaimed the Dean of Students. Everyone wanted to take it for a spin. Campus security wasn't sure if it should be classified as a car, sit in a remote lot and pay a parking sticker fee, or if it should be considered akin to a bike, parked next to the rack of Claire's dorm. After two days of leaving it on the front lawn of her dorm, they decided it was so cute and small that it could go next to the bike rack.

Cuteness wins every time

Now, after a week-and-a-half of being shoehorned into the car, it was absolutely empty. I was officially an empty nester, with a long roundabout drive back to Texas, where a newly landed job awaited my return.

No grass grows under my feet.

So went all of September and more than half of October. This interminably long summer may just be beginning to winding down. A summer where water bills ran to high three figures each month, more than double the cost of electricity. Yesterday, for the first time since mid-March, it was in the 60s for a daytime high, and only a tad cooler overnight. It rained an inch earlier in the week, which was almost 20% of our total rainfall thus far this year. Mother Nature's been messing with us for months, and is finally cutting us a break, however temporary.
So where'd I leave off? Socks. I've been a sock knitting fool since my internal porch light went on, all six of my brain cells feverishly cementing the concepts into variations on patterns. Definitely toe-up, and definitely some sort of pattern.

In July, the resulting socks, a pattern called 'SPRING FORWARD', which I knit toe-up. 

After one pair of plain stockinette socks with a ribbed leg, I called it a day. If it ain't interesting, I won't knit it. Besides, if I am crazy enough to knit socks, they should be challenging and noteworthy.

Letting the yarn do all the work is what plain stockinette socks are all about. Knit Magic Loop, toe-up, two balls of Regia Crazy Color #86 on US size 3 circular needles, matching the yarn striping placement on both socks.

Socks in OnLine's SOXX APPEAL, 'Los Monos Locos.' For me!

'Scion' is my own pattern. Great guy socks, if I do say so myself. Sean will be getting these for Christmas. One hank of DREAM IN COLOR Smooshy, color "Midnight Derby", knit toe-up on US size 2 circular needles, using Judy Becker's Magic Cast-On.

'Little Pumpkins' by Sabine Rupert. Knit in a 8 ply, DK weight Regia Uni 6 Fadig yarn, in the color-- what else?-- Pumpkin! on US 3 circular needles, toe up, Magic Loop. Very dense and warm! A Halloween Treat, I loaded them up with chocolates and sent them on their way to Claire today.

Double Eyelet Rib Toe-Up Socks, pattern by Wendy Johnson. 

My Halloween surprise for Liz, made from the same Regia DK weight yarn as Little Pumpkins (I got a great deal on the stuff : less than $3 a ball at Jimmy Beans Wool). I may have gone overboard a bit, buying 10 balls, but I'll have Halloween sock yarn for at least three years. Anyway, they are knit toe-up, Magic Loop, and I eliminated two pattern repeats for a total of 48 stitches on US size 4 needles. Yes, these were stuffed with chocolates, too (second pic), and sent off to Liz a few days ago.
Which brings me to gift knitting, which is consuming all my off hours. I never claimed to have a life.
Next post. (Gotcha!)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Knitting on 100+ degree days

It's been hot. Damn hot. 19 days over 100 degrees Farenheit in the last month kind of hot. And it's ONLY JUNE!!!!!! So why would anyone in their right mind knit during this spate of god-awful heat? And what WOULD anyone want to make?

Tiny stuff. Little things that don't drape in your lap. Things that don't FEEL warm while knitting. I have chosen to knit tanks/camisoles in non-wool yarns and socks. Even the tops seem a little much at times, but I have to switch up the projects to stay interested.

So what are you doing during this hellacious heatwave in Austin? Or wherever you live?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Finally, sock pictures

I didn't find my camera, but did find an older one we have kicking around, so here is living proof that I made socks:

To the left are the toe-up version of the Monkey sock pattern, called Los Monos Locos. I'd give the pattern five stars: It's so well written that even a sock doofus like me could follow it to successful completion.

On the right is the first sock, nearly finished, for Liz' boyfriend. She tried it on for the picture. It's one looooooong sock: the boy has size 11.5 feet. Still have a few more inches of 3 x 1 ribbed cuff to make and another whole sock. It's a handsome looking sock to wear with jeans, I think.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sixth Time Charmed: The Sock Curse BUSTED

Everyone makes socks. Except me.

Until now, that is. I started five cuff down first socks: The first pair was on two circs and really skinny indigo/forest green/charcoal/ivory Opal sock yarn. Everything was fine until the gusset. My brain melted. Same with first sock #2: I tried the same yarn on two circs again, trying a different book and pattern. Same problem: My brain hit the wall at the gusset. Then I tried with double points for first sock #3, and by that time, the yarn was looking a little chewy. The whole mess went into the trash, needles and all.

I set socks aside for a couple of months. Meanwhile, everyone and their dog in our knitting group was making socks right and left. I fumed and fussed over the fact that socks were besting me, so I enlisted the help of a knitting goddess, Lynn. She's a great teacher who knits beautifully. Try a larger gauge yarn, she said. You WILL knit them on double points, she said. So I brought up the yarn weight a notch to Lang Jawoll sock yarn and size 2 double pointed needles. Everything was fine with this first sock #4. I knit up to the gusset. Then I actually knit the gusset. The only problem was, the foot was large enough for Bigfoot. I left this charred-bone-of-a-project up on the Ravelry board; it is the lavender sock that is hibernating at the bottom of my projects page. The sock is still under the sofa, sulking in a ziploc bag. Once again, I went on sock hiatus, knitting up a beautiful lace shawl for Claire, two lace shrugs, a pair of colorwork mittens, the Mr. Greenjeans cardie, and three different winter hats. No socks, but everything else under the sun.

Another person in our Austin Meetup group, Sherrie, wanted use the month of May to make socks together at our Thursday morning group. Everyone loved the idea, so I sighed, went on a stash safari, and yanked out another hank of sock yarn, this time going for the heavy artillery: Hill Country Yarns INSTANT GRATIFICATION. It is big yarn for socks, and I could use size 4 or 5 needles. Maybe being able to see what I was knitting would help, I reasoned. Sherrie had just finished a toe up pair of socks, and was singing their praises: Better fitting toe, better fitting heel, the ability to try it on while in progress, and NO PICKING UP STITCHES. What the heck. Why not.

So I selected the toe-up version of the Monkey sock by Cookie A, called Los Monos Locos. Sherrie taught me the Figure 8 cast on, which was surprisingly easy, and off I went on first sock #5 via Magic Loop. (Here is a great video tutorial for the Figure 8 Cast On; be sure to scroll all the way down to get to the video.) Everything was going along beautifully. I knit the gusset, then the heel turn, then the first row of the leg. I couldn't believe it: I had made a complete body of a sock. Without incident. Without tantrums, tears, ugly ragged picked-up-stitches lines, unlimited frustration or sleepless nights.

But. And there's always a but, right?

It was far too big, as in too wide, too much sock. Not exactly looking like a sock for Bigfoot, just far too large proportionally. It was my huge yarn and huge needles. That was the trouble. I really like the yarn, so I frogged and rewound it, hoping to find the right pattern for it eventually. Like maybe a squishy pair of slippers or something.

Knowing I could knit this sock, I went on another stash safari, and decided to use the Knit One Crochet Too SOXX APPEAL I had bought on a whim during one of our yarn crawls at Stacy Klauss' shop THE KNITTING NEST. Out came the US size 3 32"circs, and voila! Sixth time is charmed, the sock curse is broken. A perfect fit on sock one! As soon as I bound it off, I began sock two. And two days later, it was a perfectly matched pair.

You know I need a life when I am ecstatic about making a pair of socks that fit and match.

Things went so well that I thought I'd make a pair of socks for my daughter's boyfriend, Caleb. He is pining away for her back in Philadelphia, and bought her an airline ticket to come back for a visit over the Independence Day holiday. (Never mind that she's only been home from school for a little over 3 weeks!) It seemed appropriate that I make him a pair of gift socks. Truth is, I am now on a roll. After yet another stash safari in the Closet of Doom, I found two balls of Regia STRETCH COLOR , color 91, that would make perfect guy jean socks. After searching for a guy-ish pattern on the Ravelry pattern browser, I settled on Wendy's Fingering Weight Toe Up Socks With Gusset Heel. My modifications include using Judy Becker's Magic Cast on for the toe. That's a step up from the Figure 8, and Cat Bordhi made a humorous video to demonstrate the method here. I've completed 50% of the first sock, just now at mid-gusset. I also decided that instead of doing M1's, I'd knit through the front and the back loop (k1tfbl) for the edge increases so there'd be no holes. And Eye of Partridge slip stitching, so they'd be cushiony on the heel. Oh, and I am ribbing the leg to the cuff after the heel turn. Just not sure what ribbing style yet. (This is a 70 stitch sock with jacquard yarn ... got any ideas?) So far, they look great, even to me. Stay tuned.

I want to share these babies with you but have a new problem: I can't find my daggone camera! I have been searching high and low for two days now. I know it's here somewhere, but it's hiding very well. Must have thrown it in a drawer .... or a bag ... or something, during all the graduation/party/houseguests/visiting relatives hubbub.

For now, you'll just have to take my word for it that I can FINALLY knit socks.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mr. Greenjeans Does Paris

Mr. Greenjeans is a DONE DEAL.

<----On the left is friend Ruth, and me happily wearing the newly-finished sweater, hot off the needles only moments before, on a barge on the Seine.

Working furiously for five days on a ship during long, sunny afternoons, I was unswervingly committed to finishing in time to wear in Paris. Even at that pace, I still had most of a sleeve remaining the night before we docked in LeHavre, France. But I was determined: During the 2.5 hour drive to Paris, I finished the last third of the remaining sleeve with twenty minutes to spare before we parked next to the Seine for our river cruise.


While I didn't have the button on it, I did have a cable needle, which acted as a chopstick-like closure.

The Sweater, in progress, hanging from the balcony railing --->

And Paris? It couldn't have been more beautiful that 22nd day of April: Sunny, warm (70 degrees), with all the Spring flowers and trees in bloom, including the infamous horse chestnut trees that line every street, boulevard, and park in the City of Light.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mr. Greenjeans Disaster

For MALABRIGO MARCH on the Ravelry malabrigo junkies board, I took on the challenge to make the Mr. Greenjeans cardie from the Fall 2007 edition of Knitty. Make no mistake: I love this yarn, Malabrigo 'Silky Merino'. I love this sweater: After reviewing hundreds of photos on Ravelry of this sweater finished and on every conceivable body type, I decided to make it. It looks good on EVERYONE.

But it doesn't love me. Not one bit.
After swatching and hitting gauge almost immediately, I started it on March 1, quickly knitting down to the armholes and then moving those stitches onto waste yarn while I finished the body. A few inches later, I had finished the top, and tried it on. Elated that it fit so well, I pressed on to the cables.

Two weeks later, I bound off the bottom and eagerly tried it on. It was no where CLOSE to fitting. The top fits, but the inward pull of the cables is merciless. After a day of shock, a heavy steam blocking was in order. This was my only weapon short of ripping it all back and starting the bottom cables anew. I tried it on. It was still a no-go.

Today, after a week of leaving it folded and resting in my knitting bag, it's going to be frogged. The only option is to redo all the cabling one size up and use a larger needle size as well.

In the meantime, I've been knitting smaller things, most notably Retro Redux Shrug from the book Lace Style. The owner of Yarnorama, Susan, had knit one up for a shop sample, and during spring break the girls and I stopped in Paige to fondle yarn on our way to Houston. Both Liz and Claire tried it on, and it looks adorable. So I moved the project up in my queue, and when Greenjeans turned into a nightmare, I turned to knitting the shrug as a confidence builder to get away from my sweater woes. I'm almost finished with one, in Malabrigo 'Worsted Merino' colorway Water Green. I've started the ribbing for the top and bottom edges. It knit up side-to-side very fast and without incident and the color is lovely.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

BIG Decision Time

Claire has heard from all the colleges where she applied. The last week has been one of agonizing decisions and sleepless nights.

Tonight, we have a winner: Hiram College, in Hiram, Ohio.

Above is the new Library, where she'll spend a lot of her time.

The scholarship award was a major factor, and it's a small, personal kind of a place, located in the beautiful wooded and rolling countryside of the Western Reserve in eastern Ohio. It boasts a unique academic calendar, small seminar style classes, and some fantastic study abroad programs.

Here are some pictures of the campus we took on our Grand Tour last summer. The barn above is a ceramics studio, located about a mile from the main campus at a field station. Claire really loved that, as she intends to develop her potters skills as a part of her art educator program.

One of nine residence halls, below

Monday, March 24, 2008

I LOVE last minute travel!

So this morning I was reading through my email as usual with a cuppa joe when I spied the ever-dangerous one from my travel agent. My eyes popped out of my head when I saw an eastbound transatlantic sailing in less than three weeks on one my favorite ships going for peanuts. A chill ran through me when I saw the arrival port: Harwich, England. Shoot, I already have a return air ticket from London that I haven't used and will expire if I don't.

What to do?

Call the woman, of course, and book it FAST!

So I did. And I'm on it! It was meant to be.
Here's the skinny:

Day Location Arrival Departure
Friday, April 11, 2008 Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- 04:30 PM
Saturday, April 12, 2008 At Sea -- --
Sunday, April 13, 2008 Kings Wharf, Bermuda 04:00 PM --
Monday, April 14, 2008 Kings Wharf, Bermuda -- 03:30 PM
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 At Sea -- --
Wednesday, April 16, 2008 At Sea -- --
Thursday, April 17, 2008 At Sea -- --
Friday, April 18, 2008 At Sea -- --
Saturday, April 19, 2008 At Sea -- --
Sunday, April 20, 2008 Cork, Ireland 08:00 AM 05:00 PM
Monday, April 21, 2008 At Sea
Tuesday, April 22, 2008 Paris (Le Havre), France 08:00 AM 11:00 PM
Wednesday, April 23, 2008 Cherbourg, France 07:00 AM 03:45 PM
Thursday, April 24, 2008 Harwich, England 04:30 AM --

I'll post pictures when I return.

<--- Our fantastic aft cabin on the same ship during last September's westbound transatlantic. The glass screen divides our main bedroom from a 2nd sitting room/bedroom (Claire's), which leads to a huge balcony out back.

Our aft balcony. Fabulous! Docked at the time in St. John, Newfoundland. --------->

On the knitting front: I am almost finished knitting the body of my Mr. Greenjeans cardie. I think two more complete cables will do it. Then it's onto the sleeves and the button band and it's finished.

My SOTSii got far behind the weekly schedule, and I am currently working my way through Hint 8 --- only about 80 or so rows to go to total completion! Whew! There will be another SOTS in August, and I think I'll do that one, too.

March 26 is the start of the MysticLight shawl KAL, and I signed up for that. I have a cone of Jaggerspun Maine Line fingering weight for this.

The Malabrigo Junkies board on Ravelry is winding up Malabrigo March Madness. I started the Mr. Greenjeans cardie in Silky Merino. And I've finished the Herringbone Mittens in Vaa and Frank Ochre Merino Worsted, a Tudora neck ruff and a Capitan hat in Amoroso, and will cast on a few more small projects before March is over.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Maine state of mind

Claire and I just returned from a few days in Maine. Yes, it's March, I know. She had an interview at a college in Bar Harbor, with the rest of our time spent enjoying the quiet winter beauty of the Maine coast. Oh, and a few yarn stores, too.
Of course.

Here are a few pictures of the campus. It's right on Frenchman's Bay, on Mt. Desert Island, just a stone's throw from Acadia National Park. I can't think of a more gorgeous setting for ANYTHING.

And yes, this all of these pictures are ON CAMPUS. Amazing.

College of the Atlantic offers only one major to its 400 students: Human Ecology. What the heck does that mean? Anything you want to self-design into a personal program.

The college grows many of the veggies used for meals on their own organic farm. The balance of the school's food is purchased from other Maine organic farmers. We had lunch on campus one day, and the food was fantastic! The entree was a pork tenderloin with fennel roasted with a teriyaki glaze, mashed sweet potatoes, fresh sesame green beans, steamed broccoli that was as good as a three star restaurant offering(read crisp-tender and very fresh), homemade whole wheat bread, and dense, crunchy, uber-dark-chocolatey oat bars. Not a pizza or a burger in sight. Who'da thunk?

Bar Harbor is a wonderful place once the crowds and summer visitors are gone. We got to know one of the owners at Ben and Bill's Chocolates, Yvonne, VERY well. Originally from Ireland, her rich accent and amazing expertise at all things chocolate AND TEA were just the ticket for us. It's so hard to get a good cup of tea at a restaurant or shop: No one seems to know (or care) that the water must be freshly boiled to make a decent tea. You can't make good tea from a Bunn coffeemaker, or a decanter of hot water on a warming plate, thanks very much. But Yvonne knew exactly what I was looking for when I asked for a "proper cup". Living above the shop, she dashed upstairs to find tea from her own personal stash! We were rewarded with huge cups of Irish Breakfast tea, perfectly brewed and delicious. We went back twice a day, every day, for tea and a few of her decadent chocolate offerings: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Creams, Buttercreams, Turtles, Maple Walnut Creams, Wintergreen Patties, Deep Chocolate Truffles, Coffee Creams, Bark, Honeycomb, Chocolate Walnut Fudge, Penuche, and more. That was only the tip of the iceberg of her offerings. Every time we'd walk past the store, she was hard at work, dipping and crafting chocolates or making fudge. She always waved when she saw us, and I think she must have recognized my bright yellow parka; it's pretty unique and hard to miss. Her chocolates are fabulous, so if you visit, you must go and savor them. For all the chocolates that we bought, not too many made it back to Austin with us, though. We just couldn't resist.

My birthday fell right in the middle of our visit, so to celebrate we spent the day traipsing around a wide area visiting local yarn stores. At Bee's in Bar Harbor, we encountered the lethal combination of hand-dipped chocolates and yarn. The shop is tiny and cram-packed with yarn, cards, handknit sweaters and an old-fashioned candy counter. There's no place to sit and knit -- barely enough room to maneuver in -- but the owner is friendly and helpful, whatever your needs or desires.

THE LILAC LILY was the highlight of our day, though. Located in Southwest Harbor, it has a wonderful selection of Maine artisan yarns and a wide selection of labels that are well known nationally. It started to snow while we were there, and Leslie, the welcoming and gregarious shopkeeper, invited us to stay and knit with her. Another regular patron, Nancy, came in and joined us, and we knit, talked Ravelry, and watched the snow come down in big, lacy flakes.

Back in Bar Harbor that night, we had dinner at Geddy's, which is lit by the silhouette of a moose on the roof. We dined on the best clam chowder ever, giant lobsters, and slices of sinfully good wild Maine blueberry pie for dessert. Then we trekked over to see Yvonne for our nightly chocolates and tea. One of the best birthdays ever!

We explored a little of Acadia NP one day, though many of the park roads are closed for the winter. Echo Lake, with the famous carriage road circling its perimeter, was frozen solid and deserted, in stark contrast to the crowds, traffic, and congestion of summer.

On departure day, we checked out of hotel at 7 a.m. for the 4.5 hour drive back to the Manchester, NH airport. We built in an extra hour and a half for a stop at Halcyon Yarn in Bath, ME, which was not much of a detour for us. It's a huge old warehouse, stuffed floor to ceiling with 10' tall aisles of bins loaded with skeins, hanks, and cones. There's even an entire aisle of roving for spinners. That's just on the first floor. You're looking at an entire aisle of Jaggerspun on your right. ------------------------------------------------>
I won't torture you by telling you there are also aisles for Harrisville Designs, Casco Bay yarns, Brown Sheep yarns, Bartlett, sock yarn, and much more.

On the second level, there are looms, wheels, and every spinning thing made or known to mankind. Claire bought her first drop spindle here, and a cloud of roving. Now she just needs time to perfect her technique.

View of the sunrise from our hotel room

Monday, February 18, 2008

SOTSii Clue 4 finished

A week behind, Clue 4 is finished after waiting out a bout of the flu. My brain was not lace functional, which was maddening.

On Saturday my brain finally came home, and it was marathon movie & knitting day: I watched both versions of Pride & Prejudice, Barton Fink, and Phantom of the Opera. Claire picked out the last two, neither of which I would have chosen. But now I've seen them both and got some lace done to boot.

Yesterday at the North Austin Meetup, I mentioned that I'd languished about all day Saturday knitting and movie watching. When they heard I watched both Pride & Prejudice versions, they all wanted to have a movie day/night where we do the same. I'm definitely up for that!

See, I told you I was nuts.

Malabrigo Madness

Again, biting off more than I can chew.

On Ravelry, in the Malabrigo Junkies group, I signed on for the Malabrigo March KAL for the Mr. Greenjeans Cardigan, the FOLIAGE hat KAL, as well as the Herringbone Mittens KAL. Then I volunteered to moderate a Capitan hat KAL!!

It's official: I am NUTS.

These are projects in addtion to the already crazy ones I'm working on.

Oh. Heidi and I are going to make Malabrigo Loafers, too.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hearts Aplenty

Happy Valentine's Day. I always called it a Hallmark holiday, but most folks aren't as cynical as me. Daughter Julia ignores it completely, but still expects a package of goodies each year. Go figure. This year, I sent each of my far away kiddos Chicago-based Fannie May chocolates in heart boxes. When they were little bitty kids, Fannie May stores were in every neighborhood in the D.C. area. I would get each of them a half-pound heart shaped box and a card, which they'd find at their place at the breakfast table on Valentine's Day. I discovered that just because they grow up and move out doesn't mean I'm off the hook, either. They still expect their Valentine chocolates! And their Easter bunnies, Christmas stockings, etc.

Claire's been seriously under the weather with the flu since Sunday. I had a less virulent version, so I went to GAUGE on Monday and bought some Malabrigo worsted for both of us to knit a couple of easy (mindless) projects. My brain was too feverish to work on SOTSii lace project, but I had to do something while taking it easy.
The too-cute-for-words hat to the left is one of them. Called Si CAPITAN, by talented fiber artist Rosi Garmendia, it took only eight hours to make and fifteen minutes to pack up and Express Mail to Liz. Claire felt too awful to knit, so while keeping her company and supplying endless pots of tea and bowls of soup, I knit. Claire wasn't really happy about modeling it, but it was the only option before it vanished into the ether. I think it looks cute on her --- she claims she isn't a hat person.

I bought two hanks of this Amoroso colorway, so another one will be on the way to Julia in March, when I make it during Malabrigo March (a challenge on the Malabrigo Junkies board on Ravelry.)

There was a lot left on one hank, so I knit up and felted these little hearts, which Claire then stuffed and whipstitched together as little Valentine gifts for friends.

Our knitting group met this morning, so last night I made a batch of my Aunt Esther's justly famous frosted sugar cookies for everyone to enjoy. They are exactly as I remember them as a kid: Slightly crisp, sweet, sandy textured, and very vanilla-y.

Every year, on the day before Valentine's Day, Aunt Esther'd spend the entire day making an enormous batch of these, coloring the icing the same pale, delicate pink. I was transported back to her sunny kitchen some 50 years ago, when I wasn't even tall enough to look over the counter. I had a sixth sense when she was making cookies, and since our families lived across the street from each other, I'd appear at her elbow with wide, expectant eyes. She never disappointed, and always offered me my own plateful with a glass of milk at her dining room table. Every Valentine's Day, she set that table with a lace tablecloth and a bowl of pink carnations. She made the evening meal a treat for her family, with those cookies as the dessert. Every year. Without fail.

Years after I'd left the nest, I always sent her a Valentine's Day card thanking her for all the years of Valentine cookie baking days.

She now lives in a nursing home. During a visit last summer, she asked me if I remembered all the Valentine cookies we made together. Well, she made them; I just ate them. But her touching reminisce will always stick with me.

Happy Valentine's Day, Aunt Esther.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

San Antonio Yarn Crawl

This past Saturday, our Austin Knitting Meetup Group paid its last respects to a venerable fiber institution of 37 years duration in San Antonio, The Yarn Barn. Five of us drove on a yarn crawl there, and also included Yarnivore across town, and Old Oaks Fiber Ranch in Wimberley as a stop on the scenic route back to Austin.

The Yarn Barn isn't just a knitting and needlework store, it is a veritable archive. Nothing's been thrown out for the last 37 years on the premise that someone may need it later. That's a lot of interesting inventory in books, tools, yarn, patterns, buttons, bags, notions, needles, periodicals, and just plain curiosities. The doors close on April 15, due to the loss of the lease, but shop employees told us there are several buyers interested in the inventory. The owner just isn't interested in hoeing out and relocating after 37 years. Retirement looks mighty enticing when you look at the floor to ceiling bins of yarn, row after row after row of sagging shelves of books, and carousals of every conceivable size, make, and type of needle, knitting and otherwise. Wherever the new owner moves, the flavor of this shop that time forgot will surely be changed. Currently, all transactions are done manually, by hand. Not a computer in sight. Luddite heaven. On April 15, it all goes away. Where, we don't yet know. The Crawlees

NOTE TO OTHERS WHO MIGHT EXPECT GREAT SALES AND DEALS: Don't expect to find any great bargains; there are none. No sales, no inventory reduction. No need when you have potential buyers vying for the goods. It's just gracefully shifting from one set of hands to the next.

We spent a long time fondling and thumbing the goods there, which led directly to lunch at La Fonda on Main, a longtime San Antonio eatery away from the hordes at the Riverwalk and the Alamo, on the edge of the Olmos Park area. It was a gorgeous day, so we dined in the beautiful courtyard behind the main restaurant under a canopy of ancient trees.

The food was fabulous, and the company saucy and fun. A sunny, slightly breezy 70 degree day is as rare as hens teeth in this part of the world, where you are steamed and scorched into submission ten months of the year. All the planets aligned; this was perfection. Bliss.

Claire at our table at La Fonda on Main

Our stop at Yarnivore was one of convenience, since we were in the neighborhood, so to speak. They have a nice selection of roving yarn, so several of our Crawlees succumbed.

We wound our way back toward Austin on the back roads of the Hill Country up to Wimberley, where we made our final stop at Old Oaks Fiber Ranch. It's a beautiful spot, with lots of natural light, and comfortable chairs set around a big round table, looms and spinning wheels behind it. Yarn in cones, skeins, and hanks fill the side of the shop where the entry is located. The ranch is large, with alpaca barns and paddocks on either side of the long lane to the shop.
Lynn & Claire visit the alpacas

Not a bad way to burn up 250 miles and eight hours.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hint #3: Caught Up. For a Day.

SOTSii Hint #3 is finished after getting behind on Hint #2 last week. I'm rejoicing in a day off, knitting a dozen or so rows on the Mrs. Darcy cardigan for Liz.

Not so fast, though.

Tomorrow is the release date for Hint #4.

Ah well. The bliss is lovely to enjoy for a few more hours. This color is so spring-like, so fresh. It will be gorgeous once blocked, in all its lacy splendor. Right now, it is 21" wide X 24"long, unstretched, unblocked, un-anything. Eight more knitting installments to go.

Yesterday was sort of a knitting milemarker for me: I have been knitting exactly one year and three months! Who'da thunk I'd be doing this in such a short time?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

SOTSii Clue 2 complete ... onward through the fog

See that orange marker? I didn't mean to leave it on there, but since it's there, I'll tell you why. That's the point that I ripped back to this weekend. It was painful, but necessary.

As knitting friend Marilyn asked: "Could you have seen the mistake from a galloping horse at 40 MPH?"

Yes. You could have. So it had to come out.

This is the sound of ripping out 22 rows:


But now it's looking great, with Clue 3 already 12 rows underway (just not in these shots.) This should put me back on track now.

These pics are shown on the needles, unblocked in any way. I just spread it out. It is 20" wide now, and will probably block out at 23" - 24" in width. Since this is a "secret" KAL, the length is a mystery. Clues aren't a consistent number of rows each week, either, another bit of mystique.