Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Endless Afghan - The First Square

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can".........That seems to have become my motto regarding this project.
I have completed and am now blocking the first square of the Endless Afghan (although cleverly masquerading as "The Great American Aran Afghan") The book provides directions and charts for 24 different squares. Each square was designed by a different knitter as part of a contest held by Knitters Magazine.
The concept for the afghan is fairly simple (LOL!). The knitter (sucker?) chooses 20 squares, knits them up, sews them together and knits a border around the entire thing. Sounds simple, eh?
This is my first square, designed by Ada Fenwick. It is fairly easy to knit and is based on the tree of life, with a border of two asymetrical celtic cables.

As you can, I block with wires. The directions call for 12" (30.48 centimeters) squares but I can tell you that some of the squares appear much smaller than required, even though I carefully matched gage. We shall see.
My garden is growing at an astonishing rate. After the rain last weekend, it got warm. The plants have all put on a burst of growth, doubling in size.
The tomato plants are tomatoing.....
...the yellow squash plants are squashing....
.......and the zucchini plants have even decided to grow. I guess they heard me threaten to replace them last week.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Blue Moon Saves the Day

Last Saturday it was cool, clouding up, and preparing to rain. This Saturday it was 98 degrees Farenheit (67 degrees Celsius). Kenny played too hard outside with a friend, got overheated, and got sick. I brought home a ton of work from the office. The house needs cleaning. Altogether, it was shaping up to be a miserable day. But then, Alice (our postal delivery gal) honked her horn and I went outside to receive this......
It's the latest edition from Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin' Sock Club!

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Endless Afghan.....

Every knitter has one. A project that started with high hopes and great enthusiasm that gradually moves into the category of "never ending". Mine is The Great American Aran Afghan.
Oh, it started innocently enough. A casual glance across the table at my LYS. There, sitting in the book/magazine rack was an unassuming little book. It didn't look like much at first. But as I got closer, my pulse quickened and I found myself irresistibly drawn to its cover. Without thinking, I picked it up and opened its pages. In a moment. I fell for it -- hook, line and sinker.
I decided I had to take it home. In anticipation of its arrival, I purchased 25 skeins of a wool/rayon blend in a lovely shade of cream. I thought that the project would be content with my initial outlay.
But once I cast on the first square, I discovered that this project was going to be neither cheap nor easy. This project was high maintenance and would demand much of my time and attention. In short, it required commitment.
My husband, Dan, saw what was happening and tried to intervene. He gently asked me if we truly needed another afghan living under our roof. He pointed out afghans require extra care and consume large amounts of yarn if not carefully measured and calculated. I pondered his comments and decided Dan was probably right. We did have quite a few afghans. I could let this one go and remain free and unencumbered.
But when I tried to put the project aside, I was once again drawn to its sultry, spiraling cables and its subtle hint of lace work. I decided there had to be some way to fit this beauty into my life. And that's when it hit me. The master bedroom in Washington was rather plain.

What if I simply doubled the squares necessary for the project and made a bedspread instead? It would allow the project to grow with our family and fit into our daily life. It truly seemed like a good idea at the time.
I immediately headed back to the yarn shop and spent the afternoon scouring the shop for that last 22 skeins in the same dye lot. The afghan had me where it wanted me!
And so, the endless afghan moved into my life and has been haunting me for the past 16 months. I need to finish this project and be free of its never ending presence......the way that it sits in the basket and reminds me day in and day out that I haven't worked on it for months. So, with the help of this blog I have decided that Sundays will be dedicated to fulfilling its full potential and letting me move on with my life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Everyone wants a phone...

Since last December, my 11 year old son, Kenny, has been vigorously campaigning for his own personal cellular phone. His reasons were many, inlcuding, but not limited to:
(1) Justin (18 year old brother) has one;
(2) He could call Gage (his best friend) if he had a cell phone;
(3) He could call Miguel (his next best friend) if he had a cell phone;
(4) He could call Meme (his grandmother) if he had a cell phone;
(5) He could call Justin if he had a cell phone;
(6) He could call me if he had a cell phone.........
I'm sure you get the picture. When I reminded Kenny that he could call every person he had mentioned on our residential phone, I got the eye roll and the look that said I obviously am not in touch with the latest trend in the life of a fifth grader.
Nevertheless, I resisted all of his arguments until last Friday. Kenny was long jumping at a school sponsered track meet which apparently got off to a very late start. Kenny couldn't find a phone to tell me that the he was going to be about two hours late.
Meanwhile, back at the school, I waited.....and waited.....waited....and waited some more. Not a problem as long as I could knit. I worked away quite contentedly on the vest until I Ran. Out. Of. Yarn.
Unable to knit I used other means to pass the time. I read the Owner's Manual to my car from cover to cover (there are 13 pages describing how to wear a safety belt!). I cleaned out my purse. I played solitaire on my cell phone (I think a need a new prescription for my eyeglasses. I can hardly see those teeny-tiny cards). I organized the glove box. Just as I was about to frog three or four rows of the vest so could knit them again (I admit, I was desperate), the bus pulled into the parking lot and I made the immediate decision to let the kid have a cell phone.
A great burden was suddenly lifted from my shoulders. No longer would I have to listen to the ongoing arguments about the right, nay, the absolute need to talk on the phone. Peace would come to my life. That is, until I turned on the television.....

The TIVO unit is upset. Apparently, it hasn't make a successful daily telephone call for the past 86 days..........

Sunday, April 22, 2007

It's raining again

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain. The dogs were anxious to go outside so I let them out. Such excitement! There was MUD....glorious mud to play in. I hope they're as happy about their upcoming baths.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

One Step Closer

I am always amazed at how fast tomatoes and corn grow once they are planted, fertilized and watered. The tomato plants already have fruit growing. We should have fresh tomatoes within the next 30 days. The potato plants have spouted and and are about 8 inches tall. The corn plants are 15 inches tall and we have already picked the first ripe strawberries. The only thing that has not fared well are the zucchini plants. They seem to have some sort of blight that has whithered the leaves. If they don't perk up by next Saturday, I'll probably replace them.
On the way home from my Saturday knitting group I stopped at Jo-Ann's and picked up the twill tape I needed for the sleeves on the blue dress. The twill tape is basted into the armhole to prevent the knit from stretching out of shape from the weight of the sleeve. Once the twill tape was in place, I set in the sleeves and sewed them into place.
Although most of the dress is now complete, I still need to finish the sleeve cuffs and hems. I like to finish both the cuffs and the hem with an ultra suede trim so I will be cutting out the pieces later this week. Hopefully, I will be able to complete the dress by next week. I'd like to wear it for Mother's Day.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Back to the Blue Dress

For the past two days I have not been able to upload images on Blogspot. Apparently, the site encountered a glitch when they updated their system which affected their ability to upload or view images on a few blogs.
Since I wasn't able to post, I decided to work on the blue dress. First, I cut out neck pieces from ultra suede. Next, I sewed the zipper into the opening which I had previously cut out. Once the zipper was solidly in place, I positioned the ultra suede pieces into the neckline and sewed them into place. I then completed the neckline with top stitching.
While I was working, my 11 year old son, Kenny, joined me just to watch. He brought Ricco along. Ricco is an India Ringnecked Parakeet, named after one of the penguin characters in the children's film "Madagascar". Ricco can say his name and does some tricks, such as putting a gold ring into a bowl. As you can see from the picture I took, Ricco absolutely adores his boy.
I wanted to try to set the sleeves in place tonight but discovered that I was out of twill tape. I won' t be able to get to a sewing notions store until Saturday so the project will be on hold until then. I guess I'll work on the Sublime vest instead.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Moment of Silence........

My thoughts and prayers to the friends and families who lost loved ones at Virginia Tech.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Saturday Morning Knit and Bitch

This morning the skies were grey and cloudy and the weather forecast is for rain! While rain is no big deal in the Pacific Northwest, Central California is far below its seasonal average. In fact, there is talk of drought and water rationing this summer. The worst side effect of the lack of rain is extremely dry grasses, bush and trees. California is prone to spectacular wild fires. If the lack of rain continues, the fire season will be long and dangerous.

Saturday mornings I join 14 other ladies at Janna'a Needle Arts for our version of Knit and Bitch. It is a interesting and diverse group of women, ranging from a federal judge to nurses, teachers and attorneys.

Janna (the lady in blue in the top picture) owns the store and hosts our group. She grew up in Holland and learned to knit as part of her school curriculum. She is a cheerful, smiley woman who is always willing to share her knowledge or help with a problem. She also is very aware of her customers and is constantly on the alert for new yarns and other products (thus single handedly enabling my stash addiction). It is unusual to walk into her store each each week and not discover a new book, yarn, buttons, purse handles or magazine.

In fact, Janna surprised me with an order for yarn I made last January. The yarn is called Cyprus Mohair. The swatch Janna had knitted from the sample was quite lovely. Although variegated, the color changes were subtle and created a shadowing effect.
I envision a loose, comfy sweater knitted from the yarn. However, apparently the company handling the yarn was difficult to deal with. Janna told me she had to continually check on the status of the order. Each time she was told it was "back ordered". After 8 weeks, the yarn was finally was shipped. It was a good thing I wasn't in a hurry or had a special project earmarked for the yarn.

Janna also had received the Spring 2007 issue of Knitters. I immediately thought of Rose-Kim Knits. Jessica features "Thursdays are for What the Hell is This?" on her blog wherein she posts pictures of the latest knitting faux pas with comments. The cover page of Knitters current issue looks a lot like my first attempt at hand knitting when I was 8 years old. I had no idea how to shape so I knitted two large rectangles and sewed them together. This might have made a cute top except for the fact I used two different kinds of yarn and achieved two spectacularly different gauges. The top was lopsided, uneven, and a general knitted disaster. In fact, it was so bad, I threw it away and didn't try hand knitting again until I was well into my 40's. Turns out I should have waited. That top could have made the cover!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th

I was excited to receive an email from Angelique from the weaving class I took last month. Angelique has finished her first project since taking the class. It is an area rug woven from Pendelton selvages. The colors in the rug remind me of the American southwest ---- lots of bright, warm colors.

I have been working on the Sublime vest this week, mostly because I have been out of the office. On Tuesday, I received a telephone call from my son's high school. Justin was in the nurse's office complaining of severe chest pain. The nurse recommended Justin be sent to the emergency room so off we went. For the next 4 hours, Justin was x-rayed, poked, prodded, monitored and tested. I was consigned to the waiting room. Thank goodness for knitting!
By the end of the first hour, I had completed the cast on for the front (I completed the back last week) and started the 2x2 ribbing. By the second hour, I was half done with the ribbing. At the end of the third hour, the ribbing was nearly complete.
Ultimately, the doctor informed us that Justin had air surrounding the membrane of his heart, causing the pain. It is fairly serious. Apparently, Justin had been in class and had tried to stifle a sneeze. This caused the air he should have expelled to be redirected into the heat sac. The air will most likely dissipate on its own, but to be on the safe side, Justin has to take it easy over the next two weeks, have follow-up care, and more x-rays.
This afternoon, Justin and I went to Justin's primary care doctor for a follow-up. More waiting! I knitted. I managed to complete one entire pattern repeat and took a picture for the blog. While I was looking at the picture, I saw this!

See the cable on the left? The cable is crossed the wrong way half way up. I'm still trying to figure out how that happened since I look at all my cables at the end of each row. I guess I didn't look closely enough.
Rather than frog back all that work, I grabbed two cable hooks, pulled the offending four stitches off the needles and spent the next 30 minutes repairing the mistake.
Just as I was ready to cheerfully fling the entire project across the room, the telephone rang. It was Michael from our local GMC dealer. My new car had just been delivered and I could pick it up at 6:00 p.m.
It is a GMC Acadia, charcoal grey with a black interior. It is rated for 17 miles on the city and 24 miles on the highway. If it gets gas mileage anywhere close to these numbers, I'll be thrilled. My van (which I traded in) was averaging 13 miles in the city and 18 miles on the highway. During the past two weeks, gasoline has jumped to an average $3.35 per gallon here in California! I used to be able to fill the tank for about $ I average $60. This seriously cuts into my yarn acquisition fund. I'm anxious to see if the mileage claims will average anywhere near the reality of the car. We shall see.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Family Court -- You've gotta love it!

I have learned to expect the unexpected when it come to practicing Family Law. Today was no exception.
As I waited my turn to go through the metal detector on my way into the Fresno County Courthouse this afternoon, three deputies stepped forward and moved toward a tall, bald man standing near the front of the line. When he realized the deputies were heading for him, the man suddenly tried to jump over the metal detector and run. The deputies didn't take kindly to his attempted imitation of an Olympic hurdler and started after him. But before he was able to make his escape, Baldy was tackled. Immediately the fight was on! You could almost see the fur flying! No wait ---- it wasn't fur, it was hair flying --- in fact, huge clumps of hair were landing every which way as the would be escape artist fought the deputies and screamed at the top of his lungs for "Sweet Jesus" to come and save him. Apparently, "Sweet Jesus" decided not to intervene. The man was finally handcuffed and led away, leaving many puzzled bystanders, (me included) staring down at numerous piles of human hair scattered all over the lobby of the courthouse.
The mystery was solved when I got to the Family Law Department. It turns out that our bald bad guy had apparently decided to visit his children at their school earlier that morning. Normally this would have been fine except for the fact that a pesky little restraining order had been issued barring him from being within 100 yards of the children or their school unless the visit was supervised. The school officials were not amused by his presence and called the cops, who arrived just in time to see Baldy driving out of the parking lot. He ignored the red lights and siren and spent the next hour in a high speed pursuit all over Fresno. Somewhere along the way, he managed to shake his pursuers.
But does our bad guy find a place to lie low for a few days? On see, there was a settlement conference set for 1:30 p.m. in the family court. No way would he allow his soon to be ex-wife gain a possible advantage so he decided he had to attend that conference.
But how to disguise himself? Hey, what if he was bald! That should work, right? Apparently our hapless felon thought so because he bought a razor at a nearby convenience store and shaved his head, stuffing the leftover locks into his pants pockets. Needless to say, his disguise didn't work and all the hair fell of his pockets and scattered onto the lobby floor in the ensuing melee.
People never cease to amaze me!
On a positive note, I was able to do a little sewing on Easter Sunday, I sewed bust darts into the dress. I also was able to cut out a collar from ultra suede, sew it into place and add top stitching. I took this picture and uploaded it. For some reason, the dress looks more green than blue in this picture. But since I'm at work, and I don't what to drive home and take another picture, here it is. Hopefully, I'll set in the sleeves later this week.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter!

Daffodils and Easter just seem to go together.

Friday, April 6, 2007

More on the Blue Dress

It has been a busy two days. Spring has definitely arrived in Central California and we are experiencing unseasonably warm weather. Today it was 86 degrees Fahrenheit. On the plus side, my perennials are gorgeous this year. My irises, roses, pansies, and allium are all in full bloom.
I decided I had better plant the garden if I wanted fresh vegetables this summer. So I rototilled the soil, raked and leveled the loose soil, went to the garden store and bought flats of veggies, returned home and planted them, put in drip lines, fertilized and watered. Hopefully, we will have tomatoes, corn, potatoes, squash, beans, peppers, radishes, cucumbers, strawberries and lettuce in a couple of months.
In between working on the garden, I worked on the dress. I basted the dress together and sewed up the front and side seams. Since I want a zipper in the front, I measured the zipper and marked its in the dress front.
The pattern calls for a pleated sleeve. Now that the shoulder and side seams had been stitched up, I measured the arm hole, calculated the width of the pleats, and pinned them into place. If all goes well, I will be able to baste them into place tomorrow.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A Blue Dress

We are back in California. I have been working in the Sublime vest but decided to work on another project I started last December. My favorite hide-away in California is my fiber arts shed. Actually, it is one of those trailers that you see at construction sites. Five years ago, I drove by an auction and saw the trailer had been marked as an auction item. I bid $2500 on it and was surprised when I was the high bidder. The former owner agreed to deliver it to my property. Once it arrived, I moved all of my fiber arts and crafts into it (much to the delight of my husband and boys -- suddenly we had closet space and a kitchen table again!)
The trailer is 700 square feet divided into three rooms, all paneled and carpeted. It has both heat and air conditioning. I have outfitted it with my sewing machines, knitting machines, steam iron and ironing board, looms, blocking boards, craft books, entertainment center, and even an easy chair.
The trailer allows me a place to work undisturbed and not worry about putting the project away so my family can use the kitchen table for such mundane pursuits as eating. It allows me a place where I can work on a variety of projects and not feel rushed.
Such was the case now. In December, I had knitted fabric for a dress pattern that I particularly like and have previously made before. The dress, once it is made up, looks good in court and can be worn with a variety of the blazers I own. The dress pattern is an adaptation of a dress designed by Manon Salois. I have modified the pattern by adding a gathered waist and longer sleeves. I have also modified the hem to allow a slit up the back. I knitted the material on a knitting machine from a Superwash Merino Wool from Silk City.
The pattern for the knit is a stockinette stitch but is knitted alternating the stitches between two cones of yarn --- knit one stitch from one cone, then next from the next cone, then another stitch from the original cone, and so on. This gives the end product a little more weight without sacrificing drape or the look of the finished product.
I backed the fabric with an iron on interfacing then pinned on the pattern. I marked the pattern by basting the pattern outline with contrasting yarn. Once completed, I cut out the outline of the pattern and serged the edges. I did the same for the other pieces of the pattern, including the sleeves, the back and the other front.

The pattern calls for a zipper front and suede panels. I have found a near perfect match in suede. If all goes well, I will start to assemble the dress this weekend.