Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We have a Record!

Kenny, being the 11 year old boy that he is, seems to have a fascination is all things slimy, creepy, crawly and gross. However, even he seemed repulsed by the 6 inch (15 cm) long Banana Slugs that seem to favor our deck when the days are warm in Washington.

That is, until this fellow slimed his way into Kenny's heart.

My knitter's gauge was too short at six inches so I grabbed the tape measure instead. Eight inches (20.3 centimeters)!

It appears size does matter.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pacific Northwest Fiber Bloggers

During my visit to Washington I had the pleasure of several encounters with members of the web ring known as "The Pacific Northwest Fiber Bloggers".

My first surprise came when I was reading blogs of the various members and decided to enter a "Blogiversary" contest sponsored by Lynn at wrapandturn.blogspot.com. The prize was two skeins of Knit Picks sock yarn in the color scheme "Flower Power". Imagine my surprise when I was notified that I had won. I was even more pleasantly surprised when the prize package arrived promptly and had a few more goodies enclosed. I also received some fun stationary and some special jeweled stitch markers. Lynn also sent a thoughtful, handwritten note. Everything is wonderful, Lynn. Thank you again!

Next I ran into Sachi from the blog "A Day in the Life of Sachi" at the Allyn Knit Shop when I was purchasing the yarn for the sweater. Sachi has just opened her web business and showed me several samples of the gorgeous stitch markers she makes. I couldn't resist and bought these for myself. They are beautiful.

Finally, on Saturday, July 14th, I traveled to Shoreline, Washington, to the Village Knit and Tea Shop. There I met Deb from Knotty Kitty Knits and Danielle from The Knitting Niche. But I was also surprised to find Ginger from http://www.sewcrafty.org/blog/ and several other wonderful ladies. I thoroughly enjoyed just sitting and talking to them all. A truly nice group of people. After knitting and sipping tea, Deb and I went to dinner on the waterfront. Deb is a very sweet lady and I hope to see more of her in the future.

I must say that the bloggers and knitters that I have met in the Pacific Northwest have been an exceptional group of people. Without fail, I have been welcomed and made to feel as one of the group. It is a good feeling to be part of this wonderful community.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fringe Benefits

One of the things I love about vacation is my "to be continued basket". This consists of a large lined wicker basket that holds works in progress that for whatever reason I have put on hold. Maybe a seam is not coming together properly. Or the project has been infested with a knitting gremlin. Or I am just plain tired of it. Rather than continue to fight it, I will put the project in the basket to await my next visit to Washington State. When I return two to three months later, the project is ready and waiting to be picked up and worked on again. And, wonder of wonders, it is fun again. Last Christmas, my wonderful staff gave me a kit for a Feather and Fan lap blanket. The colors are pastel green and pinks. It is knit on 10 mm (US 15) needles which created a light, airy feel. I carried the project to Washington with me in March and knitted the first 40 or 50 rows without incident. But then, the gremlin struck! I had just completed a row and the stitch count was off by two. I de-knit the row and started again. Again it was off. Once again, I de-knit and re-knit the row and the stitch count ended correctly. But, five rows later, the stitch count was off again. And again 10 rows later. It was time for the afghan to head for the "to be continued basket".Fast forward to July. I went through the basket and rediscovered the afghan. I only needed to knit 45 more rows and make the fringe. The perfect project for sitting on the front porch on a chilly rainy evening!So, in between waiting for all the telephone calls from Justin reporting the ongoing saga of our burglaries, I finished the knitting, cut and attached the fringe, and blocked it. I rather like the finished result.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

When It Rains, It Pours........

Telephone calls at 5:18 a.m. are never good news. Last Sunday morning (July 15th), I received just such a call from my 18 year son in California. "Mom!" Justin asked urgently. "Are Dave and Becky back from Europe?"
"No, why?"
"I’m next door watering their yard for them before it gets hot and the back sliding glass door is open. I think someone’s in the house. Should I go in to check?"
Now thoroughly awake, I told him on no uncertain terms to stay out of sight and dial 911! The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department immediately responded and discovered that Dave and Becky’s house had been ransacked and vandalized. Dave’s truck was gone along with a number of his powers tools, his shotgun, electronic items, and a host of other things. The thieves had apparently heard Justin make the call and got away before the deputies arrived.
The rest of the day was spent on the phone helping Justin and the deputies locate Dave and Becky’s son and daughter, calming Justin down, and having him do a careful search of our yard and out-buildings to see if we, too, had been hit. Fortunately, we appeared to be untouched.
But then, at 1:00 a.m. on Monday morning, Justin again called. He had walked out to feed our horses when he heard someone talking and the sound of an electric drill near the garage. He immediately ran back inside and called me once again. This time, I gave him the direct line to the Sheriff’s Department and the whole thing started again. The burglars had come back and were attempting to break into a metal agriculture shed by stripping the siding from the building. Again, the culprits fled before law enforcement arrived. And now we were missing tack for our horses.
Thoroughly spooked, Justin asked permission for his friend, Arman, to stay at the house with him. I readily agreed. At 11:00 p.m. that same night, Arman was sitting by the side of the house talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone when he heard someone jump our wooden fence. The burglars had returned to Dave and Becky’s home and were once again trying to get inside their garage! Again, the deputies responded and spent nearly two hours searching the orange groves surrounding our place.
Realizing that whoever was targeting the houses apparently knew Dave and Becky and Dan and I were on vacation, we made the reluctant decision to return home early. We have now spent several days going through our sheds, our boat, and other out buildings determining damages and missing items. Needless to say I haven’t been able to attend to my blog. But things have settled down and I am now able to catch up. I will have a lot of great things to share starting with tomorrow's posting!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Knitting with Spaghetti

Every year on vacation I try to take a class and learn something new in the fiber arts techniques. Last March, I took a beginners class in weaving. This summer, I decided I would like to learn how to knit two socks at the same time using circular needles. I have watched other knitters using this technique and I must say, it looked efficient, straight forward and (I so foolishly thought) should be fairly quick to learn if one is already proficient at knitting complicated sock patterns using double pointed needles.

One should not tempt the Knitting Gods.

Lois, the cheerful proprietor of the Allyn Knit Shop, greeted me and gave me a worksheet which listed all of the recommended materials. I spent the next thirty minutes happily fondling sock yarn and picking out colors. That task accomplished, Lois suggested Addi Turbo and Addi Lace needles to start the learning process rolling. She explained that Addi Turbo needles are silver with grey connectors and Addi Lace needles are bronze with pink connectors. Since the knitter (victim?) alternates knitting between each set of needles, Lois said the two colors help prevent using the wrong needle by mistake. She then suggested the first attempt using this method should be a basic sock with 2 x 2 ribbing at the cuff. I listened carefully, still under the happy delusion that this was going to be fun.
The first step required me to cast on sixty (60) stitches using the silver circular needles and one ball of sock yarn. I then changed to a second ball of sock yarn to cast on sixty (60) stitches on the same silver needles for the second sock. Using the long tail method of casting on, I boldly started my knitting adventure. This was to be the first and last row I approached with confidence.
The second step was to take the bronze circular needles and knit the first thirty (3o) stitches from the silver needle using the first ball of yarn, then switch to the second ball of yarn and knit 30 stitches from the second set of cast-on stitches. Suffice it to say that I am not used to knitting with needles that are somewhat impeded by another set of stitches blocking my way. Stitch #25 must have sensed my vulnerability. Suddenly and without any warning, it leaped off the knitting needle and converted itself from a quiet little knit stitch to the more nefarious dropped stitch. I was confronted with two long strands of yarn strung between the neatly purled stitch and waiting cast-on stitch.

Experience has taught me it is both quicker and easier for me to simply yank all the stitches off my needles when I drop a cast-on stitch and start over, rather than try to pick up a dropped stitch. In disgust, I yanked all the stitches off the needles, only to realize in that split second before all the stitches dropped to my lap that I only needed to redo the cast for ONE sock not BOTH!

Determined not to let some pointy sticks or some insolent yarn get the best of me, I doggedly cast on for a second time and started the transfer of stitches once again. After five minutes of careful concentration, I had successfully divided the stitches for both socks and was ready for the next step.

Step three requires that the knitter hold both strands of yarn to the back on the project and TURN the needles 180 degrees so that the silver needles are in the front of the work and the bronze needles are at the back. It was at this point that I realized that knitting with two sets of circular needles for the first time is very similar to trying to knit with two spaghetti noodles after they have been in boiling water for 2 minutes. The ends of the needles hung limply together attached in the middle by the beginnings of the socks. The yarn tails of my cast-on had somehow wrapped themselves solidly onto the entwined twin strands emanating from the balls of sock yarn, which had themselves inexplicably changed places with each other. You know things can't be going well when you hear your teacher mutter "Oh, my!" behind you.

Fifteen minutes of careful untangling left me ready for the next step. It sounded easy. Using the silver needles I started off......Knit two.....Purl Two.....Knit Two......why don't the stitches look right? @#$%^%$!!!!! I needed to start off the row with purl two! I de-knit the 14 wrong stitches and started over. Purl Two.....Knit Two....Purl Two....Knit Two.....All. The. Way. To. The. End.......at which point I realized that I had forgotten to change to the second ball of yarn at the end of the first thirty stitches. I think I showed remarkable restraint when I resisted the urge to fling my knitting into the middle of the parking lot (and then jump up and down on it for good measure)! Groaning, I deknitted the last 30 stitches, changed to the second ball and tried again.

By now more than 90 minutes had passed and I had managed to knit a humiliating one and a half rounds on two socks. Taking a deep breath, I held the yarn to the back of the work, turned the needles, and stared in disbelief as the yarns once again magically, and with great determination, changed from an organized knitting project to a twisted, ugly mess.

And so the afternoon progressed. The three hour session seemed like three minutes (if those three minutes were underwater without air tanks or a snorkel!) I had managed to knit six, that's right, folks, SIX whole rounds! I was exhausted and had the beginnings of a migraine. Thoroughly humbled, I carefully packed up my project, thanked Lois for her patience, and slunk off to my car.
I still want to learn this technique (if only not to let it defeat me!) but I think I'm going to have to wait a little bit before I try again. In the meantime, I have this great little tote and some interesting sock yarn. It should look pretty cute on top of the bookshelf with my other knit decor!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

There and back again...

I had to go into the office yesterday and deal with an emergency. Since I am currently in Washington State and my office in California, this required more than a simple phone call.
When I headed up to Washington state, the matter that so rudely interrupted my vacation had been settled. The couple agreed to sell their rental property, pay off all their debts, and split the remaining money. Despite the slump in real estate, the property was in escrow. Everything should have gone smoothly--except that the husband failed to inform his attorney, my client, me, or the judge that he had surreptitiously borrowed over $100,000 from his girlfriend and had given her a Deed of Trust on the property in violation of court orders.
The Deed of Trust had not been recorded so a previous title search failed to turn up anything amiss. But when the girlfriend discovered that the Husband was cheating on her (go figure-- he cheated on his wife with her), she recorded the Deed of Trust. When the escrow company did a new title search for the sale, the newly recorded Deed showed up and a demand letter was sent. Girlfriend demanded all of the proceeds be given to her. The escrow company informed my office they intended to honor the Deed, which would had effectively deprived my client of her rightful share.
As you can guess, Monday was spent at the computer emailing drafts of a Request for Emergency Court Orders, setting up an emergency hearing, and making plane reservations.
On Tuesday, I got up at 4:00 a.m., dressed for court, and drove to Sea Tac Airport. I caught the 8:30 a.m. flight to Fresno, arrived at 10:30 a.m., and headed directly to my office. I spent the next five hours negotiating a temporary agreement in my client's favor, drafted a stipulated Order, arranged to have the Judge sign the temporary order, filed it, and sent my staff out to serve conformed copies. The monies will be held in trust until a formal hearing in August.
At 4:00 p.m. I returned to the airport to check in for the 5:55 p.m. flight to Sea Tac. It was an hour late! Thank goodness I had tossed my knitting into the flight bag at the last minute. While I waited, I knitted on the back Elsebeth Lavold sweater. We finally boarded and took off at 7:10 p.m. I continued knit throughout the flight. I managed to reach the beginning of shoulder shaping by the time we arrived at Sea Tac International Airport at 9:00 p.m. I reclaimed my car and drove 45 miles home. I arrived at 10:30 p.m. and discovered that Dan and Kenny had a lovely home cooked meal ready and waiting! Although I did accomplish quite a bit on the sweater, on the whole I would not want to do that again anytime soon!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Scavenger Hunt

Problem: I am excited! The house is clean. Dan and his mother are off on an excursion. I have a new book with a beautiful sweater pattern that I can't wait to begin. I have cashmere and silk yarn that is as seductive as the siren's song, and ...........I have an 11 year who has just announced that he "is bored" and "there is nothing to do". I want to knit and need some time relatively free of distraction. What to do?
Solution: Hand Kenny my digital camera and tell him he is on a scavenger hunt. His mission? To photograph as many different creatures on our property as he can find. Since Kenny is NEVER allowed to touch my camera, he is both awe stuck and excited. Tossing a careless "Bye, Mom!" over his shoulder, Kenny is out the door.
I wind center pull balls of yarn --- thirty of them. Then I cast on 104 stitches for the back of the sweater. At the end of five rows, Kenny is back. He proudly shows me his first captures........

A swallowtail butterfly.....

......and a honey bee. Then he is gone. I am now ready to begin some minor shaping. I change my needle size, decrease 2 stitches on the each end of the sixth row, and knit 6 more rows. I check the gauge just to be on the safe side and am relieved that it is exact. As I pick up my needles to start the next row, Kenny is back. This time he has photographed.......

.........a banana slug.........

.......and another swallowtail butterfly. I tell Kenny that he has already photographed a swallowtail butterfly and he indignantly tells me this is a different butterfly (it is lighter than the other one). Sensing that I may end up with scads of butterfly pictures, I quickly change the rules. I tell Kenny that the animals have to be different species. "Oh." he says and off he goes. I knit another 10 rows. The yarn is almost worsted weight so I am beginning to see significant progress on the back.

Here comes Kenny. "Look, Mom!", he says as he shows me the display picture. I don't see anything. "Look closer" he insists. There, in the center of the picture, is a tiny toad's head. "In case you couldn't see it, I took another one."

Then he is out the door again. I continue to knit. The back of the sweater is stockinette so it is mindless knitting. I am enjoying the feel of the yarn and the quiet rhythm of the needles. The sliding glass door opens. "I need help getting pictures of this one, Mom!", he yells. I need a break to stretch so I stand up. "What do you have?"

"A snake!" I look. Kenny has captured a garter snake. No offense to the snake, but I have baited hooks with worms bigger than this fellow. I obligingly take the picture. And so the morning goes........I knit....he takes pictures. By the time Dan and his mother return, Kenny has photographed.......

.........Mothra (this moth was almost two inches long). I made sure that it went outside immediately....you can't trust any moth around wool..........

..........a squirrel (in the bird feeder, of course!).........

.........and the biggest prize of all... this doe.

As for me, I was able to knit a significant portion of the back of the sweater relatively undisturbed.

A good morning all around.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Endless Afghan - The Tenth Square

This square is also from the The Great North American Afghan. The design is a diamond inside the square.

Instead of using bobbles, the pattern is created via small eye cords of ten rows each. These cords are knitted on double pointed needles and worked directly into the square. The effect is quite striking although a trifle slow to knit.

The book states this technique is very old and has been used in the past to create intricate patterns.

As I finished pinning the square onto the blocking board, I suddenly realized that I made a slight miscalculation. I figured it would take roughly two weeks to complete two more squares on the afghan. Eight days later, I have completed both of them and the rest of the yarn is in California! I now had nothing to knit! Feeling faint, I headed to the Allyn Knit Shop for a wool fix just as the waves of nausea were beginning to surface. I made it just in time.

There, mixed in with the shelves of cashmere, wool, cotton and silk, was Elizabeth Lavold's Book #10 - The Kasmiri Love Collection.

The pattern that caught my eye was 'Lavinia". Silky Cashmere is unbelievably soft. It also has a fairly impressive price tag per skein and the pattern called for thirty skeins to knit the sweater in my size.Hmmmm. To knit or not to knit..........that is the question. No wait, there is no question. To knit!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

"The 4th of July is flying flags in colors of red, white, and blue. It is getting together for picnics, barbecues, fireworks and fun with all of your friends and family. It means parades and marching bands. July 4th is the birthday of our country.
It is also a time to remember the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. We want what is best for all our citizens. We are free to say what we want, travel where we want to travel, be with the people we want to be with. We can marry who we want. We have stores that sell us food and enough food in the stores for us to eat. We can own homes and cars. We have hospitals with doctors and nurses. We have TV, the Internet, and cell phones. We have a lot of things, more than a lot of other countries. I'm glad America was born! (Excerpt from a school essay written by Kenny in 2007).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Endless Afghan - The Ninth Square

Look....actual knitting! This is the latest square I completed for the afghan. It is from the second book from Knitter's Magazine called The Great North American Afghan.This square has a lot of texture to it and really stands out on the blocking board. However, if knitted according to the directions it was 12 inches by 10 inches (30 centimeters by 25 centimeters for my Canadian friends) instead of 12 inches (30 centimeters) square. I ended up changing to smaller needles and added an extra pattern repeat to make it square up.

I liked the lace work surrounding the body of the knit. It adds interest and also helped prevent the edges of the square from curling.This square has great possibilities. I would like to re knit it in a larger version of 36 inches x 36 inches (92 centimeters square ) as a baby blanket. It would also make a beautiful full size afghan. I can see the same version using stripes at each junction of the triangles. I'll have to get out my graph paper and see what I can design.

Monday, July 2, 2007

"Are they wild pigs?....."

Despite the lack of big, strong men to help us load, Kenny and I finally finished packing the trailer at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night. After a quick nap, we loaded the dogs and bird, and rolled out of the driveway at 3:00 a.m.
Traveling with a lot of dogs means that I have to occasionally stop to fill the car and drain the dogs and kid (if you know what I mean). In order to accomplish this in a time efficient manner, I set up portable runs and let the dogs out all at once. Because Schipperkes (pronounced Skip-er-keys) are an uncommon breed, it is not unusual for other travelers to come over and see the dogs.
Now these are dogs. They bark. Their bark sounds like a bark. They act like dogs. So I was totally unprepared for the couple who approached us yesterday and asked "Are those wild pigs....you know, javalinas?" Hmmmmm....

A schipperke looks like this....

A javalina looks like this......

Again. This.......

......Not this.

Even after chatting with the couple and explaining that they were dogs, they remained unconvinced. As they walked away, they said they had never heard of Schipperkes and they knew every breed of dog there was. Oh well, obviously not.
We crossed into Washington state at 8:30 p.m. and arrived home about 10:30 p.m. Tomorrow we unload and I can get down to some serious knitting.