Monday, July 12, 2010

Double Rainbow

Here are two of the reasons I live in the Rocky Mountains; DOUBLE rainbows after summer rain storms:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Meet Enrique

Meet Enrique, my new triangle shawl that I finished yesterday:

Here's my darling Enrique, when he was just a baby, looking pretty scrunched-up and unattractive. He's 100% merino wool, but has a very different feel from Jean Claude (May 5th entry) , who is also 100% merino. You may recall that merino wool is renowned for being possibly the softest sheep wool out there. The yarn used to create Enrique has quite a bit of twist in it. Hey, anyone out there a spinner? Can you explain why the yarn is so twisted? One of the advantages is that this yarn looks almost silky, and has quite a sheen to it.

The pattern for Enrique is on p. 134 of Victorian Lace Today, by Jane Sowerby. This is my first triangle shawl, and it is so much fun! I started at the point with one diamond, then two, etc., until I had fifteen.

The triangle shawl is very different from a rectangle or a square because of what's known as bias. If you sew, you know this means cutting the fabric obliquely or diagonally across the grain instead of with the grain. A bias-cut skirt hangs differently than one cut with the grain. You can actually get some stretch by cutting diagonally across the grain. Enrique was incredibly stretchy just by virtue of being triangle-shaped, or created across the bias.

Here's a detail photo of the crocheted picot border around the neck edge:

View of the front:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Photo of the Day

I took this photo at the Denver Zoo a few years ago. Talking about paw prints in yesterday's post reminded me of it. When I approached the gorilla enclosure, a female was asleep near the glass. I found the sight of her hand lovely in repose, yet somehow tragic as well.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Interesting Footprints; Or: Hey, Lynn, You Out There?

We saw some awesome critter footprints on our hike. At first I assumed the prints in this photo were that of a raccoon. But then I wondered if they could have been made by one of the busy beavers:

I am amazed by the footprint (paw print?) of this fellow--looks so much like a human hand:

Who could have made these prints? I think we need an expert to tell us. Dr. Lynn, world-famous veterinarian, do you know? I know I'm putting you on the spot here, but then, you are amazing...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Hike

Biker Chick and the Hell Hounds and I got up early yesterday morning and decided to go on a Mother's Day hike.

I took the camera along, even though I have photographed this same walk countless times. Taking photos in the Autumn is a no-brainer, but really, there are things of beauty and things that are fascinating each and every day.

The first thing I noticed was how busy the beavers have been:

I mean, they have been REALLY busy. I was stunned to see the size of this tree that they felled:

Still in a state of disbelief, I got in for a closer view:

Click on the photo below so that you can see the size of the teeth marks:

Beavers are the second largest rodents in the world. Did you know that rodents comprise 40% of mammal species? I did not. Ro-dents (dent=teeth) are noted for having two continuously growing incisors that are kept short by gnawing.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Joyful, Joyful

Everyone has those days where nothing goes right. I hate to say "What a bad day!" because it is as though I am giving a few bad events the power to influence my happiness.

But I do love to say "I am having one of those days where everything is joyful." I awakened early this morning before the alarm went off and scampered down the stairs to see how Jean Claude was doing. He really was dry last evening, but I didn't want to take a chance and unpin him too early. Our eyes met in the light of the predawn, and I told him how gorgeous he was. He smiled sheepishly at me, which was to be expected.

He is by far the most wonderful thing I have ever knit, and I am feeling proud of myself.

For those of you who want to know, I estimate it took somewhere around 40 hours. Each complete row of the center panel took about fifty minutes, and there are thirty some-odd rows. Each repeat (the points you see) on the border took eleven minutes, and I think there are 92 of those. Adding the border onto the center panel was WEIRD, as you have to knit almost perpendicularly to the center panel. It took me days to figure out how to get the hang of doing that; once I figured that out, it was easy and I still don't know why the concept gave me fits.

Then I took the hell hounds for a walk around the Lake. While we were there, I saw a woman who was picking up trash around the perimeter of the Lake. We spoke briefly. I asked her if she were a volunteer, and she told me she was not. She just does this on her own. I thanked her for making the Lake a more pleasant place. It fills my heart with joy when I witness people doing good things. Just one more event in my joyful day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Meet Jean Claude

Meet my new lover, Jean Claude. I have spent so many hours with him that I can say with certainty that I know every fiber of his being.

When I finished attaching the last of the border today, I loved him, but I knew there could be more between us. He was rather scrunched up and stilted, unable to express himself. I find this tragic, as I know he has the soul of a poet:

So I convinced him to seek therapy, specifically, the blocking therapy, which would unleash his inner beauty. Off to the sink he went to soak a while with some Eucalin soap, which requires no rinsing as it leaves no residue:
Because this therapy can be so traumatic, I simply pulled the plug and let the water drain. No sense in letting Jean Claude be damaged by wringing him, or letting him stretch, especially when we've come this far together.

He stank like a wet sheep, which was no surprise, as his heritage is 100% Superfine Merino.
I carefully wrapped him in thirsty towels to rid him of the excess water:
Then I stretched him gently, wired and pinned him in place so that all the lacy holes will show, and all the border will be pointy and beautiful:
He started getting quite dry by the time I was done pinning, so I squirted him a bit with a water bottle so that he'll be sure to keep his shape. Here's a close-up of the new Jean Claude; he'll be dry in 24 hours, so make sure to come back and see him tomorrow.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Buddha, Willie Nelson, and Middle Child

I'd like to take this opportunity to remember the three gentle souls in the title, as all three of them were born on this, the last day of April. Middle child was supposed to make her appearance in May, but I really wanted her to arrive in April, as no one in my family has an April birthday. And she did come, in the last hours of the day. She was a gorgeous baby, with giant blue eyes, a lovely smile, and a gentle and loving disposition. She has been a joy ever since.

And for this occasion, as she turns nineteen, I made a quilt in her favorite color of lime green, with lavender accents. In the photo above, Sparky and Mojo are inspecting my handy work, making sure that it is fit.

Here's a close-up of the Irish Chain pattern:

A closer view of the border and the back:
A view of the back, a Laurel Burch kitty fabric:

I also made a pillow with some of the leftover fabric:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Finished With the Center Panel

I finished the center panel of my lace shawl last week. Now I am adding a lace border. Finally, I will block the lace, causing it to stretch by 30 percent, making the pattern pop gloriously. You'll see much more of a lacy look, with the holes enlarged, etc.

I thought I'd show you what it looks like now, before the border is added, and before it gets blocked:

Here's a different view showing the length:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Evening Walk at the Lake

Finally, Spring seems to be on its way. We've had consistent warm temperatures, and the ice is melting on the Lake. The Geese are still able to walk on the ice rink, but not for long.

This photo shows the edge of the ice on the right, the clouds reflected in the water, and what appears to be some oil in the foreground. Hope I'm wrong on the oil--I've never seen any in the Lake before.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sr. Mary Sparky

Spark Diggity-Dog has always been a deeply spiritual ratty terrier. So it was no surprise when she announced that she has decided to take holy orders. She is joining the Sisters of Blessed Sausage, a group of nuns who make their living by creating and selling artisan sausage.

Oddly, since Sr. Mary Sparky has become a novice, the order has been unable to meet the daily quota of sausage for sale to the public. The Abbess suspects a hole in the equipment somewhere.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shoot me a Life Line

(Or: Why you should make nice at your local knitting store)

I feel most fortunate to have access to five knitting stores in my area. These stores serve not only as a purveyors of fiber and products, but more important, as sources of knowledge, and best of all, the ladies who work there always turn into friends. After all, we all adore yarn!

I don't really feel too bad about the lace debacle of yesterday. Yes, it's going to be a drag to knit that all over again. But I really did learn a lot. I also got some fabulous tips from the knitting store that I didn't see in the lace books I am using. I'd like to pass on one of these awesome tips.

Because it is so difficult, if not impossible to rip out lace, mostly because of the yarn overs (the stitch that makes the "holes" in the lace), my yarn shop Doc told me to cast a "life line" in my lace as I am knitting.

Here's how it works: After you've knit a section for a couple of hours or so, closely examine your work. If you find it up to your standards, take a smaller, contrasting yarn and thread it through all the stitches on your needle, securing it gently on the sides. Continue knitting another section and repeat. Then if you make a big mistake, you can rip back to the threaded row and continue onwards instead of having to tear the entire work out. Brilliant, isn't it?

Below you can see the little yellow life line running through my new lace:

Now the absolute best thing to do is to take a class, where the wise teacher tells you all these things from the get-go. Unfortunately, no one was offering beginning lace making at this time, so I did not have that option.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Puttin' Down the Dog

(Or should I say the Alapca?)

Let me start right off by saying no, no beloved family members have been "put down" or are in danger of that happening. So relax.

If you've been following, you know I am trying to knit my first lace work. I decided to stop working on the brown mohair/silk piece, and devote myself to getting the blue alpaca/silk piece done. Shortly after I took the photo above, I noticed there were some Problems, making me wonder if I needed to rip the whole thing out and start over. Dang! It hurts to type that. I mean, this shawl and I have spent over twenty hours together, and we bonded.

So I took my lovely alpaca/silk friend to the Doc at the knitting store where I purchased the yarn. She complimented me on my fine work, looked it over and asked me what the problem was, which was a good thing. In other words, the mistakes aren't that glaring.

There are four problems, with one being minor. The minor problem is that I used plastic markers to mark every nine-stitch repeat. I noticed after I knit about 15 inches that the markers were leaving spaces where they were, as a result of me not compensating for their presence and pulling the yarn a bit as I knit past them. You can see the horizontal lines running down the center of each large diamond:

When I found out that was happening, I removed all the markers and instead tried to pay more attention since I was going to have to count off the entire pattern in my head, no helpful markers guiding my way, telling me if I were off. While there's no way to fix the damage, it will probably be much improved after I finish the piece and block it. Probably no one will ever notice.

But the next thing does need repair:

Yes, a big, ugly hole. I must have dropped a stitch and not realized it. I'll have to go back and patch it carefully so that it doesn't show. AHHH!!!!

The third mistake was that I knit an entire ten rows on the purl side (and purled on the knit side) as I was speed knitting and not checking each row when I was done.

Finally, I think this piece is going to be a bit on the skimpy side, so that I'll wind up with a mal-nourished shawl. Grrr!

Have you ever gone to the Vet with a beloved family member, wondering if it was time to put it down? I have. The Vet always does the same thing. He or she will never give you a definite, yes or no answer. They give you the facts and let you make that awful decision all by yourself.

And my knitting Doc was no different. She asked me if this shawl was a gift for someone, or just something for me. Of course, I could never give a less-than-perfect item away. While these flaws aren't devastating, I'd be the one to decide whether or not I could live with them.

I thought about it, and don't think my shawl will have quality life, knowing I will always view it as flawed. I can be lazy and just finish it since I'm over half way done, or I can do the much more difficult thing and start over and do it right.

So I took my alpaca/silk fellow home, caressing the incredible softness in the car on the way home. I'm going to start over from the other end of the ball so that my friend can see, as he is unraveled, how perfect he'll be in his new incarnation.

Sniff. Sniff.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Let's Compare the Two Laces

It's become apparent to me that I'll be working on two shawls forever, because I can't seem to pick one and stick with it. I'm learning quite a bit about two yarns I've not worked with before, and the needles. I've pinned both pieces of lace to a white towel so you can see them clearly; remember, both projects use the same exact pattern, but the top yarn is a mohair/silk blend on size 7 needles, while the blue is an alpaca/silk blend on size 5 needles:

Should you ever attempt lace, the most important thing I've learned so far is this: In the future, I will only use one type of needles for lace: The Addi (Addi is the brand) Turbo Lace needles. They are brass-colored and have sharp points so you can get into those skinny stitches easily. I'm using the lace needles on the blue sample, and regular, silver-colored Addi needles on the mohair, because the shop was out of the lace needles in that size, and like an idiot I didn't think it would make that much difference. It does.

I'm loving this project so far, so much so that I didn't even mind when I took my car in for an oil change and got stuck at the shop for the entire morning, as I got to write, and then knit the time away while drinking coffee. Life is good.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More Lace

After I made up a sample, (shown in my last post) I decided to get the same yarn used in the pattern on page 20 of Victorian Lace Today, which is a silk and mohair combination by Rowan. The pattern also calls for using a Size 7 needle, which means that this will work up much faster than my other option.
Last night I made the first ten rows of the shawl. It will stretch out considerable as more rows are added:

Here's a close-up of one pattern repeat, shown between the two plastic markers:

I'm going to have to time it and see how long one entire, ten-row repeat takes. I have to do thirty-six of them, and as I said before, I can only work on this when I can give it my full attention, so this is going to take a while. But I am loving it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First Attempt at Lace

The seasons are changing; we had our first Spring rain a few days ago right on top of all the snow. I don't think I have a favorite season, but I do rejoice each time a new season comes, and this is expressed in my knitting. The hat and mitten mania that seized me around the holidays has passed. Now I want to pack away the heavy wools and move on to something airy and light, which could only mean it is high time to try... lace.

I've always avoided lace, as I hear it is terribly difficult. WHY? There are several reasons people avoid lace. First, you have to really pay attention. Lace is absolutely not the sort of project you undertake whilst your butt is parked in front of your favorite show. And if you do make a mistake, it can be much harder to repair than say, a dropped stitch in a plain project.

I always assumed that lace was made on the tiniest of needles. NOT NECESSARILY TRUE. While lace is often created with thin yarn, the needles are often much larger than one would think, as large needles create the holes.

I highly recommend Victorian Lace Today, by Jane Sowerby. The projects and photography are exquisite, and on page 20, she has a pattern for a simple yet gorgeous shawl.

The first thing I did was try to make a sample to see if I could really do this. Here it is, made of a lace weight alpaca and silk blend yarn on Size 3 (U.S.) needles, showing two repeats:

I am quite pleased, even though this hasn't been blocked yet. Blocking, something you do after a project is completed, means using an iron and pins to give the project a perfect shape.

I love the way the Spring peeks through:

Friday, March 5, 2010

The New Felted Baby, Part II

Here's the bag, inside out, showing the completed lining:

And here is the bag itself, with beading added:

A close-up of the beads:

I like the way the bag looks in natural light:

The New Felted Baby

I've labored so much this week on a project I almost feel like I've birthed a new baby.

Here's the scoop: Last year, I knit a large purse using my own pattern and then felted it. In case you don't know what felting is, I explain the whole process here. Basically, you apply heat and pressure to wool, the item shrinks up, becoming quite dense and strong.

But after all that work, I realized the bag needed to be lined because it was quite "hairy" on the inside due to all the novelty yarn. So the bag was put aside for quite sometime. But this week, I finally got to it.

First, I made a trip to the fabric store, where I found the COOLEST drapery fabric evah, and, it was ON THE CLEARANCE RACK!!! I like using thicker fabric for linings. Here it is:

I also love purses with lots of inside pockets. First order of business was to create a zipper pocket:

Then I made two side pockets, one for a cell phone:

Next, I wanted the bottom of the bag to be quite sturdy, so I bought some plastic gridding. The reason I used plastic is in case the bag ever gets wet, it will not mold. The next photo shows the bag turned inside out as I sewed the grid onto the bottom. You can see the "hair" I was referring to:

Then, the trouble began. You see, felted items often are not 100% even. They LOOK even, but one side might be a tad bigger than the other, which makes it extremely difficult to line. So I had to sew, re-sew, and sew again. Grrrrrr. This made me Very crabby.

But today, I finally got it done! Whew!