Saturday, March 30, 2013

Signs of Spring

Alison was kind enough to send me some photos of green and flowery things to keep me going until actual spring gets going in this part of the country.   They came just in time to slow down the mitten binge (not that it stopped me from finishing the last two pair):

--and turned my thoughts to soft pretty colors.    This is when my recent stash dive reminded me that I had a big whack of baby yarn that I'd planned for a blanket, only one baby blanket in the gift bin, and three coworkers currently expecting.  Clearly this was a sign.  So I pulled out the yarn and went cruising around for a new blanket pattern--preferably one that required minimal finishing.  The million ends involved in doing squares were not an experience I wanted to repeat any time soon.  I soon hit upon the crinkle textured blanket.   Which was perfect- cute, easy, in one piece, and yet would require me to learn only one new stitch.  I quickly mastered the foundationless single chain (courtesy of a handy internet video) and launched into the project.

Of course the *downside* of making blankets in one piece, is that when you make a mistake, there's a lot to pull out to fix it.    Had it been only one mistake, I probably would have stuck my head in the sand and kept crocheting, but  I managed to eliminate three whole pattern repeats, and that's enough to make the sides of the blanket crooked.  And if there's a way to fix crochet mistakes in place, I haven't found it yet.  Rip, rip, rip. 
Biscuit lends moral support during the ripping.

But now that it's done, I'm sure I'll be happier with it, and having done a few inches, I've caught the knack of reading the pattern so I'll be more likely to catch mistakes earlier as I move on.  I'm sure Biscuit is pleased too.

And speaking of Biscuit-- the other night we were having take out Chinese.  As my husband and I ate, Biscuit, as he is wont to do was pawing at the door of the toy closet.  We grumped at him, and he settled in to wait impatiently for toy time while we opened out fortune cookies.  The restaurant had included three, so I joked that we should toss the third to Biscuit, who would undoubtedly bat it around the floor.   However, I thought that getting cookie crumbs out of the rug and plastic cookie wrapper out of the cat would be less than amusing, so I opened the last cookie myself, and burst out laughing.  "It really is Biscuit's cookie,"  I told Jonathan, and showed him the fortune.

It said, "Many doors will be opened for you."
"Can we have some toys, now, hey, can we?"
"Or, I could just explore the closet.  That's fun."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy Spring!

Because nothing says 'spring!' like ten inches of heavy wet snow.

Yeah.  It's been that kind of week.   Needless to say, knitting winter gear has seemed like a perfectly rational response to this kind of thing.   I turned my three skeins of homespun into two hats, thankfully without feline assistance.

I have to say, this was clearly the work of a beginning spinner.  The yarn was over and under-spun, thick and thin and generally rather hard to work with.   I finished with only a foot or so to spare, and used the few ends to weave in the thinner spots.  I'm planning to give these a good washing.  They're both rather large hats, and a little light felting and shrinking would be a good thing.

And of course there were more mittens:

The only other bit of news for the week is that Biscuit has shown a wholly unexpected musical bent.  I was playing the flute, as I am occasionally wont to do, and Biscuit was seized with a sudden fascination.   Every time I started to play, he came running over, climbed into my lap, peered intently at the flute, apparently trying to figure out where the noise was coming from.   Just a hint- having a large fluffy cat try to stick his nose in the mouthpiece when you're playing makes it very hard to continue.    Naturally when I tried to demonstrate this later for my husband, Biscuit gave me his patented, 'what?' look and ignored me.  But I do have some evidence: 

Fascinated, I tell you.  Why that night and no other, I couldn't begin to say.

Does your spring involve flowers and green growing things?  If so, please send pictures- it may be the only green I see for a while. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The March of Progress

The projects I took with me to Dallas last week were the Herringbone Rib socks, which continue to delight me with the play of color. I finished sock one and cast on sock two, but once I got to the festival I needed something simpler. It's easy to miscount all those passed-over stitches and yarn overs when you're watching dancers and musicians and tapping your feet to the beat.  Fortunately I was prepared for this. 

For my simple project, I grabbed a solid color and cast on the trusty garter rib pattern. Black yarn wouldn't have been my first choice for a travel color, but I wanted them for a gift, and it was the only 'guy' color I had. Also most of the festival was in daylight, both flights were in daylight, and as it turns out, I can knit garter rib in semi-darkness by feel. One festival, two jam sessions, one flight, a couple of evenings, another terrific concert and Sunday knit group later- a complete pair of garter rib socks.  (These are true black- the photo washed them out a bit.)

And speaking of Sunday knit group- although I missed the yarn swap, the knitters were kind enough to save me some yarn. Admittedly, some of it was yarn of mine that didn't find a home. But around half of it got exchanged for new yarn, most of it quite a bit more useful than the yarn I lost. The bagful of worsted odds and ends was irresistable- I had to immediately cast on for some mittens. For mittens, I adore using up ends- I get to change colors before I'm bored and have the gratification of using up skeins to the last end.
Biscuit checks out the new yarn.

Okay, amend that. I had to remove a fluffy cat from the bag of yarn, *then* I could cast on mittens. With frequent pauses to say things like, "No, Biscuit! Don't eat that!" as I removed a plastic bag from his tiny fangs, and "No, mine!", as I wrestled an errant ball of yarn out of his paws. Even Cookie got into the act- as I was double-winding yarn for two-at-a-time mittens, he pounced on the pile of unwound yarn and it snarled horribly while I was taking it away from him. (My husband is no help in these matters. He watches snickering while saying things like, "but you weren't using it!". )  But I did finally achieve mittens.
`Also at knit group, as a reward for finishing socks, I cast on for a new hat, out of Biscuit's favorite homespun. I've been careful not to knit that one when he's prowling around- he likes homespun wool way more than acrylic. No doubt it's the interesting smell of the less-processed wool that intrigues him, but it's very unhelpful to the knitting process. (No photo- I'll take one when there's a bit more than the cast on to show for it.)

The Wasabi hat has continued to grow-another real delight to watch the pattern unfold.

Naturally having more projects has made some things slow down, but I still feel like I'm making progress all over the place.  There's nothing like  a few quick mittens to give you that finishing zing when you've been working on a steady diet of socks and sweaters!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Marching On

It was that time of year again, when we board plane for Dallas and seek out a preview of spring at the North Texas Irish Music Festival.   They were kind enough to arrange some nice weather for us.
Fair Park, where the festival is held.
It was beautifully warm and sunny, by our standards- mid-60s (17.8 C) on Saturday and over 70 F (21 C) on Sunday.   And they had green grass and early flowers blooming and it was very much not like having a foot-plus of snow on the ground and a chilly wind cutting through your mittens.  In fact I didn't even bring mittens.  And walked around without a coat.  It was lovely.  Not that we don't get this kind of weather- it's just that it's still a couple of months off in New England.

Though the festival is called Irish, it's pretty inclusive.  Alongside the Irish stew booth, you can get Irish cheese steaks and bratwurst, mini doughnuts and kettle corn.   The local Renfaire crowd turns out in costume and kilts abound.  Also bagpipes- these are the North Texas Caledonian Pipe and Drum Corps.

One of the local customs I find charming is that dogs are welcome in Fair Park.  A number of various rescue organizations as well as the humane society had booths at the fair.
This handsome  fellow was clearly happy in his work.
And while I'm speaking of dogs- my husband took this amusing photo in Boston:

And of course there was music-  This was a group of young musicians called Troen, who did their high-energy finale standing on their chairs.   

There were of course many other fine musicians and groups- we went to two superb sets of the excellent group Sliabh NotesWe heard songs from Glasgow by Ed Miller, a perennial favorite.  We went to a set by Brian McNeill, an extraordinary Scottish songwriter, possibly best known for his work with the Battlefield Band.  We watched dancing and left the park every night with our brains buzzing with music. 

In short, it was yet another fabulous festival, and well worth a trip to Dallas if you enjoy Celtic music.  

Naturally I worked on socks while traveling, but since I haven't photographed them yet, I'll show you the projects that I left at home instead.    These are sadly destined for the frog pond, I think.  I thought I'd try some socks out of cotton, but  both my own sense of the emerging sock and some comments from other knitters lead me to believe these aren't going to work well.  Other knitters have told me that all-cotton yarns- even when knit in ribbing- tend to stretch during wearing, and wind up saggy.   Since I've noted the same tendency even in cotton blends, and since I can feel the lack of elasticity even in the partial sock, I think I'm going to be giving up on this and using the yarn for something that doesn't need the elastic properties that socks do:

 The Wasabi hat, on the other hand, is an enduring delight.  It continues to demonstrate a crisp and lacy elegance as the pattern emerges.   It was rather a wrench to leave it, but I don't have any wooden needles in this size, and I wasn't willing to take metal needles and a metal cable through security.   I'll be getting back to it this week though. 

Now, naturally you're wondering about the cats, and whether we're getting the kitty cold shoulder after abandoning them for the weekend.  In fact, we had a friend come over and feed and play with them, and they were quite startlingly nonchalent about our absence.  When we got back it was, 'Oh yeah, you.  Yawn.  How about some food then?'  

We've had some nice cuddling and lap-sitting, but nothing out of the ordinary.    

In fact, our return was hardly worth staying awake for.  

And speaking of awake, I shouldn't be.   Must go fall down now.   There is work tomorrow, socks to photograph and cats to entertain.  (Not to mention figuring out what Blogger is doing to my formatting.  Argh.  A problem for later.)