Tuesday, December 15, 2015

That Time of the Year


Out in the yard . . .

Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

It's . . .



Yes, that's a picture of the cover flying off the pool and flapping around in the wind.  Again.

It's one of the many reasons that I am so over this whole December thing, even if we are barely half-way through.  December is an endless cycle of concerts and games and practices and work deadlines (why did I agree to an accelerated deadline?  WHY????) and I spend most of the month driving and driving and driving and getting nothing done.  It's the kind of month that makes you breath a sigh of relief when one of your kids gets sick because you can finally cross something off your schedule.

I decided yesterday (as I do every year) that I don't like it very much. It makes me kind of cranky.

One of December's casualties is my knitting.  The assault of extracurricular obligations leaves me with no energy, no focus, and scattered snippets of time for projects, although I have become even more expert at packing a few rows into those snippets.  (Did you know that if you sit really close to the stage at the middle school band/chorus concert, you can see well enough in the glow of the stage lights to knit through the whole performance? You just have to look up now and then and watch the kids on stage with great attentiveness so that the people around you don't think you're failing in your parental obligations.) The result all this running around is that I have been atypically monogamous  and abnormally attached to the little stuff.  Recently I've knit 5 pair of fingerless mitts (one of those was really a pair of "tipless gloves," but let's not quibble) and lined two pair of mittens. The fact that I have resorted to lining my mittens speaks volumes about my current knitting mentality. The mittens originally were knit in the winter of 2014 but I chucked them back in the to-do pile because the prospect of lining them was unbearably dull in comparison to all the shawls and sweaters and other shiny new things I could be working on.


There are bright spots in the month. One of them was watching this goofball don his new suit and hammer away at a bass drum that is bigger than he is.


He is a full body drummer-- head bobbing, shoulders wiggling-- but he managed to give us the full dance and drum show without ever taking his eyes off the conductor. He thought the beginning band concert was about the best time a guy could have, and he's already looking forward to the next concert, although that's not until May, a month that for me operates an awful lot like December, but with sunshine and flowers to help out.

Monday, November 16, 2015

That's All She Wove . . .

Count down with me, if you will:








Well-- not really done.  I have well over 100 knots to tie, a wet-finishing bath to administer, and some sewing to do, but those are tasks for another day, and I now have four of them to work with. That's all for tonight, group.

Counting Down

So you can guess that I'm either very forgetful or very busy weaving. Or a little of both, I suppose. 

When we left off, I was on a quest to finish the tallit with plenty of time for tying knots and sewing things on it, etc. etc. That goal has been amended, and now I'm on a quest to finish at some point before Saturday.

Progress has been made, though.  As of November 7, the loom looked like this:


Two days later, it looked like this:


(we won't mention what my work pile looked like after I took better than half a work day to make the loom look like this).

Next we had the first pattern section in progress:


and now we are mired in the Eternal Sea of Plain Weave.


It is nearly impossible at this point to see how much is done and how much is left.  If you take a peek underneath the loom, you can see the woven cloth rolled onto the cloth beam.  You can also see that the beam prevents me from taking a ruler and measuring how much white I've got.


There are ways around this.  My chosen method is the String of a Certain Length, which is the grey line you can see in the last two pictures.  One end is anchored (temporarily) in the weaving at the beginning of the white and when I get to the far end of the string, I know I can stop weaving the plain stuff.  I have measured and remeasured this string and written notes to remind myself how much ES of PW I have to endure and which knot on the string (there is only one, what makes me think I'll get it wrong??) represents the point at which I quit weaving white and start weaving patterns. None of this  stops me from panicking that I have mis-measured or botched the math or that someone has mysteriously shortened my string and that I will weave a tallit that will be so short that it will look like a pocket handkerchief instead of a prayer shawl.  This is the part of the project in which I have to have faith that I'm not a total screw-up.  I can't measure and double check; I have to just believe that I'm doing this right.

It's driving me crazy.

It makes sense, though, that a prayer shawl should require a little faith. Right?

It's still driving me crazy.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Follow Up

See how quickly I came back?  It hasn't even been two weeks, and here I am again to thrill you with my tales of derring-do.

First up is an epic battle between a wanna-be-weaver and her loom.

It all started with the idea of making my son a tallit for his bar mitzvah. I've made three of these things already, so it is not exactly the craziest idea I've ever come up with (although with two weeks left to go and no tallit on the loom, I might be forced to amend that position).

I decided to go with a fine wool


and a long color change knitting yarn


and a new-to-me structure called overshot, in which you basically weave a background cloth and a design at the same time.

Because both the materials and the structure were new to me, I did something wild and crazy:  I wove a sampler first.  Actually, I wove two samplers.  The first was dedicated to learning the basics of overshot so that I wouldn't eff the tallit up and the second was dedicated to testing the intended materials and colors so that I still wouldn't eff the tallit up.

Really, there is nothing crazy about this.  It is a completely rational way to design something and I learned all sorts of useful stuff.  What's crazy about weaving two samplers before weaving the tallit is that I am the world's most procrastinating-est wanna-be-weaver, and even though I started the first sampler in way back in the spring, I have still managed to get myself within two weeks of the absolute--drop dead--no possibility of an extension last date on which the tallit must be done and there is no tallit on my loom.

I told you it was getting exciting around here.

Here is what  learned from the sampler.

1. I like the general design.  Here you see it in white, but on the tallit it will be blue and red.


2. Did I mention white?  Not surprisingly, given the original cone of fine merino wool, the sample background fabric was VERY WHITE.  Blindingly so, in a way that made me fear for the safety of the congregation on the big day.

3. And so we sampled some more.  I pulled out some yarn left from the first tallit I made and tried again.


4. This was the Goldilocks part of the sampler.  The middle stripe is TOO WHITE.  The bottom section is too grey (I really didn't like what the silver thread did to the red and blue design).  But the top section is just right.  It has a slight warm glow, it plays nicely with the red and blue yarns, and, as an added bonus, because it is a tencel yarn, it adds a little bit of drape to the fabric.  All good.


5. Or was it?  Tencel is a plant-derived fiber and here I was mixing it with wool.  There is a point of Jewish law, which comes up NEVER in a Reformed congregation like mine, that forbids the mixing of linen and wool in a garment, and I didn't know whether that law meant, by extrapolation, that it would be unkosher to mix wool with other plant-based fibers.  I have gone most of my life without any concern for this issue, but it seemed like a major cheat to make my kid a religious garment that violated religious law, and, for the first time in my life, I had to go get an opinion from the Rabbi to make sure I was not on the verge of making my son a Bacon Tallit.   Not to worry, said the Rabbi.  This is a requirement that comes with no explanation or reason (there are a bunch of Jewish laws that are like that) and, although I might be able to find a different opinion if I searched long enough, according to his research the provision was limited in application to the blending of linen and wool.

Good enough for me.

And now we're back to my usual set of problems:  so much work to do, so little time.  Here is what my loom looks like (so, so empty looking!!! I think I'm starting to panic) and you can imagine the task in front of me as I thread 558 bits of string through all that metal and begin speed-weaving.


The good news is that, like painting a room, all the actual labor is in the preparation.  Once that is done, the weaving can go very quickly, assuming I actually work on it.  So, into the fray I go!

Monday, October 26, 2015


All blog-derived evidence to the contrary, I have not fled the country, been abducted by aliens, or otherwise been forced to stop posting.  I just keep forgetting.  And, to be truthful, topics were easy to come by when I had little kids at home doing weird things.  Now during the day it's just me and the animals and all this yarn. We don't do much and it doesn't look like that will change any time soon.  Still, there might be something interesting to say about the smaller details, so I'm offering up these pictures as a downpayment on some future posts.  Best case scenario:  you'll find something interesting here this week.  Worst case: I've developed a cure for insomnia.





See you soon.  Ish.

Friday, May 15, 2015

On the Careful Use of Language

Although my kids might disagree, I try not to spend too much time being a pain-in-the-butt grammar hawk.  Every once in a while, though, the internet offers up a magnificent blooper and I am unable to keep my trap shut.  Check out the following gem:

The origins of the photo are thus: in the middle of teaching his organizational behavior class, a student who could not find a babysitter’s kid began to cry. 

As I read it, this sentence asserts that a student could not find the babysitter's kid, which caused the student to cry during a class.  Due to the goofy placement and use of "his,"  it would appear that the student was a man and was, paradoxically, also teaching the class. 

The situation described is entertainingly absurd, but does not at all reflect what the writer meant to say.  If you read the full article (and you may have, as the photo that prompted the story went viral), it turns out that a young woman couldn't find a babysitter for her child and had to bring her infant to class.  The baby began to cry during the class and the professor picked the baby up to sooth him (or her--I'm a little fuzzy on the details) and continued to teach the class while holding the baby. Props to the teacher, but I think the writer needs a better editor.

On a completely different topic, I have no idea where I left off in my knitting saga and I don't have any good project photos to post anyway, so instead I present Rupert, the pet rock my daughter had to make for her science class.*  I am particularly fond of his smile.  And his hair.  And his eyes. He reminds me very much of my daughter. 


*No, I don't know why we are still making pet rocks in high school, but I also don't understand why the kids take written tests in PE (we used to call it by the hopelessly antiquated name "gym").  I guess my kids are right when they say I just don't understand anything about their lives.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Little Bit of Spring

We're finally having a little bit of Spring around here.  It brings us flowers

(including true-to-life teenage flowers that like to take selfies:)

and showers

and along with the usual renewal, this year Spring has brought us a notable replacement.  Our faithful old van retired, to be replaced by this marvel of Japanese engineering:

It is sleek and sound and filled with modern gadgets (back up camera? check!  bluetooth integration with everyone's phones/music? check!  voice command calling? Holy smokes-- I can do that too!) and a host of clever little storage places and we already love it.  But you can't just dump a van that's been part of your life longer than half of your children without feeling the pain of separation, and I did not take the parting of the ways well.  A friend of mine captured the experience perfectly: it was like handing your dog over to the shelter and the sense of responsibilities abandoned was icky indeed. I have mostly stopped worrying that the car was lonely, scared, and confused over its fate, but every once in a while I'm zapped by a pang of regret and I wish there were a way to have a decent retirement party for our less animate companions and know that everyone was going happily on to the next phase.  Even if that phase is the scrap yard.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


I am trying my best to make good use of my rigid heddle loom, but this merciless wad of yellow yarn refuses to reveal its free end.

I begin to suspect that this particular skein of yarn was packaged by M.C. Escher and that I will never, ever find its beginning.

I have tried to resolve the problem through liberal application of bad words and phrases, but in the interest of setting a good example (or at least not setting a terrible one) for my children, I had to modify my language and, in so doing, I think I diluted it so much as to render it powerless.

At the peak of my frustration, I vented my feelings by dashing the miserable child of a female dog to the  floor with all my strength.  It sailed lightly through the air and landed at my feet, making no sound whatsoever.

Yarn is a most unsatisfying adversary.

All is not lost, however.  I own scissors and will momentarily return to the field of battle with them.  Thunk, they will go, onto the table, blades open and menacing. One of us will be going to pieces.

Once more into the fray!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

For the Record . . .

I grow weary of this winter.

More particularly, I'm tired of getting stuck in snowbanks on my own damned driveway.

Really tired.

So tired, that words cannot express my tiredness.

That's a lie.  I know plenty of words designed to express the precise emotion I felt this morning upon getting caught in a snow drift for the fourth time in a week, but they are not very nice words.  Also, I'm pretty sure I used up my daily allotment of them when the car first got stuck, when I realized I was going to have to shovel my way out, when I got my legs tangled in the snowbank for the first, second, third, and fourth times, and then when the dog, who spent most of his time barking helpfully at the shovel, decided to bury the tire I had just shoveled out.

He's a bit of a moron sometimes.

To recover from the morning's excitement, I plan to make a giant pot of coffee, break out the Dove squares (or, to be strictly accurate, I will break out more of the Dove squares), and knit a few more stripes on my stripey socks.

These socks have been knit and worn and then had to be reknit so that they might actually fit my feet without making my toes curl under.  The second sock of version 2.0 is finally nearing completion and as much as this project has felt like a lingering plague on my knitting existence, the do-over came at a time when I was suddenly noticing the imminent failure of several other pairs of socks due to what can only be described as yarn fatigue at the ball of the foot. I'm hoping I have solved the problem (at least for future socks) with the knit-in patch that you can see in the finished stripey sock. Off we go!

Monday, January 19, 2015


We had some cold weather last week.  So cold that on the way down the driveway to drop my poor kid off for the bus the car thermometer looked like this:

On the way back up the driveway, it looked like this:

It was the kind of day when a fresh container of water for the chickens would start to freeze on the 60 foot walk between the house and the coop and when even the frost makes its way inside to warm up a bit:

So we did what any rational people would do with this kind of weather:  we boiled some water, threw it out the door, and watched it snow:

Today we are back to normal:  30F, snowy and blowy, with a treacherous layer of ice on all the walkways where the snow that softened in yesterday's 40F re-froze last night.  I am, of course, thrilled that I have (almost) nowhere to go today.   I will even try not to complain about the fact that my hot coffee and warm blanket time will be spent working rather than goofing around, because it's still nicer than dealing with the great outdoors right now.

Before I get on with the dreaded employment, I will leave you with a small and cheerful WIP to counteract any sympathetic shivers you might feel on my behalf.

It's the bottom half of the first of a pair of Fiddlehead mitten, which I am making to replace these sorely missed mittens, which vanished last year.

At the rate I'm going, they should be done and lined sometime in June. How very useful.

Stay warm!

Monday, January 5, 2015

A World Gone Mad

This was in my inbox this morning and I can only conclude that someone in the advertising profession has lost his or her mind. 

 Did you read it?  Let's summarize the theory here:  Never mind the live action outside, kids; it's time to ignore the great outdoors and  improve your understanding of nature by staying inside and playing with plastic bricks.

Well, there's a grand idea.

Who wouldn't want to trade all the colorful action outside for these utterly life-like models?

Not that the birds aren't cute, in their oddly modular way, but I have to say that I find the beaks a bit sinister.  They look strangely militaristic and I keep expecting them to fire little green laser blips. Which, of course, would please my boys immensely and send them running for the nearest Lego store  so they could add a new threat to their ongoing Lego battle.