Thursday, August 31, 2006

One down...

Well, I managed to finish up the scarf! Yippee! It is Great Adirondack Fluff colorway Onyx. I can't find a link to that color, I will add a photo later for this post. No time this week for pics, sorry. I picked up some black Baby Grande Alpaca (Plymouth Yarns) for a hat, I'm thinking I might try to add some cables. I've never tried it though, so I'll have to think on it some more. (I know it can be done & I'm sure I've seen patterns, but I've not seen any for yarn this chunky.) That should take care of the first student. I have about two weeks to get the hat done, so barring complications, I'll get her gift(s) ready before she heads off to school (from Oklahoma, to Seattle, and now off to University of Nottingham!).

I've been piling through patterns for gloves now. I've got until mid-December to get these done, but I'd prefer to complete them much, much sooner than that. So, I know I want something bigger than sock yarn! He's a lively one too, he wants grey gloves. Yep. Exciting, isn't it? I'm just hoping the gloves aren't too hard. I'm starting classes soon (and full-time work & two children & husband & ...), I don't want to take on too much. Ha! Too late, right?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Back to hats & scarves

Well, I thought I was done. Really, how could I be so silly?

I work as a librarian at a college and I supervise all of our student employees. Last year I had a group of them (7 total) who were graduating after working with me for 3 years (or more). My babies leaving the nest, you know? So I decided that instead of the boring old $10.00 gift certificate my director always handed out, I would give them something more personal & made by hand. That's right, I decided to knit something for each and every one of them. Fortunately for me, they didn't all graduate at the same time, but I was still knitting three gifts for one quarter and four gifts for the next quarter. (Our school has quarters, not semesters, and they last about 11 weeks each.)

Now, if I had lots of knitting time available, this wouldn't really be a big thing. The first round of students just got scarves anyway. I think I was suckered in by the fact that my first scarf (in GGH Fee brown & gold) went so very quickly. I think I knocked that one out in one day while watching Frontier House on DVD. So I cheerfully started the next two that didn't go quite so quickly, but still wasn't bad. (Sadly, I only remember that the second one was blue & fuzzy, which just means it was not traumatic or overly exciting in any way. Also, I don't have my notes with me right now.) It would have been REALLY nice, however, if I hadn't wasted most of the quarter deciding that I wanted to do this for them & then agonizing over colors for the students. (They are art students and kind of picky about colors & whatnot.) The third was was a beast. It was for a guy (one who really appreciates the efforts of handmade anything) & I picked out this lovely alpaca in varigated colors: orange, rust, brown, grey, cream. Super nice yarn. Since I had only done two other scarves, in novelty yarns, on large needles, I was unprepared for the joy of knitting a rather simple, worsted weight yarn on size 7 needles. I ripped about 6 inches out twice trying to create a pattern that wasn't too time consuming but would prevent the curling. The yarn had a bit of wave to it, but not really a boucle, subtle patterns were lost, I was looking for a ribbing pattern, but not one that required a lot of counting. That scarf took forever! I think I finished it the day before graduation.

The next quarter was really tough, however, as there were four of them. More agonizing over colors, etc. & then I got stupidly generous and decided to throw in hats. What the heck was I thinking?! I managed to get them all done, and only one hat was a little big. Elastic works wonders, doesn't it?

Christmas brought about a whole new scarf & hat opportunity this year. I did about seven scarves in Great Adirondack yarns Fluff in various colors. Only one hat (in something else fluffy, but not G.A. Fluff - too expensive for a hat!) and I LOVED that color. Of course, it is the one yarn I lost all record of, I can't find it in the store anymore and can't look for it online because I don't know what it is! Typical. Anyway, the Christmas thing was okay, all were done on time and I even made myself my first knitted object. But after Scarf Mania, I decided it would be a LONG, LONG time before I made any more.

Now, I have another dear student graduating & what am I doing? Making a scarf. That's okay. It was a request & she's getting a deluxe Great Adirondack yarn scarf too. (The LYS was having a close-out sale on them & I went a little crazy at Christmas time.) Once again, I've got to do a hat. She's off to England for college when she leaves here, however, so I know she will use them. I really hate to see her go, but she's decided art isn't for her, she's going to study biology.

One more dear student to go, and he wants gloves. I've never made gloves, so this will be fun. At least I have a little over 3 months to get them done. Will that be enough time?! Should I freak out now, or wait until a week from the deadline? >sigh<

This is it! The last handknit graduation gifts for students. Really. I mean it this time...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Midway Madness

I took the girls to the fair this weekend. We've never been before & so they were very excited about the whole thing. We managed to see every animal on display, including bees, and they had a wonderful time. I'd like to thank all of the animals for putting on a good show by making lots of noise in addition to just looking so darned cute. A special shout out to the roosters who felt the need to crow non-stop, the dairy cows for considerable mooing and the cow standing with her front feet in the feeding trough. The girls were highly entertained.

We saw a few angora goats being judged and the girls allowed me a whole five minutes at the spinners booth. I picked up some info for the local spinning groups, meeting times, etc., and I hope to be able to drop in from time to time. We'll see. My life just keeps getting busier & busier despite my attempts to simplify. I have no idea how that works, but there it is.

Lastly, on the way out, my oldest (6) wanted to try a few of the games on the midway. I let her use her money (birthdays, etc.) and that little beast managed to win at three different games! She one a gigantic CareBear (Funshine in case anyone cares), a smaller CareBear (a Christmas one) and (the most prized win of all) a goldfish. Goldie now resides on our dining table having recovered, or so it seems, from her trip in the car. My oldest, in a moment of awesome big sister-ness, gave the smaller CareBear to her little sister. Little Sister did not want to try any games, but was feeling a bit left out. This was an incredible act of generosity and kindness & touched my motherly heart. Of course, five minutes later we were in full Exhuasted Grumpy Child mode (both of them).

All in all, a good day at the fair.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Happy thoughts on a Wednesday morning

I guess I'm on the road to recovery after the tree incident. I've been working on a couple of things the past few days, but no real progress to speak of. We've been too busy in our house, and I'm too tired to spend much time knitting - or anything else for that matter.

I've got another washrag going, one for my youngest daughter. I only work on that at home or my oldest girl's Tae Kwon Do class. It is coming along, perhpas when I finish I'll get some pictures up just so you know I'm not making them up. Ha! I also work on my sock. Yes, still! But only at swimming lessons, so it is slow going. I'm nearing the heel, so I'm getting a little nervous, but I'm kind of excited too. I think the second sock will go faster. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I also dug up an old project of mine. When I started knitting a little more seriously, that is, when I decided to stop working my way chapter by chapter through Knitting for Dummies, I discovered that there was a knitting guild. I also found out that they had classes & I thought this might be a good way to improve my skills and have "someone" look at my work and tell me if I was doing it "right". I've kind of gotten over this need for approval, as it were, but since I've paid for the class I figure I ought to finish it. So, this week I dug out my instructions for the class and started trying to figure out where I left off & I'm trying to get that going again. Nothing but swatches in my future, but that's okay, I think I need some fast & fairly mindless knitting to ease me back into a bigger project.

Now I know, there is no "right" way, or more to the point, if my knitting does what I want it to, and I like the way it looks it is "right". I was much more insecure about what I was doing when I signed up for the class. I've read alot more since then, and I've finished two sweaters since then, so I've gained more confidence in my knitting. I still have a lot to learn, however, and the classes might help me try things I would otherwise avoid. So, I'm actually looking forward to completing th ones I signed up for over a year ago.

Also, I'm just in a place where I want to finish up my UFOs. I feel I'm starting to let my Yarn Acquisition get out of control & my project list is getting too long. I'm not crazy out of control, but I don't want to get there either. I know me, and if I get too buried under UFOs I'll just stop knitting and curl up in a corner somewhere, overwhelmed by the pressure to complete everything and use up all of the yarn. I have a thought that if I can just keep these projects from getting too out of hand, keep the UFOs from piling too deep, that I'll be able to knit happily for the rest of my life. Happy thoughts on a Wednesday morning.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Completely gutted

Well, I had intended to post more last week, but an event in my life pretty much shut me down for the week. My 80+ year old neighbor decided to "help" me by trimming some branches off of our 40 ft Hemlock tree. These branches drooped low over the front of our house and provided a beautiful covering and feature to our very boring house. They also kept the glare off of our TV, provided privacy for our 9-1/2 foot front window, and reduced the heat from too much sun in that South facing window. My husband and I LOVED those branches. They were, in fact, our FAVORITE feature on our house. Also, because of the size of the tree, we have a huge freaking dead spot in our yard that the branches covered nicely. Now that they are gone my yard is hands down the ugliest yard on the block (considering the yard of the neighbor on the other side of my house, that's saying something) and I have no time for yardwork. Full-time job, two young children, commute from hell & Himself hates to work in the yard = no time for yard work.

We were absolutely devastated by what the neighbor did to our tree and our home. However, this guy is over 80, is something of a surrogate grandfather to our kids and is in all other ways the most awesome neighbor we could ever ask for. He called a couple of days later and said he knew he'd done a "very bad thing" and wanted to ask for our forgiveness. He offered to pay some money for the whole thing, but you know, it wouldn't put the branches back on my tree. We talked very honestly about what he'd done & how I felt about it. I didn't tell him I'd been crying fairly continuously since I saw the damage, but I explained all of the problems we were now going to have because of what he did. He was only looking at the outside, he had never stopped to think about the impact it would have inside our house (the glare, the heat, the loss of privacy). If the man were an utter jerk, I'd have taken the money. He truly believed he was doing us a favor, he was completely out of line & he didn't know that his actions would make such a dramatic difference in the tree or our yard. Did I mention that he is over 80?

I swear, it feels like a death in the family or something. I hate going home because I have to see my house and confront the loss every time I pull into the driveway. Any time I start thinking about it and what I need to do to minimize the damage, I just get all weepy again. I know it is just a tree, but it was such a violation. I'm totally gutted over this thing. I didn't knit all last week because it gave me too much time to think about it and I just cried. I find it very difficult to knit and cry at the same time, so I've only just picked up the needles again. It has been a week, time to pick up the pieces and move on. I just wish my house wasn't so very unattractive now.

Things are going better the past two days, so I think I'm beginning to move past grieving and into acceptance. However, I have been so upset by this, and I've lost so much sleep over it as well, this has really caused me to spend some time thinking about myself and my life right now. Yippee, introspection! (like I have time for this!) I have learned a few small things, but I think the tree was the tip of an iceberg, if you will. It was very symbolic of something and now I feel compelled to figure out what that is. As long as I can take my knitting with me while I'm working on it, oh, and maybe my spinning too. I was going to post some pictures of the house before/after, but decided it might be too much for me right now. How pathetic! Tomorrow, something happier!

Monday, August 14, 2006

FO and the weekend

So this weekend was super busy with a church family camp in Snoqualmie Pass. I agonized for several hours over which project(s) to take & finally decided to go with the things that were most portable. I took along my sock and my washrag, but I never even touched my sock.

The family got in a couple of hikes. One was into an old railroad tunnel that is about 2-1/4 miles long. The ties have all been taken up, and it is a popular place for hikers and bikers. In the winter the same trail serves as a cross-country ski trail. This is my second trip up to the pass & I managed to go to the same place twice! Weird. Anyway, we hiked into the tunnel but the girls got scared & we had to leave. They made it about 200 yards in, then we headed back out into the sunshine. Once outside we found that there were tadpoles and frogs in some water collecting in a ditch by the trail. They loved that much better than the tunnel and I took some pictures of the critters so the girls can remember their trip.

Next we hiked into a little ravine and followed a creek/river down to the lake bed. It seems the lake was down (maybe drained?) a bit, and we could go quite a distance that way. We headed back to camp for lunch & then drove out to swim in the lake later on. Personally, I'm all for pools, but the girls wanted to try it out. After sampling how very cold the lake was, they decided pools are better too. Of course, I think it might have been a scorching 67 degrees (F) outside, so not my idea outdoor swimming temp. I'll try to add pictures of the lake if any of the turn out. It is a weird setting, when the water is down there are all of these tree stumps (big ones) and it looks like a freaky alien planet or something. I always find it very interesting but almost creepy. I'm not sure that will come across in any of my photos though.

All of the time we spent indoors at the "lodge" I carried my knitting around with me. The other folks there seemed bemused, but let me be. I managed to finish a washcloth for my oldest DD literally just as we were ready to head back home. So, nice timing on my part. Now the youngest wants one. At least I have plenty of yarn! LOL However, during my lunch hours it is back to sock knitting for me. I'll save the next washrag for home, so the little one can see me working on her washrag. Thank goodness they don't know I'm knitting socks! I can just imagine the demands they'd be making then!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My REAL first sweater

I thought I would post a picture of my real first sweater. This is the sweater in the first chapter of How to Knit by Debbie Bliss. It was done in TLC Wiggles yarn in Grape. The yarn was selected by my daughter & the sweater took about 2 1/2 months to knit. I had finished three hats before I attempted this sweater & I was really anxious about whether or not I would be able to finish this project once started. It was, in fact, a test to see if I could complete a "big" project. I impressed myself with how quickly I knit this thing & that it looked like it was supposed to look.

The down side was that my daughter loved the yarn, but the fit of the sweater really bugged her. Apparently she is not into oversized sweaters. I ended up running a safety line through the sweater & cutting into it to shorten it. That was pretty nerve-wracking, but at least she wore it after that. Oh, and I learned a new trick.

My youngest is also requesting a sweater & has selected some Katia yarn in Jamaica (color 4005). I will get to it but I'm not in a hurry. She is currently 4 and I'd like her to be a little older. I kind of feel that she might be more interested in wearing a sweater when she is a older. Also, she is very picky about what she wears - already. I would like her to participate more in the making of the sweater so that she will be more likely to wear it when it is finished. I don't trust her right now. So, I'll hold the yarn and wait. I've got plenty of other things to knit on my list.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Here we go again...

Now I'll have that song stuck in my head all day. Oh well, only myself to blame this time. A few weeks ago, one of my student employees thought it was fun to keep making references to the song Mandy, so that everyone working at the time ended up having the song stuck in their heads. I was the only one who knew all the words, though. Ha!

A very busy weekend, more on that tomorrow maybe. My MIL was visiting from FL (on her way home after a family reunion in CA). That meant very little time with my knitting all weekend, which was too bad. I really needed some time with my yarn. Actually, what I wanted was time with my spinning wheel, but that was way too much hassle with the guest in the house. Especially as we spent a fair amount of time out doing things.

I did start a new ball-band washrag, however. I knit one up for my daughter's teacher as an end of year present (wrapped around a nice bar of specialty soap). I thought it would be a quick and simple thank-you gift. I had no idea it would be a flipping addiction! Busy enough to take a little thought from time to time, but simple enough to let my mind wander & watch TV/movies/etc. So, immediately following gifting the teacher I started stashing yarn for washclothes. -sigh- The worst part is that I keep trying to buy more. What is going on in my head?! Am I trying to help the world get clean? Jinkies!

I've spent the past three years trying to keep my yarn buying in control. I didn't want to have a stash larger than my project list, and I wanted my project list to remain managable, no more than 2 projects ahead of where I was currently working. Well, that's toast. I've got about four projects in mind and two on the needles (plus the current washrag). I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed & so I'm thinking about a yarn diet until I can get caught up again. It would move faster if I could get more knitting time in. I was trying to get some time in at the gym, though, and knitting time is usually the same time I have for the gym. It is hard enough to get me to go to the gym. If I have to give up knitting to do it... Well. You can see the problem.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Big Sack Sweater

I've been having a heck of a time getting this photo uploaded. >sigh< I've been trying from work because I have a T1 connection, as opposed to trying from home with my dial-up. Sadly, the connection at work hasn't been stable & I couldn't get the file to upload. Today, day 3 of the attempt, was going to be my last go before trying from home. Actually, I would have tried from home anyway, but I've had a Rather Busy Week leaving me NO time for anything fun at home. This sweater was knit using Moda Dea Aerie in black and was my first knitted project for me. I did knit one previous sweater for my oldest daughter from the Debbie Bliss How to Knit book. This sweater was also my first cable, and wow! I was surprised at how easy it was! I'm sorry it isn't very clear in the photo, it is clearer in person, and in spite of the way it looks in the photo, the sleeves were even. Yes, I did say "were even". Ah, let me tell the tale...

Many years ago, in the late 80's to be honest, I received a wonderful fluffy, black sweater for Christmas from my grandmother. I loved that sweater. No, I LOVED that sweater. It was soft, a bit oversized (which I love), went with everything (I was pretty seriously into black at the time) and I wore it constantly. Flash forward nearly 7 years, and I was still wearing that sweater. Until the Incident. I had married & moved to the Seattle area and we lived in an apartment. I went to a laundromat down the street to do our laundry each week. Well, one day I came home and when I pulled my favorite black sweater out to put it away, I found a hole in the front of it big enough to put a basketball through. I have no idea what happened to it, but it was bad. I had to consign the remains to the garbage bin, and I cried when I did it.

I spent another 7 years looking for a sweater replacement without any success. Nothing was just right, you know? Anyway, last fall I found the Moda Dea Aerie yarn and it was the softest stuff I'd ever stuck my hand in. So, I decided that I would make my own Favorite Black Sweater. I splurged on the yarn (a Christmas pressie to myself) and found a pattern that I liked and was all ready to go. Except, well, I apparently have committment issues. :) When it came time to start the sweater I kept wondering if the pattern I had chosen was the "right" pattern. I went through all of my books for the umpteenth time and when I hit the Big Sack Sweater in SnB I thought, Yes! That's the one! I did not consider that the pattern was for a significantly less fluffy yarn & that that might impact the look of the cable, no, this was all about The Yarn and creating The Favorite Black Sweater.

I can't believe how quickly I knit that sweater! I started December 26th & finished it the second week of March, and I lost about two weeks of knitting time due to a muscle spasm in my back. I'm still impressed with myself. (Now I get to the sleeve part.) I finished the sweater with plenty of cool weather left in the season. I wore it several times and the sweater went through several washings. No problems. No shrinking, growing, matting, etc. It was perfect! Then one day I put it on and the arms had grown considerably. Like about 3-4 inches longer. What the heck? I have an idea what happened, but no proof. The rest of the sweater is the same as before, no measureable differences in size. Only the sleeves. Well, Himself often does laundry and is meticulous about laying sweaters out to dry (I didn't even have to train him on this one!). However, he seems to think that it is enough that the sweater is not in the dryer, items will get laid out in all sorts of positions. I think that what happened is that he put this sweater out to dry in a position where the sleeves were left hanging down. Since they were wet & had a long way to drop, I think they just grew the extra inches, but now I can't seem to get them back to their original length. I don't mind that much, I can roll them up and it is fine with me, but it is an annoying puzzle for me. I don't want to tell Himself that he messed up my sweater. He was so supportive when I was working on it and shows it off to folks when I wear it. (Sweet, huh?) I can't even be sure it was him, but it seems really likely that the drying incident is the culprit. Anyway, it is still my Favorite Black Sweater. Seriously, it is like a kid's security blanket or something. Almost obscene.

And finally, a creepy photo of me with my face removed. Ick. I think I'll try something different next time.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I didn't mean to go so long without posting, but that's just the way it goes sometimes. Yesterday I was off getting a MRI on my wrist. That was quite an experience. Even with the headphones and music, it was really loud. I get to see the doctor on Friday to see if anything turns up in the MRI to help diagnose my wrist problems. What is up with the wrist anyway? Well...

In January I was wrestling with my oldest daughter (5 at the time). We were on the bed and I was on my back, she kind of launched herself at me and I put my hands up to catch her. (She has a long history of smacking me in the nose with her head. I've learned to defend my face at all times with her & frankly, I don't know how I've survived 6 years with her without having a broken nose.) My arms were at a 90 degree angle to my body & my palms were facing the ceiling when she landed on me. My right wrist bent back further than was comfortable and pain shot up through my index and middle fingers as well as up my arm towards my elbow. I thought I'd sprained it, but I didn't notice any swelling in the wrist, limited movement & everything did move, so I figured I hadn't broken anything. Weeks passed and I was working on the Big Sack Sweater (from SnB) and I noticed that my wrist was getting really tired when I was knitting. I thought it was just the weight of the sweater, up to that point I'd only been knitting scarves and hats, and I worked to keep the weight distributed more evenly to avoid the strain. I did notice that I did not feel the same strain in my left wrist, but I didn't tie it to my injury. In March I noticed that I was developing limited range of motion in that wrist, but it was all centered on the back of the hand/wrist, not underneath where carpal tunnel would be. Then one day I noticed that if I bent my hand down (fingers pointing down) that I had a really weird and angular lump on my wrist. Freaky.

I made an appointment with my GP and he said it looked like a ganglier cyst. A common thing that used to be treated by dropping very heavy books on them to pop them. Being a librarian, I found this particularly funny. However, they are now treated by aspiration (a needle to remove the fluid, but they usually come back) or by surgery (MUCH more effective). My doctor sent me to a hand surgeon, whom I did not like. The hand surgeon agreed that it looked like a cyst and sent to have an ultrasound and aspiration. If the aspiration did not work he said he'd do surgery. I'm not all excited about being cut into, so I was fine with trying the aspiration. Neither doctor seemed to think my injury was related to the problem. The doctor who did the ultrasound could not find a cyst, so he sent me to a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist performed a huge number of tests for arthritis which ALL CAME BACK NEGATIVE OR NORMAL, and decided that I need to be treated for arthritis anyway. I will add that she is the first of the four doctors I've seen to have any X-rays done on my wrist A life-long course of nasty medication that needs constant monitoring, might I add. I did do a course of prednizone, to which I had some very bad reactions, and I told this doctor that I was not confvinced that this was a proper course of treatment for my wrist. She offered an MRI, which I jumped on, and if nothing conclusive comes out of that I will be seeking a second opinion. I feel that she's trying to make my problem fit her specialty because I'm in her office, not because it makes the most sense. We'll see how it goes on Friday.