Symmetry and local yarn shops

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This is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in a colorway called Christmas at Downton. Now, as I was a huge fan of the show up until the end of season 3 (SPOILER: they killed off my favorite character – I may not be back for season 4) I simply had to have a skein of this yarn. I have one skein of Lorna’s – a Solemate in Flamingo which I bought as part of a fund raiser for breast cancer research, so I’m familiar with the yarn. And this colorway really is evocative of the Christmas season in that grand pile.

The toe, foot and heel came off without a hitch. After a bit of practice at it I’m getting pretty fair at knitting socks – and fair warning you’re going to see a lot of socks here. I tend to knit my usual toe-up pattern then go wild with the cuffs. I look through my books to find a stitch pattern that I like, work out how many stitches I need and go – I knit the cuff until I have just enough yarn to do a super-stretchy bind off and done!

But, sometimes I have trouble making a stitch pattern work. That was he case with this one. I putzed and fussed and cursed and ripped back. Sometimes I had an extra stitch or two at the end of the round, sometimes I was short a stitch – I simply could not make this blessed pattern work! Now, normally I would just rip it back to right above the ankle (I leave about an inch above the heel before I start my pattern stitch) and would just do a plain rib, but this time I was determined to understand where I was going wrong. So, since I had to stop out to the yarn shop anyway to pick up a skein of Spud and Chloe sweater I took my book along to see if they would help me read the stitch. Sometimes, when another person reads the stitch they can see if there is a misprint in the book and I was beginning to wonder if this was the case here since I was doing everything I could think of, including counting the pattern out loud to the cats. I didn’t bring my work because I didn’t want that to bias the interpretation on the stitch pattern.

We poured over the pattern, counted it out, figured out the repeats, everything we could think of and it was written correctly. Using the number of stitches I was I should not have had any problems. I went home, thinking on the entire drive that there had to be something in the way I was working that was causing me to go wrong.

When I got home I gamely took up my needles and counted again and that’s when something that Lisa said struck me. She said “Well, since you’re working the magic loop method you have 36 stitches on each needle, which is half of 72 and also divisible by 9…” as she tapped on her calculator. But I didn’t have 36 stitches on each needle – I had something like 41 on one and 31 on the other or some such weird distribution – definitely not symmetrical. So I quickly shifted 5 stitches onto the other needle and began working and VOILA! SUCCESS! I couldn’t believe that something so simple was the root of my problem with a simple stitch pattern (it is k one row, p one row, k2tog [yo-k1 3 times, k2tog 3 times] k 1 row – that’s it). I felt alternately dumb as a box of rocks and grateful for the help I received. So I knitted away on that cuff finishing it up at about 2am – I couldn’t stop.

But that’s the wonderful thing about a local merchant. They take the time to help their customers. It’s all about customer service for them – and, since that’s my profession appreciate it probably more than a lot of people would. Visit a local yarn shop and see what I mean – you will never want to leave!

Local yarn shops are a good thing….

So is symmetry.

Knitting at night

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I know a couple who love to go camping. They are very dear friends of mine and the girl half is very (VERY) clumsy. She can keep right on walking even when her feet roll over and she’s walking on her ankles, but she can’t walk a straight line to save her soul. It really is funny – she as clumsy as a ballet dancer trying to walk down a city street.

To help save her life her hubby bought her a headlamp for walking about after dark – like to (pardon my indelicacy) pee. There are no lighted bathrooms in the Adirondack’s and she always seems to have to pee at 2am. She loved it and and is now on her third – that’s how much she’s used it (and fallen to break them).

I always thought they were really cool, but didn’t have much use for one since I don’t camp or bike ride at night. I could use one while walking, but our apartment complex is well lit, and I tend to stay on the circle here. But I have a new passion that I’d like to practice after dark, one that required the use of both hands, so use of a flashlight would be cumbersome. And I don’t want to string lights around my patio – no place to plus them in first, and I just don’t want a lot of lights glaring down on me when I’m peacefully sitting outside in the evening.

Just take a look at that neato item on my head – a sweet little headlamp! For what you ask? Need you ask? So I can knit at night!

Crazy, no?

Frogging, root beer and the mysteries of bluetooth…

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See that sweet little ball of yarn there? Yup – that one, sitting on top of my old afghan – the bright yellow one? Folks, that used to be a sock. More specifically a pom pom ped. That didn’t work. and that, my friends was why it got frogged. It was done, all toe decreased and Kitchenered and everything – and I ripped it all out. Because that’s what you do when your knitting just isn’t right.

What was so wrong with it you may ask that I completely tore down a completed sock? Well as I worked on sock #2 it became evident that I had completely miscounted the heel flap -having a stitch counter helped me realize that. And I had also somehow done my toe decreases unevenly. And my Kitchener stitch was horrendous.

So that was one day this week. Then came yesterday.

I love root beer. A&W Diet root beer – my fave. Until half the bottle winds up in my knitting bag… on my work in progress… for class tomorrow… with my homework not yet done… I love Napoleon, my little black cat. He’s one of the sweetest little kitties. But he’s the clumsiest cats I’ve ever known. Fuz could walk across the coffee table and not touch a single thing. Napoleon on the other had could knock over a glass if it were the only thing on the table – or a root beer bottle. So good luck getting my homework done.

And thanks to the Apple community forums I now have a keyboard again to type this on my iPad. For the last week I not been able to pair the keyboard with my iPad. The SAME keyboard that I have written every post with since I began this blog. After scouring the site for days (and a trip to the Apple store this evening and getting soaking wet – don’t ask) I finally found my answer. I was reading about this guy who was having the same problem and he found that his keyboard was paired with his iMac and he didn’t ‘forget’ the device when he started using a different keyboard. Well, my iMac has been off all week, and the guy at the store had no problems pairing it when I remembered that I had paired this keyboard with my Apple TV (yes – I am a gadget junkie). Once I ‘forgot’ the device on my ATV PRESTO! I am back to writing this rambling blog.

And just for listening to that whole ramble I’m going to reward you with another photo of my little Poli. Say Hi, Poli….

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Reconnecting

Lakefront 6-7-26

Ah, the Milwaukee Lakefront. I’ve had a love affair with it for as long as I can remember. Coming ‘down to the lakefront’ was always a treat – even before it was as pretty as it is now. It was actually designed by Frederick Law Olmsted along with 3 other Milwaukee Parks, something I didn’t know until I moved away.

But I remember hanging out here as a teenager (in my wasted youth :)). I’d come down here with my buddies and we’d walk or nap on the hill (gone now – there used to be a big hill and grassy area where that beautiful white winged building is located). Then I went to Arizona for college. No lakefront there… But I made due in the desert for a while – like 4 years.

I moved back to Milwaukee in the mid 70’s and my lakefront had changed a lot. To preserve the shoreline they dumped a whole lotta fill to create more land, creating most of Veteran’s Park and extending Lake Park to the east. Most of it was still mud at the time, but it grew slowly into the area that you see now. As I spent the next 20 or so years in Milwaukee, hanging out at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Summerfest grounds and Lake Park I was always restored by the water and the waves.

But in 2000 I moved again, this time to Upstate New York – to Saratoga Springs to work at the Quad/Graphics plant – and I loved it there. Instead of my lake I now had mountains to explore. The Adirondacks, the Greens, the Berkshires – I was surrounded by mountains. Every weekend I was off – to Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire. Need a lift from New Haven to Boston? No problem! Stuck at Logan and need to get to Manchester, New Hampshire? Be there in a couple hours. If my friends and family were anywhere in the northeast I was always ready and willing to drive off to adventure.

But I got to missing those friends and family. After moving away from Saratoga Springs to Rome, NY I lost touch with a lot of my friends there. When I moved back to Troy it was too far from Saratoga to do more than hang out on a weekend and, by now most of them were too busy. Life had caught up. I still toddled off to Vermont at every opportunity (my apartment was 28 miles from Bennington), but now went alone. I still met Steve in Boston every year and we’d hang out for a couple wonderful days, but then it would be back to Troy and alone. It started to wear on me. Fact is, I’m not getting any younger.

So I came back to Milwaukee again. This time after 12 years away – and you can’t even imagine the changes this time. I felt (and still feel) like I’m in some sort of strange time warp. The streets still have the same names, but they don’t look like they did. Whole neighborhoods that I remembered one way are now completely changed. And again I refer to that white winged building above – the Calatrava or, it’s official name The Quadracci Pavilion. Wow! I was blown away. And next to it the Discovery museum, the surrounding park with fountains and the bridge to Downtown Milwaukee. Who would have thought that all this beauty would be built here? In Milwaukee?? Now, before you look at me askance – Milwaukee has always had a world class art scene: one of the better modern art collections, world class orchestra, chorus and opera company. Lots of galleries. But now to have all this as well? Wow… just… wow.

Definitely time to get reacquainted.

Hmmmmmm

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You’ve probably guessed by now that I love to knit. It has helped me relax, to focus and to quit smoking (not a cig since January). I love soft, pretty things, socks, sweaters, scarves, hats and shawls.

I also love yarn – the feel of it, the variety – it’s wonderful stuff. Since I’ve been knitting almost obsessively I’ve mostly used wool and its wonderful. Animal fibers. Ahhhhhh…. Lovely sheep-y wool, alpaca, llama, even exotics like opossum and cat. The feel of it and the warmth, it feels lovely on my hands and creates wonderful fabric.

Now I’m redoing that infamous lost gauge swatch using a yarn that I’ve never tried before and I’m not all that sure I like it, or that I’ll be able to even work with it. It’s called Sea Song and its made of cotton and kelp. It really intrigued me.

So I’m working my swatch and really struggling with this yarn. It’s very smooth, to the point of being slippery and I don’t like the way my stitches look. It’ doesn’t have any body and its – I don’t know, all I can think of it flabby. Plus it’s really stressing my hand. I had to put the needles down after only 20 minutes, how would I get through an entire sweater with this stuff? I don’t know if all plant-based yarns are this way, are they? Now Cascade 220 Sport? Beautiful, smooth, easy to work with. Like buttah. Madelinetosh? Heavenly. Plucky feet? Ahhhhhhh…. This Sea Song? Not so much.

So we’ll see if I get a sweater out of this or a whole new set of dishcloths.

Dang – I lost it!

Have you ever made something then promptly lost it? Has it ever just twisted your nose? Well that’s how I feel. Mainly because this time I was a good girl. I did the proper steps, in the proper order and dang if it isn’t gone.

My gauge swatch.

I lost it.

I made a nice sized gauge swatch in 3×3 ribbing, which is what the majority of this new top I’m making is knit in. Nice size, about 6″x6″ unblocked. Then, following my instructor’s advice I put it in the wash with the other stuff I would normally wash at that cycle and temp. When I put the stuff into the dryer I completely forgot about it until I was back at work (I work from home, so I try to do laundry on lunch and breaks – it’s usually a nice walk down to the laundry room and back). I figured that, if it came out really bad I could make another. But when I took my clothes out of the dryer it wasn’t there. I folded my t-shirts, but it wasn’t clinging to one of them. I folded my towels, unmentionables, camis – nanda – it wasn’t even hanging onto my microfiber dish cloths – and those suckers stick to EVERYTHING. I was so bothered I walked back down to the laundry room to see if I dropped it but didn’t notice and a big NOPE on that one.

Oh I know I can make another. It’s just the principle of it. It’s like the poor single sock – used to being a couple and now on its own and lonely. Dryers shouldn’t eat clothes.

Or swatches!

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Rummage sales anyone?

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See those 2 light colored teddy bears on the ends behind that adorable little cat? Those were my catch of the day today. Genuine Vermont Teddy Bears – $2 each. And I’ve been crowing about it ever since!

Why you may ask? What is it about a Vermont Teddy that makes them so special? Well, nothing really. They are really nice, jointed teddy’s, made in Shelburne VT (http://www.vermontteddybear.com/) – well the classic bears still are, they are still hand made – which as a crafter I really appreciate, and the are just really nice bears. Are the valuable? No, not particularly.

So why snap them up like I’ve found the 8th treasure of the world?

The reasons are many and complex but, for now suffice it to say that I just love stuffed animals – nice, good quality stuffed animals. Always have. I remember my brothers tucking me in after story time and piling all my stuffed animals around me in bed. Remember the scene from ET where he was hiding in the closet with all the toys? That was me, in my bed with all my stuffed animals.

My current collection started with a teal colored teddy that my Uncle Russell made for me that had a button in his tummy that played Happy Birthday. I treasure it. Then came a poor little bear that I’m certain is a Steiff, although he has no tags, who was laying in a free box at an antique show in Greenwich, NY. Then there are a couple of Ty bears – Peace and a wizard and one that has Hey Jude (my song) embroidered on his tummy.

When I look at their faces I see their personalities – and, in some I see the people who gave them to me or the circumstances by which I acquired them. And in my 2 new additions I see not only a bargain, but also a fun day spent with my precious niece rummaging.

And isn’t that was a collection really is? It doesn’t represent the object especially, but a memory – of a person or a place or an event. A perfectly preserved little slice of time embodied in that object. Because to collect something you have to have a connection with it – something that makes you love it.

Now I just have to figure out the names of my 2 new family members….

Until they go wrong, of course….

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Take a look at the sock on the bottom. Pretty snazzy, huh? And it’s a lovely yarn by Claudia and Co in a colorrway called Tropicana.

Now look at the sock on the top. Also by Claudia and Co – this one called Kelly Girl.

A lot of the same colors, no? Greens, pinks, yellows – beautiful sunny colors! On the skein they looked like they might go well together because there was only one skein of each. Well, the colors are okay, but the striping pattern – that’s another story. The Tropicana falls in narrow stripes that change often. The Kelly Girl not so much. No, Kelly Girl decides she will form wider stripes. Its lovely- watermelon-y stripes and I love them, but they do not go with Tropicana.

So now I’m sunk. My only option unless I ant to look like a crazy homeless person is to rip them both out and find a base color to combine them with.

Oh well… the boys still love me, even if my socks don’t match… I think.

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