Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Little Knitting Progress and Many Thanks

I want to thank all of you who have left comments or sent emails in sympathy for our loss of Shadow. You have all been so generous and so understanding, and I truly appreciate your support. My heart still hurts whenever I sit down to knit and she's not there beside me, especially late at night; it seems so lonely.

Midnight is doing her best to shoulder the burden of being Only Cat, but she is by nature more solitary. Today I decided to bring the CatBookMom to the Midnight mountain, so I've moved to the living room sofa and I'm catching up with some of my TiVo'd programs - the SciFi Channel is running all of the old 'Enterprise' episodes, in order, and I'm a Star Trek fan of 40 years' standing.

I've made a lot of progress on knitting projects, so I have a lot of yarny goodness to sha
re. Most happy-making is that I have finally finished my Highland Triangle Shawl, from Cheryl Oberle's 'Folk Shawls'. I made this using Elann's Highland Chunky in the Tranquil Lagoon colorway and it took exactly 10 skeins, or 760 yards on size 9US needles. Tranquil Lagoon has a blue-grey overall color, but it has a lavender look closer up. Love the color!

Being vertically-challenged as I am, I knitted at least one repeat less of both the sort-of-brambly central section and the razor-shell lace. Even so, there were more than 250 stitches to be trimmed with the knitted-on edging. Since each stitch of the shawl takes 2 rows to form the edging, that's over 500 rows, but there's only 9 stitches. I found that the tips of my Denise needle set made perfect very-short needles on which to knit the edging.

Unblocked, the shawl measured 67in across the top and 30in deep; blocked, it is 77in across and 41in deep. My first pass at the blocking came out nearly 8ft by 4ft, so I scrunched it up and tried again. I really love this shawl and I have used it nearly every day, early mornings and late at night.

I have started
a gift scarf for a long-time friend, who saw some of my Handpainted Yarn, aka Malabrigo and oohed and aahed about it. HY is, I think, from the same source of yarn as Malabrigo, but is far less expensive. It's become difficult to find any 100% merino through HY, since Malabrigo has become so popular, but they do have some from time to time. This is 'real' Malabrigo, in the Cactus Flower colorway, bought from WEBS before I found HY. I'm using a simple double repeat of Vine Lace, from Barbara Walker #1, with eyelets on the side. There's not enough of a border to keep the stockinette from rolling, but this will block beautifully. Knitting with this yarn is so lovely, with the plushness of the single-ply yarn and the very subtle color changes.

Curlerchik, a knitblogger friend in Canada, tipped me off to some gorgeous yarn, which she used to make a moebius scarf. So I have to 'fess up to a small tumble off my KFTS (Knit From The Stash) wagon. This is Lang's Mille Colori yarn, which is 50% wool/50% acrylic, though you'd never guess the acrylic content from the soft, silky feel of the yarn. I got this from Kaleidoscope Yarn, but it's available from other shops, too. The plies are very, very fine and that makes it
tend to be a bit splitty, even with my relatively-blunt needles. But you have to check out this yarn. I ordered some just before my credit card number was stolen and before Shadow got sick, and somehow in the turmoil I have completely forgotten what project I had in mind. I must have had something in mind, since I specifically ordered 6 skeins. The picture is just a swatch, with the only purpose to play with the colors and see what needle size I want to use. The yarn band says (10-10.5US) 6-7mm, but I'm a loose knitter and I may want to use an 8US or even a 7. (5mm or 4.5mm). This is colorway #46 - blues and purples, of course!

The next projects are pretty ambitious: I want to finish my Dayflower Shawl in Elann's cedar-green Baby Silk; that's about a third done. The Elann Chat group is going to be doing a KAL of Chicknits' Ribby Cardi, and after much frustration trying to find a zippered cardi or hoodie that's not too long for short-waisted me, I'm motivated to knit one for myself. I'm going to use Elann's Highland Wool in Deep Blue Sea and Dusty Teal, the body in teal and the sleeves in the darker blue. And my DH wants a sweater. We found a not-too-heavily cabled pullover in Melissa Leapman's "Cables Untangled", and I have some bluish-green Debbie Bliss Merino Aran yarn that will look great on him.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Gone to Bast

October 1991 - January 26, 2007

Our little Shadow is gone.

Last week her tests at the vet, all those they call a senior profile, read normal. The Clavamox the vet gave us to help with the coughing seemed to be working. She seemed a bit quiet, but was still generally normal, sometimes curled on the bed next to me when I woke, or patting me on the nose to wake me and demand some attention. Then Thursday she kept lying down on the floor, and often right next to the water dish, though I didn't see her drink. Lying on the hardwood floor is not something she normally did unless in a patch of bright sunshine, so I watched her. I poured a bowl of fresh water and put it beside her, and she still didn't drink.

When DH came home, we decided to take her to the vet, to see what had gone wrong. It was far too late to try to drive across town to our regular vet, so I made a few calls and found an emergency vet nearby. They agreed she was very sick, and so we had to leave her overnight, away from The Only Home. The results yesterday morning were very bad. Apparently she had quickly developed extreme pancreatitis, and it had attacked nearly all her other organs. She was septic, her blood pressure was low and she didn't respond to any of the treatments.

DH couldn't leave work, so I went to say goodbye alone. The vet's people brought her to me in a fleece blanket, and provided a warmed one, too. I held her and cried and talked to her about how much we will miss her. Looking into her eyes, it was clear that she was past being able to respond. And so I held her while she went.

Shadow was our clever cat. Her fur, even as a kitten, was so soft we almost named her Silky. She figured out how to lunge at doors left not-quite-closed so that she could open them, even at her little 7-lb weight. Since these were bathroom doors, she also learned what "Out!" meant. She made the most beautiful S-curves with her tail, more complex than the other cats we've had. Shadow would willingly consent to being groomed only if we didn't pull, so she was often called our 'Knotty' cat. Most of the time she slept on her back, with the extreme cuteness that comes from paws upheld and crossed, and she really enjoyed having her tummy rubbed. And she sang complex "Kitty arias" in the hallway, preferably in the wee hours, telling all about how she had once again 'killed' her mousie.

Having retired due to health problems, I have been blessed with the opportunity to spend much more time with our cats than when I worked long hours. Often she was somewhat literally my 'Shadow', moving from room to room to curl up next to me as I knitted or surfed the Web, much more a cuddle-cat than her sister Midnight.

Shadow came into our lives the first Christmas we had in this house, 2 weeks before DH and I got married. We will miss her so much.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

OMG, this is GORGEOUS!!

A package just arrived from Amazon, and DH popped it open to bestow upon me yet another wonderful knitting book! Honest, I *told* him not to buy me stuff for Christmas. I really did, but he doesn't pay attention to me a lot of the time.

This one is hot off the presses, knitters, with an official release date that's next week. Knits from a Painter's Palette, from the legendary Maie Landra is a visual feast. Wonderful patterns using Maie's fabulous Koigu yarn, especially the Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM) Lots of patterns for this type of modular knitting are around now, from Iris Schreier in particular, and of course Kaffe Fassett has done beautiful and intricate color combinations in all sorts of fiber media.

The book has a lot of
information about Maie and her family, about the dyeing process (there are only 3 dyers??) and with instructions about modular knitting. Here are some of my already-favorite pictures.

This jacket is so gorgeous, though it is in subtle colors and doesn't show its beauty in this picture.
Big project, though, some 19 skeins of Koigu.

This one is the Carousel Tunic, one of the more brightly-colored designs that I find pleasing.

Here's another jacket, more formal with the stand-up collar and herringbone design.

This kids' vest is just wonderful, and it isn't just the fact that it features a lot of purples (my very most favorite color). There's an adult version, too.

This cloak is sort of the pièce de résistance, IMO. I love the colors and the black border of each motif makes the colors jump. The odds of me ever making this are non-existent; it would be a long, long project, since it calls for 47 skeins of Koigu. That's 8,225 yards of yarn, weighing over 2300g or more than 5 pounds.

An Unfortunate Event - But I'm Happy and Knitting!

The Unfortunate Event

DH and I have two VISA accounts, 'his' and 'hers'. His is with VeryBigBank, mine is with a VerySmallCreditUnion. Recently the servicing of my credit union account was transferred to a VeryLargeCompany, and I was concerned that the service would become awful. Well, I'm happy to say I was wrong!! This morning I got a call from VLCompany to ask about a possibly-fraudulent charge on my account, a $120 amount at a place I rarely go. Yep, it wasn't mine, and now it will take most of the week to get the new card & account # (boo, hiss!), but I'm so
happy. I would have expected them to inquire about a $1000+ charge, but $120? I've emailed to my credit union to tell them about the great service.

The Knitting News

There's some knitting fun to report. My seniors' group has finished their Red
Scarf Project scarves, and I'll be sending off 51 - that's right, Fifty-One! - scarves this week. I'm going to need a bigger box! Or maybe 2. Trish posted pictures of the scarves her group completed, and there were labels on them, so yesterday before our group meeting I created some labels and we had lots of fun with our little assembly line getting all the labels cut, punched and attached. The labels say

This scarf comes to you with encouragement
and support from the volunteers of the
Joslyn Knitting and Crocheting Group, Burbank, CA

I've made progress on my Highland Triangle Shawl, from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls book, with the lacy part now more than 8 inches long. I'm going to have to add more sections to my Denise needles to spread out the 300 or so stitches to try on the shawl and decide how much longer to make it. Pictures will be forthcoming when it's more than a big blob.

I delivered a gift scarf to my hairdresser Greg this week. I started this last fall, and kicked it to the top of the to-be-finished list when I made my appointment to become blonder. The scarf is the Slanted Eyelet Scarf from Alchemy Yarns (8th row of Accessories), done in Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Tweed in a deep blue-green. After working with chunky and worsted wools for so long, it was odd to be handling the lightweight silk/cotton/wool blend. I used a little over 1 1/2 skeins; I'd have used all of the 2 skeins, but DH convinced me that 6ft or so was plenty long, and that length looked good on Greg. The pattern was in the January 2006 Knitting-Pattern-a-Day calendar, and I've used it a lot. Quick, easy and looks much more complicated than it is.

And for a kitten update, the vet called yesterday to say that Shadow's various test levels are just fine, including her thyroid, for which we've been treating her for a year or so. Yay! We'll continue the meds he gave us, and they seem to be working; no coughing for the last couple of days, and her mousie is back in play, which is a very good sign.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Brain is What??

Your Brain is 47% Female, 53% Male

Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female
You are both sensitive and savvy
Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed
But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve
What Gender Is Your Brain?

My friend Grace is good at finding these quizzlets. I like most of them, but I was deeply disappointed to find out that I'm Dishcloth Cotton. I tried all sorts of different choices, but I am still Dishcloth Cotton. It must be because I don't have the faintest idea who Christian Slater is.

On other topics, I've been knitting, though I don't have any new pictures. I finished a gift scarf that I started ages ago, and that will go to its new home tomorrow. I *finally* figured out what I was doing wrong with Cheryl Oberle's Highland Triangle Shawl (in her book Folk Shawls), and I'm now working on the third increase. I really need this shawl; it's been COLD here. Over the weekend it hit 28F, and we have probably lost quite a few plants. Monday morning about 8:30 when I got up, the thermostat hadn't kicked on, and it was 60F indoors, 45F outdoors.

And today was my second trip to the vet's this week. Monday it was Midnight, for a re-check of her kidney levels. DH and I are very happy that her reading has dropped from 53 in October to 39; the top of the normal range is 36. Today it was Shadow, who has been wheezing/coughing a lot. Her x-rays show that her lungs look clear, though we won't have her other test results back until Friday. When I think of all the yarn I could have bought with the $$$ vet's bills, I'm still glad that we can afford to take good care of our furry companions.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Catching My Breath

Whew! This has been the busiest week I've had in a long time. Go here, go there, do this, do that, shopping, errands, appointments and, and.... That's not to say it hasn't had fun moments, but I've had very little quiet time, except after 10pm.

The best part of the week was getting together for lunch and a mini-yarn crawl with a friend in West LA. MT and I met via the About.com Knitting Forum, and though we only manage to get together 2 or 3 times a year, we always have fun. We stopped in at a new LYS in Santa Monica, Compatto, with a rather upscale and unusual variety of yarns. Their website isn't up and running yet, but here's a link to an article about them in the LA Times. Nicely done small shop, friendly staff and extremely friendly dog. They are carrying the coveted Lantern Moon circular needles, and I did indulge in a size 7US, my most-often used size. Knitters, these needles are wonderful, a delight to knit with, and the cable never kinks.

Then we dropped in at Stitches from the Heart, a charity that provides knitted goods for preemie babies. This is the charity's only shop, with all the profits going to the charity, and they have a lovely assortment of yarns for adults and for kids, including some yarn lines that I've never seen anywhere else. I picked up 2 skeins of yarn for a baby gift, as well as 2 skeins of TLC Cotton Plus for another gift project; I've been looking everywhere for a good red cotton and a pure white in the same yarn, and found it here. I did NOT buy for stash enhancement. This is the 'specific project' exception to my Knit from the Stash 2007 resolution.

I do have a fair amount of knitting to show off, though. Last weekend I pitched a mental fit and dropped all of my 'should knit' projects for long enough to make
a pair of fancy wool mitts for myself. I used Berroco's Lacis pattern, though I did a bit of modifying to fit my hands, adding a few rows of 2x2 ribbing at top and bottom, and eliminating one increase in the thumb area. These are made in Elann's Highland Wool, inl Dusty Teal. The mitts are knitted flat and then seamed; a really quick project.

I also finished a baby gift; though it's for a newborn, it's more of a 9-12month + size. I started with a pattern designed by the LYSO at my favorite LYS, Unwind Yarn, and then tweaked it. The pattern was written for Artyarns' Supermerino, but I used an acrylic/wool blend, and needed to adjust for a non-blockable yarn. Plus I hate to seam, so I altered the directions to knit in the round to the armscye.
The Yarn is Classic Worsted LP from Universal Yarn; I love the way the long print (LP) makes the stripes look. This is a yarn I found at the Stitches from the Heart LYS, and it comes in several very nice colorways; their website has info on stockists across the country. This pattern used one skein (197 yards). I can't get the rich colors with my camera, so you'll have to take my word for it being a lovely assortment of greens, from a rich foresty dark green through a light teal.

I finished 2 more scarves for the Red Scarf Project. The RSP is accepting donations of scarves through January 31, so if you haven't sent a scarf, you still have plenty of time. My seniors' group should have about 4 dozen scarves to contribute, and I know that they are rather tired of knitting red! I have one more started, and should have it finished this weekend.
The bright red is Lion Brand's Woolease, using the mistake rib stitch, and the darker one is Paton's Shetland Chunky Tweed. I really like working with the Paton's; it works up fast on size 9s, and this corner-start garter stitch scarf was a perfect mindless knitting project. While waiting some 40 minutes at the dermatologist's yesterday, I think I finished 6 inches, lol! (I also enabled a newbie knitter a bit, telling her about Unwind, and about how much fun we have knitting at my seniors' group. She said she didn't know any other knitters but her sister, and seemed pretty lonely.)

Speaking of my seniors' group, I'd better get a move on to get ready for a lot of noisy, fun show and tell. Yes, knitting and crocheting happens, but with 15 or 20 of us, we do talk a lot, lol!!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

LA Traffic = Gridlock

LA has the worst reputation for traffic, and it is well-deserved. I do find it somewhat comforting to find that other cities have similar problems, though involving lower levels of vehicles and people; these cities also have fewer freeways. When I first moved here from Denver, people said, "Oh, you don't know about bad traffic." Wrong. Denver had, and I'm sure still has, awful traffic rush hours, and winter weather just makes it worse.

There's a very good LA Times columnist, Steve Lopez, whose work I read every Sunday. Today his topic is the excruciatingly bad traffic situation on LA's Westside. This area is bordered by I-405 (the only north-south freeway and the only route most of the San Fernando Valley has to the area) on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Some 300,000 people commute to this area daily, since the housing prices are so high most people can't afford to live there.

As an example, Mr Lopez cites a nightmare trip one of LA's most influential County Supervisors had this last fall, but one that is completely "normal" for the time and the area. Mr Z needed to make an 11-mile trip from Santa Monica to the Beverly Hills area at 6:30pm, allowing an hour to cross all of West LA in the process. It took him 50 minutes to get to I-405, a distance of about 2 miles. The remaining 9 miles took him another 50 minutes.

I used to work in the area, and 7 years ago it took over an hour to get there from Burbank, a distance of about 13 miles, and I took a winding route through the various canyons. It's worse now. I know this because I have 2 very good friends who live in West LA, plus my dentist and optometrist are there, and I only go there between 10am and 2pm. It still takes an hour.

Over on the About.com forum this week, a member of
The Sand & Sea Guild, the major LA knitting guild, reminded LA knitters that the guild has frequent open meetings. In Malibu. Mapquest told me that the distance is 40 miles, and, in complete disregard of reality, that it would take 49 minutes. I almost hurt myself laughing. Access to Malibu is on one 2-lane road, the famous Pacific Coast Highway. If I were to try the drive, I'd probably allow 2 hours, an hour and a half at the very least, and that would be midday.

Living in Burbank and driving most of the time only in the immediate area, I am becoming spoiled, since rush hour traffic here is so much less congested. My LYS is on a major 4-lane street, a very, very long block south of an even more major cross-town street, and at 5:30pm on a Friday, I may have to wait through 2 stop lights to get to the corner. Sometimes I can make a U-turn and go south. This always amazes me: that I can safely do a U-turn at the peak of Burbank rush hour.

I'd still rather drive the freeways, or even in West LA traffic, than in any large parking lot. At least there all the cars are going in the same direction. It's much safer.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Intelligence and Bluster

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convincing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.
You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

What Kind of Intelligence Do You Have?

Someone had a quiz about which Easter candy they were, and I surfed over to Blogthing and found this one. There are 25 questions, which I take to mean some solid thinking went into the design of the quiz. This analysis is quite like me in many ways, though these days the 50-mumble forgetfulness - especially the 'tip of the tongue' search for words - is making me a bit nuts. Oh, and I am trying not to be insulted at the suggestion that I could become a politician.

Have fun!

On the knitting front, I finished the baby item I've been working on, and quite by accident found a very plain but matching button in the jumble in our seniors' group's storage. Our stash of completed Red Scarf items has reached 3 dozen, though I think we're all getting sick of red. One of our knitters has done 10 of these!!

This afternoon I found myself thinking of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. I was actually visualizing the book, since I forgot/didn't know that Disney has a video. As I left for my seniors' group meeting, I saw the top of our 40+foot palm tree being blown in circles. The last time we had sustained winds like this, most of the dead fronds were blown off the palm tree, which saved us many $$$ in tree trimming costs. So here are the lyrics to Blustery Day, just for fun.

Hum for a Blustery Day

"Where are you, Pooh?"
From: Winnie The Pooh and the Blustery Day
Written by: Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Performed by: Sterling Holloway [Pooh]

Hum dum dum ditty dum
Hum dum dum

Oh the wind is lashing lustily
And the trees are thrashing thrustily
And the leaves are rustling gustily
So it's rather safe to say
That it seems that it may turn out to be
It feels that it will undoubtedly
It looks like a rather blustery day, today
It sounds that it may turn out to be
Feels that it will undoubtedly
Looks like a rather blustery day today

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Coffee, Knitting and Cats, Oh My!

You Are a Soy Latte

At your best, you are: free spirited, down to
earth, and relaxed

At your worst, you are: dogmatic and picky

You drink coffee when: you need a pick me up, and green tea isn't cutting it

Your caffeine addiction level: medium
What Kind of Coffee Are You?

The latte part is dead-on, but my drink is triple non-fat. At home for weekend breakfast, we have fresh-ground luxury coffee, often from Kauai.

Free spirited? Hmm.
Down to earth? Check.
Relaxed? DH will be ROFL. I am a stress burnout case.

Dogmatic? Whassat? I *am* opinionated.
Picky? Yeah, sorry.

Oh, about the knitting: Finished another Red Scarf yesterday, mistake rib using Woolease in bright red and started another in Patons Shetland Chunky, this one a diagonal garter stitch. Nearly finished a baby item but found a dropped stitch in the 3-needle shoulder bind-off. STILL haven't done a stitch for me!

Here we have the Black Sisters, showing off
how they spend their days. The extreme closeup is Midnight, on the end table getting warm from The Midnight Lamp. She grows extra-long whiskers, but only the white ones, one on each side, really show up. Yesterday I started to change the sheets and found Shadow all comfy, buried in the down comforter, with just her head visible; she started to move the instant she saw the camera. Then last night I came back to my knitting to find my spot taken over, with the girls being back to back bookends. Yes, that is a 'Bah, Humbug' on the pillow. Since I am responsible for most of the masses of stuff we use to decorate the house for Christmas, it's a joke; we also have one that says 'Ho Ho Ho'.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

I sent an email to the members of our family-by-love, who got nearly all of my hand-knitted gifts this year, asking for a photo of them wearing the prezzies. And I got a picture! This is a bit fuzzy, but seeing them really helps me to feel they like the gifts and the work that went into them. The guys are wearing the seamen's-style scarves and you can see the boys in their colorful hats front and center. The slippers that two of the women are wearing came from a lovely pattern that one of my seniors made; they are knitted double-stranded, and the design she uses makes them look nearly like tapestry.