Thursday, July 31, 2008

On Hold

My dear friend Marie emailed to find out why I've been absent from the online community. Early last week I came down with a very nasty bug that caused severe dehydration and all the side effects. I spent a week in the hospital and just got home Tuesday afternoon. All is OK, no permanent damage to my kidneys, and I'm on the mend. But I'm likely to be extremely low-energy for the next couple of weeks. I don't even have the oomph to answer many emails.

I found that being a blogger helped with the frustrations and annoyances of being in the hospital, since I could think about how to write about them, which helped to distract me. I'm not going to go into details, which I think will be way TMI, but it was a difficult few days, though thankfully not painful. I will share this: You know you're REALLY thirsty when the breath strip won't melt on your tongue!

I'm way behind with reading blogs and with Ravelry, but I'll catch up. My dear friends here, especially my Friday night knitting group, were wonderful at keeping my spirits up, including sending the most cheerful bouquet of flowers. DH was just amazing, bringing this and that to me, and even letting me talk him through how to delete and add audiobook chapters to my iPod - he's never used iTunes before.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Knitted Hug

Marie (Smariek) posted today about a secret project that many of us Elannites (as we've come to call ourselves) worked on the last month. Benne, one of the first members of the Elann Chat Center group, has been through a couple of serious health problems, and most recently had surgery on her eyes to save her sight. We decided that she needed a' knitted hug', and so Libby organized a community-knit blanket. Each of us knitted a 12in square, which Libby and others sewed together and added a beautiful border. You can see pictures of the finished blanket at Feather Song's blog here.

Marie's post has identified several of the squares, with links to the blogger's posts. Alice, Jamie and I knitted them during our knitting retreat in mid-June. Here are pictures of my square and theirs.

Mine, the lacy green one, is the Dayflower facecloth pattern, which I found on Marie's blog, though the motif is found in quite a few patterns, and is one of my favorites.

Jamie's green square is done in an arrowhead sort of pattern - sorry, I forget the exact name.

Alice's lovely deep purple is a motif she took from one of Elsebeth Lavold's patterns, Gyrid, I think.

I finally got to meet Benne on my Vancouver trip; she is a warm and caring person, and being a part of a group knitting project to remind her how much she is valued by the Elann group and each of us was a pleasure. It was a huge amount of work for Libby and the others who organized and put this together, and I thank them for it very much.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Honest, I Really Have Been Knitting

What with the overdose of knitting I did in Vancouver and the resultant break from knitting that I had to give my tendinitis afterward, the knitting progress has been slow. Plus my Woodland Shawl had to be totally frogged and turned into a much-narrower scarf when I found that the 2nd skein I'd planned to use was too different a shade; in the skein it looked nearly identical. As written and knitted, the one skein measured about 14x42, far too short for a shawl or even a scarf. Arghh! DH told me that I should be comforted that I got more knitting fun from the same skein of very nice yarn - yep, he's become a Knitter's Spouse.

Yesterday in a burst of energy, I washed and blocked two lacy FOs (and DH's Rockport Vest and a pair of socks). For the first time I used blocking wires, courtesy of the friendly guys at the local welding shop - 3ft lengths of stainless steel, in size 3/32 of an inch diameter, 15 in a pound for $16. Neither lace project has points, so I'm not sure that weaving the wires through the edges saved any significant amount of time compared to using just T-pins, but there was less fiddling around to get the edge really straight.

So - herewith the FOs. Both are patterns from the so-talented Cindy Guggemos, aka BaxterKnits, and the triangular shawl is the 'test knit' that I started weeks and weeks ago.

The shawl is her Hudson River Triangle, knitted with one skein of Dream in Color Smooshy sock yarn, color Blue Lagoon. Unblocked, this measured 46x23; as blocked, it's 64x32.

I made one major modification to the final pattern; at the top edge, I knitted several rows of stockinette and then a row of yo, k2tog before binding off. I think this matches the yarnovers on the edges of the shawl nicely, though even blocked, the stockinette rows make the top edge tend to roll a bit. Cindy's pattern is written to have a nearly-invisible edging on the triangular and top edgings both. But I couldn't resist twiddling with the pattern.

The scarf is Cindy's Dazed and Confused Zigzag Scarf, knitted with 2 skeins of KnitPick's Gloss yarn in Burgundy. I didn't block this as severely as the shawl, since it was already rather long. Blocked, it's 88x11.

Both of these patterns are excellent ones for a traveling project, since the patterns are easily memorized. Cindy's patterns are well-written and she's really good about answering any questions you may have.

BTW, I was having the devil of a time trying to get good color today, so the closeup of the top edging of the Hudson River shawl is closer to the real color, and the Zigzag Scarf is a much deeper brownish burgundy. Please - click on the photos to see them better - the lace is much prettier than you can tell from the small pictures.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Negative Side of the Olympics

I don't want to get into the debate about whether athletes should or should not participate in the Beijing Olympics. That gets far too heated, and my personal opinions are still in flux about it.

But when I was in Vancouver, the site of the 2010 Winter Games, they were a topic of discussion in terms of the impact on the residents of the area. And, oddly enough, this week I came across a blog post at And She Knits Too which led me to thinking about it again. My friend KJ (aka Lunadog) posted a comment there, which you can read here. The blog also has a link to some books about the issues of the Olympics, which sound like interesting reads, though the author is quite anti-Olympics as they have become in our current world.

The point of my Vancouver friends' comments is that the Olympics isn't really any lasting benefit to the majority of the Vancouver population - although the development will bring some additional jobs, during the construction of the venues and the hotels/motels/restaurants will be full during the Games themselves. But the average citizen will have major construction delays to deal with as they get around the area, the tickets are far out of reach for most budgets, and after the Games are over, there will be limited positive effects on their incomes for the long term. Obviously the local Olympics Committee says otherwise, in the best corporate-speak. But the local sponsors and contractors, hotel owners and so forth will certainly benefit. The rich do get richer, don't they? Plus I understand that Whistler, where the skiing-related events will occur, is difficult to reach (Mapquest says it's 70-some miles from Vancouver proper) and the existing roads are dangerous and far from adequate for the sort of traffic that will be using them. Building a better road? When did any of us encounter major road construction that can be done in less than a couple of years in the city, let alone in a mountain area?

As it happens, I lived for many years with a side effect of the 1976 Olympics that didn't happen in Denver; it was turned down by the residents, who thankfully had a vote on the matter. My condo development was built by a Californian company that built on speculation that the Games would happen there. And clearly some graft and bribery went into the construction, since we discovered to our sorrow that the insulation was flimsy at best and several aspects of the plumbing failed to take Denver winters into account. Two out of the four condos in each building had water pipes running up exterior walls with no - that's right, NO! - insulation around them. When I moved there in 1978, I found that the ceiling insulation didn't even cover the ceiling beams. Those of you who live in climates like Denver's can imagine the problems - frozen and burst water pipes, water damage, etc. The financial impacts were horrible, both for the residents and the condo association; at one point we nearly lost our blanket insurance policy and the association's finances were so bad that many lenders wouldn't issue mortgages for the units. (Yeah, I wound up on the condo board.)

I understand that some low-income housing will be demolished to provide housing and other structures for the Olympics. I wonder if some of the new housing will be pushed through under marginal standards, with the excuse of the 2010 deadline. How will the low-income families displaced be housed, either during the construction or after the Olympics?

My conversations in Vancouver and my housing problems in Denver don't begin to constitute a thorough look into the side effects of hosting an Olympics, as they affect the residents. But I'm interested in the experiences of others who live or have lived in an Olympic host city. Most of the comments I've heard about the 1984 Olympics here in LA only say that, because employers cooperated with flextime for their workforce, the traffic flow was the best in anyone's memory. Were you living in Atlanta (1996), Calgary (1988), or Salt Lake City (2002)? If so, please speak up about your experiences.

Oh, yeah, this is a Knitting Blog!

On the knitting-related front, yesterday I had my first physical therapy session for my tendinitis, which has in the last couple of weeks caused some nerve tingling in my hand as well as the pain in my arm. Diagnosis: poor posture with rounded back and hunched shoulders, too many hours at one time at the computer and knitting or reading (all involving much the same body position) and not enough exercise. So I got a wonderful neck and shoulder massage, exercises to do with my shoulders and back to stretch my shortened chest muscles, and orders to take frequent breaks from the computer or knitting or reading, and to WALK more. I go back tomorrow and I have a couple more appointments for next week. I've been doing the exercises, I've put pillows under my elbows while knitting and reading (another change), and I plan a walk today after it cools off. But I just realized I've been here Net surfing and typing for most of 2 hours. Gotta get that kitchen timer in here. Guess I'll go wash and block a couple of FOs so I can show them to you.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

MeMe Movies

I found this on Knitting Knot's blog. She's Csquared on Ravelry, and we've been chatting about our furbabies. She's also fluent in LOLspeak, and I've been catching up on her blog posts. Another funny knitter from Ontario.
  • One movie that made you laugh: Big
  • One movie that made you cry: Philadelphia
  • One movie that you loved as a child: Lady & the Tramp
  • One movie you've seen more than once: Young Frankenstein (dozens and dozens of times - long story)
  • One movie you loved, but were embarrassed to admit it: Can't Stop the Music, the Village People movie - so awful, campy and yet upbeat
  • One movie you hated: anything Rambo
  • One movie that scared you: Wait Until Dark
  • One movie that bored you: Gosford Park
  • One movie that made you happy: Pleasantville
  • One movie that made you miserable: Midnight Cowboy
  • One movie that you weren't brave enough to see: The Exorcist (read the book- enuf said)
  • One movie character you've fallen in love with: James Bond as played by Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan
  • The last movie you saw: Pirates of the Caribbean, whatever the 2nd one is called
  • The next movie you hope to see: The Hobbit, whenever Peter Jackson finishes it
I'm supposed to tag people, but I'm going to let you all decide on this one yourselves. This meme got me to thinking about the movies I like and those popular ones I don't have any interest in seeing. And reinforced my opinion that the movie premium channels are a waste of money.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Alice's Knitting Retreat, Part 2 - The People and the Knitting

Alice plans the retreat classes to provide a good understanding of the knitting techniques, so we knitted a lot of samples, including center-increase squares, center-decrease squares, left- and right-decrease triangles, pentagons, hexagons and so forth. I found the pentagons and hexagons to be the most difficult; I didn't have short circulars so I defaulted to dpns, and may I say that maneuvering 5 or 6 dpns is tricky! Working over a table really helps, since the weight of the piece can rest on the table-top. The largish piece in the upper left corner of the photo is a pentagonal motif based on a pattern in Nora Gaughan's Knitting Nature book; Alice has devised a scarf made with two long pieces joined to adjacent edges of the motif, so that the lacy motif hangs at the back of the neck. Sorry, no photo.

Since Alice supports a charity group providing clothing for kids and babies in northern British Columbia, several of her examples meant to inspire us were baby items, and these two jackets in particular caught my eye. In the left photo, large squares made with internal decreases are joined to make the body and sleeves of a jacket. In the red photo on the right, she has used rectangles, decreased from outside to the center and bound off with a 3-needle join. The red yarn in both jackets is the same, one of the many bargains Alice finds at; I think this was a bag sale yarn

For my 'graduation' project, I chose a shawl made from triangles, called Tumbling Triangles, from Ginger Luters' book. I've only finished the first section, but I'm very pleased with how the yarns work together. The solid is Nashua Creative Focus worsted in 3317 mint, and the variegated is Lang's Mille Colori, color 697.0006 both from the Stitches shop in Ganges.

Alice had made up this pattern using a plain green wool and Colinette Jitterbug (left), and at least one of our group really wanted to take the model home, lol!

Our 'class' was quite small, just 3 full-time knitters, with Margaret, an SSI resident, and Dani, Alice's daughter, joining us for a couple of mornings. I'd never met Jamie (another Elannite!), but Lorraine was part of the class I took from Alice in 2005. Here are pictures of Dani and Alice and of Jamie (red skirt) with Lorraine in the foreground. Margaret is on the far right in the group photo, which we took as Lorraine was leaving to head back home. Um, that's me in pink - I'm always the short one.

The second 'class' was a full complement of knitters, most of them women I've 'met' only through Elann, plus they had several knitters join them for just a day or so. Uleta (my hostess in Sidney) and I drove over one day to meet the others for lunch.

I got to meet Elannites Amy (in pale green),

Les (in red/white/black),

Benne (in mocha) and

Chris, Cheryl, and Naomi (in the middle).

There were others I didn't get to meet, since we were just there for lunch, but I did get to meet a new person I hope to get to know better in person. She's asked to remain anonymous, but she lives not too far from Burbank, and I hope we'll be able to plan a meet-up sometime.

Alice's Knitting Retreat , Part 1 - The Place

Yikes! Where did the days go? I've been knitting and reading and surviving yet another SoCal heat wave, and haven't followed up my posts about the reason I went to Vancouver this year: Alice T's fabulous knitting retreat on Salt Spring Island (SSI). Bad knitter, bad!

Alice is a wonderful knitter and extraordinarily patient teacher whom I met via the Elann Chat Center; she holds annual knitting retreats, with a different technique being featured each year. This year it was modular knitting, using ideas from Iris Schreier, Ginger Luters and Nora Gaughan. In the photo, she's modeling a tunic sweater of her own design, with modular squares making up a central front panel (there's a herringbone panel on the back)

The retreat can manage about 8 knitters, with accomodations in a lovely B&B farmhouse on a working sheep farm at the north end of Salt Spring, a lovely island just off the south-central coast of Vancouver Island. Pictures are of the farmhouse, showing the deck and the view to the west, across the channel separating the two islands. For less than the cost of a decent hotel room for a week, Alice provides all meals, on-island transport, and a week's worth of knitting instruction, fun afternoon outings and lovely knittery days. The food is fabulous, prepared by Jenny, the retreat's chef (shown here with her usual impish grin), and while you get 5 meals daily (breakfast, elevenses, lunch, tea and dinner - with wine), she serves right-sized portions and lots of veggies, so weight gain isn't much of a problem. Though Jenny does make some luscious desserts; the best was this orange-chocolate cheesecake, just big enough for the 7 of us eating that evening.

There's only one knitting shop on Salt Spring, in Ganges (detail map), the main town, but Stitches Quilt Shop has a very good selection of yarns, including some brands I don't see in the SoCal area. We found plenty of fiber goodies to bring home or to add to the yarns we brought for our projects at the retreat.

Part of the fun in visiting Salt Spring in the summer is their weekly Saturday market, full of gorgeous hand-crafted items and yummy food treats. There are more than 20 artisans on-island with studios open to a self-guided tour, and even more show up at the market. There is also an artisan's collective, with top-quality art, jewelry, woodworking and fiber crafts on display year-round. The SSI woodcrafters are particularly well known for their work with the lovely reddish arbutus wood (known in the US as madrona). Some of the bowls in this shop's display are turned to less than a ¼in thickness.

DH and I are both fans of hand-crafted items from beautiful woods, and I brought home a lovely bowl from my first visit to SSI, in 2005. This year I fell hard for this little box made from a red-maple burl. The actual color is between that shown in the two pictures.

There are so many photos I want to share with you that I'm dividing this post into two, with the second part being about the knitting itself and the fun knitters who were a part of this retreat.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Vancouver Trip - My Wonderful Friends

I am blessed with some very good friends in Vancouver. I met KJ and U by way of the Knitting Forum back in 2004, and they generously have offered me lodging on all three of my trips to Vancouver.

KJ lives in one of the suburbs of Vancouver, in a lovely condo development, surrounded by all the lush trees and shrubbery that, to me, says Vancouver. She is a woman of many talents: she knits, crochets and spins; she's been part of the fun at SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and currently does belly-dancing and other forms of eastern folk dance; and she is now Volunteer Coordinator for the Big Heart Rescue Society, which rescues animals primarily from the northern parts of British Columbia.** She adopted Cory a couple of years ago; he's a big boy, with a particularly noble look to him, courtesy of his part-collie ancestry.

Then last year, as the Society members say, she 'flunked' Fostering 101 and adopted Maddie. Maddie had just joined the family when I visited last year, and she has definitely thrived under KJ's care; she has put on some much-needed weight and is much better socialized with people and other dogs. I have to say that, coming from a feline-dominated household, life with 2 large dogs is quite a change. But Cory in particular seems to like me (or maybe just my tummy rubs!), since he spent most nights sleeping curled up next to me.

While I was staying with KJ, we had a chance to spend a little time with Jayne, she of the very-popular Etsy shop, SeeJayneKnit Yarns. Jayne's yarns have been flying out of the shop as fast as she can dye them, and her newest yarns, hand-dyed in the roving and hand-spun by Jayne herself, are selling even better. We spent a bit of time at lunch with Jayne at one of her favorite pubs, and then she invited us to play in her fiber toy store. WOW! KJ brought home some roving in the tropical-toned Fishy Wishy in a Dishy colorway (she promptly spun it up!), and I scored 2 big skeins of the superwash merino/tencel blend fingering/sportweight in the gorgeous Sand and Sea Glass color. I'd link the colorways for you, but there aren't any for sale right now; they're very popular. Here's a photo of Jayne (left) and KJ, ready to dive into some home-baked cookies.

I spent the last couple of days of my trip in Sidney on Vancouver Island, staying with U. She's a lovely woman, with a beautiful townhouse. Her garden, lush and colorful, has many plants that I'm familiar with, though mine don't do as well as hers, having to tolerate the summer heat here in the infamous San Fernando Valley. I especially enjoyed the honeysuckle vine, which brings back memories of the big trellised plant in my grandparents' yard.

U has traveled extensively, and has great stories of her trips, including some of the terrific knitting cruises she's been on. Besides her fine knitting skills, she's a talented seamstress, and I enjoyed seeing the results, especially the patterns she designs herself, and the ease with which she alters purchased clothing to fit properly. Ripping out shoulders to re-fit them? Ohh-kay.

Sidney has a half-dozen or more general and specialty bookstores (CatBOOKmom, right?), mostly in and near the rather nice shopping area along Beacon St. We stopped into Beacon Yarns, where I spent time fondling the largish selection of Fleece Artist and Handmaiden yarns. Two skeins of Handmaiden's Camelspin (silk & camel) laceweight and a skein of Silk Twist (wool/silk) followed me out the door. (BTW, I still haven't made a visit to the famed Beehive Wool Shop in Victoria; after all the yarny fun I've had elsewhere in the Vancouver/Gulf Islands area, I can't quite imagine my Visa card surviving the experience.) And Salty's, the pub we visited, had hands-down the best fish and chips I've ever had. I think my grandma would have called it a corn-flake batter - light, extra-crisp and not the least greasy. YUM!

During my 2005 trip, I discovered a terrific hard cider, sadly not for sale outside of British Columbia, Growers' Extra Dry Apple (far left). This is dry, dry, dry, with just a hint of apple, and the perfect cold drink, a great choice for many occasions instead of beer.

I have searched in vain for a substitute here in SoCal, though I have to say that Hornsby's Crisp Apple (left) is a decent substitute for Growers' Granny Smith variety (right), somewhat less dry and crisp than the Extra Dry. If anyone figures out how to safely bootleg Growers' to SoCal, *please* let me know!! As if providing me lodging, transportation, and great pub food are not enough, my dear friends pre-stock their fridges with Growers', just for me.

Here on Canada Day 2008, I salute my Canadian friends, their hospitality, their lovely Vancouver area, and their Growers' cider! Cheers!!

** I warn you, if you read the stories about the animals they have saved, you may find yourself in tears. Some of these pets, now loving companions, had terrible lives before they were rescued. But you will also read about the wonderful, generous hearts of the people who take these animals into their homes.