28 September 2008

Uncharted Territory

Dear Mandella,

In an attempt to recover from the madness of this morning, I took a great leap into The Great Unknown: Knitting Gloves.

It started with a magnificent skein of Berocco Ultra Alpaca Fine (50% Peruvian Wool, 20% super fine Alpaca, 3o% nylon) in the Prune Mix colorway. It is luxuriously soft and gives me a sinfully sensuous feeling as I stroke the ball . . . (never mind). I started out by knitting socks with a pattern modified from the Kimono Shawl in the Folk Shawls pattern book. The pattern as it's stated in that book is 10+1 sts. I make it a 12 st pattern (I like balance when I'm knitting sock) with 2 iterations, then added 5 sts at the beginning and end for a rib. I'm knitting this with US 1 circulars and getting 8 sts/1" in stockinette.

All was going well, I was about 3/4 of the way through the second pattern repeat when I decided to slip it onto my hand to check how the design was coming out. That was when the softness of the yarn made me come over all whoozie and, after all of the craziness of this morning and this past week, I decided that I really needed to have these not as socks for my feet but gloves for my hands. Thus, I took the aforementioned flying leap.

I have been using Ann Budd's Knitter's Book of Handy Patterns in order to figure out the basic structure of glives. Of course, the increases for the thumb gusset comes first and I have only 10 of the 20-22 total I'll need. (Ann has it at 21 but that's because she starts with just one stitch increased at the end of the round before starting the thumb increases. I know where she's going with that, but I needed an even number in order to make the ribbing come out right. It's a long story.)

Did I think I didn't have enough stress in my life? Did I take this up because I anticipate a big drop in stress this week after several projects at my jobs are finished?

And it's not that the knitting is stressful. Here's what's making me kind of nuts:

  1. The gusset increases are coming every 3 rounds, but the Kimono stitch pattern changes every 2 rounds. *sigh*
  2. It's a pain in the arse to write down everything so that I can duplicate my method on the second one.
  3. I'm really not even certain this is going to work.

Ah, well, that's where knitting is NOT like life. With knitting, you can rip it out and start over again. If you're lucky, you'll get some bad knitting day make-up sex, but I'm not that hopeful.

Before you can mention it, yes, the Kimono Scarf is still in progress. It's about 3/5 done. I haven't knit on it for a while because I've been working on other things. And doing laundry. And cleaning up "dog cookies."

The Charka Dog

Dear Mandella,

I'm so sorry to hear that things at work are frustrating and (perhaps?) downright abusive. I am sending positive job-hunting thoughts your way. Of course, if I win the Powerball lottery, rest assured I'll move myself, my husband, and my knitting to Weymouth where neither you and Dave nor me and Ed need ever work at anything harder than knitting a lace pattern printed in Swahili. (I can dream, can't I?)

When you wrote that "the black dog" had been on your shoulders of late, what immediately sprang to mind was my Charka dog who is black, brown, tan, and white. I have had The Charka Dog in my lap lately. Never mind that she weighs 60+ lbs, she wants to be in my lap and reassured at nearly all times of the day. About the only thing I can figure is that she's having severe anxiety because, now that Ed is in classes full time, Ed is not around the house as much. At about 2 a.m. Saturday The Charka Dog had her paws on the bed and her cold, wet nose anywhere she could prod me. She was panting hard and fast. All she wanted was the climb into bed and be reassured that I was right there.

This morning at 2 a.m. she did the same thing, but I ignored her. When I did wake this a.m. it was to find her sleeping on the floor on my side of the bed. And then I saw that she'd left about a dozen "dog cookies" on the livingroom floor. (Bless my husband: He cleaned them up this time.) Usually paws-on-the-bed means an urgent need to go out, but I didn't believe her because the night/morning prior she didn't want to go out at all.

I am skivving (did I spell that correctly?) off church this morning. Besides the 2 a.m. dog call and the dog cookies on the livingroom floor, I managed to spill coffee all over the kitchen floor because I hadn't closed the little coffee-maker door (the basket with the coffee grounds slides out) which meant that the little spout didn't make a proper connection with the lid of the coffee urn. The anthem today is "Lord of all hopefullness." I don't feel much like singing, "Naught be all else to me save that Thou art." It would be a lie.

I'm going to my mom's today to try to cut out a dress to wear for my friend's wedding on November 7th. I hope that goes better.

Hugs and more joy to you,



Dear Judith

The black dog has been on my shoulder towards the latter part of the week, mostly because of work-related problems which I don't care to go into on what is essentially a public space. Let's just say that I have been devastated by the actions of someone else and as much as I try to rationalise them, I'm convinced they were unjustified and damaging to me.

Dave put his back out yesterday just by climbing off his motorbike. He's frustrated and upset because that means the decorating schedule has a temporary setback, but we're also thankful that he's been so capable for so long. I pulled out the box of his heavy-duty prescription pills yesterday and he got them on 10 October 2007, just after the last really bad episode when we got stuck in the USA for an extra 48 hours more than planned. He hates taking medication, which is why they've lasted for nearly a year!

But it's not all doom and gloom on this side of the big pond. The weather is gorgeous; we're having a real Indian Summer. Look at what's on my passion fruit plant:

Disappointingly it's completely hollow, so I won't be getting any passion fruit for breakfast, but what a wonderful colour.

In between applying for jobs, I've found some time to do a little quilting and (horrors) a little knitting! I've been working on the penguin baby jumper, but there's nothing to see, only a plain back and have started the Back-To-School U-Neck vest by Stephanie Japel. I knew the lack of desire to knit wouldn't last.

Also, I'm practically salivating over the latest offering from Knitpicks, the Palette Samplers with the accompanying bag patterns. I've got a couple of fair isle jumpers kitted up and ready to go, but it would be great to knock up one of these before diving in. It's been a while since I've knitted any stranded colourwork.

But before then, I've got a few job applications to complete.

26 September 2008

Not for Debate

I've finally found a political party I like: The Fibertarians. Check out the latest update at The Panopticon. These are definitely my people.

I'm sorry it took me this long to find them. I sat through the presidential nominees' debate this evening and got bored with the same-old, same-old that I've been hearing from both of them for the last God-know-how-many months. As I listened I turned to doing something productive: Knitting.

Thus, as the pundits and the spin-doctors rattle on and on now that this debate is completed, I actually have something to show for my time: A finished pair of socks. These are the pair that my SIL "won" in a Christmas gift swap at my mom's last December. She knew it would take me a while to finish them since I had a zillion other things to do in the meantime. But, they are done and I can send them off to her.

Oh, and the yarn is from one of my favorite dyers: Lisa Souza. These are knit on US 1 with Lisa's Superwash Merino in the South Pacific colorway. (Yes, I know the ball band says it's 4.5 sts to the inch on US 10, but I get about 8 sts to the inch on US 1 and I get a very nice pair of socks from it.)

These are knit in my standard "waffle" pattern, which is (on an even number of sts, divisible by 4):

Rnds 1 - 3: *K2, P2* repeat to the end
Rnds 4 - 6: K all sts

Referring back to my New Year's List of projects, here is my progress to date:

Socks for Marky *Done • Sept 08*
Socks for Deb (#1 near heel turn)
Socks from Austermann Step yarn — Frogged and rewound
Hoofle-Foofle Socks *Done • 1 Feb 2008*
Cardigan *Done • 10 May 08*
8-3-5 Pullover for Marky (back done; front started)
Scarf from bulky weight Silk Road *Done • 5 Jan 08*
Scarf from 2 strands of Manos del Uraguay *Done • 10 Jan 08*
Socks for Alice *Done • 5 Jan 08*
Shrug for Mary *Done • 24 Sept 08*
Baby Blanket for Jorge y Liliana — Frogged and rewound
Socks for Joan *Done • 26 Sept 08*
Swag Socks sample for String of Purls *2 samples done*
Marjaana/Hermione pullover for myself — Frogged and rewound
Scarf (non-wool) for I-Pie (about halfway along)

May our politicians be able to brag about having accomplished half so much!

I can dream, can't I?

I just found this lovely stole pattern which I downloaded. Kits (yarn and pattern) can be downloaded from The Woolen Rabbit. I have no idea when (or if) I'll get to knit this, but it's lovely to think about the possibilities.

25 September 2008

Gimme a freakin' break!

Dear Mandella,

Life has been crazy. And that's the nice word for it. Both of my jobs have me busier than a .... OK, let's just not go there. On top of that, I had one of those mornings when nothing went right
  • I overslept
  • I ordered a bacon & egg biscuit sandwich (no cheese) at a McD's but they gave me a sausage, egg, & cheese biscuit sandwich — which I didn't discover until I was zipping down the Interstate highway at warp speed, trying to get to work (the full-time job).
  • At the office, I had to log on to a special site in order to take an annual bit of training. My logon info had expired.
  • OK, now I have to call to get everything updated except that the phone number on the web site doesn't work.
  • I locate a toll-free number, finally get through to the person who can help me, finally get the new logon and password, I get to the right site, get logged in, and then the network goes kablooey.

  • I keep trying the web site (I get a little further each time before the dreaded "TCP/IP" error shows up), and finally get the training done, something that takes 2 hours instead of the usual 20 minutes.

  • I try to print the certificate at the end, but the printer keeps giving me an error.

  • Then I found out that I'd misprinted a name on a hand-painted name card at my other job and they need it redone ASAP.

Honestly, I gave up at that point. I took off for the remainder of the day (it was 11:00 a.m.) -- I'll make up the time this weekend -- and drove like a madwoman to the stationery shop (the part-time job) and reprinted the name tag.

And that was when I learned that one of the people who would have worked from 1:00 to 8:00 had major car trouble and couldn't come in. I went home for a shower and a short nap, then came back to work from 3:00 to 8:00. And I'll still be in tomorrow afternoon from 2:00 to 6:00 because I have 400 name cards (for a different event) to print up.

None of this takes into account the political posturing that's going on by everyone with half an opinion on the big $700 bazillion bail-out of failing financial institutions that our lovely government is planning.

I don't have time for any opinions on the current economic crisis, the current presidential race, the civil wars in various countries, or any of that because my life has enough of its own crises, races and wars.

I'm wondering whether I can get a bail-out. And not just the money. I need to be bailed out of my life on days like today.

But, the bright spot (and you just knew there had to be one) is that I finished up the lovely shrug for my sister Mary.

Is that just too lovely for words? Modeled by Louise at String of Purls (who is test-knitting the pattern for me using Rowan Kid Silk), it is everything I had hoped it would be.

As if that weren't enough, did I show you the quilt top I'd finished?

*sigh* Something beautiful in a crazy world. I need that.

Hugs and good news to you,


20 September 2008

So much to do, so little time

Dear Judith

I'm sorry you're feeling so overwhelmed. I phoned Dave at work yesterday and announced that we were going out to dinner last night, because I'm so fed up with the routine of work, TV, renovations. We went to the Saxon Arms and had a great dinner and actually talked to each other. We're out again tonight, but that's with a large group of friends, so doesn't count.

You can only do one thing at a time you know! Rome wasn't built in a day. Talking of building, remember this?

It now looks like this:

The plasterer has finished plastering, and most of the heating system is in. We have water again, apart from what we get from a hosepipe. Joy, oh joy, I can flush the toilet instead of emptying a bucket of water down it! The whole place is ready for decorating and we start tomorrow.

I took a break and went wandering around the garden with the camera. The beech hedge is glorious at this time of year:

This little gate in the hedge is what Dave calls the Gateway to Narnia.

It leads out onto a bridlepath which takes you straight into the fields

It's such a lovely spot, I can't wait to move. I'm sure it'll be worth it in the end.

I need to be three (or four?) people

Dear Mandella,

I've arrived at the end of a very long week only to find an unreasonably short weekend in which to recoup. The sun is bright, the sky is blue, and all of creation begs me to come outdoors. Alas, that also means that my overgrown yarn is also begging for attention, as is my old, fat self that needs a nice walk (and the dog who thinks she'd like to come along).

And then there is the quilt top at my mother's that has been sitting in pieces for several weeks now, plus a load of fabric that would love to be cut up into quilts, and even more fabric (along with patterns in my size) that longs to be made up into wonderful clothing.

None of this takes into account the shrug for my sister Mary (just a little more on the one sleeve and then the ribbing around the outside to finish it), the socks for my SIL Joan (about 2/3 done -- only about 40 more rows until the toe decrease on the 2nd sock), the Ab-Fab throw that is so colorful it nearly begs to be lifted from its current state of dormancy, the Kaffe Fassett stole/thing I've been crocheting, the scarf that is fashioned after the Kimono Shawl in the Folk Shawls book, and about a dozen other projects blooming in my brain.

Oh, yes. The house. Yes, there is laundry to be attended to, there are clothes to be mended, there are items that really should be ironed properly; there are things that need to be loaded into the truck and taken to the storage unit (so that I can get my car into the garage again); there are carpets to vaccuum (Hoover, to you) and numerous surfaces to dust, mop, and clean. There are walls that need to be painted (that's going to be some time in the future) and clutter that needs to be sorted and . . . and . . . and . . .

Someone had this whole work week thing wrong. It should be 2 days of work and 5 days of weekend!

I don't know what I'm going to do at the moment. Maybe I'll just get a cup of coffee and keep playing around on the Internet!

I hope the sunshine is reaching your side of the Atlantic.



18 September 2008

The Chicken Pox Chronicles

Dear Mandella,

I'd never heard of potassium permanganate crystals before you mentioned them. Unless they're available under some sort of brand name ("Trader Joe's K-rystals" or some such) I'm not likely to come across them. I did look them up and learned they're used to treat canker sores and have been used as an ingredient in photographers' flash powder. Explosive stuff! About the closest we'd get here would be baking soda (good old Arm & Hammer brand), which a friend told me you can add to bath water and thus have a soothing (i.e., itch-relieving) soak. Ed hasn't pursued that option.

Mainly, Ed has been at home and sleeping because he is worn out by this. He has been in almost constant contact with the main nurse at his school, and she has been in contact with our county health department. He's not allowed back to his classes until it has been 72 hours since ... the breakout or the healing? I can't remember now.

It was a relatively mild case (and we are thankful) and it is believed to have occurred in him as a result of receiving the a "triple vaccination" (i.e., one injection with vaccines for measles, mumps, and chicken pox). The county health department has been asking for medical records related to the vaccination as well as the outbreak and diagnosis. Because Ed attends classes with people who are at times in the hospital, they have to be very careful about when he is able to return to his classes. He's frightened right now that he's going to be buried in classwork once he returns, and his return is anticipated to be on Monday.

I had chicken pox as a child; in fact, I was so young that I don't even remember having it. About 2 years ago I had a tiny outbreak of shingles which was caught early enough and treated with an anti-viral. I am hopeful that this outbreak in Ed doesn't mean I'll be subjected to another round of shingles or pox, but I'm a wee bit concerned because chicken pox is highly contagious when its in the early stages.

In other news, the weather here has been magnificent. The sky is blue, the sun is bright, and the temps are about 79º (F) or 80º (F). I've gotten out for a short (20-25 minute) walk nearly every day.

Well, I need a bit of a rest before I head off to Sit and Knit. I promised my friend M. that I'd come and see the lovely shawl she has knit to wear with her wedding dress. Also, she started on the Frost Flower and Leaves shawl in . . . is that in Victorian Lace Today or a different one? See? I need a rest.

Hugs and good weather to you!


PS - Our knit-sisters at Mason-Dixon Knitting have given us a little notice on their sideboard. I feel semi-famous now! :)

17 September 2008


Dear Judith

I turn my back for 5 minutes and there are posts galore and not only posts, but hats and patterns. I have a long way to go to catch up with you.

I'm intrigued by the chicken and Cheerios idea. I have some in the larder, but am I brave enough to try the combo?

Tell Ed I'm so sorry he has chickenpox. Is he in quarantine? My first year in college I managed not only chickenpox, but also an emergency appendectomy. It's a miracle I passed that year. If he starts to itch a cool bath with potassium permanganate crystals added works wonders, but not too many or you come out looking like a boiled beetroot.

Did you hear about the fire in the Channel Tunnel this past weekend? David thinks it's weird it happened on 11th September, but at the moment it appears to just be a coincidence.

Now I'm off to polish up my CV (ssssshhhhhhh! Possible job application coming up) and continue my unseemly drooling over a certain Mr Hugh Laurie.



15 September 2008

I am not a cook ...

Dear Mandella,

As we've discussed in the past, I am not a cook. Well, I am not a cook the way my mother, my husband, and (it seems) nearly everyone else on the planet is. My mother could take a can of peas and turn it into a full dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes & gravy, creamed peas, and roasted carrots. My husband picks up a book of exotic recipes (usually something from Central or South America), starts substituting ingredients, and comes up with a rolled flank steak and cheesy-tomoto covered potatoes that even I will eat.

Me? Well, I start with a case of hives at the mere thought of having to cook, then I usually fall back on the one or two recipes I've remembered, or else I go through a zillion recipe books before I give up and go for the microwaved panini. I've tried more complicated recipes and have usually failed. (In college, a friend who had graduated from the Culinary Institute of America tried to talk me through a simple way of cooking chicken breasts and I ended up with something bland nonetheless.)

Oh, thank God, for Cheerios and the Jolly Green Giant. For dinner I broiled chicken breasts, made steamed rice, and microwaved a pre-seasoned vegetable medley. Steamed rice is a no-brainer for me (1 part rice to 2 parts water, bring it to a boil then shut it down to simmer for about 20 minutes). Green Giant microwave vegetable packs are nice little two-serving packs of vegetables in three mixtures: Healthy Weight, Immunity Boost, and Healthy Vision. (We had Immunity Boost, for obvious reasons.) OK, two down and one to go.

For the chicken breasts I got (brace yourself) creative. I crunched up Honey Nut Cheerios and dumped them into a deep bowl with garlic powder, basil, sage, marjoram, black pepper, and celery seed, and maybe something else but I've forgotten now what all it was. Anyway, excepting the sage, I pretty much just sprinkled a healthy covering over the grains in the bowl and mixed them in. Then I beat an egg (yes, a whole egg, not just the whites) with some skim milk. I cut up my skinless, boneless chicken breasts into sections, then one hand dipped them in the milk/egg mixture and the other hand rolled them liberally in the seasoned Cheerios. I baked them (uncovered) on the broiler pan at 350º (I have no idea what the equivalent is outside the USA, but it's kind of an all-purpose baking temperature so far as I recall) for 30 minutes.

And it was all done at the same time!

To add to the festivities, I cleared my dye stuff from the dining table and actually set up two place mats with plates and cutlery, napkins, and real glasses. This is the first time in I-don't-know-how-long that we've eaten at the table. The food was placed in serving dishes (no, I didn't succumb to just serving them from the vessels in which they were cooked) and then placed on the table. It was almost like dining out. If we could have bribed a neighbor kid to top in and say things like, "Hi, I'm Brad and I'll be your waiter" and "Are you done with that, or do you want to graze a bit more?" and "Can I interest you in some dessert tonight?", well, then it would have been perfect, but you can't have everything.

But if you try sometimes, you'll get what you need. (Thank you, Mick Jagger.)

Hugs and good cooking to you!


14 September 2008

City of Tiny Hats

Dear Mandella,

I have to stop making tiny hats because I'm not getting any other knitting done. I knew I was on the edge of sanity when I was knitting the little hat with cables (top left) on US 0 needles for the second time because I didn't quite like the design of the first one.

From top left (and proceeding clockwise) they are:
  • OnLine sock yarn with tiny cables and a few twists in the ribbing.
  • My-dyed (leftover from Marky's socks) in DK weight done with a ruffly brim and a mohair (also my-dyed) hat band.
  • Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn in Blueberry Hill with a lacy turned up edging (the quill lace motif I'd used in the socks I have on knitty)
  • Sock! yarn by Lisa Souza in Valentine Red and done in the twisted waffle pattern with flowers embroidered on it. (I'll be posting that twisted waffle sock pattern soon.)
  • Sock! yarn by Lisa Souza in South Pacific done with a simple rib at the bottom but a ruffly closure at the top.
  • Basic stocking cap done with leftover Fiesta Boomerang in Iris colorway.
  • Socks that Rock (BMFA) medium-weight Fire on the Mountain with rolled brim and seed stitch hat band
  • Socks the Rock (BMFA) heavy-weight in Henpecked with an eyelet hat band threaded with Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn in Java.

Oh, and they're all modeled by Mukluk, my Beanie Baby Malamute/Husky (I'm sure it's the latter, but I prefer the former). I'll pack these off to Kay G. this week.

In other news from our abode, my husband has chicken pox. Yes, chicken pox. He'd had to be innoculated prior to starting his classes and, wouldn't you know it, he's one of the 1% or so that actually come down with it after getting the vaccine. Well, we're hoping this is a mild case as he has only broken out a bit and it doesn't seem to be getting worse. He's feeling run down, though, which means you-know-who had the pleasure of doing all sorts of stuff on her own today (which is also why I have to stop knitting tiny hats -- no more time).

I've called my boss to take today (Monday) off from work so that I can catch up on laundry and other cleaning that desperately needs to be done. My husband's bathroom looks like ... never mind. It's bad. I shall be tackling the germs tomorrow. No knitting until the work is done.

Germ-free hugs and good weather to you!


13 September 2008

Magical Socks, Mittens and Things

Dear Mandella,

My niece loves her socks and hasn't stopped wearing them (well, except to shower) since they arrived yesterday. These photos arrived in my virtual mailbox today.

In my snail mailbox I received a gift from Marky, her brother, and their mom and dad. It was a cool Land's End canvas tote, embroidered with a logo that I'd developed for my brother-in-law's business. The gift also included Harry Potter pens and a Magic Wand that has a light at the end and which makes the sound of breaking glass when you press the button on it. (I'll be taking that to the office, believe me!)

Anyway, I've asked my sister to send hand measurements so that I can knit mittens for the kiddos. Also, I need to get some measurements on my nephew (he will be six soon) so that I can knit him a few things.

I don't know why I love knitting socks so much. They seem to be rather magical in a way, and I think it's because of the heel turn. Back when I was knitting in 4-H club all I'd ever known was how to knit flat things (we weren't even knitting in the round) and then I gave it up altogether until about five years ago when I started back in earnest.

My second love is knitting mittens. I love how the idea of the thumb sticking out at an angle and how it's no trouble at all to work it in with everything else. In fact, in preparation for colder weather to come, here is the pattern for a pair I'd knit for a friend's 7-year-old son:

Mittens That Rock

US 4.0 dpns (or two circulars if you like, but this is written for dpns)
Socks that Rock Heavyweight (Rocktober colorway) from Blue Moon Fiber Arts.
Markers (I used three total)
Tapestry needle

M1/K1 = Make one (and knit it), then K the original stitch on the row. To "Make One," use the tip of the right needle to lift up the loop of the stitch in the row just below the tip of the left needle. Place that loop on the left needle and knit through the back. Thus, each "M1/K1" direction results in two stitches worked: an added stitch and the original stitch.

PM = Place Marker

Cable CO = Cable Cast-On. Insert the right needle between the next two stitches on the left needle as if to knit. In fact, continue by looping the yarn around the right needle and pulling it through to the front as if to make a knit stitch. The difference is that the loop of yarn pulled through is then placed onto the front of the left needle and becomes the first stitch to be worked from that needle. Therefore, to Cable CO any succeeding stitches, you insert the right needle between this new loop and the next stitch on the left needle and repeat the process. There's a very good description (with photos) at Knitty.

Gauge: 6 st / 1" in St st

Finished Measurements: 6" palm circumference

Seed Stitch (even number of sts; worked in the round) = Row 1: *K1, P1* (repeat to the end). Row 2: *P1, K1* (repeat to the end). In other words, you knit the purls and purls the knits. It should have a bumpy texture when you're done. (If it comes out as smooth 1 x 1 ribs, then you did it wrong.)

Cuff (both mittens)
CO: 36 sts. Join in circle (without twisting) and work 1x1 rib for 12 rnds, placing a marker at the beginning.

Base and Thumb Gusset (Left Mitten):
Rnds 13 - 16: K 18, then work seed stitch (K1, P1 on even rows; P1, K1 on odd rows) across rem sts.

Rnd 17: K 16, PM, M1/K1 in next 2 sts, then work seed stitch over rem 18 sts (38 sts total, 4 btw markers)

Rnd 18 and all even numbered rounds through 26: K all sts to 2nd marker, then work seed stitch over rem 18 sts.

Rnds 19, 21, 23, 25 and all odd-numbered rows: K16, sl marker, M1/K1 in next st, K to last st before marker, M1/K1, sl marker, then work seed stitch in rem 18 sts. (Incr 2 sts each rnd. At the end of rnd 25 there should be 12 sts btw markers and 48 sts total)

Divide for the Hand (Left Mitten):
Rnd 27: K 18 sts to 1st marker. Remove marker, slip next 12 sts to holder. Cable CO 2 sts to left needle, then K those two sts. Place marker and work seed stitch over last 18 sts. (36 sts total on needles)

Rnds 28 - 48 (or until the body of the mitten comes to the tip of the smallest finger): K18, then work seed stitch over last 18 sts, slipping markers as you come to them.

Shape Top (Left Mitten):
Arrange sts on three dpns as follows:

Needle 1 - first 9 sts (1/2 the palm)
Needle 2 - second 9 sts (1/2 the palm)
Needle 3 - 18 seed sts (back of hand)

Rnds 49, 51, 53:
Needle 1: K1, ssk, K to end
Needle 2: K to last 3 sts, K2tog, K1
Needle 3: K1, ssk, work seed st until 3 sts before the end, K2tog, K1
(4 sts decreased each time)

Rnds 50, 52, 54: K all sts on Needles 1 and 2, work seed st on Needle 3.

At the end of Rnd 53, there should be 24 sts total on all needles.

Rnds 55, 56, 57:
Needle 1: K1, ssk, K to end
Needle 2: K to last 3 sts, K2tog, K1
Needle 3: K1, ssk, work seed st until 3 sts before the end, K2tog, K1
(4 sts decreased each time)

At the end of Rnd 57 there should be 12 sts total on all needles.

Cut a long tail of yarn (about 9") and graft the final sts, or, using a tapestry needle, draw it through all sts and pull tightly to close. Secure the ends and work in the final tail.

Thumb (Both Mittens):
Slip the 12 sts from the holder onto two needles. Join yarn and knit those 12 sts, then PU 4 sts in the open space (where you had cast on 2 more sts) for 16 sts total. PM and knit 9 more rnds.

Rnd 11: K2tog all around (8 sts)

Rnd 12: K2tog all around (4 sts)

Cut yarn leaving a tail. Thread yarn onto a tapestry needle, then run it through the remaining 4 sts. Pull tightly to close the hold and secure the end. Work in all tails.

Base and Thumb Gusset (Right Mitten):
Rnds 13 - 16: Work seed stitch (K1, P1 on even rows; P1, K1 on odd rows) across first 18 sts, PM, then K last 18 sts.

Rnd 17: Work seed stitch over first 18 sts, PM, M1/K1 in next 2 sts, PM, then K rem 16 sts (38 sts total, 4 btw markers)

Rnd 18 and all even numbered rounds through 26: Work seed sts to 1st marker, then K rem sts.

Rnds 19, 21, 23, 25 and all odd-numbered rows: Work seed st over first 18 sts, sl marker, M1/K1 in next st, K to last st before marker, M1/K1, sl marker, then K to end. (Incr 2 sts each rnd. At the end of rnd 25 there should be 12 sts btw markers and 48 sts total)

Divide for the Hand (Right Mitten):
Rnd 27: Work seed st over 18 sts to 1st marker. Remove marker, slip next 12 sts to holder. Cable CO 2 sts to left needle, K those 2 sts, then continue K rem sts (36 total on needles).

Rnds 28 - 48 (or until the body of the mitten comes to the tip of the smallest finger): Work seed st over first 18 sts, then K rem 18 sts, slipping markers as you come to them.

Shape Top (Right Mitten):
Arrange sts on three dpns as follows:

Needle 1 - 18 seed sts (back of hand)
Needle 2 - first 9 sts (1/2 the palm)
Needle 3 - second 9 sts (1/2 the palm)

Rnds 49, 51, 53:
Needle 1: K1, ssk, work seed st until 3 sts before the end, K2tog, K1
Needle 2: K1, ssk, K to end
Needle 3: K to last 3 sts, K2tog, K1
(4 sts decreased each time)

Rnds 50, 52, 54: Work seed sts on Needle 1, then K all sts on Needles 1 and 2.

At the end of Rnd 53, there should be 24 sts total on all needles.

Rnds 55, 56, 57:
Needle 1: K1, ssk, work seed st until 3 sts before the end, K2tog, K1
Needle 2: K1, ssk, K to end
Needle 3: K to last 3 sts, K2tog, K1
(4 sts decreased each time)

At the end of Rnd 57 there should be 12 sts total on all needles.

Cut a long tail of yarn (about 9") and graft the final sts, or, using a tapestry needle, draw it through all sts and pull tightly to close. Secure the ends and work in the final tail.

Hugh Laurie, an English God

Dear Mandella,

I remember when I first saw "House" that I was utterly blown away by Hugh Laurie's ability to sound like an American. It was pitch-perfect. I'd seen him in the films Sense & Sensibility (where he'd had a small part as a curmudgeonly MP, so you might say he'd been preparing to play House MD even then), and I'd seen him in the Jeeves & Wooster series that played on public television many years earlier.

Here's a great clip (thank you, YouTube) of Laurie on the American television awards show - The Emmys - in 2006. He was paired up as a presenter with Zach Braff, an actor playing in a medical comedy called "Scrubbs." Of course, it's all scripted, but they played their bits well and had got huge laughs.

My migraine from yesterday is gone, as is the rain, although we've noticed a bit of seepage once again in the basement. Here's the mystery: it's in a different location. We're wondering whether it's coming up through the foundation (and hoping that's not it at all).



12 September 2008

I have no pictures

I really need to get the camera out of its bag. I really need to do a lot of things.

I love the shrug and I love the photo of your dog. I have only ever met one malamute. His name was Nanook, and he was enormous but a real sweetie. Back in the day when I was a housing officer (i.e. I looked after a group of tenants and the homes they lived in) he belonged to one particular couple who were on my patch and who were on the late side of middle aged. They used to give me a jar of honey made by their own bees every time I visited and would get really offended if I didn't have time for a cup of tea, poured from a real teapot into a bone china cup and saucer.

Of course these days I don't spent my working life visiting people in their homes, and I kind of get nostalgic for it sometimes.

One more thing about Hugh Laurie. Can you Americans tell he's a Brit? He fools me.

11 September 2008

From the Work Basket

Dear Mandella,

No worries on not touching the knitting needles. Sometimes the muse just calls you over to something else. In fact, I'm hoping to get over to my mom's on Saturday or Sunday to work on a quilt top I've had going for a while. I'll post photos when I have some. Right now it's nothing to look at.

Aside from the tiny hats (I've made three this evening while sitting through reruns of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, two shows I think they should broadcast everywhere), I've got the following project in the works:

Opera Shrug

This is a shrug I've been designing for one of my sisters (Mary) from Nashua's Grand Opera yarn. It's a wool blended with a touch of viscose and a strand of "metallized polyester."
I used the "swag sox" pattern for the back panel and along the top of the sleeves (left sleeve done; right sleeve in progress). There will be 2 x 2 ribbing all around the opening (top, sides, and bottom where you see a circular needle employed to hold all of the stitches until I'm ready to pick them up.)

It's like a short jacket with sleeves that only go out to the elbow. I had the back panel done a long time ago, then struggled to get the sleeves just right. Now that I've got those figured out, I just have to finished the second sleeve and then do the ribbing all around. But, as I said, earlier, I've been a bit sidetracked by making tiny hats.

Oh, here's the photo of the socks I finished for my niece, Marky:

This is the first yarn I ever dyed. It's a DK weight and I space-dyed it in a class last year in November. I started with cool colors (violets and blues) on one end and warm colors (reds and oranges) on the other end.

These were knit on US 4.0 needles. My niece wanted something colorful, but short. And she's only 9 so she still has kind of little feet.

I did feel rather clever in fudging the placement of the heel flap on the second sock so that I could mirror the color pooling, but that only worked for the top portion. Well, I think she'll like them anyway. I told her that they might be a bit thick to fit into her regular shoes, so it's OK if she just wants to wear them around the house to keep her toes warm. I mailed them to her on Wednesday.

Just two more pictures (well, three more, but only 2 subjects) and I'm done, OK? Here's one I took on Wednesday morning (on my walk back to the office from the post office that's on the air base where I work full time):

You asked me to send you some sunshine, and here it is. This was at about 9:00 a.m. (my time) and the weather was heavenly!

Of course, yesterday was humid and eventually raining, and today will be something of the same.

At any rate, I hope some nice weather came across the pond and brightened your day.

(Oh, this is looking approximately north and the building I work in -- although it's not in the photo -- is on the left. My building is a converted dormitory. It's not great, but there are certainly a lot of nice compensations what with having lots of trees around and a large campus for walking.)

Last but not least, here are photos of my dog, Charka. As I was telling you on the phone, she's mostly Malamute. We know the bitch was pure bred Malamute, but the sire was unknown as the owner of Charka's mommy had taken her into the vet to be spayed and the vet said, "Ooops! Too late!" Charka was in a litter of nine live pups born the weekend after Thanksgiving (the 4th Thursday in November) in 1995. She'll be 13 people-years old this November.

We think the sire was a German Shepherd (or a Shepherd mix) since Charka is actually small even for a female Malamute, (she weighs only about 61 lbs) and her body shape is very like a German Shepherd. But she is definitely a Malamute in characteristics!

And here she is asleep in her favorite chair. This is generally where we find her in the mornings.

It's also one of those rare moments when the living room was clean. (These photos are from 2006.)

Well, I should get my behind into bed. We have one of our corporate VPs visiting the office tomorrow, so I should try to at least appear to be alert when he meets with all of us. I'll be at the stationery shop again in the afternoon, and then I plan to come home and go right to sleep as this has been an unreasonably challenging week in so many ways.

I'm so glad we got this blog going, though, because it's one of the bright spots in my day to check it.

Hugs and good knitting to you!


PS - I'm a "House" addict, too! I'm on pins & needles waiting for the new season to premiere! Check out the web site for some great House-isms. Among my favorites are "Occam's Razor. The simplest explanation is almost always somebody screwed up."

Confession Time

Dear Judith

I have a confession to make. I have barely touched my knitting needles since I came back from the Festival of Quilts in mid-August. Actually I think the only knitting I've done is about 8 rows whilst watching "House" one night. I came late to the House Party. Hallmark is showing every episode since the beginning and since it's a medical programme Dave can tolerate, I'm now addicted.

The obsession du jour is quilting. At the moment I'm not only working on the City & Guilds stuff, a lot of which involves playing with paper and paint, but also finishing off a quilt for a friend's birthday in a month and then I've let myself be sucked down the rabbit hole of a block of the month project that's all hand quilted.

And I wonder why I've never got time for anything?

This is only a quick christening post and you need to know that a) I'm alive and b) I can't speak to you tonight because I've just got in from work (where I wanted to hurl a recalcitrant laptop through the window) and b) we've got to rush out to a bike club monthly meeting.

TTFN (that's Ta Ta For Now for those not in the know)


A use for sock knitting leftovers

Dear Mandella,

It’s another way to use up leftovers from knitting socks!  I mean, I’ve been domino-knitting the leftovers, but this will be a nice break:  Little hats for bottles!  This is a fund-raiser for Age Concern in the UK.  You knit a little hat for a bottle of Innocent fruit smoothie and send it in.  They send 50p (that’s 50 pence to folks in the USA, about the equivalent of US $1 with the exchange rate as it is).

Mason Dixon Knitters (see the entry “Tiny Hats”) are offering to collect little hats from US knitters and send them over.  Knitters in the UK can just send them in directly.  Oh, what fun!  Little hats!  I’ve already printed out the patterns. In fact, I’ll go beyond the pattern and have a little more fun.  I mean, now that I have the socks finished for my niece, I have time, right? (OK, I’m not mentioning, the shrug for my sister Mary, the socks for my sister-in-law Joan, the socks for my sister-in-law Deb, the Ab-Fab throw, the Kimono scarf, or the ubiquitous laundry.)

I’m working on getting the photos.  Thursdays are days when I have a bit more time for this (in the evening when I’m home), presuming I’m not completely wasted from the week’s work and other upheavals.  (Did I tell you about coming home to dog cookies on the carpet and water in the basement this past Monday night?)

Time to put my feet up and start knitting little hats.

Big hugs and good knitting to you!


10 September 2008

Happy as a Pig in ... Stuff

Dear Mandella,

The fur is flying left and right (pun intended) in our big presidential campaign because one of the candidates (the left/liberal/Democrat) used the expression “like putting lipstick on a pig” when describing the effect of the other candidate (the right/conservative/Republican) talking about bringing about change.

Do you have that expression on your side of the Atlantic?  I believe the full expression is something on the order of, “You can put lipstick on a pig but that doesn’t make it pretty.”  Or maybe it’s on the order of, “Fixing up that old house would be like putting lipstick on a pig.”  Of course, the overall intent is to convey that any effort to make something look or sound better than it is would be a waste of time and energy.  And possibly a falsehood.  Well, you just never know with aphorisms because they are so flexible.  But I do love a good simile when I come across one.

Anyway, it put me in mind of some of the good ones I’ve heard over the years.  When we dawdled at our household chores, my mother would say we were as slow as molasses in January.  The marching band professor at my university once described an unhelpful person with the phrase, “as useless as a screen door on a submarine.”  One of my favorites came from a woman in a community choir.  We were squeezing massive numbers of singers onto risers (it was for a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”) and this lady said in frustration, “We are jammed in here like jelly*.”   That lady had another expression she used when something didn’t go right:  “If that ain’t what made the cake fall in the middle.”  (She had a slight Southern lilt in her voice, so it came out more like, “If that ain’t what made the cake foul in the middle,” which sort of has its own special meaning, don’t you think?)

Our language is so highly idiomatic that it’s no wonder we resort to simile and metaphor for emphasis. 

Oh, and the big to-do over the use of that particular simile at the beginning?  The Republican candidate’s running mate quipped at the Republican National Convention (which was televised for all to see and hear) that she’s a hockey mom and that the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull terrier is the lipstick (on the hockey mom, presumably).  So, put the two items together and you’ve got a bunch of Republicans upset because they believe the Democratic candidate was calling the Republican running mate a pig.  (They seem to forget that the Republican candidate used that very expression a year ago.) 


Yes, we’re in the midst of the silly season for about 2 more months.  I thought I’d try to get past all of the bickering and concentrate on the culture.




*That’s “jelly” in the US sense, meaning fruit preserves, instead of the UK sense, meaning “gelatin.”

09 September 2008

We Are Here! We Are Here!

Dear Mandella,

OK, OK, I know I've jumped the gun, but I just couldn't help myself. Like all those little Whos in Whoville, I want to shout at the top of my lungs that We Are Here!

Who'd have known that . . . was it just last year in January, or was it before that? Anyway, who'd have known that two such different gals would have so much in common. We're forty-ish, married, have pets instead of children, have aging parents, love to knit and love to eat (and have nearly the same fitting problems as a result).

Of course, there are differences. For instance, you "Hoover" when I "vacuum," you write "colour" when I write "color," you say "to-mah-to" and I say, "Not for me, thanks."

OK, and you ride a motorcycle whereas I terrorize morning traffic in my zippy red car.

But somehow we found each other and clicked, whether it was because of the knitting or the hysterectomies or the aging parents.

Day-um. Who knew?

Now, before I get too carried away, I want to make it clear that, although I suggested this format because I'm a devoted fan of the Mason Dixon Knitting gals, this is in no way meant to steal their thunder or to be snotty copycats. It's more of an homage. I really just thought we'd have an easier time sharing one blog than forever posting on each others' blogs. Besides, I always seem to start out my posts as a letter to you because I just can't imagine not telling you what's happening on my side of the pond.

(Prayer today: Thank you, God, for the Internet, which allows me to connect to my gal-pals without having to run up the equivalent of the National Debt in telephone bills.)

Well, I'd better get going. I have only about 30 minutes before it's bedtime. Tomorrow's a long day: I work both of my jobs, plus I have choir practice at church (which means I'll miss Project Runway again, but, I can catch it in reruns on the weekend).

Hugs and good knitting to you!


PS: I programmed the time to be GMT since that's about the only way to keep track of these things. I mean, what with Daylight Savings Time and the fact that it starts and ends of different days for each of us, how would we ever know what time it really is for either of us. Just remember that I'm always about 6 hours behind you (which explains why I'm always huffing and puffing as I try to catch up).