Friday, December 30, 2005

Winding Up

Another year end and I'm winding up loose ends, literally.

For a number of not-happy reasons, knitting time has been in short supply roundabout Exit 151.Koigu #P605, 2233, 1122, P122 But there's a glimmer at the end of the tunnel, and it doesn't look like an oncoming train. I've been able to resume progress on my pal's now woefully overdue Holiday Sox (at least I've kept in touch with her and with exchange hostess Ariane). And I've wound up two Koigu semi-solid colors for my next sock project, the current Six Sox pattern, Adrienne Fong's Standing in the Shadow of Love.

There are other causes for knitterly happiness: Cherry Tree Hill is having a sale that starts at midnight, December 31. Habu is having their sale through January 15. The sign up for Secret Pal Seven continues through January 4.

Meanwhile, although Secret Pal Six is over, another artful packageOrnamented shipping box from my excellent pal, Rainy of Will Pillage for Yarn, arrived. Thank you, Rainy! This is going above and beyond, in so many ways. Not least, the ornamented outside of the box is as much a pleasure as the contents and a gift in itself. (Click on the photo for a larger view to see what I mean.)

Inside the shipping box was another ornamented box (this one a persimmon red Chinese take out gift box), a sweet note, a recipe card for Grandma's 1935 Applesauce Cake (DH loves applecake!), and a Sivia Harding Knit Design pattern, Gothic Leaf Stole. Inside the gift box was a luscious skein of laceweight and six stitch markers. The yarn is reminiscent of Icelandic laceweight, its gorgeous colorway of multi-hued pahoehoe lava.

Extra SP6 goodies

Here's another view of the artful gift box and the beaded stitch markers.

Artful gift box and stitch markers

To close this year, DH and I plan to attend First Night MontclairFirst Night program and button (roundabout Exit 148). It's a fun, community-wide, alcohol-free party, with entertainment and fireworks. This year there's a NOLA flavor, in honor of the people who settled here after Hurricane Katrina. Plus, for those of a certain age, Nickelodeon characters – and slime! – are promised. DH prefers New Jersey Ballet; as for me, I have my silver Festive Fur boa and my green and purple Mardi Gras beads ready.

Happy New Year – happy, healthy, safe, and prosperous – to all. See y'all next year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas 2005

For Christmas, some want their two front teeth. Others negotiated an end to the NYC transit strike. The WeatherPixie got a Christmas tree that lights up at night.

WeatherPixie by day   WeatherPixie by night

I got some nice prezzies, too – some material and some experiential.

On Christmas eve, we attended the Church of the Improv. This year there were three services – family service at 5, jazz service at 8, and lessons and carols at 11. We went to the jazz service, at which the Matt King Trio (Matt King on piano, Dave Richards on bass, and Pete MacDonald on drums) plus Rob Middleton on saxophone led worship. It was a wonderful treat to hear them live – particularly as my favorite Christmas CD is Matt's Welcome, Christmas.

On Christmas day, we ate roast beast, idly contemplated the scary New York Times recipe for ginger cookies made with Oscar Meyer bacon drippings, and opted not to go on the annual bicycle ride through Dyker Heights, Brooklyn or to the annual re-enactment of Washington crossing the Delaware River to invade New Jersey (they made it this year!).

Instead we saw The Chronicles of Narnia. The movie was enjoyable (maybe a bit too intense for young children) – now I'm going to have to read the books. We also saw Russia! at the Guggenheim Museum-New York. The exhibit is a narrowly focused gallop through Russian history, painting, and sculpture (sorry, no Orenburg lace, Easter eggs, or matrioshka dolls). However that may be, I love the haughty girl on the gallery guide, pictured with the tickets and two other prezzies.

Some nice Christmas 2005 prezzies

BIL gave me a beauteous hank of a discontinued Cherry Tree Hill yarn, Possum Lace, in colorway Blueberry Hill ("a rich blend of sunripened mountain blueberries"). I've been wanting to try possum yarn for ages! And DH gave me one of those cute sheepy tape measures I've been coveting. Obviously, he's been paying close attention.

But truth be told, lately my fondest wish on a long holiday weekend is for peace and quiet enough to knit up that ravelled sleave of care. Got that, too [vbg]. Ah, to sleep in heavenly peace!

Hope your holidays were happy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's a Wonderful Holiday Sox

Today brought the NYC transit strike, which made this wonderful Holiday Sox package from my excellent exchange pal, Else, all the more welcome. I won't speak of others, but she has flawless timing.

My festive Holiday Sox

First, there's the gorgeous socks, which fit perfectly and are identical twins. Color and design come together most beauteously: I love the fancy leafy lace back of the leg and heel (just right for clogs), the subtle stripe of the almost-solid green yarn, and the festive star toe. The sober ribs on the front of the leg neatly balance the tendency of lace to spread and add to the unexpected sass of the walking-away view. One might think a st st foot on a ribbed leg would bag out, but – wonderful to relate! – these feet are shapely. Else has wrought a sock miracle!

If that weren't enough knitterly goodness, there's also a skein of Rowan Kidsilk Night in colorway 609 Dazzle. Wow, I'm dazzled! My excellent SP6 pal, Rainy, got me hooked on Kidsilk Haze – here's a new Kidsilk to love.

Last but hardly least, there's a thoughtful handmade card dotted with stars and containing a wish for peace. We could use more of that roundabout metro NYC these days!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Classic Synchronicity

My My Favorite Classic package arrived today (Jamie sent it from Alberta on the 8th)!

Inside were excellent goodies: The Complete Novels of Jane Austen (that's seven novels!), a bookmark with a portrait of the author, a box of Shakespeare Chocolate, a humorous card, and four clever stitch markers.

My Favorite Classic goodies

Thank you, Jamie! By some happy chance, I've been wanting to read Mansfield Park because I just read something else in which a character hadn't read it – and Mansfield Park (plus six) appears! I've also been wondering where my row counter has gotten to – and a clever stitch marker with an attached row counter (plus three) appears!

My Favorite Classic stitch markers

To round out the coincidences, I'm always interested in chocolate and humor – and chocolate and humor appear!

It's a classic case of synchronicity.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Sea Change

The December reading for Knit the Classics is a novel of the Victorian era, Tess of the D'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman by Thomas Hardy. For the knitting, I thought about these boots but ended up joining the Mrs. Beeton knit-along and the Something Red for Tess knit-along and made – what else? – red Mrs. Bs.

Mrs. Beeton ruffled wristies by Brenda Dayne (she of the Cast-on podcast) is a wonderful pattern. By curious chance, mine have more than once reminded me of sea life. Perhaps it's that sea change from yarn to FO. Here's the completed pair, posing as sea anemones.

Mrs. Beeton wristies

Here's the yarn: a stray hank of Koigu KPPPM in colorway P105 from stash for the bottom bell band Yarn for Mrs. Beetonand a new ball of Rowan Kidsilk Haze in colorway 606 Candy Girl for the top bell band. To complement the cherry reds and contrasting teal greens of the yarns and to play up the festive Victorian feel, I used some jet beads from stash. In the frugal spirit of Mrs. B, the beads are remnants from the December 2004 Six Sox pattern, Pink Beads by Christina Coghill.

I tried a bunch of different combinations of yarns for the two bell bands and decided KSH is perfect for the top band, but the DK weight called for in the pattern seems a bit too heavy for the bottom band. Using a finer yarn, such as Koigu, with smaller needles yields more graceful bells that are better suited to the delicacy of the KSH top band, IMHO. It also means my wristie is a bit smaller than the pattern, which suits me fine.

The beaded cast on is a bit fiddly, but very worthwhile. I love how the beads stand up on the cast on edge. (DH insists they look like alien spawn. Hrmph.) When finished, the top bell band and bottom bell band kinda look like a Spanish Dancer nudibranch. The different sized beads really enhance the two bands.

Two bells finished

Joining the bell bands is also a bit fiddly. It's very important to pass the bottom band through the top band from the top down so that the two working yarns will be properly oriented to do the three-needle join. For this step only, I found it helpful to place each band on two needles as shown.

The pattern has a nice symmetry – I like how the beads on the wrist fall at the points of the bells, which become the centers of the k3 p1 ribbing. Knitting both yarns together adds a lovely faint haze which softens the color and texture of the wrist ribbing. The photo below shows off the Koigu alone, the KSH alone, and the two together.

Mrs. Beeton showing off faint haze

I have only praise for the faint haze!

The picot cast off is another fiddly but worthwhile bit – a plain cast off wouldn't look nearly as well. I substituted knitted cast on for cable cast on to speed things up; crochet would work, too.

The finished wristies are comfortable and surprisingly warm indoors (I always have cold hands) and effective at stopping drafts outdoors. Here's one peeping from my coat sleeve.

Mrs. Beeton ready to go

This is a terrific pattern, chock full of Mrs. B's Virtues. I'll be making many more as small prezzies, but this pair is a keeper.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Plus One

The Holiday Knitting tally is now 10 of don't ask!

For afflicted friends, I'm thinking pink. Here's a scarf for the Cause in Gedifra Carioca, a plain chemo cap in Berroco Chinchilla, and Jenna Wilson's Shedir in Queensland Collection Llama Seta.

Scarf for the Cause   Chemo cap and Shedir

Then there's the inevitable glittery scarf in Lion Brand Moonlight Mohair and Trellis...

Moonlight scarf   Gift bag and Wine Cozy x2

... and containers for the thing contained: a gift bag inspired by the Purl book, Last-Minute Knitted Gifts in Lion Brand Microspun and two of Wine Cozy by Jennifer Carter in Red Heart. I don't ordinarily like swirly pooling, but it somehow seems appropriate here.

DH somewhat grumpily (and entirely accurately) observed that there's been a lot of knitting activity, but no knit goods coming his way AND we have the thermostat at 62 F (16.7 C). Hm... well, there's that nice, soft, gray-with-white-and-blue-flecks Rowan Felted Tweed in colorway 132 Charcoal sitting in stash. [Fondly resigned sigh] Make that tally 10 of don't ask plus one.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

SP6 Reveal

Hi Jen! Now it can be revealed that I am Lord Voldemo– er, your Secret Pal. I hope you enjoyed your goodies – I've enjoyed spoiling you.

Did you guess it was me? Your comment about Nagel's Candy Barn makes me think perhaps so. I usually go to Bromilow's Chocolates factory store; however, your maple sugar goodies came from the source in Vermont and the Jacques Torres Chocolate came from SoHo. Nagel's is a fun place, though – makes visits to the DMV (barely) tolerable.

I've learned a lot reading your blog. Not so much about knitting, but about the challenges that face NICU nurses and their very young, very small, very ill patients. It's gritty reading at times – troubling, honest, and profoundly human. Not quite what I was expecting, not least because when the match up was made, I was thinking of the Wine Cozy Jen. Instead (surprise!), you have your own publication pending (nice Hidden Mickey on the cover). Congratulations and good luck!

And hello to Pepe the Prawn, the Secret Pal spoiling me! I think I have figured out your identity, but let me wait to find out for certain. In the meantime, let me say I've loved your humorous messages and artful packages. And I'm completely blown away by the generosity of small crustaceans. Please do be careful and look both ways before crossing the street on the way to the awful – some motorists don't watch for cyclists or pedestrians, let alone small, slow-moving prawns. [Edited 12/06/05 to add: My Secret Pal is Rainy the Yarnpirate at Will Pillage for Yarn.]

Finally, many thanks to SP6 listmom Sarah, who organized this little corner of the SP6 universe and to the other seven listmoms for organizing all 600+ of us. It's an immense task at a very busy time of year and I bow to them.

Speaking of busy, today is the second Sunday of Advent. At my church, it's the date of the Alternative Christmas Fair, an opportunity to stock up on Fair Trade goodies (I'm partial to Equal Exchange cocoa and chocolate), to make donations to worthy causes in honor of good folk, and to contribute to the bake sale. This year the proceeds are going to support two families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

After this year's Thanksgiving pie fiasco, I figured I better stick to cookies. Here's mine:

Bake sale cookies

Yep, those are M&M cookies and Pillsbury cookies. For a church bake sale. O tempora, o mores!

Friday, December 2, 2005

A Sock Is Born

Diamond Patch has transformed from nondescript blob (comprehensible – maybe – to cognoscenti) to sock in progress (instantly recognizable by anyone). She now has an afterthought heel, with its characteristic bullseye pattern, and an afterthought toe.

Diamond Patch sock in progress

Amazing what a difference the addition of these features makes.

The next challenge will be leg shaping. My Holiday Sox pal wants somewhat tall socks, so some kind of gusset to accommodate a shapely calf is needed. Hm... a st st insertion will give the sock a stripey wedge in back... which might be attractive if one saw the sock in toto... but would it be equally appealing if one only saw the leg? Hm....

Yesterday I sent away my final SP6 package and My Favorite Classic package. I hope my secret pals enjoy their goodies. The fun of SP-ing has made me think about how I express care and affection and how I give and receive gifts among my quotidian pals as well as my cyber-pals.

The new Six Sox pattern is Standing in the Shadow of Love by Adrienne Fong. It's a timely delight – I've always wanted to try shadow knitting and the hearts will be perfect for Valentine's Day. I think I will use a variegated yarn for the MC and a solid CC. I generally don't like shazaaming, so I hope shadow knitting will tame flashing on the leg. Hm... maybe I'll shadow knit the entire sock. The project will have to wait a week or two, though. Santa's workshop is busy, busy, busy!