The adventures of a knitting grandmother

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She spins, she knits, she blogs about it all.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Now my feet are wet

I have finished my first ever knitted hat! Many thanks to Susan posting the directions for the top-down hat, also known as the "Live Dangerously, No Swatching Hat".

I am quite happy with the results. It fits just fine, although the next time I knit this -- and there will definitely be a next time -- I want to make it about an inch shorter and a little snugger. I am also going to use the four needle increase and get a flatter top to the hat, although mine has turned out fairly flat as it is, once I am wearing it.

I used a variation of moss stitch for the sides. K1, P1 for two rows, then P1, K1 for the next two rows, repeating these four rows for the pattern. I really enjoy simple knit/purl patterns. Now that the hat bug has bit, I think I will have ample opportunity to play with patterns in the future.

I want to thank Ann for taking the time to refer me to Knitty and the Branching Out scarf in her comments to my last post. Especially since I'm sure she took time out of getting ready for Thanksgiving to get the information for me! I had already started exploring the patterns on Knitty and would do more, except that I'd probably get really involved, lose all track of time, and civilization as we know it around here in PumpkinKnitter land would bite the dust. Literally. I have gone over to check out Ann's blog and I'm going to have to add it to my must-read list.

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

My New LYS

I have a new LYS! And it's much closer to my home than Tucson is. It's a quilter's store that has one wall dedicated to some beautiful yarns, as well as all sizes of Crystal Palace needles in stock. Here's my haul -- one skein of Encore Worsted in a pinky gray color for my "Live Dangerously, No Swatching Hat". I liked this color better than the one I had previously thought I would use. A set of Size 7 Crystal Palace DP's for knitting said hat. And five skeins of Brown Sheep Handpainted Wildfoote. From left to right, 2 skeins of Symphony, 2 of Bluegrass, and 1 skein of Brown Sugar. I really fell in love with the Brown Sugar, but they only had one skein. So I shall probably make wristwarmers with it. Or if anyone knows a good idea for 215 yards of handpainted luxury?

I've finished the top portion of the hat and am ready to start a ribbing pattern for the main body. I'm enjoying how quickly and easily it is working up. There will definitely be more knit hats in the future. This is one of the reasons why I am enjoying reading knitblogs. There is so much beautiful work out there. I wish I had stumbled onto all this sooner.

Thank you to all those who have let me know that they are reading my blog, and to all those who have answered questions I have posed. I still feel like such an amateur at blogging. I never realized the work that goes into all those beautiful sites and posts. And I am discovering more and more every day.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Day Trip!

Time for another day trip! We traveled to Tucson again, this time to see the Tucson Botanical Gardens. We had never been there before, and it was a perfect day to go. It's hard to believe that a place in the middle of the desert can be so green! And so much was blooming! Barbara was having a great time photographing flowers.

And there were so many flowers to photograph! The garden is divided into many smaller, "theme" gardens, and it is an education to walk through and see what can be grown in the local area.

I know, it looks like springtime, doesn't it.

And here is my lovely photographic assistant:

After viewing the gardens, we had dinner at TGI Fridays and headed back home.

Hey! I'm Knitting as Fast as I Can is having a mini knitalong, knitting hats with directions that she will provide day by day. I've got some spare Encore Worsted, and I've never knit a hat before. Let's go and do some knitting!

Friday, November 18, 2005

The knitting saga, cont.

Or, the big pile of fuzzy stuff.

For a long time I wouldn't knit sweaters. I already have related how I made the old man a vest that was WAAYY too big. I made cardigans for other male relatives that also had the same problem. When I tried sweaters for myself, they came out WAAYY small. Go figure. So I avoided the whole issue and crocheted ripple afghans. (I have since given up all crochet with yarn. I just don't like it.) Just before we went to Germany in 1989, I got bit with the bug to try again. So my mom and I went to a REAL yarn store (NOT LeeWard's, this time) and had the yarn lady help me pick out yarn for two pullovers. This time, total success. One was cotton and one was wool. I love them both and still wear them. Sometime I'll get the camera maniac to take pictures with the fancy new camera. I learned a great lesson. Get the right yarn.

For a long time, though, after this, I didn't knit much at all. I got wound up in counted cross stitch and some quilting. Then, the little pumpkin was coming and I got the urge to knit again. Well, WalMart was the closest yarn supply, and the acrylic stuff worked out okay. But then, I got tempted beyond belief by the Bernat Boa, just down the aisle from the baby stuff.

I bought a couple balls and tried a simple garter stitch scarf. I know, I hate garter stitch, but the fuzzy yarn kind of precluded anything else. It was a disaster. I kept dropping and gaining stitches, and the tinking was a nightmare. Frogging was worse. I eventually was able to pick out the main thread in all the eyelash and then tinking got easier. But I started counting my stitches as I went across each row, because I could then catch my mistakes right away. And I'm not going to tell you which scarf it was, because it's a Christmas gift and I don't want anyone to know who's getting the knitting headache. But after finishing the first, I got more of the Boa to try again, and this one went fine. In fact, I ended up doing a total of four before I got bored with it.

About the same time frame I was looking at the Patternworks catalog and got grabbed by the Eros. I ordered one ball of that and just made up a simple pattern using dropped stitches and YOs. It turned out okay - I'm still not sure what to do with it now - and it was fun, but I doubt I'll ever use anything like that or the novelty yarns again. I've discovered alpaca, and I may never be the same.

The back-easters have all gone home. The kids are back in school. As I was telling Julie, now that I'm stuck with all the cleanup and no baby to play with, I'm in the doldrums. And probably only a couple are coming back for the real holidays, so I've had my big family gathering for the year. Which doesn't help the doldrums. But I'll enjoy reading all my blog friends' stories! So blog away!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mr. Teeth

Or, the ode to my children. (Don't despair, we get back to the knitting stuff tomorrow.)

I can't begin to describe how impressed I am with the new parents' skills with the baby. They are doing a superb job. It's also hard to describe how it feels to have all of them back in the house at once. Besides fighting them for computer time (never compete with two teenagers who have their own teen-blogs), it's amazing to cook for all of them again. Actually, it's easier to cook for a mob, like I did for years when they were growing up, than to cook just for two or three. Plus, it's just fun to have them around again.

The dynamics have certainly changed. They are seldom all together at once anymore, since the oldest bunch are scattered around the country. Joe and Jenn, the new parents, live in Boston; he is finishing up his PhD at MIT and she has a degree in astrophysics. Mike is finishing his master's here in Arizona and is applying to medical school. Maria lives up north and is taking dental programs, and Annie and Barbara ("Auntie Annie" and "Auntie Boo") are still in high school. When they all got together this weekend, there was lots of talk of classes and scholarships and interviews and other equally academic matters. Every evening there would be loud and friendly games of Texas Hold-em, with the clatter of plastic poker chips going on all night. Everything was pretty civilized...until Maria brought out her "practice mouth".

Instant mayhem.

Not surprisingly,Mr. Teeth proved to be a willing participant in all kinds of games. He happily submitted to all sorts of indignities that would crush a lesser soul. Kind of like the dog that the little kids dress up and stick in the stroller. Except Mr. Teeth was polite and didn't bite back.

Finally, as a reward for being such a good sport, he got to sit in on a couple rounds of Texas Hold-em.

Sigh. My children, the (not-so) great minds of America.

What is the world coming to?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Turkey Master

So, when we last saw our fearless family clan, son Joe, the proud new father, requested that we have an early Thanksgiving dinner, seeing as how all the family was gathered together and, as he put it, he hadn't had Thanksgiving dinner with the family for eight years. I'm not sure his math is correct, but hey, who cares? So Sunday we cooked turkey, Southwestern style...


The turkey master himself is out in the remnants of the pumpkin patch, far enough away from the house just in case things get exciting. It took an hour to fry the almost 20 pound bird. In the meantime, more traditional dishes such as green bean casserole (quadruple recipe) were prepared in the conventional manner. It was still warm enough to eat dinner outside, and the day was followed by a perfect evening.

The moon picture was taken by son Michael, who had just gotten his new digital camera. Not his first camera; his fourth. This boy was never interested in having a camera all the years he lived with us. One day he picked up a cheap digital camera, and a monster was born. A monster who can take 269 pictures of one hour-long baptism service. (You think I jest. And he downloads all of them to my computer.)

So, all the clan retired for the night, with sweet dreams of a baptism and food, food, food...until the next morning, when all the out-of-towners woke up with head colds.

Welcome back to reality.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A really special day

The long-awaited day finally arrived for little Nikki's baptism. The godparents, who also came from Massachusetts, are on the right; son Joe and wife Jenn are in the center, of course; and the officiating individual on the left is the old man. It was a beautiful day to have a christening. The weather was perfect and little Veronica Kathleen didn't cry, even once.

After the ceremony, we enjoyed the fruits of our (kitchen) labor. I wish I had a picture that showed the christening dress to full advantage.

It was made by Nikki's grammi Gail in Rhode Island and included lots of lace, ribbons, ruffles, and hand embroidery.

Did any knitting happen? Yup. After the ceremony and lunch at the chapel, after carting everything back home and getting it sorted and packed away, it was time for a little R & R, curled up in an old recliner with the green lace scarf. Fingering weight merino and size 5 needles were exactly the comfort knitting I needed. However, lace knitting, fatigue, and Chardonnay do not always meld together, as I ended up ripping back several times. Well, progress wasn't the point, after all.

I close with a picture of the whole party. It's not very often that you see four generations of a family in one place. Folks came from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Michigan, and Arizona...

Tomorrow, an early Thanksgiving, southwest style.

Friday, November 11, 2005

So much to do

It's Veteran's Day and the hordes are descending on the pumpkinknitter's household. Tomorrow is the baby's christening, and today's holiday will be spent cooking for the celebration to follow the ceremony. We are looking forward to a great day. The weather promises to be at its southern Arizona best, clear, sunny, and in the 70's. (There are definite advantages to Arizona.) As if that weren't enough, today is also Nana's birthday. Nana is one of the little pumpkin's great-grandmothers, and the christening is also an occasion for the whole family to be gathered on her birthday as well.

Today we think of all those serving in our country's Armed Forces. The old man and I were both once among those ranks ourselves.

Posting will have to wait until next week to resume. Pumpkinknitter will be chained (quite willingly) to the kitchen, cooking for the ravenous crowds.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Prayer Shawl

This past summer we took a three and a half week camping trip to Bryce Canyon, Zion, the North Rim, and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We ended up spending a couple days in Flagstaff visiting our oldest daughter Maria. I couldn't resist the temptation to visit Barnes and Noble, a real bookstore. While browsing in the spiritual books section, I saw a title that grabbed my eye -- Knitting Into the Mystery by Susan Jorgensen and Susan Izard. I bought the book (along with five or six others) and started reading it almost as soon as I got back to the camper. I found the idea of knitting prayer-filled items to be very compelling. After all, when we're knitting for someone else, aren't we already putting good thoughts, wishes, prayers, etc., into it already. The prayer shawl ministry seems to be a logical, more formal extension of what we are already doing.

I had never heard of such a ministry, although since then I have run across a couple people who have. The ones they knew of were back in the eastern US. I decided I wanted to try making up the recommended shawl pattern, just to see how it would turn out. It is done in a modified seed stitch, knit 3 purl 3, and I do enjoy patterns where the knits and purls alternate. I don't like garter stitch, and I haven't done much plain stockinette, but I do enjoy pattern knitting. I ordered four skeins of Encore Worsted from Patternworks in a multicolor called Butternut (7301), which for some reason they aren't showing anymore, and cast on. I took it to a retreat with me in the beginning of October, and worked on it fairly constantly during the sessions (I was sitting in the back, helping with the book table, so I wasn't distracting anyone). Several people came to ask me what I was working on, but only one lady, who wasn't even from our area, was interested in the ministry concept. I was thinking that if I found enough people interested in the ministry aspect, I would look into starting a group. But it doesn't look promising right now.

Besides, even though I'm only working on this part time, I've only gotten through one skein of the yarn in what seems like an awful long time, so I don't even know if I could get up enough productivity to make a ministry feasable. I'm just not a very fast knitter, I guess. I'm a thrower, not a picker, and maybe that makes a difference.

Sorry that the picture doesn't show much detail. I've figured out how to format the pictures but I need to work on the quality of what I'm posting! And speaking of doing stockinette knitting, I'm really thinking about doing the Prisoner of Azkaban scarf from atypically.knit, but do I really need another project now?

In closing, here is a picture of my November garden, for all of you who are already in the grip of winter.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Trip to the Zoo

On Monday, we went to the zoo. Actually, it was to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. It was little Veronica's first visit to the zoo. Here's Veronica (better known as Miss Nikki) with her grandpa enjoying the otters. Nikki doesn't look like she's barely six weeks old yet, does she?

We saw many flying things and many crawling things. We saw lots of fuzzy things. The otters were fuzzy.

The prairie dogs were fuzzy, too.

This was fuzzy, too. EEEK! And this wasn't in a cage! Triple EEEK!!!

Miss Nikki and Grandpa had fun at the zoo. What did Grandma do? Grandma took the pictures while Grandpa held Nikki and showed her all the fuzzy animals at the zoo. Miss Nikki's Mommy and Daddy and Uncle Mike also enjoyed all the animals, fuzzy or otherwise.

Did Grandma do any knitting? Grandma worked on the pink ribbed shrug in the car until she ran out of yarn. Next time, Grandma, bring more yarn.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

2 WIP's

There are 2 WIPS that are my go-anywhere knitting. They go in the car, they go to work, they go to the orthodontist's, you know the breed. The pink sleeve is the Ribbed Shrug from Interweave Knits Summer '05. I ordered the Paton's Katrina yarn from Herrschners Yarn Shoppe; catalog shopping is a life essential out in the boonies where we live. I really like the Katrina yarn. I like the silky feel of it and the bit of sparkle that goes with it. It reminds me very much of a little girl's sweater that someone passed down to my younger girls while we were living in Germany in the early 90's. It was handknit of a yarn in virtually the same shade and feel as the Katrina, and I loved that little sweater, too. This shrug is a gift for Christmas, and I've been working on it just about everywhere; I could in theory knit it right in front of the giftee and she would never even notice it; an advantage to knitting everywhere on just about anything means that after a while you get ignored. You blend into the scenery, as it were. Sometimes people notice that you're not knitting and want to know if you're feeling okay.

The green scarf/stole is a pattern I made up myself, after I couldn't find anything I wanted in a reasonably short time. It is very simple, just repeating K2, YO, K2 tog, K2, P2, for the width you want, ending with K2, YO, K2 tog. It is reversible, which is what I was looking for. It's being done with Louet Gems Pearl in a beautiful (to me) sage green on US 5's. This is the first merino yarn I have knit with (yes, I know, but I told you, I live in the boonies), and I love the feel of the yarn and the small needles. It is very relaxing to pick this up and work on it, especially after working on something in worsted weight with big needles. This one is for me, to go with a summer dress I have.

Blogging may be iffy for the next couple of weeks. The new little pumpkin is coming (with her parents, of course), for a ten day visit with Grandma and Grandpa. Today will be the first time I finally get to hold her and start spoiling her. Her christening is here next Saturday, and I will be hosting an untold amount of relatives and guests. Lots of work but loads of fun!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Hey, honey, want to feel real old?

Yesterday morning at about 6:00 am I talked to the old man at work. After asking him how his night went (graveyard shift supervisor par excellence), I asked him the above question. Needless to say, he sounded really thrilled and said, okay, go ahead. I reminded him of the fact he had long forgotten, that 33 years ago that very day we had our first date together. I think he sometimes wonders why I can remember things like this and can't remember that he told me to call and schedule an oil change for his car. This I can remember because he took me to see some really odd foreign movies. I also tend to remember the date because it occurred three days after he asked me out. And he did that on Halloween. I should have known right then and there...

For those with enquiring minds, yes, I have knitted for him. I made him a scarf once. Maybe he even remembers it, but I doubt it. After all, he never wore it. He's just not a scarf kind of guy. And I made him a vest. We were still dating at the time, or maybe we were engaged by then. It was a basketweave patterned vest that I found in a booklet called "Fashions for Men and Boys by Columbia Minerva". The only problem was that it called for a sport/fingering weight type yarn and I, being the ignorant genius that I still was, bought regular worsted weight yarn. The vest came out really nice. In fact, it won a blue ribbon that year at the Michigan State Fair. I was really proud of myself. There were a lot of really nice men's knitted things and I won!!! It should have been a really huge boost for my ego, except...it would have fit about three of him inside it. And he would't wear it. (It was about here in my knitting career that I started to suspect that gauge was an operative imperative.) In a fit of desperation, I stitched up the sides to make it skinnier. And then he did wear it. Once. He never again has asked me to make him anything. In fact, he's been rather firm about that. Even though he knew he was marrying a knitter. (He has no excuse. When he got introduced to me, I was sitting in an old office at college, knitting.)

The vest hung around in the closet for about 20 years and then finally went to Goodwill. Maybe it still has a life out there. Maybe some high school linebacker is wearing a blue ribbon basketweave vest somewhere.

Look at it this way, honey. I gave away the vest. I kept you. Happy anniversary.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Oh, to be young and ignorant again!

Or, the history lesson, or, my life as a knitter -- take your pick...

My mom showed me how to knit and purl when I was pretty young. I think the first thing I ever knit was a scarf for the Barbie doll. It didn't teach me much except that I didn't like garter stitch and still don't. But that was the only knitting lesson I ever had.

As a teenager I got intrigued by the look of cables and other knitterly things, so I taught myself to cable and made a scarf, designing it from cable patterns I found. I also found that cable takes up a lot of yarn, requiring a second trip to the yarn store for more of it. Back then, the LYS was the local five and dime. Anybody else remember Kresge's and Woolworth's? (I know I'm dating myself.) About this same time I got slightly sidetracked and taught myself to crochet. I crocheted some vests for myself and my buddies, and did a scarf or two and a hat; eventually I even made a couple of those ripple afghans. I finally decided I just don't like crocheting with yarn and switched to lace crochet, but that's another story...Anyways, I decided to knit a sweater. Mind you, I had never knit a sweater, and really didn't know anyone else who knit and could tell me a thing or two, and I picked what I thought was a really cool sweater out of a craft magazine. It was a Nordic style sweater knit on circulars. With all the ignorance of my teenage years I figured out the pattern and actually got it knit -- and the thing was too freakin' tight in the yoke because I learned the hard way about leaving the stranding loose enough. But it never occurred to me that there might be easier things to try for a first timer. It did teach me that I can probably figure out any pattern there is, given time and a willingness to frog a few times. But I wonder if I'll ever have that much of the daredevil in me again!

No hiking this past Monday. The old man has been working a bunch of twelve hour days, and he was sleeping so soundly I didn't have the heart to wake him up. So we just went out to lunch and did a little shopping. Hey, even that's an improvement over the way it used to be!