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Archive for December, 2002

Sweater Lesson, Busy Day

Tuesday, December 31st, 2002

I was not home much today. I started the day with a visit to one of my knitting teachers, Sarah Peasley. I had taken a class on how to do a “knit to fit” seamless sweater from her, almost a year ago. I made a very wonderful short sleeved sweater from beautiful German perle cotton fingering-weight yarn. It is the only adult sweater I have ever made, but it is just lovely and fits perfectly. I found it the perfect thing to wear to a few summer weddings this year.

Well, I got gutsy in early September and decided to make another sweater without a pattern. I determined that I didn’t want to purl much so I chose to try the “crochet steek” project from the Spring 2002 Knitters Magazine (article by Rick Mondragon) and see if I could dare knit a tube, crochet reinforcement, then cut the tube open for arm holes. I made the sample teddy bear sweater and cut it just fine, so proceeded to do this on a larger sweater for myself.

This sweater is more like a pullover coat than a normal sweater. It is double-thickness Brown Sheep Lambs Pride Worsted, a single ply wool/mohair yarn that is both soft and warm. I did very well on the body of the sweater (with a little help from my friends Marcia and Wendy who work at Yarn for Ewe). I knit the tube with special “steek stitches,” Crocheted to reinforce, and cut armholes. Then I used a three-needle bindoff to connect the shoulder seams.

I got stuck after that, where I picked up stitches around the armhole twice and neither time got an acceptable sleeve started. About a month ago I ripped out the two bad sleeves but didn’t know how to figure out how many stitches to pick up (the class notes were for a set in sleeve so the ratio of picked up stitches was different than my modified drop sleeve).

So off I went to Sarah, and she worked with me for about an hour figuring out how to proceed. Happy me. I’m not going to be able to do a lot with it right away but now I do not feel stuck.

After that, I drove to Jackson, a little more than a half hour south of me, to make a client visit. After that I drove to the small yarn store there, Dropped Stitch, and found three skeins/two types of quite affordable yet lovely turquoise yarn. I’m on a turquoise binge right now so that was great!

From Jackson I proceeded to Ypsilanti (near Ann Arbor) where my brother lives. I had a very pleasant visit with him, and his delightful wife, and their house guest. I got to knit and chat and sip tea with people I love. Very wonderful.

I got home in time to make a late dinner, which was the remaining pumpkin soup and some freshly baked herbed biscuits. Yum.

We have decided to stay home tonight rather than accept one of the two party invitations we received. I have had enough parties this season, and I really wanted to celebrate my partnership with Brian more than my social life.

We actually got the TV out of the attic (literally), and dusted it so we could watch Jay Leno’s monalogue and the Times Square ball dropping. That was the first time we had turned on the TV since the Olympics. I just don’t enjoy spectating at all, and all the jokes are about famous people I don’t know because I don’t watch TV or movies. I very much enjoy the Internet where I can be an active participant. Thank goodness for the Internet!

Happiness to all on this day of promise.

A Wonderful Dinner

Monday, December 30th, 2002

I am surprised that I’m posting about food again! I think of myself as someone who cooks out of necessity, not because I enjoy the process. However, I do love tasting good food.

Since I’ve had a list of food restrictions for about six months (which has kept me out of most restaurants) I’m getting much more adventurous in the kitchen. Hey, if you must cook, you might as well make something really good, right?

Not long ago I posted a pumpkin bread recipe. Well, the truth is that somehow I had purchased four cans of pumpkin and our cupboards are not very big. Today I decided to figure out another way to use some pumpkin, and I ended up making a fabulous soup. It was like going to a fancy restaurant, but it was right here at home! The soup was so fluffy and creamy, you’d swear it had dairy in it but it did not. Mmmm….

I have made similar soups before. The best was a Butternut Squash and Granny Smith Apple soup from a wonderful cookbook: The Vegetarian Hearth by Darra Goldstein. However, Ms. Goldstein’s soup requires baking a squash, peeling, mashing or pureeing, then grating apples, and all sorts of other high-labor tasks. My friend Ulyana makes an African pumpkin-peanut soup that is similar, although I’ve not seen her recipe. This recipe is a lot of bang for almost no labor, and is just great.

I made a lentil/bulgur pilaf to go with the soup. I had never made anything like it before, so I was a bit nervous it wouldn’t be good. However, it turned out well also. I’ll share the soup recipe with you today and save the bulgur recipe for another day. By the way, I may seem to use odd ingredients but they are staples in our house. You can substitute similar items if that is what you have in your kitchen. Cooking is not at all an exact science!

LynnH’s Easy Pumpkin Soup
1 can (1-3/4c) Pumpkin (not seasoned pie filling)
1 cup Unsweetened Applesauce
2-1/2 cup Broth
(I used a fabulous organic chicken broth by Imagine, but you could use vegetable broth; the better the broth, the better the soup.)
4 Tbsp Nut Butter (I used half cashew butter and half almond butter.
Use peanut butter if that is all you have, but almond is fabulous if you can get it; or try sesame tahini from the Mideastern market, or pumpkin seed butter if you don’t tolerate tree nuts)
1/4 tsp marjoram (or oregano)
generous dash allspice
1/4 tsp white pepper (this ingredient just makes a creamy soup right)

Heat all ingredients slowly, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until nut butters are evenly distributed. Continue to heat at a low simmer for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Serve with a dash of nutmeg, whole grain biscuits or bulgur-lentil pilaf (contains gluten), and a steaming cup of tea.

Yarn Gift from My Friend

Monday, December 30th, 2002

balls of yarn from MandyI went to work today (I have a computer classroom at a local Community Center) and my friend Mandy gave me two balls of yarn for Christmas! It’s called Ethno, mostly Merino with nylon binder and quite textured. It says it’s hand painted, too. It’s just gorgeous, zillions of colors but predominantly purple and berry with bits of bright blue/turquoise and some greens.

I don’t know yet what it will be. It would be a gorgeous scarf with the pink or purple eyelash yarns I have, but I really don’t wear scarves. I would love it as a beret if it would hold shape properly, and of course every yarn looks good as socks. Maybe a beret and then a pair of sox with what is left as the accent yarn in the cuffs. Hmmm… so fun to dream!

I’m still trying to make the deadline today to mail two different versions of a sock I’m designing, for a publication. I just LOVE pushing deadlines, it’s awful. I guess I need an adrenaline rush every so often. Both versions of the sock are knit and blocked, and the pattern is written, but I need to do a once-over proofreading with the pattern and then get pictures. And it’s 6:20, and the post office closes at 7:00. I guess that’s just how I do things sometimes.

Focused Knitting

Sunday, December 29th, 2002

Brian and I went to visit his family today, the last Christmas gathering (although I’m also going to see my brother and his wife on Tuesday afternoon). It was very fun, and I did get to knit in the car.

Knitting this particular project was impossible once we got there, though. I’m proofknitting a pattern I wrote and was at a point that required thinking. Thank goodness I also took along some alpaca sox I’m knitting from my generic sock formula in my head. I got about an inch and a half done on two sox while at the party, and went back to proofknitting in the car.

Now I have to decide who is going to get these sox. They are not my colors at all, spring colors for a spring publication. If these were for me or someone with about the size feet I have, I could start the toe first thing in the morning. I may just do that and then find a recipient. If I can find the measurements for my Goddaughter, Sara, I may make them for her. We’ll see…

… I do have two sock swaps due after this, but both require hand-dyed yarns I don’t have dyed yet. I’m really backlogged in the dyeing department, unfortunately, and too many promises are waiting for me to get down there. It looks good that I can get down there this week, probably Wednesday (crossing fingers).

Meanwhile, before I start the swap sox I’m going to let myself knit a simple beret/tam hat out of purple mohair and novelty yarn (Charm?). I need an instant-gratification project, just to lighten up a bit.

No Time for Computers Today

Saturday, December 28th, 2002

Today I invited a few fiber friends to come over and spin with me. I only asked four folks, and one teen got the flu, one adult friend had to work midnights, one teenager was with her dad this weekend…

…but I did get my house cleaned better than it has been in a while (I’m still loving that dishwasher). Eventually, my friend Tony did come over for a few hours.

We ate homemade soup and pumpkin bread, then he knit sox and I spun a bit of beautiful multi-greens-and-turquoise superwash that will eventually be sox for me and for my mother. Someday. (I’ve never knit anything from my handspun though I’ve spun maybe a pound and a half of fiber in a little over a year). We talked about wool and yarn, spinning and knitting, and all sorts of creative and entertaining subjects. We had a great time.

My mom sent me a recipe for pumpkin bread that she had clipped from the Lakeland, Florida newspaper. There are many retirees in that town, so this was a no-egg (low cholesterol) recipe. That made it perfect for me, because I’m sensitive to eggs. It was so thoughtful for her to send the recipe, because she knows I’m very fond of pumpkin. It must be because I was born the day after Thanksgiving!

The recipe was set up for three loaves, a bit excessive, so that gave me permission to play liberally with the ingredients, adding some and subtracting others, as well as changing quantities. With some adaptations and a few changes, I got a largish single loaf. It was totally wonderful and quite simple to make. Here’s my version of the bread:

Crusty Pumpkin Loaf (not gluten free, click here for my no-gluten version)
2 cups Flour
1-1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
1-1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1-1/2 cup White Sugar
1 small can (1-3/4c) Pumpkin (not pie mix)
3/8 cup Vegetable Oil
1-1/2 tsp Vanilla (real Mexican Vanilla is superior if you have a Mexican grocery)

Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Mix in Pumpkin, Oil and Vanilla (I used a wire whisk, slowly).
Pour into 1 large greased and floured bread pan.
Bake 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean.

(There is no picture today, we ate the bread so fast there is nothing left to photograph!)

I’ve turned both heels on my top-down two-color sox for publication. I have to mail them on Monday, but tomorrow I’ll have many hours in the car going to and from a party with Brian’s family. As long as I remember to knit an inch or so back and forth between the sox, I shouldn’t have any troubles getting these done. Countdown!

Dance a Turkish Zig for Jane!

Friday, December 27th, 2002

Turkish Zig Sox for Jane, Copyright 2002 LynnHI did it! I finished Jane’s Turkish Zig sox and not a moment too soon.

For those joining us at this phase of the game, the pattern is one I’ve submitted to be possibly published in a book. The process could easily take a year, even if I’m accepted. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t knit it myself while I’m waiting to hear!

This time I tried knitting the pattern in a larger size than I’d originally written, to make sox for my friend Jane. Jane was the dear soul who traded me her spinning wheel in Fall of 2001, for two pair of handknit sox.

The two pair I traded to Jane she gave as Christmas gifts, to my friend Marian, Jane’ sister-in-law, and Eva, her neice. Those sox turned into a pattern I sell on my LynnH.com website, Eva’s Sox, because the visitors to my LynnH SockTour kept requesting a pattern for it.

Well, this year Eva and Marian picked Jane’s name in the family gift exchange and asked if I’d knit for Jane. Of course, I would! So here they are in all their glory. I have to deliver these early tomorrow morning, before I prepare to have some friends over for a small spinning/knitting gathering tomorrow afternoon.

Whew! Now I need to finish another design (Dancing Sox) in time to ship out sox for a photoshoot, deadline 12/31. At least *this* pattern will be published this spring, so the wait won’t be too long.

When the Dancing Sox package is mailed, I have only two more knitting obligations (both for sock swaps), and a bit of handpainted yarn to paint. When those are done, I can knit guilt-free for myself. I can’t wait!

Heftone Banjo Orchestra

Friday, December 27th, 2002

Lyon & Healey 5-string BanjoMy husband, Brian, has spent several months putting together recordings of himself playing banjo. Actually, playing many, many banjos all recorded as separate tracks on top of one another. Playing banjo is one of his passions, and he is very good at it.

Today he put up a page about The Heftone Banjo Orchestra, this pet project. I’m sure he would be delighted if some of you gave him a visit. There are MP3 files available on the page, and the tunes rotate daily.

One piece, Epley Breakdown, Brian wrote. The other pieces are very old. In fact, at least one is over 200 years old and still engaging.

One Tiny Stitch at a Time

Thursday, December 26th, 2002

Soft Block Print of Coffee Cup copyright by LynnHHere is a print I did a few years ago. I made the print of many smaller print blocks, sometimes called “eraser carving” or “soft block printing.” In this case, some of the print blocks were truly made from plastic erasers I carved up with either linoleum block cutters or woodblock cutters. If you are interested in this artform, check out the Carving Consortium at http://www.negia.net/~unity/ and http://theccforum.proboards9.com/

I’m still cranking out stitches with size 1 needles, on the Turkish Zig sox. They seem so big compared to my small feet, but they measure properly for my friend: 9 inches around and 10-1/4 inches long. I like my sox at 8 inches long so this is a challenge for me. Nevertheless, I’m down to 3 inches left on both sox including the toes, so I’m going to make it by tomorrow as needed.

I am itching to knit something besides a deadline, but I expect I will not be able to do that until January. Pout. After I finish these, I still have to knit the feet on two sox for a publication, to be mailed by 12/31. This is a high-class problem, I am sure of that!

Someone on one of my knitting lists today recommended the Aran Knitting History page as a way to learn about the history of the Aran sweater. These are often characterized by a light creamy colored yarn and cables that are very intricate, often celtic-knot-type designs. I loved this page, and it even offers a short story which was pleasant to read.

Today I checked out the complete collection of poetry by Maya Angelou. It is so luxurious to work in the same building as a branch library! I am already on page 87, reading as I knit.

I’ve seen her speak twice (lucky me) and she is a powerful and strong presence. I aspire to even a minor drop of her wisdom as I earn my gray hair. I do feel I earned each one the hard way and I don’t have to go back and learn those lessons again! I learned slowly, so being 44 is a relief! Finally, I’m happy.

Tomorrow I expect pictures of the finished Turkish Zig sox for your viewing pleasure! Until then, be kind to yourself!

Snowy Musings on a Holiday

Wednesday, December 25th, 2002

LynnH performing as Eudora Happy Christmas to those who celebrate it. So many of us have a day off, whether or not this is our holiday, and it is good to slow down sometimes. We got about 10 inches of snow today so it was an especially good day for staying home.

This picture is of my first performance as Eudora, in 1998. It is good to celebrate all artforms here, I think.

I wish you could experience the artform that is my friend Altu’s good cooking! I purchased food to go at her restaurant yesterday, and we ate that for dinner today. It was true gastronomic bliss! In France they recognize cooking as an artform, but in the US it seems to be ignored, and what a shame that is.

I promise I’ll show you pictures of more knitting when I finish something. However, there is no news in that department today.

I did finally get the second cuff of the Turkish Zig sox to match the first cuff in size. I had to knit it four times to get the two to match, but that is how it goes, I guess. The heel flaps went without incident (they are gorgeous, a checkerboard with a solid dark purple and a variegated second color). I did need to rip out the heel turn once so far, but the first sock now is ready to decrease for gussets and I need to turn the second heel. Turning a heel when you are also trying to follow a stranded color checkerboard, may guarantee at least one confused moment!

Today I feel that I live in an artful heaven. I have good food, a lovely cup of tea, Brian who loves me, a comfy place to knit and many wonderful yarns to choose from.

Well, I’m off to turn my second heel. May you all experience the blessings of friendship, serenity and health, no matter what is your belief system.

Keep on Knitting!

Tuesday, December 24th, 2002

I ripped out the cuff of the Turkish Zig again yesterday. This makes the fourth time I’ve knit the second cuff, I just can’t get the gauge to match the first one.

I am hoping for a slow day. I need to visit a client briefly (the same client I took silk scarves to yesterday) but other than that I will be cranking on those Turkish Zig sox to make the 12/28 deadline. I started plenty early on this pair, I knew I would not have a problem. Yet here I stand, frustrated. I’m at the same place I was on Saturday night!

I really should rip out both of them and knit back and forth, but the first one is so beautifully tensioned I hate to do it. However, that may be the only way to make my deadline and have two sox that look like they are really a pair. I knew better than to knit a whole cuff before starting a stitch on the second!!! I seem to never learn.

Have a beautiful and serene day, however you spend your time. I will be enjoying every stitch, no matter how many times I need to knit it again.

Oh, I added myself to the Knitblogs and Fiber Arts webrings today. The links are on my page, but they may not actually work for a while. I need to be approved by the webring managers first. (Don’t you hate waiting to be approved for anything? It feels like being a wallflower all over again!)

More Holiday Gifts and Gatherings

Monday, December 23rd, 2002

Tie-dyed silk scarf for AnneToday I visited my longest-standing client and gifted the six women who work there with tie-dyed silk scarves I had made for them. They went over much better than I could have imagined.

Each scarf was primarily colored with either blue or turquoise (mostly WashFast Acid dyes from Pro Chemical), and accented with either purple, green or berry. A couple scarves had tiny touches of a third color. I used scarves I got from Dharma Trading, a tie-dyer’s supply company in California. I got a nice crepe-textured fabric that really drapes well, and will work as a lightweight scarf for inside the collar of a raincoat for even those who don’t tend to do much dressing up.

I find dyeing silk very interesting. The colors on the fabric while I’m working wet, are much more vibrant than after drying the fabric. The crepe fabric is much better quality than the china silk scarves I’ve also used (I use china silk with kids because of the cost) but the crepe texture lightens the colors even more when dry. It does make a lovely watercolor effect which was perfect for these gifts. For my own favorite colors, I’ll have to really learn to apply dye which looks much too dark and see if I can get enough intensity and value that way. I don’t see as much difference between wet and dry when I’m working with wool and mohair.

I presented the gifts so soon after creating them, that I did not have time to take pictures. The picture here is the scarf I made for Anne, my dance friend whose name I drew for last Wednesday’s party. Anne’s scarf has many colors because she wears so many lovely pastels and I wanted to use her colors as best I could. I tied all the scarves the same but I really applied the dye differently on the scarves for my client.

Brian and I had another music gathering tonight. I think that makes 11 gatherings in 12 days. I have tomorrow and Wednesday without any holiday events, then I get to see my Godchildren Michael and Sara (and their mom JoDee, who has been a friend since perhaps kindergarten) on Thursday. I also take Sara to lunch later this week. I don’t see her enough during the school year, so this will be a big treat.

Sara and I are something of a mutual admiration society, we are fortunate that way. I took her to Montreal in August of 2001. It was a life-changing experience for both of us, we had a wonderful time. We put together a small travelogue of that trip if you are interested.

Knitting on the Road

Sunday, December 22nd, 2002

Styrofoam Wig Heads decorated for mailingI have no knitting pictures today, and I realize I haven’t celebrated other artforms here for a while. Here is a picture of three wig heads I mailed from Florida to Michigan, sans envelopes, in spring 2001… just because I could, and because it made a LOT of people smile in the process!

We had Christmas with Brian’s family today. It was quite pleasant, and it allowed me to knit in the car over an hour each way. I got a little knitting done there, but had such fun chatting that I got distracted from the sock.

I am having more than my usual gauge problems. I am not at all happy that every time I knit the second cuff to this pair and often others, it is substantially not the size of the first cuff. I have ripped this one out twice, although the second time I maybe only ripped out an inch or two rather than the entire cuff.

Today I decided that I had had it! I had to try some other methods for controlling gauge with my right hand (my contrast color).

I normally knit Continental/German style, holding my primary yarn in the left hand. I hold my index finger very low, not up in the air and wrapped twice as many do. I wrap the yarn over the index finger, under the middle, over my ring finger and down, back and around my pinkie finger for tension control. I think my tension is actually controlled between the ring finger and the pinkie. I am able to knit very fast this way. It’s a two-motion process of inserting the needle, then scooping the yarn back out and off.

My right hand has been a problem, even though I once knit English/US style for about twenty years. Usually I drop the yarn between stitches, forcing a slowdown as I grope to pick up the yarn again for each stitch. This method is more of a three movement stitch rather than the two movements required with my left hand yarn-holding process: 1) insert needle, 2) grab yarn and wrap, 3) pull stitch through as I remove the old stitch from the previous needle. See versions of both English and Continental methods illustrated at Wonderful Things.

I tried new methods with my right hand. I tried wrapping the yarn up and down and up and down like I do with my left hand. No way. I wrapped my yarn over the right index finger, holding it high. Didn’t work. Tried wrapping the other direction. No luck. Ugh. Now what?

I’ve heard from two people in the last year who tension their yarn around their neck as is done in Turkey. I’ve never seen it done except in pictures. However, I figured, what did I have to lose?

Well, it works much better for me than I expected. In any case, it’s faster than English/US style because I don’t have to go grabbing for the yarn each time I need that color. The jury is still out on how this will work over time, but I’m liking it better than I expected. The first try I did was too tight and I ripped. The second time I went up a needle size and tried to relax a bit. So far, it is working out well.

Here’s how I did it: (click link below to continue)

Tea Cosy

Saturday, December 21st, 2002

Tea CosyI finished making a tea cosy today. I was proofknitting for someone, and my version ended up different than hers. I think that was because either I had the wrong yarn and gauge or my teapot was much larger than hers. She does seem happy with the input I gave her, so we’ll call it a success both in product and process.

I think the picture looks good. I am a fan of Hall teapots. I have a small collection of them, although the last one I bought was at least a decade ago. I use them, as I’m a tea fanatic. Many of my teapots are imperfect by a collector’s standards, but the shapes are lovely. Some, like this one, actually function very well. Some are more sculpture than functional item. This is my favorite six-cup teapot, though you can’t see it well here. I think it is called the Rhythm pot, because it has visual “waves” on the sides.

Oh, the yarn I used was Brown Sheep Lambs Pride Bulky on size 6 needles. (It’s my favorite color in the world, Aztec Turquoise.) The pattern called for Brown Sheep Worsted weight, and therefore my gauge was far too dense to be pleasant knitting. I also tend to knit tightly, so a size 6 for me is a size 5 for most patterns. My wrists are tired!

I determined this morning that the second Turkish Zig cuff is far too loose in gauge, it totally does not match the first cuff. I’ll have to rip it back to maybe two rows after the ribbing and start over. The size difference is enough for a non-knitter to notice.

I know that I need to knit back and forth about one inch at a time on each sock. This time I didn’t, because I had only one skein of the multicolor yarn and I didn’t want to break the yarn. Next time I’ll have to use my ballwinder to wind approximately half of the single ball into another half ball so I can really go back and forth. Sigh…. you would think I would learn. My gauge changes a lot, and I just can’t tell what causes it or when it will happen.

Ribbit, ribbit, rip-it, rip-it. Back to the frogpond.


Friday, December 20th, 2002

The most exciting thing in my day was getting a dishwasher (and a garbage disposal)! I’m so excited, my enthusiasm is probably out of proportion. I tend to excite easily, which is often a character asset (passion for life, right?) but looks silly when one gets this hyped about an appliance.

The creative task of the day was figuring out where to put all the stuff that used to be stored where the dishwasher now sits. We had seven drawers and now we have four, so this is a bit of a challenge. I can figure it out somehow. I got a magnet strip to put on the wall for holding knives. We will figure it out. What this will mean is some counter space not designated for dishes pre- or post-washing. Well, enough about that…

I also am knitting the second cuff of the pair I pictured for my friend yesterday (Turkish Zig). I will probably finish the cuff before the end of the day. In addition, I worked on the socks for the spring publication, and am ready to start the heel flaps on those.

I usually knit both sox approximately at the same time (on separate sets of double-pointed needles) so that my gauge is approximately equal on both sox. I have a real problem with “the gauge of the hour” where I get looser and tighter for no apparent reason, and going back and forth between the two sox helps me a lot. I also don’t suffer from “second sock syndrome” that way, which is an added bonus!