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Archive for March, 2009

ZigBagZ A-Blooming!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

eileenzigsides400.jpgWhile we wait for the bulbs to blossom in Lansing, there has been a not-so-quiet explosion of my Maxi ZigBagZ here instead. I taught 5 people in a class not long ago. Eileen started it, her first bag is at right. She’s knitting a second.

I hope you can imagine what it feels like for me to see these bags materialize. I had the idea for this bag for a long time. It took me a lot of planning, several “draft” mini-bagz, and a serious team effort to get the pattern out into the world.

(A thousand thanks to Diana who knit many sample bags, from tiny swatches to Burly/Afghan sized models, and helped me iron out technicalities on this pattern. It may never have happened without her hands-on assistance, and emotional support.)

In my recent class of 5 people, at least one (Carol) has knit 3 of them, and at least one more (Tamsyn) has knit two. I think that maybe someone else did two, but I can not remember.

kimzigyarns25.jpgAnd then a Study Hall student, Kim, is knitting a ZigBag also. (Study hall is a semi-private lesson time, one to four people sharing me for an hour on self-determined projects, at Rae’s Yarn Boutique.)

The second photo (left) is Kim’s selection of yarns, before she started. She has finished the base and is knitting the sides, but I forgot to get photos last Thursday when I saw her.

The pattern calls for two solid-colored yarns (Main Color 1, which includes the handles and base, and Main Color 2). Then, it calls for two slowly-self-striping yarns to contrast. Contrast Color 1 contrasts with Main Color 1, though it may nearly match Main Color 2. Contrast Color 2 contrasts with Main Color 1.

Often, the colors available on the store shelves influence which yarns we can pick. If there are only 2 skeins of one color, it needs to be a color 2 rather than 1.

In Kim’s plan above, the turquoise/blue Noro Kureyon bottom left is being used as contrast with the light purple solid. It may look as though they match on this screen, but the purples in the Noro are blue-tinged and the solid lavender has a distinct reddish tinge to it. Even though they are close, the two worked together do contrast enough to show the colorwork, more than it appears in this photo. She may have liked to switch the multicolors around but there was not enough of the yellow/green/pink to do it that way. Her bag is knitting up very well with this combination.

maxizigm1-16.jpgIn some of the photos you see a checkerboard pattern, too. This is the design on the bottom of the bag. It does not show to anyone but the knitter, but it makes the base stronger and is a source of joy for me when I see it. I assume other knitters will enjoy it, too.

The photos here are before felting/shrinking. More photos later on that!

Above is M’s start of a bag with Main Color in a deep green Ella Rae Classic (she didn’t want her name here, it’s not the same M as in my kid class).

Below is a view of Jan’s bag. Her Main Color 1 (MC1) is an Araucania vat-dyed raspberry. It has many subtle differences in the color throughout the skein. She contrasted that with a light neutral Noro Kureyon. Very pretty. Her Main Color 2 (Solid) is a soft neutral. Her Contrast Color 2 knit along with it, is a Noro Kureyon in cool tones… greens, blues, turquoise. I find this combination very relaxing.


Here is Carol’s first bag. She used a Solid green with a contrast of many flower-toned colors (pink, orange, etc.). The second set of colors are a solid bold magenta-pink with Noro Kureyon in cool tones.


For the next two (yes, you heard me) of Carol’s “Biggie” ZigBagZ, she saved on the amount of yarn needed and the decision factor, by using only one solid and one self-striping. In fact, it can show the contrast differently (more boldly) that way. You perhaps lose a little depth of color, but you gain clarity in the vertical zig zag pattern. I have a photo of bag #2 below, which uses a solid dark purple for the Main Color. (Carol’s bag #3, for which I have no photo, uses a chocolate brown for the solid and a neutral cream/beige for the multi, it is sophisticated and rich.)


Tamsyn did two bags using one solid color throughout. One bag was for her to use up many colors of leftover yarn as the contrast color (rather than a self-striping yarn. Here that one is. Spectacular!


Here is another bag she made. It really looks like she used Noro Kureyon for her contrast, but perhaps she just has a spectacular gift for changing solid colors so that they look like a self-striper. It looks so much like something I might carry myself, I asked her if perhaps this really was *my* bag. She assured me it was not. (I tried!)


Icy Photos

Monday, March 30th, 2009

It snowed all afternoon/evening on Sunday. The snow actually accumulated, right on top of my beloved violets.


These photos were taken on the first day of our many-day thaw, approximately two weeks ago. Click to see larger images for the small ones. I especially love the spots where ice developed at an earlier high-water point, and attached itself to the trees there.


The photos were taken of Ralph Crego Park, which is mostly swamp and is off liimits to humans ever since an illegal chemical dump happened a good long time ago. (I stood near the roadside to take these.)

The geese don’t know that, though. They were arguing that day, I’m guessing the issue was territory or mates.


I could barely see the geese from the raised sidewalk where I stood, they were that far away. What amazing beings they are!

The big birds were so loud that I wished I had some earplugs. Nature does not worry about disturbing the peace or no-trespassing signs!

woods5.jpgI drove by this park on the other side of the road, maybe 3 hours before I took these. The sun was lower, the temperature was cooler, and more ice was present. The sun shone through broken bits of ice like crystals. The light beamed brightly and shimmered through the air.

woods1.jpgIt was breathtaking. However, I was on a deadline which would not allow a delay.

In the end, going back when I could was the right idea. I walked a lot that day, which was the first in months where I could walk without gloves and earmuffs.

woods2.jpgI love the photos I did get. My mind’s eye still wishes I could share that amazing glance I caught earlier in the day, with you. (By noon the next day, the ice was all gone. Thank goodness I ran back when I could!)

March in Michigan

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

— Yesterday, a yard full of violets.

— Today, snow.

It’s better than the winter we had. However, it is not really springlike, either.

I am considering a picnic on the living room floor. I know a 4-year-old who would like to join me.

How do I get this busy?

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I notice I have not been blogging. To be fair, I have found myself in a week of helping others. Sometimes others help me, so it clearly is my turn.

I have been helping out on the counter at Rae’s shop because she has an extra-busy six weeks. I helped another day at the shop, because the person regularly scheduled to work was too sick to come in (she is also a friend). I was really happy that I was able to help out.

I am working on setting up a friend’s new computer. I worked on the website of another friend, and I still have work to do on my mother’s last two children’s reading books.

Complicating the schedule is the fact that my dance troupe (Habibi Dancers, Lansing, Michigan) has our big annual show next Saturday night. The number of rehearsals to get ready is multiplying like fruit flies. Never mind that we all have costumes to prepare, and cookies to bake for the intermission.

And somewhere in there I am supposed to work, right? To pay my own bills? It gets really confusing at times. How do other people balance things? They don’t have friends? They say no? To be fair, I do say no quite often… but this week, it was not the time for that.

So: I am going to give you two links I found on my friend Luann Udell’s blog. They talk about scarcity, and fear of using things up, fear there will not be enough (supplies, creativity, money, love… you can apply this to almost anything). I found them quite thought-provoking. One of the writers I’ve known online for a long time, the other was new to me.

Myth of Scarcity

Scarcity and Perfection

Speaking of scarcity, I’m feeling that issue around my time today. I teach 1-5 today at Rae’s (Spectacular Stripe Tricks) and then I go home, transform myself into Lynn Heftone and go sing at Altu’s restaurant from 6:30 to 8:30. We are expecting a number of friends to come and hear us. I look forward to that!

Photos: Me in last year’s Habibi Dancers Concert, Brian and I as The Fabulous Heftones.

Perfect Music for a Rainy Day

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

sowetocd.jpgMuch to do, little time to write… but I am listening to an album I have listened to dozens of times. It’s just as fresh and wonderful as the first listen. Even Brian, who does not repeat listening to albums much, mentioned that he just never gets tired of this one.

It’s called “The Indestructible Beat of Soweto” (previous link takes you to a review, here is a second rave review) and was issued by Schanachie Records, a leader in folk and world music. I am pretty sure Brian got it at Elderly Instruments, but it’s not on their website right now. The CD was recorded in 1981-1984, so it is not current and may be hard to find in a local music store.

This South African sound may be my favorite music genre ever. If you like Mahotella Queens, Mahlathini, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Johnny Clegg, or Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album, you will likely love this. As for me, the music feels as though it feeds me from the inside out, and I feel more vibrantly alive when I hear it.

Great vocals. Great harmonies. Amazing bass lines. Serious dance music! I highly recommend buying this one. It would be a screaming deal at twice the price. Five Stars out of Five, if you ask me. *****

I don’t know anything about the vendors I listed above, no affiliation, just found them on Google.

Take that, Rainy Day!

Spring is Fickle

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

There is a song out where the first line is “You change your mind like a girl changes clothes.” I don’t know about you, but for me that is a really strong image. Right now I think our weather fits that sentiment perfectly. (It started warming up a bit, two weekends ago but now is chilly again.)

Last Monday at my mother’s house, there was still a remainder of the taller-than-a-car pile of snow, left by numerous snow plows:


Tuesday I took these photos of a hanging/suspended bird nest (probably a previous year, click for larger detail) and one of many people fishing on the Grand River at Riverfront Park, downtown Lansing:



Tuesday was the fourth nice day in a row, and we even got our first violets of the year, which I noticed after that nice walk in the park.


Wednesday: Back to freezing.


Friday: Snow Flurries

Saturday: Snow Flurries

Sunday: Windy but sunny, warm in the sun, fine for a brisk walk.

Sunday Night: Below Freezing (24F), brr.

Monday: Around noon I took these photos at Red Cedar School, East Lansing. It was in a barely protected area, but I don’t understand why they have so many flowers and you don’t see them anywhere else in town yet.

Miniature iris!


A yellow flower I have never noticed before. Does anyone know this one? (Edited: Priscilla says that it is winter aconite. I must get some and plant it for next spring!)


Snowdrops in the front, and some beautiful pale purple flower in the back that I do not know.


Groundcover. It’s called Myrtle, or Periwinkle, or Vinca Minor, according to my memory. I have a lot of this, and I really love it. Mine is not blooming yet.


Monday night (yesterday): Mom’s pile of snow was totally melted. Progress!

Tuesday: Total cloud cover, mean gusts of wind and sprinkles of rain here and there. I am going for a walk and lunch, with friend Cynthia. I think I will need my ear muffs.

Can we just have spring, please? I am about ready to cast on for a bulky sweater, just to tempt the fates. Maybe knitting for cold will bring on warmth? (Not likely that I really have that power, but I can wish.)

Soon, my friends… soon it will thaw for a good long time.

Another Purple House

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I found this one in REOtown, a part of Lansing (Michigan) where the Diamond REO truck factory used to be. (REO stands for Ransom E. Olds, who lived about a mile north of this house. He was the founder of Oldsmobile, and was therefore a very important historical figure in Lansing.)

I live about 2 miles south of where I took this photo.


I love how the purple looks next to the blue sky.

A Few Loose Ends

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

I don’t knit at home much. However, I always take a sock or two in my bag when I go out.

Like many people, I find myself waiting in line a lot… at the pharmacy, Post Office, even waiting for my lunch to arrive at a restaurant. Even a minute or two can turn into progress on the portable knitting that is a sock project.


In 2008, I knit only 6 pairs of socks. Compared to 2002, when I knit 36 pairs, I really slowed down on my main knitting passion in order to do other knitting for my business. I missed my socks!

So since January 1, I have been really passionate about knitting socks again. Apparently I have been waiting in line a lot. (OK, I was on vacation for 5 days, too.)

The pile here represents 13-1/2 individual socks I’ve knit since the beginning of the year, including 5 pairs. (I’m counting the three tiny socks that don’t match, as one “pair” for counting’s sake.)


This pile was merely yarn as the year 2009 began. The blue ball of yarn at the top represents a single sock that is now on display at Rae’s Yarn Boutique, but which was knit in 2009.

For Knitters:

  • The red/yellow/purple pair at top are Chippy Socks but in my size. They were knit in Zara and Rialto (DK), at a relatively loose gauge for socks. I can not wear these without shoes or slippers or they will wear out prematurely, but they were fun as a quick change of pace.
  • The turquoise with dots at right (Lynn’s Luxe Flammegarn, a DK weight cashmere blend not available on my website yet) were knit with the First-Time Toe-Up toe with afterthought heel and the leg/cuff structure of my Turkish-Style Toe-Up socks.
  • The purple ones bottom left were knit from my class handout for “Something Different Socks” (not yet a pattern).
  • The bright colored toddler socks piled on top (two pair) were made toe up in Cascade Fixation yarn, with afterthought heels. The hot green/pink pair have two rows of crochet at the top of the cuff.
  • The three doll-sized turquoise socks were all knit with different heels and legs, and an as-yet experimental toe.
  • Below is the sock that is missing from the pile (First-Time Toe-Up, knit in my Resonance Flammegarn, with K2P2 rib for leg):


I think probably I need to stay home a bit more (and do something other than knit socks while waiting). Meanwhile, I have a lot of ends to work in and side-of-heel holes to close up. It’s a good thing that I enjoy working with a sewing needle!

Salad as Art

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

These photos are from a while ago but they are worth sharing. I realized the other day at Rae’s when I was describing my salad as starting with a ripe orange bell pepper chopped into small pieces, that other people have not discovered such joys.

My food allergies have made me a more adventurous eater. I spent a long time not knowing what foods caused me trouble. I had to rotate foods for 6 weeks, so that if I ate an ingredient one day I could not eat it again for the next 3 days. This got me very creative. I got hungry a lot.

I realized that if I made salad with a more dense vegetable than lettuce greens, I would keep the hunger at bay for longer. In particular, I enjoyed ripe (yellow, red, orange) bell peppers, and kohlrabi, chopped, as a basis for salad.


Here I have photos of two different salads I’ve made myself for lunch. Both are missing any sort of starch or grain. For protein, one could toss in some quinoa (a pseudo-grain with a good portion of protein and calcium). Or for just plain food energy, you could try some brown rice. I had brown rice crackers with these salads.

This first one is chopped red and orange bell peppers, chopped fresh parsley and sesame seeds, and tossed with good olive oil. Crunch! (And a source of vitamin C, as well.) Since I served this with Pumpkin Soup, it was better that I keep it simple.

The second one was a lunch with just a few crackers. I started with chopped red bell pepper again. However, this one needed some fuel to take me through the afternoon and to dinnertime. I added half a can of crushed California black olives, raw shelled pumpkin seeds/pepitas (the green bits), and olive oil.

I garnished it with gomasio, which is crushed sesame seeds and sea salt. The brand I seem to find around here is Eden Foods, a quality natural/organic food company which is located near Ann Arbor, Michigan. If you can’t find it locally, you can order from Eden online.


Any crunchy, dense vegetable can be a very satisfying (and filling) lunch salad base. Try carrots and apples for a sweet and tart version. If you like raw cauliflower, broccoli, or cabbage they are crunchy and healthy options.

Try Kohlrabi (I can get it at Meijer, Inc. almost year round) which looks like it came from mars, but has a crunchy mild center. (Definitely toss the peelings, they are tough.) It’s good in sticks like carrots, too, but it makes a wonderful salad.

Raw beets, though messy, are very sweet and very crunchy. I’ve been told by more than one source that they need to be used with another vegetable; they actively cleanse your liver and gallbladder and too much can be hard on the system. If you use them instead of carrot (as in a lettuce salad) they are very satisfying. I like them with kohlrabi. Consider wearing rubber gloves and a full apron when handling raw beets, to avoid stains on hands and clothing.

If I need a serious protein boost, I can take a salad like these above and put a can of tuna on it. I like dill on my fish, and more olive oil. Sometimes some citrus juice or good vinegar can zip it up a bit, if you like that.

One day I had some leftover chicken which needed to be eaten. I don’t like meat, so disguising it in a salad is a good solution for me. I used orange bell peppers with the chicken, and some sections of pink grapefruit, plus dill and sesame. I should have drained the fruit, as it got soggy and a little too sour, but it was a good start on the idea of fruit-added salads. Those should be refreshing once the weather gets hot.

Be creative! We live in a day where we can get fresh vegetables out of season for our own area. We can get beautiful food for a relatively low price (in Norway, they spend 33% of their disposable incomes on food, I once read). We may as well celebrate this abundance, and eat really quality, tasty food.

Experiment, and enjoy every bite!

M’s Hat Success

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

mhat66.jpgMy 13-year-old student, M, completed a “Tweed Beret” from Interweave Knits (Winter 2006) magazine. A few copies of this issue were donated to my “kidz” a few years ago, and they have really enjoyed them.

She really loved knitting this, and for the most part she worked alone by figuring out the pattern without me. I did help her through a few spots, but she is really growing in her ability to follow very brief pattern instructions.

She enjoyed knitting this hat so much, she has started another. One of my adult students donated some soft mohair in greens (thank you, S). She is ready to go already!

I think M. did a great job. She’s delighted with the results. All right!


Friday, March 20th, 2009

It has been computer-hiccup time for a few days. A friend’s computer would not start properly after she installed a few normal Linux-related upgrades, first. Then, my main computer mysteriously was not getting electricity even though it was plugged in.

The friend’s “netbook” computer is easy to fix. She does not save anything to it, so Brian and I looked at it. We figured out how to get it back to where it was working before the update.

No harm done, just a few worried days but no expense or warranty nightmares. I may fuss with it a little more before taking it back to her, and see if I can make it more dependable. We’ll see.

My Unloved Work Laptop

My Toshiba/VISTA laptop has never been a favorite. It was the right price at the right time, but I just don’t like it. I often do fall in love with my tools, including a few laptops I’ve owned. However, this one which is my current main work machine, I don’t even like much.

But: even if you have an imperfect tool, it is really important to not be totally without that tool. I came home Thursday night after helping out at Rae’s shop from 11a-8p, and wanted to deal with some emails and other administrative work for my own business. No luck. The computer was totally unresponsive.


A Little Nurturing During the Wait

Now, life is not supposed to work perfectly every day. I did have a knot in my stomach last night, but I determined to make the best of it.

I made a comfort-food dinner (pasta with red sauce and chicken) and knit for the joy of knitting. Nobody likes not knowing “the score,” but I made the best of it.

A Good Experience, A Solution

Today/Friday I went to Vertex Computers (Lansing Michigan: in the outbuildings of Frandor, across from Sears and next to the credit union, for local folks) and they had the answer. I was in and out in about a half an hour, and my defective power supply was replaced for a price I could afford.

They treated me well (a 50-yr old woman who dresses unconventionally is not always treated as computer-savvy). They have treated me well every time I’ve been there, even when they had never seen me before.

As a woman with more than a clue in the computer realm, I can not tell you how many computer repair places have been condescending to me. Even when I was a full-time computer consultant, I had one sales person ask me “how are WE doing today?” And continue to act as though I were a child… Ugh. I have not returned to that shop.

I’m here to report this as a good customer-service experience. I want to celebrate the good.

I’m typing this blog entry on the Toshiba. It’s a plain-Jane computer. I think of it as a “work tool” which occasionally drives me crazy but gets the work done. It reminds me of the pale green Chevette I drove with a bashed-in door, about 1979. It got the job done and it had the right price.


Had I needed to buy a new primary-work computer, that would dash all plans of going to Sock Summit in Portland, Oregon. I need to be very frugal in order to make that trip in early August, and I’m determined to make it happen.

I have never been quite so pleased to have this merely-adequate machine, as I am today. Having a paid-off, working computer (or car, for that matter), is a lot better than doing without. I’m counting my blessings.


Photo today is graffiti that appeared near a bank’s ATM machine a few weeks ago. I can not help but think that putting it that close to a money-dispenser was intentional. It made me think a bit.

I am clear that life is not always easy, I’ve been there a lot (especially in the past). However, it is not really supposed to be trouble-free. I learn a lot by working through troubles, and I am glad that these days I have them spaced further apart than before.

For the record, the bank had the paint removed very quickly. It’s not there any more.

Give a Kid a Camera: Aladdin’s

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

aladdinsaprilbeaisabel33.jpgFriends danced at New Aladdin’s Restaurant just over a week ago. They both have toddlers, who are only 3 months apart in age.

The children are friends and love to spend time together. Here is April dancing with the girls.

At some point I let the kids take photos. They took these pictures of one another. Sweet, huh?

I just love giving kids a camera. I wish you could see all the photos they took. The fun angles they will chance, turn into unexpectedly fresh images.

isabelbybea.jpg beabyisabel.jpg

A Leg Mannequin from Scratch

Monday, March 16th, 2009

This legwarmer-fanatic/designer came up with a dilemma. I know that if there is a sample in a shop from my patterns, the patterns sell better. Customers can just tell what the design might look like in “real life.” This is good for me *and* for the shop.

3legs33.jpgI am excited about my “Road-Tested Legwarmers” pattern. But how the heck could I display a legwarmer well? It is a floppy tube without a leg inside. Hmmm…

I am a fan of the soft, cut-able dense foam called “Foamies.” I learned about this material when I worked at JoAnn Fabrics.

There is a thinner version, about 1/8″ which is used a little like construction paper but more strong and durable. That type is used for kids’ crafts which are essentially throw-away projects, and I don’t like plastic as a throw-away.

However, they offer a 1/4″ product in white, black and red. This is my favorite product for structural assistance legmannequin33.jpg(particularly for the bottom of a knit/felted purse). It stands up to abuse.

I have learned that if I trace around my hand on one of these, I can cut it out with scissors and put a wristwarmer on it. My wristwarmers are a tube with a vertical thumb-slit, and they need to help for a customer understand how they look/are worn.

The Foamies are about a dollar and a half for a “sheet” about the size of a piece of paper. This is within my budget for display items, and I use it all the time. I also use it for afterthought-heel socks (which look strange until you put them on).

So I figured maybe I could make something out of foamies for a legwarmer. Except they just are not rigid enough for something that big.

I schemed and came up with the idea of a “sandwich” with two foamies on the outside, and wood of some sort inside. When I got to JoAnn the most affordable thin wood was a package of colored “popsicle sticks” so I got those.


At home I put a sheet of newspaper on the floor and distorted myself (this was amusing) to trace around my leg for a pattern. I took a little artistic license on curves here and there and cut out that pattern.

I taped three Foamies together in a way that covered the leg pattern, then cut out the foamies with the paper as my guide. I repeated that one more time.

Next was the sandwich. You can see the progress in the above photo. I taped the wood sticks (with excellent packing tape) to one side, then I put them together and taped them together with black duct tape. The first photo was taken with the duct tape showing, and the legwarmer pulled on top.

The last step was to dress the leg. If we had been in an edgy large-city neighborhood, I could have left the black duct tape. It looked a bit unfinished for medium-sized, Midwestern Lansing.

I got a pair of black tights and dressed the leg, then tucked in the excess fabric on the back of the top. One handknit sock (made of Nashua Snowbird, a lovely Aran-weight alpaca/wool blend) and one handknit legwarmer (Noro Kureyon), and she was ready to step out as a display!

The leg is lightweight. We were able to clip it to a metal wire display shelf, with one large metal binder clip. It’s very stable. Score!

Thanks to Melinda who works at Rae’s Yarn Boutique, for helping me put this baby together and for taking the photo of me wearing some prototype legwarmers and holding the leg.

Two Last Photos from Florida

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

The photos I took in Florida are taking longer to show you, than the amount of time we were down there! I guess it is nice to reflect on time away. It is so easy to forget those times when we hit the ground running as we return home.

Here is a truck full of oranges. We were near the Tropicana Juice factory (yum).


Imagine how many trees, and how many people were involved in getting that fruit to the place where my favorite juice is made. That is a LOT of oranges!

heftonescitruscentercolonyfeb09sm.jpg But the next photo is much more personal. When we got to Lakeland on Wednesday, Mom asked if we could do a concert (as The Fabulous Heftones) at her park, on Sunday afternoon. We said “of course.”

We then proceeded on our trip, visited Brian’s parents and relatives, saw Bok Tower Gardens, went to see Kathy and Pedro, and came back to Lakeland.

While we were away, Mom had been busy inviting the world to our concert. When it came time to sing, there were 38 people in the audience!

Now, Brian’s family brought a van with 5 people in it from near Tampa. However, everyone else came because my mother had invited them. She rocks.

We really had a fun concert. The folks there were quite enthusiastic and paid rapt attention to every song. It just was a lovely afternoon.

Thanks for making it happen, Mom!