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Archive for July, 2009

Tractor Square Dance? Wow.

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

My friend Irene passed me this link. It’s a Youtube video of a tractor square dance.

Really. With caller and eight tractors. They make it look easy, but some of the moves require four tractors to pass one another with mere inches between them.

I don’t know anything about tractors but these look like an older style. I have a distant cousin in MN who has an old tractor, and belongs to a club with others who love old tractors, too. I say you can’t buy passion, so follow it. If that means tractor square dancing, go for it and have a wonderful time!

(This entry definitely falls under the category “Miscellaneous Artforms.”)

Schuler Books: Subtly-Striped Scrap “Satchel”

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Monday Rae and I did a presentation at the Okemos/Meridian Mall of Schuler Books. They are having a “green” week celebration and we contributed by using donated materials (needles from Diana, yarns from Margaret and Suann: thanks, all) to make bags.

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My project, which I designed just for this event, was inspired by a hand-woven bag I have that I used so much I wore out some of the fabric (see below). It’s very simple, just an envelope without a top flap or closing, and a braided handle. It is the perfect size for notebook/copy paper or a small laptop/notebook computer.

My version (photo above) is a very simple project, with only cast on, knit, slip, and bind off. Slip is easy, you literally just move a stitch from the left needle to the right without working a new stitch into it or twisting it. However, the slips create the bumps you see in the fabric, making it much more interesting to look at than plain garter stitch.

The simple stitch pattern mixes the colors with the “bumps” on the outside of the bag, and how I handled the changing of colors also made the stripes more like a watercolor and less like polo-shirt stripes. I really like the result.

I used small to medium balls of leftover yarns for my project (third photo, below), holding one warm-colored yarn and one cool-colored yarn together throughout. When I ran out of blue, I would add blue or green or turquoise in its place. When I ran out of purple, I replaced it with berry or magenta, or a different purple. I think it looks great, and it surely reflects my personal taste in color, without being a boring solid color (which is so hard to match anyway).

scraps5.jpgIn the presentation, I gave the participants all a pattern for this project. In addition, we learned tips on casting on, we learned how to do the slip stitch, how to figure out a number of stitches for the size you want (rather than matching my bag exactly), how to work in yarn ends and how to change yarns in the middle of a row without having a lot of ends to work in. It was a tiny sliver of the hints I teach in my 4-hour “Fix and Finesse” class, but for no charge.

I meet new interested knitters (and a few familiar faces) when I am in the bookstore, and they get a 2 hour class for the price of their time. It’s a good situation for all of us.

If you are in the area, we will repeat the same lesson at the Eastwood store (northeast Lansing). That session is Wednesday 7/15, from 7-9pm. I would love to see you there!

City Collecting: Ten Oldest

Monday, July 13th, 2009

I love big cities, I’m in love with tall buildings and ethnic diversity. I seek out restaurants from cuisines I have not tried yet. My first beloved city was Toronto, and since I visited it first in 1975, my life has been richer.

I “collect” cities by visiting them, and I particularly “collect” subways. The most wonderful subway of all was Cairo, the biggest surprise I found there. The city is chaotic and crowded; the subway clean, air conditioned and very inexpensive (something like $.13 USD one way in 2004, which is about what the Toronto subway cost in 1975).

Web Urbanist has a list of the ten oldest still-occupied cities in the world. I found it interesting reading, and some of the photos are breathtaking.

Photo above is Cairo on Christmas morning 2004, from the 23rd floor of the Marriott near the Nile. Our room actually had an open balcony where we (friend Altu and I) had breakfast: Baklava, citrus fruit, guavas, and tea. What a memorable day that was! Cairo, by the way, is not on the list of 10 cities mentioned in the article linked above.

Allen Street Market/Habibi Dancers

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

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habibiallenstreet4zillslynn.jpgI danced (as Eudora) with the Habibi Dancers this past Wednesday, at Allen Street Market. (That is me, in purple, magenta and turquoise, at right.)

This market is walking distance from Rae’s shop (and just a bit further from Foster Community Center, where we rehearse). It’s just a delight to entertain the neighborhood.

Every time I go here, I see people I know. Two of my knitting kids were there this time, as well as a good number of friends and other familiar faces. It was incredibly fun.

No need to talk more… one “flavor” of ColorJoy is dancing with my troupe in a neighborhood setting. Just look at the sparkly and colorful costumes!

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Turner-Dodge Garden

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

In Old Town, Lansing, Michigan, there is a very old home which is now a city-owned property. It is usually called Turner-Dodge Mansion or Turner-Dodge House. It is a multi-story brick home which was originally built in 1858 and then had a major addition/renovation in 1900-1903.

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The city website has a virtual tour available, if you have a good connection. You can see the grounds, and you can go inside the house. The outside panorama for that tour was photographed in summer (but no roses). The indoor photos show the home in its glory, decorated for Christmas as it might have looked when the Dodge family lived there.

The grounds are an amazing garden/park which I see often. Every week it has a different look. My very favorite time for the garden is right now, when the roses are in full splendor.

There are volunteers who help tend the grounds, and local businesses who donate the plants. I salute them all.

This photo was taken by me on Tuesday, July 7. Just look at how the roses bloom!

I’m Funny

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Not long ago, I told my friend Sally that I had never played with Sidewalk Chalk before. She and her daughter, Bea, found some chalk on sale shortly after that conversation. They gave it to me with a purple gift ribbon on it, so I could have a bit of fun and try it for myself.

My intent was to invite Bea and Isabel and another child they know, plus mommies, and we could play with sidewalk chalk at my house. After all, Brian and I live on a city corner so we have LOTS of sidewalk to decorate. (This is a better feature in summer with chalk in hand, than in winter with shovel in hand, but I digress.)

Then Rae decided to have a sale. And I noticed that I had chalk in my car. And it occurred to me that Rae had a sidewalk out front, where pedestrians actually pass. There is a bus stop right there, so there is a chance a knitter who doesn’t know about the shop, might just find us if they looked up, or in the window.

I asked Rae if maybe she would like a little chalk sign outside for her sale. She thought that was a good idea.

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So, that good old workaholic that I can sometimes be… used her fun sidewalk chalk the first time… for business purposes. Too funny.

It *was* fun, I assure you. No surprise, my typical zigzag preference came out in this artform as well as in my knitting designs.

Rae was happy with the results. Elizabeth (who works for Rae) liked it, too. I worried at first about the ball of yarn and needles looking as I had intended (of course the chalk did not come in every color I desired). However, after I fussed a bit I liked that part just fine.

I have been good at lettering signs for a long time, so I knew I could do that part well. I think it’s easy to read from a distance, which is the test of a good sign.

Next time I get out my chalk, I’m going to invite some young girls over to my house, to make drawings just for the fun of it. I guess I just got a little sneak preview this way!

A Big Sale in Lansing, MI

Friday, July 10th, 2009

My friend Rae is an amazing woman. She is 26 years old and she runs a lovely, eastside yarn shop, Rae’s Yarn Boutique. She is half my age, but when I get stuck with a knitting problem, she can always help me through it. She is kind and talented, and I am grateful that she is my friend (and my boss, several days a week).

Not only that, she purchased the building where the shop currently is located, about a year and a half ago. I may never be that together, at any age.

When she bought the building, the seller made false statements about the roof. This roof is so inaccessible it pretty much needs a cherry picker or a helicopter to access it, and is a flat roof on an early-1900’s brick commercial building. It needs regular tending.

So, now the roof leaks when it rains. And Rae is having a “When it Rains, it Pours… in the Shop” sale to bring in the cashflow it will take to repair it. It looks like all of the yarn and spinning/felting fiber is at least 10% off, and some of it is 20% or 40% off.

And she has some amazing deals on spinning wheels! It is unusual to see a sale on wheels, so if you are thinking of getting one and are in the area, I highly recommend you check it out.

Rae posted a blog entry to detail the specifics. I will be at the shop at least a few hours Friday, but the sale is Friday through Sunday. Hours Friday are 11-6, Saturday 11-5, Sunday 11-3.

A Letting Go Experience

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Pondering

I find it interesting that all of us have moments that could be a rite of passage, but they do not always overlap. For example, most of us leave our parents’ homes, though it may be at different ages, for any of a multitude of reasons. I could go on…

Some of my friends have found it a large hurdle to let go of their childrens’ baby clothes. I don’t mean holding on to a christening gown or special handmade sweater, I mean the daily things that support raising a baby like sleepwear and tee shirts. There is something of a commitment involved in that sort of letting go, and some find it difficult.

I did not have children, and therefore did not experience that particular heart-tug. However, I discovered my own version of this letting go/commitment dilemma this last few weeks.

My Recent House-Emptying Project

I have determined to pare down my belongings in the entire house, one room/area at a time, to things I actually use or which hold sentimental value. I am also redefining sentimental value so that it does not include as many clothes.

suitgoodbye20.jpgI had a rack full of skirts pull out of the wall it was screwed into (with nobody standing anywhere near it), because I had so many skirts hanging on it. Then last weekend even after I’d given away a lot of clothing, another clothing rack became overburdened and folded up from imbalance. I do love clothing; all alone on a hanger it can be an artform… and combining items on a body is the arform I call “costuming.”

Some clothing items which were once favorites, remain sentimental in my mind long after they do not fill any other need in my life. I have joked before that I need to put things away for a while and let them “age” before I can give them away. This is not far from the truth.

The Story of THE SUIT

Well, a few weeks ago I gave away 5 suits and/or high-quality wool blazers. That was hard enough. I tossed one cream linen jacket last week because it did not age well in the closet, thus could not be donated.

But this week I found it very, very hard to let go of THE SUIT. This suit I visited in the store over and over before finally purchasing, for an incredibly pricey $200 back in 1985.

It was funky at the time, with shoulder pads when they were just sneaking into fashion for women. It was also made of an incredibly high quality worsted wool gabardine in navy blue.

It was tunic length and double-breasted. It had a looser-fitting torso than had been popular (this was not long after Lady Di had married Prince Charles, when suit jackets were shorter and fit closely to the body).

The skirt was longer than others of the time, and straight rather than pleated at the waistband. These days it looks like a normal navy suit, but at the time I had seen nothing like it.

I loved this suit. It made me feel modern, well-dressed and prosperous. I would tuck a colorful silk hankie in the breast pocket and feel like a million bucks.

I have always loved good wool, and this may well be the best wool fabric I have ever owned. It was a standard Navy blue… but the quality was wonderful.

My “New” Life and its Reality

I have been self-employed for 10 years. For all of those 10 years I have not needed or even chosen to wear a suit. I found a dry cleaning tag attached, dated 1998. It’s clear there is no use for this suit in my life now or in the forseeable future.

But it was very hard to let go. For one thing, I remember what a struggle it was to come up with $200 to buy it, even though it clearly paid for itself over the years.

I also think in the past, I figured that this was my “interview suit” whenever I might find myself wanting a job-job again. It was my ticket out, my exit ramp if I felt a need to bolt for the door out of any particular work situation. However, I’m pretty darned sure I do not want any job any more, that would require me to wear this sort of clothing.

The Plan, The Letting Go

I learned years ago that if I was having trouble letting go of something, I could take a photo, keep the photo and let go of the something. So yesterday, that was what I did. I took this photo of THE SUIT with my last business suit dress (hanging behind it) on my almost-new purple porch… then made a drop off at the charity resale shop.

I hope someone who needs a good interview suit is as delighted with this find, as I was. I surely did get my money’s worth out of it for the 13 years I actually did wear it.

I guess I made it through the quite-unexpected life transition there. I can not help but wonder what will be my next one.

A Question

Have you felt a similar pull in your own life? Did it come about when throwing/giving something away? I find it fascinating to see how symbolic some fabric can become, to me. Anybody want to share in the comments?

Words of Wisdom

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

“…living well is an art which can be developed. Of course, you will need the basic talents to build upon: They are a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings, an assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift. That people who may differ from you in political stance, sexual persuasion, and racial inheritance can be founts of fun, and if you are lucky, they can become even convivial comrades.”
-Maya Angelou
-Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now


“I like to think of myself as an artist, and my life is my greatest work of art…every moment is a moment of creation, and each moment of creation contains infinite possibilities…I can do things the way I’ve always done them, or I can look at all the different alternatives, and try something new and different and potentially more rewarding…what a wonderful game we are all playing!”
-Shakti Gawain


“Because of the routines we follow, we often forget that life is an ongoing adventure. We leave our homes for work, acting and even believing that we will reach our destinations with no unusual event startling us out of our set expectations. The truth is we know nothing, not where our cars will fail or when our buses will stall, whether our places of employment will be there when we arrive, or whether, in fact, we ourselves will arrive whole and alive at the end of our journeys. Life is pure adventure and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art: to bring all our energies to each encounter, to remain flexible enough to notice and admit when we expected to happen did not happen. We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.
-Maya Angelou
-Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

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Bloom, and thrive, where you are planted!!!

Give a Kid a Camera

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

I had the pleasure of 5-year-old Isabel’s company on Tuesday. We went out for lunch. We went to a park. We visited my mother, who gave her a book (which Mom wrote) to help her learn to read. We went back home and colored in the first few pages of the reading book, and learned to read four color words. What fun!

Isabel has used my digital cameras for about a year. I love that digital photography has no film and developing cost. If a photo does not work, I delete it and it costs nothing but time.

Tuesday Isabel asked if she could use my camera while I drove her around town. I did give her the camera. This is my favorite photo of the bunch, taken from the perspective of her car seat. I would say it is an accurate self portrait.

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I present to you, “My Feet, by Isabel”

I love that the clouds are there. She spent a lot of time analyzing what shapes she saw in the clouds while we were together. She saw all sorts of animals up there. I love that imagination.

Adult photographers might like to get that angle, too! Nice job, sweet Peanut!

Two Good People, One Good Day

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

7/7 is the birthday of two of the most important people in my life. Brother Eric Oscar, and friend April, both are to be celebrated on this day.

My brother Eric is such a special man it is hard to talk about him in mere words. I’ve known him all but 1.5 years of my life. I don’t know how to think of myself without him as part of the big picture. He is thoughtful, a good listener, patient, hard working, truth-seeking and fair.

He knows me and loves me so deeply, that sometimes when I can not figure out what my mind is needing to know, I spill it all to him. Then he will ask me one question, and I’ll know what I needed to know all along.

He does not tell me what to do, but he helps lead me to my own answer. If I ask a direct question he will give me a direct but kind answer, no fudging and no fluff. Very few people have a friend that real. I don’t take it for granted.

Eric was my “Dude of Honor” at my wedding. Mom said… “Eric’s your best friend… he should stand up for you.” At that point we were breaking a lot of the normal rules of a wedding, and this one had more reason to break than the rest. So Eric stood up for me. And we are all glad of it.

I don’t get to see my brother this week, but we did have a bit of a phone chat. We will get together later this month, probably for a combined Eric/Mom birthday event (her birthday is in August).

My friend April also has a 7/7 birthday. She and I have danced together for years. She lived across the street from me for 3 years, and I’m still bummed that she moved.

April’s daughter Isabel is the joy of my life, often. I spent several hours with her on 7/7 so that her mom could have a little date and some down time sans child-caring tasks.

Of course, this just plain worked great for everyone. April and her husband had some time to chill, I got to recharge the joyful part of me that still is a kid inside, and Isabel got to do some special things she does not often get to do.

That child is sunshine itself, and any time I think my life is not going well, just a short time with her can turn my attitude around. I love her so much I could burst. How kind of my dear friend, to bear and raise “my kid” for me. I had two godchildren her age at one time (they are in their 20’s now)… and I always joked that my friend had my children for me. Now I get to do it again with a newer generation. How lucky is that?

aprilandisabelsquare11.jpgBut my relationship with April started before she had Isabel. This is the friend who brought me Benadryl when I was having an allergic reaction and did not feel well enough to go out. This is the friend who figured out all my multitudes of food allergy ingredients, so she could make me homemade cookies that I could actually eat. And this when Isabel was only 1 year old, and April was working the overnight shift to make ends meet.

April is also the friend who helped me get started with letting go of things I did not need to keep in my life. She spent a full day with me, helping me toss and give and store items in my way, when she could have spent that time a million other ways. She paid a babysitter to help me out for half a day. She is a real friend.

I would say this is one good day, to celebrate two great people. Happy birthday, Eric and April!

Perfect July Dessert

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

It can not get much simpler than this. Fresh, organic strawberries and organic whipped cream.

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This is gluten free, wheat free, grain free, no nuts, no egg. I am allergic to long lists of foods, and this one works for me.

It is not dairy-free, low cholesterol, low sugar, low calorie or low fat. Some can’t eat strawberries, where for me it’s in the half dozen fruits that do not give me trouble. Nothing works for everyone, but this is really luxury stuff for yours truly.

The Formula

I use 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 3 Tbsp of light brown sugar, poured into a quart canning jar. I whip it with my little Braun wand mixer‘s beating/whipping attachment (looks like a wire whisk). I do sort of tilt the jar a little to make air enter the cream a little faster, but it happens in minutes.

I used a large box of strawberries. I think that’s about 3 cups?

I’m rather decadent and adore the whipped cream (with no current heart/cholesterol or sugar issues). So I was able to get three bowls of dessert out of one large box of strawberries and one cup of whipped cream.

I layered the cream, then berries, then more cream, then berries, then the last bit of cream. It is even more beautiful in a clear stemmed wine glass, like a parfait.

Yes, it’s simple but clearly decadent. I was on Weight Watchers in 1977 but lost about 50-55 pounds and have kept my weight off since 1980.

Ironically, now my problem is getting enough to eat, given my food allergies. So right now, this is not excessive for my current situation. For others, a dollop of the whip might be more balanced. It would still taste like heaven. I can do dairy, but my brother could do “Hip Whip” which is dairy free and made of relatively healthy ingredients. I maintain that real whipped cream has no substitute, but sometimes our bodies insist on something else.

Zauberball is a Super Ball o’Fun!

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Brian and I went camping for an overnight this weekend. It was his family’s annual event. I figured I needed a project that did not require counting much, and did not require piles of similar yarns to use together, like this or this. Following is what happened with that idea.

zauberball20.jpgThere is a new type of sockyarn called Zauberball. It is a very slowly color-changing yarn, and it comes in hand-wound balls. The way it is packaged really makes the yarn look colorful and quite tempting (at least to me) to buy.

I have seen socks knit with this yarn. They are subtly changing, no lines between one color and the next one. The rainbow-like wash of color is incredibly beautiful.

However, the color change takes so long on a pair of socks, that someone with small feet may not like how the yarn looks knit straight from the skein into socks. Also, it may be hard for those knitters who like matching socks, to get this yarn to match from one sock to the next.

I originally figured that I would stripe the yarn against itself, as I did with Noro Kureyon sockyarn in the small sock shown at right. It would work, but since the ball is hand-wound, I can not work from the inside and the outside of the ball simultaneously. That is, unless I want to re-wind it into a center-pull ball for myself first.

(It occurs to me that now I own two balls, because I think I need that much for a shawl. I could have striped between those two balls at the same time. Never mind that I would not have purchased the second ball, had I planned a single pair of socks.)

I would have been willing to rewind the yarn if I felt that was the right move for the yarn. However, I kept pondering the possibilities while I worked on other more obvious projects.

THEN I started knitting mitered squares from turquoise sockyarn into a lovely fabric. The squares were very satisfying.

I went on Ravelry.com (you must sign up for a free membership to view the project pages there) and looked at mitered square blanket projects (this link goes to 750+ project photos on Ravelry). Most of them set up the colors in horizontal rows, starting at the bottom and building one level at a time.

One of the projects I viewed, built the squares from a corner and worked the squares in diagonal rows. That knitter worked one color at a time, each diagonal row a different color group. If you are a ravelry member, you can see her project here.

The diagonal angle struck me as beautiful. It wasn’t using the Zauberball, but it gave me the idea to work diagonally.

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So here is the beginning of my stole. A stole is a rectangular shawl/wrap. I hope mine will be at least a foot wide. I started with the dark purple square. I then started to the right of that square, and made three squares working up and to the left, in plum to raspberry. Following that was a reddish/orange row of five rows, starting at the bottom again and working up and to the left.

The un-attached square you see in the photo may be the beginning of the last diagonal row on one short end of the project. I will weigh the knit squares and the yarn I have remaining, to estimate how much yarn it takes per square. I have two balls of this yarn and will do some calculating to see if maybe I can get a fifth diamond added to the width before I start working up rather than to the right. (The squares are about 2.5 to 3″ wide from left point to right point, unblocked.)
I think this will be spectacular. I’m not a huge orange fan, but this pure orange with no gray or brown in it, is incredible with the red and purple in the ball. I am delighted with it so far.

More photos as the project progresses.

February Flammegarn Socks, Pair 165

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Whoops! I posted photos of my 165th pair of socks on Ravelry but never blogged them for the rest of you. These were completed in February 2009.

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This pair I knit for myself out of a yarn I have only dyed once or twice, which I call Lynn’s Luxe. It is a lynnsluxefolded400.jpgcashmere blend yarn, DK weight (thicker than standard sockyarn) intended for knitting socks.

The technique I used to dye it is generations old, and it is called Flammegarn (Flame Yarn) because when it is dyed in red it looks like flames. And in old Norway, they dyed sockyarn with red berries quite oftlynnsluxetophuge33.jpgen.

In this case, I used modern yarn and modern dyes. I got a robin’s egg turquoise with white dots, and I think it looks a bit like stars and constellations in the sky.

The structure I used was toe up, with an afterthought heel. The top edge is garter, which is very stretchy and does not roll.

Lately I prefer this to a ribbed edge. After all, this stitch is called “garter” because they made strips of knitted wool in this pattern to hold up knee socks, before elastic was available as it is now. The stitch is very stretchy and makes a great top on a sock, if you like the look.

If you would like to see a larger version of the smaller photos, click on them for more detail.