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Archive for May, 2008


A good weekend

Hi, Jan,

I hope your weekend travels went well and that I hear from you in Colorado soon. Our weekend was swell – several gardening sessions (no, the beans haven’t sprouted yet), a couple of good bike rides, a wonderful dinner out with Becky and Mike, the tiniest bit of housework (clean sheets are worth it, a clean floor not so much), time together with Wilson (even watching a basketball game is nice if you have knitting and your honey) and, yes, a finished object.

17.jpg35.jpg45.jpgToo bad I didn’t finish it before Saturday evening when we saw Becky, because it is the colorwork hat, made for her birthday. I had worried I wouldn’t have enough of the Lamb’s Pride Worsted for it, so had bought another skein, but one was plenty for both mitts and hat. I did use about 1.5 skeins (GA (geek alert) 1.45 to be exact, I have 55 grams left) of Manos del Uruguay handpainted yarn. The shot with me wearing it is pre-blocking, the one on the rolled up towel, post, obviously. I threw in one of the crown, because I love the design. The blues aren’t as predominant in person, by the way.

So, even though our list has literally dozens of things yet to accomplish on it, I feel that this weekend we met our objectives if full. I hope yours did, too.

Love,

Ellen

Gentlemen, start your gardens…

Dear Jan,

16.jpg26.jpgThe beans are in, along with some sundry flowers and herbs. Here the pintos are, the mahogany red ones on the left and the golden brown ones on the right. I marked the rows with marigolds (color-coded!) and applied a liberal dose of animal repellent. 44.jpgSee how the label shows all sorts of animals to be repelled, especially that picture in the upper left? My confidence was diminished by Judit’s response. After some serious sniffing, she marked the ground with urine and then tried to lick up the repellent granules.34.jpg Sigh, I will drag the hardware wire cages out and cover at least some of the beans.

53.jpgI planted the second bed with lots of zinnias and some Thai basil. It should be pretty and tasty.

My new physical therapist, who is at least making my back and leg feel different if not resolving the problems altogether, has given me permission to test my progress by jogging a half mile this weekend. We did that after gardening, and it was so great to be out jogging with Wilson again. So far, so good, though I am really out of running shape. I did fine cycling yesterday with some pretty big hills, and tomorrow we’ll go for a longer ride, so at least I’m getting some exercise again. I do hope the jogging works.

131.jpgFinally, I gave Becky the colorwork mitts for her 50th birthday (which was in April but she said not gifts at her party, so I had to wait until later). I showed her the hat, which is making progress, and promised to have it to her before snow flies.  That should give me a few weeks, anyway.

Actually, I’m trying hard to clean up my various projects so I can turn to some serious work on Forest Darkness. There is an exhibition of Bohus knitting coming to the Twin Cities next year, January 23rd to March 29th at the American-Swedish Institute. There is some discussion on the Ravelry Bohus forum about trying to get some folks together and maybe trying to get some sweaters made to wear to the event. It is a lot of knitting, so methinks I need to start soon if I want to try to join in the fun. It would be a great time for you to come visit!

I hope your Memorial Day weekend has been good. I stop and think about the reason for the holiday quite a bit; especially about those who have left us recently.

Love,

Ellen

Happy Meteorological Summer!

OK, so technically, MS is June July and August, but you know, if it is Memorial Day Weekend, it is the start of summer to me. As a kid, that was the big weekend to get the garden in, remember? I remember those 4×50′ rows of green beans, even when we had 3 years supply in the freezer already. But there was something that felt so important about setting those tomato plants in their holes, pouring in water and then filling the hole with soil and then adding more water, mudding them in really well and getting them off to a good start.

My garden keeps getting smaller over the years, partly because of lack of time to garden and partly because when you get a crop share like Wilson and I do, you have to pretty much eat veggies full time just to keep up with the box. No sense in adding to it.

25.jpg But I’m excited this year – I have a project! Here are seeds for Oaxacan pinto beans. Aren’t they gorgeous? I’m growing them out for Rancho Gordo, a farm from which I’ve been buying heirloom beans. Some people splurge by upgrading from a Ford to a Lexus; we splurge by upgrading from Bush’s to Rancho Gordo. I’ve been assured that it is a no stress proposition – I don’t possess the entire remaining seedstock or anything like that. Still, it gives me a goal. Watch for progress notes. I’m geeky enough to separate the colors and plant them that way. And if you have ideas for keeping rabbits and deer away, please let me know!

I have lovely daughters who send lovely knitterly things for Mother’s Day. Jenny sent a book chair – so cute and it holds your book upright so you can read and knit at the same time. It is currently in use in the kitchen with a cookbook, and I’m too lazy to go get a photo of it, but I’ll show you later. 33.jpg43.jpgKaren sent lovely sock yarn – Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock in the Knitters without Borders colorway, so it is even more a gift that relates to her. Two pictures, so you can see its many beautiful moods. Somehow it reminds me of a calico cat.

Not much knitting this week – I’ve started Spanish classes and between class (6 hours this week) and study (about as much again) my evenings have been full. But we have a long weekend coming, and I sure ain’t planting 200′ of green beans.

Love,

Ellen

Dear Ellen,

Not a lot of knitting here either, but I did acquire quite the bonus bag of yarn from a friend’s deceased (a few years ago) mother’s stash. It included some beautiful wools, linens, rayon/acrylics (suitable for washable BSJs!) and the best of the bunch — enough Manos del Uruguay in a lovely celery, tan, beige colorway to make a sweater. The condition of the gift was that it be used. I can assure you that I already have more than enough ideas. The question will be if I also work out the commitment of time. Nonetheless, I can guarantee that Manos is going to be on the needles soon! It’s all out in the car, so no pics of it today. Dale is not quite so pleased as the car was pretty full already — our stuff for travel to Colorado Springs and room for us and the dogs. He does not seem to realize how valuable these bags of yarn can be for pillows.

The other big news is that Betsy has decided she wants to learn to knit. Betsy’s Knitting SuppliesWe bought
her some Baruffa Merino Otto in the Shadow colorway, a set of Brittany needles, a magazine (inspiration and the basics of knitting in the back), and some point holders and Chibi tapestry needles. I usually start beginners with a ribbed scarf so they can learn both knit and purl and learn the difference between the stitches. I’ve also advised she would be well served by investing in the first two volumes of Sally Melville’s, The Knitting Experience. We’ll have our first lesson tonight.

I indulged in a few magazines and patterns including the Nora Gaughn Volume 2. Some really great stuff in there…either for inspiration or for creation. Project Bag and WIP Tube w/ Mark’s SocksHere is a shot of another goody I picked up the other day from The Loopy Ewe, a KnowKnits GoKnit pouch in a beautiful turquoise. It is right now attached to my purse and is carrying Mark’s sock and a half. I’m a few rounds from starting the heel on the full sock. Note the little red cardboard work in progress tube. I can’t remember where I picked them up (they came in a twin set), but I love them. All 5 dpn’s are safely contained and work is unable to slip off of the active needles. Very clever. And I do love the GoKnit pouch as well…there is a snap loop on the interior to feed the yarn through to minimize tangles and I no longer have to make my purse bulge excessively.

It looks as though Heidi and Marie may be moving to Fredericksburg, VA. It’s much cheaper and they can use the Virginia Railway Express to get into DC. They’ve put in an application to rent a cute little 3 bedroom house just outside of the downtown area. If they get the house, they’ll move in the early July time frame.

We leave for Athens, Georgia on Wednesday morning to spend a few days with Allen and then westward on Saturday at O-Dark-Thirty. We hope to arrive mid-day on Memorial Day.

Love, Jan

Saturday, in the park.

Dear Jan,

42.jpgIt is official. Spring is really here, and we celebrated by visiting the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden with our friends, Chris, Matt, and Veronica.

32.jpg71.jpg81.jpg52.jpg91.jpgIt was a really gorgeous day and lots of good stuff was blooming. We’d missed the trout lilies, but among the things we saw were bellflower, Virginia bluebells, purple trillium, ginger, and Celandine poppy (that last one is especially for HG). And a very brave chippie. 14.jpg

24.jpg15.jpgV is quite the character. She pointed out to me that there was a very nice little house in the park where I would enjoy sitting and knitting. Chris later explained to me that this translates to “you can keep yourself occupied knitting while I explore all the nature displays at the visitor center”. The acorn didn’t fall far from the oak with this one, I think, as her mother is rather clever, too.

Some homegrown wildflowers from yesterday. 23.jpgFor comparison, our neighbor’s yard. 13.jpgI refuse to feel bad, as the societal preference for a monoculture yard is completely arbitrary. Why do we want something that requires more effort and actually poisons the environment – just because English lords of yore had green lawns? Theirs, I’m sure, were full of many species beyond bluegrass. In a few weeks, we’ll have goldfinches gorging on the dandelion seed heads, and I will be happy. I hope you will be, too, settled into your new digs.
Love,

Ellen

P.S. No real knitting to report. I did finish the knitting on the Microgreens BSJ but will wait to photograph it until I have buttons. The ones in my stash were bought for what I thought would be a larger sweater. This is definitely a preemie sized offering, and needs preemie sized buttons. I’ve knit a bit more on the Manos colorwork hat, but not enough to bother to show.

Going Camping

Dear Ellen,

Pup TentI thought you might like to see Max and Ruby trying out their new pup tent. It’s pretty slick — a pop up dog kennel. We’ve had them sleep in it the last few nights so they’d be used to it on the road. They seem to like it just fine. Max says he’s always wanted to go camping.

Love, Jan

BSJ geometry

Hi, Jan,

41.jpgI’m getting close to completing my BSJ. I’ve decided to call it Microgreens because it is turning out a bit small. It will definitely be suited to a newborn, not much older. Because of this, I’m thinking of scaling up the pattern. I know, I could just use thicker yarn or bigger needles, but I like the fabric that is resulting with sock yarn on US2’s.

In order to do this, I thought an analysis of the geometry of the sweater would be in order, and whether you are interested or not, I’m going to share it with you.

The sweater is quite a marvel of geometry. It is knit all in one piece, looks like an odd geometric surface when you finish, and you only have one end and two short seams (the shoulders and top of the sleeves).

51.jpgYou start with a long cast on. This comprises the entire wingspan of the sweater plus the width of the sleeves. You knit in garter stitch for quite a ways, doing double decreases a distance the length of aforementioned sleeve width in from the ends. As you can predict, you are knitting a rectangle, decreasing toward the middle of the opposite side of the cast on. If you ignore the fabric bunched up in this picture and look just at the part that is flattened out, you can see what I mean. Oh, yes, a few rows in from the edge, you increase a bit along the sleeve edges to provide a bit of ease in the sleeve width – it is almost like increasing after a cuff. I doubt you can see this in the picture, but it’s there.

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When your sleeves are long enough, you then transition to the body by now increasing at the same point at which you were once decreasing. It’s almost like you are now knitting the same shape from the other side. You can fold your sleeves together at this point and see how the body is going to rake shape. It results in two double layer “L’s”, joined in mirror image along the upright, and with one side open at the joining edge. In short, a T-shaped sweater. In the picture shown, I’ve flattened out a corner of the body so you can see the increases and where the neck cast off is located (described later). The rectangle that was flat in the previous picture is now folded up on itself – see the triangular shape sticking to the left bottom?

9.jpgOnce you get a bit in, you cast off a few stitches at each edge which forms a neckline.

7.jpg8.jpgThe sweater is shaping up at this point, but it would be pretty squat. To solve this EZ has you knit back and forth on the center panel for a bit, then pick up stitches on the edges of that bit and continue on to form the button band (the short edges) and continue to lengthen the hem a bit. The pictures show the resulting tab along with detail of the stitches picked up at the edges.

I suppose this would be easier to show once it is off the needles, but even then, I’m not sure if you can put this down in two dimensions.

22.jpgIf you haven’t knit one, I highly recommend it. It is so entertaining that I didn’t get much other knitting done on my trip, but here is a little update on the colorwork hat.

12.jpgI’m also including a progress report on the Bunny socks. It is funny how the reverse stockinette sole makes the sock turn in on itself, at least with this yarn and gauge.

As you can tell from the lack of floral shots, I’m back home in Minnesota. Switzerland was fun, but I am glad to be back home.

I hope your travels were safe and satisfactory.

Love,

Ellen

Eye of the Storm

Dear Ellen,

I’m really grateful that you sent me that sock pattern, yarn and needles while I was in Baghdad. Although I had worked on a sweater* the previous summer, it had not been truly satisfying and my commitment to knitterly pursuits was under the assault of the entropy of daily life (and in a combat zone at that). The socks gave me a puzzle to solve — having never used DPNs, and never having done any kind of open work pattern. Working on them (and frogging and reworking) for 15 or 20 minutes a night put some calm into my day by making me focus on something creative and something wholly distinct from the battles of the day. (Pun absolutely intended!) Your gift was far more than the materials for those socks…and it keeps giving today.

YFB 3YFB 4YFB 2YFB 1These memories come back right now as knitting is once again providing me a calm in the storm. Yesterday started with a million chores/errands to complete in preparation for the start of our pack out of our household goods for the move to Colorado. The day was jammed with things that had to get done. The day was also the Saturday meeting of “Yarn for Breakfast,” the knitting group I told you about a little while ago. Although I wasn’t able to make the whole meeting, I did manage to make it for about 45 minutes…45 minutes of relief from thinking about the details of the move, 45 minutes of friendly conversation and support, 45 minutes of creating in the midst of household deconstruction. It’s times like these that I value knitting the most — for the knitting, most certainly, but even more for knitters.

Happy Mother’s Day!
Love, Jan

Sad First Sweater*The “why the h@ll did I put eyelash yarn on the neckline and cuffs??” and “why the h@ll did I make it 4 sizes too large??” and the “why the h@ll did I think this pattern would flatter me??” sweater.

Smoke on the water…

Dear Jan,

Did you know this song was inspired by literal smoke on the water after a pyrotechnic accident at the Montrieux Jazz Festival?  My good friend, Alison, told me this as we spent a lovely afternoon strolling the shores of Lake Geneva at Lausanne.  We didn’t quite walk all the way to Montrieux, home of the aforementioned incident (a pyrotechnic accident at the famous jazz festival) but we did walk about 11 km, seeing beautiful flowers along the way, eating delicious sorbet (mine was orange sanguine – blood orange!), and in a fun coincident, walking past some folks setting up for a concert who were testing their speakers with  “Smoke on the water”.  Alison had told me the story about 30 minutes earlier.

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After our long walk, we went home for dinner.  I got to pet their kitty, a Rex who doesn’t cause sniffles in those allergic to cats and just as sweet as the breed is reputed to be.    dsc02163.JPGdsc02164.JPG

Equally important, I got to spend time with Michael and Abby, here modeling the fabulous Norwegian sweaters that Alison has knit for them.  dsc02161.JPG  She’s also knit one for Mark and is nearly finished with one for herself.  Mark cooked us a wonderful dinner – zucchini with Gruyere cheese and chicken with bell peppers in a  lovely wine sauce.    We finished it off with sorbet.  Because you can never have too much sorbet. 

Tomorrow night I’ll be home with Wilson.  That should be even more fun than strolling along Lake Geneva.  Or taking pictures of ducks.  Imagine that!

Love,

Ellen

I’ll take Geneva potpourri for 100, Alex.

Dear Jan,

The world’s tallest fountain, which shoots up water at 200 km/h. 

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What is the Jet d’Eau?  (and what is it with the soccer ball?)

Inhabitants of this urban park include subjects for herpetologists, ornithologists, botanists, mammologists, and child psychologists.*

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What is the Jardin Botanique?

 *home of the world’s most seriously creepy carousel.  (could you, as a 6-year-old, imagine begging to ride the ant or have a huge frog hover over you?)

A seriously funny, concerned, interesting, eclectic group of knitters that meet every Wednesday at the Starbucks by the Rhone.  dsc02118.JPG

What is Stitch ‘n’ Bitch Geneva?

 The charming owner of the shop, Tricolaine, and a substantial portion of her store’s inventory.

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Who is Annelis and what did Ellen buy for a Swiss souvenir?

Yes, apparently I’m having too much fun.  I have been working, too, honestly.  It is convenient that I can be on-line and even calling in to meetings in the late evening and it is midday in Minneapolis.  I think I could get used to working the morning, taking the afternoon off, and then working the evening hours.

I hope you are having a decent trip, too, though I bet you haven’t seen nearly as much waterfowl.

dsc02132.JPGdsc02137.JPGLove,

Ellen