Montag, Jänner 29, 2007

Mozart had a nice party

Saturday was the big day; I got started cooking around 9:00 a.m. after sending the houseguests off to snowboard and run around Salt Lake. (To give Cherry credit, she picked up a number of menu items at Siegfried's Deli before going back to Brighton to pick up Rob.)

Faced with a phenomenal pile of onions to slice

I needed a little moral support. I put on the Dennis Brain recording of the Mozart horn concerti, and a wet bandit mask in hopes of keeping onion out of my sinusses.

I don't think the Dennis Brain CD is still available, but I would trust Barry Tuckwell if you want to pick up the horn concerti.

Trusty appeared to like the horn concerti.

Dennis did not quite outlast the onion cooking. I tried turning on the radio and got Vivaldi. On Mozart's birthday? What were they thinking!

Wanting something a little more long-lasting to get me through the rest of the cooking, I selected the Bryn Terfel Don Giovanni.

This turned out to have been a mistake as the day went on, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The cooking went on until around 2:00 p.m. I've documented the whole Gulasch process. In addition to the Gulasch, I also cooked chicken paprika:

My brother says that with all that paprika in the air, it ought to have been Bartok's birthday party.

The cooking was finished in time for me to sit quietly and listen to the Best Part of Don Giovanni, where the ghost of the man the Don murders in the first scene comes to dinner and takes him down to Hell. Since it's my favorite part I was all alight with anticipation. Imagine my surprise when the Don blandly commented, "Ah," and then again, "Ah." I swear, there is supposed to be some DRAMA involved in this scene; some REACTION; some ANGUISH! I was CRUELLY DISAPPOINTED and went off to the shower to wash all that onion out of my hair, where it had settled when it found it was unable to get up my nose.

I called Chris, who's sung the role, and he said it's up to the director whether he wants DRAMA and ANGUISH or just the note Mozart wrote. He suggested I try a Cesare Sieppi version, so I ordered two with my last shopping coupon. They should be here tomorrow. This was the first year in ages that I hadn't ordered a new Mozart CD in celebration; I was going to listen from stash, so to speak. But I couldn't do it. Every year, another Mozart CD.

I did not get any knitting time in, but while in the shower I did calculate at what point my shawl will be half done. Since I am not that good at math my calculations may not be precise, but they're close enough for me. I think it's half done at about the end of Chart 7. Since I am only halfway through Chart 5 and the KnitALong goal is the end of February, I need to hop along a little more rapidly if I'm going to finish in time. Not that it really matters, but hey.

The party was a hoot. We didn't listen to any more Mozart. After my Bitter Disappoint with Don Giovanni, I just wasn't in the mood. Besides, there were a number of children among the guests, so we had the beginning of Wizard of Oz, through "Somewhere over the Rainbow" and then, because Celia didn't realize anyone was watching it, we switched to Cars. Lots of people brought food, which always helps when the terminally disorganized try to cook for the masses.

This really was a lot of Gulasch

The Spaetzele has to be made at the last minute

Teri Jo made two beautiful Strudel

Laurel brought rolls, but I didn't photograph them.

As usual Mozart didn't show up, but I'm sure he felt appreciated.

Celia made the birthday cake

Donnerstag, Jänner 25, 2007

I think I'm awake now

I'm pretty sure now that I survived Christmas. The tree has gone to the storage unit, and none too soon. Amber and I wrangled it into a number of garbage bags (Lime n Violet! Tree Wrangling!), borrowed a truck, and dropped it off before taking a bunch of stuff to the dump. Dead microwave; dead breadmaker; dead mattresses; dead grill.

Christmas is over; now it's time for Mozart's Birthday on Saturday, which we've celebrated for the past 30 some odd years with food (naturally). The menu always centers around Gulasch at our house, but we have other stuff as well. Cherry is flying in tomorrow night for the event. Her friend Rob is coming to ski. Cherry thinks we are going to listen to German Goth CDs. I think we are going to watch Star Wars in German. Remember the region-free DVD player? Only now it's if you want the DVD.

I'm making slow but steady progress on three knitting projects, with a daily rotation schedule. Today is Scarf Day. This is the newest project, and is useful for Big Yarn Relief from Tiny Yarn Projects.

The pattern is Dawn Brocco's Double Knot Cable Scarf. The yarn is KnitPicks's Panache in Cloud. I'm knitting it for Kendra Herrington on the very needles she used in the opera in December. Like a souvenir, you know?

I worked like a dog on the Hidcote Garden Shawl yesterday to get onto Chart 5.

Once I finish Chart 5 I will at least be onto the next segment of the design and feel as if I am making progress. I'm not sure I have the right personality to be in a KnitALong for a triangular shawl that gets bigger as you go. In the past I've knitted rectangular shawls, or the kind of square shawl where you knit miles of edging, then pick up billions of stitches and knit in the round, decreasing every other row until you have four stitches, and Bob's your uncle. I'm the kind of person who had to pass my beginning swimming class (in college; long story) by diving into the deep end and swimming towards the shallow end. If I swam towards the deep end I panicked and sank.

I may not be smart enough to knit the Winter's Eve socks. I can't tell you how many times I've misread the chart (now you decrease every row, not every other row, you dolt! No! Those are knit, not purl!) and had to frog back. Not to mention having to move over all the unused beads because Che bit off my yarn. But I'm at least on the heel now.

I have made one change to the pattern; I started with the medium size chart, using slightly larger needles that I bought by mistake (I should write these things down before hitting the shops). At the end of the first chart I decreased to match the small size chart. My legs are fat but my ankles are not so much; kind of the Popeye effect for legs, or something.

It's very tempting to start the Tube Sock kit I just got from BMFA, but I'm resisting. Having too many projects going at once waters down my progress. If I start them and then put them aside, they won't feel fun and new any more, but will feel more like one more UFO.

The three projects I'm rotating, plus Paul's second Trekking sock for outings, are working pretty well. The shawl is so overwhelming that I can't work on it every day. I'd like to finish Winter's Eve by Valentine's Day--or at least by the time the next club kit comes. And the scarf, as I said, gives me a break from tiny yarn.

Time to go finalize my grocery list and get beds ready for out-of-town guests. I like Mozart's Birthday. It has all the benefits of Christmas (family, friends, food, fun, music) without the expense.

And no, Howard, I am not putting 251 candles on the cake. It nearly burned the house down the year we had 237.

Montag, Jänner 22, 2007

Great minds . . .

I'm not the only person who thought Arwen would make a great baby sweater. Check this out!

In other news, I've decided that my pets are getting too uppity or something. On Saturday night Trusty decided to go for a run without me. In the snow. I caught him before he got to the neighbors' house, but it was exhausting and annoying. Note to Paul: finish the fence, please.

When I came in from Trusty-wrangling I found that Cesare had bitten off my Winter's Eve yarn, right below where the unused half of the 200+ beads were strung. I was home alone so I don't think anyone heard my scream of rage and frustration. It took a whole episode of Torchwood* to get them transferred to the yarn still attached to the ball.

Method: Tie a piece of sewing thread around one cut end yarn using very tight little square knot. Tie the other end of the piece of thread in the same way to the other cut end of yarn. The beads come off the one end easily, but you have to niggle (in the nice sense of the word) them over the doubled thread as they go onto the new strand.

To top it off, what did I find in my room when I finally tottered off to bed?

I have several ideas on what to do about this.

1. Send it home with Celia to be untangled. She insists she likes to untangle yarn.
2. Buy another skein; it turns out BMFA will sell more of the club yarns to club members.
3. Chop it up into little bits and card it into some wool and and spin it and have a completely different yarn
4. Throw it away and knit kid socks with the remaining half of the yarn
5. Strangle Che with it

As far as I know, Torchwood isn't available in the US yet except if you order it from Amazon UK and play it on a region-free DVD player.

Samstag, Jänner 20, 2007

About sheep

I am just going to talk about sheep. I am putting off putting a new low B string on my bray harp, and talking about sheep seems more fun. There is a slight connection between harp strings and sheep but I won't mention what it is in case the sensitive might be offended.

I grew up with sheep. OK, not in the corral, although some people who know me suspect that, but we had a lot of them. I got up at 4:30 a.m. on school days to feed the bum lambs (lambs whose mothers can't or won't feed them) using milk in pop bottles. I chased them out of hay fields. I watched the shearing. It's amazing to watch the fleece peel off the sheep in one big piece. My cousins got to "tromp" the wool, climbing into the wool sacks and packing the wool so it could be sold (for not very much). I wasn't allowed inside a wool bag. Rats!

My family has a history with sheep. Grandpa Bennion's great grandfather came to Utah from Wales in the 1850's and started an immense sheep ranch. Grandpa loved sheep, and even when he retired he kept a few as pets. When I was a very little girl he would give me snacks out of the lambs' food bin--it was alfalfa pellets with molasses on them. Yum! Grandma wouldn't have allowed it, but we didn't tell her.

We didn't know how to do anything with the raw fleece, though. Too bad. Grandma did, but she didn't see the point. It would have been work to her.

The reason we refer to people like me, i.e. horrible crowd followers, as sheep is because sheep are horrible crowd followers. If you can get just ONE sheep through a gate, all the rest of them will go. They are not like cows. We had cows, too, and herding cows required a highly trained horse called a cutting horse that knows how to go after one cow and her calf and make them conform while not losing the rest of the herd. With sheep, there isn't much cutting. You get them all or you lose them all. P.S. it is still more fun to ride the cutting horse and struggle with the cows than to work with sheep. It would have helped if we had owned that other highly trained animal, the sheep dog, but no one in our family knew how to train one so we had ordinary sheep dogs.

My husband was raised to hate sheep because of an experience his grandfather had. His grandfather was a coal miner, and knew nothing about sheep. His friend begged him to watch his flock for one week while he went home to help his mother who was ill. Grandpa Ben was reluctant but a nice guy so he agreed.

The friend didn't come back in a week. By the time he returned it had been about three weeks. And Grandpa Ben had spent most of the time pulling sheep out of the river. One sheep fell in, and so the rest all jumped in. Grandpa Ben didn't know that if he had just chased the other sheep away he could have gone back and rescued it in peace. So he pulled them out one by one again and again. Naturally this was not a huge flock like the Bennion Brothers or it would have killed him. Eventually the friend came back, and Ben swore never to touch sheep again, including at the dinner table.

Don't take this to mean that sheep are dumb. They aren't; they just have these reflexes that control them, much as I have when I hear about a yarn I've never heard of before and then go to the website and it's gorgeous. L-B: Malabrigo . . . Sheep are actually more trainable than cats. One of our lambs could count to three; at least if we went off for the day and didn't give the lambs their noon feeding, he would come back half an hour after his evening feeding and beg for a third feeding.

This is all I have to say about sheep right now. I am going to go and put that string on my bray harp. Or maybe I will knit. It's all string. What the heck.


Actually the mailman brought my package from Ruby Sapphire Yarns so I played with it instead of doing anything actually useful.

I'm sorry, I don't remember where I got my pirate ship.

From left:
Sapphire Sock Yarn in colorway "Emmi," 500 yds/4 oz; 75% wool, 25% nylon.
Ruby Sock Yarn in colorway "Chandi," 540 yds/110 g; 100% merino wool.
Ruby Sock Yarn in colorway "Fantasia."

This little guy was included in the box. He's a pez dispenser! Perfect ending for an essay on sheep.

Freitag, Jänner 19, 2007

Mea culpa, mea culpa

Mea maxima culpa--

OK, so Baby Arwen gets to Portland yesterday. Emi likes it and tries it on immediately. And guess what. The sleeves are too long! Yes! All that work I did to make them longer was the actual mistake, not the original sleeve cast-on.


Emi is wearing it with the cuffs rolled up. At least the cuffs are reversible.

I had the measurements. I should have trusted the measurements. Luke! Use the measurements! At the very least, if I was going to hold the sleeves up to the baby, couldn't I at least have also held up the BACK of the sweater, too? As in, duh, it's a drop shoulder design.

This is not why I'm all guilty and seeking penance, though. No. Baby Arwen was just stupidity. I am guilty because despite proclaiming my intention to Knit from Stash in 2007 I have been buying yarn.

Briar Rose Heritage #9007
100% Wensleydale Wool; 25 sts/4" on US #5

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. There's more coming. Of course some of it is sock yarn, and the original plan allowed sock yarn because (chant it with me) Sock yarn isn't stash. But since buying sock yarn is the main way I am bankrupting my family, it might have been a good idea not to buy that, either.

Why have I been so bad? Part of it is Blue Moon Fiber Arts's fault. They finally went live with more of their product line in more colors. I tried extremely hard not to buy Geisha. Geisha is not sock yarn. Same with Seduction,* although I did knit my mom's Christmas socks in it.

* The photo on BMFA's website does not do this yarn justice. It gleams.

The other people at fault for tempting me back to my evil ways are podcasters. I only just discovered podcasting and I have to make up for lost time. Of course I knew podcasts existed. I just didn't have an MP3 player. I could only watch Let's Knit2gether on the computer. But now I have an iPod, and gradually I've noticed people mentioning this or that podcast on their blogs. The Briar Rose Heritage is the fault of Cast On. A lot of sock yarn that's coming is the fault of Lime & Violet (including two skeins of purple and green from various places--more detail when it comes). Yes. I am such a crowd follower. A sheep, in fact.

And I don't even remember who was talking about Malabrigo. Maybe Knitty D and the City. Maybe everyone. How did I miss Malabrigo? You don't need to go to Malabrigo, or Webs or More Than Yarn or anyone else who sells Malabrigo. This is not the yarn you want. Move along.

It's not like I don't have anything else to knit. There's this skein of Fyberspates sock yarn that I bought on eBay before Christmas when I didn't have time to knit. While I was taking breaks from Christmas shopping online, I yarn shopped.

100 gm sock yarn; color "September"

And I already have two skeins of this lovely Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 Sock. I got it from the above-mentioned More Than Yarn. That one is Stephanie's fault because she is such a wool-pig over it and that makes me think it must be good so I have to have some.

100 % washable merino wool; colorway "Seashore"

And I ordered some cashmere blend from Knitpicks to knit a scarf for Kendra, the soprano who autographed my Christmas needles. But that was not a sin, because it was a gift and gift knitting is on the allowed list.

Well, what can I say. I bought it and I'm trying to be sorry. L-B in Virginia has given me a penance. I have to knit for four hours before I can look at Blue Moon's website again. I have about another half hour of knitting to go on that, L-B.

Montag, Jänner 15, 2007

Farewell to Baby Arwen

Here she is, all put together:

And now she has been shipped off to Portland where it's snowing, and Emerald will enjoy wearing the hood in the house.

I guess part of the reason for all the whining about Baby Arwen is that I am really not a sweater knitter. I have only knitted seven sweaters in over 40 years of knitting. In the ten years I've been knitting addictively I've knitted the Alice Starmore St. Brigid for myself (4 years); the Alice Starmore Grapevine Cardigan for Cherry (2 months); a Dale of Norway sweater with a gardening theme for Piper (1 year of procrastination and 2 weeks of marathon knitting); a Dale one-piece thingie that was a sweater with legs for Archer, only it took so long to finish that Graeme ended up with it (2 years); Dale sweaters for Howard and Sharman while they were on their missions (18 months each; only Sharman said hers was too baggy and scratchy, so it's in a drawer waiting for something, I don't know what); a Dale sweater for Paul (a couple of months). I can't think of any more. Family members, feel free to remind me.

Oh yeah, back in the 70's when my sister-in-law and I were trying to knit things to sell on consignment, I knitted a baby sweater. And I did an odd hybrid thing for a neighbor, where I knitted the plain part of a Dale sweater on a USM knitting machine and then switched to hand knitting for the pattern part.

Anyway, the whole thing of having the sleeves the same size as each other and having the whole thing fit is intimidating for me.

I spent the whole evening yesterday toasting my toes by the fire while working on Winter's Eve. I frogged what I had done on Sunday evening after reading people's posts on the Rockin' Sock Club KAL about yarn amounts and foot sizes (and today I learned that club members can get more of the club yarns so I ordered more). I had started it in the small size, but have frogged that and switched to the medium. I'm going to decrease back down to the small as I reach the ankle.

It was really the Hidcote Shawl's turn to be knitted. However, I was practically sitting in the fireplace while outdoors the temperature was hovering around 0 degrees F. I just couldn't enjoy working on a shawl the color of flax flowers and robin's eggs when Winter's Eve, glowing darkly red with beads like embers buried in its ribbing, was taunting me.

Samstag, Jänner 13, 2007

The Baby Arwen story

Yes. Baby Arwen is on the lovely blocking board that my mother ordered from the Needlepoint Joint for my birthday. I was nervous about wet-blocking something still on the needles waiting to be grafted, so I grafted the sleeve cuffs before blocking. I knitted a couple of rows of waste yarn at the top of the hood with the idea of doing Lucy Neatby's grafting method (on her Knitting Essentials 2 DVD), so felt OK about blocking the fronts and hood flat.

By the time I was doing the last sleeve rows I was getting pretty tired of Baby Arwen. I even muttered to myself that it wasn't fun. And by that point it wasn't. The problem? The constant cabling.

The thing that made me want to knit the Arwen pattern (from Interweave Knits Winter 2006) was, of course, the cabling. It's reversible. Check out this link. I had to log in to get to the picture, so it may not work if you haven't created a membership at I hope it works.

Anyway. To review, the way the designer made the cabling reversible was to cable the purl stitches as well as the knit stitches. Also, because the design is woven, every right-side row is a pattern row. Let's just say it didn't go very fast. And to make it worse, I was knitting pretty tightly. I had to in order to maintain a gauge that would let me use the stitch counts from the adult pattern in a baby-sized sweater (I used a pattern I made with Sweater Wizard for the lengthwise measurements).

The thing that saved my sanity was that I didn't use a cable needle. My personal belief is that using a cable needle doubles the time spent on each cross. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. To try it yourself, check out my step-by-step walk-through here.

Would I knit this sweater again? Probably so. I love it.

Freitag, Jänner 12, 2007

Baby Arwen Has Left the Building Needles!

I repeat, Baby Arwen has left the needles!

Sort of. All the pieces are cast off, but there is some grafting involved. I am good at grafting as long as it involves all knit stitches. This unfortunately involves cables with purl stitches. I will get back to you after I find my copy of June Hemmons Hiatt. She knows how to graft cables.

Dang. I just looked up Principles of Knitting so I could give you a link. Did you click it? Did you see the price on that thing? If only I weren't so attached to my copy, I could sell it on ebay and get a lot of money to spend on yarn.

Samstag, Jänner 06, 2007

To boldly go where no man has gone before . . .

OK, I admit, someone has been in there before. But it was the first time I have ever been INSIDE A PIPE ORGAN!!!!,

I went to the American Guild of Organist's Super Saturday today at the U of Utah. I was expecting to get to play the organ, but had no idea I would get to go inside.

See the panel on the right of the organ bench? It's a door!

Once inside you're in a maze of pipes and mechanical stuff. The organ at the U, built in 2000 by Lively-Fulcher, is a tracker organ. This means (in case you're too weak to click on the link) that when you press a key, the key moves a stick or series of sticks (see them in the pictures) that actually opens a valve to allow air through the correct organ pipe. If you've opened a lot of stops, you might be pushing on a bunch of sticks--hard work!

A series of ladders provide access to the upper levels of the pipes. I was only brave enough to go up one ladder (I was afraid I would be too scared to go back down!), where I was able to see these reed pipes (above) and peek through a door and see the back of the positif pipes (right). If you look carefully you can see louvers that open and shut to make that section of the organ louder or softer. Behind them is the decorative grillwork you see from the outside.

I also got to play the organ. Believe it or not, that was more exciting than getting inside. I was almost the last to play. I had chosen an easy piece in which I got confused by the number of manuals (keyboards). Dr. Udy, the University organist, pulled out stops and reminded me which manual to use and made my piece actually sound good. I was so overwhelmed by the experience that when we broke for the next class I completely forgot to go to class. I went to the student lounge and called Paul to tell him how jazzed I was. Then I had lunch and knitted.

See, you knew there would be some knitting in there somewhere.

I kind of wish I'd gone to the class, but on the other hand it was good to have a contemplative hour with Paul's sock, which is ready to bind off (toe up, tapestry needle bind off). No photo of that.

However, I did take a picture of what happened at home while I was out:

Howard and Misha (she's 2) built this great snowman, complete with legs and feet.

And I am going to go build the arms for Baby Arwen. I think I'll knit until I drop and see if there's any human way I can finish them before I sleep (and miles to knit before I sleep, and miles to knit before I . . . oops--the Frost estate is picky about copyright).

Donnerstag, Jänner 04, 2007

This Snow's for You!

For all you folks out there who are wishing for snow, here's a virtual tour of our snowstorm (click the thumbnails for larger pix):

. . . It starts out slow

. . . one flake at a time . . .

. . . and then it dumps all over you . . .

I spent most of my day cleaning my office, since school is going to start on Monday and I can't stand to come in here to do homework with papers stacked everywhere. Plus I keep finding good things, like yarn stashed in bookcases and long-missing patterns.

I did go out and run the snowblower, walk Trusty and take pictures, make fresh bread in the breadmaker, and deliver shovels and cat litter to motorists stuck on the steep hill in front of our house. I also told them a better route to take next time (1800 S or 400 N if you happen to be in Bountiful, Utah on a snowy day).

Last night I test drove Artisan Laceweight Merino in "Wedgewood" on the Hidcote Garden shawl. We have a weiner winner!

My next plan is to wedge(wood) in next to Trusty in front of the fireplace

and start stringing beads for my Winter's Eve socks (check them out here). I hope you have fun enjoying the virtual snow. The real thing is COLD!

Mittwoch, Jänner 03, 2007

Knitting woes

Man, sometimes I think NOTHING gonna come out right.

There's Baby Arwen. Previously: I make a mistake in casting on the sleeves, knitted in one piece with the front; the sleeves are 3" too short. I steek along the sleeve edges and cut them off.

This week's episode: I knit inserts and stitch them on as invisibly as I can, but the thickness of the steek and the seaming come out, well, ugly.

Luckily Gail still has yet another skein of Colinette Cadenza in "Mist." They're UPSing it to me tomorrow. Is UPS a verb yet? So the new plan is to start over on the sleeves. The new skein and what's left of the one they sent me last month should be enough.

Today I started the Hidcote shawl using the Great Adirondacks yarn that I actually have enough of. Despite the wonderful, rich mocha color, I'm not happy. It's too heavy for this project. It looks like string, not silk.

So then I went to plan B, Lorna's Laces Helen's Lace in "Mineshaft."

It's a little more variegated than I had in mind. Not sure I'm happy with this, either.

You gotta understand, I'm not a swatcher. I seriously think I'm starting this shawl every time. I love the weight and texture of Helen's Lace, but I'm afraid it's too variegated and will obscure the lace pattern.

Now what?

By the way, at one point I thought I might knit this shawl for my mother. In thinking about it, I decided my mother wouldn't even wear a shawl, and if she did she would probably ignite herself trying to take stuff out of the oven while wearing it. So I'm not going to knit her a shawl. She has enough trouble avoiding being ignited, what with burning her trash with a flame thrower out in the sagebrush.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's episode, in which I hit the stash to see what else is down there.
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