Friday, December 14, 2012

11 O is Number 206!

Here it is at long last--the last square of Viola has been knitted:

Row 11, column O, seven colors. Now a serious amount of blocking and sewing begins.

Meanwhile, the portable knitting bag seems to be diligently hatching hats.

A Chroma and Capretta ponytail hat and a slightly beaded Undergrowth. Shhh! they're for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ptarmigan Made a Peacock

Proud as a Peacock is finished, plenty of time to git 'er done while waiting for what I swear is the last resupply of yarn for greedy Viola.

Here it is in all its beady glory:

Yarn is (as you might say of your kitty cat) a rescue from a kit project that I finally decided was too fiddly to actually make. It would have involved a terrible rats' nest of bobbins and colors difficult to discriminate in dim winter light. The yarn was Knit Picks Palette, background color Opal Heather as per pattern, but the contrast colors are Blue Note Heather, Pool, Bluebell, and Tidepool Heather. There's not as much contrast between the Tidepool and Opal as with the original green, which led me to make some changes from the pattern's top:

I repeated the sequence of the blue contrasts and added beads instead of a plain stitch for the "eyes" of the feather shape. I like the hat and this interpretation of it just fine. The model, by the way, is Louisa May Alcott at the library.

What's up with Viola? I couldn't finish the last few squares without yet another resupply of 3 more colors of yarn. It's just a few ridges missing for each color, and I did consider faking it with substitutions of near-neighbor colors. I don't even think it's the fault of the pattern's yarn estimation. I suspect that if I had been less liberal with the starting and finishing tails for all those colors in all those squares, I probably could have eked it out with the original quantity. Too late now.

Don't ask me to explain why I'm such an improvisor on one project and a pattern slave on the other. It's just the way the fiber flops for me. Thank goodness There Are No Knitting Police!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Portable Peacock

Here, take a peek at the new portable project:

Proud as a Peacock hat by Deborah Tomasello.  It's lovely, absolutely lovely. The colors I'm using aren't the prescribed ones, but the palette is similar, and I have the satisfaction of using some yarns for a kit that I decided was just too fiddly to go on with. The green yarn barely shows up at all, being too close a cousin to the Opal Heather background color (the only color that matches the pattern prescription). Because of the lack of contrast, I have my own plans for the crown pattern. Let's just say that beads will be involved.

What of Viola? She continues, slowly but surely. Only a few squares left now, but wouldn't you know it--I've run out of another color! Rats! I suppose if I were a bit more somethingorother (organized? anal? methodical? thrifty?) I would have knit until I had done all the squares possible with the original yarn quantity, and then ordered all the additional balls needed at once. Lucky for Knit Picks, I'm not that methodical etc. Lucky for me, this is cheap Knit Picks yarn and not baby bison/virgin cashmere/angels' navel lint yarn. (Although that stuff would be pretty soft, wouldn't it?) Anyway, awaiting resupply of Hollyberry this time.

And actually, taking a look at the photo with so many squares bagged up by page awaiting blocking, actual blocking on the board by page, so many squares awaiting page completion in labeled serried rows, I don't think I'm so disorganized, after all!

Monday, October 29, 2012


I'm kind of surprised. Today, just for fun, I went through my Viola pattern and counted up the squares not marked off as knitted, and then compared that with the sidebar count, and lo! there was a discrepancy of only 2. I think that's pretty amazing, especially given that I usually update the scorecard with bleary eyes and foggy head just before I stumble off to bed of an evening. And the 2 questionable squares in the equation, I'm pretty sure, are partial ones awaiting resupply of the Papaya Heather yarn they need.

Lo! again!--a uniformed employee of the Federal Government has just delivered said yarn ball and a few others:

It bugged me to have to get just one more lousy ball of yarn in order to complete a few little ridges of garter stitch, until I realized that Papaya Heather is approximately the color of some shades of humanity, and the surplus could be handily turned into a Breast Hat or two. Bonus!

And then you can't just order one single ball of yarn from Knit Picks, can you?  I can't. So I settled on an i-cord edge finish for Viola and ordered a couple of Garnet Heather balls for the purpose. Oh, and a couple of other little things. Shiny! Shiny! Like a magpie loves tinfoil, I have to have me some glittery Stroll Glimmer. And Chroma! I've recently discovered the inspiring hat patterns of Deborah Tomasello. How about Versailles or Mazarin with those two Chroma colorways?

No secret that after finishing the 80 booties, I am filled with lust for a new portable project. What, oh, what will it be? [meanwhile the Heap of Malfunctioning Rubble smirks at me from various corners of my house.]

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


OK, so it's time to get up off the 80 booties laurels and knit some more stuff! Remember the snow-dyed tortoiseshell kitty/bunny yarn that was getting made into a Mira's Cowl? I finished it, and here it is:
 The long...
And short of it.
Love this pattern. It's reversible; it shows off the yarn beautifully; it's easily adaptable to any length or yarn you want; it's super easy to knit; and the pattern's free on Ravelry. Couldn't ask for more.

Now that Mt. Bootie has been summitted, it's on to Viola, my other challenge. Two more blocks stitched up:

I may actually have this thing done in time to snuggle up in it when winter is at its dark and coldest!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

80 Booties!

Here they are--80 baby booties for my daughter's 40 babies. No, she's not one-upping the octomom. She's a midwife in training that will have to deliver 40 babies to complete her clinical training. And there's a pair of booties for her to give to each one. You can read the saga of the booties here and subsequent posts, or you can click on the bootie tag below.

But, hey, first feast your eyes on their bootie beauty:

 Go ahead, click on the pic and blow it up bigger. Count 'em. They're all there. All 80. All 40 pairs. All unique, as each little person will be.

Every brand-new person landing safe in the world in a brand-new midwife's hands.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Booties in Retreat

 Through these portals pass the most wonderful knitters in the world!
See? The lace arrow points the way up the hill to the cabin where 8 knitters had a fabulous time knitting, drinking, eating, soaking in the hot tub, and laughing and laughing and laughing. It rained a lot, but who cares?

I reached a major landmark--the 40th and final pair of booties in the Big Mess o' Booties for my daughter's upcoming deliveries. Celebrated with an introduction to Screech, the Newfoundland rum made infamous by the Yarn Harlot. There's a quaint ceremony called the Screech-in, which involves reciting some doggerel and kissing a codfish (on the lips!). This is supposed to make one an honorary Newfoundlander. A Canadian friend recommends wearing a lot of chapstick for the fish kissing so that your lips don't taste of cod for hours afterward. Not having the required codfish, I Screeched-in the ultimate pair with a Screech and orange juice and left it at that.
By the way, in contrast to the sound of its name, Screech is an amazingly smooth rum when drunk neat. Not at all like its reputation from its early days. Long may your big jib draw!

And it didn't even rain all the time. There was a brief window in which the clouds broke apart to show what they'd been doing to the mountaintops:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Easy Bein' Cheesy

Sometimes it seems like there's more than one reason it's called fireweed.

And there's more than one way for a rose plant to be rosy.

It's autumn all over the place, and bootie knitting continues apace. Remember the Cheat-toes booties? Well, we now have a new flavor of cheese. Once I got these guys knitted up, I couldn't help noticing the similarity to blue cheese. See what I mean?

(Actual blue cheese added for comparison.) It's Fortissima sock yarn in #104 blau tweed colorway.

And here's another pair in a fun color. A cheese-free color.
(Actual comics and Pollock added for comparison.) The yarn was supposed to be for a Knit Purl sock club creation in a colorway inspired by the Jackson Pollock painting Image Number 8. But I wasn't especially excited by the pattern intended for it, and totally tickled to death by the way it looks in booties. And the more I looked at the yarn, the less I thought of Jackson Pollock and the more I thought of the way papier mache looks when made out of the comics section of the Sunday paper. What do you think?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Digital Snow Day....or Four

I overheard the phrase "digital snow day", and that's what we've had here since Tuesday night at about 10 pm when a huge windstorm  blew zillions of trees down in Anchorage chopping up the electrical grid into a baroque patchwork of haves and have-nots.

Amazingly, there were no deaths and few injuries, probably because the real destruction started about 10 pm on a weeknight. Property damage is another story. Check here for a slideshow. We were extremely lucky here at El Rancho Ptarmigan, given that our lot is all woods, no lawn. Only a couple of small ones down in the woods out back. Next door they were not so lucky.
A big spruce splintered and crashed down on the neighbor's car. The good news: it missed the rv he lives in part-time, and he was away in the car he usually parks beside the black one when he's home. The bad news: the black car was for sale. The dent on the top and the broken windshield mean it's totaled.  The good news: it was insured.

Wednesday morning when you stepped outside your door the sound of chainsaws came from every direction. It seems that 75% of Alaskan households have chainsaws, and the amateur lumberjacks and -jills set to with zeal unblocking roads and clearing yards and driveways. It was astounding how quickly so many trees became firewood.

Because the power outages were caused by so many line breaks, there seemed little logic to which houses were off and which were on. On our street, we were divided right in the middle--the 2 houses on the west came back on at 7 am the next morning, while the 2 on the east including ours were off seemingly forever. This had its jealousy aspects (Why us and not them??  No fair that the vacant house is on!!!) and its good-neighborly aspects. Power for charging batteries and water were near at hand and gladly shared.

And that brings me to the water. In our part of town we get our water from wells, not city water mains. That means that power outages deprive the pumps of electricity and us of H2O for drinking, cooking, coffee, washing, bathing, and--the biggest--FLUSHING. You suddenly realize how much clean water we throw away every day when you have to scrounge enough to fill a toilet tank. We had enough water in our emergency supply to keep us hydrated and to wash a few dishes, but it wasn't till we started hauling from the neighbors that we had any to spare for the plumbing.

It was a weird kind of disaster because it was so hard to tell how long it would go on. The usual power outages are no more than a few hours, and for the first day or so we kept expecting it to come back on at any minute. If we had had an earthquake or a hurricane, we would know to organize and plan for a week or more's worth of hardship. But there was no telling when we'd hear those beautiful beeps, hums, and clicks that means we're back in the 21st century.

We were fortunate in the time of year this occurred. Temperatures were in the 40's - 60's. Had this been January, the house would have frozen solid, with all the damage that a frozen water and heating system would mean. There was a little extra chill in the house, but nothing extra blankets, sweaters, and the fireplace couldn't dispel. The big south-facing windows warmed us up during the day.

The whole experience has been a big emergency preparedness wake-up for us and for the whole city. This was very gentle by disaster standards, and a lot of it was not fun. We live in earthquake country where The Big One will not be forecast by the weatherman, nor will it leave our neighbors unaffected. Here's what I've learned:
  • It was good we had emergency water, lots of batteries, candles and firewood on hand.
  • We need to store more water and have bigger containers.
  • When there's a big windstorm in the forecast, I'm going to duct tape the drains and fill up the bathtubs.
  • We're researching the type of generator necessary to keep the pump and heating going during an outage.
  • It would be a good idea to have a cash stash. When the stores had no power, the only transactions allowed were cash.
  • It was good to be cooking with gas. We at least had the stovetop to heat water and food.
  • A metal bucket would be a good idea. You could wash things in it; you could put it on a wood fire to heat a big quantity of water. 
And what of knitting? This is a knitting blog after all. Without electronic distractions, there was knitting time, but only during daylight hours. I did add 2 1/2 more pairs of booties to the pile. But knitting had to compete with reading for daylight and battery time. Sometimes it lost.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Half the Booties Done!

 You've heard about babies being delivered to the cabbage patch, right? (no, not those silly dolls) Well, here is baby bootie pair #20 found in the lettuce patch. In case you're wondering, they're a wool and soy fiber blend, TOFUtsies yarn by name. Halfway to the bootie goal!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bootie-Scootin' Boogie

I'm sure you were tossing and turning last night wondering if I have run out of gas on the bootie/blanket marathon. After all, it's been a month since the last blog post. Actually, you could have checked the scorecard on the right--the numbers are ratcheting up regularly. And feast your eyes on this:
Baby boots among the summer herbs. Actually, the two projects work well together. The booties are small and portable. When at home, the latest boot-on-the-go is on my desk, ready for long telephone calls or online videos. Easy to pick up and take out on the deck, in the car, etc. It's fun to come up with different color combinations, and each yarn feels slightly different flowing through the fingers. It's great to be putting odd bits of sock yarn to good use. (OK, the white merino was a purchase, but it was on sale. I promise! And it's soooooo soft, it was begging for baby toes to cuddle.)

The blanket squares really require an established knitting station with all the current yarns in play in reach, remaining balls nearby, pattern binder, pen, label stickers, get the idea. With all of the necessaries to hand and a good movie, I can crank out about 5 squares in an evening, but it's just not a portable project. My least favorite part is the blocking. No matter how organized you are, it's a bit of a headache to keep the squares identified with their labels off and very pin-fiddly sticking them to the board.  The reward comes with the seaming and making a section of the big picture come together. That's why I added the block count to the scorecard. Maybe making notches in the blog will motivate me to block some more. There are several sections ready and waiting.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Progress Is Progressing

Here's what I've been up to lately:

Both concentric squares, a pair of booties, and the latest block sewn together!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The First Blocked Block!

Here it is, the squares from the upper left hand corner, the first chart page, all sewn together in the first block. Not as hard to put together as I had feared because the squares had first been blocked to a uniform 4x4 size. You definitely have to be wide awake, though, and make sure everything is going together the right way around. Like that upper right hand rascal up there--some of the placement only makes sense in the Big Picture. One down and only 17 more to go. Yikes! Still, the squares knitting is rattling along at a decent pace; it's creeping up to the halfway point.

Love, love, love all those beautiful reds together!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blocking a Block

Sometimes observing what you're doing changes what you're doing. And so it is with a blog. If I weren't blogging about knitting, I would probably crank on with Viola until I had all the squares knitted. Boring, boring, boring, but progress. There can't be that many people cheering just to see the scorecard total going up day after day. Progress, but boring. I've done a lot of squares, but am not even to the halfway mark yet. How long till both the readers of this blog are sound asleep?

Am I getting bored knitting all these squares? Surprisingly, not really. A lot of Netflix is getting watched, but the squares are different enough from each other to keep me wide awake--changing from bias to miter to straight and all different patterns of color now that the plain squares are done.

Still...the part of me that sometimes checks the last pages of a novel before I've naturally got there wants to see how hairy putting all these guys together is going to be. And will it really look like the picture? There's a practical aspect, too. Won't it be a huge headache to sort out 206 squares into the right pattern if I wait till the very end? Much easier to assemble sections of the whole first and then put those together. See? All rationalized.

So I picked out the squares from the first page of the charts and organized them as given on the page:
Now all those labels have to come off as the squares go in the water, but even if they get all muddled, it can't be that hard to sort out only 12. Into the sink they go:
And out into a towel to be gently squozen out:
Then for the blockage! I am really glad I have this gridded blocking board for the task. Immersion, yarn bloom, and natural garter stitch stretchiness has made them bigger than when I originally knit and measured them. So instead of stretching, as happens with blocking lace, a whole lot of smooshing is going on to get them within their 4x4 borders and all squared up instead of diamonded, as the biases and miters are wont to do on their own.

Ta daaaaaa------

Next chapter: the stitching and the burying of 1,000,000 ends!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

La vie en Viola

Production proceeds apace on the Viola blanket. Check the scorecard on the right--it's over 50. That's more than a quarter of the way! Here they are piled in a basket:

And this is your knitting bag on Viola--gorgeous colors, aren't they?

But that's not all. Inspiration is blooming all over the yard. This year, in a move totally unrelated to knitting (Scout's honor!!) I chose a big mess o' pansies for flowering annuals. Here they are in all their midsummer glory. Remind you of anything?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Viola Video

I've found some really great videos about the Viola blanket on KnitPicks' site, and I'll share them here so you don't have to go hunting for them. The first is a brief interview with the designer explaining her creation:

But the really great one is where she explains her design process and takes you through what she did to get from a photo of a flower in her garden to a giant garter stitch yarn marvel:

And take a look at the counter I have installed over there on the side. Nothin' fancy, but it will help us all keep track of bootie and blanket progress.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Mosquitoes are biting, but I'm not sure what kind of ambition bug just bit me. I've got a massive case of startitis and this is what has happened--

I got an email from KnitPicks promising a hefty discount and I ran off and ordered pattern and yarn for this:

A Viola blanket. I've been smitten by this design for a very long time; love the almost abstract look of the giant flower, love all the shades of red, the crazy garter-stitchy plan of it, the sheer massive SIZE of it (about 4 x 5 feet, if you're asking). 4-inch garter stitch squares, 206 of them, sewn together in this great big cosy bloom. There are plain straight squares, mitered squares, diagonal squares, and one 4-miters square, most with stripes, just about everything you could do with the form. Here's where I've got so far:

Started with the plain squares, of course. Gauge is pretty close, certainly nothing blocking can't sort out. Did I mention each one of these guys has to be individually blocked before sewing? The blanket of 206 squares begins with the first piece.

But hold on, there's more! My idiocy knows no bounds! My daughter, the nurse, is in the midst of graduate studies on the way to becoming a midwife and Advanced Nurse Practitioner in womens' health. The clinical crowning glory of this is to deliver 40 babies. 40! That's more than a classroom of children.  Enough team members for just about any kind of sports match. The population of a small hamlet. And the first thing that will happen to all these people when they enter the world, will be to land in my daughter's hands. Something to make a mama proud, that's for sure.

So I have decided to knit a pair of booties for each of her babies, 40 pairs, 80 booties total. A celebration of the achievement of the making of a midwife, the making of a new person, and the making of a new mother. Handing on the love.

I've got a secret, though. Because I've been caught on the hop before by the sudden appearance of babies in my circle of acquaintance, I worked up a bootie stash:

That's 9 pairs right there, nearly a quarter of the way to the total, provided there are no other surprise deliveries along the way.

Let the madness begin!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kitty & Klimt

Remember the black/gray/rust yarn? It's not far away in the previous post if you don't. I'm knitting it up into a Mira's Cowl (free on Ravelry). It's soft as a tortoiseshell kitty because the yarn is partly bunnies, not kitties, but I bet it's gonna feel like wrapping a cat around your neck only without the sneezing, swollen eyes, and the claw marks. The pattern's very simple and very adaptable to almost any kind of yarn. The knit purl sequence is 60 stitches long, so you can repeat it as many times as needed for the cowl length you want.

But I've had something else on the go lately, dredged from a different stash. I had a sudden craving for a big change of fiber gears, and dived into a stash of needlepoint kits to start doing this:
 needlepoint designs by Candace Bahouth based on the paintings of Klimt. There are not many needlepoint designs I like. Most of them seem either cutesy or stuffy, dull, and frumpy. Like this, for example. Kaffe Fassett's work is a little better, but it's still rather domestic for my taste. Pictures of flowers and teapots and whatnot. Bahouth's designs are more about pattern than picture, and for Klimt she includes GOLD, just like the original artist did in his paintings. I buy Bahouth kits when I find them on sale and stash them for when the desire strikes me. Needlepointing is more of a no-brainer than knitting, at least if you're doing someone else's design. It's kind of like coloring, only with fiber, and the end product is something useful and quite durable. I have 3 of these Klimt kits. The first is done and I've started #2. When they're all done, they will make up a bench seat cover.

But I'm about to embark on a long trip, and a needlepoint frame is just a bit unwieldy for the airplane seat. There isn't enough work left to do on the kitty cowl to make it worthwhile taking along, so I did swan dive into the yarn stash and came up with this:

A tote bag kit from Knit Picks, fine gauge on small circular needles, just perfect for the elbows-in position in airplane seats. Its unique construction means that I don't need to take the whole pile of different colored balls and a big chart. The bottom and back side of the bag are knitted separately from the picture panel, so there will be plenty to work on while hauling and managing only one yarn ball at a time. When that's all done, the picture panel is worked flat, and then grafted on to the rest of the bag, with top rows worked in the round to finish. Pretty clever, eh?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Another Snowdye Day

Before all the snow melts away, I wanted to try snow dyeing one more time. (Actually, no danger in all of it melting away overnight, but it would be harder to find clean snow.) This time the base yarn was grey rather than, um, snowy white.
KnitPicks Sugar Bunny in Platinum, a beigy-light-grey. Not a particularly exciting color on its own, but a good non-white background for other colors. What I had in mind was adding black and other shades of grey according to the intensity of the dye coming through the snow.  So into the tub go the vinegar-water soaked skeins, laid on racks and ready to go:
Now on goes the snow and sprinkles of the black dye powder:
I also wanted to see what happens when you use a liquid dye solution with the snow, so I mixed some of the same dye up in a squeeze bottle and squirted it across in stripe fashion:

Then on goes the lid, bring tub into the garage, let melt and marinate overnight while the magic works. Upon the morrow, what to my wondering eyes should appear:
RUST! Yikes! Not that the yarn rusted, or that the racks rusted, but the dye came apart into its constituent elements, a major one of which, apparently, is a rusty gingery color.  You don't have to be a vastly experienced dyer to know that there really is no such thing as black dye. Black is achieved with a blend of intense dark colors. If you go back and big up one of the pictures that shows the dye powder on the snow, you'll see wee spots of yellow and blue and purple. That, I thought, would be kind of cool if it came through the snow--little spots of color amid the grey and black. But this is really waaay too much not-black and not-grey. So I grabbed my trusty black squirter and splashed some more of that straight onto the wet yarn:
The hope was to break up the long stretches of rust with more black and grey. Then into the plastic wrap for a half hour steam bath, a rinse, hang to dry overnight, and let's see what we finally got:
 Wow. (automatically bigged up to show color detail) Not at all what I thought of when I set out to do this, but that's the fun and amazing part of DIY (Dyeing It Yourself), and most especially of snow dyeing. Lots of blue tones I didn't expect, and the rust was a total surprise, ratcheted down a little, as hoped, by the black squirts. Y'know that this reminds me of? A tortoiseshell cat's coat. Even more so when it's knitted up. Can't wait to cast on! Here, kitty kitty....