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February 2004
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April 2004

Brainy Prizes

A package from Alison arrived today! I don’t know whether I’m more tickled over the card or the book. (And part of the card's appeal is it's tiny size which I cannot replicate due to scanner ineptitude~)
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She wrote, "This card reminded me of you & Caroline." Isn’t that sweet? The book is called Falling in Love with Knitting. That and the ISBN (957-0424-46-X) is about all this reader can discern, but the pictures are nice and the patterns intriguing. I do hope that the wee one and I will study Chinese when she’s a bit older, so I can aspire to learning to knit in Chinese as well!

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Before I traveled to China, I bought a book called Chinese in 10 Minutes a Day (ISBN 0-944502-10-5). I gave up after 20 minutes – having only grasped basic Pinyin pronunciation. But I used the menu guide and laminated "Pocket Pal" during the journey, and the more we read books like In the Snow and At the Beach, which explain the origins of characters, the more intrigued I am by the notion of eventual study. Intrigued yet daunted . . .

Thank you for thinking of us, BrainyLady!

Karma update: Remember the Filatura Pom Pom yarn that gave me fits at the holidays? I donated the second scarf knit with it to the Mardi Gras silent auction at my church, an event I chose not to attend since it took place the day after I returned from my Big Apple adventure. Some Sunday thereafter, the woman who bought it came up to tell me how much she liked it, and how her husband had suggested that she choose it for the colors. Happy ending. This week I shipped off the first one (knit in a drop-stitch pattern to results that displeased me so much I couldn’t gift it for Christmas) to my high school for a similar fundraiser. I think it will score, as the yarn’s essentially the school colors . . .

Other knit news: I’ll finish the poncho-turned-wrap after I post this entry. I completed one "button band" last night and have knit a few rows of the other, which will actually have the single buttonhole Nicolee wants. I can block it overnight and pass it along to her tomorrow if all goes well. We’ll hold out for the photo op of her modeling it, since she’s questing for the perfect button and thinking of scattering a few sequins of embellishment.


Spring Poem

flowers0002.jpgIn honor of spring's recent arrival, I'll post a poem. I may have only done so once before, but I'm thinking of adding a poetry link, as this Typepad package offers an additional blog option. With child-rearing as my current focus and knitting as the consequent creative output, I'm on hiatus from writing and submitting poems. Still, sometimes you just wanna toss a poem out there without working the po-biz channels. Happy Spring.

FOUR SEASONS


I. Red-tailed Hawk

Bare limbs, gray skies, the road cannot contain
my vision as I drive Virginia piedmont
from one home to another. Tree upon tree
draws my seeker’s eye until I find again
and again their reassuring forms which wait
in high branches. As if they know I’m looking,
counting, measuring my progress by their number,
they survey their territories until I pass.
Surely behind me they’ll spread
great wings, throw white breasts to the wind
and show the namesake feathers now concealed.
Twice, I saw them paired, sharing a bough
like a couple long married, aware without
interacting. Do birds of prey mate for life?
Standing in my mother’s kitchen, the shock
of the hawk’s familiar shape in that suburban place
gives way to the warmth of sharing my find
with her whose binoculars rest on the sill.
She hangs houses on each tree, sunflower-seed
angels and suet-studded apples feed
her flock. I return to watch
and give thanks for the places we meet.


II. Cardinal

A drop of blood on the skin of the world,
if the silent surface that follows snow
can fairly represent skin. But what
of the peoples whose shade this crimson
plumage most closely matches?
Can we call it the painted mark
of a geisha, when powder coats her skin
to snowy pale? I toss crumbs and seeds
onto the frozen crust of the morning,
hope for a sun to loosen its grip, to let me
find an afternoon’s tiny footprints
in their place. I hear the cheep cheep cry
before I spy the red body, a buoy in fog
floating behind the crape myrtle.
Life weathers the storm. The sun will come.
This red can be blood on spring’s dark skin,
ripe for the grasses this bird’s mate
will add to the emergent nest.


III. House Finch

Blossoming from the brass hook, the fuchsia
sways with wind or the swift small bird,
porch-blown twigs and grasses
disappear before the breeze can take them, soon
a nest crowds the cascading branches. Days
pass and then I open the door to a chorus
of tiny sounds too new to call chirping.
I stand on the rail to peer in at four
barely feathered, visible heartbeats.
Two days and eyes open, beaks
beam yellow as sunflowers waving
in wide cries for food. A week
finds a lone downy ball perched
on nest’s rim, new legs uncertain
as mother squawks lessons from a tree
nearby, or seeks to frighten me away.
I wait for what seems hours, the reluctant
fledgling unwilling to try what nature ensures
in its being—flight, as sure as the fuchsia buds
shall burst into flower. And then I go on,
called by my own life’s work. Evening,
I find the nest empty, take down the plant
to examine what new life has called home.
Sticks, leaves, droppings solidified
to the wall of the planter, left to nourish its soil.


IV. Goldfinch

How can you be so yellow in this world?
Wear a coat that calls look at me, see
how bright can be creation
? Only the jay
in this small yard casts as intense a hue,
but its rude cry and humor make armor you lack.
That other primary, cardinal, still blends
into foliate branches. Your spiral flight
and excited call capture my attention more
than if you were stealthy. Small birds
sing loud as if they must compensate
for what they lack in mass. Nearby
coreopsis explodes a profusion of similar shade,
its petaled buttons float amid a net of green.
You appear at the feeder and I stop
sudden in my kitchen tracks, afraid
even my breath may send you reeling.


Bumper Action

7612296_F_store.jpgI forgot to mention a little highlight of Friday's long drive home. We're cruising up I-95 when a BMW sedan pulls up beside us and the woman in the passenger seat holds up her needles, beaming. It took me a second to gather that she'd read my knitty sticker!
(Get yours at knitty's secret store.) I wish I'd had my own to flash back at her, but safely made do with a honk of the horn and a thumbs-up.

Unfinished baby blanket was well received yesterday, the first gift open and the only one handcrafted. An absent creation of the grandmother got a nod, and I was flattered that said gran told me she'd like a knitting consult. I only turned on the hosts' TV once to check the basketball and confirm that my Devils advance to the Sweet Sixteen!

A Monday-morning note to Em: HAPPY BIRTHDAY! What with travel and weekend, I'll be sending a little something your way tomorrow . . .


All I Ever Wanted

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Vacation, indeed. I knit on three of four projects, read two of five books and pounds of magazines, walked, collected shells & sand dollars, played in surf and sand, flew a kite, snuggled with the wee one, cooked, ate, watched basketball, and more ("Yogo!"). The critter list: crab, egret, heron, gull, sandpiper, cormorant, osprey ~ and a white-tailed deer! (Pandas were spotted as well, but none of us could take credit for the knitting.)

On the fiber arts front, I finished the two-thirds of the baby blanket I'll present at tomorrow's shower.
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It sports some imperfections: that first letter I stitched with an eyeballed center that turned out on the high side; I meant to place the B equally low of center, then forgot, as I was occupied with viewing the ACC tournament final ~ which also led me to stitch a 2 rather than a 1 on its reverse. My rebound [heh] plan with the numbers is to center the 1 and have the others go clockwise around it, but I won't get to 4 and 5 until after the babe-to-be's folks get first glimpse.

I wasn't the only one getting crafty with fiber and art:
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We're home and happy ~ especially after this driver of 475 miles got a big glass of vino into her system. That's a far piece to go without a copilot, lemme tell ya. The deluxe car seat and borrowed DVD player were not enough to keep a lively gal happy, alas. My more ample derriere wasn't loving all those static hours either, but I focused on the driving and the destination, and got lost in (audio) Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter when I wasn't singing ABCs with my passenger.

As dear Greta has recently noted, the (telecommunications-wise) disconnected life is worth living, for a little while, anyway. But I'll happily continue catching up with blogland through this re-entry weekend. And, tomorrow, spring!


Fun in the Sun

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We're heading for this sandy shore today, taking a break with three other families. In my book bag: Peace Like a River, Folk Shawls, The Purl Stitch, Lucky Girls, and Call Me Ishmael Tonight. As if I could read a book a day! But the last two are short stories and poems, so those and the knitting fare I can browse. In the knitting bag, two-thirds of the baby blanket to embellish and seam, Cascade 220 and the French Market Bag pattern, the stop-gap Brotherman sock, and a novelty scarf to whip up. Also toting extra supplies in case any of the other parents wants a lesson.

This is the farthest we've driven thus far in the wee one's short life. Cross your fingers and say a little prayer for her driver~ The destination should make it worthwhile; even though it won't be warm enough for swimming, looks like there's plenty to entertain us. Happy knitting and we'll post again in a week!

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Bond in Action

No, not James Bond, but the Ultimate Sweater Machine I've enlisted to assist with the completion of the nine-square baby blanket. As planned, I've been able to match the size of the handknit squares with machine-knit rectangles that I'll fold in half. This device takes some getting used to, but last night I made Square Number Seven without ever having the stitches drop from the latches or the carriage jam! While I've no interest in converting my obsession away from hand-knitting, the USM is convenient for whipping out square feet of stockinette ~ I'll probably use it to make some blankets for the new Critter Knitters effort.

[But never for Mason-Dixon Knitting's Afghanalong! That just wouldn't be playing fair ~ plus, I can't get the USM to do a garter-stitch border. I'm finding it way fun to design these scrappy bits for Kay and Ann. Number Three is on the needles (already I'm going past my one-a-month goal) and Number Two is blocking. The latter is woefully wide, but I'm hoping they'll accept it anyway . . .]

OK, didn't I call this entry Bond in Action? This shot shows the work-in-progress, with the stitches stretched across the range of 58 latches and the completed knitting hanging below, thanks to the weighted hem that creates neccessary tension.
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Can you also see the rubber bands and hooks at the side edges, making more tension for the first stitches at either end? Actually, in this shot they are ready to be moved up a little higher. That purple part at the left is the carriage that one slides across the needle bed, like this. It takes a bit of effort, and it's noisy. Plus, if you're sitting in front of it, your legs shouldn't touch or support the knitted fabric. Makes for an awkward straddle that is far from the restful meditation of real knitting.

But it's also pretty cool! (Brotherman, a/k/a Captain Gadget, was quite taken with it when I demo'd for him.) There's a plate that snaps into the carriage under the purple yarn guide, and it has partitions that direct the movement of the needles, which are like individual latch-hooks. The plates are sized for different weights of yarn, from about chunky to sport (I don't have the specs at hand right now, so I'm winging it on the details ~ will update if I've erred.) Here's a look under the hood; if you can't see the metal needle parts through that translucent plastic, use your imagination!

I Googled cross-stitch sites to get alphabet charts that I'm tweaking to enlarge. With scant time before our vacation departure, I'm going to have to get packing and wait to make the last two white squares when we get home. So the plan now is to complete the embellishment of three white squares and attach them to three colored squares while we're away. I haven't yet figured just how to connect them, since I want the blanket to be two-sided with no visible seams. May have to use some crochet. I'll then be able to present two-thirds of the finished product to the parents-to-be at their shower the day after we get home.


Thank you, Nicolee

zephsm.JPGMy dear friend gave me a reprieve on the problematic Zephyr poncho (problem being I'm running out of yarn and no more is available) ~ with four other women critiquing our consult, she decided that the single side can convert to a shawl-like wrap with a fab button clasp!

I offered options of having a different color on one side of the poncho, or ripping and reknitting into something else, but I think she's going easy on me, knowing that I already ripped once when the going was so slow. I should have ordered more yarn then; I feel like a bad friend. (If you've missed earlier installments in this saga, I converted the pattern from working with Rowan Plaid to Schoeller Stahl Cecil, and believe I ordered the right amount of yarn. But the smaller gauge on a rather vast garment daunted me so, I got Nicolee's OK to double the yarn. Becky warned me via Comments that I'd need more yarn, but I waited too long to return to Elann, and the cream was gone.)

She's a doll for being so accommodating. A Wonder from Down Under. After all this, can I still send her a-hunting for Jo Sharp deals when she travels in May?


Discipline

Following Catherine's lead, I've given up yarn for Lent. The acquisition of new yarn, that is. Look at that sidebar: I have four big projects in the works, two small ones (a hat's unlisted), and of course another MDKA4A swatch going. And three 70-gallon plastic bins in the basement filled with the makings of future knit WIPs. I should give up yarn for all of 2004! But I'm not gonna.

For the record, I'm also doing without chocolate. Thought I should mention that, because my world is hardly fiber free, as noted. And, there are new arrivals, such as this package of Noro:

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I ordered it in complete mimicry of Em, who pointed me to the special Silk Garden bargain offered by Wool Needleworks, having herself placed an order ~ in a different color; I'm not that big a copycat ~ to make Tilt. I loved the pattern when it appeared in the fall Knitty, but was uncertain if my abilities were up for a piquant pattern. I've only knit tangy so far. But with my gal Michelle Tilting ahead of me (ooooh, I'm thinking Quixote here!), I decided I'm woman enough.

Especially now that I'm managing the Must-Have. Despite the fact that I had to call for emergency rescue at last night's S&B because I had inadvertently wrapped the diamond cable stitches while watching the Oscars Sunday. All is now well, and I was about to start the decreasing for the sleeve cap, but suffered a bit o'brain strain (it was almost 10PM) contemplating how the diamonds might finish. So I switched to the other cardigan for a couple of easy stst rows to end the evening. See? I don't need any more yarn. Really.

Speaking of S&B, I forgot to grab the camera, so the gathering goes undocumented, in pictures, anyway. Heather was starting a sweet pink camisole, Michelle H. worked on a subtle fair isle pullover, Molly finished Libby, a Rowan sleeveless pullover from The Bigger Picture, Michelle W. worked on two sweaters, and Pam started a little bag. Frances came to my rescue and Kim stopped by to show off goodies from her recent Paris jaunt -- I got some more Phildar from La Droguerie!


Squares

I had no trouble "designing" my first A4A square for the Mason-Dixon gals, because at least a year ago I'd ripped out a crochet-in-progress baby blanket and converted its cotton to these quilt-like squares:
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My plan, then as now, was to make instead a knitted blanket composed of nine squares, but it took a baby-on-the-way to get that fourth block on the needles. I bound off Saturday, and the wee one stood on a chair at the sink and swished them around for me before I pinned them down on the Spaceboard. Last year I bought the white Sugar 'n Cream [sic? or is it for Sugar in Cream?] for the other five blocks, thinking then I would knit them in some other quilty stitches, but now that a shower's slated for the intended recipient this month, I have a new plan. I like this new plan; I swear I didn't choose it for speed and ease, although I can't say my fingers will mind.

I'm going to knit the others in stockinette with the USM that I've only taken for practice runs. Yes, I have a knitting machine, purchased last summer when Knitty-editor Amy pointed me to a JoAnn online half-off coupon. I didn't even try the thing out until the holidays, but I think it's now time to put it to the test. While I had knit the variegated squares with a double strand of yarn (What was I thinking?), I want to knit these with one, even though the gauge will differ, but make them a double thickness. Why? So that I can duplicate stitch (forget intarsia!) letters on one side and numbers on the other, and hide the backwards characters between the layers. Of course, even as I type this it occurs to me that I don't have to be so teachy and could depict objects or critters or something other than the characters of communication, but, hey, I'm a writer, and the peanut's parents are English professors. One thing I lack is charts for said symbols. I can make my own, but if anyone has a great source to point out, I'm ready.