Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How Good Does That Feel?

I've finally climbed out of the frog pond and dried off a bit. The sleeves to the Bella sweater are finally coming together. True, this is the first lace pattern I've done, but it's not all that complicated. It seems to me if I can read the pattern I should be able to knit it. Even though I'm knitting both sleeves on one circular needle it shouldn't be so tough. For a pattern that shouldn't be so tough I swear I've made every rookie mistake that could be made. The first mistake was ending up with too few stitches on row 4, that was the first trip to the frog pond, next, I dropped stitches (twice), two more trips to the pond. The second time I decided I'd only re-knit the sleeve with the dropped stitches, but when I got to row 8 where I'd left off on the other sleeve I realized I'd left out the first row! Ugh, it was late, I was tired and I knew I should have chosen a mindless project rather than one of those "I've got to get this right" projects. So, alas, I went to the frog pond one more time - I frogged both sleeves and started fresh. It seems those practice starts were just what I needed because finally with the help of the 3 x 5 card per row method and some concerted concentration I've completed row 16 of the lace pattern. Heck, it only took about 6 or seven tries (I neglected to mention above that the first start was frogged because the post-it marker came off the pattern and I couldn't remember what row I was supposed to be on because I left it sit, alone and completely ignored in a paper bag for weeks).

My mother always said I was stubborn, but she never told me that my stubbornness would pay off with the rich rewards of having such a feeling of accomplishment. (Jumping up and down)

Would someone out there in cyberland please remind me that as a night time knitter I should never again knit an all navy blue sweater. (Sorry Tiff, I promise I'll finish it, but next time I'll choose a lighter color).

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Walnut Tree

This is a story I wrote in November 2003, which started out to be about the black walnut tree in this picture, but ended up being about my father-in-law who planted it.

The Tree
There are many trees that have been important in my life. The first to come to mind is the sassafras tree that grew next to the fence surrounding the acre of land where I was raised about seven miles outside of a small town in Michigan. That sassafras tree turned my world to yellow, gold, orange and red every autumn. I cried when lightning tore one of its limbs off and left it hanging like a broken arm. I never learned to climb that tree. I don’t recall if the lowest limbs were too high to reach, or the trunk too smooth to grasp, I just know of all the trees I climbed as a child, that wasn’t one of them. The choke cherry tree that grew right on the edge of our property line, back by the garden was my climbing tree. I climbed higher every year as my arms and legs grew longer and my fear grew less. Yes, that was my climbing tree! And the berries were just the right size for a pea shooter when they were green. Oh, how they stung when they hit. They were the perfect ammunition against my older sisters and brother who could run faster and hit harder. But when they ripened to a deep purple we set aside our "war" and worked together as we laid an old sheet under the tree and shook each limb as hard as we could. Because we knew Momma made the best choke cherry jelly from those little purple berries, and that jelly would fill our sandwiches and cover our toast all winter long, along with the elderberry jam from the bushes near the sassafras tree. Then there was the tree where my older sister taught me to hang from my toes. I think it was an oak tree. That was the same tree that provided shade for my daddy when he was working on one car or another. You’ve heard the term "shade tree mechanic," well, daddy truly was a shade tree mechanic, even though his real job was working for Sears and Roebuck. Then there were the two pine trees that hid our outhouse from view long after everyone else we knew had indoor plumbing, and there was the scrawny peach tree on our west property line that never did grow any peaches.
At school there were trees that lined most of the play yard of the one room country school we attended. That’s where the seventh and eighth grade boys put my brother during recess one time when he was about nine. Thus, his nickname "Squirrel" which he never did live down. They left him there when the bell rang and the teacher had to get him down. She never did find out who put him there. There was the big apple orchard just across the road and to the east from our house where we hunted mushrooms, and I caught poison ivy. The trees were old and didn’t produce very well, and the worms got about as many of those apples as we did. They weren’t good enough to sell at the market, so the owner let us have what we could eat. But my favorite apple tree was in the Sherman brothers’ field. It had large red apples with meat so white that the red skin dyed the meat pink in spots, and they were the sweetest of all the apples I remember. They were a variety of McIntosh apples I’m sure and I still favor them today. The Golden Delicious apple tree in my Aunt Ruey’s back yard was another favorite, both for the apples and for climbing. I’ve never tasted another Golden Delicious that had such a wonderful flavor, and Aunt Ruey made the best pies. That tree was also home to a wonderful rope swing that provided many hours of entertainment in the summers of my younger years. But the weeping willow tree in her neighbor’s yard, with its fronds allowed to grow to the ground was the most perfect place of all, the summer I was about eight. We held our "secret club" meetings there that summer. And that tree heard childhood secrets that we couldn’t share with adults.
As a young wife and mother my favorite tree was the crepe myrtle outside the dining room window of the small house in the country in the San Joaquin Valley in Northern California where we lived. It was the first crepe myrtle I’d seen up close and I was enthralled with every inch of it, from the curves of its trunk and the peeling bark to the intricate patterns of its smaller branches entwining, and covered with bright pink flowers. Our next door neighbor here has one and I’m still beguiled by it.
But the tree that means more to me today than any other stands in our own back yard. It started as one of a half dozen black walnuts picked up along a county road by my father-in-law. It is a county road that now serves as a frontage road for an Interstate highway. Its ancestors still stand, not quite as majestically as they probably did back then, but nonetheless, they remain. Tall dark sentinels against the blue sky, they line the old road. Aged and nearly barren, they look as though the hum of the traffic, and the smell of the exhaust of the thousands of cars that pass by each day has taken their toll. But our tree bears little resemblance to its ancestors. It had a beginning that one wouldn’t expect to be particularly productive. It was back in 1955 or 1956, no one seems to remember exactly which year, dad unceremoniously pushed a broom handle into the dirt to make holes and then dropped a walnut into each of them. Broom handles were stouter then than they are now, but even still a walnut that fit into a hole the size of a broom handle wouldn’t be expected to produce much of a tree, if they even grew. But grow they did, and dad pulled out all but the strongest one allowing that one to grow strong and tall. It is now some forty-eight years later, and that black walnut tree still stands guard over our back yard. It produces nuts with so little meat that no self respecting squirrel would waste the time to crack them, but it provides wonderful shade for our screened porch from the hot afternoon sun as it sets in the west. Over the years it has grown to a size unmatched by any of its ancestors. At chest height, its girth is an astounding 167-1/2 inches around. It’s height, unmeasured, towers close to if not more than 100 feet. Its limbs ever reaching for the skies have to be topped and its branches thinned every couple of years.
Each time I look at it, I’m amazed not only by its size, but by the differences and likeness to the man who planted it. He’s a man, not very large in stature, but with a heart that would seem more at home in a barrel chested longshoreman. He stands barely 5'8", with a hump at the shoulders that makes him appear shorter. I suppose most would describe his build as wiry, certainly of no comparison to the tree. The youngest of nine children, he was raised on a dairy farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He was the first bus driver for their one room country school while he was still a student himself. And like today’s mailman, neither rain, sleet, nor snow kept him from his appointed rounds. He served in the United States Army, migrated to California as a young man, and raised his children to be upstanding citizens. Yes, he comes from stock as tough as the wood in that black walnut tree, and in my eyes he stands just as tall! As sure as we can count on that tree to provide shade for our yard, so too, can we count on dad. He built the house I live in and much of what is in it with his own hands, he’s a genius with mechanical things, and he can figure out a solution to most any problem handed him. I love that huge black walnut tree, almost as much as I love the man who planted it.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Hydrangeas - more beautiful than the name

These Hydrangea plants have grown on the north side of our home for longer than we have lived here. My father-in-law built the house in 1949-50 and I've been part of the family since 1982, and they've grown here at least that long. There are only two plants here, but three distinct colors. The blue and pink are on the same plant while the purple is on the second plant.

These plants haven't bloomed well for several years, but we had an unusually abundant amount of rain this spring and it apparently was exactly what they needed. Or perhaps they just needed a rest. It seems I recall having dropped some fertilizer samples I was given around the base of them prior to the spring growth and that may also have given them a boost. Whatever it is they are beautiful this year.

It doesn't show particularly well, but if you look at the one to the right you will see the right side has a distinct purple tinge that the left side doesn't have. It is on yet a third plant that grows about 8 to 10 feet away from the others. On the flower below you'll see a similar tendency on a predominately blue flower, with the left side showing a tinge of the pink.

I doubt that this phenomenon is all that uncommon, but it is lovely and I wanted to share it with those of you who share my love of flowers.

Strangely, the bedroom whose window over looks these flowers is decorated with bedding that has hydrangeas (among other flowers) on it. I didn't notice that when I bought the bedding, but my youngest daughter who is very artistic noticed it immediately.

May all your gardens thrive so as to show the beauty God has so richly blessed us with.

One Skein Secret Pal Exchange

Ooooooh! I just can't help oooohhing and aaaaahhhhhing over the scrumptious yarn I received from my secret pal. I also can't thank her enough for it. She definitely nailed my preferences, not only in color but also in softness. The yarn is hand dyed Texas Big Horn, 55% mohair and 45% wool. It hasn't told me what it wants to be yet, but wouldn't it make a wonderful scarf done in the multi-directional pattern. I wonder if I can find another yarn with the same colors but more intense to alternate it with? The colors in this yarn are so much softer than they appear in the photo. My camera did a less than ideal job of photographing them. I tried it in several different lights, but this was as close as I could come.
Below, and at the bottom of the picture above, are stitch markers she made for me. They're made with vintage beads and again my camera just couldn't catch the beauty of the beads. They seem like you can almost see into them. The shape of them is just as exquisite as the color. They're on, what I assume is, very fine jewelers wire, and the quality of her workmanship definitely challenges the beauty of the beads. I can't wait to use them.

What a wonderful way to combine your love of bead work and knitting. Thanks L., I will always cherish them.

It seems my secret pal was also excited with the superwash wool I sent her, and she said the color was perfect for her. I'm glad. Now to find a skein of yarn for July's exchange. I already know what I'm going to make her for the August exchange.

Late last night I frogged the sleeves for the Bella cardigan one more time. I had finished the first pattern on sleeve #1 and was nearly done with it on sleeve #2 when I dropped a stitch which in turn caused a disaster below. First I tried just frogging one, but in the process of knitting it again, I forgot that I had put an extra row at the very beginning (that's the challenge of changing patterns). Because I want this sweater to be as good as I can possibly make it I decided to start fresh when I'm not tired and I will make it according to pattern without that extra row. It's a good thing I'm persistent! That is my knitting for tonight . . . I'm determined to get through that first pattern tonight, so wish me luck, and loan me some mojo.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Never saw a drowning victim I liked better!

This is it! The color in this picture isn't accurate, it's actually a darker navy color. But I'm jazzed about how well it turned out.

And already I have an idea for another purse, but I don't have enough wool yarn in a color I like. I'm not thrilled with the

mix of colors in this one - note the side of the purse in this photo - a little too pink for me.

I'd have liked it better if it were all the navy, but it was an experiment that I feel was about 99% successful. The size is nice, it's about 10" across at the base of the straps and about 6" deep at the lowest point. I've still got to put the magnetic clasp on.

Now to finagle enough yarn to do the one that is already knitted in my mind before I lose the urge to make it.

Good news on my sister's new cancer treatment. After the first treatment she had more energy than she has had in weeks! If nothing else it seems to be giving her a better quality of life and that's important! Daughter #1 is also doing well with her cancer treatments, but has a very long way to go with them. Chemo will continue to the first week of Sept. then she will begin radiation therapy, and after that a round of drug therapy. She is currently at home recovering from surgery to remove her ovaries. The plan is that she will return to work mid-month if all goes well.

Later this morning the two middle daughters will be arriving for a weekend visit. We're really looking forward to it as we see little of them due to school schedules and jobs.

OTN: I've re-started the lace sleeves to the Bella Cardigan with more luck this time. I'm using a 3x5 card method to keep track of the pattern and it seems to be doing the trick. I hope to get a few more rows of it done over the weekend while visiting with the girls.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Short Rows Bag drowns in hot water . . .

Here it is . . . The short rows bag ready for felting!
It's about 13 inches across where the strap joins the body and only 8 inches deep at the low center point. It may end up too small, but only the felting process will tell. The strap is 43" long and 1-1/2 inches around. It is currently in the washer drowning. I've a front loader so I added a very large towel and a half dozen tennis balls to aid in the agitation. Our water gets pretty hot so I'm hoping for a quick felting process, but I've never felted with 127 Print by Filatura Di Crossa.

Here is a close up of the detail of the yarn and stitch pattern. I plan to use a magnetic clasp if I can get it through the felted material. I expect I'll have to use something really sharp to cut it to get those little clips through. I was running out of yarn so I just sewed the bottom to the sides with an overcast stitch. Do you think it will hold?

I'm off to keep an eye on the washer. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Seven feet of Snake Scarf

The I-Cord Snake scarf is done. It is seven feet long and I love it! I will probably keep this for myself, though I usually end up giving away what I make. I'm planning to make gloves to match it so I'm pretty sure this scarf is a keeper.

Nearly done is the purse that started with inspiration from the Felted Circular Tote in the February 2006 issue of Knit 'n Style. Like always, I couldn't knit it exactly according to the pattern so I'm adding a strip that will become both the bottom and the strap of the bag. The bottom will hopefully be about 3 inches wide after felting, and at the point it becomes the handle it is a 5 stitch i-cord. I'm so bored with I-cord after doing it for the scarf and now also for the bag - I can see why it's called idiot cord. I also reduced the size of the bag a bit as I wanted a large purse not a tote bag. The yarn is 127 print by Filatura Di Crossa in colors #31 & 37. I may have to buy yet one more skein to finish it, and it looks like if I'm to buy it locally it may be yet a third color. The good thing about it is that there is a variegation in this yarn that is the same color in all of the three colors which ties them together. The felting process will mute the colors and make it an interesting mix. At worst, if I don't like it, I'll either give it to the first poor soul that says they do, or I'll use it as a project bag. At the least I'll have learned from the experience.

Of course whether I'll ever learn to find the pattern first and buy the yarn after is another question. I buy yarns that I like and I guesstimate how much yarn I'll need for what I think it wants to be when I choose it. Of course before I get to make anything it often tells me (shhh, listen and you'll hear it too!) it wants to be something completely different. If your yarn isn't talking to you it may be a teenager, they seldom talk to adults.

Today I stopped at my friend L's and went through her many books with baby patterns in them and found a pattern for a blanket I want to make for a family friend. Now I have to decide on color, or variegation, etc.
As yet the gender of the baby is unknown, so I'll probably wait a bit before making a decision.

Stitch 'n Bitch meeting was well attended with a total of 9 of us tonight. It has been down to as low as two of us, then 4 for a while so it's nice to see more of the ladies coming out. We have a lot of members on the yahoo group that seldom or never attend.

It's late, and I think I'm going to browse for a pattern and then head for bed.

I wish you all sunny days and restful nights.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wouldn't you just know it?

Just when the perfect yarn and pattern to match come together, I ordered the pattern as a pdf file to download on line and I received a damaged file that can't be repaired! So I emailed them, now I'm waiting to hear how they plan to solve this problem. In any case I still think it beats paying $5.50 to have a couple of pieces of paper mailed.

June is here, and I must start making the final decision of what to send my One Skein Secret Pal. A post here gave me only a very vague hint that my One Skein has been chosen so I can't wait to receive it! Whoo hoo! I love receiving presents in the mail. This one has got to be special if it was chosen by two artists. Bet it's yummy!