January 31, 2005


Ferals tonight! I'll be taking the Sandness, which has only about 6 rounds of ribbing completed. I woud take a photo, but I'm afraid you would misunderstand. You would see the photo, and you would think, Oh my, that woman is knitting the messiest corrugated rib I have ever seen! But in fact, this is no ordinary corrugated rib. Sandness calls for a 3 x 2 rib with a little pattern in it, a little candycane stripe, and six rounds is not enough for the pattern to really assert itself. So I'll just show you a photo later.

Yesterday, Scott and I took our parents out to dinner on Seattle's waterfront. For car knitting, I took Elfin. (I just don't think of Fair Isle knitting as being good travel knitting.) I have completed the shoulder shaping on three out of four of Elfin's shoulders! And am nearly ready to perform a three-needle bind-off to join the back shoulders to the fronts. (Dinner was very satisfying, both in terms of food, and in terms of enjoying time with our family.)

Ciao for now!

Posted by Karen at 04:48 PM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2005


My sister writes: "I wish you'd hurry up and finish Level III, then knit me an Aran sweater like Anne made." Sigh. I am just going to have to get my family trained to post in the comments.

What did I cast on for yesterday? The Sandness pullover, from Jamieson's Book 2. It's a Ron Schweitzer design; a Celtic key pattern in terra cotta colors against a dark blue background. And it's the only sweater Scott has ever asked me to knit for him.

The cast-on I used was the German twisted cast-on. June, of the Feral Knitters group, showed it to me a few months back. But I really needed to practice it in the privacy of my own home. It is not a difficult cast-on, but, as with anything new, I had to concentrate when I tried it for the first time. Then, last weekend, when I was in Portland with Anne, the German twisted cast-on was the one she used for Mossbank. There's an article about this cast-on by Meg Swansen in the most recent Vogue Knitting.

The German twisted cast-on is just like a long-tail cast-on, but with one additional flick of the wrist -- which results in a bit more yarn being incorporated into the stitch than if you were using the usual long-tail. More yarn, hence, more elasticity in that cast-on edge.

How did my guesstimate come out so accurately? I just reeled off, willy-nilly, what I thought would be approximately four times the width. And this time it worked.

The sweater is only a few rows into the ribbing -- nothing photo-worthy, just yet.

Posted by Karen at 08:28 PM | Comments (2)

January 26, 2005


-- when your guesstimated length of yarn to use for a long-tail cast-on comes out with only six inches to spare. On the first try.

And what could make this day even better than to finally get to share with you the pictures from our cruise:

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Nassau. Scott in front of "our" cruise ship. The water there was bright teal blue -- the same color as the tropical flavor of Gatorade.

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Key West. Lars, holding the NY Times article recommending restaurants and sights in Key West, tries to get his bearings, while Marianne tries to steer us to that tapas restaurant.

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Key West. Me, petting but obviously not picking up one of the 61 cats at Hemingway Home.

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Dinner at sea. Karis poncho travels well. Love that Kidsilk Haze!

Swan sighting, Part I. Lalique Store, Nassau.

Swan sighting, Part II. Cruise ship stateroom.

Posted by Karen at 10:04 AM | Comments (2)

January 24, 2005


On Saturday, I drove through pouring Washington rain to Portland, Oregon. No matter the downpour -- I was on a mission to deliver to my Knit-bud Anne the yarns for Mossbank and Saga Rose. When I got to the Columbia River, the skies lifted, and it was clear weather all the rest of the way.

I've known Anne from Portland for several years, ever since the two of us were working on Level II at the same time. We've been roomies at the retreat in Gig Harbor several years in a row; we even attended the TKGA National Knitting Convention when it was held in Branson, Missouri in 2000. While I've continued to moan and groan about Level II, she's gone on to finish Level II (and pass!), as well as knit many, many, many garments.

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These materials Anne is posing with are the elements of her Master Knitter Level III submission. She designed and knitted the gorgeous Aran sweater you see in the foreground; likewise, the tam that the teddy bear is wearing at left; the binder Anne is holding is full of the swatches showing various techniques required by TKGA's program. (Sorry that the tam doesn't show up better in the photo. As per the Master Knitter requirements, one designs and knits an Aran sweater and a Fair Isle hat -- or a Fair Isle sweater and an Aran hat. Due to the resolution on my camera and the subtle coloration of the tam, it is not looking its Fair Isle best, here. Trust me, though, Anne changed foreground and background colors on every row of the tam, and it was every bit as gorgeous as the Aran sweater.)

Anne was gracious enough to hold off on mailing her Level III materials until I'd had a chance to paw them, ooh and aah over them. She mailed them today. You and I both know that she's just moments away from Master Knitter status. She believes, though, that the committee will make some pro forma request that she re-do some swatch(es); if that does happen, I'm sure it would be merely a formality, just to make sure one jumps through the hoops. It is darned hard to find fault with her knitting.

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Anne's fifteen-year-old daughter has been knitting for as long as I've known the two of them. In the past, Deborah has knitted cat toys and simple scarves, and has had a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward knitting. But recently, she's caught the knitting fever. She's churning out elbow-length, fingerless gloves for her classmates in high school. In this picture, she's working on a knitted dress (pattern from the premiere issue of the Vogue Knitting knit.1 magazine). You can see the back piece of the dress laid out on the couch at her side, and what Deb's presently knitting is the front. Anne says, "She's fearless. Who'd knit a dress?" But, with a mother as prolific and technically sophisticated a knitter as hers, Deborah's fearlessness just runs in the genes. (I took this photo Sunday morning; Anne e-mailed me Sunday evening to let me know that Deb had finished the dress.)

Over the weekend, while Anne cast on for Mossbank and completed half of the corrugated rib, I worked on the sock I am designing for my daughter Jennie.

I also compared my Level II Master Knitter swatches against Anne's. Not to brag, but my knitting does have tremendously even tension -- only because I hold my yarn in a death grip. Many of my Level II swatches look passable. But oh! that darned argyle sock defeats me every time. My current argyle sock has some odd and uncharacteristically uneven tensioning on one side. This uneven tension I'd attributed to laying aside the project for a week with my needles still in it. But Anne diagnosed it (correctly, I'm sure, after close inspection, also known as nearly-surgical probing with a cable needle) as a matter of an inadvertent short row.... Well, I guess I won't be submitting that sock for my Level II argyle.

Posted by Karen at 06:30 PM | Comments (5)

January 21, 2005


We returned home from Florida last Sunday, to find:

(1) Yes, indeed, the gizmo for the horse trough had kept the water warm throughout those freezing days and nights while we were gone,

(2) The cold spell breaking and the weather changing to balmy (highs in the upper 40s and low 50s) but seriously rainy -- the kind of rain that Seattle is steroetyped for,


(3) When I went to turn on my computer, it kept asking me for my password. Not that I didn't remember my password, mind you. And when I checked the prompt for the password, I discovered an unfamiliar question. It seems a certain 11-year-old member of my household had decided to change my password while I was away. And what did she change it to?


So now you know.

I've got lots of vacation photos I wanted to share with you, but the best of them are in Scott's fancy camera and I can't seem to download them in order to upload them. I've been thinking all week that Scott would get around to helping me. But he hasn't, and I can't keep you waiting any longer. So here's what I have, from my own camera:

After our cruise ship docked in Miami, we rented a car and drove across the state to Naples, Florida, where we stayed with

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Kitty and

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Tillie (here seated on the lap of Stacy). Tillie is a Jack Russsell terrier, and Kitty is a rescued barn cat who seems to have acclimatized well to Florida, don't you think?

Stacy is the woman from whom we got both our horse Mugsy and Mugsy's best friend and our lawn ornament, Chase. (Chase is a 12-year-old thoroughbred who has tendon problems and can't be ridden. But he helps to keep the pasture mown, here.) Stacy and her husband bought a winter home in Florida last year, thinking to stay 6 months in Florida, 6 months in the Pacific Northwest -- and they haven't been back to the PNW since!

Joining us for dinner that evening also were a couple who have an awning business in Naples. Scott and I met them at the awning convention in Pittsburgh last October. The convention's finale was a fancy-dress banquet, where I immediately gravitated toward Darlene, who was wearing a stole she'd knitted from Touch Me chenille. It was her first knitting project! And it was the only hand-knitted garment that I spotted at the banquet that evening (since my poncho was not done in time).

We said we'd keep in touch, so when Scott and I had the opportunity to visit Florida, particularly the Naples area where Stacy and her husband live, we looked up Darlene and her husband Mark. Mark's company manufactures awnings and also very beautiful railings and other welded architectural appointments, the kinds of detailing that you typically see on buildings like banks or condominiums. Downtown Naples is a small, elegant area, and all the buildings seemed brand-spanking new. After dinner, Mark gave us a walking tour, showing off the awnings over outdoor restaurants and the railings on banks and other buildings, all jobs built by his company, all of the welding of the highest craftsmanship. Scott, not to be outdone, couldn't resist dragging our party of six into the downtown Naples Starbucks, to show off the signage inside the store that was screen-printed by his company.

Back home, it's been a busy week for knitting. Monday evening, Allegra and I attended the Feral Knitters. Here's Allegra, modeling some beautiful beaded wrist warmers that Feral Andrea had knitted from Koigu:

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And here's Devorah, who considers herself a beginner at Fair Isle knitting, and who made this mitten and is in the process of making this glove:

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Certainly she has graduated from beginner status. I foresee a steek in her future.... Devorah also knitted this tam, using Jamieson's Spindrift (available at your favorite online yarn store and mine, Two Swans):

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The new Two Swans website went live on Tuesday. I felt equal parts excitement and anxiety -- would everything work properly?

I've been working with a young woman, Angela, who is very smart, a professional website designer, and who is not a knitter (yet!). I told her the kinds of things I wanted visitors to the site to be able to do, and she figured out how to make it all happen. Of course, what looked like a simple, 2-week job back last October expanded into a 3-month project. For me, this is always the case: Things always take longer than I think they will.

When the site went live, it did turn out that some things needed fine-tuning. And Angela and I are fine-tuning, still. (For instance, the rewards points -- we were quite sure that we had installed them, but they turned up missing. I'm working on adding them now. If you are someone who earned rewards points in the last three days, don't worry -- I'll get them added for you.) But overall, the site is working and I am very pleased with it. And Angela may have been too busy building the site to take up knitting just yet, but she is definitely a Kidsilk Haze aficionado!

Wednesday night was Guild, and the funniest moment was during Show n Share, when a young woman stood up to introduce herself and said, I've only been knitting since last November, and I've made 20 scarves.

This weekend, I am going to Oregon to visit my friend Anne, a veritable knitting phenomenon. She's ordered some yarns from me, and I am going to hand-deliver them.

Posted by Karen at 07:32 PM | Comments (4)

January 13, 2005


We've been on a four-day cruise of the Caribbean, departing from Miami, with stops at Nassau (the Bahamas), CocoCay (an island owned by Royal Caribbean cruise lines), and Key West. Today was our day in Key West.

On the cruise, we are part of a party of 40 people, all in the awning business. Some of the people we have known for years and count among our friends; others are people we are meeting for the first time; still others are people we've seen around at awning conventions but haven't gotten to know before.

Lars and Marianne are in the first group. They are originally from Sweden but now live in upstate New York; we keep in touch with them throughout the year. Lars brought with him on the cruise a recent article from the travel section of the New York Times that listed places of interest in Key West. He's determined to take us off the beaten path and show us a less touristy side of Key West.

It takes forever to get off the cruise ship because every person on board has to clear customs before any one of us can debark. Inevitably, there are several people who have to be individually paged, more than once, and instructed to report to the customs agents. (While our awning group numbers 40, the total number of passengers on the cruise is about 2500. It takes all morning to clear customs.)

Then our little group of 10 sets off with Lars leading us, holding his article from the NY Times. (Others in our larger party of 40 have made other sightseeing arrangements for their day.) The morning overcast and mist have burned off and it is sunny and hot. We walk and walk and walk. Periodically we stop and some of the men in the group have animated discussions with Lars about how to read the NY Times map, or about which street we are on, or about whether we should just stop at the next pub on the next corner and call it good. Lars insists that we are going to eat some tapas and see Old Town, and to just bear with him.

We have walked a few blocks south of the main tourist street (Duval Street), but seem to be doubling back in the direction from whence we came. Many loud protests go up from our group. We are hot, tired, sweaty, hungry. And then, suddenly and dramatically, Lars points to our left: There's the Lighthouse Museum! Some of us want to just cross the street and go into the Lighthouse, but Lars marches on. And then, on our right, there's Hemingway's old house. "See? See?" Lars says. "Didn't I tell you I would show you the sights?"

And still we are walking, in search of this tapas restaurant. A couple of intersections later, there's a man -- obviously not a tourist -- who's waiting to cross the street. Lars shows this man the NY Times map and asks, "Which direction do we want to go?" Although the obvious answer would be left, or south, the man says to us: "You don't want to go down there."

"Why not?"

"That's Key West's ghetto."

We have the address for the restaurant. Scott, Lars, and the man walk to the right, or north, looking at the numbers on the buildings. Clearly, we need to go left, or south, through Key West's ghetto. The ghetto? The couple from New Jersey scoff -- this ain't no ghetto.

We proceed on to the restaurant, going about four blocks through an area that clearly isn't prospering. We pass a laundromat, a Cuban diner, a little boy riding a scooter, cars whose Laundau vinyl roofs are peeling off. The middle of the street is torn up for construction. Three blocks into this neighborhood, we see a sign, hand-lettered on plywood: Santiago's -- one more block. As Scott said later, If anything, that sign gave me even less confidence that we were going anywhere good.

Santiago's Bodega is on the corner -- an old house brightly re-painted and converted to a restaurant. Three roosters are scratching in the grass in the front yard. We arrive at 11:30 and are the only customers. (After days of eating meals on the cruise ship, we welcome the feeling of having this place to ourselves.) The friendly blonde waitress greets our sweaty, hungry, grumbling group. She pulls together some tables and seats us, then fixes us up with a big pitcher of sangria, and big blue bottles of sparkling water from Saratoga Springs which makes the New Yorkers in our group laugh. We are willing to try anything on the menu, and she arranges with the kitchen that we receive a variety of plates. Spicy shrimp bisque, dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto, beef tenderloin topped with blue cheese butter, spanakopita, dolmas. The dishes keep rolling out. Iceberg lettuce wedges with tomatoes and blue cheese dressing, Greek salad, peppered grouper. All of the little bites add up, and we are satiated by meal's end. Sometimes you just have to go off the beaten path, we all agree, and the waitress agrees with us.

While the rest of our group went for other sightseeing for the rest of the afternoon, Scott and I retrace our steps to the Hemingway Home.

The sign at the ticket booth says, Please do not pick up the cats. Intrigued, I watch for the first glimpse of a cat. After we've toured the main house, our tour guide takes us outside to a little brick patio. About five cats are lying on the ground and on wrought iron patio furniture, all of them looking stoned from the heat. There are 61 cats in all on the property, our tour guide says. I petted the tortoiseshell one on the chair, but was careful to not pick him up. They all are descendents of Snowball, Hemingway's white, polydactyl (multi-toed) cat, the tour guide says; they all are named in the style in which Hemingway named his cats: Buster Kitten, Charlie Chaplin, etc.

The Hemingway Home is peaceful. The grounds are shaded with mature trees, and there are paths and benches tucked away here and there. The tour guide invites us to spend as much time on the grounds as we like. Even though there are a few other tourists on the property, the overall feeling of quietude was a welcome relief from the bustle of Key West's Duval Street.

What I have picked up is a lace shawl I started five years ago. I brought it with me on this trip, but am not anywhere near to finishing it, and have knitted just a few rows each day.

We return to Miami tomorrow, and will drive to Naples, Florida, to visit friends.

Posted by Karen at 05:01 PM | Comments (2)

January 07, 2005


There are those who want the latest, most fancy gadgets. They think every labor-saving device is worth acquiring. They'll use a -- or even write their own -- fancy computer program to generate a schematic for a knitting design. And then there are others who do things the old-fashioned way, who will use graph paper and colored pencils to map out a knitting design. These latter figure that, while the fancy gadget might save labor, there is some time lost and frustration accrued in learning to use the thing -- and, something more lost with the loss of the hands-on process.

I'll admit that another block that I stumble over, between the middle of a knitting project and its completion, is when the knitting gets into an area requiring some major increasing or decreasing. (I echo comments made by Ryan and Janine on this topic.) Any portion that requires a lot of concentration and a tally sheet, that's the occasion that I am likely to put it aside and start something new. Often, it's a decision made on the fly, on the way somewhere, when I want to be able to knit in public. Because a new project will be small enough to be portable, and not require too much concentration (after the cast-on), that one will be a public knitting project. And so it goes -- one old project slated to become a private project dropped in favor of one new, public-knitting one.

I do use tally sheets. I don't have any fancy row counters, or spreadsheets on a PDA, for tracking how many I've accomplished in a sequence of "decrease once every third row, then twice every fourth row, for 19 rows."

But then, you knew that a woman who carried a teakettle of hot water out to the horse trough to melt the ice would be a paper-and-pencil kind of woman, didn't you?

As our cold spell has continued, the horses have, of course, drank down the water in their trough. The hose at the barn is frozen, so any water added to the trough must be carried to it and poured in. So I've graduated from one tea kettle to several 15-quart pails each morning. (This is not a complaint, or anything unusual. Have done this in years past and expect to do this in years future.)

Yesterday morning, it snowed for a good hour, and I went into a flurry of activity. First there was the carrying of the hot water. Amidst that was the realization that carrying water out to the barn daily -- through mud and muck, through the gauntlet of curious, nuzzling horses -- was a lot to ask of a housesitter. For a week. During a time when the weather forecasts promise colder and nastier weather.

The snow was sticking to the roads a short time later as I drove to the local feed store to pick up some bags of grain and this little gadget:

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A tank de-icer. It fits into the water trough and is thermostatically controlled. It kicks on when the water cools to 40 degrees. Prevents ice from forming.

Out of the box, it looked like this:
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The first words out of Scott's mouth when he saw it were: "Some assembly required."

And then the light of recognition went on. We were in the barn at the time, and he went over to a shelf and pulled down just the same gizmo. Only this one was assembled, not quite so shiny and new, and had a few cobwebs on it. "The Smiths left us one," he said. "They had one, and they left it behind when they moved."

The Smiths had even left an extension cord tacked to the beams across the barn ceiling. All we had to do was to plug the cord into the nearest electrical outlet, plug the tank de-icer into the extension cord and drop it into the tank.

Oh, these modern conveniences.

Funny how we didn't put two-and-two together before this. Why was there a bright orange extension cord across the beams of the barn? What was that gizmo there on the shelf collecting cobwebs? Why did we not figure this out during last year's ice storm? (Well, because we liked to chop ice, carry water, that's why.)

I feel better knowing that the housesitter will now only have to fill the tank perhaps once or twice while we are gone, and that neither the water nor the hose will freeze.

But I feel the loss, as well, of that pail-carrying duty.

Quite unrelated in specific event, but definitely related thematically, was this: Scott and I were quoting Henry David Thoreau's Walden to each other over dinner this evening: "I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately...." (Read over that first chapter, "Economy," and then get back to me on whether Thoreau would have bought a tank de-icer.)

Knitting-wise: I got to meet with my Master Knitter Wannabe group from Seattle Knitters Guild this afternoon. I arrived with my binder of swatches and my copy of the big Vogue book of knitting, ready to talk seriously about seaming. And we did discuss the program, among lots and lots of other things, and just generally catching up with each other after the holidays. Two of them had gone to Florida in December, interestingly enough, and had knowledge of climate and geography to pass along to me for my trip next week.

Posted by Karen at 09:32 PM | Comments (3)

January 05, 2005


New Year's is my favorite holiday. I love all of that "out with the old, in with the new" attitude. I am the kind of person who usually makes a long list of resolutions. (And I can hear the cynical among you snickering, so let me hasten to add: Yes, I do work on them and accomplish some of them.)

This year, I've hardly had a moment to think about what my resolutions would be. I do know that there are a couple of knitting projects that I want to finish up, and that I want to focus on getting the Master Knitter requirements completed.

One project I pulled out of the closet yesterday to finish is this tank top. It is from a Reynolds pattern, and has eyelets in the front that form a "V." I substituted yarn, did the math to re-calculate gauge, and knitted the thing in the round. (I have never been the sort of knitter who varied from the pattern this way -- this is, like, a major step in my knitting career.) I know that I started this project in late summer, and thought I might finish it while we had an Indian summer. I got past the underarm shaping, when I broke from knitting in the round to working the back and front separately. But the cool weather was upon us in September, and I put the project away.

What, am I crazy? you are thinking. Just yesterday you were writing about how heavy the frost is and how inspired you are to knit wool sweaters. There's frost again today, and snow is predicted for tomorrow. Why are you working on a tank top now?

Scott and I are going on a trip to Florida next week, so an opportunity to wear this top is on the horizon. Finishing up this project seems not so crazy, after all. (Yes, we will have a house-sitter, pet-sitter, babysitter staying here.)

The act of pulling this tank top out of the closet gave me cause to think about why it is that some projects get only so far, and then get put away. Yes, the weather changed, and that was part of my reason for putting it away. But you can see the real stumbling block in this photo --


I had only a few yards left on the ball of yarn I was using, and would have had to stop knitting to wind another hank! And somehow, I resisted putting that hank on the swift. Is that not laughable? I didn't want to wind the yarn, so I put the knitting project away.

Dear Reader, what's gotten in the way of your finishing your projects?

The few yards I had left on the old ball were enough to knit two more rows. The hank I wound last night was one of those awful ones where I had to stop every few minutes and de-tangle. No wonder I resisted. Now I'm full steam ahead on the pattern direction that says: Knit armhole straight for 5 inches.

Posted by Karen at 08:10 AM | Comments (9)

January 04, 2005


This is the chop wood, carry water issue of Ideaphoria.

After an unseasonably warm December, we've had a heavy frost yesterday and today. It is cold enough for the horses' water trough to freeze over. So in the mornings, I fill up a teakettle with very hot water, and go out to the trough on the north side of the barn. I pour the hot water over the ice to melt some of it. I break off what ice I can and get as much of it out of the trough for as long as my little fingers can stand to be submerged in the icy water. Then stir the rest of the water so that the ice doesn't re-form right away. If this chore doesn't make you feel awake and alive, I don't know what will.

You can see a white rim of ice on the trough, artistically framed in this photo by Mugsy's neck:
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Mugsy was disappointed that the tea kettle had only water -- he was expecting a treat!

This is the kind of weather that inspires the knitting of warm wool sweaters.

I don't have much to report in the way of knitting. I have been dedicating my recent days to the Two Swans website, busting my rear to get the Harris yarns listed there, and to get the other improvements in place. Soon. Very soon you'll be able to see these changes.

Posted by Karen at 09:14 AM | Comments (1)