Miscellaneous Musing by Judy @ 8:47 AM
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I’ve never been fond of report cards. When I was a kid, I hated bringing my report card home for my parents to sign. And it wasn’t that my grades were bad or anything, usually. I just always dreaded it.

I think it stems from my very first report card. The principle of the grade school (private, Catholic, nuns, etc.), was also the first grade teacher. Before handing out our very first report cards, Sister explained to all of the children in my class what report cards were and that we were to take them home to our parents for their signature. And, she added, if her signature weren’t on our report card, that meant that she needed to meet with our parents because we were poor students and not doing well in school and something needed to be done.

Then she passed out our report cards.

And mine was not signed.

I was so afraid to show it to my parents. I held my six-year-old self together pretty well until school ended and I got to Mama’s car. Can I see your report card? Mama asked. And then I lost it. Totally. I started sobbing inconsolably because I’d flunked. I was a poor student and not doing well in school and something needed to be done.

What’s that matter? Mama asked.

I’m a [sob] b-b-b-b-ad st-st-student. You and daddy have to m-m-m-eet with S-s-s-s-ister [sniff] ‘c-c-c-ause I’m not doing w-w-w-w-ell. [sob sniff sob]

This is a very good report card! Mama said. You got all A’s and B’s. You did fine!

B-b-b-but it’s [sob sob sob] NOT SIGNED! and Sister said that meant [sniff sob] it was BAD!

Telling my younger brother and the neighbor kids to stay in the car or else — we carpooled in the days before seatbelts, so there were a gaggle of children in our station wagon — Mama marched me into Sister’s office and demanded to know why my card wasn’t signed.

I must have just missed it when I was signing the stack. Sister said. Of course Judy is doing fine! I will sign her card right now.

Even though Mama explained to me several times that she knew I had not actually flunked because my grades were OK, I’m not sure I felt much better or ever really believed, deep down, that it had all been a mistake. And there was that lower mark for Deportment. I did so like to chat with my little first grade friends — usually when Sister thought we should be learning something.

Traumatized, I tell you gentle reader, and scarred for life.

So you will understand why I was not looking forward to taking a test this week. A test that I stupidly made a goal on which I will be evaluated at work. A test that, I learned after making it a goal, was both extremely hard and not very relevant to what I’m doing.

Oh. Great.

Now, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m a pretty good test taker, especially if the test is multiple choice. With those tests, there are usually a couple of choices that are obviously not correct, so it’s not all that hard to pick out the right answer. But I haven’t taken tests for a long time. So I studied really, really hard (that’s part of where I’ve been instead of here). Yesterday I arrived promptly at the test-taking site, where all of my worldly possessions were locked up because this was not an open book test and I was escorted to a room with cameras where I would be monitored for the entire time. And it was hard. It was probably one of the hardest tests I’ve ever taken. The multiple choice questions said pick two or pick three. And they all looked wrong. Or they all look right. Sometimes they even all looked the same. I marked a bunch of questions for review, and then went back and changed them. Which I think may, in retrospect, not have been the smartest thing to do.

Technology is such a wonderful thing. I got my grade right away.

I missed passing by three questions out of 86. [sob sniff] And then I had to confess to my boss that I did not do well in school.

Before taking the test, I had discussed my misgivings with my boss and even located a different test that’s given in a more relevant way and covers more relevant material. And it was mutually agreed that, should I not do that well, plan B would be put in motion. So this weekend I need to take another test. But it’s a test that, while it is difficult, I already know I can pass.

So this whole sordid affair will soon be over.

And I can get back to knitting and blogging. 😀

First, just a bit of non-yarn-related info: #1 Son has managed to purchase the ticket for his out-of-the-country trip in January. Of course, he has absolutely no money left and will have to live on water and the good graces of others, but he has 30 days left to figure out how to earn a little spending money. I am, actually, quite proud of him.

In more yarn-related news, I really, really want to show you pictures of the Pacific Northwest Shawl, but the weather refuses to cooperate. As I type this, it is snowing gently and the light is completely flat. According to the weatherpeople, we are expecting a humongous storm later this weekend. But one site reports the chance of scattered sun this afternoon. Should that happen, I will run quickly out and snap as many pics as I can in the hope that I will get one or two worth sharing. But even inside, there’s just no light.

Ann in Richmond mentioned that I had the presence of mind to record the whole repairing-the-GGG process. In reality, after standing across the room, swearing in abject horror, the first thought that really came to mind was I so need to blog this. I grabbed my camera before even edging in for a closer look. How sadly geeky does that make me?

But all of this is not what I really want to talk to you about today.

The Knitter's Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn

All knitterly creation stems from one simple element: yarn. It is the baker’s flour, the jeweler’s gold, the gardener’s soil. Yarn is creation, consolation, and chaos all spun together into one perfect ball. It’s a simple concept, twisting fibers together into a continuous thread of yarn. But the variety of fibers, blends, and spins is truley infinite. So is our relationship with yarn. We love it, we covet it, we are knocked senseless by it. Yet sometimes we are baffled, thwarted, and betrayed by it.

Clara Parkes (of Knitter’s Review fame) begins her wonderful new book, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn, with that lovely, evocative paragraph.

I immediately wanted to know more. And more. And more.

Want to know how wool and silk are the same (or different)? Where cashmere comes from? What the term worsted really means? Why silk sometimes stinks and how to de-stink it? How viscose is made? What’s good about acrylic? It’s all here. Section 1 contains a ton of information about all of the different fibers, from angora to yak, the special properties of each and how to evaluate them.

Not a spinner? (note: I am not) Never been up close and personal with a llama? Section 2 explores how yarn, from indie to mass-marketed, is prepared, spun and dyed and where you can get organic and minimally processed yarns and fibers in all stages of preparedness.

There is a whole chapter on pills. Not the kind you swallow here, gentle reader, but the kind that form on sweaters (and hats and blankets and scarves and…). Parkes not only explains what to do to remove pills, but also why they form in the first place and how to evaluate a yarn to determine its pill potential. I now have a much better idea of why my Noro Silk Garden jacket always pills like there’s no tomorrow, but my Noro Kochoran sweater, although it is much fluffier and fuzzier, does not.

from Cabled Tea Cozy
from Cabled Tea Cozy

Section 3 begins with an exploration of plies, and why we as knitters care. Starting with single-ply yarn and continuing through various numbers of mutiple-plies, Parkes explains how the twists cause the yarn to behave and how knitters can work with that behavior. Following the guidelines here, knitters can match yarns and patterns that will work together. Did you know that simply rewinding a skein of single-ply yarn will stop its tendency to bias in stockinette stitch? I didn’t either, but Parkes explains how and why. Following the chapters on plies are chapters on cabled yarns, textured yarns, and neat things like boucle and chenille. Section 3 ends with a chapter on why yarns felt, why sometimes they won’t, and how to get the best felting results.

Every chapter in Section 3 includes patterns, and every pattern includes a note from the designer about how the yarn was chosen to work with that pattern. And what designers! This is a who’s-who list, gentle reader. Knitters from adventurous beginner to experienced knit-guru will all find patterns here to pique their interest. There are one-skein quickies and lace, blankets and sweaters, bags and socks. You will want to knit them all. Or at least I do.

The book ends with a reference section. How to take care of your yarn, with special notes on different fibers. Determining WPI and yardage requirements. The standard yarn-weight numbering system vs. the older non-standard systems (i.e. #1 = sock / fingering / baby), along with typical gauges and recommended needles for each. A list of abbreviations, including how-to instructions. A recommended reading list; designer bios and a glossary.

I love yarn. I love all the yarns. I love to gaze and fondle and squeeze and pet and smell. Even yarns I would never in a millions years knit with, I love. The Knitter’s Book of Yarn is devoted to such sheer fibery knowledge, with tons of gorgeous yarn-pr0ny pictures, that my inner yarn-geek is fed in the best possible way and I want to just grab my nearest needles and start knitting up a storm.

This book instantly earned a prominent place on my reference shelf.

We can’t all be yarn whisperers, but with The Knitter’s Book of Yarn in hand, we can at least understand our yarn and learn to work with an appreciate it even more than we already do (if that is possible).

The book ends perfectly: Let the journey begin.

Rockin' Sock Club by Judy @ 8:01 AM

Lenore has arrived
Lenore has arrived

Hurry up!

Or at least that’s what I hear it saying.

A raven landed in my mailbox a couple of day ago, courtesy of the Rockin’ Sock Club. Isn’t this just yummy? It’s a little preview of the new Raven colorways that will be available at Blue Moon starting on November 5th. This is Lenore. I love, love, love what Tina has done with these rich, dark, colors. Believe me, the picture does not begin to do justice to the rich maroon and dark gray and black.

I even like the pattern this time. 😉

The pattern is by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. It’s a top-down lace pattern. But, after perusing the chart closely, I don’t see any reason why it can’t be knit toe-up. I’m going to swatch the lace at the top of the leg to make sure. But it’s a good chance that there are a pair of Lenore in my near future.

But first I have to finish the baby sweater. And, thanks to the encouragement of the PDX Knit Bloggers at the Monday gathering last night, I’m almost there! I just have to bind off about 1/2 of the trim, and then weave the ends. Piece of cake!

Knitting by Judy @ 8:14 AM

heel gone wrong
heel gone wrong

A bit of truth in knitting — not every experiment has a happy ending. Some are downright, er… heelish.

It started out innocently enough. I wanted a two-stitch band in the center of the heel to flow into the scale pattern where the heel joins the leg. And I wanted a scale on the heel to match where I was in the scale pattern on the foot. So I started wondering what Eye Of Partridge stitch would look like on the diagonal. Then I thought it would be cool if the EOP swooped around the scale and followed its shape.

See how quickly things can get out of control?

The red line follows a column of EOP stitches as they swoop up around the scale at the top of the heel flap. It looks sort of cool, but doesn’t have enough diagonal-ness. The color changes caused by the EOP slipped stitches obscure the directionality.

And then there’s that weird bump caused by the increase/decrease pair that starts the scale.

And then there’s that wonky corner caused by the decreases that force the EOP to run diagonally.

Ick.

a Simpsonized #1 Son
a Simpsonized #1 Son

This heel is making its way to the great frog-pond in the sky, while I try to decide what I really want to do here.

I might try a regular slipped-stitch heel-stitch. It would be more strongly diagonal. And if I pulled it up into the ankle until the next scale started on the leg… that might look cool.

I’m not sure about the weird bump and the wonky corner. But they may block out. Or maybe I just need to have a more strongly vertical stitch or two at the side.

Hmmm…. must think about this…

On another note, I was having so much fun Simpsonizing myself, that I decided to Simpsonize #1 Son, too. No word yet on whether he appreciates my efforts.

And on a completely different note, New Pathways For Sock Knitters, Cat Bordhi’s new book, appeared in my mailbox last night. Gentle reader, you need this book. I promise to do a proper review soon, when I can carve out time to do it justice. For now, I will say that the book is gorgeous, and Cat’s new architectures are wild and cool and I now have socks running all around in my brain, and if I didn’t have such a hard-and-fast rule about finishing pairs of socks, the dragon scale socks and their heelish wonkiness may have found themselves instantly abandoned.

And I, being a total dork, keep peeping at page 22. I haven’t seen my name in print since I won honorable mention in a poetry contest I didn’t know I’d entered in the 6th grade, and the local paper printed the winners (and thus I found out I’d entered). I’m so honored to be included in something so beautiful.

greenglog-trees.jpg
not so globby, but still green

Last weekend wasn’t all Harry Potter. I did take a little time out now and again to work on the Great Green Glob. I finished the pine trees and the sand dollars. Next up is the water. Then bubbles. Then fish. Then one border. Then another one. Then some I-cord. And it keeps on getting bigger and bigger.

Some of it looks a little wonky in the picture. In person, the seagulls are flying straight and the trees line up and the sand dollars are round. I didn’t do that great a job pinning it out for this picture. I really need blocking wires to keep it straight. But, it’s really not nearly as wonky as it looks.

Since birth, the Great Green Glob has lived on a variety of needles. It’s currently on an Addi Lace needle. I really, really, really love those needles. I can’t imagine a better needle for lace — and that include the Knitpicks needle that the Great Green Glob was on previously.

Knitting bouts were but brief interludes. UPS (do those guys have great legs, or what?) delivered my preordered copy of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows at about 11:00 AM on Saturday.

In grade school I used to drive my reading teachers nuts. My reading habits used to drive my Mama nuts, for that matter. As I child, I always had my nose stuck in a book, no matter what else I might be doing at the time. But… confessions, now… I rarely read a book from front to back. I read them back to front. I read them front, then back, then middle. I start randomly in the middle and read towards both ends at the same time. I skip around. If the author skips from character to character, letting one rest for several chapters, I will skip ahead to find out what happens to that character and then go back to catch up to the others.

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

So… I will admit it. I read the last part first because I didn’t want to wade through 750 pages to find out. Then I started back at the beginning, with a resolve to read it cover to cover, no cheating. And I kept my resolve.

Risking being branded a heretic, I will say that I think the beginning was a bit of a slog. But somewhere around the middle, the action picks up considerably. I don’t think that knowing parts of the ending made the middle part any less exciting. I was turning pages quickly and reading fast and I couldn’t wait to get to the next part. The last 1/2 of the book was definitely a good read.

I will not give anything away here, never fear. If you want to start at the end of the book… you’re on your own. I found the ending satisfying. For one who cut her teeth on fantasy, it wasn’t all that surprising (again, this does not imply I don’t think it was a fun read). But it was satisfying. Ends were tied up, questions were answered, etc. I give it star.gifstar.gifstar.gifstar.gifstar-half.gif

Now… on to other things.

What do you think you would get, gentle reader, if you crossed Yahoo Groups, My Space and Widipedia, then added yarn? Well, I’m not sure exactly either, but I’m betting it would look a whole lot like Ravelry. I know you’ve probably heard enough about this already. But, no matter if you don’t plan on organizing yourself, this is a terrific tool. If you haven’t already, go and get yourself in line for an invitation. And there’s a new feature where you can look yourself up and see where you are in the list. I know that people are being sent invitations just as quickly as possible. I waited 3 months for mine. It’s so worth it!

If you’re already on Ravelry, add me to your friends list, or look me up. I’m there as jabecker (I’m so incredibly creative with names — I’ve used this screen name various places for 15 years).

In other news, #1 Son returned from his travels. His first bit of business, I thought, was to find gainful employment. He would, he told me, but not during his birthday week.

Excuse me? Birthday week??? Since when does anyone get a week off just because it’s their birthday? 🙄 Welcome to the real world, my child.

I expressed my displeasure.

#1 Son starts his new job tomorrow. 😉

Knitting |Reviews by Judy @ 5:07 PM

winter visitors
The Portland area loves visitors — most of all visitors who will settle in and stay for awhile, enriching the community. And ones that can dig their toes into our mud and enjoy our rain are much appreciated.

I’m not sure if This little flock of geese is a hold-over from those who headed for sunnier climes last fall, or if they belong to a group who headed north a bit out of season, but they don’t appear to be bothered by our gray drizzle.

The topography around where I live features a couple of small mountains and some gently rolling hills divided by marshy streams and small, mostly man-made, lakes. Quite a few ducks and geese of different sorts find the area a fine place to hang out for the summer and raise their kids. I have seen busy, rush-hour traffic come to a halt while mom and dad goose herded their little goslings across a busy 5-lane avenue. And no one seemed at all annoyed. In how many cities would that be the case?

~Kristie asks:

I’ve been noticing that whenever you knit socks that have YO’s, you usually replace it with a M1. Is this because you live in a cooler climate & the lace look would let in cool air, or is it the “look” of lacy socks you don’t prefer? Just wondering.

I had to think about this question for awhile.

It’s not the climate. It’s really not that cold here, usually. And wool socks are warm – even when they feature holes.

I love the look of lace. One of my favorite pair of store-bought socks were cotton lace anklets that I wore year-round until they were totally beyond any further help and, with heavy heart, I was forced to retire them.

I love to knit lace. Two of my unfinished objects are lace projects. They are not unfinished because I don’t enjoy knitting them. It’s just that I got… distracted.

I do knit lace socks. I offer as proof the Mermaid socks I knit for #1 Son’s friend and the Tipsy Knitter socks from last year.

So why don’t I knit more of them?

Sometimes it is because of the look I’m going for. Would the Rooster Feathers look so feathery or the Snake River Socks have that lovely faux-cable look if I had used YOs instead of M1s?

I think the real reason, though, is because socks are for me the meat-and-potatoes of knitting. Not something I really need to think about. Mindless knitting in a small package that I can carry around and whip out whenever I have a few minutes and want to keep my hands busy. Lace, while beautiful, adds a certain amount of necessary thoughtfulness. When looking for a stitch pattern for the next pair of socks, I usually skip the lace patterns because those will be harder and require thinking. Which is a silly excuse, of course, as there are many lovely lace patterns that are easily memorized and have short repeats. And, while I wouldn’t want to knit lace in the dark as I could with a simple ribbed pattern, I’m not often knitting in the dark anyway.

I need to branch out more.
Victorian Lace Today
And this is the perfect book to dip into for a little inspiration.

Jane Sowerby’s extensive research into Victorian-era lace knitting patterns has culminated in this gorgeous book of modernized patterns and lace history. The samples are knit in bright modern colors – hot pink, acid green, periwinkle blue – that fairly glow on the page. Alexis Xenakis used locations in and around Cambridge for his photography. The artiness of some of the shots is in no way obtrusive.

The primarily-charted patterns are mostly rectangular shawls and scarves with knitted-on boarders. I would characterize them as being of easy to advanced intermediate level. There is plenty here that’s accessible to the beginning lace knitter. I don’t think the patterns are as complex as some of those in Meg Swansen’s A Gathering of Lace.

My one quibble is that there is no general index of all of the patterns. It’s a small quibble, as I don’t mind leafing through the book again and again and again. But it’s annoying if I’m looking for something specific and can’t remember what section it was in.

If you are one of the few knitters who has not dipped into Victorian Lace Today, please do treat yourself to a viewing.

Confidential to #1 Son: I’m quite pleased and proud of you. Reading the review in the Wweek Local Cut was a treat. I do have a bone to pick with you about that last paragraph, though. The way I remember the conversation, it went more like this:

#1 Son: We’re going on tour.

Mom: I’m not too happy with you doing that. But I’m not sure you would listen if I said no.

#1 Son: I would go anyway.

Mom: That’s what I suspected. Please be very careful and stay safe. I love you and I want you to come home happy and healthy.



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Stuff I Gotta Do

Follow The Leader shawl

30%

entrelac wrap

0%

Arabesque shawl

100%

Jubjub Bird Socks

15%

I Mog Di

15%

Peacock Feather Shawl

0%

Honeybee Stole

5%

Irtfa'a Faroese Shawl

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Lenore

20%

Fatigues henley sweater

10%

Jade Sapphire Scarf

15%

#1 Son's Blanket

2%

Cotton Bag

1%