Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Some Hats May Have Been Started

Too late in the evening to blog . . . . but I may have started a couple of new hats.

Maybe one that's knit from the top down, and will hide an iPod and headphones . . .


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(it's a lot bigger now, but hard to photograph).

. . . and maybe one from the cover of this collection of patterns, that if finished & mailed quickly will keep a Southern baby warm when he visits Germany in January:


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(I started this yesterday, so I should get it in the mail maybe this weekend).

So much for working on the same projects all the time . . . although I'd like the record to reflect that the progress on the Hulk Smash socks has been significant. I've finished the gusset decreases, and now it's a race to the toes. The pooling is a little weird in the photo, but the cashmere softness and quick pace of the knitting more than makes up for it:


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You'll have to trust me when I say that these look a lot less busy in person (at least until they're finished & blocked).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I've Been Gambling Like A Fiend On Your Tables So Green

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Ahhhhhhh . . . now that's better. A new project, using a new yarn. With cashmere! The pattern is Berry Season (Rav Link) from the book 2-At-A-Time Socks. It's a short sock with garter stitch, then ribbing, then a textured pattern. So far, so good.

The 2-At-A-Time Socks book is a good introduction to knitting two socks at once using the magic loop technique, although the construction of the socks is all top down. I would have liked to see some toe-up patterns, but I've also been using the 2-at-once technique for a couple of years so I'm already reasonably comfortable with it. I'm sure I could convert some patterns to toe-up, but for me the point of buying this book was to have patterns I didn't have to think too much about! Anyway, even though the construction is all the same, there are some beautiful and unusual patterns in the book as well as some solid basics.

I bought the yarn I'm using completely on a whim, and specifically because the color is called "HULK SMASH". It's Cashsport String by The Yo Yo, purchased at the Loopy Ewe, and as the name implies, it's sport weight. These are going to be some cushy socks, and hopefully they won't be too thick to wear with clogs (but they probably will be). This yarn (which is 10% cashmere) is really nice feeling, and there are a few other colors that I've got my eye on--but likely not until I've used up the Hulk Smash. Hulk Smash!!! I can't stop typing Hulk Smash!!!!!!



__________________
I've Been Gambling Like A Fiend On Your Tables So Green: Wilco, Casino Queen

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa Claus Singing on Naughty Snow

December 24, 2008

Wow, how can it be Christmas Eve already? This holiday season has flown by, what with the weather problems, sick dogs, and feverish me. I finished up my holiday knitting last night, and it feels good, even though the recipients won't actually receive them on Christmas. There are quite a few other things I planned to knit, and some that I might take a crack at later, but what's done now is it--I want to move on to other things!

The last two items are the felted clogs (not yet felted) above, and the Postwar Mittens. The Felted Clogs are HUGE, and I was worried about running out of the color I used for the sole on the second clog so I knit the first couple of rows with the top color. It would have bothered me if I ran out of yarn on the edges of the sole, but a contrasting row on the bottom doesn't bother me a bit. There's not much left of the grey yarn, so I think I made the right choice.

I am pleased with the way the Postwar Mittens came out, but the second half glove and especially the thumb were a slog. My mental powers must have been particularly lacking this last week, because I could not concentrate on that thumb for more than about 5 minutes at a time, and even working slowly and deliberately, I made a lot of mistakes. They're fixed, as far as I can tell! The pattern and yarn are great (the pattern is available from the Twist Collective, and the yarn is Dale Baby Ull), but for myself I prefer wearing a gussetted thumb over a traditional thumb. Adjusting the pattern for a gussetted thumb wouldn't be too difficult, athough it would mean sacrificing the dated thumb (which I love) and probably the continuous pattern. Maybe not though?

Have a great Christmas (if that's what you celebrate)!

______________

Santa Claus Singing on Naughty Snow: Stephen Colbert, Another Christmas Song

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Put On Your High Heeled Sneakers, We're Goin' Out Tonight


video

I've been fighting a fever for most of the week, and although I did some knitting early in the week and a little yesterday, I don't have too much to show for it. I'm so behind on Christmas cards that I may scrap them altogether, and I've not attended a single holiday related social event. There is good dog news, though--Frieda had her first post-hospital checkup yesterday, and she came out of it with flying colors. We need to keep her on the bland food for awhile, and we need to be extra careful about keeping other foods (and stuffed toys, since she sometimes eats a little stuffing) away from her, but it's very good news.

We didn't get any good advice about how to keep her or Gretel from being bad, however. In the last week, Frieda escaped to the neighbor's yard (where she can enter their house and eat anything within reach), and tried to find human food on the coffee table while I was standing right next to her. Gretel was able to reach my bowl of soup from an armchair and to drag tissues out of the bathroom trash that has a lid on it.

Anyway, the video above is in no way payback for the bad behavior witnessed in the last week. We've had an unusually cold & snowy spell here, and the backyard is full of icy snow. Frieda is susceptible to skin allergies, and has an itchy area on one paw that needs protection from the snow. She was visibly limping on the snow yesterday--and a dog that is uncomfortable outside is not good for anyone. However, as you can see, she's not super pleased with the shoes, either. Notice that Gretel makes a special guest appearance, if only to butt ahead of Frieda when going inside. Gretel loves to be first!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Purple Toupee and Gold Lame

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Thanks for all of the well-wishes for Frieda. She seems more or less back to normal (see above), though she's still taking medication and is on a special bland diet. We're keeping a close eye on her, because she's sneaky. Not as sneaky as Gretel, but still pretty sneaky.

I feel like I'm still hopelessly behind on pretty much everything, but I'm trying to prioritize a little and not get much crazier. I finished the purple fingerless gloves earlier today, and will get them in the mail to Austria on Monday. The pattern is available here on Ravelry, and it's a good pattern. I really like the twisted rib on the palms, and the shaping of the thumb gusset. I shortened the wrist in an attempt to squeeze these out of a single skein of Alpaca Silk, and came up 2 grams short. Very annoying--cables are such a yarn-hog! There's still enough of the second skein to make a pair of lacy mitts, so it won't go to waste.

I didn't start a single new project last weekend, but there are a couple of other Christmas gifts that I should probably start on this weekend if there's any hope of finishing them up in time. Hmmm. We'll see--this could just be a Christmas card avoidance tactic. I keep reminding myself that none of this is mandatory . . . .

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ugh.

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I'm not going to sugar-coat it--it's been a pretty terrible week. Frieda had an attack of pancreatitis, which meant a middle of the night trip to the animal emergency room, followed by two and a half days at the regular vet hospital. $1,200 later, she's doing pretty well, but we're watching her like a hawk and feeding her a special diet. Add to that the threat that this could happen again if she gets her paws on rawhide, or fatty human food, or any number of things that we don't think she has access to (but you never know, with a dachshund), and it's been very upsetting. My understanding is that pancreatitis is manageable through diet, but I'm still really worried about Frieda. This has basically killed my holiday spirit, while simultaneously eating up a ton of time that I should have spent on gifts, cards, or work-work. And the $$. Oh, the $$. Ugh--it's totally worth it, but it's definitely going to have an impact on more than a few things that I've been planning for early 2009, like reducing my debt level and saving for another trip to Europe.

I did finish the fingerless glove (Rav Link) above this week, which is half of a pair that should have gone in the mail on Monday. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make it, since I have only finished about 4 rows of the second glove. The yarn is Blue Sky Alpaca's Alpaca Silk. I've shortened the wrist-end of this a little in hopes of getting two gloves out of one skein, but I don't think I quite made it. I do have a second skein, so there should be plenty of yarn--and I may be able to get another pair of these out of the remainder. I like the cables on this pattern, but my favorite part is the twisted rib on the palm--it keeps them from being baggy, and the texture looks very cool.

Time to get back to my endless to-do list--at least I can check off "blog post" off of today's list!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Two Toe Tuesday: Three toe edition

Clogs for J___
Before felting, on my feet, after felting, next to my feet, and after felting, with my hand for scale

Last week at knit night, J_______ was working on some weird garter stitch item, and as we were leaving Starbucks, I asked her what it was. It was the sole of a felted slipper, and I was immediately reminded that a) I had purchased yarn and the pattern for these some months ago and b) that it's getting close to Christmas and these would make a quick, cozy gift. At home that evening, I located the adult sized pattern and plenty of yarn, but shockingly didn't have two sets of size 13 needles. I could hardly believe it--I've got a bad habit of purchasing multiple sets of needles as an alternative to finishing one project before starting another that requires the same needle. As a result, over the last 20 years I've purchased approximately one billion needles, but not the size I needed for clogs.

Friends, I'm not totally sure what took hold of me that night, but the next day I spent $40 on two sets of needles (though I probably could have gotten by with one), and the children's pattern. The blue yarn is Cascade 220 leftover from my Noni Carpet Bag, and the pinkish purple was stashed yarn originally purchased as an option for this octopus. So despite the needles and the pattern (which can be reused over and over again), this was really a stash-busting exercise.

By Friday morning, I'd finished knitting and felting the pair pictured above, for a 3.5 year old friend, which I plan to embellish with embroidery or needle felting once they dry. Or maybe with beads--a 3.5 year old won't eat beads, will she? I know that I made some errors on this pair, but the felting just smooths everything right out. Hopefully, these will fit just fine, and will be comfortable--they're probably a little bit large, but are likely to be worn with socks.

You may have thought that the mania would have subsided a little, but I've moved on to some adult-sized clogs. There are several people I can make these for this year, and I'd really like a pair for myself as well. As of Sunday afternoon, I had the main part of another clog finished, as modelled by Frieda below:


Frieda & Gretel


Another thing to love about these is that they are comically large before being felted--large enough for a slightly overweight dachshund to wear as a cape, while another, slightly less bright dachshund wonders what's going on. Just wait until I try to cram her into the felted clog!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cowl-ahooo, Werewolves of London

Ariosa Cowl

Right Side / Wrong Side, Fat Face, Artistic Cowl

This is one of the THREE new projects I started on Saturday . . . and yes, it's finished! I have a couple of ends to weave in, and then I need to wash it before sending it to it's final destination, but for all intents and purposes it's done. This is the Ariosa Cowl (Rav Link) from Twist Collective, and the yarn is (as called for in the pattern) Ariosa. The colors are black (duh) and balsam, which is a green that photographs more as a brown. It's a sort of khaki-ish, pineish, brownish green. Very wintry.

This yarn is really, really, really, really soft and lofty. It reminds me of one strand of Rowan Big Wool, but with 10% cashmere thrown in. Really--it's soft. On the negative side, it's also a little splitty/sticky, which made it difficult to correct errors and even to pull out my first cast on when I realized that I'd made a mistake. The pattern instructions are very good, and include a link to Nancy Marchant's website, which has a lot of useful info about the brioche stitch and is a great reference.

This was my first attempt at a Brioche stitch, and as such I had to pay more attention to the pattern than I expected. The first several inches are knit flat, which was the trickiest part for me--and of course the one or two errors that I made were right up front, on the "right" side. They would have been completely visible, and I didn't think that I could rip back to the mistake to correct it without permanently injuring the yarn. Instead, I made the "wrong" side the right side when I joined the cowl into a tube, because the errors could only been seen on one side of the fabric. This seems to have worked, enough so that I feel good about giving this as a gift.

I have enough yarn for probably two more of these, since I used about 1/2 of the green yarn and about 2/3 of the black yarn--hopefully, I'll have an easier time with the next one!

_________________

"Cowl-ahooo, Werewolves of London": my profuse apologies to Warren Zevon.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Crimson Hair Across Your Face

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My error in aiming the camera looks artsy, no?


I know that I've got a bad habit of starting a new project every week, but I'm here to say that some of them will be finished. In this case, sooner rather than later--I started these fingerless gloves last weekend, and finished them this morning. I really like the way they turned out, and I think that the person I made them for will also like them. Quick, easy, pretty, warm--what's not to like? I wasn't sure quite how much mileage I'd get out of the yarn, so I used the "Small/Medium" size and where there were length options (such as with the cuff ribbing), I went with the shorter length. The final weight of these is about 40 grams, or 80% of the hank, so I could have been less conservative, but I don't think that they seem skimpy. My fingers are probably longer than the recipient, and fully stretched out above.

Time to move onto more holiday knitting--I think that I'll probably knit at least one more pair of these, but maybe I'll do something else in between. Like maybe more of what's felting in my washing machine right now . . . and that I should go and check on . .

Hope that everyone had a good Thanksgiving, and be careful out there if you're shopping! My shopping plans for today are minimal, maybe a trip to Renaissance Yarns and a delicious coffee later. Yummmm, coffee!
_______________
"Crimson Hair Across Your Face": Bob Dylan, You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Have a Wonderful, Relaxing Thanksgiving . . . .

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. . . but don't forget that it's time to get started on the Christmas Cards!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Ghost of the Scarlet Town Crier

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Frosty Fingerless Glove Weather (note that the lace should be centered on my hand!)

I almost made it through the weekend without starting anything new, but the pressure of holiday knitting finally got to me. I figure that the more things I start, the more I'll finish when it comes to crunch time. Right? Right? Really, it's a matter of helping me map out what I really do want to get done, so that I'm not making things any harder for myself. I learned the hard way last year, when I started some things too late because I didn't have the right pattern / yarn / plan.

The mitts above are Kathy's Fingerless Gloves (Rav Link), I'm knitting them out of Blue Sky Alpaca's Alpaca Silk. It was trickier than I'd thought to find a lacy fingerless gloves that I could knit out of one skein of this DK weight yarn--there are lots of fingering weight versions, and a few lovely cabled mitts that use more than one skein. None of the local stores I checked with carry this pattern, but it's available online via Patternfish. I hadn't heard of Patternfish before, and was very glad to find it--I really didn't want to order this online, pay for shipping, and wait until after Thanksgiving to get these. I know that it would be easy enough to adapt another pattern for this yarn, but I was more in a get-it-done mood than a figure-it-out mood. Now I just need to get-it-done!

_________
"The Ghost of the Scarlet Town Crier": John Wesley Harding, The Red Rose and the Briar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mitten,You Got It Going On

Postwar Mitten


Notice I didn't say "MittenS". Just one mitten done, but in less than a week it still feels pretty fast. I'll cast on mitten #2 on Thursday or Friday, but I'm already thinking about color combinations for my next pair--there's a ton of that Baby Ull under my bed, waiting to be made into mittens!

The pattern comes with two options for the top of the mitten, a pointed tip or a rounded tip. I opted for the rounded tip (obviously). I was a little worried about the size as I was knitting, they felt a little big even though my hands are large. They might block out a little bigger, but they actually fit pretty well. If they were for me, I might make them a tad longer, but since they aren't for me, the fit should be perfect.

Even though it's a pain to sew up the picot edge, I really like the way it looks--it's a nice little detail, even on a mitten with a lot going on. Not as much as this guy, but still a lot.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I Turn it Around, and I Give it One More Try

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I woke up still feeling uncertain about the orange in my Postwar Mitten. For a brief period of time I thought that a hot pink would be perfect, but I didn't want to buy more yarn for these mittens--I have a lot of this yarn already. So I dug out some red, gave it a try, and I am much happier with the results. I'm pretty sure that it's also Dale of Norway Baby Ull, I believe that I bought it for a February Baby Sweater (Rav Link) that has long since been abandoned. I'm a little alarmed by how purple these are, but I've got someone in mind for these who should really like the purple. I really like the colors of this yarn line--they're a great alternative to the pastels that were the main choice for baby knits when I first started knitting. The colors are bright and clear, and easy to combine (and the yarn is plenty soft, and not fuzzy--good characteristics for crisp stranded colorwork). I had some early tangles while juggling three skeins of yarn, so I transferred some of the red yarn to a bobbin for better manageability. I only use it every four rows, and the bobbin makes it easier to keep out of the way.

I'm not sure that I'll make much more progress this weekend--I want to switch over to one of the Raha Scarf for awhile, and tomorrow's another day packed with non-knitting responsibilities. Maybe I can sneak in a few rows here and there, though!


_______________
I Turn it Around, and I Give it One More Try: "Jacksonville", by Sufjan Stevens, from the album Illinoise. I've been listening to it a lot lately--it's a really interesting album, and I don't mean that in a detached, music-critic way. I mean that I've had the album for a few years, and I still notice new things when I listen to it.

Who Needs Sleep?

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The new Twist Collective is up, and there's a lot of patterns to love. I'm up past midnight working on the cuff of the Postwar Mittens, the pattern comes with three different patterns for stranded mittens. These mittens are made with Dale Baby Ull, which is in my stash in spades--I went through a phase a few years ago where I thought I'd knit a bunch of delecate baby clothes on size zero needles. It was a phase that produced a single hat, and a lot of stash, so I was able to cast on as soon as I saw the pattern this evening. I'm not totally sure how much I love the orange here, so I'm going to take a break until tomorrow. Maybe more of the aqua would be better, or maybe a green (I've got three shades!) or maybe a red. Hmmmm. Any votes?

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's Like Magic

Raha Lace

I started the third repeat of the Raha Scarf on Sunday morning, and was starting to feel unimpressed by my work. Sure, the scarf is super soft, but why is it so scraggly? The photo on the left shows what I'm talking about--not scarf-y or lace-y, it basically looks like crap after 8 inches, even though I smoothed it out.

It's hard for me to remember when I'm knitting lace that the most critical part of the process come at the very, very end--once I pin out the scarf, it's 50% longer and looks much better. Whew! I completely expected this to look o.k., but I'm still relieved that it does. If I was hard-core, I would have wet-blocked this and used blocking wires in order to get the whole effect--straight edges, and possibly more give without a lot of distortion. I'd have to wait for this to dry before continuing, though, and I'm not that patient!

In other Malabrigo sock news, my Tizano Red yarn arrived, and it's my new favorite:


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Must . . . not . . . wind . . . this . . . yarn. Yet.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

It Only Seemed Fitting . . .

Liberty This Week

. . . that I'd pick my Liberty Throw to knit on Election Night, 2008. Nevermind that the "Liberty" in the name is Liberty of London, and that neither the motif or colors are patriotic--just the name was enough. I've worked very little on this since I came back from Boston, and it's been nice to get back to. Since Tuesday involved a LOT of television watching, I made a lot of progress that night, and continued to knit a little on it every night (except Friday, when I was only thinking about Malabrigo sock yarn).

Working on it a little at a time is probably the best strategy for me, since it is a LOT of knitting, and it's going to take a long time to finish even if I work on it exclusively. The holidays are coming, there are a lot of things to knit between now and then! I'd hate to put it aside until after the holidays are over, and lose momentum. I'm still completely entranced by the colors, and right now I'm especially enjoying the new shapes that are forming as the first chart repeat flows into the second repeat. In a flash of patriotic fervor, I briefly thought that it would be wonderful to finish this by inauguration day, but as I have a full time job that I plan to keep, and a 0% chance of having any direct involvement in the inauguration, I'm going to return to a slow-and-steady strategy.

The next challenge with the throw is going to be working in a blue yarn of a different dyelot. I was (as you may remember) very impatient to start this, and I couldn't wait for the special-ordering of yarn to wait for a single dyelot. That means that for awhile (a long while, probably), I'll be alternating rows with the light blue, which increases by 50% the likelihood of logistical issues. The difference between the two dyelots isn't dramatic, but I'd rather alternate than end up with a wide stripe of slightly lighter or slightly darker yarn.

Here's a birds-eye view, with no dachshund interference, of the blanket thus far:

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____________________________
Rare Political Aside (since I mentioned the election): I'm very happy about the outcome of the Presidential vote, and very unhappy with some of the local / and not-local-to-me results, but most of all I'm happy that the election is over. I'm really tired of the nasty political ads, and of the snarky, spiteful comments that I've seen all over the internet from both sides. I'm also a little alarmed that I heard people on the news refer to the election as a "peaceful transfer of power", as if there was imminent danger of a NON-peaceful transfer of power here.

Long story short--I propose no more gloating and beating of dead campaigns by the winning side, and no more sour grapes and predictions of immediate doom by the losing side. If you would rather see Obama fail than see our economy, international standing, and quality of life improve, then you've got bigger problems than I can address here. Ditto if you think that the Obama presidency will be all sunshine, roses, and money raining down from the sky. There is a lot of hard work to be done in this country, and there's a lot of common ground about what we want as a nation--let's all start there, shall we?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

She's Golden but She's Green

Raja Scarf


Sometimes, when I've got a new knitting book on my mind, it's really hard not to start a bunch of new projects. Sometimes, when I get an interesting new yarn, it's also hard not to start something new immediately. So it was pretty much inevitable that I'd cast on a new project when three skeins of the new Malabrigo Sock yarn arrived yesterday. I thought that I'd cast on a new pair of socks (I did finish a pair recently, after all), but after ripping out a toe three times I turned to Nancy Bush's new book, Knitted Lace of Estonia and cast on the Raha Scarf (Rav link). I really like the modern feel of this pattern, which uses a single repeat of an estonian lace motif with a simple garter stitch border. I'm about a third of the way through the Navy Lace Scarf, which feels so much more traditional and girly that it's hard to believe they come from the same book.

The Raha Scarf is meant to be about 7" wide, but I think that mine will end up narrower. This yarn is pretty fine, and I want the solid parts to still be solid, so I probably won't block it out as aggressively as I'd need to for a 7" scarf. I may need to add repeats to get additional length, but there's plenty of yarn for that so it should be fine. This would be a great first-time lace pattern--not a lot of stitches, easy chart to follow, and a pattern where mistakes should be easy to detect early. None of those tricky nupps, either--just yarn overs, and single and double decreases.

About the yarn . . . . it's very, very, very soft, and the color is gorgeous & complex. The feel is very similar to the other Malabrigo yarns, but with twist--the thickness is more regular, and there should be less pilling. I'm interested in hearing how well socks made out of it wear--it doesn't feel as sturdy as other sock yarns, but knit at a finer gauge maybe it will be durable? I'm afraid that I went a little overboard with this yarn, pre-ordering two skeins from Webs (which I should have soon) and then these three from The Loopy Ewe:


Malabrigo Sock

Cote D'Azure, Lettuce, Chocolate Amargo

It's interesting to see how different the green looks in natural PNW rainy day light (the lace photo) vs. the way it looks in full-spectrum-lightbulb light (in the hank). The variation in the color is barely evident in the hank, but comes out nicely in the scarf. Overall, I think that the light-bulb photo looks more "accurate", but that's because I knit indoors with artificial light. Either way, it's a really nice green.

p.s. I'm officially embarassed by the number of projects in process that are showing up in my sidebar. I'm going to mark some of them as "hibernating" immediately!

______________

She's Golden but She's Green: The Wonder Stuff, Golden Green. I saw this band maybe four times in 1991 or 1992. Let's not discuss the specifics--bad behavior was involved. Check out the video, but be warned--there's a LOT of early 90's bad hair & hats.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

And You Look so Pretty in Your New Lace Sleeves

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Ever since last year's Estonian Lace class at Madrona, I've been waiting for Nancy Bush's new book, Knitted Lace of Estonia. Clearly, the book has arrived! It's full of projects that I'd love to knit, even some that are making me rethink my vow never to sew on another border like we did in class. I decided that given my other knitting (Liberty, anyone?) & non-knitting committments, this was not the weekend to start a GIANT project, so I'm starting with the Lily of the Valley Shawl (Rav Link). I'm using Baruffa Bollicina yarn in a dark navy blue. This yarn is 65% cashmere and 35% silk, but wasn't much more expensive than some plain wool options (assuming that the 3 balls I bought are enough--fingers crossed!). I was planning for a less conservative color since I've been using a lot of plain browns and blues lately, but this seemed like a more elegant choice than a repurposed sock yarn, and I couldn't quite land on anything else. Now that I've knit a ways with it, the color is growing on me, and the darkness hasn't been too much of a strain on my eyes while knitting at night.

More about the book . . . . it contains very detailed instructions for the stitches and traditional construction used in many of the shawls, but there are also a few less traditional techniques employed in some of the projects. I really like that approach--the book shows just how versatile and fresh the Estonian patterns can be, right next to the breathtaking traditional shawls. There's also a collection of charts at the back of the book that can be used to design other projects as well. There are at least four patterns that I'd like to knit (several of which I saw samples of at Madrona), but having the option to adapt other stitch patterns to a design is a really nice feature.

There's a little dog staring me down and crying as I sit at the computer, she wants me to go and sit with her in the living room. Time for more knitting (or napping)!



____________
And You Look so Pretty in Your New Lace Sleeves: Elvis Costello, "New Lace Sleeves"

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sometimes Sweetness is Not What It Seems

Happy Halloween!

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clockwise from orange: Pumpkin, Bat, Frankenstein


This is the last of my 2008 Halloween knitting--three Halloween-themed washcloths! That I fully intended to finish early and mail to the East Coast and other far-away points, but only finished a minute ago! These are three patterns from Kristen Patay's Creepy Cloth collection, and although I couldn't find the creepy muted colors she used, this is a nice set of cloths. I'm eyeing her Winter Wonderland cloths, too.

The purple bat cloth is made of Lion brand Lion Cotton, and the other two are Lily Sugar 'N Cream cotton. Cheap, fast, spooky, who could ask for more? I do wish that the pattern was more pronounced, but I don't think I'd like knitting these as much on smaller needles--too much hand cramping.

Now to decide: give these out as favors if I see any children I know today, keep them for next year (and start working on more--I want a ghost and a tombstone!), or use them as an extra large coaster at work (i.e. keep them for myself). Maybe one of each?? It's easy enough to make more!











_____________
Sometimes Sweetness is Not What It Seems: The Spinanes, "Halloween Candy" (note that the link will open iTunes).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ghoul-Toe Tuesday: Halloween Edition

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Just in time for casual Halloween costume Friday, my Halloween Socks are finished. The clogs really set them off, don't they? These were very quick to knit, aided by a couple of long flights and a shorter than usual cuff. I used about half of the giant skein of Vesper Sock Yarn (in the Great Googlie Mooglie colorway), so maybe next year I'll knit another spooky pair--maybe with contrasting toes & cuffs, or combined with the other Vesper Halloween colors in the stash. Hmmm. . . . maybe some witchy wristlets, or a little shawl with Evil edging?

When I took the photo above, I opted for a dark-ish location, well after dark. More Halloween-y (and less waiting for daylight, which I've barely seen in the last couple of weeks), I suppose. But spookier by far than the socks is this haunting, grainy shot of Frieda, who had to get in the middle of things:

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I'm not sure what's going through her tiny, pea-sized brain, but I don't think that it's good.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Really? You Mean, Like Fire?

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I am pretty excited about this Hank Williams boxed set, but I think that Time Life might be going a little over the top with the red sticker.

Monday, October 27, 2008

There's a Stain on My Notebook Where Your Coffee Cup Was

Lime Green Coaster


Cup rings on all of my post-it notes, tablets, and occasionally important documents have been driving me crazy at work. The folded up copy paper I've been using sometimes as a coaster looks sloppy, and god knows I don't need any help looking sloppy lately. I went for the quick fix--a bright green, kitchen cotton coaster using a simple pattern. I think it looks great with my Constructivist coffee mug. Here's how it goes:

Cast on 20 stitches
Knit 3 rows
Row 1 - 4: K2, P4, K4, P4, K6
Row 5 - 8: K6, P4, K4, P4, K2
Repeat until about square, ending on row 4 or row 8
Knit 3 rows
Cast off

I used size 3 needles, and a very small amount of green Lily Sugar'n Cream Solid. The next one I make will probably be on size 4 or 5, to get a bigger coaster. It can't hurt to have some extras lying around the ol' cubicle, and a set might make a nice hostess gift / stocking stuffer.

Here's a clearer view of the pattern:

P1010386

____________________
There's a Stain on My Notebook Where Your Coffee Cup Was: Squeeze, "Black Coffee in Bed". I can't tell you how many hours of MTV and Video Jukebox waiting to see this video. I'm serious--don't you remember when Difford & Tilbrook were the next Lennon / McCartney?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

You Said This Would Happen, and You Were Not Wrong

Tapestry Cowel


I've been playing catchup all week since getting back from Boston, and I keep telling myself that I haven't worked on Liberty (or much of anything) because I just don't have the energy to concentrate on stranded knitting. Then, on Thursday or Friday I saw the Tapestry Cowl on Ravelry, and all of a sudden I was up and running on a project that involves a much more complicated chart using a cast on I'd never done and a technique I've never used. Why not?

The cowl is double-knit, so the inside and outside layers are knit at the same time, on the same needles, with the pattern in opposite colors. Until the colorwork starts, the inside and outside are completely independent--it's very cool. When there's blue on the outside, there's green on the inside, and both sides are stockinette. Yes, the straw-looking color is really a celery green.

I'm using some Alpaca Silk that I bought while on vacation in August. I think that I probably should have gone down a needle size, as the cowl seems pretty big, but I'm going to knit a little more before I even think about ripping! I think that it will tighten up a bit in the patterned area, because there won't be as much give.

Initially, I thought that this would make a great Christmas gift, but with 220 stitches per row it's pretty slow going. I've not had concentrated knitting time this weekend, but I still expected to be further along. I don't think I'll have time to finish this, and work on Liberty, and finish the other things on my plate for Christmas--and let's not even discuss the Halloween projects, which I'm going to go and work on right this minute. Right after I finish that cotton coaster that I started a couple of hours ago . . .

_____________
You Said This Would Happen, and You Were Not Wrong: "Little Time Bomb", Billy Bragg. A slower, video version here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Was 21 Years When I Wrote This Song

Billy Bragg, Somerville, MA
Billy Bragg, Somerville MA, Oct. 21 2008

The first time I saw Billy Bragg, in the fall of 1987, 21 was a few years away, but I can't believe how young it feels to me now. I have to get up really early to catch a flight back to Seattle tomorrow, but I'll be singing Levi Stubb's Tears in my head the whole way home. And for days.

__________
I Was 21 Years When I Wrote This Song: "A New England," Billy Bragg. Check out this 1991 video.

Two Toe Tuesday: Great Googlie Mooglie Edition

Two Spooky Toes

How awesome is spooky self striping Halloween yarn? I started these a week or two ago, and I have a fair shot at finishing them before Halloween. As soon as I saw Liz knitting these Trick or Treat socks, I started checking in on the Knitterly Things site and managed to get this yarn (it's Vesper sock yarn in the Great Googlie Mooglie colorway). As I mentioned earlier, I did eventually get more Vesper Halloween yarn, but I think that finishing this pair of socks is really all I can manage in the next week and a half, as far as holiday socks goes. These are pretty short socks, with a basic 2 x 2 rib pattern, and a simple short row heel. Man, are they bright--they're going to look great with my clogs!!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cowl Done!

Brown Cowl

It's crisp and fall-like here in the greater Boston area, with a bit of chill in the air. So it's a good time to give people neck-warming gifts! I finished the cowl above about two minutes before leaving for the giftee's birthday night out, so it's modeled by E_____. The fuzziness of the yarn masks the pattern a little, but in real life (or more importantly, real light) the pattern looks good.  Not too fussy, and nice and warm.  The yarn is Blue Sky Alpaca's Suri Merino, which is delicious to knit with but feels a little itchy on my neck--as do pretty much all wools.  The brown cotton cowl also made it to a new home on this trip, and I'll probably need to make one of those for myself, if I'm going to wear a cowl.  Organic cotton = no possible itching. 

Yesterday afternoon, E___ and I went out to Lexington to the Wild & Wooly yarn store, which I haven't been to in years.  It's a neat little place, with a wide selection of yarn, and helpful ladies keeping it all running.  I came away with a skein of Malabrigo and one of those sock yarns that have been dyed on pre-knitted blanks.  Does that sentence even make sense?  Check them out here.  I've been working on some other socks that I'll post about soon--maybe I can get a nice, autumny photo later this afternoon!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Liberty on the Move!

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Yesterday, Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner of Mason-Dixon knitting came to Seattle to sign books and give a talk at the University Book Store. It was hilarious fun, and the knitwear that they brought to show was unbelievably gorgeous, even though I'd seen all of it in their book. Note the mohair shawls that Kay is wearing above, for instance. The skin on my hands had a bad reaction the last time I knit with mohair, and yet I'm somehow thinking that I should just power through, because they're just that beautiful. Mom had a great time, too--Mason-Dixon is the only knitting blog that she's ever shown any real interest in reading when I've mentioned it (including this one). She's probably knit almost as many dishcloths from the first book as Kay has, and that's a lot of dishcloths!

Let's discuss my Liberty (shown above!) vs. the original Liberty. Mine is tiny and crinkled (though Ann swore that it would block out), as shown above. The original Liberty is beautifully smooth, and is a lot larger than I expected it to be, and was knit in three weeks. I guess I'm slightly behind schedule--I'd better go knit now!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How Now Brown Cowl (I know that you saw that coming)

Crofter's Cowl

I have to say that I was really apprehensive about the 80 stitches of grafting that was required to finish the Brown Cotton Cowl (rav link), but I'm really glad that I opted to follow the pattern. I had one false start, but after the first set of decrease points were clearly NOT lined up, it was pretty easy to pick out the graft and start over. This is an ideal quick gift (so if you are a person I give gifts to, don't be surprised if you get one), because both useful and pretty without being overly fussy. I haven't washed or blocked this yet, and given the inelastic properties of cotton I don't plan to open up the pattern much--it'll just stretch out. The pattern is the Crofter's Cowl by Gudrun Johnston, and it's available free on Ravelry. The yarn is Blue Sky Alpaca dyed cotton, and I used about 75 grams of yarn.

As soon as I cast off this cowl, I started another brown cowl. Different yarn, different pattern, different color, but still a brown cowl:

P1010292

This one is for a friend who (as far as I know) can wear wool without a problem. I'm using Blue Sky Alpaca's Suri Merino, and it's really, really, really, really soft. I haven't used this before, but MJ has been knitting this incredible cowl with it, so I knew that it was a good choice. The pattern is Darkside Cowl by Sarah Fama, and I'm finally at the point where I can see the pattern in my cowl. Hopefully, this will help with my inability to follow the directions. The pattern repeats shift ever two rows, and I keep NOT shifting with them. Fortunately, since each pattern row is knit twice in a row, I've caught the errors without any ripping. This is meant to be quick, after all!

In other knitting news, Wendy Bernhard was at Renaissance Yarns yesterday, signing copies of her new book Custom Knits. I love the book (there are two patterns that I want to start immediately, and several others that I want to start eventually), and Wendy was really nice. You know, like NORMAL nice. She brought along some beautiful samples, including one of the sweaters on my must-knit-list. I was really glad that I didn't have to drive all the way to North Seattle to meet her.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thank you Mike & Ike's, Thank you Candy Corn

P1010263



It's a crisp fall afternoon here in the Pacific Northwest, and I've got Halloween on my mind. How many projects can I get done in the next 20 days? Not as many as I have yarn for! Above is a Vesper yarn wee skeins kit, and I've got two full sized skeins of this yarn as well. At this point, I'm really just shooting for a pair of anklets!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

'Cause I Didn't Think This Would Happen Again

Liz Phair, Showbox 10/7/2008


I saw Liz Phair this week, performing all of the songs from her 1993 album "Exile in Guyville". The show was great--this is the kind of album that even after 15 years reminds me what my life was like then, when I was young, and struggling to pay off my first set of student loans, and going out five nights a week (but leaving the shows early to catch the T, because I couldn't pay for a taxi). I think that the last time I saw her was in '93 or '94, but I remember very little about that first show so I could just be imagining it. It would have been in Boston, at a club called Axis, and it may have been part of a massive radio-sponsored block party. I can see Liz Phair, who was at that time noted for having stage fright, being very nervous on stage. I don't know if I'm remembering the right show, I really don't. Corroborating evidence, anyone?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Mini Mitten Monday: I've Got a Fever

and the only prescription is more Mini Mittens:


P1010159


Nine in one week (on top of an usually heavy work week), that's got to be some sort of a record, isn't it? Note that the red mitten in the photo above was completed a long time ago, as the REAL 9th mitten didn't show up for the photo shoot. Primadonna.

I've really enjoyed seeing the bits of different scrap yarn while I've been knitting these, and I need to dig out more. I'm trying not to break into unused sock yarn (which would guarantee a shortage when full sized socks were knit), but it's tough.

I'm not sure how long this fever will last, I'm still a long way from my original mitten goal of 2 - 3 per week (or maybe it was more). But maybe I'll end up with enough to decorate a small mitten tree? Ooooh, that would be festive!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Those Brown Eyes Dreaming

P1010112


It's been a super busy week, not much time for knitting. My inability to focus on charts or thinking in the evenings has hampered my ability to work on Liberty, though I did knit a couple of inches yesterday.

I'm starting to think about quick holiday gifts, especially those that require less concentration than Liberty, and I started the Crofter's Cowl (Rav link) by Gudrun Johnston. I'm using Blue Sky Alpaca's worsted weight organic cotton, which is a new yarn for me. I'm not sure that this is a great substitute for the recommended Malabrigo, but the person I have in mind for this can't wear wool and maybe not some other animal fibers. Let's face it--nobody's going to wear an itchy cowl!!! There is a chart, but it's super easy to follow without a lot of attention--the lace pattern looks a lot more complicated than it is to work. The tricky part is that the cowl is worked in two halfs, and then grafted together. I might not do that for this cowl, because I'm worried that the graft will be super apparent, and not just because of my poor skills. Cotton doesn't block out like wool, so my theory is that if the tension of the graft isn't perfect, then it will stick out like a sore thumb. We'll see, though--I might change my mind once I'm closer to the critical half-way decision point.

In other knitting news, the deadline to finish the Wino Juno for the Loopy Ewe KALs came and went, and I hardly even noticed--I've worked on it a little, here and there, but after ripping out 15 inches that project needed a little break. Juno might make a good holiday gift, so I probably should start taking it to knit night again, or start picking it up when I'm too tired to follow a chart! Although that might be why I had to rip out those 15 inches in the first place . . .

____________________
"Those Brown Eyes Dreaming": Wilco, I am Trying to Break Your Heart

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I Made A Big Mistake

The yarn for my Liberty (rav link) throw arrived on Friday & Saturday, and I spent the bulk of yesterday (when not walking and bathing the dogs) getting a really good start on it:


P1000959


I'm about 20 rows into the pattern (plus the 8 edging rows), or approx. 5,600 stitches. I'm very pleased with the colors--somehow, this grey-blue combination seems less boring and prettier to me than my original grey-blue combination. Thanks to the excellent illustrated instructions in the book, I'm getting used to catching the stitches behind my work, which I've never quite learned how to do before. It's still a little awkward when I'm catching the grey behind the blue, but it's still probably faster and more consistent than dropping both yarns, twisting them, and picking them back up.

So what's the "Big Mistake" I refer to in the title? It's knitting 101--I twisted the edge when I joined the blanket into a circle. Yes, really. I noticed it after a couple of rows, but didn't quite have the will to pull out 1000 stitches. Since there's a steek, I figured I could probably just keep knitting it twisted, but that eventually the weight of the giant blanket might (o.k. would) distort the whole thing. My plan (culled from the Ravelry forums, when someone else had a similar problem) was to cut the existing steek, untwist the blanket, and cast on a new steek. I cast off the steek, machine stabilized it, and cut it. Welcome to big mistake #2:


P1000965


I didn't cut in the middle of the steek, I cut to the left of the center. I had stabilized in three places, and cut between the wrong two. Yes, I do feel like an idiot. However, I think that everything will be fine. I've tacked down the left edge so that it won't fray while I keep knitting, and I will have room to pick up stitches for the edging after I'm done. The mistake is early enough that it should be totally enclosed by the edging, so I think it will be fine. NOTE: If anyone out there knows for a fact that I this is NOT going to be fine, please let me know now, so I don't have an unpleasant surprise after knitting the other 70,000 stitches. And when I get ready to cut the big steek, please remind me that maybe I should be a little careful. I don't need to panic when it comes time to cut, but I do need to cut in the right place.

Project Notes: The pattern is Liberty (rav link), from Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca, in charcoal mix and pastel blue. I'm using size 8 knitpicks options needles. Excluding the sick feeling of cutting a steek in the wrong spot, I am enjoying this project very much.

_________
I Made A Big Mistake: Wilco, "Monday"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

If You Don't Want to Take a Bath . . . .

P1000918


Then don't roll in bird poop. Here endeth the lesson.

(note the death grip that Gretel has on the side of the tub--her nails have been trimmed recently, that's all panic)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It Was A Fine Idea At The Time

. . . but I'm not at all happy with the colors in my Liberty throw (rav link) swatch:


Liberty Swatch

I like each of the colors individually, but here are my concerns:
  • The blue is a little on the teal side, and I really think of teal as the "color of the 90's"--remember that year when 70% of all new cars were teal? Too much, too fast.
  • I worry that the blue and green will look dated pretty fast--and if I'm spending all that time on this blanket, I want it to age pretty well. After all, the dogs won't destroy it, will they?
  • The blue and light grey is pretty--pretty boring, that is. Good contrast, but boring.

Now that I've sunk $24 into this swatch (we won't mention the other two colors I haven't wound yet), I've picked two totally different colors with the help of E____. She's my former roommate / color guru--I have quite seriously based entire projects around colors that I've lifted from her graphic designs. She gave me a lot of helpful advice, and approves of the final choice (while recognizing that the colors on one's monitor might not be the same as in real life). Hopefully, the new yarn will arrive on Saturday or Monday, and I can get cracking. I may still knit another swatch, because my gauge is slightly off.

However, I've found another good use for this yarn, which is really, really soft:


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This is the New Wave scarf from Lynne Barr's book Knitting New Scarves. I'm not totally thrilled with how it looks so far (my edges are a little messy), but it's really interesting to knit, and each row is only 28 stitches so it's coming along quickly. I'm not sure who I'm going to give a 4 inch wide scarf to, but there's plenty of time to worry about that later!

_________________

It Was A Fine Idea At The Time: Elvis Costello, "Brilliant Mistake". You know, "He thought he was the King of America, Where they drink Coca-Cola just like vintage wine". Love Elvis.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Knitting Productivity Up, Seaming Productivity Down

Frieda with Monteagle Bag
Note that I tried to crop out my weirdly bulgy arm, but couldn't do it without cutting Frieda.

The new Mason-Dixon book arrived on my doorstep earlier this week, and it was hard waiting until the weekend to start a new project from it. Fortunately, the project I started was the Monteagle Bag and not the Liberty Throw (rav links, both), so it's already finished. This is a good, basic shopping bag pattern with some very interesting stitches that I haven't used before. It won't hold a million things, but I did fill it with a half gallon of cranberry juice, two quarts of tomato sauce, and three beers when I was stretching out the stitches, and it held everything just fine. I do have my doubts about how "green" is a bag made of $20 yarn that travelled here from Belgium, but I do think that it's a great idea to use as few plastic bags as possible. I'm planning to knit more--there's less than half a skein left of the original skein (Louet Euroflax Sport weight), but I have another black hank so I should easily have enough yarn for two more. Still pretty pricey for a string bag, but a less expensive cotton or linen would work fine as long as it's strong. My hands are bone dry tonight, so I probably won't start another bag right away. And on the next one, I will probably start with sock-toe cast on so that I don't have to seam the bottom of the bag (see below).

As for the rest of the book, I love it--there are several patterns that I am sure to make, and a few others that I'd love to make if mohair didn't rip the skin right off my hands when I knit with it (Cardi Cozy, I'm looking at you). Maybe a laceweight alpaca or silk would work? It could be worth looking into. I bought some yarn to swatch for the Liberty Throw this weekend, I'm having trouble thinking of alternate colors. I do like the original blue and red, so that's an option, but I have a few other combos that I'll test out first.

I did work on the Cables, Baby! cardigan today for about 10 minutes before I had to stop seaming because I hate seaming so much. It's ridiculous that it's taking me so long to seam this, it's a small sweater and it will be so cute when it's done. Here's how it looked today when I stopped:

P1000796


Just one more sleeve to attach! Then sewing on buttons (after I've picked out some), and weaving in ends, and that's it. Why does it feel so far off?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Spinning Wheels & Hands That Feel

Hands that feel G-R-E-A-T in my finished Spincycle Mitts:


Spincycle Mitts


I think that it's probably time to start knitting some of these for Christmas!



_________
Spinning Wheels & Hands That Feel: Wilco, I'm the Man Who Loves You. Obviously.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Wanna Bite the Hand That Feeds Me

Spincycle Mini Mitt

Why no, this isn't a finished Cables, Baby sweater! I started another new project yesterday at knit night, using Jessica's Malabrigo Mini Mitts (Rav link) pattern using handspun from Spincycle Yarns. I only have about 120 yards of this yarn, so this pattern should be perfect even if I make the mitts a little longer--although I may end up knitting from the other end of the yarn cake so that I can tell for sure. I love this yarn, and wanted to make something out of it now so that if I see it again at Urban Craft Uprising, I'll have a better idea of how it knits up. Or at least I won't feel guilty for not using any and buying more. The yarn is pretty pricey (since it's hand-dyed and spun), so I don't want to buy more without knowing what I'll knit--but I'm glad that I bought this one without having any idea.

The mitt pattern is very simple, and it really lets the yarn do the talking, and it's fast. Last-minute Christmas gift fast (and I happen to have some Malabrigo in the stash). Plus, the short cuff shows off the very fancy Swatch watch that I bought in Paris in the spring--now I can keep warm AND tell time!

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I Wanna Bite the Hand That Feeds Me: "Radio, Radio" by Elvis Costello. Or Puppet Costello, if you prefer. I've been thinking about this version since having a conversation about it last month in Somerville. These kids today, they don't know punk rock Elvis, and that makes me sad.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't Blame it On Yoko . . . Yoko's Cool


Thanks, G___ E____ for the John Lennon / Yarn Craft Connection. I'm assuming that this has been posted on a million other yarnesque blogs, but I've never seen it before so I'm happy to present it here!

___________________

Don't Blame it On Yoko . . . Yoko's Cool: Young Fresh Fellows, "Don't Blame it On Yoko". It's a song from a single that I'm not sure was ever released on a cd (at least not in the US). Please contact me immediately if this is not the case! I've got the single, but not a turntable. This song is also seemingly referenced by the Barenaked Ladies in their song "Be My Yoko Ono". Music lesson over.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Summer is Ready When You Are

I've finished all of the pieces of the Cables, Baby! sweater, including the button bands. But instead of sewing on the sleeves and putting that baby to bed, I've started something new:

New Project


It's not quite as pink as it looks here, the main color is really pretty red, and the second color is sort of salmon-y. Any guesses as to what it will be, before I enter the project details on Ravelry? I'm a fanatic stats tracker, so I'm not sure I'll be able to hold off on cataloging it for more than a day or so.

The weather this weekend was incredibly good, better than most of our summer weekends this year. In honor of that, I took Frieda and Gretel for walk (along with some long-time and recent tiny friends) around Greenlake:



Greenlake Walk
Don't worry, it's only 3-ish miles!

The dogs did very well for such a long walk on such a warm day, with so many distractions--a 4 month old baby, a 3 year old girl, and a million people on a charity walk that we didn't know would be there. The baby and the 3 year old also did very well--there was a little crying, but not by either of the mothers, so I'll call it a successful outing. Especially since this is what Frieda looked like afterwards:



Glassy Eyed Frieda

A glassy-eyed dog is a good dog! Much better than the barking and whining I had to put up with for 45+ minutes on the way to the city before the walk. Seriously, this dog needs to get out more.

______________
"Summer is Ready When You Are": Same song as yesterday's post--can't get it out of my head.