Archive for September, 2013

The Rhythms of A Season

Every season has its rhythms and humans like the animals in nature tend to respond to them. The crisp, cool nights and mornings are made even more sharp and chilly when the house has no heat. What began as an Autumnal choice to snuggle under sheets and fluffy comforter Sunday morning turned into a necessity when I realized the heat to half the house went out sometime overnight. The Skipper called the company that services our heating system but said no one answered the phone. Surely, they have an emergency number, I said. The Skipper said he didn’t think our lack of heat was an emergency. Every season has its rhythms. The day will warm and heat the house and we’ll be fine. Yarn Rascal sneezed twice.

The day did become tepid, like a cup of tea that is neither hot nor cold. The house remained cool. I reintroduced the idea of calling the emergency number. The Skipper said we have a fireplace. This isn’t the 1700s, I said. Yarn Rascal sneezed some more. Our attention was then diverted. Although the day was lukewarm, the temperature of the air behind the outside shutters of the bedroom windows upstairs must have been positively Caribbean. Suddenly Stink Bugs seemed to buzz everywhere inside the room. Yarn Rascal had playmates. The Skipper said it’s that time of year when they (the Stink Bugs) come indoors looking to winter over where it is warm. Well, aren’t they going to be disappointed, I said. Yarn Rascal sneezed and frolicked.

The Skipper has a number of shop vacs that he loves. If there is a problem with anything functioning in the house his go to items are duct tape and a shop vac. While trying to gather Stink Bugs put them outside and keep the sneezing Yarn Rascal from putting them in his mouth, The Skipper returns lugging one of the bigger shop vacs. The Skipper said, I’ve got this. Tell me you’re not going to massacre all these bugs. It’s bad karma, I said. Just when I was warming to my explanation of bad karma, out of the corner of my eye I caught the flash of white that is Yarn Rascal with what looked like a blue head.

Focused on Yarn Rascal now I ran down the stairs after him, which immediately violated three rules I learned from my obsessive watching of Dog Whisperer episodes: Don’t chase the dog. Remain calm. Remain in control. As I stumbled on the last two steps, I saw Yarn Rascal round the bend like a Ferrari and disappear into the kitchen with what looked like, but couldn’t be, strands of blue yarn fluttering around his body. From above, I heard the shop vac roar into life and I was caught between save the bugs or save the dog. Yarn Rascal has had two hospital stays because of stomach problems, and I am desperately trying to teach him not to put everything in his mouth and eat it.

I captured Yarn Rascal in the corner of the back room beyond the kitchen. I had closed every door I had gone through so there was no escape. None of it really mattered. Yarn Rascal had tangled all four legs and his body in the skein of blue yarn. I calmed him down and began extrication. I don’t know where he stole the yarn from, I don’t even recognize the yarn. Now it lays a snarled, twisted mess of mystery yarn on the kitchen table.

This morning the man came to service the heat. It seems the wires leading into our thermostat were nibbled on and hence disconnected. I hope whatever it was didn’t electrocute itself, I said, then went upstairs. I picked two Stink Bugs off the windowsill and placed them outside as The Skipper called up to me that he was heading to the hardware store. Make sure they are Have-A-Heart traps, I replied. I know exactly what he is up to. In the meanwhile, I am calling the vet. Yarn Rascal is still sneezing. Yes, it is all the rhythm of the season.

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I must get myself a new camera. I am reluctantly using the Skipper’s at the moment and while it takes great pictures for him, it doesn’t give me what I want. I’m used to ones where I can fiddle with the f-stop, aperture opening, etc. Point and shoot is wonderful, but I can’t get the hang of it. I studied photography in college, back in the days when cameras used film. The amount of time I spent per week in a dark room developing film and pictures was quite a bit. It is slightly hair raising to think about it now, but nary a thought was given to inhaling or being around all those chemicals then. I must admit, there is something magical about watching a picture come alive from a blank piece of paper, taking it through its chemical baths to stop the various processes just at the right moments. Nostalgia.

Here is the November Woods Shawl I made during Hurricane Sandy.

november woods shawl

Nothing like being without power, cable tv and the internet for two weeks to help get a leg up on knitting projects. Actually, we have a generator to keep certain things working like the fish tanks, living room lights, refrigerator, the well water thingy, and the heat. Notice that the stove isn’t on that list. The fish are fine, the food is refrigerated, but cooking? Let’s just say the act of cooking regresses to a time during the Neanderthals. Yes, not hooking up the stove to the generator was an oversight.

The yarn is Jill Draper Makes Stuff Splendor Sock Yarn.The colorway is Mycology. When I started knitting it up it reminded me of the colors of the woods on a gray, wet November day. The woods are always beautiful then; the browns are dark chocolate, the leaves that still linger on the trees are bright yellows and light greens. The deeper greens that will carry through winter, and the russets colors of fallen leaves.

I was messing around with Barbara Walker’s Indian Cross Stitch stitch pattern. I wanted the yarn to clearly cross in an x shape while maintaining a diamond shape opening on either side.

shawl cu

I fiddled and fiddled, until I came up with a way of catching a yarn over in a yarn over or something like that to create this. For the life of me I cannot remember exactly what I did to replicate it. When I went to my notes (I use the word “notes” in its most loose sense) the relevant information wasn’t there. Not a word, nor a hieroglyph referring to the stitch pattern. So it goes, this is my life.

Yarn Rascal was feeling much better all week, until today. I am going to push The Skipper for a vet visit. $$$ :)!

Hope you have a good weekend. I think mine is shaping up to be a little rough.

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Downton Abbey Knits

I am not ashamed to admit that I am an avid fan of Downton Abbey. A late comer to the party, it was near the end of its third season before I borrowed the first season DVD from my library. It only took two episodes to know I needed my own DVD copy, this was something I could watch again and again and enjoy. What a surprise it was to find three whole seasons worth of DVDs! Needless to say I gobbled them up in marathon viewing sessions.

When season four arrived in DVD it too was gobbled up. I am incapable of watching the show episode by episode as it airs because I’m not able
to bear the waiting between one airing and the next. I have enough anxiety and angst in my own life day to day without a television series adding more.

This is all to say that I was very pleased to see that Interweave Knits has released the Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits and that it contains a number of wonderful knitting projects. It also contains a fair amount of articles filled with historical information about the World War I era.

Here are some peeks inside.

I think it is the perfect footman sweater. I showed it to The Skipper and let’s just say, I won’t be knitting it for him this winter. But I love it anyway. “Will you be having tea in the conservatory, madam?”

footman sweater

I am not a hat person, but I love this hat.


Yes, that is a knitted wide brim hat to match the kimono sweater. It captures the feeling of the era so perfectly.


I have never cared much for the bolero look until I saw this sweater. I can see that working for me.


Classic, clean, simple, elegant. It would compliment so many things.


Today, I think I will relax, look at the projects in the magazine and imagine.

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I missed Friday’s post. It was the second day in what became a 48 hour ordeal involving no sleep. Frankly, I become a little ragged around the edges after 24 hours of no sleep. When it hits 48 hours without sleep a desperation begins to settle in and my mind and body overreact to everything.

Yarn Rascal became very ill Thursday night at 2 a.m. Yes, 2 a.m. is the crucial period of day, or should I say night, for me. Always has been my whole life. The worst of a bad storm will peak at 2 a.m., if there is a medical emergency it takes place at 2 a.m. In short, if it’s going to be nasty it’s going to happen at 2 a.m. This time, not only did it happen at 2 a.m. but it happened just as I was becoming sick from my flu shot earlier in the day.

We rushed Yarn Rascal to the emergency vet. I’ve been this route before with my other dogs. A 30 minute drive that seems to take an hour. The annoyance of all the other cars on the road, and thinking “When the hell does anyone sleep around here?”

As they check Yarn Rascal I swallow two aspirin for the fever I am getting. It’s determined that Yarn Rascal “ate something”. Of course he did, he’s like a little vacuum cleaner. I spend 90% of my day taking things out of his mouth. The doctor also finds a “thickening in the intestinal loop”. Panic releases itself and spreads through my body then seizes my brain. Something is lodged in his intestine? The doctor calmly says that he doesn’t feel an object, just a thickening. He calmly suggests Yarn Rascal be given some fluids to help the dehydration and an anti-nausea shot. Calmly he tell me that I should take Yarn Rascal home and in 90 minutes call my regular vet who will be open. But my brain is stuck on “He has something stuck in his intestines” and is playing it in an endless loop. By the time I get to his regular vet I am wired like a person who has had too much caffeine.

His regular vet is a very calm person. He does the x-rays and blood work that I plead for request because I am positive something is stuck in his intestines. But before the assistant takes Yarn Rascal into the back I whisper in his ear, “It’s the dawning of a new day buddy, and the first thing that’s going to stop is putting everything in your mouth and eating it!” As I turn, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror that is in the waiting room to give it the illusion of being bigger than it is. My hair is in spikes and standing on end, the dark circles around my eyes are so prominent it looks as if they were intentionally done with make-up. In short, I look like a punk rocker after a really, really bad night.

The vet show me the x-rays and blood work results. He does this because he knows if I don’t actually see them I won’t really believe him when he tells me nothing is stuck in the intestines. The blood work is all good except where it indicated that Yarn Rascal hadn’t had any food in awhile. The vet put him in the hospital for the whole day to get fluid and medicine in him.

Friday night I stayed awake and watched Yarn Rascal sleep. Because things needed to change, I turned to the only source immediately available to me in the dead of the night to find out how to manage Yarn Rascal’s habits. The internet. I found the Dog Whisperer. I watched episode after episode. I learned things. When Yarn Rascal woke up Saturday morning it was indeed the dawning of a new day. Although he managed to eat the two ears off his Halloween toy Sunday, I consider it only a minor setback. I am determined to head in a new direction with him with calmness, patience, love, and consistency.

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One way to increase my stress level when on a work deadline is to follow a distraction instead. To fulfill that objective, this morning I spent a good chunk of time searching the yarn vault.

Let me briefly explain the yarn vault. It is not one inclusive space. It was created in a flurry of haste and desperation one week after we got Yarn Rascal. Hence, the yarn vault resides in the corners of four separate closets and the top shelves of two others. The vault is comprised of a number of Rubbermaid bins with locking tops. The locking mechanism was a must to prevent Yarn Rascal from gaining access to the cache of his dreams. The magnetism of yarn and bamboo knitting needles is something he cannot genetically resist. I have come to accept this.

Scattered inside these various bins are my yarn stashes. Some yarns have the project name written on their labels but most don’t. I collect yarn like a neglected corner of a room collects dust bunnies. As with the yarn and other knitting related items in the bins there is no logic to the scattering. So for example, there is no assurance that I will find the matching pair of size 6 needles in the same bin. Its partner could be in any one of the other bins.

Knitting patterns in various states of being are scattered throughout the bins. Some pattern pages are neatly secured in page protectors, others are not even stapled together and that doesn’t bode well when it comes time to find the whole pattern. Patterns bound with rubber bands around their knitted objects in progress are also residents of the bins.

My own designs, all on paper, some in neatly labeled folders, others only notes and sketches half filling legal pads are in the bins. I am sure that the many single pages, parts of patterns that may or may not be in a particular bin with its compatriots will clearly need an Egyptologist to decipher them. Swatches, that off-hand I can’t say what they go with or where the skeins are that they came from, fill the bins. To say the vault lacks organization is a gross understatement.

Thus, with deadlines looming for other work, I decide I need to find the pattern for the November Woods Shawl I knitted during Super Storm Sandy in one of the bins in the yarn vault. Cue the rise of stress level and blood pressure.

The minute I open a closet door Yarn Rascal shows up all panting and tail wagging, ready to dive right in. We “play” fifteen minutes of catch the Bichon. When caught I deposit him with The Skipper and block off the kitchen.

Suffice it to say that all my searching through all those bins was for nought. I found the pattern. One page. At the top was the name of the pattern with the date. Beneath that were two words of instruction: “Cast on”….

This is fate giving me a good whack with a 2 x 4 to grab my attention and redirect it to the things I should be harried about.

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A busy work-filled weekend behind me and a week of deadlines in front of me. And so I am going to start out on a completely unrelated topic.

geranium 1

This is The Skipper’s great-grandmother’s geranium plant in bloom. I have never seen this shape of flowers on present day geranium plants so each time his great-grandmother’s plant blooms I am filled with happiness and wonder. We sat down and figured that the plant is well over 100 years old and we both treasure it so much. I hope the plant can feel our happiness.

I have children of my grandmother’s African Violet plant, the original having died long ago. But it’s not the same.

I did tech editing most of the weekend. For all I complain about the math, there is beauty in it and great satisfaction. One of the projects I edited I am now knitting. A coat for a 1 year old. I plan on donating it to the knitting group at the hospital where my cancer doctors work. The knitting group sells hand knitted and crocheted items to help raise money for the hospital and fund free programs to help people with cancer work through all the mental, emotional, and physical issues that go along with being diagnosed with cancer. I already have a baby sweater, three baby dresses, and an afghan ready for donating.

The coat in progress.

coat 1

I can’t say how important it is to me to give back for all the help that was and continues to be given to me. It’s an ache that is only soothed by helping where I can.

The yarn I am using is Valley Yarns 100% Extra Fine Merino DK and can be found at Webs The color is Wild Rose. It is a neck soft type of yarn and I like working with it. No splitting, or other nasty things yarn can get up to when knitting.

You can just see the calculator on the left in the picture. I was finishing the calculations for a sleeve cap. I felt positively exuberant when the numbers all came out right. Just like I imagine I would feel upon being released from jail.

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While I usually post on Fridays, I missed doing so yesterday. I wish I could say I skipped by the whole day and that I simply went from Thursday to Saturday but that kind of time travel doesn’t happen to me. It had nothing to do with Yarn Rascal, though he was as helpful as a sieve in a sinking canoe all day. No, it’s just adjusting to the new normal. Some days aren’t going to be great.

I am tech editing a few patterns and trying to work on knitting up my own designs and trying to design new designs all at the same time. I have to be honest with you, knitting is math. Math up to my eyeballs. Algebra and geometry math. Whether it’s a simple sock or a sweater it all comes down to the math. Inches and centimeters translate into rows and stitches and back again. When the numbers don’t come out even, which is most of the time, the decision to round up or down to an even number sometimes becomes a deliberation in my head equal to any long-winded, verbose debate on any floor of Parliament. I have had people ask me why I buy patterns when I know how to make my own. My answer is simple: First, I like the design. Second, I don’t have to do all the math.

I can’t say where their intense adverse reaction to buying patterns originates. But when I run into the response it rankles me. Of course, I rankle them too by buying patterns when, in their eyes, I don’t need to do so. To them I am worse than a traitor. My reaction has been and continues to be don’t engage. Do I really want to spend my energy on trying to explain the rationality of buying a pattern to someone whose mind is closed to any such explanation? The energy I do have needs to go other places: physically exhausting Yarn Rascal before he can have a Gold Paw Day, working on my tech editing jobs and wrestling with the math, working on my own designs and wrestling with that math, going out to find inspiration for the next design, carving out quiet time to allow ideas to develop and mature. For really, designing encompasses opposites: the rigidity and formality of mathematics on the one hand and on the other a free, open, roaming mind to envision what might be.

I am a little late in saying it, but have a good weekend.

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