Little Dog on the Prarie

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Ok, so she’s just in our new backyard. But for a little dog accustomed to gravel, this weedy little yard might as well be the open plains. I think she likes it: she will pause to thoughtfully sniff a particular seed head, or take in the scent on the wind, before doing what she needs to do.

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For my part, I am entranced by the fall. There are trees changing color and crunchy brown leaves on the ground, plump acorns and bristly pinecones. There is something about the quality of light, too, that is entirely different than in Arizona.

I hope you are all enjoying fall in your neck of the woods!

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And Suddenly–

Boxes of books

Mostly books.

I am packing.

Two ends of a blue knitted stole

Two ends.

The shawl is done.

Please, dear readers, don’t get all excited all at once: the best I can manage in the next few weeks will be pictures.

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Thank You, Nancy Bush

Original edition of Outlander and a knitted shawl

The original front cover is very romancey

Happy Friday Thursday, everyone!
[Edited to add: Oops. Still only Thursday.]

I hope you were all celebrating Banned Books Week. I sadly am not (bad librarian). Earlier in the year I broke out of my usual Everything as Long as it has to do With Victorians rut and tried out Vonnegut and Whitman. Do I get points there?

What am I reading instead? A popular book. Outlander. By all my own rules, I should not be reading this at all. First of all, it’s popular. When I worked in a public library, I had Rules. If popular books ever left the hold shelf, which they usually didn’t, anything so popular as to invoke mania in patrons had to be utter mind candy and an insult to English-language prose. Seventeen-year-old me, already a diehard Dickens fangirl, would have nothing to do with popular books. Except maybe Harry Potter.

Additionally, I was very suspect of series (except for the aforementioned Potter). Outlander won some points for being a short series, with new volumes arriving at a measured pace, rather than the book-a-minute approach taken by Messers. Clancy and Clark and Mmes. Clark and Evanovich. These points were promptly lost because my library didn’t have the first edition (pictured above and clearly expected to be a flash-in-a-pan romance novel for slightly more patient readers, by the cheap paper and mawkish still-life cover), it had the second edition. The one printed on nice thick deckle-edge paper, approximately the dimensions of a student dictionary and heavy enough to be a lethal weapon if it came off the top shelf. Trying to shoehorn more than one of these behemoths in on a tightly packed end shelf was an exercise of futility, every time.

Heck–maybe I should have read more big books when I was a page. It would have made my job easier. But at the time, according to my Rules, Outlander had no appeal. It was not until last month, when a friend described it with enthusiasm as something I’d like, that I decided to give it a go. The 23-year-old romance-novel-style edition came available before the ebook, and I’m glad: its tissue paper pages stay open perfectly while I knit.

My only gripe thus far, aside from the fact that I find it somewhat improbable that *both* protagonists are gorgeously perfect people, is the lack of knitting. Clothes come off and on left and right, but Gaboldon doesn’t give much time to the clothes themselves. Foaling, candlemaking, food, medicine and botany–we get plenty on those topics. But the clothes–the objects that identify people, constrain or enable all their running about in the Highlands, get taken off and put on more than once a day–these are mentioned only in passing.

I will admit to being a fiber enthusiast, but I am puzzled by the lack of clothing-talk because it was historically so time consuming. Nobody ran to the mall when their kilt hose got torn: they waited for the next pair, the one that had taken every step from sheep to fabric by hand, to be made. This couldn’t happen invisibly. With that much time involved, the making of fabric had to be pretty omnipresent. And yet Gaboldon doesn’t show it.

Worse, I spent the first four hundred pages wondering why on earth the kilt hose were checked. Gaboldon has the good grace to treat her readers as intelligent people, and does not bash them over the head with definitions of period dress (*ahem* Shannon Hale and your “pelisse”–I will never forgive you for putting that word in quotes), which means that you have to go figure out some of the more subtle things for yourself.

Hear ye, hear ye–everyone who doesn’t have a copy of Folk Socks handy: Nancy Bush says that woven kilt hose, cut and seamed, were quite common before the Battle of Culloden. She doesn’t go into the prevalence of knitting in the Scottish Highlands before the Battle of Culloden in great detail, but that’s ok. Folk Socks is a considerably slimmer volume than Outlander.

Thank you, Nancy Bush. I think I can finish reading Outlander now.

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Hurricanes and High Seas

Clouds above Phoenix

Day One: Ominous Skies

Greetings famous Arizona! After last week’s Epic Rain, we then received the remnants of a hurricane, of all things. I am sorry for all the people who have suffered damage from the rain, but unlike the wacko politicians who usually put Arizona in the news, these storms were unavoidable.

Clouds over Phoenix

Day Two: Slightly Less Ominous Skies

Yesterday’s dark, threatening clouds didn’t produce much in the way of rain for the central valley, but today a nice steady shower swept in from the east and drenched downtown.

High Seas stole against a cloudy sky

High Seas and Clouds

A few clouds were left this afternoon, but I don’t mind if they move on, as long as they take the soggy humidity along with them. My Epic Seas stole has become something of an obsession, and after getting back into the swing of reading the chart, I am speeding along. Can you tell it’s gotten longer since its visit to Sunset Crater?

Wherever you’re knitting, stay warm and dry!

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Half a Librarian

Half of a knitted vest

Half a librarian

Thank you, everyone, for hanging in there through me grumping–and then disappearing. I was out of town for a few days, and now I am back. My inbox has been gathering enough e-mails in my absence to start pulling objects with low mass into its gravitational field, but before I go there I wanted to show you some knitting.

Red knitted mouse peeking its head out of a knitting bag

By the time we got on our last plane, Mousie was ready to be home

Three projects came with me, and for once, I needed them all: *%$# Christmas gift, Epic Seas stole, and Sexxxy Librarian vest. I polished off the last of the knitting on the Christmas gift on my first plane–now I just have to go back to do the finishing and give it a bath. Next flight was a little one, and had two children who screamed blue murder the second their seatbelts were fastened. There was no way I was going to read a chart through that, so I knitted on the Librarian vest and wondered why a five-year-old was screaming like her one-year-old brother instead of running through the usual five-year-old **whine/forced cry/demand everything she can’t have, repeat from ** to landing routine.

Nobody else on the flight knew either. We all made it through to landing, and by the time I joined the desperate charge away from these awful children, I was several inches into the bust increases.

The Epic Seas stole got its turn on the flights home, but please don’t get excited for a picture. It looks exactly the same as it did at Sunset Crater. Believe me. I only got through half of a chart, so you can’t even see that it’s longer. Even still, I am pleased with all the knitting I accomplished. With the Christmas gift out of the way, I am going to take a day or two to knit for me. Who knows–maybe I’ll end the weekend with three quarters of a librarian!

Do you bring your knitting on flights? Do you have a go-to travel project, or like me, do you just grab whatever is on the needles?

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Not All Here

Knit Picks blocking mats in their shipping box

Worth a week of eating lentils and rice.

Sorry, mon peeps. I am not all here. The short of the long has never been my strong suit, but I will try here.

Kitten project bag from Knit Picks

Not essential, but I had been resisting this bag for months.

Short: In early August, a good friend of mine listened as I gleefuly listed all the bothersome little things that I was able to get done while being unemployed. When I was finished, she said, “Yeah, it’ll get old.”

How right she was.

Thankfully, we have knitting to take out our frustration on. (Grammar cops, come and get me. I *will* ending that sentence with a preposition, darnit.) The villainous Christmas gift, which turned into a veritable black hole, was punished for everything else that I am less than pleased with upon the arrival of Knit Picks Blocking Mats purchased specifically for that purpose. Blocking wires, t-pins, the works.

Tonight there will be a DK orgy, and tomorrow, I will finish off the gift.

Small copper colored dog sitting on blocking mats

Melba approves of the blocking mats.

Red tip guards on blocking wires

Melba, in her infinite wisdom, will not collide with an object unless it is imperative that she does not.

When not being used for my knitting project voodoo, Melba thinks the blocking mats would be good puppy seats. I am really glad I thought to use those point protectors (which I have not put on needles in years) to cover the ends of the blocking wires. Melba is the sort of dog who will be completely oblivious of something until it becomes a hazard. She can be pottering about, walking in the totally opposite direction of Fermi (the cat of Purrbaa fame) until you set Fermi’s dinner down. Persnickety cat that he is, nobody can disturb him while he’s eating or he will leave his dinner in kitty anguish, never to return. And give the disturbance several good whacks on the way out. So of course, the second Fermi has settled into the perfect hunched pose, ready to wolf down his food, Melba will change course and start walking straight for Fermi. Every. Single. Time.

Ditto knitting: she will ignore it completely until it is bristling with hazardous pins and wires. Then–Melba magnet. There’s a towel over the blocking, too, to protect it from the giant toenails she inherited from her Dauschund ancestors. The idea is to get the gift to behave, not abuse it to the point it has to be redone.

And that is the long of the short.

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P.S. The kitten project bag has made me feel a little bit better, too

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Pot holders

I have entered end-of-project obsession. The latest Christmas knitting project must be off my needles by the end of the month, or I will toss it off the roof and cast on everything in my Ravelry queue in rebellion.

While you wait for news reports of a crazed knitter in Phoenix, you should listen to Spoon’s new KEXP session. As if there weren’t enough reasons to love Spoon, they played my favorite song “Rhythm and Soul.”

If everyone said potholders the way Britt Daniels does, I think I would knit them more often.

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Stash Begone

Cotton yarn in a sea green yarn bowl

Is that a puppy tummy in the background?

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! Today’s posting will be sadly brief–I have to make my apartment acceptable to be seen by company, and I don’t expect that to be an easy task. But Arizona’s low desert permitted rain glorious rain to fall on her soil, so I am snuggled up with Melba on the couch and wearing away my fingers knitting the cotton out of my stash.

The naughty little girl was finally successful in her bid to get two dinners out of Querido and me, and so she’s out for the count. In the midst of my Christmas knitting, I have been seized with a desire to use up my stash–preferably enough to allow me to put it all away. The cotton goes first.

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Buttons

Red cardigan with black buttons

I’ve got buttons.

Today, I don’t have any grandiose plans to change the world, not magnificent FOs to show off. I just have buttons.

Do you keep a button box? Growing up, my sisters and I would play with the buttons in our mother’s button box, and I raided it for closures for the wonky little pouches I made in my early days as a knitter. When I moved out, I started my own button box, filling it with those irresistible little sale cards of buttons from fabric stores, specialty buttons from yarn stores, and gently (or not so gently) worn buttons salvaged from clothes en route to the rag bag.

In several years of collecting, however, I had never actually used any of the buttons from my box. Until today. The sweater is my Leah’s Lovely Cardigan, finished last summer. Because of the wonky fit through the body, I wore it open for a year, but many a time at my desk I thought it would be useful to have a few buttons to keep the neck closed over a v-neck shirt.

In my clean all the things phase right after my job ended, I finally got enough momentum to go searching for buttons to put on the cardigan, but not enough momentum to go out and buy buttons. So I poked through the button box, and there they were: a whole bunch of little cloth buttons salvaged from an old sundress. By some miracle, they were not a smidge to big or small (have you noticed button-box buttons usually come in those two sizes?), and by an additional miracle I had red thread, so on they went.

That’s my excitement for this Tuesday. I actually used buttons from my button box, and my cardigan will stay closed at the neck. Huzzah!

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Alien Baby

Here we have it, a second post in as many days! I may get back on track yet.

We have talked about my thing for knitting weird toys for new babies before. If a president’s publicity stunt can make predators children’s toys, I see no reason why prehistoric and mythical creatures can’t be children’s toys too. I can whip out a Nautie in no time. My first blog post, as a matter of fact, featured a Nautie. The most normal thing I can manage is a hedgehog.

Sometimes, the parents are not looking to reimagine normal when stocking their little one’s toy basket. They are quite happy with bears, thank you. (These are the people that get hedgehogs) But this year, one of Querido’s friends announced that his family was welcoming its first little one, and for the first time ever, I was knitting for a parent that would absolutely love a strange softie.

No animals were harmed in the making of this alien, but one small dog was reminded that her owner is crazy.

No animals were harmed in the making of this alien, but one small dog was reminded that her owner is crazy.

Specifically, an Alien softie. I had a vision: egg-shaped baby sock, matching bonnet, and chubby little facehugger to keep the baby company in his stroller.

The egg was the hard part: I couldn’t find a pattern for an egg-shaped baby sock, nor even a giant Easter Egg softie, so I had to take the proportions of a little Easter egg softie and wing it.

Alien-egg shaped baby sock

Alien Egg — after I got carried away and took pictures, I blocked it and secured down the flaps with buttons

The bonnet is from Joelle Hoverson’s Last Minute Knitted Gifts, and the time rating is accurate: Miss Dawdling Knitter finished in about 3 hours. Apologies to the mother-to-be doing all the hard work: I think this is the only part you’ll like.

Gray baby bonnet on a brightly printed cushion

The bonnet, which will coordinate with normal outfits too

And the pièce de résistance, the facehugger, came from a pattern on Craftster. I doubled worsted yarn to make it chubby, modified the carapace shaping slightly, and shortened legs and tail to reduce the choking hazard. Full notes on Ravelry

Knitted facehugger

Ahhh!!!!

When everything was finished, I stuffed the bottom of the egg with tissue paper to give it shape, then wrapped the facehugger in pink tissue and stuffed that into the top of the egg. (Taking pictures of my wrapping would have been smart, and yet I did not think to do so). The whole thing went into a silver gift bag and off to the father-to-be.

Ever the perfectionist, I was concerned about the shape of the egg, and hoped that a facehugger with only two sections per leg would not be unacceptably inaccurate (they should have three). But my fears were unfounded–our friend loved it.

So if you see a baby out and about in its Alien suit, know that a few dozen sea monsters are not far behind.

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