Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Fail, A Finish, A Feline & Flowers

Have you ever dropped a Size 1 DPN on an airplane and found yourself crawling around on the floor to find it? Well, I have -- and more than once. Since I've got some travels planned for this summer, I determined to learn the Magic Loop method.
I spent (wasted?) an hour trying to get a pair of socks started. I couldn't even get the first sock going. At first, I spit out a few bad words in the direction of the book. But I know a lot of people have used this book. I think we may be talking user error here. Maybe some You Tube videos would help me more.

This failure was balanced by the finish of my mindless knitting project, a pair of self-striping socks in the Hermoine's Everyday Socks pattern. 
I bought this yarn at 50% off and it worked out be much prettier than I expected. Into the gift box they go.
 I have to throw in this photo of Kola. I love making their heads look too big for their bodies. Makes me laugh every
time. If that seems odd, remember that I work with teen-agers.
And last, but not least, we finally have flowers around here. I love spring flowers, especially the early ones like lilacs.
Wishing you a productive week!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Back to Knitting

Despite all the graduation excitement, there has been knitting. This gorgeous cake of yarn is turning into a Field of Wildflowers hat.
It is a Joji Locatelli pattern, so of course it is well-written and easy to follow. It has quite a few cables, pushing me to take time out to start learning how to cable without a cable needle. 

Thanks to Internet tutorials, I can cable without a needle -- but only when the crossed stitches are held to the front. The yarn is local -- Four Crows Yarn Hand-Dyed Worsted.

With all the company, I needed a mindless project. My go-to is always self-striping Opal. I can't find the ballband, but I am enjoying watching this sock emerge.
Our hummingbirds are back! If you look closely, you can see a female sipping at the left side of the feeder.
It's Wednesday evening, and I am still pretty darn tired.  Not that I'm complaining! It's a blessing to have events and people to celebrate.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Once there was a little boy...

who thought he wanted to be a rock star ... 
or a police officer.

But it turned out that what he really wanted to be was a veterinarian... and now he is!
Tears leaked from my eyes through the entire graduation ceremony on Saturday. This young man and I have been through the best of times and the worst of times. For a long time, he had no intentions of going to college, let alone graduate school. He put a lot of effort into being a death-metal guitarist in his late teens. No one was expecting him to put that aside and go to college.
Of course I am proud -- and pleased that he found a way to make a living doing something he loves. In a couple of weeks he'll take the next step and move to Hollywood, Florida, to start an internship.
He'll be near his sister, who is in grad school at the University of Miami. Guess where I'm going for winter break next year?

It's been a hectic week with family from out of town and a big party. I was so crazed that I didn't take any other photos. But the experiences and memories are more important, right?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Great Mail

My new friend Laura from Pennsylvania sent me an awesome batch of goodies as part of swap organized by Andi of My Sister's Knitter.
I know! Can you believe it?

So there are two yummy yarns in my favorite color range of pink. The skein is Ella Rae Lace Merino DK, which is butter soft.  The caked yarn is ModeSock in a gorgeous raspberry pink.  I think both are destined to be things that go around the neck.

I love the notions bag. It's very ethnic-like, one of my favorite styles. Post-Its are a such a great gift for a knitter. I use them constantly. I'm saving the packets of Soak for handwashing clothes on my travels this summer.
 And then there is the yummy stuff: I'm saving the cupcake for the weekend, but I can already tell you that the Peanut Chews are delicious! I'm looking forward to savoring the teas -- especially chocolate mint oolong. 
Does the art on the card look familiar? It will if you are a Taproot fan. Isn't it gorgeous?

Thank you so much, Laura! You made my week!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Magnolia Season: Plants and Knits

Spring has finally come to Wisconsin. I love these early days of spring because that's when the Magnolia trees blossom. I always think of Magnolias as Southern so they feel a bit exotic here. We had a glorious weekend. I took knitting breaks but mostly I'm getting ready for Seth's graduation next weekend.
I'm absorbing the news that the four-months of treatment I went through this past winter didn't completely work and I'll be going on medical leave to have surgery and recover at the end of May.
So it was cheerful to sit in the sun and work on my Magnolia socks. This is sock number 2, and it is coming along nicely. Knitting is very calming at times like this.
I'm trying to do some real spring cleaning. Luckily for me, I have a great helper:
It was so interesting to read how you deal with mistakes in your knitting. I admire those of you who have high standards and fix your mistakes, but I'm glad to know that I am not the only "fudger".

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Sort Of Spring

It was 36 degrees when I set out on my bike for Urban Sketching this morning. That seems awfully cold for the very end of April. At least I'd remembered to cover my ears, and the cold air turned out to be quite pleasant.
We sketched at a cafe along one of Madison's four lakes, and most of us drew the folksinger who was providing live music. Not my favorite drawing, but not bad for practicing. I told him we were competing to do his next album cover.

It's always fun to see what everyone else has drawn.

Work is getting busy as the end of the year approaches, so there hasn't been a lot of knitting. I did finish the first Magnolia sock.
Here is a close-up so you can see the pattern a little better.
There are crosses (cables involving only two stitches) and cables with four stitches. I do fine on the cables, but a good number of the crosses are in the wrong direction. I will confess to being a fudgy knitter. I think the color changes hide the errors. Besides, these are for me. I'm going to live with the mistakes.

Do you fix ALL your mistakes?

Monday, April 23, 2018


At long last, spring has arrived here. After all, it's only late April! I was able to take a spin on my favorite vehicle this weekend:

I have to say that it was a bit rough and I need to build up some strength -- but it felt good to be out riding in the sunshine.

I've gotten a good start on the second pattern in the Secret Sock Society run by Helen Stewart. Magnolia is a beautiful pattern:
Once again, I'm using a yarn from Great Lakes Tweed and I love it. However, it's a little busy for such a detailed pattern:
Even so, it's very pretty and I'm going to keep going on this pair. I can always knit a second pair in a different yarn!

I hope you have a wonderful week. Mine is starting out with jury duty!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

More Hats

 I had enough yarn left over from my last Fair Isle hat to make a second one. I designed the pattern for this one:

I'm not sure I like it better than the original. You can compare them below. I'd love to hear your thoughts -- yes, constructive criticism is welcome. Mine has more detail, but I think these colors worked better in a simpler design.

And I finished After the Fall. It's a good beach-type read about a group of people on a private plane that crashes.]I think it's out in paperback, and it would be a good vacation novel.

I hope your week is going smoothly. Snow is falling here as I type, with 5 to 7 inches expected. The snow will probably end by 1 a.m., so it's unlikely I'll get a snow day tomorrow. That's probably for the best. I have a lot of work to do before the end of the school year.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

If you read a few blogs, you've seen this adorable handmade card over the last few days:

Yes, it is the handwork of Deb. If you don't know Deb, you can meet her here. In addition to writing a great blog, Deb might be the most generous crafter out there. She is a master of soapmaking, and she gives away her amazing wares:
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Look at that loot! From top left, there are lotion bars (which I use constantly), soaps, lip balm, and facial soap. You cannot buy soaps like these! And I mean that literally: These are superior to any commercial soap out there. Effective, gentle and perfectly scented. And beautiful:
A huge thank you to you, Deb, for your incredible generosity. You are so talented -- and so kind to share your creations.

That was the good. Here is the bad:
Fair Isle is so much fun to knit, but then there are all those ends to weave in. Not so much fun.

And then there's the ugly. Yesterday, my MIL and I took a class at a local fabric store to learn how to free motion quilt. I'm really glad to start learning this skill, but my first attempt is not beautiful.

My MIL, a lifetime seamstress who sews most of her own wardrobe and all my FIL's shirts, took to it right away. And we both learned that quilter's gloves are not optional. Neither is practice!

Also ugly: snow in mid-April. The roads are snow-covered ice. We were able to have breakfast with my parents, but I can't see going out a second time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Quick Book Reviews

 It's been a while since I reported on my reading, so here we go...

I finally got around to reading A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, and it holds up to its reputation. A good solid read, entertaining, well-written. Not too light -- but not too ponderous either. The characters are wonderful. It's about an irritable middle-aged man whose life is changed when a young couple with two children moves into his neighborhood.
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If you like this, you should try Beartown by the same author. It is darker and more complex, but still has that wonderful writing style.

Zadie Smith bursted on the the literary scene in 2003 with White Teeth, which I loved. It's the story of two middle-aged Englishmen in London who make unlikely friends. It doesn't sound that great when I put it like that, but it really is.

NW sounds so good. It follows four young people of color in London who take very different paths. The writing is experimental -- stream of consciousness, fragmentary, and often frustrating. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to appreciate this one. I finished it, but I'm not sure it was a good use of my reading time.

I'm about halfway through Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, about a group of people who are flying on a private plane that mysteriously drops into the North Atlantic.

It's quite good reading, though not a literary masterpiece. It keeps me turning the pages -- which is exactly what I was looking for!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sunday Start and Finish

 So, here we are in the middle of winter -- wait! It's April 8! How can the high temps be in the 30's? Not fair! However, I suppose it is good weather for hat knitting. It only took me four days to knit a Crazy Color Hat:

I've started a second one, only I'm designing the colorwork section just for fun. The colored yarn is Ewetopia DK, and it is divine. The gray is MadTosh Charcoal.

And I cast on the second sock in the Secret Sock Society from Helen Stewart. It was 2 inches long when I realized I had made far too many mistakes, so this is how it looks now:
This pattern has lots of cables, which is both great and scary. Great because I need to get better at them and scary because (as rediscovered today) I am terrible at doing them correctly.

Has anyone else noticed that weekdays are longer than Saturday and Sunday?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Like a Ton Bricks

The re-entry to work has hit me like a ton of bricks.  So much to do and only one quarter left before summer! So, excuse me for falling behind on blog-reading.

I'm still working at reducing my stash through hat-knitting. (If you are related to me, guess what you are getting for Hanukkah or Christmas!)

I've begun Alaska in Knit Circus yarn:

The Crazy Color Hat will soon be eating up some Ewetopia mini-skeins. It's not too exciting with just the brim:
I have to admit to being a tad tired of ribbing!

During spring break, I found some books at the library about making folk-style art. I've aways shied away from this style because it requires symmetry. But with some directions, it turns out not to be too difficult. Also, my symmetry isn't exact.

I'm thinking about scanning it into my computer and turning it into textile art.

I did get some organizing done in my craft room during break. Turns out I need to provide storage for cats:
Only two days until the weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I Guess This Is OK

 I have a long list of things I was going to accomplish over spring break. Very little of it is checked off. Part of the reason is that I'm still experiencing side effects from my treatment. But I also think I'm suffering from plain old work burn out.

I've been nibbling away at projects, like this Toboggan Run hat:
 It's part of my stash-busting efforts. All I know about the yarn is that it's been in my stash for a long time, it's worsted, and it's very soft. It might be Dream in Color, but that's just a guess.

I've taken some nice walks to a coffee shop, where I've drawn my latte, a habit of Liz Steel. Steel is a well-known Urban Sketcher, and I just finished her online watercolor class, which I loved. It gave me the confidence to start using watercolor all the time.
 One of our last assignments in the watercolor class was to paint cupcakes. This was a fun one!
Somehow I resisted eating any of the cupcakes, though I did gobble down the macaroons!

Passover starts tomorrow night, and I promised to bring all sorts of food. Then my oven died yesterday. I guess I'll have to invite myself to someone's kitchen later today to finish my contributions!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Love Vacation; Miss the Kids

I can't lie: I am totally ready for Spring Break, even though my main activity is going to be decluttering my house. Certainly there will be time for things like this Barley Light hat in unidentified stash yarn:
I do miss our students, though. I have worked with some amazing young people over the years. As a special ed teacher, I am limited by law in what I can say about our students. But today I can share with you one of the most joyful humans I have ever encountered:
I was Stephon's case manager when he was in 8th grade, and it was a pleasure. Stephon is just a happy person. He is also crazy about dragons. Back in 8th grade, he drew them constantly. The best way to get him to do schoolwork was to promise drawing time when the work was complete. When he moved into high school, he started building dragons out of pipe cleaners and clay. And now he has a one-man show at our school art gallery.
I can share this with you because Stephon went public with his art and his special status in a local newspaper. You can read more about him here.
It is no secret that this is a challenging time to be a teacher; however, it is truly and honor to work with teen-agers, to get to know them, and (I hope!) help them a little bit along the way.