Friday, June 14, 2019

Lots of Beginnnings

 The best beginning was the one that began yesterday -- the beginning of summer vacation. I have plenty of work to do, but at least it's on my schedule. On my very first morning, I was able to join the Plein Air painting group at Donald County Park, where I painted an outcrop:
I think it needs a few finishing touches.

Later, I started in with some summer reading. I usually avoid popular fiction, but this has gotten so much publicity, I had to find out for myself if it's worth all the buzz.
If you've read it ... no spoilers, please.

I started a hat pattern, Hoopla, from PomPom magazine. I have a small collection of these beautiful magazines, but I haven't actually knit anything from them. Their patterns tend to be a bit complicated. 

This hat, for example, has a Latvian Braid, something I've always wanted to learn. I did learn in a class a few years ago, but I've forgotten everything from that. It turns out that You Tube has some pretty good tutorials.
Wah-Lah! I did it! The pattern is from this issue:
 And, I've found some time to hang around with one of my favorite girls:
Now, I just need some sunny weather for sun-dying cloth, and I'll be all set.

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Trend In Decline? Or Is It The Internet?

In the past, when I've gone to the Bead&Button show in Milwaukee, I had a sense of panic when I entered the market. So many booths! How could see them all? How could I figure out what to buy on my budget?
But it wasn't like that Saturday, when I went with a friend. We stepped into the marketplace, and there were about half as many stalls as there were a decade ago. I last went two years ago, and the decline in the number of stalls was drastic even from that time.

On the upside, it was a lot easier to see everything and figure out what to buy. But it was sad to see all that open space and to worry about the future of jewelry-making. I talked to a lot of the vendors, and they said the problem is all the online purchasing.
I don't understand that. I use the Internet when I must, but I really prefer to see the beads in person. You can't get the same sense for the colors and luster and size of the beads on the Internet. I like going to a store, where you can talk to the employees and the other shoppers. 

In general, I am not a fan of moving all of life online.  The type of blogging we do is, I think, an exception. We are a group who make friends. But in general, I think it's good for us to get out and interact with people.

Still, we had a good time. We took a break and walked to a Thai restaurant for dinner. On the way we saw some of Milwaukee's famed architecture:

And the shopping was still a lot of fun. We found plenty of great elements for jewelry making:

And our goodie-bags had a lot of mini-kits and useful tools.
We both took classes. Tsela did a class in layering with resin. I took a very cool class on beading a spiral bracelet. The good news is that I learned a skill I've been wanting: peyote spiraling. The bad news is that it is a very involved project and I didn't finish in the class:
And, changing topics completely, I have to thank Kat for identifying the bush in my last post. It is indeed a Weigela. When we downsize into a smaller house, I want to make sure there is enough sun for me to plant one of these!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

A Week From Today

...will be the first day of my summer vacation! I have so many ideas for projects flying around my brain. I need to write them down and then focus on actually finishing a few things.

I definitely want to improve my sewing skills this summer. I've been working on the Death Cat project. 
You may not remember it because it has languished for quite a while, but one of these days I'll have a finished quilt to show you.

Tonight I'm working on an annual tradition:
I bake cookies for the kids I proctor final exams for.  Most of my students don't get home baking, so they are very appreciative.

And Wisconsin is finally blooming:

Does anyone know what these are? I found them on a little after-work walk and was amazed by their beauty.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

On Not Being A Yarn Snob

Full disclosure: I totally am a yarn snob. I don't mind paying $28 for a skein of good sock yarn if I really love the yarn. I'm a bit wool-sensitive, so I'm a sucker for wool mixed with silk or cashmere.

But I do get seduced by less expensive yarns from time to time, and I have to admit that they can be nice to knit with and wear. This hat was a pleasure to make:

It's just a simple beanie with a bit of slouch that I made with Lion Brand Cupcake. I saw these sweet cakes at Joanne Fabrics, and I had to try one out. I like the hat, but I would have preferred more graduatl color changes.

And then there was another Lion Brand product that I saw at Joanne's. The spring colors captured my attention and I added a cake of  Comfy Cotton Blend  to my cart.
Cupcake is 100% acrylic, while Comfy Cotton is a blend of cotton and polyester. I don't think any fiber is more pleasant to knit with, more reliable, or more hard-wearing than wool. I love that you can play around with the blocking and that it has memory.

But I know I'm not the only wool-sensitive knitter out there. These two yards were pretty enough to grab my attention. I'd love to find a non-wool yarn that works for sweaters. I have high hopes for Comfy Cotton. In fact, I'm trying it out on Hitchhiker #3:
And I have to say that these Lion Brand non-wool yarns are very easy on the bank account.

I worry about cotton stretching out too much. If you've used a cotton or other non-wool yarn for a sweater and it worked out, let me know! 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

I Need This Weekend

Thanks goodness for the screened porch. I am exhausted! It is heavenly to sit out here and knit. It seems like I feel this tired by this time every year. Is that because I'm not getting younger? 

I've been perusing a new knitting book. I don't buy knitting books often. There is the library, after all,  and there are all those amazing patterns online. However, I could not leave this one behind. If I'm going to call myself "Caffeine Girl," then I had to buy this one. 

I do have a rule about buying knitting books. There have to be at least three patterns I'm sure I'll knit at some point.  With this book, the cowls captured my attention immediately. This one is very sweet:
Considering that I wore my wool shawls into late May this year, I think I could find a place in my wardrobe for this one, too:
I really like this sweater. But I do have problems with wool. I need to learn about how to find patterns that work with cotton and linen.
Not that I'm casting on any of these right now. I have yarn for some non-wool projects that I want to do, as well as an embarrassing number of WIPs.

I hope to catch up with my blog reading, this weekend, get outside, and do some things with friends and family. 

This is a much-needed three-day weekend, and I am struggling to get work off my mind. The end of the year is always intense because there are students who are not going to graduate on time. They and their parents are very emotional. I feel for them, but I also have to scramble around to find the right GED programs and get their paperwork in order for the fall. I am working with a handful of homeless students this year, and there is one in particular who I am very worried about this weekend.

Enough of that. Time to get back to relaxing!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Hooked on Hitchhiker

It's been a dreary weekend: cold, windy, rainy, gray skies. I'm not complaining because I needed to rest and this weather definitely helps with that. I went to Torah study yesterday and then had a nice long lunch with my mom. Last night, Keith and I started the third season of The Man in the High Castle (Amazon), and it is as good as the first two.

Today I started cleaning up my studio and then went out to lunch and Urban Sketching. I ended up drawing one of our sketchers:
The blue sky is just wishful thinking. It was quite gray.
I'm pretty happy with this sketch. The woman sort of looks like Jean, the sketcher, which is a rare accomplishment for me! I need to find some time to just play with my watercolors. It's a challenging medium and I don't put enough time into it.

This is good knitting weather. I finished my first Hitchhiker, and I love it. It only has about 39 teeth (it's supposed to have 41), but it is long enough right off the needles. After blocking, it should be a decent length.
I like the way the gradient works out when it's around my neck. I think it came out well enough to be a gift.

It was such a fun and relaxing knit, that I just had to do a stash dive and start a second one.
I have no recollection of where I got this skein of yarn. It's going to be an adventure. It's a magic ball with 15 colors of sock yarn tied together with square knots and wound into a cake. I haven't come to a knot yet, but I'm hoping that I can just leave the knots in place and have a rustic sort of shawl. Strangely, there is no company name or brand. All I know is that there are 525 yarns of Merino superwash sock yarn. 

For dinner tonight I made a delicious red lentil dish from the Oh She Glows Every Day Cookbook. The dish called for homemade mango chutney, but I cheated and bought some. I'm not vegan, but I do make a lot of Oh She Glows recipes. They are healthy and reliably good.

I noticed that the photo of my most recent quilt in my last post was fuzzy, so I just had to go on record with a better photo:
How was your weekend?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Trying to Focus

I hope that everyone had a lovely Mother's Day. Keith and I made brunch for our mothers.

I've been trying to be more focused on fewer projects so that I can actually finish a few things. After brunch on Sunday, I finished this quilt, which Keith calls "the ugly one."
 It's not my favorite, either. I was trying to use colors that aren't in my usual palette. I learned how much color inspires me. I think that part of the problem with this quilt is that it didn't emerge out of joy -- and I think that shows. This was a useful experiment, but I don't think I'll do it again.

On the other hand, I am thoroughly enjoying my Hitchhiker. I have come to the place in the skein where the dark teal is beginning to occur more frequently.
I spent quite a bit of time working on it this weekend and listening to a fascinating podcast from Slate about Randy Weaver and Ruby Ridge.

And I'll leave you with a photo of my grandkitty telling Rachel that it's time to turn off the computer:

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Spring Is Everywhere At Last

Even Wisconsin has finally welcomed spring! Kola and I are very happy to be able to hang out on the screened porch. 
 Last Sunday I noted that there were 31 days of school left, which means we are now down to 26 days -- 25 for me. I'll be eating Jello for dinner and undergoing everyone's favorite intestinal screening procedure tomorrow.  Yesterday a teacher went public on the state of the profession in the Miami Herald. I love my school, my colleagues, my students -- but no one is exempt from the budget cuts, testing culture, lack of respect. Those have become national problems. 

But, getting back to spring, I have started another set of mitts in Zauberball Crazy, and this ball is very cheerful and seasonal:
My quilting project also features flowers:
I like this project, but again, I feel like I'm following the commercial fabric's direction. I fell in love with the flowered fabric and then chose others to contrast with it. 

The projects I really love are more original. I've started working seriously on a piece for an exhibit that my fiber group is having in the fall, and I like this one so far. The show is at the Arboretum so all the artwork has to include Wisconsin wildlife.
I have four Wisconsin birds and a handful of native wildflowers. When I finish the design, I'll transfer it onto cotton twill and embroider it with perl cotton. I think it will be a fun one to embroider.

I've been taking it easy this weekend. I am exhausted following a week of student crises at school and an injury. A student came flying out of a bathroom and banged into my wrist, leaving me with a sprained arm. I spent the whole day dealing with Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine. Still, I did go out for Gallery Night on Friday. There's a new store that focuses on arts and crafts from Tibet, India, etc., and it is furnished with this completely beaded chair:
Really. That is all beads, see:
Five more weeks. I can do it, right?

Sunday, April 28, 2019

One Done; Two New

It's been a weird weekend. Snow on Saturday, but then a glorious walk on dry sidewalks with my friend Denise today -- didn't even need a sweater. Crazy! At least we didn't have to cancel dinner out with my Mom Saturday. She took us to a very nice Italian restaurant.

As promised, here is my finished quilt:
So, what I don't like about it is that it is largely based on commercial fabrics: the rooster, the eggs, the words. It was fun to make, but I don't get the kind of satisfaction that I would from something that was more original. 
The next quilt is already under way. This time, I decided to force myself to work with a different set of colors.
And do you know what this is? I bet many of you recognized it right away. It is a sprouting Hitchhiker. I didn't think much of the pattern until a saw a few of you do it with gradient yarn. Now I'm a fan. As you can see, I am doing the Line 6 variation (yo, k2tog) to spice it up a bit. 
It is going to go through quite a dramatic color change before I am finished. That should keep it interesting.

31 more days of school. Not that I'm counting.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Midweek Bits & Pieces

It's a rainy Thursday on a crazy week. I'm not sure there are any other kinds of weeks for teachers anymore. Yesterday a 12-year-old was arrested at a middle school after attacking and injuring two police officers. In my world, a lot of students are struggling, especially my students whose families do not have a lot of financial resources. I can't tell you how discouraged I get by the inequality all around me.

As long as I'm on the subject of work ... a while back many of you shared your thoughts on retirement. They were really helpful and I have revisited them many times. The decision for now is ... not retiring yet. My students and my coworkers are really amazing people and I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to them. 

Our amazing ceramics teacher, Phil Lyons, is retiring. In honor of him, we have an exhibit of his work in the school art gallery -- and all the works are for sale. What do you think of this one?
I fell in love with it. When the show closes, it's coming home with me. I've probably mentioned that I work at the high school that my children attended, so this will be a wonderful memento when I do retire.
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 I've picked up a handful of novels, but none of them have hooked me. Instead I'm glued to "1924: The Year That Made Hitler." While it's not exactly uplifting, it is well-written and interesting.

Let's end on a more cheerful note. Here is a picture of an almost-finished quilt:
I don't love it, but I'll get into that when it's finished.

I hope your week has been going well!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

She Looks So Innocent

Kola is a very cute cat, and she is quite entertaining. She's always stretching into odd positions, like she is here, luxuriating in a sunbeam.
However, it isn't so cute when she stretches out next to your computer -- knocking over a cup of herbal tea, which then splashes across the keyboard. To no one's surprise, my computer did not work after that!

So, I had a week of computer deprivation while Keith tracked down a new MacBook for me and then found someone to put all my files on the new computer. I'd had the previous computer since 2011, so it wasn't that outrageous to have to get a new one. But still. The 2011 MacBook was doing just fine and would have lasted for a few more years. Pets can be expensive in unexpected ways!

In the meantime, spring has finally arrived. The magnolia tree down the block is beginning to bloom. It's so funny to see flowers before leaves.
And with spring comes Passover. We had a Seder at my friends' Debbie and Richard's house. They are avid gardners, even on the inside of their house:
Those cool planters are from IKEA, in case you want to do the same thing.

I am just loving knitting these simple fingerless mitts:

I'm using Kirsten Kapur's Mitt Recipe, and following her directions to the T.  I did get two pairs out of one skein of Zauberball Crazy yarn, with quite a bit of yardage to spare. The only hard part was deciding how to pair of the finished mitts. I think I have to do another set in a different colorway.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope you had a lovely weekend!


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Kitten, Kids & Mitts

So, where I have I been for the last month? Well, here is one of the highlights:
Mostly I've been working, practically drowning in paperwork and testing. And there was the matter of the lab stool that came crashing down on my foot in biology class, prompting weeks of light-duty. I still can't wear most of my shoes.

But spring break was pretty amazing -- as well as insanely busy. I started by flying to Miami, where I got to have dinner with my photo-shy son. Seth is working 20-hour days, six days a week, so I was thrilled that he was able to get away for dinner.
I had a wonderful time hanging out with Rachel and my grand-kitty, Delilah. Rachel is a true minimalist --except when it comes to her kitty. Delilah is one spoiled kitty.  
This is probably the special ed teacher in me, but I could swear that kitty has an attention deficit disorder. No matter, I fell in love with her. I think Rachel would have disowned me if I hadn't.

Miami is a great town for coffee shops, restaurants and bookstores. This coffee art came to me at Brewing Buddha, where the coffee was velvety and rich.
We spent a morning wandering around Wynwood, the artsy part of Miami. The murals there are phenomenal.
And we found these amazing gourmet donuts:
Then it was off to Seattle. Take my word for this: Flying from Miami to Seattle is a very long trip. But my aunt was celebrating her 90th birthday, so Rachel and I spent 12 hours getting out there.
We didn't have much time for sight-seeing (although we did walk past the original Starbucks), which was just fine. Many of my favorite people were there, so it was a wonderful weekend.
Rachel, left, with two of her cousins, Robbie and Jennifer. I wish
they could spend more time together!
Of course, I had to have some good travel knitting with me, and I was very pleased with my choice:
These fingerless mitts are based on a recipe by Kirsten Kapur. I grabbed a skein of Crazy Zauberball from my stash, and I love the results.
I'm going to get two pairs out of one skein, so I'm quite pleased with that. It's a mindless pattern that was perfect for travel. 

I hadn't knit with this yarn before, and I found it to be a fun yarn to work with. It's hard to stop because you want to see what color is going to come up next. It's a bit scratchy, but I think it will soften with a good soak and some wear. I definitely want to keep one pair for myself.

Keith met us in Seattle, and then he and I took a red-eye back to O'Hare. I actually made it to work that day!