Saturday, March 31, 2012

Finished shawl - Maluka

This is Maluka, finished, blocked and hanging with the daffodils.  It's the fourth of my 12 shawls in 2012 challenge.  I used Knit it Up Posh in "Tuscan Countryside," but I was thinking of and craving the daffodils when I started knitting it.  I love the timing of the full blooming daffodils just in time for the photo shoot!

This photo was taken a few days ago, before the deluge began.  We're hoping our basement has only moderate puddles when we get back from Spring Break.  Some of the daffodils I picked for the teachers after the rains started had slugs hiding on them.  Ick.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Final Exam Day

My main WIP in the sewing room is my Farmer's Wife quilt, slowly being sashed into diagonal strips.  111 blocks will probably take awhile!  I'm enjoying the process and not doing very much at a time.  It's a queen-sized quilt and will very quickly become unwieldy for my design wall!

Today is the day I give my nasty ol' final exams to my 6th-8th grade students.  I'm pretty sure several of them will be sick with the stomach bug or strep that's going around, so I'll have a lot of make-ups to arrange.  Tomorrow will be our last day and then we're heading off early Friday (I had to arrange three subs) to go to Lake Tahoe for spring break.  The rumor is that we're going to attempt skiing.  This will be most entertaining to watch, I'm sure.  We managed to live 6 years in Denver without ever picking up the hobby.  Well, my Dad who learned to ski at age 65 will be showing us around... we'll be hanging out on the bunny slopes, except for Secundus, who has been snowboarding twice and has limitless confidence.
The summary of WIPs:
  • Aunt Maggie's Quilt - finished the label, done and done!
  • Farmer's Wife Quilt - about 15% done with sashing 
  • March UFO knitting bag - no progress, but I have to move the fabric every time I use the cutting area
  • knitting Maluka shawl - done, blocked, and waiting to be blogged
  • knitting Black Roses Stole - slow progress, about 25% through the 1st half
  • knitting cotton bath rug - no progress
  • knitting argyle-fest - no progress
  • spinning blue Wensleydale - I finally filled one bobbin of laceweight-ish!
I won't set goals for next Wednesday because we'll be either on the slopes or in the hospital then.  But I'm planning on taking along the Black Roses Stole and On Your Toes sweater, and maybe some applique handwork.  Planning the handwork for car trips is always the most important part of the packing!

Check out all the other stitching going on at Lee's Freshly Pieced today.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Third Quarter

We are almost through the third quarter, coming up fast on Spring Break.  The 3rd quarter is probably the most stressful of all four quarters of school: that new school year energy that some of us felt in September (although never for very long) has long since worn off, and Christmas break is far behind.  The weather may be better than in January and February, but it's still rainy most of the time in the Northwest and we can't give up wearing our winter woolies quite yet. 

Any Spring Fever type behavior that has lain dormant for the winter is going to start showing itself now, or any time from here to the end of the school year.  Our students are very bright and diligent, but they do act up from time to time, and now is the time for any squirreliness to show itself.  In addition to a heaping helping of the random, we have pre-scheduled events in the 3rd quarter, kind of like those obstacles that suck your life force down in a video game: parent-teacher conferences, the Spring Program where we all have to show off to our best advantage, Teen Pact for some of the upper grades (kind of a state legislative educational camp/ week-long field trip), the National Latin Exam (scheduled for the week of the Ides of March, of course), and all the regular illnesses that hit this time of year (strep, flu, bronchitis, that thing with the fever, etc.); and for those of us with a college-bound senior, we have the added obstacles of navigating the admissions minefield and planning for graduation.

And the teachers are tired.  Bone tired... at least this teacher is.  I came home from Monday night Knit Night at Starbucks a little after 9:00 and went straight to bed... and fell asleep before 10:00, which I NEVER do.  I'm really not sure why.  Yesterday I taught, desperately trying to review my students, many of whom were absent, for the final exam Wednesday.  I came home and baked bread, made soup and granola.  No real progress on anything else; not grading, not preparing for Spring Break, not all the family busy-ness.  Today my classes went a little bit better, but I'm still worried about several students and the thought of grading those exams... ugh.  I need a power-up.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Design Wall Monday and Stash Report

Mondays are the days I try to update the status of my design wall and my fabric and yarn stash; I link up to Judy L.'s linkup parties at Patchwork Times for both things.
My Farmer's Wife Quilt blocks are all finished and in their final (I think) order on the design wall.  I'm starting the process of sashing them together and I really like the Kona Copenhagen as the sashing fabric... it will also be used for the outer border.  This has been such a happy quilt to make, I'm almost sad all the blocks are done.  All fabric except for the sashing comes from my stash, and all of the 111 blocks have something upcycled or thrifted, scrappy, or vintage in them.  In fact, most of the blocks are entirely made from those fabrics.

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 23.6 yards
Added this week: .7 yards gifted from Grandma

Added year to date: 11.2 yards
Net used for 2012: 12.4 yards

Yarn used this week: 340 yards for Maluka shawl
Yarn used year to date: 1616 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 492 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 1124 yards

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book Review - 100 Cupboards

When I saw 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson at my local Target, I was excited and snapped it up even though it didn't fit the birthday gift requirements I was shopping for at the time.  Why excited?  For one, N.D. Wilson is the son of the Classical Christian Education movement's guru-in-chief, Douglas Wilson, and his book appearing in paperback on the Target shelf was pretty convincing evidence that classical education has gone mainstream. For another reason... hello? Magic cupboards leading to other worlds?  Since I first read the Narnia series nearly 40 years ago, books like this one go immediately to the top of my reading list. 

Henry York arrives by bus in the dusty town of Henry, Kansas after his flaky parents get themselves kidnapped while biking in South America.  He is taken in by his kindly Aunt Dotty, eccentric Uncle Frank, and three cousins; placid Penelope, nosy Anastasia, and Henrietta, closest to him in age, impatient and competitive.  He is awakened at night in his attic room by a banging sound and pieces of plaster falling away from the wall; curiosity takes over and he finds an entire wall of small cupboards and a mysterious set of dials to control them somehow.  The "somehow" takes a while to discover, but with Henrietta's help he is able to find out a tantalizingly little bit more about the worlds behind the doors.  There is an evil witch plotting world domination, and some scheming magicians and their servants, and at least one old man with a long-concealed secret.  The conclusion of the book comes too quickly for full resolution and we are left with a certain unsettled expectancy to look forward to the next two books in the trilogy.

Modern children's entertainment -- I hesitate to use the word literature -- tends to be extraordinarily derivative in both style and content.  I walked through a book fair at my 6th-grader's public middle school the other day and I could categorize very rapidly: paranormal romance; paranormal comedy; teenage angst; Harry Potter rip-off; nonfiction that reads like bathroom wall graffitti; increasingly desperate offerings to get underachievers hooked on reading.  Wilson's writing is having none of that, but it is derivative in the best way: inspired by the rich layers of children's literature past, it remembers its roots and sends out new ones.  The reader who has also been inspired by the great children's books will be set off on a treasure hunt for literary allusions... they are hidden with subtlety and skill, but they are there.  I imagine that this trilogy began with a series of speculations based on favorite books:

What if Dorothy never left Kansas? What if beings from other worlds came to visit Kansas instead? What if Eustace Clarence Scrubb went to live in the Pevensies' guest room; what kind of pictures would he find there? What if the kids from E. Nesbitt or Edward Eager met up with Neil Gaiman's Coraline and things turned really scary?  What if the parents of the kids, instead of being dead or removed from the story, had stories of their own? And what if ordinary American things, like pocket knives and baseball bats and grumpy old cats, had significance above their usual function in the fight of good vs. evil?

I have to say, I'm looking forward to the movie that ought to come of this book. Wilson's style is modern enough to be very visual and the movie is waiting right there in the text, ready to be released from its marble prison like Michelangelo's statues.  The publisher recommends it for ages 8 and up, but I would say 10 and up might be safer: my 9-year-old found certain parts very "creepy" (though this did not at all stop her from reading and liking it) and the overall tone of the book is dark and often frightening.  Like all children's literature, too dark and frightening is in the eye of the beholder; and children often surprise us with their ability to cope with frightening stories.  This is the same 9-year-old who listened to Coraline on audiobook when she was 6 or 7, with no nightmares on her part (there may have been some on mine).  I am only partway into the second book of the series, but it does appear to be even darker.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

String of Consciousness: 2 Rows

Knit two together yarn over one two three four five, no, six, yarn over slip two as if to knit two together - but don't actually knit them, knit one, then pass the two slipped stitches over - that's it, yarn over one two three four five...
this is going to take forever, I'll just do two rows, out and back, the second row is straight purling.  If I did just two rows every day it would take... about a year to knit this stole, this is going to take forever...
this yarn is like knitting with air... the emperor's new clothes... weightless, cashmere so fine... it was so ugly, who would want a khaki shawl, so I dyed it, rather proud of that, came out beautiful but a tad hard to see the stitches because they're so small... Steve was the first to make a Lady MacBeth comment but won't be the last, it rubs off on my hands and then my hands touch my clothes and I hope it comes out, it was a little embarrassing at the concert last night, maybe no more knitting with this yarn in public, I'll have to rinse the shawl in vinegar water to set the dye before I'd ever wear it...
I never wear shawls, why am I doing this 12 shawls in 2012 challenge anyway, I never wear shawls... but I like to knit, that's why I'm doing it, and because it's there, the challenge of the thing, but I never wear shawls because they make me look dorky... Jemima Puddleduck syndrome... or is that dumpy middle aged woman wearing a shawl she knit herself syndrome...
oh well, slip those two stitches together, don't knit them, that's it, then knit then pass the two stitches over, more or less, this is a simple enough pattern so far even if my hands are hot pink...the lace part comes at the end, and then I go back and knit the other half of the shawl exactly the same way... most of the rows are quite boring, actually... one stitch at a time isn't so bad... why do I like knitting anyway when I get bored halfway through the row and the yarn is so fine it's hard to knit with, I think maybe I'll get some tiny glass beads to add to the lace at the end, it says that will help the drape on this shawl I'm not going to wear and make it pretty... but it won't be pretty if the yarn is constantly leaving a trail of pink-red dye over everything... and even if it is pretty it won't be pretty if I never wear it, it'll just be packed away in a box in the closet... almost done with the first row of stitches, at least I'm making progress, let's see this is the 5th shawl so far this year and I never wear shawls, but maybe I'll win fame and acclaim on Ravelry, hey fame and acclaim rhyme, and they'll award me a free shawl pattern of my choice and I can knit more shawls that I'll never wear...
past the turn now, it's all purl from here on, I should really get out of bed soon, nice to sleep in on a Saturday morning but I have a lot to do, papers to grade, Bede and Caesar to translate for the Latinstudy list, cooking for tomorrow, library, shopping, ugh, needs to happen today or it won't get done before spring break, and what if we all end up in traction because we're so hopeless we can never learn to ski, or what if we can't afford lessons and lift tickets, or what if...
just knit, it's easier that worrying... the stitches stay done once you make them... nothing else stays done, not cooking, not cleaning, not nagging the kids... what about those 6th graders, how many more times will we have to go over perfect tense and they still won't get it... some do, some don't I guess... will this work ever be finished, too pretty to wear, stored away in a box in my closet like my great-grandmother's wedding dress, every stitch by hand but if you do it right it stays done... it's all I have from my great-grandmother other than her scrapbook of fancy needlework patterns from newspapers and some of the quilts probably... she was a remarkable woman and no one remembers her now, once in awhile I'm sure my uncle thinks of her but no one else probably, that generation is all gone...
what will it be like when I'm gone and my kids take out the box of shawls I never wore and try to figure out what to do with them, they'll get to live on in someone else's closet or get shared around the grandchildren or great grandchildren, now that's hard to imagine, let's pretend I'm young for a little longer shall we, there the row is done and I'm getting up now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WIP Wednesday: 21-3-12 edition

A big milestone this week: all 111 Farmer's Wife Quilt blocks are now done!  They are hanging out on my design wall until I can get them sewn together.  Here are the closeups of the ones from this week... I'm going to miss having these little blocks to share!
#105: Wild Goose Chase.  Reminds me of those Crumbs quilt blocks with the trees.
#106: Wild Rose and Square.  Every single one of these fabrics has some kind of roses on it.
#107: Windblown Square
#108: Windmill
#109: Windows
#110 Wood Lily.  This is almost identical to the Spider Legs one, and required paper piecing.
#111: Wrench.  The joke's on me for this one.  I wanted to use that cute vintage print with ships and carriages, because I thought I'd only used it on one other block.  Well, looking back over the blocks, here's the other block:
#20 Churn Dash.  Yes, I'm a creature of habit, it seems.  Good thing I chose a blue plaid instead of a brown plaid for that final block!!

No real progress has been made on anything other than FWQ because of parent-teacher conferences and, you know, the 4 kids.  Primigenitus will be making a college decision soon; Tertia will be needing extensive orthodontic work.  Woohoo!

Today is World Down Syndrome Day: if you love someone with Down syndrome, congratulations, and be sure to enjoy the blessings they bring to your life.  I posted about that yesterday, and you may enjoy this video too (be prepared for tears):

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

World Down Syndrome Day

Tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day.  Trisomy of the 21st chromosome or "Trisomy 21" = 3/21.  Get it?  There is beautiful symmetry in those numbers, if you think about them.  I don't usually wax poetic about math, but 3 and 7 are both numbers representative of perfection.  Three times seven, a trinity of perfection on the 21st chromosome, and children with Down syndrome get it threefold.  They are, indeed, genetically blessed, and I wonder sometimes why the world sees them as imperfect. 

The world does see them as imperfect, unfortunately.  Only 10% of those diagnosed prenatally are born... and that's not because of any medical problems, either.  Recently a "wrongful birth" lawsuit awarded nearly $3 million to a couple whose daughter was born with Down syndrome after testing indicated she did not have it.  They would have had her killed prenatally if they had known.  Now we have even "better" tests, giving results earlier in pregnancy, and some experts predict that it may be possible to create a world without Down syndrome.  Funding for research in Down syndrome is hard enough to come by; if the population is reduced much more, it will most likely dry up altogether.  The tragedy of all this is that, of all genetic disorders, Down syndrome is by far the easiest to live with, and live well.  The days of routine institutionalization (at least in the U.S.)  are so far in the past, and positive role models with Down syndrome are so easy to come by, that I truly do not understand why the negative stereotypes persist.  If I can do a little with this blog to help that, all the better.

At least in the Western world, individuals with Down syndrome are provided the best medical care once they are born, and with intensive education, they are living lives that are productive and independent.  I remember being surprised to find out that some people were a bit envious of me for having a baby with Down syndrome.  I discovered why that might be when she was the mildest-tempered of all my four children, the quickest to potty-train, and the most unfailingly cheerful.  For a lovely article with some perspectives on children with Down syndrome and why they should be welcomed, check this one out.

Some other thoughts to check out:

Why you should avoid the "R-word" as a joke or insult.

The beautiful story of Katie, adopted from Eastern Europe at age 9 weighing less than 11 pounds.  She has doubled her weight in a few months with her forever family and has opened the way for other neglected children to be adopted as well.  Reece's Rainbow is an adoption ministry specializing in facilitating international Down syndrome adoptions; many children languish in orphanages and even adult mental institutions who would blossom and grow with a loving and stable family.

Reasons to celebrate Down syndrome.

Enjoying the Small Things, capturing the beauty of these children.

Noah's Dad, who blogs about the joys and challenges of bringing up a very special baby.

Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them.  And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, "Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me."

          Mark 9:36-37

Monday, March 19, 2012

Design Wall Monday and Stash Report: Finished Farmer's Wife blocks!

I finished the last 7 blocks of the Farmer's Wife Quilt, bringing the grand total to 111!  Saturday (which was National Quilting Day, I found out) I finished the blocks and I purchased some Kona solids in "Copenhagen" for the sashing.  My friend Joyce tells me Copenhagen is "That Blue" that you use for 1930's quilts.  I think it fits pretty well, but there's not enough room on my design wall for all the sashing and the blocks.
It's an obstructed view of the design wall, but there they all are.  Will that be the final arrangement?  I'm hoping it's pretty close.  Then I can start cutting more sashing and some white cornerstones and sewing it all together.

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 2 yards (green donated for Saints house flag at Cedar Tree)
Fabric used year to date: 23.6 yards
Added this week: 6 yards (4 yards "That Blue" and 2 yards green to donate)

Added year to date: 10.5 yards
Net used for 2012: 13.1 yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 1276 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 492 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 784 yards

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Grandma's Quilts

My mother-in-law is doing relatively well.  She's been coming over to play cribbage with all comers a little more frequently.  Steve's sisters have returned to their families in Phoenix and Philly after pitching in to help sort through things.  Steve's been taking some time off work and will continue to do so to deal with financial and legal details.
She said they played two hymns at her church this morning: "Take my hand, precious Lord" and "Victory in Jesus."  "And I lost it," she said.  Easy to see why.  I can picture Grandpa singing those hymns.  He's probably singing them now.
These are some of the quilts I've pinned for her this year.  She buys pre-quilted fabric and pieces it to fit the tops, so it serves as both backing and batting.  Then I lay them out on the floor and use straight pins to hold the top and quilted backing together until she gets a chance to lay them out on the big tables in the common room at her home and tie them together.  It is simply amazing how many tops she can put together.  I'm proud of myself if I get a tenth that amount done, and she keeps finding tops she'd forgotten about under the beds!
She made this I-Spy quilt out of the 5" squares bundle I gave her (plus some of her own).  The same bundles I made up for the Sew Mama Sew giveaway.  You can see Mighty Mouse in there.
This one's really pretty with the stained glass effect.  It must have taken forever to do.  That's a lot of tiny little black strips.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Book Reviews: Christianity and Liberalism; Christless Christianity

I'm going to review two books today, both of which are seminal and you should definitely read.  I don't have time to do a thorough review of either, unfortunately, but if you attend a Christian church and are concerned about the future of Christianity, you should read the one that applies most directly to your church.

J. Gresham Machen wrote Christianity and Liberalism in the 1920's, yet it is still incredibly relevant.  If you attend a liberal or mainline church in a denomination where you regularly hear about floor fights over hot-button issues (or perhaps more importantly if you don't hear about them but you know they are happening), you should read this book.  It's been a few years since I read it myself so my impressions are a bit faded, but even after the passage of 90 years Machen's challenges to the status quo are striking, his observations prescient.  In summary, Christianity and modern theological liberalism are incompatible.  Christian churches that have been taken over by liberalism will slowly but surely be stripped of Christianity, and will become not Christ-centered, but man-centered.

Modern Americans are more likely to attend a church of some stripe of evangelicalism, perhaps even a "megachurch".  In that case, you really should read Michael Horton's Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church.  Written just a few years ago, it is a damning critique of the "moralistic, therapeutic deism" at the heart of far too many churches.  Many Christians react against the liberalism of yesteryear even if they can't fully appreciate its dangers; they vote Republican, attend small group Bible studies, and search for churches with active programs for children.  But the Christless Christianity Horton portrays is just as antithetical to true Christianity as the theological liberalism Machen condemns, and it is far closer to home for most of us.  Big-name pastors and giant churches offer many different ways to become a better person.  Once again, the end result will be a religion that is man-centered rather than Christ-centered.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

No progress on the puzzle

There's this cool jigsaw puzzle we've had out for a few weeks now.  It's a panoramic night skyline of New York City, and it's supposed to glow in the dark.  We haven't made a whole lot of progress on it. But Muffball seems to like the box.
We have to check her fur for any clinging pieces when she does this.  We'll let you know if any end up missing when we finally do get it together.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Pi Day edition

My Father-in-Law passed away last week, so there was not much time for sewing.  I did get 4 more Farmer's Wife quilt blocks done... almost all on Saturday, when I was struggling to process the news that a jury thinks it's wrong for children with Down syndrome to be born.  Seriously?  And that it's okay to take money away from the local children's hospital to give to parents who would have killed their child?  Yeah, it needed a lot of processing.  I know some children who have survived cancer thanks to Legacy Emanuel, and we're taking $3 million from that hospital system because a child was born?  In addition to the sewing, I had to go hug my daughter, who has Down syndrome but is doing just fine even without an extra $3 million from a wrongful birth lawsuit.  She looked at me the way all 12-year-olds look at their mom after a spontaneous hug, but she gave me the hug without question.
This is #101: Wedding Ring.  I once made a Double Wedding Ring quilt in blues and greens; this even used a few of those scraps.
Block #102: Whirlpool. I decided against blue and instead thought of swirling puddles of rainwater (the gray print, which is probably vintage rayon), and of the times when there is lots of pollen swirling in the puddles (the gold).
What should the next block be but #103: Whirlwind.  So I went with the theme of a tornado hitting a rose garden.  Maybe that's my subconscious going after Portland.
Block #104: Wild Geese.  And if you've ever heard Jean Redpath sing it, this is what's going through your head as you piece it:

Just beautiful.

I cast on two new knitting projects this week: Maluka shawl in fingering weight Knit it Up Posh, shown above, and Black Roses Stole in my hand-dyed cashmere, shown below.

  • Aunt Maggie's Quilt - finished but needs label 
  • Farmer's Wife Quilt - made 4 blocks this week, 7 to go
  • March UFO knitting bag - no progress
  • knitting Maluka shawl - 30% 
  • knitting Black Roses Stole - cast on twice, the second time on smaller needles
  • knitting cotton bath rug - no progress
  • knitting argyle-fest - no progress
  • spinning blue Wensleydale - minimal progress
goals for next WIP Wednesday:
  • finish Aunt Maggie's label
  • start boxer shorts
  • cut out pattern for March bag
  • maybe finish Farmer's Wife blocks and buy sashing fabric
Check out all the other stitching going on at Lee's Freshly Pieced today.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


My Father-in-Law, Theodore Woolsey Chapman, was born in 1926 in Hokkaido, Japan, the 4th of 6 children of Presbyterian missionaries.  Everyone always describes him as "sweet," "gentle," and "loving."  Hard to beat that, really.  He was unfailingly polite: he never forgot to say "thank you" or to pray for blessings on his loved ones.  He would take care of little details that no one else thought about, and when he became too old to do those little things he certainly appreciated when someone would do them for him.  We suspect, knowing him, that his last words and thoughts were directed at the paramedics who attended him in the ambulance, thanking them and just enjoying the ride.

He had bad eyesight as a child and made at least one ocean voyage back to America for eye surgery.  In the process, he developed a life-long love of ships, which would lead to a career as a naval architect, working as a civilian for the U.S. Navy.  World War II obviously interfered with missions work in Japan, so the whole family was stateside for awhile and his father did chaplain work at a Japanese internment camp.

He married somewhat later in life, when some of his family had probably given up on him as destined to be a bachelor, to my mother-in-law, Theodora.  Theodore and Theodora ... Ted and Teddy.  They raised three children, first in Bremerton, WA and then in Rockville, MD.  Last summer when we celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary (a little early), all 11 grandchildren showed up too.
The actual 50th wedding anniversary, and his 85th birthday, came right after Christmas.  We're really glad we took him to Benihana's for his birthday.  He enjoyed it.
Families should enjoy times together, because time is always too short.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Finished Oslo Walk shawl and stash report

My thoughts are racing with much deeper thoughts I'd like to blog, but I find it easier and more soothingly routine at this time to talk about the work of my hands.  So I'll share my latest knitting finish, the third in the 12 Shawls in 2012 challenge.  It's the Oslo Walk Shawl by Susanna IC.  It's a pattern I enjoyed knitting, using my handspun Blue-Faced Leicester, dyed with Wilton's cake decorating gels to achieve a color a friend called "blurple."
I do love working with my own handspun yarn.  It's never a perfect, even texture, and I like that.  The yarn just feels more interesting as it slips through your fingers, no matter what kind of yarn it is.

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 21.6 yards
Added this week: 0 yards

Added year to date: 4.5 yards (all received as gifts, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 17.1 yards

Yarn used this week: 412 yards for Oslo Walk shawl
Yarn used year to date: 1276 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 492 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 784 yards

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sometimes it Doesn't Go As You Planned

My husband's 85-year-old father passed away suddenly yesterday morning.  He had been in frail but stable health for some time, but it was still a surprise.  Grandma and Steve are doing well: his two sisters are flying in today (one has already arrived) and they are going through clothing right now.  I'm hoping to convince Secundus to scrub bathrooms for me.  It doesn't feel quite right to blog about needlework, but I'm frankly so sleep-deprived from the last two days that I can't muster much in the way of deep thoughts, either.  It's been a trying week, even before yesterday.

We will miss Grandpa.  He was truly a sweet and gentle soul.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Brought to you by the W.C.T.U.

Here's a little finished project - Quarta's first latch hook kit.  I made it into a pillow this week.  It had been cluttering up my sewing area so it was good to get it done.  It's by no means beautifully finished, but it's finished.  Yay!
Farmer's Wife Quilt block #98 - Waterwheel. 
Block #99 - W.C.T.U.  This one makes me tear up a little.  My late grandmother and her family were active in the W.C.T.U. in rural Ohio, and I have only fond associations with her despite the fact that I know some who like to poke fun at the temperance movement.  I did some research and the Women's Christian Temperance Union was associated with a white ribbon opposing violence against women, and quilts associated with them were frequently blue and white.  The white ribbon was a traditional bow, not the more modern "awareness" loop, and this block composed this way looks a little like the bow on the W.C.T.U. logo.  I think the white and solid blue are both scraps from my grandma, and the flower print looks like something she would have loved.
Block #100 (woo hoo!) - Weathervane.  I needed more golds and purples and I like the way these look together, with the gray looking like the iron of the weathervane.  I noticed I constructed this block a little differently than the book, but I'm also referring to Maggie Malone's 1001 Patchwork Designs book.  It just seemed sensible to do it this way.  I used fast-45's for the corners around the house-shaped patches, so there was no template cutting.

Startitis has struck.  I need to start on my UFO for March (a bag which actually hasn't been started yet), and I just finished my 3rd shawl for 2012 so of course I needed to figure out what to start next in knitting.  I tentatively chose Maluka and some yellow sock yarn from my stash.  And I decided to dye some ugly tan cashmere laceweight I had in my stash of reclaimed sweater yarn, with the idea that it could be used for one of the 2 "large" (= 500 meters or more shawls) required for the 12-in-12 challenge .
I kettle-dyed it with almost an entire jar of Wilton's black, burgundy, about half a jar of red red and a dab of rose.  I was going for that almost impossible to capture black-cherry red that so many of my friends are knitting now.

This is well over 1000 yards of 100% cashmere laceweight.  It was cold this morning and a few crunchy ice crystals had formed on the bottom of the hanks, but it's warmed up now.   The smaller skein on the right is the one with lots of knots that I threw in at the end to sop up extra dye, and I almost like it more than the main ones.  I may lose some yardage because of slight felting, but it's really easy to spit-splice ends of this yarn together.  And I have a hard time imagining ever knitting more than 1000 yards of a shawl.
This photo is not accurate for the darkness, but it shows a little of the variation of color.  I'm going to have fun picking out a large shawl to attempt with my very own custom-dyed luxury yarn that I got at the thrift store for under $2.  And you should have seen my students' faces when I explained my hands were red because "I was dyeing yesterday."
I did some spinning yesterday evening and made some progress on the Wensleydale laceweight I dyed last summer.  The trouble with spinning laceweight is that it takes forever to fill a bobbin.  I spun about an hour altogether and maybe did a quarter bobbin. 
I should really create a list of WIPs - that way I can be more accountable week to week.
  • Aunt Maggie's Quilt - binding 25% done
  • Farmer's Wife Quilt - made 3 blocks this week, 11 to go
  • March UFO knitting bag - not started but I'm thinking about it
  • knitting Oslo Walk shawl (3 of 12) - finished, awaiting blocking
  • knitting argyle-fest - no progress
  • knitting cotton bath rug - about 1/3 done with center
  • knitting On Your Toes sweater - downgraded to UFO, no progress for months, oops
  • knitting Maluka - just cast on, no pics yet
  • spinning blue Wensleydale - about 25% done
goals for next WIP Wednesday:
  • finish Aunt Maggie's binding
  • start boxer shorts
  • cut out pattern for March bag
I have to give myself homework, and it helps to have a list.  I am my mother's daughter.

Check out the other WIPs at Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Random Thoughts on Politics

Super Tuesday, Ohio still too close to call.

In primary politics, the trend these days is for the political ruling class to tell ordinary people that they need to consolidate behind a single candidate, early, so that one strong candidate will be anointed early and make the strongest possible challenge to Obama.  I do not buy this.  Primaries are for the few ordinary people who care enough to vote in them, and they should be free to vote for whomever they like best.  I have always admired those political leaders who remain as neutral as Switzerland throughout the primary process, and I always resent the manipulative message of those who jump on the mainstream bandwagon too early.  Even worse is the high attrition rate in the field, long before Super Tuesday.  When I've been able to in the past I've voted for the underdog candidate if I liked him as long as his name was on the ballot.  This year, of course, no primary for Washingtonians.  And in Virginia, no Santorum or Gingrich on the ballot.  I find myself a bit envious of those who actually have an influence in the primary vote, even when it's confusing.  This year we are fortunate to have an interesting race in the primary season, and I hope that will make for a healthy general election.

Romney seems as inevitable as he ever was, but it's hard to see the passion, either coming from him or directed toward him.  He exudes... competence.  Which is good, and we Republicans like that in our presidents, but we also like them to be inspiring.  Like Reagan.  And Romney has a hard time being inspiring.

Santorum has had a good run.  Like Huckabee last time, he captured the Evangelical vote of the rank and file without having powerful spokesmen or copious funding.  He could still win... or he should at the very least be heavily favored for VP.  He has more warmth and relatability than Romney, and appears less plastic. 

Newt Gingrich is not going to win the nomination, but he has provided great entertainment value so far this election cycle.  I have to say I like him better than before.  Whether the nominee is Romney or Santorum, I hope someone creates a special role for him in a Republican administration.  Something not too closely linked with the President, of course, to avoid negative backlash, but something like "Special Czar in charge of putting uppity media members in their place."  He does that so well.

I've probably picked on Ron Paul enough in this blog.  He should get a special appointment in a Republican administration, too.  And since it probably shouldn't be ambassador to Pakistan, maybe it should be a position that capitalizes on his uncanny ability to reach out to youth and get them marching in lockstep with his agenda... as long as it's not just his agenda.  I always worry about that with him.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Design Wall Monday and Stash Report

I've made three Farmer's Wife blocks that are waiting to be blogged in more detail, but that's what's on my design wall at the moment.  Up to an even 100 now!  And on the right is a little of Jack's Chain, one of my UFO's.
I'm still moving things back into the re-surfaced sewing area, but I love the stability of my sewing table... it feels like I've got a new machine that doesn't vibrate anymore!  I love the little cord hole that means I don't have to wrap the cord to the pedal around the front anymore.  I use that little cannister as a mini wastecan as I sew.
The cutting area is all set up and usable too.  I've realized that I need to stay on top of scrap storage because if I don't put away the scrap boxes after I make a block, I'll rummage deeper and make a bigger mess for the next block.  I'm kind of hoping to finish up the Farmer's Wife blocks soon for this reason... I'd like to get my scraps out once in awhile for a marathon sewing session and then put them away again neatly after I've made a dent in them.  But I have to plan each Farmer's Wife block separately and I'm not really using up scraps very fast.  Not that I'm complaining!
I'm starting to get out my stuff for this month's UFO project, which is not a quilt.  It's a bag: McCall's M5487, which I planned to sew along with a few people on Ravelry as a knitting bag.  I've had the materials for a year and a half but never started cutting or sewing yet.  It'll be interesting, working with different fabrics than I've used before.

Stash report:

Fabric used this week: .7 yards (Aunt Maggie's quilt binding and hanging sleeve)
Fabric used year to date: 21.6 yards
Added this week: 0 yards

Added year to date: 4.5 yards (all received as gifts, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 17.1  yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 864 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 492 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 372 yards

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Grassroots Politics; or, What I saw at the Precinct Caucuses

First off, why should an introvert like me go to precinct caucuses at all? Well, if you're in Washington State, it's basically the only chance you get to have a voice in presidential politics before the general election.  Our presidential primary used to be so late as to be worthless, and this year they phased it out altogether.  So if you have an opinion at all on the Republican presidential field, and I do, you have to go to your precinct caucus, register your name and presidential preference for the straw poll, and maybe take part in the selection of delegates to the county convention and the discussion of platform issues.

So Steve and I went yesterday morning to an elementary school gymnasium and signed in as Santorum supporters.  (If you want to read my previous political post outlining my unscientific and highly colored opinions of all the candidates, here it is).  This is the third time I've made it to a presidential precinct caucus, and by far the largest turnout.  Washington is one of those states especially targeted by libertarian guru Ron Paul, and the Paulites were out in force: if you were a Ron Paul supporter you were supposed to check in at a special table and get stickers and other marching orders before checking into your caucus.  That in itself is enough to make me not want to be a Ron Paul supporter if I were inclined that way. 

Now, I should be very careful to say that I have many friends and co-workers who are Ron Paul supporters and they are fine and upright people, socially well-adjusted and with good cognitive function.  At our precinct's table, there were some of those Ron Paul supporters, ones I would be proud to friend on Facebook and have as a guest at the Last Noel party.  And I should be careful to say also that if Ron Paul's foreign policy were not so misguided, I would be much more likely to be comfortable with the idea of him as a Republican nominee -- even though his age and lack of passion makes him seem uninterested and unsuitable for what must be the most stressful job in the world.  His fiscal policy is sound, and I'm glad to see people taking an interest in the political process.  But...

Our precinct committee officer (PCO) is Greg Kimsey, who also happens to be the Clark County Auditor.  I met him back in 2000, and anyone who has even a little involvement with local politics has met him too... he's a standup guy.  I ended up sitting at our table next to his seat, and we chatted awhile about the previous owners of our house that he knew and some of the families at Cedar Tree that he knew.  I'm sure he's a Romney supporter as the majority of Republican activists are locally.  There were also a fair number of Santorum supporters at our table, and Romney ones as well.  I suspect but don't know for sure that the breakdown was something like 1/3 each.  Actually, Paul supporters may have had more like 40 percent in our precinct.

There were about three young Paul supporters who came in lateish and seated themselves strategically in some of the extra chairs set up a little back from the head of the table.  (We eventually had to relocate to a larger table because there were about 30 in our precinct altogether).  Kimsey had left his notepad, PCO folder, and coffee mug to mark his place and went off to do more of that meeting and greeting that local politicians do so well.  Well, one guy "casually" sat down in his chair, even though we told him that chair was taken and Greg Kimsey was our PCO, and STARTED RIFLING THROUGH THE PCO FOLDER!  Then, after Jamie Herrera Beutler's rallying speech, eventually Kimsey came back, said "excuse me" politely as he reached over to grab his notes to begin the business of the caucus.  At that point, Troglodyte Man said he was nominating himself as the PCO and tried to call for a vote to displace Kimsey.  Several people pointed out to him that this wouldn't work because Kimsey has already been elected to his office.  Fortunately, one of them was a Ron Paul supporter... I really get the impression that this guy would not have listened to anyone else.  Kimsey himself said, "You're welcome to try to recall me, but you'll need to go to a superior court judge for that."  Then we moved the tables to another part of the gym, and he proceeded to conduct the meeting in such a way that all the political newbies learned the system, and were able to participate fully in the process.

Upshot of the caucuses for our precinct: we sent 7 delegates and 6 alternates to the county convention at the end of March.  About 50% of them were Paul supporters and 50% were either Romney/Santorum or Santorum/Romney.  (I can't go because of travel plans or I would have nominated myself.)  And of course statewide, Romney won.  Paul supporters have an advantage at this level because most normal people really don't want to sacrifice an entire Saturday in spring to the tedium of party politics.  When Troglodyte man and his buddies kept nominating themselves, Romney and Santorum supporters nominated their spouses in absentia.  Troglodyte man lost out to an in absentia Romney/Santorum supporter as an alternate, but I think one or two of his buddies did get in.  I can only hope they will leave the county convention with a better understanding of how to treat fellow Republicans than they showed yesterday.  The big difference I noticed between them and other Paul supporters: friendliness.  Maybe they should try practicing the Golden Rule in their own personal foreign policy.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Aunt Maggie's Quilt Finished

"Beautiful like a castle!" was Tertia's description of our new stair rail, finished yesterday.  And what better way to showcase it than a (nearly) finished quilt?
Aunt Maggie's Patchwork Quilt, a pattern by Lori Smith.  Mine was a block-of-the-month kit from The Primitive Thimble, a local quilt shop that is sadly no longer in existence.
I finished the squiggle/loop/star quilting 2 days ago but it's been a crazy week, too busy to take pictures until now.
Plus, in the middle of all the construction I came down with a nasty sore throat cold.  I literally just got over one of these that lasted a month.
You can see the quilting stitches better against the backing fabric.  I used Warm & Natural batting, so it's a little heavier quilt than I usually get when I use Hobbs Heirloom.
It's 68" x 86".  I applied a binding and hanging sleeve yesterday but haven't yet begun the process of hand-stitching them to the back.  Still, I'm counting it as a finished February UFO for the purposes of Judy L.'s UFO challenge at Patchwork Times.  And a Friday Finish for Crazy Mom Quilts
I really like this quilt.  There are only a few small puckers and bunches in the quilting, which turned out nice and even by my standards anyway.  But I'm considering selling it if I can... I'd like to start to do a little to help with Primigenitus' college tuition.  So if any of you have feedback for me, whether on pricing or how to market it, let me know in a comment.  I'm totally new at this aspect of quilting.  I know I'll be watching the auction quilts I made for Cedar Tree to see how they do, and maybe trying to make some contacts there.