Giddy!

Although I don’t normally describe myself with the word giddy—make that, I never describe myself with that word—that’s the best word for it. I’m giddy about the shipment that arrived from Amazon.com today!! Two books: Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave and Victorian Lace Today.

Grumperina really gets the thanks from me for turning me onto Favorite Socks; there are many fun patterns to be found in there, and I am particularly pleased that Mary Snyder’s Padded Footlets pattern is among them. I knitted Padded Footlets over a year ago, and it wasn’t an easy accomplishment, but I hope to knit more of the same, hopefully resulting in mastering the tricky pattern.

I guess I’m a bit behind the times on getting my copy of Victorian Lace Today, since it came out 5 months ago, but this is the primary book of the two in the shipment that just has me in such a state of euphoria. I was so beside myself when I opened the book that I almost ran out of the house and upset the sleepy suburban decorum of DomesticShorthair’s neighborhood by shouting, “It’s here! It’s here!” Of the 40 patterns in Victorian Lace Today, I didn’t see one that did not beckon me to knit it. Even if you don’t knit lace, this book, which features sumptuous photography by Alexis Xenakis of English estates and countryside, would make a lovely coffee table book. But why would you do that? It’s a definite must-knit-that kind of book. Beautiful!

Finally, here’s a two-page spread of an estate from the book:

For more Victorian Lace Today pictures, try Grumperina’s blog archive. Click here.

Sticky widgets.

I realize that you probably want to see more knitting, but it just hasn’t been a very productive day in that area. Tonight I put the popcorn popper on the stove and served-up some popcorn to fuel me through some administrative issues with my blog. What is it with blog widgets, anyway? I find them sticky, and buttons are a headache! Is it just me, or do others have problems with buttons and widgets?

About the popcorn: we use a Whirley-Pop stove-top popper which we’ve had for about a year. These things are great, it takes not much longer than a microwave oven to make popcorn, and the quality is much better. We order pre-measured pouches containing everything we need to make theater-style popcorn, cut them open into the popper and in a few minutes, we’re all set. Of course, you can put any popcorn you want in it, but we like what we use.

They followed me home…really!

So I meant to de-stash at the annual fiber buy/sell event at the local knitter’s guild this week, instead I brought more home. But how can you resist offers like these at rock-bottom prices?

Four skeins of Koigu KPPPM:

Below we have (clockwise starting at upper right): 1 skein Atmosphere (100% cotton) by Classic Elite; 1 skein Jawoll Color Superwash (75% wool, 18% nylon, 7% acrylic); 378 yds Zephyr (50% merino, 50% tussah silk), 325 yds Linen (100%) by Euroflax.

The Koigu will probably become a scarf, and I’m considering Twist & Lace; Atmosphere will probably be incorporated into a scarf with other yarns; I might use the Zephyr to play with making a lace scarf; and the linen might become face clothes or a towel.

Happy spring!

Despite the rain we’ve had lately, it cleared-up nicely and I headed for the University of Washington campus in Seattle for the photo-op with my son. Every year people visit campus just to see the Japanese cherry blossoms in bloom, and with Spring Break underway and the sun out, today was the day to do it. I always enjoy the sight: the whole Liberal Arts Quadrangle is encircled with these big beauties and when they are in bloom, standing underneath them is like standing in a pink cotton candy ball and people walk around with big smiles on their faces.

Here’s a link to a slideshow of the cherry blossoms on the University of Washington website: click here. Enjoy!

Lunch: chapagetti or chajangmyun, as I know it.

If you’re tired of packaged ramen noodles, try something different sometime, like chajangmyun. I’m told it’s a Chinese dish and can be ordered in Chinese restaurants. The packaged version, such as pictured, is noodles that are boiled in water, drained and then to which is added packets of dehydrated veggies, oil, and brown sauce. The noodles are very nice (better than packaged ramen), and the sauce is very mild and almost tastes like brown gravy.

Brain surgery on Elmo.

My 2½-year old son had been asking off-and-on for the past few months and yesterday it finally came to the point that it could no longer be avoided: Elmo needed batteries. Actually, we don’t have an Elmo doll, no, we just have his head, complete with clasp to attach it to…something, I guess. Elmo’s head (pictured with a US quarter for size) is one of many cast-offs from the children of friends, and I never gave it much thought, but my son has become rather fond of it. Unfortunately, changing Elmo’s batteries is not an easy task because they’re sewn into his florescent orange head, also rendering him un-washable. Since it’s a cast-off, its batteries began fading about a year ago, but my son kept asking me to fix it, and it got so worn out that you could barely hear Elmo’s infectious giggle as he says “Hey, that tickles! Oh boy! That tickles!” Despite my protestations of “it’s broken, I can’t fix it,” my son just couldn’t grasp that its repair wasn’t possible. Even my husband got in on the act, “Can you fix it for him? He keeps asking.” So late last night, with seam ripper in hand I opened Elmo’s head and removed the batteries from the voice box. A bath, a ride in the clothes dryer and $10 in watch batteries later and tonight after an hour of sewing while mind-numbingly listening to Elmo’s constant banter as I continually set-off the voice box (earplugs helped just a bit), Elmo is ready for play tomorrow. The thought occurred to me that I would hate to work in a factory where these things are made: thousands of them going-off at once as the sewing machine operators assembled them. Well, the end-product is appreciated by the little ones.

On the knitting front, not much progress in the ballband dishcloth, because I’ve been spending my precious knitting time on Sharon Miller’s (Heirloom Knitting) Bird’s Eye Shawl (if the color looks a bit off in the photo, it’s because the yellow part is my shadow, it’s not the yarn). Wow, it was a rough go last week getting the shawl started. I think I had to scrap it after 15 rows, three (or was it four?) times, and by “scrap it” I mean through it away. I would get lost on which row I was on, try to rip it out to a point where I knew where I was on the chart, and then the yarn would get stuck and break. Toss it. Can you feel my pain? It still hurts just thinking about it. I mean, well, that’s just torture for a knitter. But that’s in the past now and things are coming along nicely.

I had to enlarge the chart about 140% to get it big enough for ease of following, and then I used 4 different colors of highlighters to differentiate the four rows of repetition, so that when I look away from the chart, I can at least recall what color row I was on and go from there. I also use a counter to count my row progress, but the chart only goes up to 20 rows, so I may also add a second row counter to help keep track of which of the four rows of repetition I’m on.

I can’t decide if this pattern is harder or easier than the shawl I made in 1996. I think it might be harder because, unlike many lace patterns, it doesn’t have design direction, not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just different for me. By design direction I mean that when you look at most lace patterns they often have lines and peaks and valleys and circles and such, and they all form an overall design that you can see when you stand back and look at them. These design directions help you “read” the pattern as you go and once familiar with the pattern, you can often anticipate when the next yarn-over or knit 2 together is, for instance. Bird’s Eye Shawl is simply a pattern of repeated doughnut shapes (bird’s eyes) that appear to be suspended in a web, there are no lines or centers of the shawl, like the one I made in 1996. Now, the interesting thing it that as I knit the bird’s eyes, they don’t look like they’re going to look as they should, and then, as the earlier rows get handled while knitting the newer rows, the older ones get fuzzy which then help the bird’s eye form more clearly. You might be able to tell in the picture, the difference of the newer bird’s eyes from the older ones.

I like the pattern, and am enjoying both it and the fineness of the yarn; so light and airy.

Sore throat lozenges and cupcakes, please.

At home with a sore throat the other day, I reached for the sore throat lozenges, that is, my carefully meted blackcurrant flavored Halls Soothers.

Why “carefully meted” you ask? Because I bought them at Heathrow Airport in England in 2004 when I stopped there between a flight from Italy and a flight back to the US. They are quite good for throat lozenges, and the medicated filling is rather pleasant and sufficiently eases throat irritation. So, faced with the prospect of running out of blackcurrant Soothers, my husband went out in search of more throat lozenges, and he came back with the US equivalent of Soothers, Halls Plus:

These things are just horrid; they are so mentholated that you could serious harm anyone you breathe on. Unfortunately, it seems they don’t sell Soothers in the US. Of course, I surfed the Internet and all I could find were on-line businesses in the UK that would be happy to ship the coveted blackcurrant Soothers with a delivery/shipping fee of about £15, or about $25 US! Oh, well.

Despite being plagued by a nasty persistent cough that sent bystanders running to the far corners of the universe wherever I went, and after days of being home-bound due to a cold, I managed to get out today. I stopped by the Frye Museum and had a quick bite to eat at the café and took in a little culture. I like the Frye, it’s a small museum (just right for a bit of inspiration), it’s off the beaten path (just east of downtown proper), and it’s free. Yes, you read right, they charge no admission.

Before going home I went to Cupcake Royale:

These beauties were successfully imported from Seattle without the precious frosting getting mushed. Let me introduce them to you (clockwise from the top): Lavender (with real lavender frosting on chocolate cake); Red Velvet (red cocoa chocolate cake with vanilla? frosting); Peppermint Party (peppermint frosting on chocolate cake); and Orange You Glad (orange-flavored frosting on chocolate cake). I didn’t realize that I was in a chocolate frame of mind, until I got home and noticed the pattern of chocolate cake. I know that there are places that make really fancy cupcakes out there, but sometimes you just want something simple and not overdone; Cupcake Royale does that. These won’t last long in my house.

Good things really do come in small packages!

This domestic shorthair may finally be succumbing to the cold that had her husband and son down and out, but she’s not beyond walking to the mailbox to check for the small package that arrived today containing the merino lace yarn for the Bird’s Eye Shawl from Heirloom Knitting! I’m so excited, and I think my husband is relieved so that he doesn’t have to keep hearing me ponder, “I wonder if it’ll come today?” I’ve really been looking forward to doing a really fine lace shawl for a few years now. This yarn is quite fine both in quality and weight, and it’ll probably take 2 years to finish the shawl (partly due to life’s demands), but that’s okay, because I see knitting lace as the crossword puzzle of knitting; you just don’t plow through it.

Ballband dishcloth is coming along….a fun knit.

Last week I went to the newest Daiso store, ever-so-conveniently (for me) located in downtown Seattle and bought a few useful items. Chances are good that most of you don’t know what Daiso is: it’s a Japanese dollar or discount store, but instead of $1.00 most things are $1.50, with some items $3.00, and the quality is much better than what you’d find at a typical American dollar store. At Daiso it is easy to get lost in aisles of tightly packed goods, ranging in anything from Japanese snack food, to housecleaning items, personal care products, hardware, cookware, wrapping paper, and toys. Located in the lowest level of Westlake Center in the heart of downtown it is the second US store, the first of which is located in Lynnwood, Washington; at the very least, Daiso is a must-see, and be prepared to leave with at least one purchase. One thing I bought is this sweater fuzz-trimmer:

A fuzz trimmer is something that I don’t usually like the idea of (you know, cutting your precious knitting), but with the pilling of the Marvelous Mitered Ascot from earlier this year, as well as that of my beaded cuffs from 2002, I decided it was time to de-fuzz.

I suppose you can’t see the difference, but the one on the right has been de-fuzzed and the one on the left has not. Well, it makes a big difference to me, and I can enjoy my cuffs without all that crazy fuzz in the way. The pattern, by the way, is from Barbara Albright’s entry for “Crazy for Cuffs” in the Interweave Knits Fall 2002 issue.