Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not Knit

Progress continues with the baby blanket. As of today I've completed 11 of the 14 pattern repeats, so the end is near. I have to confess that I haven't been applying myself to the the craft like I should lately. I love knitting this blanket. I haven't looked at the chart in ages and it's a great project for learning to read one's knitting. It's almost getting instinctual. But I've definitely been feeling a lack of knittosterone.

I've also had many distractions. This weekend, Jeff and I went out of town and while in north Texas, we caught the exhibit Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at the Dallas Museum of Art. We both had a great time. There was a (tentative) genealogical chart at the beginning, so I was in heaven. About half the exhibit featured items from King Tut's tomb, while the rest was from the tombs of his father, grandparents and great-grandparents. I didn't know about Tutankhamun rolling back his father's monotheistic religious reforms, which was quite interesting.

Photography, of course, was not allowed, so no pictures here. But afterward, because it was raining, we ducked into the Crow Collection of Asian Art across the street. What a treat! The first floor had a collection of masks from Japanese Noh theater. I was fascinated by the more terrifying and hideous ones, although there were some that had more normal human features.

The second floor had beautiful galleries of art from Chinese tombs, a collection of Japanese snuff bottles, and some beautiful statues from India. But the most amazing thing was an exhibit on the third floor, Stitching the Seasons: Contemporary Japanese Quilts.

The exhibit introduction said that modern quilting techniques were taken back to Japan by the wives of Japanese diplomats and businessmen after seeing several quilt exhibitions during the bicentennial celebrations. The quilts in this exhibit were amazing. I don't know as much about quilting as I probably should, having descended from generations of quilters, but I could recognize some of the patterns.

I was blown away by a log cabin-style quilt done all in grayscale, with each "log" only about half an inch wide and maybe two inches long. The colors were placed so that the quilt created the image of the countryside during a snowfall. Beautiful. It was in an odd place and difficult to photograph

But I did get a picture of this quilt, Flower Festival by Noriko Masui (2006). This is only the center motif, but it gives you a good idea of the intricacy and detail in this beautiful object. You can see a Lone Star pattern in the middle, almost hidden amongst a profusion of leaves and blossoms. It's kind of a kaleidoscope effect, but softer. This is one of the most beautiful quilts I've ever seen.

The weather the past two weekends has been beautiful here in central Texas. It even rained a bit in between. We've taken advantage of the loveliness and done some hiking in the Barton Creek Greenbelt, not far from where we live. One of the nice things about living in Austin is that this picture was taken about 2 miles from our house -- about a 40 minute walk away. Note the tiny rock climbers at the top of the cliff to the left. I think I'll stick to knitting.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Out of Towners

The baby blanket continues. This picture makes it look blurry, but look at the photograph in it's original size and you'll see it's not.

I'm enjoying it, except when I mess it up. Yesterday afternoon, I saw that one of my lines of diagonally arranged yarnovers was headed in the wrong direction. I thought I could just ladder down a series of four stitches and re-created them, but doing so involved a lot of traveling stitches and passing slipped stitches over and I got confused. Luckily, I'd thought to put in a dental floss lifelines at the end of the previous pattern repeat. With a sigh, I frogged back 6 or 7 rows.

Be advised that even though you've been thrown a lifeline, you're still likely to go through a lot of sputtering and coughing (and cursing). Although all the stitches in the row are on the floss, some of those little stitches still managed to pop their little heads down the rabbit holes in which they are nestled. Their a bear to get out. Just two of these had me in a fit for half an hour. But I got back on track and all is well. I'm nearly back to where I had been.

Today, Jeff and I went to Fredericksburg out in the Texas Hill Country. Just a little half-day trip so that we could say we went somewhere for spring break. The weather was perfect. Sure could tell that central Texas needs rain, though. Some parts of the hill country are starting to look like extensions of the Chihuahuan Desert. We took a scenic route through Willow City, and drove by Thousand Oaks Alpacas. It was kind of there and past before we knew it, so we didn't stop to nose around, but we met one of the owner's cousins in town while browsing through a shop, and she had a brochure about the place. Might be a fun thing to do with out-of-town knitting friends.

While in Fredericksburg, we ate lunch at The Peach Tree Restaurant. It's one of those "ladies who lunch" kind of places, but Jeff and fit right in. They have the most awesome quiche -- today's offering had Canadian bacon and green chillies in it. Yummy. Then we walked down to Rather Sweet Bakery and split an enormous slab of carrot cake. Awesomeness.

To top off this lovely day, we noticed that one of our Belinda's Dream Roses was blooming when we got home. there was just enough daylight left to grab a picture.

And today was the last full day of winter. Looks like it's going to be a lovely spring. If only it would rain some more...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Our Boys Need Sox

I've only knitted one 16-row pattern repeat on the blue baby blanket. Not much to report on that front. However, I did run across something during my web ramblings that's been occupying my mind. I thought I'd share -- 'cause that's how we librarians roll.

This picture appeared on The Shorpy Photo Archive this week and grabbed my attention. Click here for the blog entry and here for a much larger version. This always interesting blog features high quality scanned images of old photographs -- most in black and white -- culled from archives. They run the gamut of things people take pictures of -- ladies at dog shows, Civil War soldiers, newsies at the turn of the century, old buildings -- you name it. I enjoy scrolling the images in my feed reader, but this one really caught my eye.

The picture is of two soldiers and a nurse at Walter Reed General Hospital (now the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The date (1918) is from the end of World War II. And the guy on the left, with the help of the nurse, is making socks on some kind of contraption. I'm guessing this is some sort of occupational therapy, or perhaps a way to keep injured soldiers active in the war effort. That poor guy on the right looks like he needs all the help he can get. I can't imagine what kind of hell he's been through and I find it hard to look into his eyes. It looks like he's going to fling off that chenille robe and throttle the photographer. The striped garter-stitch thing to his right looks almost exactly like the second scarf I ever knit.

I'd never seen anything like this sock knitting machine before. I'm not exactly into the whole steampunk thing, but there is something kind of cool about these things, with their silvery needles and brass nameplates and chipped black paint. Maybe it's because they look like an old typewriter? I don't know. I kind of sort of want one of these.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not planning on giving up dpn-ing, two-circularing and magic looping. Handknitting socks is a joy that I don't plan to give up. But these machines are nifty. It's kind of like making ice-cream, I would imagine. Listening to the little clacks and cranking out a pair of socks in under an hour -- how fun is that? Plus, I imagine one would come in handy when we are in the grips of what my friend Tom calls "the monkey disease apocalypse" that he's sure is just around the corner. Surely people would let me into their bomb shelters or compounds if they saw that I could keep them in socks. Right?

Unfortunately, it appears that restored sock knitting machines seem to be on the steep side -- they're probably all being horded by survivalists. Still, I'm going to be on the lookout. I would love to see one demonstrated live and maybe take one for a whirl. In the meantime, I'll be scoping out this video made at last fall's Maker Faire in Austin.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Blue Blankie

Yesterday morning I got started on the baby blanket that I mentioned in the previous post. I went by The Knitting Nest and got 7 balls of Dalegarn Baby Ull in blue. The pattern calls for eight balls, but The Nest only had 7 in stock. Having consulted the designer, I know that the 8th ball is for the fringe, and I don't care if it's a different dye lot, or maybe even another shade of blue.

This is a great pattern. It has five lace segments filled with a tidy diamond pattern, bordered by sections of seed stitch. I've gotten pretty good at reading the pattern in what I've already knit -- knowing how to intersperse the yarnovers is the main trick. I love patterns that look complicated but have a wonderful logic to them that makes them interesting without overtaxing one's brain. My brain does not need to be overtaxed these days.

I'm glad to have this project to distract me. I got back to the Piano Cushion earlier this week. I'm not sure why it's languished so long -- it just wasn't something I wanted to work on, I suppose. One evening I took it over to the piano bench to gauge my progress. It seems that I'm 2-3 inches to narrow from side-to-side. I think I may have noticed this earlier and thought that I could take care of this in the blocking. But this thing is made from linen. It won't stretch in blocking, will it? Especially sideways? I don't think so.

I'm facing the fact that I may just have to start over. I have enough yarn to do so (I think), but it's pretty demoralizing. I could get it done pretty quickly if I just knuckled down and applied myself to it, but I don't want to start over if I don't have to.

Thank goodness for the security blanket!

Thursday, March 05, 2009


I've finished the Tundra Socks.

Not much to report about these. Just good, mindless (mostly) knitting -- the kind of thing I've been needing to do lately. I did my standard recipe for a sock that fits me: cast on 72 stitches, work 2x2 ribbing, work a slip-stitch heel with a 3-stitch garter border, consult the chapter on four-stitch sock patterns from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks to get the stitch counts for turning the heel and getting the gusset pickup count (still don't quite have that memorized), and then it's on to the toe, with another quick glance to remember when to stop decreasing.

I've not been knitting as much as I'd like to be the last few weeks, but these were nice to have around to pick up and work on during the odd hour here and there. Dark, calming colors, interspersed with little bits of brightness. Just what I needed.

What's next? I've got two things looming.

First of all, I need to take a repair day. I need to unweave and knot the ends on the part of the Piano Cushion I've finished so far. I need to repair the zipper on the Cobra Sweater -- the bottom end came loose the last time I wore it. And I need to stretch out the Perfectly Plain Vest to get a little more length out of it. I thought I might just take a day this weekend or next to attend to these things. I need to get that cushion finished, and if I don't attend to those sweaters now, it won't happen until it gets cold again (if that ever happens!), and then I'll be mad at myself for not having taken care of things sooner.

Secondly, I need to knit a baby blanket. Most of my friends don't have children, and those that do have quite young ones. But my roommate from college, Bob, has been a step-father for some time, and he is soon to be a step-grandfather. He's been a great role model in his step-daughter's life, and I want to make something really special for her soon-to-arrive little boy.

I'm thinking of making Staci's Renee Baby Blanket (scroll down after clicking) in a nice blue or green. What do you think? Would this be appropriate for a little bundle of boyjoy?