No More Stuffing!

I’ve been knitting away in my knitting nook, knitting on washcoths a while, then knitting an Xmas ball or two.  I’ve knitted 7 so far, and I plan to do three more — one is already on the needles.  (“knitting” has a “k” but “needles,” and “nook” don’t — and because I tend to spell phonetically, keeping them straight drives me knuts.  But for once, it’s not English being obtuse and arcane.  Big difference between “knits” and “nits.”)  But for the moment, my production of finished Xmas balls has ground to a halt — I ran out of polyester fiberfill — I’ve got no stuff to stuff them with.

I’m like the mice in Beatrix Potter’s story,  “The Tailor of Gloucester.”  They ran out of “twist” — a particular type of sewing thread that they were using to make buttonholes on the Mayor’s waistcoat.  They pinned a little note to the waistcoat written in teeny tiny writing which said, “No more twist.”

Except the little note pinned to the three latest knitted balls would say (assuming you can read my handwriting!), “No more stuffing!”

The stuffing makes a big difference.

The ones at right have already found new homes — two were hostess gifts to the couple who had mom an me over for Thanksgiving dinner, one went home with my mom for her tree, and one is going to the lady in “B” of my duplex as a token of appreciation for all the help she’s given me during this annus horribilis.   Some knitting I can do while I’m watching TV, but not stranded colorwork — I’ve got to keep my eyes glued to the grid pattern!  Instead I turn on my internet radio and listen to SomaFM’s DroneZone, which is their ambient music channel.

I’ve gotten one washcloth basket finished, and have three more to go, but the washcloth patterns I’ve chosen are simple and easily memorized — TV knitting.  I’ve been knitting and binge-watching the “Sherlock” television series that Steve Moffat and Mark Gattis wrote and produced with Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Watson.  (All four seasons are available on Netflix, which I have been watching on my tablet in my knitting nook, with my feet propped up on the otttoman, a lap robe on, and a pot of chai au lait to hand.)

This pic shows you how I’m packaging the washcloths — each basket will have three rolled washcloths and a bar of glycerine soap.  I pop the basket into a cellophane bag and tie it with gold ribbon.  They’re intended to be put in a guest bathroom, or given as gifts. (There’s another orange washcloth in that basket which I finished after I took the picture.) I’ve got five more washcloths to knit by the end of the first week of December,  and one of those five is nearly done.  (It will finish the orange basket.)

I’ve got to do some running around tomorrow — get my car’s oil changed, get my state inspection and get a new license sticker.  I also plan to visit my friend LB and her husband C. He had open heart surgery in October with a triple bypass, and she’s going to have a corneal transplant the first part of December.  I’m going to take them each an Xmas ball. While I’m out and about, I’ll get more polyfill so I can stuff my balls!  I think I’ll go to Joanne’s (store) as Michael’s didn’t have any actual stuffing, only quilt batting.  It works, but you have to pull it apart into “tufts” with your hands just like you have to do with raw wool before you can card it.

As much fun as this all is, I’ll be glad to get over this “hump” of projects and get back to the WIPs* I’ve been longing to work on.  But everything is pretty much on hold until I get these two projects out of the way.

WIP – Work In Progress

Having a Ball Making Balls

I’ve been getting into watching videos by Arne & Carlos, two knitting mavens who live in Norway.  They are famous for their balls –Christmas balls, that is.  You can download free patterns for 24 miniballs from their blog here, which I did.  I’ve been wanting to get into stranded color work, and this is a way to get my feet wet without diving in.

In order to do stranded color work, you follow a chart (that’s one above), which is a lot like a needlepoint pattern, which tells you which color to knit which stitch with.  I’ve done needle point so there’s no learning curve there.  The tricky bit is carrying two strands of yarn.  The bit where you carry the yarn from one stitch of that color to the next stitch of that color is called a “float.”  A basic rule of thumb is that you don’t want to carry a float for longer than 5-6 stitches.  If you’ve got to carry it longer than that, you have to secure it, which is an art in itself.  I’m lousy at floats, but then I’m just starting out.

I’m using a set of sock needles (five 6-inch long double pointed needles) from my ChiaoGoo sock set, which are really nice and come in a lovely zippered case.  If you’re really heavy into sock knitting, I can recommend them.   You get six sets of stainless steel needles (US sizes 0-3, or 2.0-3.25 mm) together with the carrying case.

I’ve made three balls so far and there’s one on the needles that I’m nearly finished with.    These haven’t been stuffed yet.  They do look more ball-like once they’ve been stuffed.  You leave a tail at each end to sew them shut, and the tail at the top you use to crochet a chain loop to hang them with.   I think I’ll make a couple more.  They’ll be nice to give as tokens of appreciation to friends.

Yup.  They’re addictive.


I sometimes wonder where we’d be if all those young men we lost, not just in WWI but in all wars, had been able to become what they might have been.  What contributions to society would they have made, what would their children have accomplished?

The loss of life in WWI was so horrendous that it’s hard to get your mind around it. (The word “decimate” actually means killing one out of every ten. During WWI, it was more like one in every ten survived.) We in America can’t fully appreciate the impact that such a loss of life has on a society because our losses compared to total population were not that great as England’s, France’s, Belgium’s, and Germany’s.  They quite literally lost a whole generation of their best and brightest.

The irony of it is we are still paying the cost of that war, because it sowed the seeds for WWII, the Soviet Union, genocide in the Balkans and Turkey, and the trouble in the Middle East.  We call our species “Homo sapiens,”   but looking back on our history, I wonder if we wouldn’t be better named “Homo bellicus.”

You take the healthiest and most intelligent and send them off to war, and leave the least healthy/least mentally fit behind to breed.  The ones that are good at fighting and killing survive and come home to breed.  You do this for 6 or 7 thousand years.   Then some guy goes off the deep end and shoots up a house of worship, or a concert, or a school, or a night club, or a post office and kills a bunch of people, and everybody is all aghast.  Get a clue, people.  You get what you breed for.


Hardly Any Vembers at All

We’ve had enough Vembers that the month is nearly half gone.   Busy, busy, busy.  A basket full of WIPs* by the chair in my knitting nook.  Right now the project on the front burner is cotton washcloths.  Nine of them.  I’m working on the “gifts” for the annual Christmas auction at this Sekret Klub my mom belongs to.  The members bring things that are auctioned off, the money thereby gained going to a scholarship fund.  For the past several years I’ve done gifts for her to bring.  One year was crocheted snowflake ornaments.  One year was knitted neck warmers.

This year it’s cotton washcloths.  Nine of them.  My mom was thinking pinning three of them together, bunging them in a baggie and being done with it.  She doesn’t understand how important presentation is.  I got some really nice little baskets at Michaels ($1.99 each on sale!), and I’m going to get three bars of artisan soap from Pier 1.  You roll the washcloths up, put three of them in the basket tastefully arranged with the artisan soap in front, and voilá!  You put the basket on the counter in your guest bathroom for your guests.   I’m doing some in “Southwest” oranges and yellows, and some in “Caribbean” blues and greens.  I will put them in some clear plastic gift bags and tie them with a nice gold ribbon    The only things I have yet to get are the ribbon to tie up the packages and the soap.  I have 8-1/2 washcloths to go.   I can only work on them for a couple hours at a time because I’m knitting them really tight.  The cotton yarn has a tendency to loosen when it’s wet and I want them to retain their facially exfoliating, textural nubbiness when wet.

I think I’m satisfied with the tip on the Najidama Bay shawl.   I thought I’d show you the progression down to the final version at bottom.   The edging has ended up being kind of ruffly, and I like it that way.  Kind of like the ruffled edge of a wave as it comes in over a shallow, wide sandy beach.  As soon as I get a little father along on the shawl to get a decent picture of it, I will post the pattern on my knitting patterns blog.

I like the way the garter stitch center bit looks almost woven.  This will be a good intermediate weight shawl once it’s finished, and I think it falls into the “TV knitting” category.  The edge bit is easily memorized and the center bit is just garter stitch. .





I tried out using the Turkish cast-on as a provisional cast-on to do my toboggan hats and I like it.  It’s a bit awkward when you’re first starting out.  It takes two needles to do the Turkish cast on, and I’m using two circular needles, the 16-inch the hat is knitted on, and I’m using a 24-inch to hold the other set of stitches.   I don’t know how well you can make out what’s going on in the pictures, but you cast on the required number of stitches and cap off the 24-inch needle.  You bring the ends of the 16-inch needle together and knit the top side of stitches with them.  Once you get going it’s less awkward.  Ideally, I’d use two 16-inch circulars to do it, but my 16-inchers are typically all in use in hats at various stages.  The ends of the 24-inch needle do tend to flop about a bit, but it’s workable.

I especially like it when I get to the bit where I fold the hem and knit the top and bottom stitches together.  That’s when already having the stitches on the needle instead of having to recover them onto a DPN* off a bit of string 20 at a time pays off.  Makes the hemming of the hat go a lot smother and a lot quicker.   Even though its kind of awkward dealing with the floppy ends of the 24-inch needle, I think this is going to be my method of choice over doing a provisional cast on using a bit of string.

The weather fooled around and got cold on us.  I’ve gotten to where I don’t like wearing socks around the h0use if the elastic on the cuffs is very strong.  Because of my knee hurting when I walk on it, I sit a lot and I end up with puffy feet.  Not good.  I searched Ravelry for a good footie pattern and found this.  It’s a simple pattern and knits up fast.  I grabbed two balls of knitting worsted and went to it.  Finished them both in an afternoon.  Problem solved.   The small size fits me just as fine as frog hairs.  I’ll very likely be knitting another pair — but not until after I finish the washcloths as I have an early December deadline on those.

Doesn’t look like I’ll be getting a new knee for Christmas because my cardiologist won’t let me off clopidogrel (generic Plavix) for any reason until March, but I think I can wangle getting it for my birthday if I can get the VA to spring for a month’s worth of “pre-hab” in April.  Fingers crossed.  Word on the street is that hip replacements are a piece of cake compared to knee replacements.


WIP* - work in progress
DPN* -- double pointed needle

Tricks, Treats, and Tributes

According to ancient Celtic traditions, Samhain, which we had yesterday, marks the time when the veil between this world and the next becomes thinnest and it is easiest to communicate with those who have gone on before us.  I think my dream about the white cat was his spirit telling me that he is OK with how it went down and that I need to stop beating myself up about it.

Sometimes wearing earbuds while knitting with circular needles can be tricky.  Oh, what a tangled web I wove — but just until the end of the row! I was doing a proof of concept piece for this shawl pattern I’m trying to work out for the Mandala “Spirit” yarn I got, but it’s fighting me.   That tells me I need to put it aside and finish some of the (many!) things ahead of it in the queue.

I tried again on the Najidama Bay  shawl pattern and I’m still not 100% happy with it.  It’s on the back burner for now, too.   Grumble.  Grumble.  One bright light in this tunnel is the fact that I did finish the semicircular shawl

I was working on that was going to be a September gift, and now is going to be a Thanksgiving gift . . .  It’s a lovely shawl, but it just doesn’t shawl the way I like to be shawled.  I have modified the pattern to have five “rays” instead of four, but it’s a WIP* that’s on the back burner with a bunch of others right now.

What I need to do ASAP is finish the three hats and four cowls that go with the above shawl and several other pieces.

I’ve been watching some knitting vlogs, and I have come to several conclusions.  One is that my yarn stash which I think is so huge is nothing compared to the walls of yarn I see in these vlogs.  They do a show and tell, and whip out these especially made fabric project bags that people make and sell and buy, and it’s OK.  Whatever floats their boat.  I prefer zip-seal freezer baggies (the kind without the little slider thing, please).  They’re dust proof, waterproof, and you can see what’s in them without having to open them up.  They natter on about yarn made from this breed of wool and that breed of wool, and all these little independent yarn company yarns that feature this alpaca blend and that cashmere blend.  And it’s fine.  I’m allergic to wool, so that cuts out about 99% of what I call “snob yarn” (i.e., anything that costs more than $10 a skein!)   Compared to some of these ladies (and gentlemen) I’m just a dabbler.  But that’s all right.  Like the man says, “different strokes for different folks.”

My Halloween treat was this sunshiny little salad made with cottage cheese and mandarin orange sections.   Snarf city!  Mandarin oranges are the same thing as Satsuma oranges, BTW.  I’m having chai tea with vanilla cream in.