WIPs, Owies, and Deathflakes

I got this Samsung Galaxy “smart” phone over a year ago on which I can text, and I do actually text people on it, except about 80% of the time, if the phone is not in my purse and I’m out of the house hooting around, it’s on the charger back in the bedroom, and I’m elsewhere in the house and don’t hear the ping.  So, I have these texting conversations with friends that last, literally, for days, as in they text me, and I don’t hear the ping,  and don’t see it until the next day when I take my phone off the charger and it vibrates, and then I text them back. . . .  Hopefully now that I’m on Instagram ( the_owl_underground ) and I’m trying to post there at least once a day, I’ll have the phone by me instead of in the next room . . .

Earlier today, watching a “Must Love Yarn” podcast back episode, I got to thinking about my growth as a knitter.   Up until about 12 years ago, my knitting was pretty episodic and I didn’t do any for years and years.  Then I got back into handwork about 16 years ago and did some serious crochet (teeny thread with minuscule needles) there for a while, and then I got back into knitting again about 13 years ago, and have been pretty monogamous since then.  When I got back into it, everything I did was simple patterns, worsted weight or bulky yarn, large needles (US 9/5.5 mm to US 15/10 mm), just knitting and purling.  I did do baby socks-cum-booties on double pointed needles in tiny baby yarn, but otherwise, it was Walmart yarn on Walmart needles.  Then I learned continental style and I was heavy into Takumi bamboo needles.

. . . and you buy things like a storage ottoman to keep WIP yarn in . . . my xmas present from me to me . . . I did need the ottoman for ottomanning purposes, too . . .

But, I’ve noticed that as time goes on, the needles keep getting smaller and smaller, and the yarn keeps getting lighter and thinner.  I’m into metal needles now, ChiaoGoo Red Lace ones with the lace points, and I’m moving into the esoterica — lace knitting, two-color work, etc.  I’m thinking about starting some socks from an actual pattern (got the yarn, got the circular needle to do two at a time), I’ve bought a sweater pattern and come payday, I’ll buy the yarn for it.   It’ll be in cotton because I have a yarn impediment — I can’t tolerate wool against my skin. (Don’t mock the afflicted.) I get very itchy and sometimes I hit the jackpot and get a rash, too.   But the flatlands where I live is a big cotton growing region and, as I may have mentioned, my town is at the same latitude as Casablanca, Morocco, so climate-wise, cotton makes a whole lot more sense than wool here, anyway.  And there’s irony for you:  A knitter who’s hypersensitive to wool.

The Ilisidi shawl is coming along.  I’m really liking how it’s turning out.   Shawls, y’all.  There appears to be two schools of thought about wearing them.  I fall into what I call the “shawl as cape” school.   To me, a shawl  goes over your shoulders and wraps around  your upper body, so I like them with wide wings, long from neck to bum,  and worsted weight.   When I wear a shawl, it’s for warmth, and . . . oooh, shiny . . . shawl pins!  The other school of thought, which I’m calling the “shawl as lobster bib” school, puts the center of the shawl body over the chest,  brings the ends behind the neck and back around to the front and tucks them underneath.  This school of thought likes lace weight and fingering weight yarn,  lacy patterns, and a shorter distance from neck to waist or higher.

So, the owie.  I was making tea in my carafe, which takes 3 bags, and I had taken all the tea bags out of their paper envelopes.  And, like I always do, I grabbed up all the little envelopes and torn off bits into my left hand to throw them away, and a pointy corner of one of the foil-lined envelopes poked up under one of my fingernails clear into the quick and drew blood!   Today’s Trivia Tidbit:  The term “quick” referring to fingernails is a hold-over usage of the word from the 1500’s when it also meant “alive, living” (as in “the quick and the dead” — yeah, that!)* The “quick” is the part of your fingernail that’s alive, and hurts when you poke it with the sharp corner of a foil packet, and bleeds like a stuck pig for half an hour because stupid clopidogrel, because stents . . .  argh!.  And, of course, you know which finger it was . . . . that politically incorrect finger in the middle of my left hand that I use to pinch each stitch against the needle to hold it when I knit it . . .

So, I just couldn’t stand it.  I’ve been giggling about it for days.  Now I’ve gotten the ribbing done on a hemmed toboggan in black that is going to have Deathflakes on it in white.  So hysterical.  I’ve got about three rows to go before I can start the colorwork part.  The hem on this toboggan is going to be really deep, because knitting worsted, US 6/4 mm needles, and a 30 stitch x 30 row motif, with only about 2-3 inches left to knit before time to decrease for the top of the hat, but Deathflakes, y’all!  And Deathflake mittens!  I’d have to buy yarn for the mittens because I don’t have any fingering yarn, but I have the Chiaogoo sock set needles.  I knitted Xmas balls with them and they are lovely needles.

Dear friends had mom and me to Xmas dinner at their house this year, and they gifted me with a tin of this tea.  I’m having some now.  It comes in the gauze cloth sachets, kept in an airtight tin (no paper envelopes to stick up under my fingernails!).  It has cinnamon and cloves in it, too, which are two of my favorite spices.  We’ll see how my tum handles the orange peel. (I’m allergic to “regular” oranges, Citrus × sinensis, but not other citrus fruits.)  Maybe this won’t bother me too much, because cinnamon and cloves!  (I gifted them a pair of hand-knit xmas balls and gave him a couple of bags of a tea I discovered,  Stash’s “Breakfast in Paris.” which has lavender and vanilla in black tea.)  Nums.

I have this one task to do, and I’m done adulting for the day, and then I’m going to go back to my knitting nook and work on Deathflake.   BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!

*Another usage is "quicken" which refers to the point in a pregnancy when the mom first feels the baby moving -- the baby has "quickened."  However, that usage has declined just in the last 30-40 years.

Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Vieille Chose

My mom turned 94 this year.  She not only still has all her marbles,she has more of them than I do!  She’s active and alert, is in remarkably good health (touch wood!) and is in better shape than a lot of people 30 years younger than she. (For that, we are all extremely thankful!)  She was born in 1924 and the mind boggles at the changes that have happened in the world during her lifetime.  However, and not surprisingly, technology has gone off and left her in the dust, and there are times when trying to help her remain connected to the modern world is like being in the movie “Back to the Future.”  Case in point:

We have finally converted my dyed-in-the-wool, write-checks-for-everything Mom to the ease and convenience of credit cards with bonus points (she got one through her bank after my dad died, because their only credit card was in his name, and that was the only way she could get one in her name).  Now she charges practically everything on it, writes one check to pay the credit card bill in full every month (she could pay it on line, but we won’t go there!), redeems her bonus points for gift cards to local restaurants and she is a happy camper.  So, this afternoon, she calls me and says that “since Charles changed her email program to Windows 7” (momspeak to English translation:  Windows Live Mail decided to stop playing nice with everything else and Charles, her computer guy, took it off and loaded Mozilla Thunderbird in its place),  when she tries to check her credit card bonus points on her bank’s website, she can’t because it wants her to upgrade her browser before it will let her.  So I went over to get to the bottom of it and see if I could get things sorted out.

Upgrading the browser had no effect and I ended up having to call her bank’s help desk.  Turned out the program her bank uses to track bonus points doesn’t like Firefox and insists you use either Google Chrome or Internet Explorer to access it.  She uses Firefox for everything else and it works just fine.  Now she has to load a separate browser to look at this one website so she can check her credit card points, which is stupid, but that’s the internet for you. (The poor schlimazel at the help desk had no clue why this was even a big deal.)  Naturally, I had to walk her through how you do that so she could write down all the steps (What Internet Explorer calls a “favorite” is really a bookmark, mom.  No, I don’t know why they have to call it something different.)

When I used the phone on her computer desk to call about the credit card website, the sound quality (the phone is 15 years old, if it’s a day) was so horrible I could barely understand the guy I talked to (and I have normal hearing). (You want surreal? I was trying to interpret between a millennial who I could barely understand on the phone and my mom, who is literally 4 years older than sliced bread.)  When she gets a phone call when she’s sitting at her computer desk, sitting right next to this phone, she gets up and goes into another room to another phone to answer it because the sound quality on this phone is so horrible (and she’s so hearing impaired), she can’t understand what people are saying.  Why doesn’t she get a new phone?  Because this phone is hooked up to a caller ID box from the 1980’s that she knows how to operate (so she can see who called her and didn’t leave a message!), and she’s afraid that the new phone won’t work with this caller ID box. Never mind that her cordless phone handsets have a caller ID function which she (a) didn’t know they had, and when I showed it to her, (b) she thinks is too complicated and/or too much trouble to use.

I don’t know why this surprises me.  There are only two modern phone jacks in the whole house.  The rest of them are all still the original phone jacks from when her house was built in 1962, the kind that require a phone cord with prongs.   I’m assuming the “new” one in the computer room had to have been put in by the AT&T guy so he could install their DSL when they first got a computer in the 1990’s, and the one in the kitchen was probably put in by another AT&T guy when prongs became obsolete and that phone quit working. If it wasn’t for the cordless phone system I got her (the base unit is plugged into the kitchen jack, with handsets by her chair in the den and in her bedroom) (which don’t have to be plugged into a phone jack that is too expensive/too much trouble to update), she would only have one usable phone in the whole house.

Anyway, I found her a corded phone on Amazon with a caller ID function with a large display that only requires one button press to access, and has a volume control on the handset, so hopefully now she won’t have to get up to go into another room to answer the phone instead of using the one sitting right next to her.  (I bet I can get it to work with her old caller ID box, too.)

While I was sorting all this out, she started complaining about not being able to hear her doorbell. It’s one of those wireless gizmos that some friend from church installed for her when her other one quit working.  It only has one wall unit, and she has it plugged in a plug/point in the den.  When she’s in the den, she can barely hear it.  When she’s anywhere else in the house, she can’t hear it at all.   To make her case, while I was working on her computer, she went out and plonged it, and even I could barely hear it.  The plug-in unit doesn’t seem to have a volume control on it.  So I went on Amazon and found her one with three wall units so she can plug one in the den, one in the computer room and one in her bedroom.  It also has four volume settings and, hopefully, one of them is “dull roar”  so we can set it where she can hear it.  All this tech is due to arrive next Friday, at which point I get to go install it all and show her how to use it.  Stay tuned.

Her broker, who she has probably had longer than she’s had that phone,  gave her a 10-pound ham for Xmas.  She lives alone, so most of it went into the freezer.  Guess what happened to another big slab of it.  (My cardiologist says I’m not supposed to eat ham.  Too much salt and nitrates.  Let’s don’t tell him. )


Sneaking Up On Christmas

I finished my hat last week, and have been enjoying wearing it.  So snowflakey! — But not, actually.  That design is a variant of a traditional Norwegian design called the 8-petaled rose, but it looks snowflakey, so who cares?  I tried to keep my floats overly loose to allow the hat to stretch when worn, but I still got them just a hair too tight.  Sigh. 

Those little strings of white yarn on the inside of the hat (at right) are the “floats” — that’s where you have to carrying the white yarn along the row behind the work until you need to knit with it again.  My floats are messy, and I didn’t secure the long ones because I knew I’d be covering them up when I “turned the hem” on the hat.

I made a couple of xmas balls and sent them to my cousin EJ, and told her that the angel one was for her little granddaughter (my first cousin twice removed), RR, who has her own xmas tree, I’m told.  Does my cousin bring just the angel ball with her when she visits?  Nope.  She brought both.  Guess who decided she needed both for her tree.  Do I want to knit two more balls and send them to EJ in time for New Years?  Maybe.

The Ball Bandit Strikes Again

I was working on that new blue shawl, and remembered I had about 6 skeins of this other really nice yarn and, yep, I frogged out the blue, and now I’m doing it in a dark green because I love the color, and this is a softer yarn than the blue.  So there.

I call your attention to the fact that it takes two circular needles and a pair of DPN to start this shawl.  Working on it is like wrestling a quadropus with the ends of the circular needles flopping about until you get enough ease in the work to transfer it all to one needle.

It’s a good thing I restarted it, though, because I caught a mistake in the pattern.  I hadn’t considered that cables are directional, and the usual cable pattern only works on cables that are going in one direction.  I kept getting this obvious glitch in one side of the horizontal cable. Took me a minute to figure out why.

When you’re working a braided cable, you are literally braiding the knitting.  Say, for example, that your cable is 9 stitches wide, then each “strand” of your cable is 3 stitches wide and your crosses are done over 6 stitches, crossing (C) one “strand” in front of (F) or behind (B) the other by taking a “strand” of  stitches off onto a cable needle, knitting the next “strand” and putting the first “strand” back and knitting them.  In the pattern, those crosses would be [C6F, k3], [k3, C6B], (Because knitting is basically linear, in order to cross the left-hand strand over the center, you have to use the Columbus method* — take the center strand off and cross it behind the left-hand one.  Yeah, I know.)

But, as I discovered, cables are directional.  I’m knitting the horizontal cable in both directions at the same time (which is the cool thing about this pattern).  In order to get the other end of the horizontal cable to be right, I had to change the pattern for that one cable end to [C6B, k3], [k3, C6F].  Because of that one little idiosyncrasy, this pattern is going to have a built-in booby trap, because two cables will be one way, and that third one will be subtly different.

Like daddy always told me, “Watch out for those traps, booby.”


*Going east by sailing west.

I Do This Every Time!

I’m the Queen of UFO’s*  I’ve got five or six going right now.  So what do I do?  I have this idea for a shawl (yes, another one.  I’m the queen of those, too) and nothing will do but I have to work out the pattern for it.  I have to admit, the idea is kind of cool, though.  It’s inspired by the Drekin shawl by Ninja Chickens.  It has cables — one across the top and one “T’ed” down the middle.  You start the top cable border in the middle, but because you use the Turkish cast on, you can’t tell where it starts!You do 21 rows of the cable, and then treat it like a garter tab and pick up 19 stitches down the side on a DPN*, like so.  That becomes the vertical cable down the middle.

Then as you work around, you start adding stitches on either side of that center cable to make the “wings.”

It’s a bit tricky until you get enough ease in the work to where you can get it all on one needle, but when you do, it looks like this.  You can see the two bands of cable and how they “T.”

I’ve also worked out a knitted-on cable edging to tie it all together.  It’s going to take a bunch of knitting to finish it, though. But, I love how that cable goes in both directions seamlessly.  It wants to be called “Ilisidi” –another Foreigner shawl, like “Malguri Morning” and “Najidama Bay.

I think I need to start a rotation in my queue.  Work on each project for a day, then switch to the next in line in rotation.

I’ve just brewed up a pot of some of Stash Tea’s Breakfast In Paris tea — YUM!  It’s got lavender, vanilla, and bergamot in.  Very delightful.

I’ve been watching Ninja Chicken’s previous podcasts trying to catch up to the present, and I’ve made a playlist.  I’m going to make another pot of that “Breakfast in Paris” tea, retire to my knitting nook, fire up my Kindle HD tablet and finish my snowflake hat.

*UFOs – UnFinished Objects
*DPN – double pointed needle.

I’m Melting . . . Melting . . .

Beginning to thaw out here.  Takes 8 inches a while to melt when it’s not all that much above freezing.   I didn’t have to get out in it, didn’t want to, so I didn’t.

The way I look at it, this is why God gave us lap robes, hot tea, and knitting.  And internet radio. . .

I have a hard time tracking lines on a knitting chart without help.  Best $10 I’ve spent in a long time (except to buy Chiaogoo Red Lace circular knitting needles  . . .) was on this typist’s stand.   Does exactly what it says on the tin.  (Of course, if the chart is not very wide, a large rectangular sticky note works, too.)  I’ve started the hat.  Won’t care about messy floats as I’m using my hemmed toboggan pattern and the hem will cover them.  Now that I’ve gotten all the urgent Xmas knitting out of the way, I’m looking forward to finishing some of my (many) WIPs*:

A Malguri Morning shawl for me (named for Ilisidi’s mountain fortress Malguri from the Foreigner books by C. J. Cherryh — I’m a huge fan.  Both she and her wife Jane got one of these last Xmas.  This one is Jane’s.  Making me one out of the same yarn but with only one solid blue stripe.) Najidama Bay shawl — another Foreigner themed shawl named for the bay where Bren’s estate of Najidama is located.

Reader’s shrug — if this kind of weather persists, I may have to make another one in worsted weight yarn. . .

Two rectangular shawls that I’m knitting horizontally from side to side: (BTW, if you want to be a test knitter for either of these rectangular shawl patterns, let me know.)

Kildare Cobblestones shawl (using dental floss for lifelines!)

top edging
middle insert
lower border

Blu Fiorentino Shawland a rewrite of this shawl pattern with five sections instead of four in the same yarn, which I’m calling Pentaluna and oddly don’t have any pictures of.  Haven’t decided if I’ll use this edging on it either.  I may use the edging from Blu Fiorentino shawl as it has wedges.

And if this isn’t enough, if I get money for Xmas, then I want to do this sweater in cotton yarn (allergic to wool!).  And I’ve got at least three hats I’m working on to donate to my local cancer center for chemo patients. . . .

Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop, ya’ll.

*WIPs – Works In Progress

Dumped On By Diego

Woke up to this.  We were supposed to get 1-3 inches (3-8 cm)  They were saying we got more like 8-9 inches (20-23 cm) and it’s still coming down like crazy.   Worried about Ninja.Chickens who lives just outside of Ashville, NC.  Worried about all the folks in Diego’s path.

Got rellies in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.  I’ve heard from them and they’re OK.  Got rellies south of Houston.  Heard from them and they’re OK.  When I texted my friend in Key West a pix of snow he texted me back and said it was 80 F(26.6 C) there at 11 a.m.  Ain’t that here!  Current temp here is 30 F (-1.11 C) and still snowing. Believe I’ll stay in out of it.  Life in the Flatlands.

Never mind.  I got Pedro’s Tamales, hot tea, lap robes, a sizeable to-be-read pile on my Kindle, and a knitting challenge.   Say tuned . . . .Oh, and I’m done knitting washcloths.  (!!) Finished the basket for my duplex neighbor who has been so good to me this year.

My friend LB’s corneal transplant surgery went OK yesterday.  She had a doctor’s appointment today.  They’re from Minnesota, so they’re like, ‘really?’

My mom just emailed me that she’s lost her TV signal.  She has Dish TV. I keep telling her she needs to get cable, but no.  She’s memorized the channel numbers of the channels she likes and she’s finally learned how to work their DVD. I’m trying to teach her how to channel surf.  This is a woman who’s 12 years older than broadcast television, and 4 years older than sliced bread.

Instant WOL

Well, I’ve bit the bullet and joined Instagram as (what else?) the_owl_underground.   Still figuring out how to use it.

I’ve started a hat — have to do something with all that red yarn I have from Xmas balls.  It’s going to be one of my hemmed toboggans, so I can have messy floats and it won’t matter.  120 stitches on a 2.5 (3.0 mm) circular needle.  The classic 8-petaled rose for the design, done in white, which is 24 x 24, whence the tiny needles.   Our Aha! moment for today is that if you use the Turkish cast on instead of provisional cast on to do this hat, you need to use at least a 24-inch needle for the second needle so the cable will be long enough to dangle the needles out of your way while you knit the first inch or so.  but after that, no problem.

Spent yesterday evening sitting on the couch, knitting on my Malguri Morning shawl, drinking hot vanilla chai latte, and binge-watching season 11 of Dr. Who, learning to penetrate Jody Whittaker’s thick Yorkshire accent.   Brilliant!  Yes, that is an empty jar of Talenti gelato you see.  Having some serious me time.

Just finished three Pedro’s Tamales with a slathering of refried beans on top, plus some chopped onions and sliced olives and a big heap of shredded Sargento Mexican Four Cheeses, hotted in the microwave.  ¡Numos grandes!  They had a fire at the factory a while back and for the longest, horriblest, time, there were no Pedro’s Tamales to be had.  But they’ve been back into production for a while now, and we can enjoy their great tamale goodness again.   They use all American-grown products:  corn, beef, pork and chicken.  You can get them in all sorts of varieties from el wimpo mild to ¡ay, Chihuahua! melt your fillings hot.  They ship, BTW.  So if you have a freezer . . . .

Like the man says, “Ain’t but one fence between us and Canada, and it’s down.” Bracing for Diego. Going to be having a little cool spell, looks like.  I remind you, here in the flatlands, I’m at the same latitude as Casablanca, Morocco (as in North Africa), so this is a big deal for us.  Anytime there is the slightest hint of ice or snow here, it’s Demolition Derby Day on the city streets, and I make a point of staying home if at all possible.

Tomorrow, my friend LB goes to have corneal transplant surgery.  She has Fuch’s dystrophy and having three rounds of chemotherapy for breast cancer (stage IV) did nothing to help it.  Holding her in my thoughts prayerfully and hoping she’ll get her sharp vision back and be able to get back into color work with her knitting.

I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t watch live TV anymore.  I work out what I want to watch and record it all.  Then when I watch it, I can fast forward through all the %&^*#@! commercials.  I’ve got some of that “artisanal” bread from Market Street, which is my delight (and my downfall!), and I’m thinking seriously about doing some with butter in the broiler.  I’ve already got a pot of tea going.  Hmmm. . . .

A little aside about life on the spectrum, I have a toast rack because toast from the toaster is supposed to be crisp.  You pull a piece of toast out of the toaster and lay it on a plate, and the steam from the toast makes the down-side mushy.  If I want mushy toast, I do it in the broiler.  Butter the bread lavishly, and put the broiler on high — crisp crust, mushy middle.  Crunchy, buttery goodness.  Nuts.  Now I’ve got to get up and go make some.  Got some videos to watch on the YouTube channels I follow.   I’m thinking sofa, knitting, lap robe, big screen TV.   Having a kitty to curl up with me would make it perfect.  It’s times like these when I really miss my kitties.



Out From Under The Gun

All the gift baskets are finished except the one that goes next door, and I’ve just got half a washcloth to go to finish it.  I’ll finish that tomorrow, and maybe make one or two more Xmas balls.  Haven’t decided on that yet.  I was able to do a little reading — finally!   Want to do more.   There’s just not enough hours in the day, seemingly.

I‘ve got all this red and white yarn left from the Xmas balls, I’ve started a toboggan that will have Norwegian 8-leafed roses on the hem.  The nice thing about the toboggan is that whatever color work I do, if I restrict it to the hem area, when I turn the hem, that will cover up the floats!  As you can see, I’ve already gotten it started — on a US2.5 (3 mm) needle.  It’s going to take quite a while.  I’ve got about half the ribbed bit done.

I’ve got to go out tomorrow and get a magenta cartridge for my printer (printing out all those Xmas ball charts!) so I can print out the motif chart for the colorwork on my hat.  I’m using Caron Simply Soft yarn.  It’s acrylic (Don’t judge.  Some of us are allergic to wool.) and it has a lovely hand, but it splits like crazy.

At some point, I need to suck it up and rake the back yard.  Besides being all over leaves, that durn black locust has podded all over everywhere.  Even the thought of having to do it makes me tired.   Still, It’s not that big a yard, thankfully. I also need to do something with that front bed.  Whatever I do to it will have to be done by May, assuming I’ll be having knee replacement surgery then.  I’d like to transplant those roses to the back yard where their feet won’t be wet all the time.  They’ve got black spot badly and it’s because very time it rains, they sit in the runoff from the roof.  I’d like to get some turks’ cap bushes, some lavender and maybe some sage, and interleave them with assorted wildflowers. Something low maintenance.   I really don’t want to fool with a yard, but the exercise would be good for me, as long as I don’t overdo.