Random Patterns

Going through the knitting stash, I discovered this pattern. No idea what it is for. Kind of feels like when you read those stories of the random adventurers discovering some magic spell and mistakenly reading it, performing the spell, and ending up with who knows what. That would be this, but performing the spell looks like it would take something like 30 or 40 hours and more than eye of newt.

– D

Holiday Lounging!

Our Christmas decorations weren’t all that complete, as we’re not entirely sure where some of them are stored … well, in the garage, yes, but we didn’t want to open every box to find them. Nevertheless, we did have a bit of fun cutting out stars and snowflakes – from paper recycled from our Christmas Cracker flyers, pulling out the whirling pyramid Christmas thing (Weihnachtspyramide) that we got from a Christmas Market in Germany in 1999, and making a clove orange to hang in the entryway. Now T’s reading the last of her Cybils nominations and working on book reviews in preparation for tonight’s midnight (well, between 5-7 p.m. for everyone else) meeting with her judging panel, and D’s catching up on fiction reading, and generally enjoying some time off. D. has a telephone interview-ish thing today with a professor from Puerto Rico – and we’re dreaming of warm places for our next location!

Hayford Mills 209

It was nice not to feel the need to do much of anything – while J. was here, we mostly sat around and chatted. J. crocheted up a flower for T.’s felted hat, D. nearly finished up another knitted-felt project (yet another hat – but an actual hat, rather than merely a cap), and T. has taken up a striped cabled scarf on her knitting loom.

Apple Raspberry Pasties 4
Apple Raspberry Pasties 2
Apple Raspberry Pasties 5

Of course, no one should visit without us using the occasion as an excuse to do some baking. We had a lovely basket of raspberries and a pair of old, wizened apples, so we made Raspberry-Apple Pasties. We also made some savory ones, with a curried lentil-carrot filling, but the filling just wasn’t as picturesque as the fruit ones. No sugar, only 4 ingredients, and they were fabulous: apples, raspberries, cranberry wensleydale cheese, and a crust. Pinch them up, bake them until golden, and you have a pie!

And if we might say so: Scottish raspberries are a blessing from God. Amen. Amazingly sweet, even for so early/late in the year. We get them from the farm folks, so someone still has them growing – and we’re really, really glad.

Hayford Mills 210

Today we’re being thankful that the incessant wind has stopped (which sounded rather like the ocean, it was so loud) and working our way through those things on the to-do list which have been delayed for too long. T’s been muttering about finally trying out a faux Goldfish cracker recipe to give away paired with her painted glass jars of layered soup ingredients, and we’ll try to bake up another batch of gingerbread cookies later on, or perhaps watch a movie – although hopefully our second one is nothing like that dumb one with monsters and aliens…

Our families all have this week off as well, so we suspect there’s a great deal of lounging going on all around. Hope you’re able to kick back a little bit, too.

-D & T

Rosey Grier is Full of Awesome

Aargh! Can you believe a scarf I started knitting a year ago (this picture is old, it’s much bigger now) is still unfinished!? My knitting mojo is completely derailed at the moment (of course, being midway through one novel and in revision with the other could possibly have something to do with it. Maybe.), so I’ve been looking around. I think I might have found something to get it back on track.

It all started when I was looking at some dusty old photographs of the Walter Reed Hospital from the early 1900’s. Those recovering from The Great War were brushing up on their knitting and making massive macrame blankets and socks to help keep the rest of the patients warm. It was a really useful occupational therapy, let me tell you, and the knitting machine in the picture looks complicated and amazing. Anyway. Someone suggested that this was “women’s work” — good grief, there’s always one, isn’t there? — and another commenter suggested that we all Google Rosey Grier. And so I did.

Nice try, huh?

Actually… it’s the right guy. Roosevelt Grier was a NY Giants defensive lineman in the fifties, and retired from the Rams in 1967. He became a bodyguard for the wife of Robert Kennedy afterward, and disarmed the man who assassinated the politician, grabbing his gun and breaking his arm. He was an actor (isn’t every sports star?) for some really bad horror movies. (Does his life not sound like a made-for-TV movie? I mean, seriously.) Now, you know we do baking and knitting here, and the occasional foray into photography and tech rants, so I have to come to the point: aside from being six-foot-six and three hundred pounds, Rosey Grier was really into his needlework. So much so that he wrote a book: Rosey Grier’s Needlepoint for Men.

Yes. He did.

Now, okay: The seventies have a lot for which to answer, mainly, nineteen million examples of tacky, horrible taste, generally having to do with frightening colors, chaotic patterns, bad hair, and stupid names. Once you check out the slide show, you’ll realize that Rosey was a product of his times. But still — I can’t help but think he is the coolest needlepoint-ing guy ever. Obviously this book is WAY out of print, but don’t you love that director’s chair pattern? Too cute.

This gentleman is now seventy-six, and I hope he’s somewhere still stitching.

Which just goes to prove: if this dude could do it, so can I.

Brief Update

Well, the good news is, knitting still exists as an art form.

Elsewhere in the universe, people still participate in the craft. They sit down and stroke their stash lovingly, looping their fingers lingeringly through woolens and chenilles and specialty yarns. They revel in the colors and fret gently over trying to turn a heel.

Somewhere, people still knit.

Apparently, just not at this blog.

Sigh. It’s not like it’s not COLD ENOUGH. It’s been below freezing every night for at least two weeks, and it’s been very close to snow during the day, with the daytime high of 2°/35° where it’s been hovering. We’re very clearly aware of the desperate need to cover our ears, and we’re already well bored with most of the hats and scarves we’ve been wearing, so we know we need to get back to it. It’s not like we’re short a winter holiday — people love knitted things as Christmas gifts.

And, it’s not like there’s a shortage of babies for whom to knit. My sister is gestating again, and numerous family friends have all brought forth their own little wrinkled, shrieking darlings, so it’s not like there aren’t blankets and hats that need to be made. It’s just that we can’t seem to …find free time for our hands.

I think the trick is going to be scheduling time to sit with our hands free — not typing, not scrolling through articles online or surfing the internet. Just… sitting. It’s amazing how hard that’s been. Neither of us are huge TV watchers, but I think we may have to take up a few shows just so we are sitting in one place long enough for the urge to hit. (You might suggest books on CD — both of us read too fast to have patience with that, unfortunately. It might have to do with a childhood full of books on records, or hyperactivity, or something — only live people reading works. Which is a serious pity, since BBC 7 radio is broadcasting C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet this month, which is a fabulous SF tale. Oh, well.) I hope the urge and ability come back soon; I was looking forward to learning how to turn a heel, and my friend Darla has started collecting baby sweater patterns she swears are for beginners who can’t really read a pattern. (Yeah, right.)

Anyway~! These pictures were taken at the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art a week ago. We discovered that one merely need knit something that isn’t a hat or scarf to be declared to be creating “art.”

These are cacti, knitted with worsted wool yarn, so they’re nice and scratchy. I’m sure they’d make a lovely Christmas gift.

We’re still receiving our vege box from local farms, and ’tis the season for root veg. Many growers are having the last of their tomatoes — from greenhouses, obviously; it’s frozen hard the last couple of nights, so I’m thinking these aren’t outside — and we got a zucchini the other day the size of my forearm, which is a bit largeish for a zucchini. (Time for chocolate chip zucchini bread!)

In honor of the American Thanksgiving this week, we’re concentrating on what the first settlers in the United States had to eat — a lot of duck and goose, basically meat, and very little sweet, since sugar isn’t grown on the Northeast Coast and neither sweet potatoes nor white potatoes grew there at the time. Instead of pumpkin pie, they had pumpkin just as a vegetable, and Indian Corn pudding along with their venison, mutton, quail, mussels and lobster. Of those dishes, we thought we’d try to make Indian Corn Pudding, which sounds alarmingly like grits with sugar. Is this part of anyone’s traditional dinner? We’ve never made it/had it, as it’s not a West Coast thing, but we’ll follow the recipe from 1621, and let you know how it goes…

A Good Deed

At the close of one of the original Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie, Gene Hackman Wilder (thank you, Candace) as Mr. Wonka, holding the Everlasting Gobstopper that Charlie has left on his desk says, “So shines a good deed in a weary world.

This scene is from The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene 1, by William Shakespeare [1564-1616]:

That light we see is burning in my hall.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

(Screenwriter David Seltzer changed the word “naughty” to “weary”, in the film, since after all the nonsense, Mr. Wonka is deathly tired of the horrible character of most people.)

I have always loved that line… (and yes, I’m a big kid’s-movie loving freak. So, sue me. What? You want to know where I got that? Ah. The Complete Willy Wonka, and thank you so much, Thomas M. Brodhead) and it came to mind yesterday as I was frantically knitting a baby hat. Not because I was doing some good deed — although I suppose making someone a gift could be considered as such. No, the line came to me because the good deed brought light to my world.

I haven’t knitted in ages. I’ve been dragging around my lovely handsewn (thanks, jackie) knitting bag with my project all rolled up and safe, but it’s been just… sitting there. I don’t think I’ve laid needles to yarn since before June.

Part of that is because we moved, and part of it is because when we were in the Bay Area, it was too hot to have a lap full of yarn, and part of it is… well, who knows? I think it was a bit of melancholy. Getting back to Scotland after being in California was harder than we thought it would be, and for awhile I kind of hated everything and everyone that wasn’t home, despite the fact that I chose to be here.

It was a good thing I had my work to get into, and the surprising conclusion was pushing a novel through completion, revision, copy editing and on to publication in six months. That was a lot of work, and next time I think I’ll take up kick boxing or something less stressful, if I need to distract myself.

Anyway. I wasn’t knitting, and suddenly Baby Season up and reared its downy head again. I have no idea what brings it (lots of rain? No rain? Tropical low pressure?), but it erupts in multiples — I found out a friend back home had had a baby in the nine months we’d been gone (wow), my editor announced she was pregnant and taking leave at the end of August, and the wives of two of D’s classmates conceived, all around the same time. I should have been knitting… but I didn’t start… until… yesterday.

Over a month ago it was planned. Hiroshi, a philosophy of law student at the Uni, mentioned to D. that he was going home for the birth of his child, and having been good friends throughout their onerous school year, they agreed to get together for a last meal before he took off. The gents informed the ladies, and we all were to assemble at our favorite vegan pub at the required time on Tuesday night. Tuesday morning I started the hat.

It was meant to be quick — and utilitarian, more of a token of courtesy than anything else. What I didn’t expect was that the feel of the yarn in my hands — a Plymouth 80% rayon, 20% wool Italian blend called Sinsation — would be so beguiling. Why had I stopped knitting? How could I have lost the happy anticipation of seeing something come to life in my hands?

I used richer colors than I would normally use for a baby hat — for a child with an unknown gender and parents whose tastes and preferences I don’t really know. The hat — and the baby — were almost secondary to my desire to create something that looked as beautiful as the yarn felt in my hands. And Megumi’s expression when I handed her the completed project only added to the joy. Now, I’m thinking I need some more of this yarn (which was verrrrry expensive, incidentally – I only have the one skein), and to add to my stash and find some more bright and crazy colors to liven up this drab, dark world.

It’s only one tiny hat, but the creativity bug has been awakened. I’m glad.

This is the 300th post at WIWB. Who knew we’d last that long?

Morporkia & The Pratchagan

Right, so we knitters are known to be … a little bit intense.

We love our yarn, or stash, our needles, our projects. Some of the males of the species get a little tired of the weird looks, as if men aren’t meant to handle slender pieces of bamboo and skeins of anything but baling wire, but whatev, we drop our stitches and do our thing.

And, when we put needles into yarn for those we love, boy howdy, are the results sometimes spectacular. I present to you, the Pratchagan: love by the square yard.

As many of you know, a year ago, UK author Terry Pratchett announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which simply laid flat the thousands of people who love his sly, witty, thought-provoking and often very odd books. I’m envious, awestruck and all kinds of jealous of the Ravelry Ankh-Morpork Knitters Guild people who were privileged to be involved with this project, which was to take scenes and images from Pratchett’s fifty-five plus novels, and knit them into an amazing tribute which was handed over to Mr. Pratchett himself yesterday at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Morporkians: this is made of awesome.

Some of my favorite squares are the silky Librarian orangutan, the People’s Republic of Treacle Mine Road, a rat skeleton in a cowl carrying a scythe, and the one with the simple lilac petal and the words “See how they rise up.”

But of course, the very, very, VERY best bit are the words, “I Aten’t Dead Yet.” And indeed, Mr. Pratchett is not, and the crazy Discoworld that he set spinning on the backs of …four massive pachyderms and a gigantic tortoise… (don’t ask) will go on.

Check out the entire project from the enthused start to the hours, and hours, and hours of work and the finish at Ramblings of a Yarn Lady.

Man, fiber arts people. They rock.

Goldfish Scarf

So, I started this scarf off with the idea of doing something relatively simple … and it’s now mutated into something else. We’ll see what happens to it while we’re traveling, but here’s the pattern so far:

  1. *k10, m1, k14, sl1, k2togtbl, psso, k14, m1, k10
  2. purl entire row*
  3. *Repeat for 10 rows*
  4. k10, m1, k14, sl1, k2togtbl, psso, k14, m1, k10, CO 10 new sts
  5. purl entire row, CO 10 new sts
  6. k9, sl1, k2togtbl, k9, m1, k14, sl1, k2togtbl, psso, k14, m1, k9, sl1, k2togtbl, psso, k9
  7. purl entire row
  8. Continue, decreasing by 2 sts each knit row, until you’re back to having no extra stitches.

I don’t know where it’s going to end up, but I think that I’m going to gradually make it wider, and will keep on adding on these little bits, so that it looks rather like a fish. I think. I don’t really know, but we’ll see. I’ve got this dark copper color, and also have a lighter gold color, and I plan on alternating, so that I have kind of a stripey fish. It will at least be interesting, and will certainly keep my occupied for the 40 hours of air travel we have coming up (Glasgow to Amsterdam to Minneapolis to San Francisco; San Francisco to Miami; Miami to San Francisco; San Francisco to Detroit to Amsterdam to Glasgow), and through many hours of waiting in airports and random idle times.

DSL hasn’t turned on in the new flat, and won’t until sometime while we’re gone. So, posting will take a back seat to unpacking – particular as we only have four days before we’re off! Now, off to see if we can find where we packed the food. 🙂