Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sedona Snow No-Show

Last week, all I heard from my friends in Atlanta, and from Mr. Pug, who had to drive from Sedona to Atlanta, was snow. People who don't own a snow boot or a pair of warm gloves were kvetching their little hearts out about snow.

I, on the other hand, love snow. How could it be snowing in Atlanta and not in Sedona? It's January, for heaven's sake! Then, good news: Snow was predicted for Sedona. I rushed down to the Nine West outlet store in Oak Creek Village and bought a pair of boots. (In the interests of full disclosure, my sister and I bought four pairs of boots. Oh, shut up! They had a great sale, the boots were HOT, and I'm sure I'll wear one of my three pairs somewhere! Sometime!)

Snow? Nah.

Well, there was a little snow in Flagstaff (it's mostly already in piles in the shopping center), and the clouds completely obscured the mountains, but no snow in Sedona. About an hour after we left Flagstaff on Sunday, the police closed Oak Creek Canyon because of icy roads and it remained closed for much of the next day. But snow in Sedona? Nope!

Okay, there were a couple of flakes yesterday, and there's still a little snow on top of the mountains, but that's it. Sorry, Atlanta--I would gladly have taken a little snow for you. Poot!

Anyway, it continues to be crisp but really lovely (and really clear) here in the frozen West. In fact, I was going to drive down to Phoenix the day before yesterday but, because snow was predicted, I stayed closer to home. I drove in the other direction to Cottonwood and explored the town's historic district. I can't say I saw any incredible historic sights but I did see someone walking by the side of the road that got my attention. You just gotta love an area where the word "peacock" refers to something other than a lace shawl pattern.

But no snow. These guys were probably hanging out getting a tan.

I keep thinking that people who live here probably get used to the scenery. I can't imagine that it really happens, but maybe it does. For me, however, driving back from Cottonwood I couldn't resist photographing a few more rocks. This one is particularly stunning.

Now down to brass tacks. The knitting. What knitting, you say? In fact, when my friends called me from the Noble Knitters meeting last night, Ellen asked "so, how's Hanami coming?"

Well, er, uh, it's going very slowly. I'm on repeat 6 of the first chart. At this rate, my sister will be wearing this shawl for her grandchild's high school graduation. Oh, well. For some reason, this basketweave, which I love, is not holding my attention. I knit a few rows, then go read a book, drive around the town, hang out with a peacock, anything to avoid knitting the next row.

And, while I'm slacking in Sedona (sounds like a movie title, doesn't it?), the laceknitters are going crazy in Atlanta. I keep getting emails about Dem Fischer and Spring Shawl Surprise and God only knows what else. There's a new one that I signed up for but I know in my heart I'll never work on it. Which is a bad thing because there seems to be rather a large amount of lace yarn awaiting my attention in Atlanta. Oh, well.

Finally, no job prospects. I thought I had a couple of possibilities earlier in the week, but both positions were filled. Not by me. Today an HR rep in a company I'd really like to work for told me, "oh, my, no, Diana. The position I'm recruiting for is a very junior position and with your superior experience ...." Bottom line, no job.

Better get home and make job-hunting a full-time job instead of part-time. And work on that knitting. No more slacking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sedona Update

Knowing me, it won't surprise you that I have already bought yarn, and lace yarn at that. On our arrival in Sedona last Tuesday, I realized that I had the #8 circular but not the #7 that I would need to complete the baby blanket. So I wandered into Red Rock Knits, less than a mile from my sister's house, to check out needles. Since I had Mr. Pug with me, I bought the needle and skedaddled, telling him there was nothing of interest and making a private note of some gorgeous dyed-in-Sedona lace noil yarn.

Now, here's where my friends the Enablers come in. Have I ever been interested in silk noil lace yarn? Heck no. But I had just read an email (on my cellphone since my laptop wouldn't work!!!) from Ellen who queried the other members of the Zephyr Acquisition Club about silk noil lace yarn. None of us knew anything about it, but there it was in front of me.....

Darn you, Ellen. The next day I waited until Mr. P was otherwise occupied and raced back and bought the yarn. Isn't it gorgeous? But of course it called out to me--it's handpainted. Don't I have lots of handpainted lace yarns that I don't knit into shawls and stoles because that's really not the best use of handpainted? Yup! But the owner had a beautiful triangular shawl hanging up, made of the same yarn, and she gave me the pattern so I guess I'll do that with it eventually.

Now about that Zephyr Acquisition Club. One of our guild members noticed that Zephyr prices had just gone up but that Sarah's Yarns had a better price for cones if you bought four or more. She certainly didn't need four, but she knew some other Zephyr addicts who might. The end result was an order was placed (for seven cones I think). Now a cone is 5,000 yards, so we are well supplied with lace yarn. I'm anxious to see mine when I get back.

Back to the baby blanket. Here it is, ready for my first great niece. God, that makes me feel old! The bad news is that my sister has now stated rather loudly that she thinks that she deserves a grandmother-sized version. Since I have lots of projects in the pipeline, I think I'll have to teach her how to make it. But I'm very pleased with it, and I hope the parents will be, too. (And if they're not, I'm sure their pugs or mine would be happy to sleep on it.)

Finally, a Hanami update. As you can see, I've got a long way to go. I'm making it longer so the first chart has 8 repeats. I've completed 2.5. Then there are all those other charts. Oh, my!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hanging Out in Red Rock Country

I've been here in Sedona, AZ for a week now and it's starting to feel like home. That's not a good thing. I HAVE a home, and it's in Georgia.

This is the view from the end of the driveway in my sister's guest house. And, yes, it's pretty close.

Everything in Sedona is close. The town itself is tiny and you can get from one end to the other in about 5 minutes unless there's a major gridlock at rush hour. Then it takes 10 minutes.

For instance, this morning I went to the post office to mail the granddaughter mitts (more in a minute). Then I parked in the main shopping/tourist area to get a coffee and check out all the goodies for sale. Next, I drove partway up Oak Creek Canyon to check out some views, chatted with some tourists (note that I'm already thinking they're tourists and I'm a native), photographed some cacti.

Then I went to the outlet mall in Oak Creek Village (about 15 shops) to buy shoes and books. Finally, I headed back home to meet my sister. On my way, I hung a left and went up a twisty mountain road I'd never been on before and checked out some more views.
All that took about 3-1/2 hours. Including all the clicking, driving, buying, schmoozing. It's a small town, guys.

About the mitts. I have done NO work on the Hanami stole. Well, that's because Mr. Pug and the dogs were here. But they left on Sunday to drive back to Georgia--so what's my excuse since then? I don't have one. I'm just too distracted to knit on that piece right now, But I promise I'll start again tomorrow. Wedding day is about 60 days away.
But back to the mitts. Aren't they cute? The pair on the left is for Emma--knit on size 2's (Magic Loop), and the pair on the right, a little bigger, are for Kerrigan, knit on size 3's. I used the cabled mitt pattern and improvised with different ribbings, size, etc. Yarn is Toasty, color is Strawberry Jam. Too cute, huh?
The other thing I've been working on is a baby blanket for my sister's new granddaughter, due in April. It's modular and fairly mindless and I've really enjoyed it. But it's been escapist knitting--back to the stole tomorrow, I swear!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Zen of Lace Knitting

If there’s any aspect of my life and my knitting that epitomizes mindfulness, it’s knitting lace. (If you’re looking for one of those esoteric mind-numbing discussions of the difference between lace knitting and knitting lace, I’m sure you can find that on one of the many laceknitting –or knittinglace—lists. Good luck with that.)

I’m new to lace. If I were to choose just one special event in my 2007 knitting life, it would be “Diana Discovers Lace.” Actually, I didn’t discover a darned thing, or maybe I did in the sense that Columbus discovered America. Last February at The Mountain (a guild retreat), my friend Pat, lace knitter extraordinaire, general nudge, and superior enabler, announced that I WOULD be learning lace that weekend and that we better go shopping to get the tools. With some trepidation and quite a bit of anxiety, but always willing to visit a new yarn store, I followed her into Why Knot Knit (Highlands, NC) like a lamb to the slaughter.

OMG…the lace yarns. There’s something about those cobweb-like strands of fiber that is seductive. The yarn we picked out was Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere. It was pale green and the softest thing I’d ever held and … $45. $45 for this little thing? No, really … $45? That’s all I could think about as I placed it on its virtual velvet pillow and snapped its virtual padlocks in place around it. Was she insane? Was I insane? This little soft bunch of yarn was $45. OMG! Little did I know what paths of iniquity I would tread on in the next months.

Anyway, back to the $45 ... er, knitting. Someone snapped a picture of me that weekend, struggling to concentrate on learning how to read a chart (yeah, yeah, yeah, I was a “words” reader in those days—so sue me!) while winding gossamer around my needles while trying to pick out the most interesting gossip in the conversation of the other 40 people in the room. That picture wasn’t flattering. It showed a woman with a perpetual frown and her tongue stuck out to one side in frustrated concentration.

The scarf that grew out of that weekend was soft, pale sage, airy, light. Lace. I was hooked. I would have been happy to just sit and hold it and pet it. Instead I also had the option of wearing it. I was a lace knitter.

Fast forward to today. I have completed two larger projects, Mystery Stole 3 and Birch. I’m working on Kiri. And now Hanami is on my needles. And I’ve bought an embarrassingly large amount of lace yarn, at dollar values that still stagger me. My perspective has dramatically changed. Which brings me to the Zen part of the discussion.

The first thing I learned is that I can’t do lace knitting in a room of 40 people, or 4 people, or even 4 pugs. I need to be sitting quietly in my own space with only my own company. (For some reason, Kiri and Birch are different—the patterns are memorable and I can knit those in a crowd with a hurricane raging around me.) But I’m not knitting Kiri, I’m knitting Hanami, and it needs my full concentration—what they call in publishing “white space.” I need to sit in my office chair, with the pattern on a document holder to my right, and all living beings banished to another part of the world. And that’s not so easy to achieve—people and pugs do seem to have requirements that must be met occasionally.

But, once in that world, I’m lost. Watching the pattern of holes and left- and right-leaning stitches emerge from a ball of pale string is amazing. It’s a stitch-by-stitch process and I have to concentrate on each one of those stitches, mumbling to myself as I read the pattern. Knit two, now to the right, yarn over, knit three, yarn over, over to the left, now move the marker, knit five … somehow a pattern is forming. On the next row, purl back, counting obsessively. Now move the highlighter tape and start again.

This is not an easy path for someone as ADD as I am. I can’t put down my knitting in the middle of a row to answer the phone or check my email or revise my resume or pet a pug. I need to put all my attention, for 95 stitches, on one thing. It’s good training, but I suspect that if I had a video camera on my computer right now, you’d see a woman with her tongue stuck out and a big frown on her face. Some things never change. A non-knitting observer might think, “why is she bothering if it’s so damned much trouble?”

But I’m peaceful. I’m concentrating on every stitch, watching the rows turn into a repetitive pattern, watching my knitting grow and trying not to think about how many of those rows will be required, thinking of the person who will receive the piece, who may or may not love it as much as I do, but that’s okay. For today, I’m happily knitting along, stitch by stitch.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Low Tech Meets High Tech

How cute is this?

After months of struggling with finding the right MP3 player to listen to audiobooks, I finally succumbed and bought myself an IPOD Nano.

Why am I always so slow to the table? I guess I'm not an "early adopter" -- all of my grandchildren over the age of 7 have IPODs, most more complex than the one I bought.

So why am I still struggling with figuring out its basic operation? I guess it's generational, but as my friend Joyce said today, I just may not be technical. Fine...I'm not technical.

Okay, here's the thing...this puppy is 2.5 inches tall and 2 inches wide. That means it cost about $32/sq in including tax. And it weighs about 2 ounces. Thus, you put it in your pocket and maybe it's there when next you look for it, and maybe not. Maybe it just slipped out and you didn't even notice. Well, when we say "you," we mean "I."

So here's the little case I knit for it, so I can carry it around my neck and listen to it while I walk, either at home on the treadmill or out in the world. It's not my design...of course, I found it by Googling. Google is my friend. It's called the Nano Necklace and it was designed by Kristi. I just did some simple size adjustments and modified the way the I-cord attached, and bam bam shazam I have an IPOD cover.

Now to download all 6 of the Outlander books....that should keep me walking for quite awhile.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Time to Reassess

Ever heard the expression "time to fish or cut bait"? It basically means that it's time to make a decision, get on with it, just do it, or [insert tired motto here].

I'm getting ready to reassess my current projects and decide which ones stay and go...sort of a combination of Survivor with The Biggest Loser. Some will stay and some...the big losers...will go. Time to get them off the "on stage" list so my guilt ratio will decrease a little. So without further ado, let's see the winners (and those other guys):

First, the losers:

(1) Mary. I hated this thing from the get-go. I've tried--honestly I have--to love it, but I don't. I'm not a cotton person, I don't care if I do live in the South. It's too darned heavy, knit on too big needles, too short to possibly look good on me. (I'm the first to admit that it looks wonderful on Donna (she's tiny) and the version Debra knit in Noro (I think) looks great on her (they're her colors and, after all, it's Noro). But my Mary ... It's gone!

(2) Ambrosia Socks. Love the yarn, might like the pattern if it was in a different yarn, but together ... no.

(3) Crayon Box Jacket. I'm never going to finish it. It's too busy, the yarns are wrong for living in Georgia, and it's full of eyelash yarns. It's a shame because I have a frickin' fortune invested in the yarn, and I collected another whole box of yarn for a second one, but I fear it's a Dead Duck. I still love Chris Bylsma's patterns and this one may be resurrected if I can find a way to make it more me--better choices in yarns and colors, perhaps.

(4) That darn Monica ( Very cute and I planned to make one for Kerrigan and one for Emma. But, again, it's cotton. I hate working with cotton. I need to accept this and get over it.

Now, the Runners-Up. I'm still on the fence about these:

(1) The Debbie Radtke hedgehog. I promised one to Emma and one to Kerrigan and started off well enough. Somewhere along the line, I lost count of the short rows and it's one of those projects that you can't recover from once you do that. But Emma is pressing me, so I guess I just have to start over. Rats! (And other small furry mammals.)

(2) Debbie Bliss gansey for Cooper. I got one seam sewn, remembered that I hate to sew seams, and now I'm not even sure it will fit him, he's growing so fast. We'll see.

I still love these, and I'm GOING to finish them this year, probably not in this order:

(1) Cotton Candy Scarf. I just put this down because it wasn't compelling but it should be an easy finish.

(2) Diamond Vest. Bought this pattern at Maryland Sheep & Wool and I love it--just got off track with it.

(3) Kiri Shawl. Another one that got off the tracks, but I still love it.

(4) Monkey Socks. For some reason, these never even got ON the tracks but I love the yarn and the pattern and I will finish them. I think I need to frog and add a picot edge--maybe that will perk them up.

(5) Fingerless mitts. I've made one mitt out of the four (two pairs) I promised my daughters. I love the Stulpen pattern and will finish them. If only they weren't black ...

And then there are these little guys that I'm making for the granddaughters. Three out of four (two pairs) complete or almost complete, one more to go.

(6) Modern Quilt Wrap. Just started this yesterday. The yarn will forever be known as Kidsilk Hate (I am SO not a fan!) but the colors are gorgeous.

Mind you that what you see above is Squares 1-4. I just frogged #5, and by "frogged" we mean "cut out with scissors because I can't count." So it's not altogether perfect at the moment.

Finally, a new project. I want to knit a stole for my sister to wear to her daughter's wedding in March, actually 85 days away so I better get going. I don't know yet what the pattern will be, but I suspect the yarn will be Jaggerspun Zephyr, maybe in Mushroom.

And, of course, many more projects that exist only in my mind. Scary, huh? More to come.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Good Start to the Year

I'm happy to report the last FOs of 2007 and the first FO of 2008. Whoo hoo!

The little socks are for the Children in Common December challenge that ended 12/31. I just got them into the mail in time (good thing I got there before the post office closed early yesterday!) They are the Magic 28 pattern, both out of stash yarn. The navy pair is Paton's worsted and the brown and cream pair is Lamb's Pride Worsted.

And, here's 2008: A toddler vest for CIC's January-March challenge--sweaters and vests. This is one skein of Lamb's Pride worsted knit together with some mostly wool unidentified stuff I won in a raffle at a guild meeting. Also from stash.

Now, before I hurt myself patting myself on the back for getting my first 2008 community project done, I need to admit that I was avoiding the job I was supposed to be doing: cleaning out my office. Oh, well...there's always time for that.