Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In Which Some Progress is Made

I know, I know ... right now some of the less kind among you are saying, "well, it's about darned time she actually finished something." I have no response to that. It's way too true. But the bottom line is that when you're a non-monogamous sort of knitter, you always have lots on the needles and only small progress is made on multiple things.

But, oh, baby, when they get going, they're just zooming off the needles. And that's what happened this week. So here, finally, is some progress.

First (drum roll, please), I am pleased to present Hanami. She is in Fino Alpaca With a Twist, and I have to say, I love this yarn. The color is Champagne and it's very close to the color of that lovely wine, the palest off-white. The pattern is by the same designer who gave us the Mystery Stole last year, and represents the Japanese Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC. The basketweave portion is a homage to the Asian origins of the flowers; the remainder represents cherry blossoms as they begin to drift off the trees, finally puddling at the bottoms of the trees.
Next, a surprise--literally, Baby Surprise. This is a surprise to me because the pattern absolutely flummoxed me and I thought maybe it would never be completed. And yet, here it is:
Kinda cute if I do say so.
And, finally, some charity knitting.
The ubiquitous helmet liner. The Atlanta Knitting Guild has sent 250 of these liners to our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And, of course, the Children in Common sweater challenge ends this week, so the post wouldn't be complete without the two little vests and a sweater sent off in the mail yesterday:
The two vests are done from the Countrywool free vest pattern (formerly the "What's in My Pocket" Vest but now, with the advent of increased shipping costs, simply the CIC vest). The little sweater is Margaret Hulbert's Simple Child's Sweater pattern.
Gotta go--Mr. Pug and the pugs and I are driving to Virginia for a family wedding tonight. We'll drive as far as Charlotte, then finish the trip tomorrow. But, needless to say, I'm not finished packing and he just showed up, ready to go. Oh, well .....

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Yes, I'm Still a Knitter

And a good thing I am. Being a job hunter isn't working out that well, and being a pet owner has definitely been a challenge this month. But knitting is one of those things that I do when things are good and when they're awful.

So what's on the needles? Well, of course, that darned Modern Quilt Wrap is still just about where we left it last...which is to say, no progress since I returned from The Mountain, a month ago. There's no point in taking another picture because, let's face it, no news is ... just no news.

And the EZ Baby Surprise is likewise stymied.
I'm almost at the end and the instructions say, "now add the buttonholes." EZ says to put buttonholes on both sides but that's because she was knitting in a time when we didn't know what gender our babies would be. I know this baby is a girl but I'm so spatially challenged that I can't figure out which side to add them to. So here it sits, waiting for me to get past that point.

As for Hanami, there is progress. I'm finally on Chart F. Once I finish that one, I need to do 2 repeats of Chart G and it's done. It might actually get finished. Whew! I've enjoyed it but now that I'm fairly sure that no one is going to actually wear it, at least in the foreseeable future, it's getting to be somewhat of a slog.

Yes, I know this photo is difficult to see--off-white shawl on beige carpeting is definitely not ideal--but can you see where the number of holes (the falling cherry blossoms) is getting greater toward the end? That part of it is actually pretty exciting.

Finally, I've committed to three items for the January-March sweater challenge for Children in Common and have only completed two, both vests. So I've cast on for a very simple sweater and am hoping to get it in the mail by the 31st--actually, I think I'll probably be finished later tonight or tomorrow. It's a side-to-side design and only one sleeve is missing. (What cannot be seen in this photo is that the color of the sweater (which we'll call Washington Redskins gold for lack of a better reference) exactly matches the gold color in the Knitpicks Harmony needle the sweater is being knit on.)
So how embarrassing is it that I can't seem to finish anything, even the smallest project, and all my friends are just pumping out huge complex lace shawls? Pat and Ellen are in a close competition on at least two knitalongs, both of them amazingly complicated, and both are almost finished. I'm putzing and not getting anything done. Oh, well.
What have I been doing? Well, the job search is still ongoing. I've had several interviews that went (I thought) well, but no job. One position I was interested in has been put on hold, temporarily or permanently--it's not clear. So that one's out. And another one--well, I keep being told that I'm not quite qualified for it. I guess I should read someone's lips on that and give it up. But I continue to press on.
What else? Well, I've been desultorily involved in working on the guild's nominating committee for next year--desultorily because I thought we had a slate of candidates--or most of one--identified. Then something happened and all of a sudden we're back at Square One. Amazing how difficult it is to find folks who want to serve an organization--selflessly--that has served them for almost 23 years.
Speaking of the guild, Janet Szabo came to teach last week. I was signed up for classes but had to cancel because of Lightning's illness. I did get to attend the guild meeting where she spoke and she was wonderful. I went right home and ordered her finishing book (The 'I Hate to Finish Sweaters' Guide to Finishing Sweaters) and her newsletter, Twists and Turns. Even before I read Janet's book on Cables and her book on how to design an Aran sweater, I've been thinking about making another Aran. (The last one I knit left with the ex-husband and that was 21 years ago!) I've got a bee in my bonnet about using Black Water Abbey yarn for it--but before I commit to that cost and project time, I need to finish a lot of other things. But I have to say that Janet was very inspiring. Although I completed three Arans, some 30 years ago, I certainly did not understand the complexity of designing an Aran, including selecting the particular cables to be included, or planning how those cables would behave when they encounter a seam or shaping feature.
I also just finished reading Donna Druchunas' book Arctic Lace, and highly recommend it, It's not really a technique book, like Janet's books, but more of a documentation of the efforts to preserve the musk ox and the old patterns of the Alaska native Americans. The musk ox is the source of quiviut, the incredibly soft, incredibly expensive, fiber made from the downy undercoat, and was at one time in danger of extinction. Likewise, many Alaskan knitters have put down the traditional patterns and their knitting due to pressures to travel long distances to work and support their families. If you're interested in reading more about this subject, go to Donna's website for more details.
Speaking of reading and books, Debra and I went to the Decatur Library this week to hear Mary Kay Andrews, aka Kathy Trocheck. I will be the first to admit that I'm not usually a huge Chick Lit fan (I like Kathy's cozy mysteries more), but MKA's Hissy Fit got to me. And Deep Dish, her newest is fun, too. It's about a Southern cook who wants to move from regional public television (in Atlanta, of course) to a fictional version of the Food Network. She was delightful and Debra and I had a nice evening, catching up over dinner and knitting through MKA's talk and reading.
Tomorrow is the Helmet Liner knitin. I need to finish the CIC sweater so I can cast on for another helmet liner. I have quite a stock of Paton's Merino in neutral colors, which is perfect for these liners. (I also have a bunch of Cascade 220 but using that would require breaking out the swift and winder and I'm pretty sure that isn't happening before tomorrow.)
And that reminds me that Janet Szabo scandalized the guild's members by letting us in on her favorite yarn for knitting cables: Lion Brand Wool. Most of us are pretty ingrained yarn snobs and the thought that the gorgeous sample she passed around had been knit in ... no, don't even say it ... yarn from Michael's ... caused an immediate hushed intake of breath. I thought I felt the earth shake, but it might only have been the collective shudder emanating from the LYSOs in the room. Once we all touched the sweater, however, we had to agree--great cable definition, beautiful sweater, soft yarn. At least she didn't send us all out to buy Red Heart!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lightning (March 5, 1996-March 7, 2008)

Our Lightning had many names. It seems that each person who knew her and loved her had their own name for her. We called her Bug, and sometimes Bugabug. Her dad called her his Princess and we laughed at her royal behaviors. At mealtime she was Light-e-ning, all those syllables spread out into a song, telling her that her dinner was ready. Her "grandparents" Deirdre and Bob called her Yightening. Her other moms, Linda and Cathy, had several names for her but the one that sticks in my mind is Humpahump, and I guess that one's obvious. I usually called her my Baby Girl, or Pretty Girl.

The photo above is about a year old. My computer file says I took it on 3/16/07. For some reason, that photo has resonated with me, and I've used it in many ways, on this blog, as my Ravelry avatar, and on Moo cards. You see, I wanted her with me all the time. I never wanted to be without Lightning.

But last Friday we had to let Lightning go. Within just two weeks of initial diagnosis, and four days after a biopsy proved what we had only suspected, Lightning was too ill to go on. We had thought we would have time to analyze data, make plans, consider treatment plans, and we had no time at all. We had to make the hardest decision ever and we made it. Just two days after her birthday, our Lightning was gone.

Lightning was always our baby. Can you tell that by the fact that we celebrated her first birthday with a full-blown pug birthday party? She's the one in front with the purple collar. Even then she was too dignified to wear her hat like the others.

But she wasn't too dignified to wolf down her special birthday cake, specially constructed from canned dog food and fresh liver, and decorated with Cheez Whiz and dog treats. Spoiled? Nah!

Lightning was definitely a dog of opinions and one who didn't mind sharing them. She was uncommonly sweet and all the vets we've met over the years have commented on her wonderful personality. I've never known her to snap or growl at a person, but I guess that's because she thought she was one. I do know that she would not hesitate to let other dogs know when they'd stepped over the edge.

One of my favorite Lightning stories is about the time we took Lightning, Bert and Bluto to the Shenandoah National Forest one Thanksgiving. Of course, there are very strict rules about keeping your pets on a leash, but the day was beautiful and the park was almost empty and we had everyone loose. They were exploring the area, checking for deer scat (mmm, yum!) and frolicking in the stream, all of their little black bellies damp from dragging in the water. Suddenly, across the field came another unleashed dog, this one a huge Bull Mastiff.

The Mastiff was friendly enough, and only wanted to sniff us and maybe to play with one of those tiny (everything is relative!) pugs. But as he neared me, Lightning went into full executive protection mode. She leapt for the Mastiff's throat and clamped on with her teeth, growling. The Mastiff never even slowed--I'm not even sure he noticed there was an angry pug hanging from his throat like a flea. He gave her a gentle shake and she hung on until we separated them. That was typical of my Baby Girl, making sure that no big guy hurt us.

The other thing about Lightning is that she loved children. She especially loved our grandchildren. In fact, Cole went with me to pick her out, on the day she was born or a few days after. She wasn't even supposed to be born, of course. Her mama, Bubba, was a notorious tease, and had had several false pregnancies. I finally told Deirdre that if her crazy dog ever did produce puppies, we'd take one. And then came the call--there were puppies. Lightning and her littermate Thunder were the only two who survived from that first litter, and Cole zeroed in on her instantly. She was his baby, too, and all of the grandchildren's. Brandon characterized her last week as "the man." So I guess she has one more name, now.

Sleep well, Baby Girl. I hope you're frolicking with Bertie, chasing squirrels and splashing through creeks. We love you and we miss you. How am I supposed to sleep with no one skrit-skritting at the bedroom door to wake me up?