Friday, January 29, 2010

EZ'z Mitered Mittens: going around

I admit to being a bit shocked when I discovered that SouleMama has also just completed the very mittens I finished this week. I felt a little like my story had been scooped! That's silly, I know, I guess it's a case of great crafty mama minds thinking alike. Won't it be fun to know that two Maine blogger Mamas are sporting such stylish mittens!

So I did make these mittens, in this gorgeous strawberry-lime colorway by Crystal Palace yarns. The photos make the hot pink/red parts get a little crazy bright, they are not quite so eye-popping in person.

The pattern is Elizabeth Zimmerman's Mitered Mittens from The Knitter's Almanac, and I made some modifications, including a thumb gusset (unlike SouleMama, who went for the afterthought thumb). Also had to modify because I never ever can manage to make a pattern in exactly the same yarn weight, or gauge, as the intended. This seems quite in the knitting spirit of EZ, use those proportions and love math! These are nice and dense, so no whistling wind will get me, and speaking of wind---I am also NOT A FAN of mittens/gloves with short cuffs. So these cuffs are long, just how I like 'em. (I tell my children: If I can see your neck/wrists/ankles so can The Wind!) My modifications are on Ravelry.
They were pretty easy. And really colorful additions to the bleak midwinter landscape.

Since I have been down with strep throat this week (oh. the worst pain. up there with natural childbirth, I kid you not!) I have been working on a new sweater for myself, and funnily enough perhaps as a bookend to the start of this post, I first saw it on SouleMama's blog! I will have some pics soon, it's in a dark indigo/French Navy sort of color. I will knit it with sleeves, as Amanda did, and I am modifying the size (the original pattern is for a 34" bust, 6' tall woman...huh). So far, so good. Knitting has been something I can do to keep my mind off the pain (which is now finally subsiding).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

recycle with friends

Here's an idea that was started by my friend Toki: Take all those old cards you've been saving but probably won't ever send. Put them in a shoebox and pass them to a friend. Ask her to take out what she likes, put in what she's ready to get rid of from her own stash, and pass them on to another friend. I like it! And I love a hand-written card.

I have also heard about friends who scour their closets for things they've been hanging onto but haven't worn in a year or more...wrong color, wrong fit, you spent too much on it, someone gave it to you... and they bring their stuff to a ladies night and swap their stuff! The great part is that you get to go home with a little wardrobe upgrade for free! We do this informally among friends around here.
"A Giant Racer Making A World's Record,
Bonneville Salt Flats,
World's Fastest Speedway"
Anyhow, I am nursing a sore throat today and don't feel up to more writing. But when I do, think of all these (pictured are just a small sampling) cards I will have to choose from! Happy recycling with friends!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

visit to Vermont

Little tomtens were all around.
(Hello! Cuteness! Will be making some I hope!)
OK, for those of you who are reading from places where Vermont sounds as exotic as the Maldives sounds to me, Vermont is a nice New England state situated at the far left of the New England states (L-R: Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine on the coast). Or you know, I hear about places in the middle of the country and sometimes scratch my head about their exact whereabouts. (Alright, so you're obviously not reading because I'm an excellent geographer!) And just another FYI, getting to Vermont from Maine does not involve any straight lines, it's all wiggly with lakes and mountains in between. So it was a nice scenic drive and I listened to some good books on my iPod (Knitting Lessons and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate). On the way home, there was an accident and I happily sat in a scenic rural snowy place, knitting my little heart out for an hour---the knitting was right on my front seat of course.

I was off to Burlington this weekend to see a sweet family plus a couple more people that are awesome and also happened to be visiting. I slept well (Memory Foam!), ate well, laughed a lot, cooked with friends, held an adorable baby, knit a mitten, and spent time with my very dear friend. This very dear friend cares a lot about saving the world and was recently in Copenhagen for COP 15 and you can read about it at her blog. I'm warning you, she's wicked smaht.
We took some time to visit the Burlington winter Farmers' Market, which happens monthly this time of year. Lots of sweet farmers and makers-of-things, sweet babies, and lots of great knitwear. A bustling and inspiring atmosphere ensued. I came home with Vermont beeswax candles, Vermont hot sauce, and Apitherapy Elderberry Honey. Mmmmm, so tasty and good for what ails you.
One farm was having a humanitarian and chicken special: 2 organic chickens for $10 off, with 10% of sales going to the Red Cross in Haiti. They would have happily sent food, but things are tough with getting supplies there.
Oh delish. Carrots of unusual colors.
A perfect winter get-away. And now I am steeling myself for a new semester of grad school which begins on Monday!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2 Things to do with Tea Towels

Some little bits of sewing, for some very lovely ladies (one of whom is behind this nice site). I like vintage tea towels. And I like the idea of a wearable tea towel, like instead of dripping your wet hands all over the kitchen while you look for that balled up towel you just had, voila, it's there, attached to your person! (Uh, but I still keep making them and sending them away, so I haven't actually tried it myself, and still drip all over the kitchen.)

The idea is simple. Sew a two inch or sew border to one of the long sides of your tea towel; hem those short ends in first. Leave the ends open for now. Now sew some long skinny ties (so that the wearer can wrap them around herself and tie in front, no matter what her size). I usually cut my fabric about 2.5", iron it in half the long way, sew a 1/4" seam, so that I have something about an inch wide. Now you can take a long dowel or something and turn it right side out, press, and then topstitch if you feel like it. SO Easy. So FUN to make and gift, and so NICE to see those tea towels out there.

Oh and if you want to make these and sell them all over etsy, fine. Go ahead, make a million on tea towel aprons! Trade them, swap them, sell them, I don't care. Just have fun while you're doing it. I sort of hate it when people put things online and then think they can just hang on to the idea forever. OK, fine, if you want to hoard your good idea, here's a small tip for free: don't put it online at all.
OK, here's another free idea you can do with a tea towel or even a terry cloth hand towel: make it into a simple over-the-head apron for a small person. This is great with terry cloth, especially for helpful small hands who might like to do dishes with you.
With just a small amount of hand-sewing, you can tack those corners down. Then machine sew one long tie, optional topstitching. Or just use clothesline! The great thing is it can fit over those big heads with no fussing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ugliest Book Cover: Year 2

when two friends spend the day together,
the table might look like this

So one of the things that I do at the library is to weed the collection. Although I didn't go into librarianship because I like to kill books, space is finite and writers keep writing more books, so one of our tasks is to remove books with a set of specific criteria in mind.
  • First, I use a list generated by the circulation software that we can set parameters for: like if the book hasn't circulated in X years, if the book was added more than X years ago, etc.
  • Second, I use The Fiction Catalog by H.W. Wilson, a big bible sort of book that tells us what books are worth keeping (lots of caveats what if it's by a local author but not in the book? what if we are a tiny library by comparison and just plain don't have the space to keep every book that every classic author wrote?)
  • Third, I look at condition (of every book, not just the ones on the list): is it torn, musty, ugly, unappealing, water damaged?
  • Fourth, I check our statewide catalog to see how many other libraries have the book. I look at how many times it circulated and when was the last time. I consider its position in a series, if applicable.
  • Fifth, the library director and I conference about each and every book. Some get replaced. Some get withdrawn. Sometimes we discuss the idea of modern graphic design as it relates to older covers. Some books get put back on the shelf (a reprieve!) because of their relative merit.
So I am the grim reaper who wheels her cart into the stacks and makes the books flap their worn out pages in fear.

And I will tell you that, in this work, I have come to feel a little tetchy about authors who crank their books out at 1 or 2 a year and take up more than their fair share of shelf space, and who are NEVER on my list because they are so popular. I am always a little thrilled (in a guilty way) when I discover that one of these books is falling apart---HA! Robert Parker, take that! (If the Parker books had regular size margins instead of 1.5" I might have more pity.) Oh and by the way, if you happen to write books and have a last name that begins with "P" please consider choosing a pseudonym because Mr. Parker and Mr. Patterson and Ms. Perry and Ms. Peters are already filling the shelves to bursting. A "Q" name would work great.

I also come across some books that get into the running for Ugliest Book Cover. We are in the second year of this prize, somehow almost exactly a year! And nothing could really beat last year's winner, but you can't have leeches on toenails every time.

Entry 1: copyright 1972

Entry 2: 1960
(go Harvard University Press!)

You may submit your vote in the comments section.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Last Christmas I got a lovely present of yarn from my Poppie. It always strikes me as so very thoughtful when I picture a man in a yarn shop, making his selections...browsing, coming to decisions about color and yarn softness and weight. But the truth was, the colorway was a little too autumn-ish for my rosy pink summer palette, and I returned it. Poppie is OK with that sort of thing, so I got a big fat credit to a small yarn shop in Northampton, MA, called Northampton Wool (quaint, totally overstuffed/cluttered with yarn, and without a web presence or internet capability?!?!).

So I have held on to this credit for almost a year. Recently, post-Christmas, I had a brief visit south and found myself with time to browse there (without children, obviously) for a nice hour or so. Being post-Christmas, there was that gloomy sort of feeling of thriftiness about me, but the extra gift of this gift was that I could go in and spend money on yarn with complete abandon! What a thrill!

I picked out a generous selection and somehow left the store with $18 left still to spend. I picked out several small projects worth of yarn, since my knitting attention span is for short projects lately.
new socks for me, moi!
mittens for me, moi!
(that actually cover my chilly wrists, thank you very much.)
a "warm-necker" for Sylvan,
big bulky Tu Ragazza merino yarn
this is picture #1 before I ripped it out and made it 2.5" smaller
(size 13 needles, 34 stitches around, knit until it will cover a neck and mouth!
which was a little less than one ball for Sylvan)

And an as-yet-to-be-photographed brand-new hat for Jonas, in the Fibonacci striping sequence because he is my math-loving, word-loving boy. Do you remember Fibonacci and the whole 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc. sequence that appears all over nature and whatnot? What to do about silky hair that makes hats skooch up on the head, "brioche-style" as my friend Lis puts it? One way to do it is to nag your child to yank his hat down all the time, always such a charming option!

So, thank you, Poppie, and I hope you will continue to pick yarn out for me, despite the very fun time I had picking it out for myself.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A nice place to sit.

I definitely grew up in a house of words, with a word-loving mama and books everywhere. In addition to being a writer, editor, and kindergarten teacher, my mother is also gifted when it comes to juxtaposing images. You can see this in the calendars that she edited, and this is a compilation of some of the poetry and quotes that were interspersed in those pages (and by the way, that wonderful cover painting by Linda Post hangs in her house).
She saves cards and calendars and magazine pictures and makes things like this with them.
Once she decoupaged the bottom of my bunk bed, so that I had all sorts of interesting images to drift off to sleep with. Someday I would like that bottom bunk bed to hang in my house as an art piece. She made Jonas a small step-stool with pictures all over it. This is now the second bathroom she has completely covered (not in the same house!). (Here is one more photo from the series.)
Jonas found himself distracted from the main business that takes place in these rooms. And can you imagine that some visitors to her house don't even remark on it when they emerge? So. That is a little bit about the creative endeavors of my mother.
And a Very Blessed New Year to You! Could you possibly have resisted those cheeks and those fingers so delicately placed on the tiny glass of bubbly apple cider? Here is another photo that is a prelude to the above.

And Oh! I have been knitting quite a lot and a post is coming soon about that!