Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Big Projects

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I might be working on too many Big Projects all at once.  It feels like it’s been a really long time since I finished something.  Maybe it’s time for a set of coasters or a dishcloth or two.  I’ve got this blanket going now, too, just a plain 12-stitch/18 row basketweave thing, knitted in my old standby, Paton’s Classic Wool, color “winter white”.  I just buy one skein of this yarn at a time, and I just kind of work on it occasionally.  I try to change skeins where the stitch pattern is delineated, just in case the different dye lots are really different, but otherwise, this is a boring little project of no worries, keeping me quietly entertained in between sock yarn squares and quilt top hand-stitching and the sweater I began over the weekend in black worsted weight yarn because that’s what I already had in the cupboard. 

Also, I went on a cleaning rampage in the Snake Palace (my garage attic) and found this:

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That’s fourteen “Drunkard’s Path” blocks, hand-pieced by me in 2001.   I know, right?  So many quilts happening right now. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Up to Things

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I clean the house.  See the size of that dog there?  Her hair collects like tumbleweeds.  That lampshade is crooked…

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I dye yarn with stuff from my kitchen.  This is two balls of Misti Alpaca laceweight and one ball of Patons Classic Wool, steeped in chopped up avocado pits and skins and then steamed for 30 minutes.  I used the remains of eight avocadoes, but the dye could have been a little stronger, I think.  The color it gave these yarns is beautiful, a soft, antique, very gently pinkish-brown, the color of the lace in your grandmother’s bridal veil.  Must eat more guacamole. 

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I plant my garden, and even though May is almost over, it still feels a little precarious, weather-wise.  It still feels like it could snow.  I nervously put in fourteen tomato plants.  I hope they live.  This is Swiss Chard, called “Bright Lights”.  The rabbit who lives in my yard is really enjoying it. 

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I plan the next quilt.  This is where the gray will go. 

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I take this poor old antique cat outside on a harness and let him crouch in the flowerbeds, as part of his daily enrichment activities.  He is much doted upon in this house, and ever since he was bitten in the face by a mean and marauding cat we call Smokey Desperado and his head swelled up like a football, his girl will not allow him to roam unsupervised.  He is retired. 

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I knit squares with sock yarn leftovers.  It occurs to me as these pile up that this is 100% a process project.  I really have my doubts that I will even like the finished blanket, but that isn’t slowing me down at all.  These squares are fun, in the smallest kind of way.  They are ever-present and simple and slow.  They are like going for a nice walk.  You work a little bit, but not too much, and you enjoy the scenery and you feel a very minor sense of accomplishment when you get home.  That’s how it is with these squares.  I finish one, say there and put it on the pile, cast on another. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Good life

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It is lush.  I am not equal to the photography of it, though I am honestly trying to learn.  I read and don’t understand the camera manual—I am so stymied by all the technical terms and I can’t remember the difference between optical and digital zoom, and I cannot grasp any of it, this dumb machinery, I just want to make things, sheesh! Anyhoo.  It’s just awfully pretty right now, and sometimes the only thing to do is to sit down in the middle of it and appreciate.  For this purpose, I have a splintery old pair of Adirondack chairs which I have had so long they are probably starting to turn vintage, and they are comfy as long as you don’t want to shift around too much, which is usually fine because if I flop down in one of them on the sunny patio, it gets lazy right away and there goes the day.  A couple of pillows would be nice, though:

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My last trip to the crafty thrift store yielded one of those books of fabric samples, all indoor/outdoor fabrics, where each pattern has three color choices and two complimentary fabrics, for $1.95. 

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I made a whole bunch of pillows.  I used the pretty flowery prints for one side and the plainer, striped fabrics that match them for the other.  I stitched the two together around three sides, turned them right side out, filled them with cheap stuffing, and blind-stitched the openings shut.  Nothing fancy, no piping or envelope closures or zippers, no, none of that.  They’ll spend most of the summer outdoors, fading a little I’m sure and getting blessed by passing birds, and I’m not worried about it.  I might remember to bring them inside if it rains.  Two dollars.  It’s going to be even harder to get up now. 

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Red, and a story

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I spent the weekend in the dappled shade of the crabapple tree, hand-stitching quilt blocks together.  That tree is just about to burst forth in beautiful blossoms.  It is trembling on the verge, I’m telling you.  My neighbor’s cherry orchard is already there, and it is a stunning fairyland of white cotton candy.  After dinner, when the low sunlight falls over the trees, we just stare, openmouthed, at it, just saying breathlessly, Whoa.  Look at that.  What a beautiful world.  There was iced coffee and shrub—peach, honey, and strawberry vinegar—and the hens puttering around underneath the table.  One of them has got the loudest cackle; I can’t help wondering what the heck she’s trying to accomplish with all that yelling.  She sounds like those horns you hear at World Cup soccer matches.  Good thing we live in the country. 

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You guys were right about the gray.  As soon as I got home with a length of this mad scarlet, I could hardly cut it up fast enough, and several happy days later, much progress has been made.  Hand-stitching these has been so much fun, I can’t even tell you.  I love my beautiful vintage Singer Slant-o-matic, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re asking whether I’d rather sit quietly stitching beneath a shady tree that hums with honeybees or huddle indoors, hunched over a machine that makes a big racket, I know you know which one I’d choose. 

Here’s a story for you:  one day in my 1970’s childhood, me and a bunch of other lummies were hanging around at the playground behind the school, throwing a half-deflated basketball at a rusty hoop.  Nobody was making any shots.  We were spending most of our time fishing the ball out of the weeds.  It was a typical display of ineptitude, because I don’t even know where we found a basketball—more than likely I also had a copy of Harriet the Spy somewhere on my person, and would rather have been reading that—but we were there, getting all sweaty and banging into each other and thinking we were really hot stuff when into the middle of all this flopping and scrambling walked Earvin “Magic” Johnson.  I am not kidding.  He was there for a charity game of some kind, ready with autographs and his girlfriend in tow—she had an extra toe—and there was suddenly no doubt at all which one among us was just about to become a giant superstar, and it wasn’t any of the fifth graders.  I tell this story to illustrate the following—look what the kids gave me for Mother’s Day:

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Now that’s an orchid.  It’s two feet tall.  There are thirty-four blossoms or buds on it.  It is Amazonian.  Look at it triumphing over the other orchid!  It is schooling the other orchid, totally.  It is showing the other orchid what’s what.  The other orchid is putting away its dumb basketball and going home to read a book. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Slow

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I am deep in the big projects.  I almost used the word “mired” there, but that’s not really right, because I don’t feel the least bit stuck or bored or in a hurry to be done with any of them.  There is no rush at all.  They are so satisfying, with their interminable plodding, the tiny increments in which they are showing progress.  This scarf, in laceweight yarn on US 4 needles, has been languishing in my work basket for a really, really long time, and whenever I pick it up, I think I am never going to be finished with this, but then I start knitting and the rows add up at a rate so microscopic as to require scientific tools for measuring it, and it just feels great.  I am still working on this.  Still, still, still.  It accompanies my life, this scarf.

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This is the plainest of projects, a rectangle in stockinette stitch, to be blocked like mad at the finish, which will (hopefully) result in a something gossamer, a cloud of lace.  I will knit it until the yarn runs out, and as of  now, there is still a whole great big bunch of yarn left.  There were moments in the past with this scarf when I felt like screaming—I noticed a dropped stitch once, somewhere about eight inches back from the needle, and there is no saving that except to rip back and fix it—and I probably did scream a little, which is fine because a little screaming here and there is right and good, but then I picked it up again and just kept going; knit, purl. 

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Then there is the sock yarn blanket.  These squares are happening on their own, I swear.  I have no idea how many there are (maybe around thirty so far?), and no idea how many I’ll need in the end.  150-ish?  200?  I don’t know.  I’ll figure that out at some point.  Each one takes about an hour, and they are mildly interesting.  Not madly; I can’t say I really die for these sock yarn squares, but they have been accumulating in spite of that.   The project is proceeding apace.  It all feels very slow, and that is a delightful place to be right now.  There is work all around me, getting done, here and there. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

To cut or not to cut

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I am paralyzed with indecision.  I want to be stitching these blocks together, so badly, but when the fabric store didn’t have the Plan A color (some kind of warmish gray brown, a faded apron color, a mushroomy color, maybe with a hint of purple?  Purplish-grayish-brown?  I don’t want much…) I stood there with one knuckle in my mouth, saying Great. Now what?  This blue/gray was Plan B.  it’s kind of steely.  It may or may not be sucking all the light out of my pieced blocks.  There was a fantastic turquoise, a couple food colors—claret, celery—and a blue that seemed possible until I saw that the color name was “candy”.  If that one had been called “chambray” I might not be having this problem right now.  I toyed with “pool” and “khaki”.  Eventually I just got sick of dithering and bought the gray.  Came home,threw it on the table, looked at it from every angle, went back and forth about it for too long, and spent the morning knitting and doing laundry instead.