Saturday, December 27, 2008

What day is it anyway?

Time has been in a blender lately, ...and the world is upside-down. At every turn, there is some new critical to-do thing to take care of. My list of to-dos keeps growing instead of getting shorter. With the holidays, and the hubby off work (you can do that when you are the boss), and my Mom living here with us now, my alone time is limited to early morning hours when no-one else is awake. It is the only time I get to play on the computer now. I am counting on some balance here soon, so I can get back to what feels normal for me. Alone time. (thinking of this wistfully...) This is my time for regenerating, new ideas, creative thinking and giving in to somewhat selfish desires. Whether it is watching a few minutes of some TV program focused on cleaning and organizing a trashed house (I watch to assure myself I am NOT that bad!), or browsing for inspiration for a new knitting project, meditating, or getting out of the house altogether, I adore my alone time. I am addicted to it, keeps me going. Knitting has been really off lately too. Some old Christmas stockings were discovered in an attic box by a daughter-in-law, and since there were mine and one for my mother, I had to do one for my sweet hubby. Digging into the stash, I pulled out the old ends left from stockings past, and started out. I have done several version of the old Bucilla patterns, which I have saved. This one is Santa coming or going from a chimney by the light of a crescent moon. I struggled with the entire awful thing! I am now a yarn snob, and that nasty acrylic was a nightmare to work with. It was so stiff and had no elasticity. Combined with my tight tension, the patterning of the changing yarns ended up creating a sculpted Santa. There was no way I was re-knitting anything! My wrists and hands are still complaining. Now, I am working on a pair of socks for the hubby. For months now he has been asking when I was going to make him something. The socks were a Christmas gift. I have jokingly told him they may be done by next Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Celebrating the Solstice

I am now preparing for a Yule celebration. I grew up celebrating Christmas, but its really hard to get my extended family together. This is because my three grown and married sons, and their wives, all have divorced parents who have remarried. That means there are eight parental families that these young people feel duty bound to divide their time and efforts to. Christmas Day and Eve are in high demand. Nobody else in the family has even considered the Solstice but me! Happy Day! They probably never will either, as I live deep in the "Bible Belt."

If you are celebrating any of the traditions of Christmas, remember that you are actually enjoying the rituals and activities of several ancient religions whose traditions have been borrowed by Christians over the years for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Winter Solstice has been celebrated in cultures the world over for thousands of years. This start of the solar year is a celebration of Light and the rebirth of the Sun. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel. The winter solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice. Hence the origin of the word solstice, which comes from Latin solstitium, from sol, “sun” and -stitium, “a stoppage.” Following the winter solstice, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter.

Long before Christ was born, Romans held the celebration of Saturnalia, however, this probably predates even Roman history. In ancient Rome, Emperor Aurelian established December 25 as the birthday of the "Invincible Sun" in the third century as part of the Roman Winter Solstice celebrations. Shortly thereafter, in the year 273, the Christian church selected this day to represent the birthday of Jesus. The early Christian church had gotten tired of unsuccessful efforts to stop people celebrating the solstice and the birthday of the sun god. So the pope at the time decided to make Jesus’ official birthday coincide with the other. No one knows what time of year Jesus was actually born but there is evidence to suggest that it was in midsummer.

This year I am designing a scavenger hunt for my grandson, that will educate him (and the rest of the family) to the history and rich traditions of the season that countries all over the world have contributed to. The symbols we love and use every season are rooted deeply in spiritual tradition.. The Yule log, "Christmas" Tree, holly, ivy, gifting, Wassail, feasting, fires and candle lighting, wreaths, mistletoe, singing, worshiping, etc., go back into antiquity, and all represent abundance, good fortune, love, peace, continuity of life, prosperity, and more. As each clue is followed, a brief description of each symbol will be read and a few "olde" carols will be sung by all.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Twilight Zoning

It has been far too long since my last post, and I apologize. I took off for the West Coast about two weeks ago, with almost no planning. My mother was very unhappy, and for reasons that are best kept within the family. I had to look into things, and determined that I couldn't leave my mother behind. It was a wild week of legal issues and many unpleasant situations, and yesterday my family and I sat down to Thanksgiving dinner and were truly thankful. I need about another week to organize and regain my composure, but I will be back on course as soon as I can!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What to wear and socks for happy feet...

I have always been different, without even trying to be. Finally, just this last week, the decision was made to embrace my differences and genuinely appreciate them. You see, it is all because of my creative nature. It asserts itself continually. When it is not finding a new way to fry an egg, for instance, it is itching to create some tangible expression of something with just about everything. A few days ago, on my regular checkup at the dentist (of nearly 18 years), one of the hygienists popped her head into the room and gave me a questioning look. I don't know this one very well, and so I must have looked surprised. She just laughed, and said she wanted to see what I was wearing. She was bewildered that I was looking mostly normal in my purple long sleeved T-shirt, and jeans. So, I pulled up one pant leg, and displayed my socks. Designed by artist Laurel Burch, with a mix of happy jewel colored dancing dogs, they are colorfully and playfully certain to make feet want to dance for joy. Laughing and satisfied, she left the room. So, there you are. Different.
My Laurel Burch socks came from one of my trips to the West Coast. There is a small shop in Sausilito which sells her things. This last trip, I decided I wanted to collect mugs. I like generous portions of coffee or tea, and I like my mug to fit my color mood, and I like colorful and happy to start my day. If you are interested in having happy feet, or a cheerful cup, you can find her stuff at: Laurel Burch
Several years ago, when dressing to impress was really hot in the spotlight for women, I became very aware of "colors." At the time, I was really tired of all the clothes in my wardrobe. The popular belief is that you have neutrals that you build, mix, and match around. Well, the long and short of it is that I find browns, tans, and often black, drab or dismal. To me, white is an invitation for mischievous dirt sprites to have at it. However, I discovered something very interesting in the process of taking everything out of my closet and giving it all a hard look.

1. Everything I love wearing sorted into similar color groups, mostly jewels and brights.2. These different color groups relate well together.
3. ...And (drum roll) clothing is mix and match around colorful "neutrals" of purple, or pink, green, or royal blue. ...Or jeans.
4. In addition, my clothing faves are all natural fibers.
5. And, my favorite clothes all have texture, whether it is silky, course, furry, etc.

At one time, while in a serious slump as I transitioned out of my first marriage, I suddenly became aware of the colors in my closet. It was as if someone else had taken it over. Nearly everything in there had turned into shades of brown and (oh, horrors!) ...gray! This couldn't be my wardrobe, I had never dressed in these colors. Yet, there they were, in all their drab and somber glory. It was at this point that I realized my mental state needed a lift. It was probably already lifting, or I likely would not have realized this. Now, every day is a color reflection of how I feel or want to feel. Colors are very important to me and are a source of comfort as well as expression. Each morning as I stand before my closet, I ask myself "what color am I feeling like today?"

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Doomed to be Frogged!

As a free range knitter, I am forced to look at my projects with an discerning eye as the yarns present themselves into the design. One of my recent projects, a cardigan, has been snoozing for a few weeks. It had been frogged a few times because there was just something about it that I was not satisfied with. When I pulled it out of the bag it was hiding in yesterday, I knew without a doubt that it would again become a pile of yarns. This is no easy undertaking. With mohair and some furry character yarn, it can take a good bit of teasing to separate them from their nesting places. The flash reflection makes it look pretty good.
That furry looking yarn you can easily see across the middle of it all, has an iridescent quality that reflects a lot of the camera's light. However, the yarns actually come across far less bright and somewhat dismal.

The lighter yarns really look brighter too. I have been telling myself it would all work out, all through the back, and one front, but the big picture effect is one of somber colors. Its just not me, and those beautiful yarns are simply dieing in this combination. That gorgeous iridescent is lost among the others. The Fiesta is boring. The regal purple silk charmeuse that gave itself up to become strippon yarn languishes here, as does another beautiful Tartellette ribbon yarn. There are just too many counts against it, so frog I will.

This is the model for this ill-fated cardi. It's a Jane Thornley pattern based on the feather and fan stitch. I do plan to start over, but I must come to terms with what my yarns are looking for to awaken their greatness. Since this is the first time I have come up against this situation, I am still pondering their fate in combination. ...Will keep you posted.

..............As of November 3, this is now a pile of yarn. While I was frogging away, I realized that there was a total upstaging of the yarns which were meant to be in the background. They stole the show from the really beautiful and more expensive yarns that I had been looking to showcase. THAT is why I never felt that it was pleasing me!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fairies in the Garden is done!!!

Yes! ...Unlike the trees outside, which are slowly beginning to shower down their leaves, this Garden has been gaining leaves, and beads! Now completed, it is ready to be worn. When knitting in a free range style of using basic stitches to show off multiple yarns to their greatest advantage, it is possible to follow your creative spirit wherever it will lead you. Sometimes, yarns that appear to be perfect for play with others in a garment of this sort will opt out at the last minute. It is strange to me how this happens. Held together, the yarns seem to compliment each other in color and texture, but when the knitting begins, they start to fight each other. Many times a few rows have been frogged to remove the offending yarn. Many times has a project been set aside because something is missing, a particular kind of excitement that just the right yarn will lend to the others, bringing them alive. And that is where the passion lies in free ranging.
In Fairies In The Garden, this spirit led me into new and wonderful territory. Until now, my embellished projects have had character beads. I searched space to find the right beads. I had it in mind to add little fairy pendants along with crystal, glass, and stone beads. However, the more I looked, it dawned on me that the cost of the fairies alone would make this a very pricey scarf. I also realized that they really wouldn't take the imagination anywhere. Was it really necessary to have metallic fairies cavorting in the fibers? After a bit of thought, I decided that the real treat for the imagination would be to simply imply that fairies would be found there.
Just as any mystical woodsy glen sparks the imagination to place mystical creatures there, my scarf, if I achieved that character, would suggest the same. So, how does one go about suggesting that this scarf would be favored by tiny creatures that by their very nature are unburdened? The scarf had to be weightless, like the web of a spider, soft as mist, full of hiding places and surprises, and glistening with beads hinting of dew and berries. Colors are reminiscent of soft morning light and springtime.

Sleeves or no sleeves?

Colder weather has hit us here in the South quickly this year. Just when the back porch was seducing me to languorous hours there enjoying the cooler temps and fresher air that fall heralds in. From mid-seventies to 60's overnight. Now, after waiting all summer for a fall in which to enjoy my Peach Orchard Cardi-Wrap in it's sleeveless glory, there is no doubt that this had to be reconsidered right away. So, it was decision time. The plan is to simply lace the sleeves onto the body of the wrap. This would seem ideal, as the sleeve has YO's at the sleeve slots. If I had done the body with the same, they could be added and removed as the whim takes me. So, now , a quick whip stitch, and those homeless parts will finally be attached!  You can make one of your own as I offer the pattern here:  Peach Orchard Cardi Wrap

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fairies in the Garden?

I don't know, ...I can't behave myself with color as my mentor, Jane Thornley, so expertly does. Forget about trying to stay within a color schematic. Colors come at me like the hundreds of little rainbows that flood my living room each morning as the sun kisses the prisms on my window sill. They seduce and drug me with their glorious playfulness and I am lured into yarny diversions that I had never conceived of in the planning stages. Not having quite accepted that this is what is to define my projects, I find myself helplessly without discipline or desire to defend against them.

Creativity comes from following our playful spirit. When I allow that to guide what I am doing, there is no telling what the end result will be. These are the yarns I started out with. Not necessarily determined to all be used, they simply awaited my impulsive decisions to be used or not. Several of those yarns that held promise never made the stage. I even added a chartreuse banana ribbon yarn that I dyed myself. When this project found the needles, I was determined to let it grow into whatever it wanted to become. Now, it is evolving into this:

That is my grandest exploration into hypertufa (that "concrete" ball) you see in the background.

Then this happened:

Yes! Leaves! They will dangle along with stray ribbony fringe amongst dewy drops of crystals and beads. I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not just another stitch marker…

I HAVE THIS NEED TO BE DIFFERENT. I really cannot tolerate sameness in myself. It’s OK for others, but if life doesn’t have extravagant variety, then why do another day? So, in seeking the more unusual, creative, and colorfully unique, I have taken roads less traveled by others. Blame it on my inner gypsy. I call her Shalimar. Shalimar has the quality of a multi-faceted crystalline jewel. She appears to be different from every angle. Sometimes she’s raw and uncut by nature, often childlike and playful, and other times polished and classy, …but always unique. At times, she can be very demanding, and make me do things “the hard way,” and sometimes she gets me into trouble. …Consider the time she had had enough of a painful and confining marriage and ran off to California and learned how to do acupressure massage and play with energy. …Or the times she just had to go to China. …And how many other brides have Chinese Lion dancing at their weddings? …Especially when they aren’t even Chinese? (She said that a wedding ceremony should be meaningful and fun for the groom too, and when one marries a devoted Kung Fu man, that’s the sort of thing to do.) One thing for certain, following my inner gypsy has made life very interesting. She is responsible for these stitch markers: I absolutely advocate making your own stitch markers. They are so much fun and easy to do, and allow you the opportunity and freedom to express your own inner desires for creativity.

What you need:
beads of your choice, size 18 gauge wire, and a set of inexpensive beading tools (round-nose pliers, wire cutters (an old scissors may do), a small hammer, and an old metal knitting needle larger than the size you will be knitting with. I have two different sized sets of markers. One is for larger needles, and the other I use on needles up to size 8).

What to do:

  1. Determine how long you will need to cut your wire by doing a demo. I cut mine about 8 inches long.
  2. Start by winding the wire around the round-nose pliers to create the center of the spiral. Then, hold the center between you thumb and fingers, and begin turning to wrap the wire around the center. Deviate as you wish. However, do keep in mind that by keeping the twists and turns as compact (less open) as possible, will minimize the stitch marker getting caught in your knitting. I have learned NOT to use these with any lacey knitting. The combination is impossible. Hammer this part gentle to flatten it slightly. This will help keep it in shape.
  3. Add your beads as you wish. It is best not to have a dangle that is long or heavy.
  4. Hold the top of your dangle with the needle-nose pliers so that it is snug. Then, bend the wire at a 90-degree angle. Hold the top of the bent wire close to the bend. Wrap the wire around the pliers near to the size of your knitting needle. Insert the knitting needle, adjusting the size of the circle.
  5. Holding the circle firmly, begin to wrap the wire around its stem. Wrap closely, and snip it close with the wire cutter. Smooth the end into the stem so that it will not catch, feeling even to the touch.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September,'s in the air

It’s getting to be that time of year again. Along with the first trickle of leaves starting to drift down from our canopy of trees, and some relief from the suffocating heat of summer, there is a feeling of un-ease beginning to pervade in the air.

It’s not the unending yard cleaning that is about to begin. Unless you are the designated holiday gift provider for your clan, you won’t know what this feeling I am alluding to is all about. …It’s the onset of the holidays. You may want to argue that we still have several months yet to get involved with all that is implied. And that is your prerogative. However, as a crafter, AND a designated gift provider, this feeling is comparable to the wander-lust blowing in with the wind, that takes over in Vienne’s spirit, in the movie Chocolat,. Yes! …And just as compelling!

The process begins in little whiffs of ideas, such as what age group Little Johnny is in this year, …and what is fussy Auntie Matilda least likely to dislike?

Be still my heart, …its just another holiday approaching. I have done this for many years now, and I should be an old hand at it. (Shudder) If anything, I think I have gotten worse at it. My sons are grown, and they have more expensive and alien tastes now. I knit each of them a hat last year, and they looked at them in disbelief. (What? …A beanie? …I knit one of them a balaclava, which I think his wife will wear it as a mini-skirt this year! Well, I won't do it again! …Not even a pair of socks! Then, there are the daughters-in-law. Two love everything I make them, whether it is knit, jewelry, or aromatherapy. The third daughter-in-law is impossible; …it might be best to just ask her this time around. My granddaughter is so remote now that I simply guess each year, hoping for the best. Choosing for my grandson is the best. He’s 11 now, and kids are easier to please.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


The Filoli
If you are from the San Francisco Bay area, you most likely know what the Filoli is. It had been on my touring list for about a year. Because of time constraints, it fit perfectly into our hectic business schedule. My husband and I scooped up my mother the day after we arrived, and she enjoyed it even more than we did. She especially liked the grand ballroom, where a gifted musician played period music on a a grand piano.

This is Mom and me standing just outside a charming arched doorway leading to the gardens. She's pretty "hot" for 93 don't you think?

The Filoli is a lovely little American castle, built in the early 1900's. It lies on 654 acres in the beautiful rolling hills near the coast, 30 miles south of San Francisco, and a skip and a jump from San Jose. The original owner was the owner of a gold mine, and had extensive funds to create a lovely home, which carries a strange name. I had mistakenly thought it was some Italian name, and had expected it to resemble an Italian villa. However, the name is very special, and is really an acronym made up by the first owner. He took the first two letters of key words of his philosophy for living: "Fight for a just cause; love you fellow man; Live a good life." The positive, happy energy of this man and the succeeding family that lived there, and the volunteers and employees who care for the estate, lives on and abounds there today. Now owned by the National Trust, it is a feast for the spirit. The gardens are extensive and astonishingly beautiful. Visitors may walk at heir leisure and there are resting places where it is possible to contemplate and enjoy the rich and varied colors of the flower gardens and panoramic views.

Me hugging a weathered old tree.

Mom taking time to smell the roses.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back home again

Just got back from California last week, and still jet lagged. Not sleeping at night, exhausted but not sleepy. Sleeping late in the morning when my usual wake-up is around 5:00 AM. Why? …I don’t know. It’s a matter of practicing what I preach. I keep expecting my body to know what to do, and do it. However, it isn’t being as responsive as I would wish, and therefore, wouldn’t you think I would do some acupressure for myself? It would probably take only 15 minutes, and I would get straightened out. Now that I have made this public statement, of course I will have to do something about it and I will report on it again tomorrow!
I am still thrilled with the airport in Minneapolis. I know, its kind of frivolous of me, but there are reasons. For one, I grew up in Minneapolis and it has been years since I have been back, even if it was just to layover for an hour. Two, I met Snoopy face to face. Didn't have much time to chat, but he knits his own scarves, and wanted to trade scarves with me, but I thought mine looked better with my jacket.
Then, there is reason three. I found another reason to love Dyson. …The vacuum cleaner company. In the ladies’ restroom, I discovered the coolest hand dryer! It is simply a box with hand-sized slots, and as you dip your hands trustingly into the slots, a seeing eye activates a powerful air blast and it totally strips all the water from your hands in a flash. …Like in seconds. It was so cool. Now, I want one too. Just to play with. It saves on trees and is much more energy efficient, and saves money. It is labeled "green," and has a cool name. You can read more about it here: Dyson air blade

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My 50 cent skirt

What can you do with 50 cents these days? Not much. However, …just a week ago, I was out running errands, and on a whim, stopped in at Ross store to browse. It was one of those lucky moments when a real treasure appeared. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A silk skirt in a perfect shade of brown caught my eye. Now, I really don’t wear brown well, but it is a neutral, and I just happen to have a few dressy tops that I have not worn in forever, because I never had the right bottom part. One set is a gorgeous silk shirt in a creamy tan, and it goes over a juicy dark brown halter-top with sexy beads to spice things up. I have actually never worn these two, but they were serious bargains too.

The second set is one I made years ago, when I wrote and published a book entitled: Cutwork Embroidery for the Sewing Machine. At the time, I was working as head dressmaker for the Burda pattern company, and I had been planning on teaching a class for a local heirloom sewing shop. As the instruction sheet began to exceed its boundaries, and eventually grew to two-dozen pages, I realized that I had a book on my hands. Never knowing what I would do with a book like this, I just kept going with it, cashing in my life insurance policy to get enough money to get it printed. It poured out of me, and The Powers-That-Be blessed my efforts. Clotilde, a huge icon in the sewing supplies industry noticed me at a regional home sewing show, and picked up the book for her catalog. As time went by, I picked up a few others, and it eventually sold 15,ooo copies. One of these days soon, I will revive it and publish it as an e-book. It is on the To-Do list!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


It’s Saturday, and this is pizza day at our house. All these years in a second marriage, and my hubby and I never started any traditions that stuck. However, we recently discovered that we didn’t want pizza any day except Saturday, because that is when we usually made it. Go figure! It just happened that way. It needed a day that I knew when the DH would be home from work, and knew what time we would eat. Every other day is “iffy.” Making good pizza takes time, and it tells you when it is ready.

With a husband from NYC, making pizza is a risky business. His mouth is programmed for something he grew up on, and New York is famous for it’s pizza.

For years, we would trek to Black Mountain, NC. …A small town nestled into the mountains not far form Asheville. Besides being a wonderful get-a-way because it’s an artsy-crafty little village, it also boasts one of the best restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of eating at: My Father’s Pizza. They make the best Italian food. A few years back, our waitress told us the dough was the secret of their delicious pizza. The owner would come in late at night, after everyone had gone home, and make the dough after a long held family tradition. No one else knew the recipe, or how it was made.

Once gas prices started to rise, we cut back on our trips. So, I dusted off the bread machine, and tried a few recipes. After several adjustments, we came out with a decent pizza dough and crust. What really accelerated our success, however, was the new convection oven when my stove died last year! Oh, how glorious to watch the crust rising in magnificent golden-ness, as the cheese bubbles. …And it’s so fast! In just 10 minutes I am slicing and serving. Yumm…

Now, it isn’t necessary to have a bread machine to make good pizza dough. I have often made it the “other way.” It takes about the same amount of time, just less labor on my part. I like the eating part best!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tunic Tank Pattern

Here it is, …the tunic pattern. I made it up as I went. It is very basic, and an easy one to follow, as it really doesn’t need a lot of directions. I used yarn that I recycled from 2 sleeveless shells bought on sale. The 100% cotton yarn was in the sock weight category. It was a little loose, about 3 or 4 ply, with very little twist. I used large needles to create a very drapey and open fabric. As I got to the armhole area, I switched to smaller needles to close up the stitches and firm up the fabric, as well as make the pattern smaller without decreasing a lot of stitches. It creates a gentle gathering and a nicer fit over the bustline.

This pattern is not for commercial purposes, and is protected by copyright.

Needles: sizes 11 and 8 (US) circulars
Yarn: about 1000 yards sock weight
Stitch holder
Stitch markers for both needle sizes
Gauge: 6 stitches to the inch with #8 needles, but this is really not too critical as the garment is meant to be loosely fitted, it is only included to give a better representation of the yarn.Directions: Front and back are knit exactly the same. Entire garment is knit in stockinette stitch.
With #11 needles, CO 100 stitches. Continue with stockinette stitch for 13”. Slip these stitches to a holder. Set aside and begin the back.
With #11 needles, CO 100 stitches. Continue with stockinette stitch for 13”.

Pick up the front, placing stitch markers at both side seams, and knit front and back together in the round. Use stockinette stitch until it is as long as you want it, finishing your row at the sideseam join. Hold it under your armpit to judge this. My tunic measures about 8”. Pay attention to the depth of the armhole (that is, do you want to wear a cami under this and have a deep armhole, …or do you want to be able to wear this on its own and have a closer fit?)

When it is the length you desire, begin the armhole shaping for front and back: BO 3 stitches, continue across “front,” BO last 3 stitches, purl next row, BO 2 stitches and knit across back, BO last 2 stitches. (88 sts each side) Purl row. On following knit row, decrease I st at each side. Purl wrong side row. (86 sts)
Switching to #8 needles, Knitting across right side, begin deceasing. Use stitch markers if needed. Finding the center front (or back), divide up into groups of 10 stitches, with odd stitches at each edge. (13, 10, 10, 10 (center) 10, 10, 10, 13)

Knit right side rows:
K 11, ssk, * k8, ssk, * 3 times, * k2tog, k8 * 3 times, k2tog, k11. Purl row wrong side.
K 10, ssk, * k7, ssk, * 3 times, * k2tog, k7 * 3 times, k2tog, k10. Purl row wrong side.
K 9, ssk, * k6, ssk, * 3 times, * k2tog, k6 * 3 times, k2tog, k9.

Purl wrong side row.
K 8, ssk, * k5, ssk, * 3 times, * k2tog, k5 * 3 times, k2tog, k8.
Purl row wrong side.
K 7, ssk, * k4, ssk, * 3 times, * k2tog, k4 * 3 times, k2tog, k7.
Purl row wrong side. (52 sts)

At this point, we are ready for the neck edge!

Neckline shaping (same for both front and back): The following rows are stockinette, and at this point, it is time to begin the neckline shaping. Again, find the center of your row.

Knit 21 sts, BO 10 sts, k21. Purl wrong side. Left side: Knit 1, ssk, k19. Purl. K 1, ssk, k18. Purl. Continue in this way, decreasing at neck edge for 13 rows. (8 sts left)
Right side:
Knit 1, k2 tog, k19. Purl. K 1, k2 tof, k18. Purl. Continue in this way, decreasing at neck edge for 13 rows. (8 sts left)Continue to knit and purl until you reach the proper length for your armhole depth, BO. (I did 12 more rows.) Repeat for opposite side.

Sew shoulder seams. Pick up stitches around the armhole and neckline, doing 2 rows of knit stitches to neaten and firm the shaping.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I love my cardi wrap

I love my cardi wrap. I got the idea after seeing a few others online, and wanted something similar, but different. Each knitted cardi I saw was either too blocky looking, too un-glamorous,too long, or too lacey. I wanted colorful, sort of substantial for warmth, sexy and fun. …And glitz. …At least a little. So, free range knitting it was, and irregular, sleek and body friendly, and beads that drip off the edges seductively. I made sleeves for it, but I liked the look without them, so much so, that I haven’t yet attached them. I will need to attach them in such away as to be able to detach, and re-attach, whenever the whim takes me. It hugs me without bulk, and the colors and yarns worked out so well. They reminded me of our South Carolina peach orchards, and thus it got a name: The Peach Orchard Cardi Wrap.
Writing up the pattern for the cardi wrap was a bear of a job. It took longer than it did to knit. Much longer! I am such a perfectionist that I wrote down everything I could think of to write, and the cardi wrap pattern is a full 13 pages long. The dressmaker came out, and I did illustrations for cutting strippons. Yes, that is a made up name. Jane Thornley dubbed my using fabric strips that on one occasion, and the name stuck. Strippons are thin strips of fabric that I like to tie together, creating little flags of fabric, into a long yarn. You can see them quite clearly in the photo to the right. Its the peachy part of the cardi wrap. I love texture! ...Love to see it and touch it.  You will find the pattern here:  Peach Orchard Cardi Wrap
I finished the wrap just in time to wear to my oldest son's wedding at the end of March, but even then the weather was a little too warm.

Now, it is way too warm to wear it, as our summers are long, hot, and humid.
Come Fall though, it will be out in all its splendor, even though the peach trees will be bare.
For a lot of information on free range knitting, and some free patterns to explore using this style, visit my friend Jane's website.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Down With Dirt

I just got a new vacuum cleaner a week ago. Call it house-cleaning madness, but I love my new vacuum cleaner. Now I have been totally indulgent about not finding the time to clean house, and I have been using the excuse for years that my vacuum was never worth pushing around, carrying up and down stairs (and it wasn’t!) or using on a bare floor. …It was annoying to see lint and dirt sitting on the carpet, and no matter how many times I pushed that vacuum back and forth over it, the evasive dirt just sat there brazenly provoking me. HA! No more! I have conquered dirt! I got a shiny new Dyson! Wow, does that thing suck. I had just vacuumed my living room the day before, and after pushing the Dyson around the room (22’ x 14’) there was two cups of dirt in the cup. It’s just too bad it won’t do kitchen grease too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Green Knitting

…about the tunicIt came about for want of something other than worn camisoles to wear under a sort-of-a T that I made in a free knitalong on Jane Thornley’s website. When I found two sleeveless cotton sweater tops on closeout at TJMaxx for only $2.00 each, I got to thinking that there was a lot of yarn here and it might just be worth buying them just for the yarn. It took a little effort, but it was worth it. The yarn was a little grungy, in that it had almost no twist, and consisted of three strands. Some were broken along the way. However, Perfect quality yarn wasn’t exactly what I was concerned about here. The total look is something I might dub "artsy grunge," which is closely related to "shabby chic." There was a lot of yarn, and there is still have a considerable amount left over to use in another project.I really didn’t follow a pattern; and just made it up as I knit. In deciding to share it with others, I caution that anyone trying this should approach it with a few thoughts about making some adjustments here and there.

For instance, I...
  • wanted it to be as long as the T that I would wear it with, or a little longer.Therefore it is almost a dress.It could be if the side slits were not so high.
  • like my jeans pockets, so I wanted high side slits.
  • wanted a very airy and open knit because it gets very warm here, and the T is of a heavier yarn. Wearing the two together is designed for spring and fall, as I usually wear the T with a long sleeve pullover in the winter.
  • didn’t want the neckline to show or compete with the T’s neckline, and I also wanted it to be deep enough to show off a nice necklace
  • didn’t want the armholes to be too deep, so I could wear it on its own, without having something under it.
So, I just cast on, and kept measuring as the knitting progressed. I will be working out the basic pattern to share with those of you who have shown an interest.Helpful Links:
Recycling yarn

The Ocean NotaPoncho

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. She is now 93 years young! She has it going on too! She walks an hour every day, and I do mean walk. She has never cared much for walking with anyone else, because she is just too fast, and doesn’t want to slow her roll for a meandering friend. She reads voraciously, and loves biographies of famous people. Have you ever noticed that famous people lead cool lives? Some are quite controversial and even exotic. If you found those hours spent reading for history classes dull, you will be happy to know that there was a whole other side of it that was left unprinted! It would keep students alert if history was kept real. I will have to mention that to a friend who teaches history at the college level. I once taught one of her classes for her when her students were covering China. I have been twice, and loved it! (…but, that’s another blog.) Afterwards, she told me that was the first time in all her years of teaching that no-one was sleeping in the class. Isn’t that sad?

This is my Mom, we are standing in front of a shop in Sausilito, CA.
…Just three goddesses hanging out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Family Cookbook

Last night, the family came over for dinner. ...Three grown sons, with families of their own now. Dinner was simple, but it was literally devoured! Two of my daughters-in-law openly admit that they can’t cook unless it comes straight out of a can or box. The other is said to be a very good cook. My sons, who were raised on home cooking, have taken up the slack. One of their good friends, who adopted our family and often sat at our table, has also become “The Chef” in his own home.

When my oldest son married, I wanted to send something of my self along, and slowly and carefully put together a collection of our favorite recipes. We have lived all over the United States, and have experienced a culturally rich diet. Our favorite meals have come from our Mexican American friends, after living for many years in California, and Arizona. The first cookbook took months to put together, because it wasn’t easy to find color photos in magazines, for each recipe. Now, with the computer and internet, it only takes a few clicks of the mouse.

Here is what I have done, as anyone can to put together a cherished collection of family recipes:

  1. Write up your recipes in Word.…It’s the most widely available format, and saving them is a necessity!As computers advance, you will be able to keep the recipes current.Make it fun and you can even include a story about where it came from, whose favorite it is, etc.Try to keep each recipe on one page.
  2. Scrounge the Internet with Google searches for images of your recipe. You can find one perfect image that appeals to your taste buds and fits your personality. If not, get out the digital camera, and take your own photos. You can even have the family eating! Add a photo to your recipe. I use the text box a lot to save space.
  3. Keep a separate file folder for each grouping of recipes (i.e.: appetizers, beverages, meats, salads, soups, etc.). I learned the hard way, and mine were all hodge-podge in one cumbersome folder.
  4. Scrounge the Internet for fun clipart to use for a page image for your food sections, and add a WordArt title. For instance, I have a funny childish pictures of stick figures, one offering the other a cupcake. I have this as the section page for desserts. There are wonderful cartoons to use too.
  5. I print out and place pages in sheet protectors, back to back. This keeps them safe from spills, and keeps them from tearing out.
  6. Arrange all your pages into a 3-ring folder that has the pockets for photos on the front. Create a cover of your own with a family photo, or you in an apron, or, …get back on Google and find an image that feels good to you. I chose one that is an art poster and expresses the personality of my recipe book as I see it: a gift, a blessing, a loving and nurturing extension of a mother’s love. My “adopted son” (you know, the neighborhood kid who just slips into the family one day) told me his eyes glazed over when he got his, and my bio-sons tell me he raves about how great it is.
  7. I add to these books each year at Christmas. I continually discover old recipes that were someone’s favorite, and new ones that will be.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


A few times a year, my husband and I travel to the San Francisco Bay area on business. We always allow a few extra days to get in some pleasure, and there is so much to be found there. Besides all the wonderful things to do and see, there are a seemingly endless number of excellent restaurants, and we do make the rounds. We discovered Gordon Birsch several years ago.
Gordon B is a microbrewery, and has tasty brews, but they also have absolutely mouth-watering food in great quantity. One of our favorites is their garlic fries. If you love garlic, these are to die for! An enormous amount of fresh, finely minced garlic scattered all over lovely golden-crisp fries, (and Teriaki wings) with a smidgen of (?) fresh parsley flakes to make it beautiful as well as help the odious after-breath. Of course, if you have enough of the micro brews, you could care less. One mug is plenty for me, so I go armed with Clorets, and even then, it takes a few to take the garlic mouth out. Most of all though, I love sour sourdough bread!
I love San Franciscan sourdough so much that I am secretly beginning to plan our eating excursions around it. Its crunchy outer layer appeals to my senses, and then the inner spongy core melts in my mouth, releasing that indescribable flavor that is reserved for real sourdough lovers. Now, sourdough breads are not all alike. Made from a “starter,” its flavor depends on this living yeasty entity. The longer a starter is left to grow in the air, the sourer it becomes. So, you are very likely to find these more sour versions where sourdough has been appreciated for generations. It is something of a honor to have a starter that has been around for longer than most people. On the East Coast, where I live, sourdough bread is very tame, and tastes like a regular yeast bread. It pales in comparison. So what is a sourdough junkie to do? …Make your own! So, after much Googling, and talking to myself to bolster my confidence, I determined to create my own starterr.
Making your own starter is very easy, and really just takes patience. Mixing flour and de-chlorinated water in equal parts, it is just a matter of dividing the starter, and adding more of each every day for about a week. Suddenly, it takes off and you have a yeasty-beasty starter, and every day after that it gets more tantalizing in aroma and flavor. My grandson and I started this together. He was a little disappointed that it didn’t bubble and foam right away. (We tried one started with yeast last summer, and it foamed out of the bowl, which positively delighted him.) It tried both our patience, but one morning I was surprised to find it had come to life vigorously. This photo was taken just before I went upstairs to get my shower. I heard a crash and ran back down and found that the two plastic containers had quickly bulged upward, throwing the top bowl off. I found it upside down on the cutting board. Nothing was lost because of its thickness and the plastic wrap, but DG didn’t get to see it in all its bubbling glory when he arrived 30 minutes later.

I think I will name it Bubba. It is a living thing after all. ….Just like a pet.

We made a pizza with the starter later that afternoon, and it was gooooooooood! …And now, the first loaf of sourdough bread…

It was a little tough crust-wise. In fact, the next morning, I stepped on a tiny piece that had found it’s way to the carpet, and thought it was a large thorn. Well, for first try with no-yeast bread, I thought it was great. Nice rising, the texture was a little more like cake, not airy like yeast breads. The flavor was unmistakably sourdough!
Here is a link to help anyone wanting to start their own sourdough: starter:

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Ducks

Whenever a home in my neighborhood goes up for sale, the ad always says the same thing: “waterfront property.” Now that just tickles me, cuz it immediately conjures up visions of being somewhere on the lake, sipping iced tea while sunning on a lounge chair, while your kids jump off your dock and swim. …While waiting for their turn for a thrill ride behind your boat that your hubby is bouncing off of waves. This vision is perfectly supported by the fact that there is a humongous lake nearby that was created by the electric company’s dam years ago. The reality, however, is that we are nowhere near a lake, only a small pond that has a patch of “community” property with a picnic table and a tree house bordering it. It was a clever ruse to attract buyers when the neighborhood was built 30 years ago, and it still works today. Sometimes, from just the right window, and just the right angle, it can even be seen it from my house. It’s easier in the winter when the trees are bare.
Mostly, we just know we are near water, because we have a terrible mosquito population. They don’t bother me much, but my hubby, who must taste like sweet nectar to the critters, has to run to his car or face being eaten alive by those little vampires. We manage the yard work looking like beekeepers …long sleeves and pants, heads covered, and work gloves, …even in 100+ heat.
The one thing we do enjoy is the ducks, and occasionally geese. They have discovered our little pond, and each year we have a family of fuzzy ducklings parading around the neighborhood. As they get older, they look for handouts, and make a waddle-by approximating clockwork a few times a day. This afternoon, as my grandson and I returned from an outing, they spotted us and came running. I ducked into the house for a slice of bread, while he made friends with the ducks.