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Thursday, December 28, 2006

The gift of yarn

I'd like to start off with a little advice for travellers. You need not worry about bringing knitting needles on board an airplane if the passenger in front of you has packed "My First Skeleton" in his carry-on luggage. I'm not sure which is more ludicrous -- that a miniature skeleton can create such a commotion among security agents, or that I actually sort of agree with them that it's a bad idea to travel with imitation human bones.

I cannot express how relaxing my trip was. I slept 9 1/2 straight hours the first night in my girlhood bed. In contrast, last night I woke up about 63 times. And I was completely spoiled rotten by my family. Like blocking board, flower-print tool set and lots of jewelry spoiled. And brand new SWIFT spoiled! And though it's probably tacky to show off your presents, I've decided that it's acutally rude for me not to publicize them.

What's encircling the beautiful swift? It's a skein of the softest, most fabulous alpaca I've ever touched. Your hands even feel great after touching it. It's called Joseph Galler Prime Alpaca, and I don't know who Joseph Galler is, but he makes some nice yarn. Even though I'm usually dubious of Lion Brand, I am considering knitting up this with the yarn. Or would that be a waste? (I picked up the alpaca with a gift certificate from my cousin to Knit Wits, my hometown's local yarn store. If you ever find yourself in Greensburg, Pa., which I realize is unlikely, you need to stop in. The owners are downright neighborly.)

My family also showered me with other knitterly gifts. Mom bought me the "In Stitches," while my cousin found me some knitting fiction.

And since so many of you humored me about the ornaments on our crooked little tree in Brooklyn and my need to tell stories about all of them, I thought I'd share a few from my parent's tree. This is my favorite ornament. It was from Avon, of all places, but something about Santa's deadpan expression really speaks to me, every year.

And this is my mom's favorite ornament. (Well, this one and the same ornament featuring my brother.) I made it in my kindergarten class by wrapping yarn around the lid of a can. See, crafty at a young age!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Smitten with knittin' mittens

I like to think that I'm cool about maybe half the time. Sometimes I'm early to the game, sometimes I'm late. Knee-high boots and shirtwaists? Early to the game. Ipods and blogs? Late to the game. Making fun of HeadOn? Very early. Netflix and Tivo? Still not there.

This brings me to mittens. They seem to be the toast of the knitting
blog world. I was resistant, as mittens are kinda like socks, inasmuch as they cover our outmost appendages. And I just can't get into knitting socks. At least not yet.

So on Saturday, my dear, dear Spiders came over for our festive holiday party. And there was nearly a throwdown over a mitten book. The next morning I thought, what am I missing out on?

And now I know! Here's the very very beginning of my Squirrelly Swedish Mittens. Cute, no? Knitting plus tiny sylvan creatures equals joy!

And speaking of joyful, here are the Spiders, squished in my living room. (You can see Lisa thumbing through the mitten book.)

I'm off to Pennsylvania on Friday -- and I hope that I'll be blogging more from there. I've been in a bit of a drought, but please stick with me.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Our little tree

Every ornament on my family's tree has some significance. The wooden ones were painted by mom when she was pregnant with my brother. The little skiing snowman was made by the mother of my best friend from third grade who moved away, leaving me bereft. And there's the stuffed crab from the "Little Mermaid" that McDonald's gave away, like, 13 years ago -- and even though my mother hates it, it ends up on the tree every year.

It's always my job to unwrap the ornaments, place them on the tree and explain their significance. This routine has probably worn thin on my family, who would prefer to watch football or perhaps just sit in quiet contemplation, but they listen anyway.

So it was a little weird this year to put the ornaments on our first tree here in Brooklyn. I've never had a live tree before, and it was a bit of an adventure carrying it along Court Street, up four flights then readjusting it numerous times using complex maneuvers that resembled a game of "Twister," only with pine needles.

(We are aware that it's lopsided -- the tree cutter fellow, who seemed perfectly competent, accidentally cut off too many lower branches, and there's a bald patch in the back reminiscent of Kelsey Grammer's head.)

So this year, our ornaments have no stories yet. I bought a bunch of vintage flocked Santas and reindeer off ebay. They look like they were well-loved in their last home, seeing as one is missing an eye.

And I couldn't resist picking up some cute wooden Martha Stewart ornaments at K-Mart. (Ok, I went to K-Mart three times because I really wanted them and they hadn't received a shipment yet.)

I guess that by next year they will each have a story -- they'll be the first ornaments we put on our first tree, which was a little lopsided but still lovable.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Nancy cardigan (aka the seriously modified Something Red)

A few months ago, my co-worker Nancy wore the loveliest wrap sweater. It was the perfect length, the perfect fuzzy yarn, the perfect variegated shades of red and pink. That Nancy would find such a wonderful sweater was no surprise -- she's one of those effortless beauties, so chic and put-together. (But she's such a wonderful, talented, giving person that you don't hate her.)

Nancy has since moved to California, and we miss her. Come to think of it, she probably doesn't have much occassion to wear that cardigan now. So it's a good thing I tried to replicate it here.

I didn't find a pattern that quite fit the bill, so I picked up four skeins of Brooks Farm fourplay at Rhinebeck and started tweaking away at Something Red.

I used M1 increases instead of yarn-overs for the raglan increases because I didn't want the decorative holes. I then continued increasing along the neck edge so that the sweater would wrap just a touch. I decided against the lower body ribbing, made full-length sleeves and expanded the short rows on the collar so that it turned down. And I knit a long belt, just knit purl ribbing. Um, and that's that.

Turn it to the left.

This is probably one of my favorite finished objects yet. The fabric feels great and looks so smooth after blocking. Thank you, Nancy!

Oh, and thank you Michelle for sending this lovely apron -- she needs to set up an etsy shop, no? And I need to actually cook something in order to wear an apron, no?

Lastly, careful readers will remember the great coffee spill of 2006. I tried to soak the yarn, but without much success. So I chose denial, hiding the yarn until I have the heart to dye it or toss it. Problem is, I am *still* finding victims of the spill! Last week, I decided to shamelessly copy the crochet earrings that Sandra made. They looked fine when I was crocheting them, but I realized the awful truth when I tried to block them. The crochet thread was apparently stained by coffee, too! I'm such a loser.