Sunday, October 30, 2011

Projects, Projects Everywhere!

Last Sunday, I tried working on the second Christmas cowl while engaged in a round of conversations. That evening, I had to tink (that's knit spelled backwards) the three rows I'd done that morning. So, I wisely started a new project that was suitable for the Tuesday evening book club meeting - the blue hat for my mother-in-law. Here's how far I got:
With all of the baseball later in the week, I got a lot done on the cowl, which is the Eleanor pattern. I even took some time on Saturday while listening to a couple of knitting podcasts (Sticks and String - he's back!! - and the Knitpicks podcast). Here's how far I got:
As I knit, I think. One of the things I think about is all of the things I'm not doing, that I've done, that I want to do soon. Some of that thinking led me to look hard at the top of the pink hat I'd made for MIL, and I had to admit that there is something wrong:
If she is losing her hair, her scalp is probably a bit tender, and that ribbon looks and feels quite rigid. So, last evening, I started knitting an I-cord to replace the ribbon. The story in the instructions I found was that the great Elizabeth Zimmerman said that it's so easy to make that the "I" should stand for "idiot." I worked on this cord for half of the USC-Stanford football game last night and only got this far:
For the sake of sanity, I think I have to turn this into car knitting (while Hubby is driving, of course). I think I have to make it twice as long as it is. I may lose my mind from boredom before this is done. On the other hand, it's going to make a much softer drawstring, and I do love my darling MIL.

Speaking of sports, there is a number that is dear to the hearts of many people in Michigan. That number is 35 and 5; that number conjures up the magical season of 1984 that the Detroit Tigers baseball team had and the win-loss number for the first 40 games of that season. I spent a couple of weeks that spring listening to ball games on the radio and working on a new dress:
Yeah. I actually wore this out in public and was quite proud of it. I have had it in the sewing room for several months with the idea of reworking it into another garment. This afternoon, I measured the green fabric to see just how much I have. Umm..... two-and-a-half yards. So, for a second week in a row, I am knocking another UFO off the list. The fabric has faded a bit, and I will do some seam ripping and reduce this dress to stash fabric.

Finally, I gave myself a real treat this afternoon. I live a few blocks from Highland Cemetery here in Ypsilanti, and local historian James Mann conducts walking tours of the cemetery a couple of times a year. This afternoon, I walked over and took the tour and learned all sorts of cool things about this town and the people who have inhabited it over the years. I did this instead of hanging out in the sewing room, and I consider it time well spent. Here is a view within the cemetery.
Finally, here is the cute kitty picture of the week. Little Bit was sitting up on the landing on Friday afternoon just looking darling (little knowing that a trip to the vet, complete with shots, would be part of her Saturday!).
If you are a new reader, thank you for stopping by. This blog isn't about anything much of importance. If you want politics, I mention the subject generally only in passing. Reading through past posts would probably tell you my basic stance. If you want religion, well, you'll probably be able to figure that out, too. I am who I am, but I don't expect anyone else to be me (one of me is more than enough). If you want intimate family information (including the real names of my cats or family members or friends), well, you won't find it here. This blog is about stuff I do in my spare time, and it's turned into a good record for me of projects I've done and started and mean to do some day. I like to point people toward resources that have worked well for me. Maybe they'll help you, too. Cheers!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

UFO Weekend

Let's start with a finished project. Here is the first hat for my mother in law (I'm going to make the same hat in a cobalt blue):
Now, for the UFOs (that's UnFinished Objects, folks). A year ago in the summer, I cut out the fabric for three blouses from the same pattern. For various reasons at the time, I only finished one of the blouses. Today, I pulled out the other two and made the following observations:
Hospital gown!! (Also known as new additions to the blue fabric shelf!)
Yep! That fabric is awfully sheer! (a.k.a. new additions to the yellow fabric shelf!)

Cool! In about 10 minutes, I cleared two long-term UFOs! With that done, I opened another box of UFOs, and pulled out some fabric and a skirt pattern. I had only half the amount of each fabric for the skirt pattern in question. On the other hand, I liked the way they looked together, so I laid them on the table and started pulling coordinating fabrics. I started with the bright green-leaved fabric and the white fabric with bright red and bright yellow splotches.
I don't know what this will be, but I really like these fabrics together. In looking at this photo, I will need to add in a really dark fabric, and when I return to the sewing room, I'll be looking through my reds. So, this is a brand-new UFO, but a fun one.

Speaking of new UFOs, I went to the Fiber Expo at the Washtenaw County fairgrounds on Saturday. I really debated with myself about whether or not to go. Quite frankly, I've got a pretty deep queue. It is now deeper. Let me show you.
This was my first purchase - please: pink and yellow - me resist? The people in the Via Verde Farm booth were really nice, and they answered my questions about how to spin this. Their advice led me to the Sistermaide booth where I got this tiny lightweight spindle.
That booth was right next to the Cormo24-7 booth where this batt just called my name:
 Way out in the farthest building of the expo, I wandered into the (RuLe OuT): fIBer AdDicTiOn, NOS booth where Emily was very charming and gave me some encouragement. Of course, she encouraged me into buying some of her luscious roving.
I have been really stuck in the spinning area for months because I've been trying to learn the spinning wheel by spinning the same uninteresting fiber over and over, and Emily said, "At some point, you'll realize that even if you get the fiber spun up, you won't like it, so why are you doing this." Hmmm.

Speaking of fiber I need to spin, I stopped in the booth run by my wool dyeing teacher from last January, feeling guilty because I haven't yet spun that fiber. So, I bought some yarn from her.

That skein has 435 yards, so we might be looking at a hat and mittens set. My goal is to turn all of these new purchases into projects before next year's Fiber Expo. We'll see.

No cute kitty photo this time, sorry.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cone Nebula - Leftovers 2

After a comment from Diana about tumbling blocks and knowing that I did not want to go in that direction (sorry, Diana!), I did some rearranging and worked with the half-square triangles that were also leftover. I will confess that I cut a few more out of leftover fabric because I didn't want this to get too scrappy. Anyway, here was the end of the day:
This will be the headboard for the bed on which the Cone Nebula quilt will reside. This may get bigger.

I wanted to mention three movies that I saw this week, two of which I recommend wholeheartedly. The first was The Way with Martin Sheen. It's about the ancient pilgrimage route through the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, and a handful of people who decide to walk it. This is a movie that could have devolved into sentimentality, stereotypes, and preaching. Instead, we get a movie full of well-rounded characters (people we meet for only a couple of scenes are richly characterized), gorgeous scenery, and a lot of important questions. Full disclosure: I saw this movie on a free pass, and at the end of the movie, Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, and the producer came out on stage and took questions. This was a totally cool evening, but Hubby and I fully intend to see the movie again in the theater. It is that good.

Next up is As it is in Heaven, a 2004 movie out of Sweden. I saw this subtitled movie on a rental from Netflix. It concerns a well-known conductor who falls ill and returns to his hometown, where he takes on directing a small choral group. Again, this is a richly drawn movie full of memorable characters trying to find their way to wholeness. When I finished watching the movie, I say, "Yeah, whatever." The next day, however, the various bits of the story started coming back, and I found myself drawn into the lives of the people and wanting to know more about them. In other words, this is a movie that got into my head. If you want to understand some of it, see the lyrics for the big song that the group sings.

The final movie I'm not sure I can recommend as unreservedly as I can the first two, but it's an interesting character study of a young man struggling with some big issues. The Ides of March concerns a political operative learning his trade. It asks a lot of interesting questions, and it answers them in uncomfortable ways. If you like political movies and movies that leave you feeling a bit unsettled, this would be worth seeing.

Now, to pivot again, I have been knitting. First off, Burning Embers is the first of the cowls I'm making for Christmas presents. The model is a bottle of cleaning liquid covered with an old shirt.
This knit up quickly, and I'm getting really good at reading charts. It's so much easier than worded directions.

When I finished this, I started Duet for my mother-in-law, who is dealing with cancer and losing her hair. I'll be running some ribbon through the top so that she can wear it as a hat.
This is also a well-written pattern with an easy-to-read chart.

Finally, the cute kitty shot is of the Guys, awakened from naps because of some crazy lady with a camera.
That's all for this week!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cone Nebula - Leftovers

In the back of my mind, I have been wondering what to do with the leftovers from the Cone Nebula quilt. As you see, I have these triangles that I cut but didn't need:
On Friday, I got one of the periodic updates that Jan Krentz sends out, and as I was poking around in her blog, I saw this entry. Go look at that link. Do you see what I see? Well, what about this? Well, on Sunday, I tried this
and this
and this
and suddenly saw where I wanted to go. I sewed together the isoceles triangles at their bases, pressed them open, and sewed them together side to side.
and ended up with these:
Now, I'm thinking that if I flip these on their side:
(and switch one of the flowered pieces with one of the bright green pieces), I have the start for a headboard for the bed on which the Cone Nebula will lie. Thank you, Jan!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Reading Roundup

I think I last wrote about books in April?! Oh, my. When I was in college, one of my professors talked about his goal of reading a book a week. I have probably averaged something close to that over my life - but that includes a lot of junk reading. Rather than talk about all of the books I've read over the last few months, I'll mention the ones that I really want to recommend.

First up is Pat Conroy's South of Broad. I would say this about the guy: you either love his books or you hate them, but either way you're passionate about them. Conroy writes about violence - physical, emotional, verbal - and he writes about it from the perspective of someone who has survived a lot of it. I remember reading The Prince of Tides and thinking that I would never have to write about my father because Conroy already had. Let me clarify that: my father was not as violent or as deeply contorted as the father in that novel, but so much of the basic bent of the father was familiar to me, and the ways in which the various characters in the novel responded to the father showed me different ways of moving forward in my life. Each time I read a Conroy novel, I encounter a different way of coping and understand more about how adults keep from giving in to the darkness within.

South of Broad is very much about adults trying to live integrated lives despite difficult beginnings and tough times. I read the novel in a long caffeine-fueled weekend, and then kept going back to various sections and re-reading for the sheer pleasure of it all. The scene depicting the conclusion of the high school championship game contains one of the most beautifully written paragraphs I have ever read in my life. When my book club got together, I insisted on reading that paragraph out loud just to hear the melodious language. Sigh!!

My parish started a book club this summer, and the first book up was Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son, a meditation on Rembrandt's painting and the biblical parable. This is a little short book that looks as though it would be a quick read. There is so much deep thought on each page that it took me a week to get through its 140 pages. I kept stopping, walking around, and thinking through what I had read. If your spiritual life needs a bump-up, this would not be a bad place to start.

The next book on the parish's book club list is Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain. I read this book the first time in my mid-20s, and it was one of the things that pushed me into really looking into religious life. At our discussion the other evening about the first half of the book (we're reading the second half for the end of October), the discussion leader told us that this book, published in the late 1940s, propelled thousands of young Catholics into seminaries, convents, and monasteries. It is the story of a young man born to a pair of artists, who both died young. He grew up on Long Island, in the south of France, and in England. He was mentored by various relatives and family friends. One is struck by how very ordinary he is, despite the extraordinary circumstances of his life. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this book.

In between these various books, I read Karen Armstrong's A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A good friend has been urging me for several years to read this book, and, oh, my gosh! What a great book this is! This is not a casual read, even though I ended up putting myself on a 40-page-a-day schedule for 10 days. I decided to treat it as assigned reading for a class. This may have been a mistake, but I'm a pretty monogamous reader - one book at a time - so I dangled a Ruth Rendell mystery novel on a stick at the back of the Armstrong book and kept working toward my reward.

Armstrong's 400-page book is well written, densely packed with information, explanations, and cross-references, and has a powerful narrative structure that sweeps the reader along. She shows us what is going on in the Fertile Crescent, pulling in concurrent events in the Indian subcontinent as appropriate, moving the centers of the various dramas to the north and west as the story goes along. The book is structured along a pretty rigid historical timeline - that is, she treats the issues of the seventh century CE in each of the major traditions within a chapter or two of each other, with none of the three main story lines getting too far ahead.

As far as I can tell, she is scrupulously fair to the traditions and the issues raised. I've done a fair amount of reading and study elsewhere around the issues related to the church councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon; her descriptions of those issues, setting of the historical framework, and demonstrations of the consequences of the various actions rang true with what I have learned elsewhere. This helped me trust the rest of her narrative. The book has been out for nearly 20 years, but it feels fresh and relevant in setting the various traditions within their cultural and historical contexts.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking about the book with one of the priests at my parish and I told him, "There's no way I could have handled this book in my 30s. I needed to get the perspective of my 40s in order to see the broader picture." This is the man to whom I went a year ago in the summer and said, "I'm not sure how much longer I can remain a Catholic." His response was that I should continue to move in the directions that give me life and perhaps give myself some space in which to not know the answers. As I read this book I realized that every question I've had about various doctrines and every odd idea I've ever had has been asked or spoken aloud by other people. Armstrong dissects the various arguments within the traditions, shows the positions held by folks on each side, and shows how the issues played out over time. When I reached the end of the book, I understood that my own tradition is based on a whole series of consensus positions around which people have coalesced. I have long appreciated the fact that in Catholicism there are few black-white / right-wrong positions. There's an endless series of "you may be right" statements. Armstrong's book very much reflects this understanding.

If you are looking for a quick and easy read espousing a particular view of the three great monotheistic traditions, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a deeply researched, carefully nuanced, well analyzed description of the major movements, thinkers, and doctrines within the traditions, get this book and read it thoroughly.

And, now, the cutie picture of the posting - Hubby Dearest wearing his new scarf - he selected the length, approved the yarn and the pattern, and cheered on the making.