Thursday, August 31, 2006

Attack of the Wrist-Killing Dishcloths

Call it the Mason-Dixon influence -- I knit up a couple of dishcloths. They seem very functional, I love the blue/yellow/white combo, the patterns were easy, but I hated knitting these. The Lily Sugar & Cream yarn is awful on the wrists! I feel like a prime candidate for carpal tunnel syndrome. Not all cotton yarns bother me. I love knitting with Bernat Cottontots. Maybe it's time to try Peaches & Creme!

Here's Kylie cat, sitting in the window and enjoying the beautiful, cool, sunny day. You can tell that fall's in the air and that September's right around the corner. And the cats' annual visit to the vet!

I'm listening to:
Van Morrison, Moondance

I'm watching:
Charmed, Season 2 (guilty pleasure, very silly)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's curtains for me...

I'm sewing up some quick valances for my study/guest room/cat room. I cut up two batik sarongs that I found at World Market a couple years ago. Two down, two to go. The light is awful today -- I'll have to take another pic once the sun's out and the others are done.

Currently reading:
The Mirror of the Self: Sexuality, Self-Knowledge, and the Gaze in the Early Roman Empire, Shadi Bartsch

Currently listening to:
Have You Fed the Fish?, Badly Drawn Boy
"You Were Right" is one of my favorite songs.

Currently drinking:
MESNA, Blueberry Tea

MESNA makes wonderful fruit-flavored black teas. My fav's are blueberry and huckleberry. Unfortunately I have had trouble finding this brand in Chicago.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Blue Monday

It's actually a grey and rainy Monday, but I couldn't resist a New Order reference. The Debbie Bliss shawl-collar cardigan is blocked and seamed.

I need to decide on a fastener for it, then I can send it off to Colorado at long last. The sleeves seem awfully long and skinny, but I don't have a good point of reference as to whether it will fit a baby.

I spent the weekend in Madison, WI, saying good-bye to some friends who are moving to Seattle and visiting my alma mater. It was great. My husband and I went to the Dane County Farmers Market, which puts all the Chicago farmers markets to shame (including the Green City Market). Strangely enough there was a Nazi rally at the Capital on Saturday. There was also an anti-Nazi counter rally. I steered clear of the whole sha-bang, figuring that the Nazis don't need any more attention. But really... there are Nazis? Still? Gathering in one of the most liberal cities in the Midwest? Very peculiar.

Here are a few shots of Mad-town:

The Capital

One of the crazy cow statues scattered throughout the city this year. This one's in front of the Memorial Union.

Bascom Hall. Abe Lincoln is said to stand up every time a virgin walks in front of him.

The Memorial Union Terrace. A great place for a beer and some people-watching.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pita Pizzas

Karin over at The 21st Century Hostess has been raving about white pita pizzas, and they're on my to-try list. They look delicious!

I make some pretty basic pita pizzas that I think are tasty. I spread tomato sauce and salsa over a pita. I add Canadian bacon, pineapple chunks, and cut-up red bell pepper, then sprinkle part-skim shredded mozzarella on top and pop them in the oven on a pizza stone for about 10 minutes or so (until the cheese is melted).

Coffee Talk

I am a self-professed coffee addict... perhaps the term "coffee lover" puts a better spin on it? Unlike most java fiends, I like a light/medium roast, with plenty of milk and sugar. I really love my coffee, I just like it my way.

I bought this Raven's Brew coffee at Whole Foods based wholly on its name -- Misty Fjords. I'm a blue-eyed, blond-haired Scandinavian-American from Minnesota, so the whole fjords thing just drew me in. Plus Norway's fjords are some of my favorite places in the world (along with Glacier National Park in Montana). Remember the accolades won for the fjords in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

So what does this coffee have to do with the fjords? Nothing. The beans are clearly not grown in Scandinavia, and they were roasted in Alaska. The coffee beans seem to have retained more of their natural oils and flavor, but it's not my favorite brew. A little too dark and earthy for me, with some floral notes.

My best friend introduced me to Green Mountain Coffee a few years ago while she was living in Connecticut, and I love their breakfast blends and many of their flavored coffees. It's damn near impossible to find GMC in Chicago, though, and I hate to pay shipping fees just for coffee. I just heard, however, that the Wild Oats up in Evanston carries some GMC! Time for a field trip to the suburbs. I'll try to visit the Cottage Living idea home in Evanston, too.

The yellow baby blanket continues to grow. It's just so darn wide! I want it to form a nicely-proportioned rectangle, so I'll just keep working on it. I added about 1-1/3 balls of yarn to it over the weekend on my trip to Ohio. These are not unsubstantial balls of yarn: 171 yards/ball. I'm now partway through my 4th ball, I think (it may be the 5th).

I didn't read very much because there was great music and lots of conversation for much of the car trip. I'm about 300 pages into Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Clarke's style is very engaging. I would describe the tone as tongue-in-cheek scholarly. The footnotes are fabulous; not only do they give background to the story, but they are also very humorous. If you're looking for plot and action, this is not the book for you. Also, if you are turned off by magic and fairies when they are not in sugar-coated form, you probably won't enjoy it either. It's all about the style, baby. Style = substance????

Nothing has been accomplished on the 4 Seasons cross-stitch project. I think it's time to find another needlework project that is more interesting. I was trying to de-stash, but this may not be the best time for that. Please, Wyndham Needleworks, send me my order soon.


No, the kitty is not Mitten -- she's Kylie. She absolutely loves laundry baskets, especially when they're filled with warm, clean towels. This makes for some delightful cat hair surprises for the humans as they emerge from the shower and take what they think are clean towels. Usually I'm smart enough not to leave such tempting baskets out for very long, but not this time. :-)

Here's the mitten, plus Kylie's nose as she comes over to investigate. I love Malabrigo yarn, but it does have a very strong vinegar smell. I'm making these little mittens to coordinate with the green shawl collar cardigan. The pattern is from Melanie Falick and Kristin Thomas's Knitting for Baby. The pattern's a little a bit fiddly. In fact, the thumb on this mitten looks gargantuan. Perhaps blocking will help? We'll see how the next one goes. If it looks substantially different, I'll make a third mitten.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Hittin' the Road

Hopefully we'll also be hitting some of Ohio's wineries on the way to the wedding in Canton! I'm looking forward to reading, knitting, and stitching in the car. Here's what's in the lineup.

to read:
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon
Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson

to knit:
big yellow baby blanket

to stitch:
hmmm... maybe the Bucilla 4 Seasons, but it doesn't seem too appealing.

Enjoy the weekend!

Gilmore Girls

I just watched the end of Season 2 again, and my heart just broke all over again when Chris told Loralei that Shari was pregnant. Seasons 1 and 2 of the show are my favorites. Even though I'm 28, I identify strongly with Rory. I was a lot like that when I was young, especially the voracious reading, the dedication, and the love of verbal wordplay. I especially like the episode where the headmaster at Chilton tells Rory that she needs to be a joiner. It was refreshing to have the episode end with Rory sitting at the lunch table with her Discman and a book.

I also wish that my relationship with my mother had been more like the relationship between Rory and Loralei. Hopefully I'll remember that when I'm ready to have children.

I have mixed feelings about next season, but I'll give it a shot.

Big Bird baby blanket

It's yellow, and it's getting big! I'm still loving the oh-so-affordable Bernat Cottontots. I hadn't realized just how wide it was going to be when I cast on. The pattern called for dk yarn; since I was substituting worsted weight, I subtracted a number of repeats, but I guess I should have done more. I'm using circular needles, and it just sort of bunched up, hiding its enormous width. I have plenty of yarn, so it will work out fine. It will just be an awfully big blanket! :-)

My husband and I are taking a road trip with another couple out to Canton, Ohio for a friend's wedding this weekend. The a/c on our car is out yet again (the mechanic claimed that there wasn't a leak when we had the a/c recharged 2.5 months ago), so we're taking their car. More knitting time for me!

This will also be our first road trip where we can use our new portable DVD player that plugs into the cigarette lighter. Pretty slick!

WIP Friday

This is how I often start my day. It's rather gloomy and grey here in Chicago this morning. Usually my little dining room is filled with sunshine. This lures in the cats, of course.

I dug this kit out of my cross stitch stash. So far I'm not loving it, but Wyndham Needleworks is taking their sweet time sending me some linen, overdyed floss, and Litle House Needleworks charts. The fabric and floss are for Imagine, by Samsarah:

I'm doing the cross-stitch version, of course. I'll frame it, not use it for a tote bag. I don't think I could bear to see the fruits of my labor get covered with city grime!

I'm planning to use this bright and lively fabric for a couple Log Cabin pillows. Now I need to find some more fabrics that will work well with them.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hunter? Really?

You Are a Hunter Soul

You are driven and ambitious - totally self motiviated to succeed
Actively working to acheive what you want, you are skillful in many areas.
You are a natural predator with strong instincts ... and more than a little demanding.
You are creative, energetic, and an extremely powerful force.

An outdoors person, you like animals and relate to them better than people.
You tend to have an explosive personality, but also a good sense of humor.
People sometimes see you as arrogant or a know it all.
You tend to be a bit of a loner, though you hate to be alone.

Souls you are most compatible with: Seeker Soul and Peacemaker Soul

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Confessions of a Newbie Quilter

My current project: a baby quilt

The quilting bug just bit me a month ago. I feel like a part of women's history when I work on a quilt. My grandmother has always quilted, and she made a quilt for each of her children and grandchildren, as well as a number for herself. They're all beautiful, though many of them are very different. My brother's quilt is very masculine. It was made in the early- to mid-1970s, before I was even born. Grandma used scraps from my grandfather's wool suits, winter coats, and corduroy slacks and sportcoats. She did intricate hand stitching along all the seams. This quilt must have been a labor of love, since I can't imagine working with all those scratchy, heavy, hot materials could have been all that fun, especially since most of Grandma's quilts feature bright, cheery calicos or dreamy pastels.

I'll have to unearth photos of some of my grandmother's quilts to post. She still quilts, even though she now lives in a Sunrise assisted living center. There's no room for a big quilting frame in her single room, which just happens to have been my uncle's kindergarten classroom -- the building used to be an elementary school :-). Now she's back to handquilting after many years of using the machine. I admire her; she's lived through so much. Now she fills her days with crafting, reading newspapers, and playing cards. She churns out a prodigious amount of embroidered flour sack dishtowels! Every time I see her I leave with a couple more to add to my collection.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Two reasons why I love my neighborhood...

1. This cheerful fellow above the door to my best friend's building. I love these old, classically inspired architectural details!

2. The whimsical giraffe statue that adorns a street corner near my apt.

Crafty Mail

I love internet shopping! I think these two cross stitch books are out of print, but I was able to find them online for a steal. I don't normally like Mary Engelbreit that much, but this book features some great, cheerful projects.

Baby Sweater #2

This baby sweater just needs a bath and some seaming before it gets sent off to Colorado!

Pattern: Ribbed Jacket, Debbie Bliss, Special Knits
Size: 3-6 months
Yarn: Malabrigo Emerald Viv, 100% wool, heavy worsted
Needles: #8 bamboo circs and straights, #7 bamboo circs

I love the yarn. Malabrigo is so soft, and the green/blue shade is just lovely. The sweater is cleverly constructed, and the pattern was easy to follow. I really enjoyed picking up stitches all around to construct the shawl collar. That Debbie Bliss, she's a genius.

I still need to decide on a fastener for the front. I'll probably sew in a snap, but I would like to put something decorative in front of it.

Enchanted Cottage

Design: "Enchanted Cottage" ~ Dimensions ~ The Gold Collection Petites
Designer: Barbara Mock
Fabric: 18 count ivory Aida
Thread: cotton embroidery floss (DMC?)
Dimensions: 7" x 5"

It's finally done... or is it? The chart calls for a ropey-looking border to the oval worked with gold blending filament, as well as some more decorative elements done in gold on the flowers in the corners. I heartily dislike both blending filament and metallic thread. Gold always seems tacky to me. I'm not sure what to do -- I'm tempted just to leave it as is. I'm going to put it away without framing it and ponder it for a while.

I started this in 2000, and I never enjoyed working on it very much. I think the end product looks nice, but it was not fun to stitch. Here's why:

~ I don't like filling every last inch with stitches. I need more blank space for contrast.

~ I also dislike half cross stitches, which are all over the place here. They are difficult to count, and I don't like the look.

If anyone has opinions on what to do with the oval border and corner details, let me know!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Booga Bag #1, as of yet unfelted

Here's the earth-toned Booga Bag waiting to take a hot bath with Booga Bag #2.

On the knitting needles

A Booga Bag made of Noro Kureyon! The end is in sight on this one. Noro can be hard on the hands, and the wool is hot and itchy in the summertime, so I'll be glad to finish it off and felt it. It will be joined in the washing machine by another Noro Booga Bag in a different, earthy green/brown/turquoise colorway.

Here's a sweet little yellow baby blanket that I have been working on lately. I'm using #7 needles and Bernat Cottontots, a lovely all-cotton worsted weight yarn that just happens to be quite inexpensive! I've been trying to become more "green" lately, and I am disappointed to learn about just how many pesticides are used in growing cotton. I love this yarn, but a more environmentally friendly option would be Blue Sky organic cotton.

The pattern has great texture, and it's very easy to remember. I adapted it from the free pattern for "Tender Wraps III" from Kraemer Yarn Shop's old website. I'm not sure that it's available anymore, since their new website is now up and running at

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mini Summer Alphabet Sampler

Another quick project! I still need to add a little birdhouse charm in between the X and the Y. I have been a bit hesitant about it. I'm not really one for either charms or beading, but the charm was included in the kit, so I'll probably sew it on after I press the project in preparation for framing.

This was one of my first experiences using overdyed embroidery floss. I have mixed feelings. I hadn't realized that it's best to do each stitch individually with this type of floss. I usually do the Danish method of zipping all the way across rows and coming back. I like how the stitches look when I do that, and I think that my thread tension is more consistent.

In retrospect I realize that I used overdyed embroidery floss on a couple small projects that I stitched about 15 years ago. I don't think that the floss colors varied as widely in that case, though.

Kit: Summer Alphabet, by Heart in Hand
Fabric: evenweave linen
Floss: Weeks Dye Works and Gentle Art Sampler Threads

I bought this at Everything Cross-Stitch in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I happened upon this store with a good friend who's also a stitcher, and we spent a WONDERFUL couple hours browsing in there. I don't have many friends who stitch, so it was a real treat to have some companionship.

I bought this little project right before embarking on an intense, 3-week long teaching stint. It was very relaxing to work on it after a long day when the teenagers were driving me nuts. I usually teach Latin and Greek to college students, so I'm not as used to high school students and the chaperoning/disciplining aspects of education. It was a good experience, though, and the kids were bright and very excited to be learning more Latin.

Cross-Stitch Sampler

I really enjoyed working on this easy little sampler from Little House Needleworks. It went very quickly, and there was no backstitching to do at the end! I don't mind backstitching, but it's nice to just be done with a project when you have finished the cross-stitching once in a while. Start to finish, this sampler took about a week. Nearly instant gratification!

I bought the chart from a great little shop in Fredericksburg, Virginia: Everything Cross-Stitch. Naive little me -- I hadn't even realized that stores existed that were devoted entirely to cross-stitch. I usually buy my floss and fabric at craft superstores. Sometimes I even buy kits or charts there. The horror!

Chart: ABC 123, from Little House Needleworks
Fabric: Charles Craft 14-count Aida in natural
Floss: DMC cotton floss

I substituted Aida for the 28-count linen evenweave fabric. I'm pretty happy with that choice, even though the linen would have given the sampler a more antique feel. I also changed the house color from cream to a deep terra cotta, the same as the flowers/berries(?) in the vines below. I'm going to give this to my mother. The colors go perfectly with both her dining room and living room decor, and she always appreciates a handmade gift. She rotates samplers and projects in and out with the seasons.

I might make this again, substituting navy for the black and adding in a bit more red. I would probably use Kreinik Silk mori thread and linen fabric. It would be a great gift for my auntie-in-law.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Harry Potter Quiz

The results are in, and they're not surprising.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ah... to be a cat

Capricha cat was lolling around in luxurious laziness on the bed when I began the blanket and sweater photo shoot, but that didn't last for long. She of course got up and took great interest in all the knitted items.

Baby sweater in the works

Baby Sweater #1

This was my first non-blanket/non-scarf kniting project, and it is turning out pretty darn well. I finished knitting it months ago, but I need to wash it, block it, and seam it up before sending it off to a very darling little baby girl. I have been putting off the finishing process because it is so darn HOT, and I know it won't get any wear until later in the year.

Pattern: "Master of her own domain" from The Yarn Girls' Guide to Kid Knits
Yarn: Schaefer Yarns, Elaine, 99% wool, 1% nylon, 1 ball
Size: 1 year
Needle Size: 11

This yarn is great but expensive. It is easy to knit even though it is a thick and thin yarn, and the colorway is gorgeous. The combination of the yarn and the easy garter-stitch pattern made for a very forgiving project.

Basketweave baby blanket bound for Colorado

When I heard that my friend Carolyn who lives out in Colorado was pregnant, I knit this little green baby blanket. Carolyn's a little bit of a hippie -- she drives a hybrid car and loves daisies and tree nymphs, so I think that she will appreciate something handknit in green.

It's a basic basketweave pattern with seed stitch edging.

Yarn: Plymouth Encore, worsted weight, 75% acrylic/25% wool, 3 skeins
Needles: Clover bamboo circular, 8

It was a fairly quick knit. I could work on it while watching my Gilmore Girls DVDs! I would use this "pattern" again, but I would switch yarns. Maybe Blue Sky organic cotton? Or 2 strands of Bernat Cottontots held together, knit with bigger needles?

Plymouth Encore felt OK when I was knitting, but it feels a little plastic-y after washing. I think I'll try washing it in lavender Eucalan before I send it off in the mail.