Cast On, Maties!

Swing Swing was completed, I was tired of the second sock I’ve been working on,  and…you know what happened.  I cast on the Ladies Jacquard Sweater Vest from Knit Picks.   I have had the pattern and yarn on hand for several months, waiting for opportunity and sufficient boldness to begin.   The yarn I’m using is Palette (it’s fingering weight) in Celadon Heather and Bark. 

Let me say that the instructions are clear and there is bonus information from the designer available on the Knit Picks web site.  However, the chart was small and faint (to this old knitter’s eyes).  Here’s today’s knitting technology tip:  I took my charts to Office Depot’s copy center.  They enlarged them and darkened them for me.  The clerk even gave me the intermediate color copies, in case I ever needed them enlarged again.  Sweet! I just looked in my copy bag, and found a receipt for $3.36, including tax.  It is worth every penny, in my opinion.

On those few occasions in the past when I have knit color work, I wove all the floats in, using the Philosopher’s Wool technique.  This pattern specifies not weaving in the floats, twisting only on runs greater than 11 stitches.  On the needle it looks all “loopy”, and makes me a bit twitchy.  I find myself stretching out sections, to verify I am doing the right thing.  (I know I am.)

The only problem with the Jacquard Sweater Vest is that I lost my place if I listened to my audio books.  I have two books checked out that I had to wait in line for;  listening must happen.  Therefore, I cast on another sweater.  (Hey, knitting logic works for me!)

When the Spring/summer 2009 edition of debbie bliss knitting magazine hit the book store I saw an add for Jennifer by designer Jenny Watson.  It’s in the Araucania Collection, Book 1.  Both DH and I loved the picture.   I didn’t find it then, but never forgot that marvelous cabled sweater that played well with kettle-dyed yarn.

Then last week I was called to bring some keys to Baton Rouge for DH.  As long as I was in town, I decided to drop by Knits by Nana.  I was puttering around the book room/sale yarn room, when Missy asked if I needed help.  Spotting that same debbie bliss magazine, I showed her the ad and asked if she carried that pattern.  Why, yes she did.  In fact, she was knitting that very sweater herself.  It was fate…DH had caused me to drive to Baton Rouge, and he is, after all, my official Patron of the Knitting Arts.  Show me the Araucania!

Here’s where it got complicated.  The colorways Missy had were more variegated than tone-on-tone.  There was a blue/green colorway I could have enjoyed, but Missy fessed up she had been knitting with that one.  One sweater front came out green, one blue.  Oopsie!  I went hunting for yarn equivalents, and found Manos del Uruguay Wool Clasica in color 19, Dove.  It is pale grey with green and blush overtones.  Love! 

I have completed the back and begun the left front. This is one sweater that will look much better after blocking.  I know other knitters will understand that this is its “ugly duckling” stage.

Yes, I can knit this and listen to my books.  I have just finished Summer on Blossom Street, book 5 in the series by Debbie Macomber.  It was the usual Blossom Street book delightful character development, good knitting.

Now I am listening to The Cemetery Yew, book 3 in the Martha’s Vineyard Series by Cynthia Riggs.  I began this series when I discovered the eMedia service from my library this summer.  The hardest part is when I have finished one, and must wait my turn for the following book.  The Martha’s Vineyard Series is that perfect marriage of good writing and good narrator.

A Special Nurse

I want to tell you about one of my classmates, Sadie Gobert.  Sadie went to LPN school in the 1960’s, and worked for Our Lady of the Lake hospital in Baton Rouge from her graduation.  After all those years she was encouraged to go on and get her RN, and became one of my classmates in 1986.

Sadie by then had been the one to orient many new RNs to their job.  She was that rare nurse (even for an RN) that could call a doctor in the middle of the night and say “I can’t give you any specific measurement that is out of whack, but I strongly feel that your patient is in trouble” and the doctor would come right over.

We used to laugh in school that everybody at “the Lake”  knew Sadie.  As we walked the halls to lunch, passing nurses would wave “Hi, Sadie!”.  Doctors would greet her, “Morning, Sadie.”   Patients being wheeled to hyperbarics would wave and call “S-a-a-a-d-i-e!” .

Sadie and I graduated from high school the same year (different states).  Together with four other older students, all of us with teenagers of our own, we formed a study group.  We were a mixed lot:  3 LPNs, I a paramedic, one a high school graduate, and one had a GED after dropping out as a freshman in high school. Because Sadie lived closest to the hospital we often went to her house to study.  We told our classmates we’d gone to “Sadie’s Bar & Grill”.  Our teachers were scandalized!   All six of us graduated as honor students, in the top 10 of our class.  There was quite a work ethic in that group!

Sadie was our model for nursing pratice.  I’m talking about the art of nursing, the things they can tell you about in books, but you have to grow into.  I can’t imagine someone I’d rather have at my bedside giving care.

All this is in fond memory.  I received an email this week telling me that Sadie had died in September, 2008.  She was the first of our class to die.    So many miss her.  God bless her soul.

A Tree Quest

Seven years ago this month I took Amtrack’s Sunset Limited train from New Orleans to Los Angeles for the birth of our granddaughter, Maggie Rose.  As the train pulled in to LA I saw several beautiful lavender flowering trees.  What were they?  Certainly not Crepe Myrtles – those grow here, and I know them well.  This (new to me) tree was the dimensions of a young oak or maple – full girth and height.

As we waited for Maggie’s birth, DD and DSIL showed me the attractions of LA, including the la Brea tar pits.  There, at the edge of the parking lot, was a whole row of lavender flowering trees.  DSIL is an MIT-educated rocket scientist.  Identification of west coast flora is not his specialty.  DD grew up, well, most places except the west coast.  She’d not seen them before, either.

Fast forward to our Disney World vacation this month.  As we entered Epcot, I spied two rows of lavender flowering tree framing Spaceship Earth (the big silver ball).  That’s the tree!  That’s the tree I saw on Maggie’s birth trip!  I asked the ticket takers “What’s the name of that tree?”  They admired it with me, but didn’t know.

We asked the guest relations cast member who was passing out schedules near the entrance.  He didn’t know, admired the tree with me, and directed me to a gardening pavilion.  Wonderful!  Terrible – it was only open on weekends.  Boo!

Those of you who know the determination of this knitter know the quest didn’t end there.  After all, the Annual International Garden Show at Epcot was in progress:  someone must know!  We inquired at the master gardener’s kiosk near the dancing fountain.  The lady staffing it was nice, admired the trees with me (by now, I was showing people close-up photos on my digital camera), and said she didn’t know.  le sigh!  But, if we could come back before they closed at 5 pm, she would find someone who knew.  Alas, it got busy, and we were a long walk away from the kiosk at 5 pm.

The next day we returned to Epcot I was determined to try again.  We found a different lady staffing the master gardener’s kiosk.  Picture shown, admired, not recognized…you know the drill.  Yet, as we were exchanging regrets, another lady arrived.  She was a horticulturalist from one of the Florida Universities, and she knew right away the tree I’d been seeking.  “It’s a Jacaranda, the Mimosa variety.”

Yippee!  I had visions of lavender flowers on my lakeshore.  Alas, we live about a zone and a half too far North for the Jacaranda.  At least my quest had been successful.

The Knitter’s Souvenirs

Many knitters enjoy discovering a treasure in a yarn shop as a remembrance of their vacation.   In the days before a LYS in Baton Rouge, I traveled with a yarn list so that I could purchase a year’s worth of knitting.  But what’s a knitter to buy in a place like Walt Disney World?  Never fear, gentle reader:  there are knitter’s souvenirs to be found!

Elizabeth Zimmermann named her Tomten Jacket for “the small Swedish elf who specializes in good deeds”.  I was in the Norway pavilion of Epcot, drooling onshopping for, looking at Dale of Norway sweaters, when I spotted this fellow. It was his red sweater and cap that got my attention, actually.  His hang tag said he is a Farm Nisse, a “small humanlike creature, which lives on farms in Norway.  He is not exactly an elf or dwarf.  He is simply a Farm Nisse.  He dwells mainly in barns, stables and stalls, but he also inhabits lofts and attics – so long as they are not too tidy.”  (Oh, he would be right at home in my studio!)  “The Farm Nisse is kind and helpful.  He takes care of people and animals all year round.  It is very important to be on good terms with the Farm Nisse, otherwise strange incidents can occur on the farm.  It is wise to remember the Nisse during Christmas and to put out a bowl of porridge for him.”    (Porridge, eh?  Some things just won’t translate well to Louisiana, I can see.)

Well, this Nisse must be the Norwegian cousin of Elizabeth’s Tomtem.  Clearly he needed to come home to my studio, and here he is, proudly residing on the shelves my Grandfather Z.  built. 

There was another knitter’s souvenir to be found in the United Kingdom pavilion.  This tote, a generous 12″ x 16″, is made of heavy-duty vinyl (shiny!), and lined with a silky fabric, complete with zippered pocket and magnetic bag closure. Its tag says it was inspired by “the famous paintings of Thomas Joseph, who lives in Carrickfergus on the shores of Belfast Lough.  Thomas loves to paint silly sheep and landscapes”.  Why, yes he does.  I love the red sheep print, too.  It is clearly a knitter’s bag.

Knitting Update

I am pleased to announce a finished object.  Swing Swing, knit in Blue Lapis Valley Yarns Colrain was finished Tuesday night during the Dancing with the Stars finale.

As you may recall, I was concerned that I would have sufficient yarn.  I had stopped short on the bottom of the sweater, and put the yarn skein in a baggie, which I pinned to the sweater.  Each sleeve took a skein and a half, which seemed to be on schedule.  However, the pattern required me to step out on faith, block it, sew up the facings, then pick up the collar stitches.  There was nothing for it but to go ahead and knit the sweater hem to a decent completion.

All was well.  I still have between half and a third of a skein, and the blocking was a dream.  The swing panels coaxed out to their full glory without protest.

DH had given me a blue beaded shawl pin (based on a kilt pin style) several years ago.  It is such a perfect closure for the neckline of Swing Swing that it will simply live on the sweater.  Happy, happy! 

No,  really I’m happy.  The scowl is just the sun in my eyes.  Sorry about that.

My current recorded book is Knitting, by Anne Bartlett.  Here is the summary from my public library’s listing:

“It’s been ten months since Jack died, and Sandra, a tightly wound academic, copes with her grief by immersing herself in the history of textiles. When she and Martha, a gifted knitter, meet over an unconscious body on the footpath, the unlikely threads of their lives tangle into each other. Sandra invites Martha to join her in a professional collaboration, but what begins as a working relationship becomes something deeply personal. Martha seems at ease with herself, in spite of her own experience of grief. But what does she carry around in those three large bags?”

This book is certainly darker than Blossom Street or even the Friday Night Knitting Club takes on a knitting novel.  Yet I have been unable to walk away from listening to this one while I knit.

My public library subscribes to the OverDrive Media program, and it has been a joy to both work with and listen to.  Check out your library listings – they may have an eMedia program, too.

Disney Magic

Our vacation coincided with the annual International Flower Show at Epcot.  Today I’ll be sharing a lot of photos with you, because it was so lovely.

On Mother’s Day each lady was given a carnation as she entered the park.  Here I am beside the topiaries of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

DH has fondly been “Doc” ever since he completed his PhD.  Here’s Doc with the others. 

A sentimental favorite for us was Lady and the Tramp, in the Italy pavilion.  In fact, as we rode around on the Segway tour, we kept finding more favorites and saying “Oh, we have to come back and get a picture of that one”. 

Captain Hook and the crocodile have these two little boys enthralled at the green playground exhibit.

Bambi, Flower, and Thumper were in a meadow at the Canada pavillion.

DH said “It makes you think of the Rose Parade with its use of plant material, doesn’t it?”  Disney not only achieved beautiful topiaries, but surrounded them with appropriate flowers. There were enough topiary scenes to equal a Rose Parade.  I’ve just chosen a few favorites to share today.

Just when you thought you had seen the best part, they wowed you with floating gardens and amazing banks of color.

There were many exhibits, such as that green playground, complete with master gardeners to advise you.  Some people actually planned their vacation to be able to take advantage of the flower show; we were but lucky by-standers.

What I did on my summer vacation

Didn’t you just hate that writing assignment in grade school, when you really had done nothing special?  This summer, I can write a doozy! We have just returned from Walt Disney World in Orlando, and as they are fond of saying, we had a “magical time”.

The Segway tour of Epcot was a lifetime highlight.  That’s saying something, as this was our eighth trip to WDW.  We started out with an hour of training, going around in little circles, doing tight slalom turns around cones, and riding up and down ramps, stopping on command mid-ramp.  When our tour guides were satisfied that we could be taken out in public, we headed for the countries of Epcot. 

The tour was first thing in the morning when the countries aren’t open to the public, so our tour guides were able to set up riding challenges for us.  We rode slalom around the columns in the Italy pavilion, through all the turns of the garden in the Japan pavilion, and through the narrow gate and all the market place in the Morocco pavilion.  I now can identify with skateboarders who look for challenges in public structures.  What a hoot!

DH and I only wished we could have had the Segways for a whole day.  They could have asked an exorbitant fee, and at that point we would have paid it!  As we trudged around Epcot in the rest of the trip, we kept saying “I rode there!”

Tomorrow I’ll share some of the fabulous things we saw at their International Flower Show.

p.s. I’m wearing my Blue Dog Cafe shirt in the picture.  I wish you could see the back – it says ” Sit.  Stay.  Eat.”

White and Fluffy Sunday

It was a white and fluffy Sunday.  The appointed Gospel for this week is the “I am the Good Shepherd” verse, with the accompanying Psalm being, of course, Psalm 23.  I couldn’t help thinking of my internet friends who were off on junket to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

There was good news in the announcements, too.  Emmanuel, the baby born 9 weeks early at only 2 pounds, now weighs 5 pounds +.  He’ll be coming home this week!  May I say, Yippee!  Remember the blanket I knit for him? I knew his weight was over 4 pounds last week, so I brought the gift to his parents Sunday.  I’m so glad I didn’t wait until after our trip to present it…perhaps he can come home from the hospital wrapped in it.  (Yes, I know it’s in the high 80’s, but Louisiana is all about air conditioning, and it’s COLD inside.)

When we got home from church, DH suggested a walk down the drive to enjoy the magnolia blossoms.  I dearly love getting the mail in magnolia season.  The prevailing winds blow the scent away from the house, but as you walk between the magnolias it wafts toward you, ambushing you with its perfume.

The blossoms are the largest these trees have produced.  I asked DH to put his hands in the picture to show the scale. 

Even the buds are the size of a baseball!  The rains came at just the right time this year, I believe. 

The rest of the day was spent on…wait for it…knitting, of course.  I have now finished 3 1/2 pairs of footies, and have less than an inch before I begin shaping the toe of the remaining footie.  Wednesday is our Disney trip (bouncing up and down)!  I’ll make the deadline with for the  socks.

I’m spending my knitting time considering what to pack.  I most certainly don’t want to get stuck somewhere without sufficient knitting!  Think of those poor people quarantined in a hotel in Asia because one traveler became ill!

Knitting at home

The knitting lists buzz about World Wide Knit in Public Day events (June 13 and 14).  Normally, that’s “me all over”.   In fact, a friend once gave me a tapestry pillow with the legend “If I’m sitting, I’m knitting”.

This weekend – not so much.  My plan involves hunkering down at home and knitting.    It’s all Walt Disney’s fault!  Next week we are scheduled to go to Disney World for a glorious vacation.  To that end, I have finished two and a half pair of footies, with another half footie on the needles.  Three pairs will be the minimum (with hand washing each night) and four would be better.  Have you noticed that no big event in a knitter’s life comes without knitting deadline urgencies?  Christmas, birthdays, babies, Disney…it’s all the same pressure!

Why so anti-social?  It would be just my luck to catch the flu just in time to miss this long-awaited trip.  I’ll go to St. Patrick’s Sunday morning, but otherwise I’ll be here.  Knitting.