Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nature Stories

Homo Sapien cub = cute

Tanzanian Leopard cub = cute

Homo Sapien/Leopard hybrid cub = omg cute

Pattern:  Teddy All-In-One from Debbie Bliss Nursery Knits  Ravelry Pattern Link

Ravelry Project Link  I made the 6 month old size, however, it is being worn by a 4 month old cub and it looks like one of us got our sizes wrong.

I blame the baby.

Okay, okay, I give up.  Since it is impossible to measure gauge on garter stitch, it just might be my fault.  Happy now, kid?

Like many predators, when cornered, the homo sapien/leopard hybrid will stretch to its fullest extent to appear bigger than it is and fool the prey into submission, like so:
Tricksy tricksy!
If that fails, it will snarl and bare its teeth in a further act of intimidation:
Assuming, of course, it has any teeth to bare...

Otherwise, it will just smile and look adorable to evoke in its prey the desire to pick it up, cuddle it, and take it home to rear as its own young.  This is perhaps its most impressive power and few humans can resist it.

Congratulations, Ian and Marta!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Titletown Buzz

In case you missed the news (or live in a cave), the Pack is on the move!  Last weekend they earned their 13th NFC Championship title (hence the reason Green Bay calls itself "Titletown") and everyone here is packing their bags, the rich literally, the rest figuratively, for the Super Bowl in Dallas on February 6.

Now I'm a native New Yorker.  To the outsider, NY is a sports Noah's ark, with 2 of everything;  Mets and Yankees, Rangers and Islanders, Jets and Giants (and Bills but they don't count since they are an 8 hour drive from the rest), Knicks and Nets.   However, NYC has a population of around 7 million people.  Assuming for the sake of meaningless math that each New Yorker is only interested in one sport and one sport team (Let's Go Mets!), that comes to 875,000 people per team.

The population of Green Bay City (as of the 2000 census) was 96,000.  Brown County is 150,000.  Even if you go as far as the Fox Valley and Pulaski, you'd be lucky to break a quarter mil.  This is the home of the team that, until a few years ago, had won the most conference championships of any team in football history.  Are the people here proud of their Pack?  Oh yeah.  For a large percentage of the population, the Packers rank somewhere between an obsession and a religion.   

And to people here, the Packers aren't a business or even just a team, it is personal.  The players and managment live here, eat at the local restaurants, go to the movies here.  They visit hospitals and homeless shelters without the press.  When Brett Favre went to the Vikings, people didn't say he made an unusual career move or a poor choice, but rather he betrayed them (personally and as a group).  In local real estate parlance, houses don't have "dens" or "family rooms" in the basements, they have "Packer Party Rooms" and most of them are green and gold.  Anyone over the age of 12 can tell you in detail about the Packers' 1998 Super Bowl win and the celebration and parade that followed.

I moved here in April 1998, just after the Super Bowl win.  The energy in this city was incredible.  In June, my Mom and nephew came to help me move into my house.  We quickly noticed that where ever we went, Attilio was the only male not wearing a Packer shirt, sweatshirt, or hat, and we were in the minority of unPacker-accessoried women as well.  Attilio finally allowed us to buy him a tee with a picture of the Tazmanian Devil wearing a Packer uniform because we were afraid there would be a scene like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where everyone would stop, turn, and point to us.  

As the years have passed without another win, that energy has faded to a dull simmer.  But now it is back in force.  To help you understand, I have the following shots of the local paper, the Green Bay Press Gazette from Monday, January 24.

This is the first and last page of the main section:

 That is BJ Raji, the 337lb Nose Tackle (who knew we had one of those!) who intercepted one of Chicago's passes and scored us a touchdown.  According to the announcer, people who play his position maybe have 1 or 2 opportunities in their entire career to score a touchdown but that they all have a dance they practice just in case. Raji scored one in his second year of play in the Championship game.  He was happy.  So were the fans.  He danced well.

This is the second first and last page of the paper:

Another page chosen at random (page 8 and 9):

See a pattern?  On page 10, we finally find out who the other team was, in a few graciously written articles that praise the other team's defense and defend the other team's beleaguered quarterback (who left the game for a knee injury but climbed the stairs to a restaurant after the game without any trace of a limp):

And if you are persistent enough to read on to page 14 of 18 you may be surprised to discover there was another football game that day!  Who knew?

It's times like this I really love Green Bay!

In Knitting News

Since this is a knitting blog, I thought I'd better throw some knitting in as well.  The Steelers fan group on Ravelry has challenged the Green Bay Packers fan group to see who can make more items in their team colors to donate to local charities.  Good job, knitters!  Monterey Yarn has generously volunteered to be a collection and distribution point, so let's see if we can overwhelm Kathy, Julie, and Carrie with our contributions!  As soon as I finish the test mitten I am making (I'm on the thumb), I will be starting some green and gold kids mittens for the charity event.  The official Packer items are so expensive.  Some needy kids will be so thrilled to get mittens and hats in Pack colors!

On my needles:  Cindy's mara looks pretty much like it did last post.  However, I finished the hand on my test mitten and just started on the thumb.  The deadline is tomorrow and I should be able to make it, although it is not a problem if I need to ask for an extension, I just want to finish. 

On my Nook:  Finished "Jane Eyre" this morning.  I know it is sappy, but I do love that book.  Next up is a bunch of little stuff, stories and novellas that I want to clear out of the way before I start something meaty.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In the Bleak Midwinter

Winter is only one month old, and it has been a cold long winter.  This morning, again, I stepped outside and my breath immediately froze in my nostrils and I just wanted to go back to bed and not get out again.

Don't get me wrong, I actually like winter; crisp dry air, the crunch of the snow underfoot, the precious winter sunshine.  And as winters go, this one has been pretty middle-of-the-road, neither too much nor too little snow, a week of above average temperatures followed by a week of below, not too windy.  So I'm not really sure why I've been feeling so down in the dumps, but I am.  Heavy, lethargic, sad, stressed, tired.  Not usually adjectives I use to describe myself, but there they are.

I'm not sure what to do to break this mood, besides wait it out, but I wondered WWYHD? (what would the yarn harlot do?)  and realized I knew the answer to that, she'd look at pretty yarn.  So here is a gratuitious pretty yarn picture.  Better, right?

There have been little pleasures to break up the bleakness.  Thursday morning I spent about an hour knitting at the Wildlife Sanctuary watching 2 bald eagles circling over the lagoon while snow flurries gently swirled around.  But the -8 air temperature kept me firmly planted in the car, when I would like to have walked down to the dock for a closer look.

Mom and I went to a wonderful concert on Friday night, an acapella choral group called Seraphic Fire.  They sang an amazing assortment, from medieval byzantian pieces (right up my alley) to modern compilations of traditional spirituals, such as "In the Sweet By And By".  I frequently forgot that it was acapella; the human voice is as powerful an instrument as any brass or woodwind.  Quite beautiful and uplifting; the music fed a part of me that has been hungry for a while, but is quiet and easily ignored.

As a knitter, this weather is presenting a lovely opportunity to show off my favorite creations.  Friday night's concert saw me clad in:

 my cashmere & silk Swan Lake Wimple Ravelry Link,

my Time Turner Shawl:

and my favorite sock yarn mittens.

Today in Rainy's Life:
 On the needles:

Cindy's mara continues on apace.  It is taking much longer now, with 500 stitches to the row.  Triangular shawls are like that, such great progress initially when there are so few stitches per row, then creaking, lumberous progress as you near the end and the current row is 100x the length of the first row.

It is now about 16" along the spine. Another 2.5 inches of ruffle and then it will be ready for blocking.

Also on the needles are a pair of fair isle test mittens, that I will be blogging about when the test is complete.

On the Nook:  Jane Eyre, one of my very favorites.  One does want to smack Mr. Rochester at times, but the dialog is so good.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hugs for Cindy

Recently, our neighbor and friend, Cindy, lost her 31 year old son very suddenly and unexpectedly from illness.  We only knew him casually, but attended his memorial service out of respect and support for his Mom and family.  His family was understandably devastated, and when we heard story after story of how active he was in the community and the impact he made in people's lives, my sense of loss continued to grow. 

That night and the next day after the service, I couldn't stop thinking about poor Cindy.  I wanted to do something but couldn't imagine what I could do to help her.  More than anything, what I thought she needed was to be hugged and held. 

Then I remembered the wonderful tradition of the Comfort or Prayer Shawl and realized that, as a knitter, I did have something special to offer.  The idea is to create a special item for someone who is ill or suffering in any way.  Janet Bristow, one of the two founders of Prayer Shawl Ministries in 1998, describes it this way on their website: 
They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace,
mother, hug, shelter and beautify.
Those who have received these shawls have been 
uplifted and affirmed, as if given wings to 
fly above their troubles..."
This helps tangibly by giving the recipient a warm, soft shawl to wrap around themselves, but more than that, the knitter knits into the shawl the love and support and blessings they are feeling for the recipient. 

This felt exactly right to me.  I spent some time searching shawl patterns and was waiting at Monterey Yarn when they opened on Thursday morning. 

The pattern I had selected was mara , a free pattern from Madelintosh.  It is a simple triangular shawl with a garter stitch body and ruffled border.  The garter stitch body seemed to add the right amount of weight and grip to feel like a hug and the border was pretty without feeling frivolous.  The only problem, for me, was the triangular shape, which can provide too much drag with all that weight in the back.  I wanted the shawl to sit up a little higher on the shoulders, so decided on an easy modification.  By doing a k2, yo border at either end of each row, instead of every other row as written, V will open up to be longer and less deep and provide longer "arms" to wrap around the opposite shoulder.

The amazing Kathy at Monterey Yarn and I spent quite a bit of time finding the perfect yarn.  More than any other project I had made to date, I really felt I had to get the color exactly right.  Many beautiful options were discarded because they seemed too "jarring" or "raw" or "angry" or "somber" or "watery" or any of a dozen other adjectives that I had never used on wool before.  We chose a lovely, soft Cascade 220 heathers merino wool in gold that we thought be grounding and soothing for Cindy.

I can't begin to tell you how good it feels to be doing something, and not just any "something", but something that feels like I am really using my specific gifts to tangibly help a very nice person in great distress.   I expressed this to Kathy, and do you know what she did?  She donated the yarn for the project, saying that she wanted me to do this too and that this was her gift and her way of doing something good.  I said she was amazing, didn't I? 

What a powerful thing is love.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Hi!  My name is Rainy and I'm addicted to test knitting.

It started innocently enough, it was May, 2010, and I had just joined Ravelry,  an amazing social networking site for knitters. I was totally overwhelmed by the 167,487 knitting patterns available there (over 59,000 of them FREE) and had no idea where to start.  Then I saw the Free Test Knitters group.  It is a place where designers can post a new pattern and ask for volunteers to test knit it.  Patterns would randomly appear, meh ones, gorgeous ones.  Would I like to knit that?  Should I say yes or keep waiting to see what would come next? 

Test knitting had several advantages: 

First, instead of being asked to choose between thousand of potential project, I only had a small number of them available at any given time.  And I  had only 2 choices:  yes or no, no adding it to favorites or deciding which position it should be in in the queue of planned projects. 

Second, the test knit provides a deadline with a built in sense of urgency.  This means that if I agree to knit a cowl in two weeks, I will.  No sitting on the needles for months making me feel guilty (pipe down, Bob's sweater, I said I'd finish you by the time the snow flies but I did NOT specify in which hemisphere or year), no agonizing over yarn choices, and no modifying, just knitting.

Third, I love the idea of trying something new and the idea of making something better.  I hate when I find errors in patterns or typos or awkward instructions, and this allowed me to help a designer avoid all three.  It also meant that I could be free to try something new, because the designer was asking me to help improve the clarity of the pattern instructions, it was actually an advantage for them to have me doing it for the first time.

My first test was an afghan, my first, which I completed in a shocking 12 days.  Twelve days?  Twelve months is more typical for any other project I've done!  That was it, I was hooked. 

Project: Sastrugi Ravelry Project Link  Pattern by Elizabeth Elliot  Sastrugi Pattern Ravelry Link

I started haunting the forum, logging in several times a day in the hope of seeing a little gold star that would indicate a new possible "hit".  And each test brought with it new techniques and new challenges that just increased the adrenaline high.  First afghan, first lace shawl (Time Turner Shawl Link), first complicated sock (Unicurve Sock Link), first magic loop, first time doing a whole bunch of different cable patterns (Braided Cables Cowl Link), almost first (okay, second) colorwork... then first time convincing a designer to design an accessory product to match her original test (Beware of Dragons Link), where would it end?

By Fall, I was out of control.  I had some natural limits on my addiction: I had to be able to afford the yarn requirements and time demands.  That eliminated several lovely sweaters that tempted me, but still left lots of small project choices. 

I started bargaining with myself: I can only do a test that can be used as a Christmas gift.  This worked ... almost.  How did you all like your cowls? 

Pattern:  cabled calescent  in Misti Alpaca chunky for Bob and Joseph

Nice, huh!  Yeah, thank the designers who decided that quick cowls made great November and December tests...

Finally, just as 2011 was starting, I surrendered completely, and signed up for the most complicated thing I had yet attempted, fair isle mittens on teeny tiny little toothpicks.  True works of art. 

Pattern: fair-isle-fox-mitten Link

Thousands of minute stitches all made while attempting to maintain correct, even tension on two different strands of yarn.  Oh yeah.  For the first time in my life, I understand the endorphine high that marathon runners describe.

Right now, the test is on hold while the designer addresses some potential issues we noticed, but it is still there and gorgeous and just the thought of it feeds the addiction.

And how am I passing my time in the meanwhile?  Say "Hi!"  to my first finished test of 2011, knit in three days while the fair isle mittens were on hold.

C2C Fingerless Mitts by Kendra Hope  knit on Cascade 220 Heathers

I'm sorry, did you just say that you want to assign me a sponsor to help me overcome my addiction?  Oops, I must be in the wrong room.  I'm going to leave now, but I'm heading over to the yarn shop, if anyone wants to come with ;D