Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Operation "Mama Needs A New Pair of Radiator Hoses"

So, today I was driving to my normal Wednesday hot-spot, the 59 Diner on Katy Freeway, and my "check engine" light came on.  Sure enough, I had sprung a leak.  Coolant was falling into the holding tank and evaporating, so when I was virtually out of coolant, my engine started to overheat.  I went to visit my friends Macon and Jose, the two managers at My Mechanic Green Trails.


They said in unison, "Hi, Amy!"  They remembered my name from the first time I patronized their business.  It's like they used to work for Nordstrom or something.

I told them my issue, they agreed to diagnose and treat my sick car, and I went on my merry way to just wait for their phone call.  When I received it, I did the math and deduced I would not get my car back until probably four in the afternoon, and it wasn't even nine in the morning yet.  This calls for a friend intervention.  I called Kathleen.

After she picked me up, we went back to her house and then to Yarntopia, where she was working for a few hours and I was just going to fondle yarn and gossip with her.  When I finally got the call that my car was ready, I had a different demeanor when I was signing my receipt for the parts and labor.

Excuse $826.11 receipt for parts and labor.

Understand, this is why I buy cheap cars.  If I had a forty-thousand dollar car and knew that I would be spending a grand every six months on upkeep at ninety thousand miles, it makes more sense to just save the money on the initial purchase and pay for the same inevitable work with the savings.  But man, I did not need that bill right now.

The good news is that I finished both the prayer shawl and the one-ball wonder, the Noro headband I wrote about last post.  The even better news is that I weighed what I had left from the ball of Noro, and I used less than half of it.  I can make another one!

So friends, I ask you to do me a favor:  forward this link (for the blog) to all of your friends on facebook and twitter and whatever other mailing and distribution list you have.  Then, make sure they click on both the post, and this link:

After that, be sure they forward this link to both the blog post and the article to THEIR friends and family.  Then, make sure that if they want one of my knitting patterns found at, they PayPal me right away and I will send them the pattern as soon as I get the confirmation.

BECAUSE MAMA NEEDS A NEW PAIR OF RADIATOR HOSES!  And Mastercard and I are having a huge fight at the moment...

(pictures of the two new items to come in the next couple of days)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Puzzle Associated With Knitting On Airplanes

So, last Friday, I had to fly to Atlanta for a day-long field trip (more on THAT later...for those of you who know why, please do me the benefit of keeping the secret).  My most recent projects, as illustrated by the last post, either involve a lot of yarn or a lot of time figuring out what the heck I was doing the last time I put it down.   It's not that I couldn't have brought along the prayer-shawl with the 830-yard ball of yarn attached to it (yes, it's one ball...go ahead and picture shuttle-running a football field four times).  I just don't see a reason to be cumbersome at an airport, and again at the area where my feet go on the plane.

So I did what any nutcase-with-yarn would do:  I grabbed a one-ball wonder from my stash and tried to figure out what to do with it.

The ball I grabbed was a Noro acrylic/wool/cotton/silk blend.  The awesome thing about Noro is that it changes colors on your for no apparent reason, and it's STUNNING no matter what you make out of it.  With only one 230-meter ball, however, I was limited.  I decided a headband would be a good project.  It was time to whip out the pen and the teeny weeny notebook I use for my knitting designs.

Incidentally, Bert thinks I NEED an iPad and an iPhone.  I think I NEED neither, and I actually WANT neither, but either one would actually come handy so I didn't have bits of paper with symbols on it everywhere.  Then, of course, I would have to change my habits on note-taking, and I am not sure I can fully commit to such a radical act.

Anyway, I started with an i-cord and then just started making stuff up as I went along.

Basically, four and a half hours on two planes was enough time to not only figure out what to do, but I was also able to get two-thirds of the way through the project and realize what fun I could have writing the pattern in two different widths.

As soon as I finish both the big one and the smaller one, I'll post pictures and write up the pattern.  In the meantime, here is the article I wrote for share with others.  Thanks for reading as always!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Current Projects

Okay...this may be as bad as the "stash" issue.

Normally, I have either two projects on the needles, or maybe five or six.  There will always be something big and time-consuming, and then a smaller project that I can carry to Starbucks with me if there is no knitting group that day.

So right now, I have this little fold-up bag that I started, and the stitches are on a stitch-holder because I needed the needles I was using for another project.  Note the word "little" in the description...I can't seem to finish it, but I don't want to rip it out and make something else.  My motivation level is hovering just above zero.

Then, I have the hat I started for Diane.  I made Diane's spouse, Mary, this ridiculously awesome hat for her...umm...trip to Afghanistan (hat can be seen on The Fiber Friend fan page on facebook...feel free to "like").  I then promised Diane I would make an equally awesome hat, and it's currently about two-thirds done.  While it WILL be finished, I don't see a reason to be in a big hurry for it, for two reasons:  1) She is NOT going to Afghanistan, where it's 100 degrees during the day and forty degrees at night, and 2) She is in Chicago, where the weather is currently not hat-condusive.

My "big" project is this cute eyelet hooded jacket that I saw in a magazine, and I bought the yarn for 30% off at Yarntopia in Katy, Texas.  For those who care, it's the second one from the bottom on the left in the gallery, and I am certainly not making it in hot pink:  I have about two inches..two inches!...left to do on the back, and once I'm over the hump I'll probably fly on the thing.  But that back is a's always the largest piece and you feel like you're knitting that first piece forever.

Yarntopia is currently collecting prayer shawls for a hospital, and after looking through the house for finished projects, I realized I had already given away all of my shawls.  Time to start a new one...I have until the first week of July to complete it.  Suddenly, everything else goes on the the backburner.

The great thing about prayer shawls is that they are usually on bigger needles so they don't take as long as, say, a bedspread.  I still had to come up with a pattern, however, because I am just not disciplined when it comes to reading patterns.  Hey...maybe that's yet another reason why I can't get over the hump regarding the eyelet hoodie!

So here is what I came up with.  When I'm finished, I'll write up the completed project and post it on Ravelry as a free pattern.  Oh, and yes those are my feet holding down the circular needle, since I didn't hold it in warm water long enough to completely straighten it out:

Also, here is the stitch pattern on a yarn that's a bit easier to see.

So once I'm done with the shawl, I can go back to making one of the other three projects I have already started.  Or, I suppose I could just start another one...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Speaking of prayer shawls...

So, I started browsing my "stash" (see previous posts) for yarn that would make a good prayer shawl, because the LYS at my "weekend haunt" (which is Katy, Texas for those of you who don't know me), Yarntopia, is collecting prayer shawls for, I think, a hospital.  I don't know all of the details...all I know is that I hear "prayer shawl" and I think of all of the people who can benefit from one.

I found some old Joann Sensations boucle that feels wonderful when knitted, despite the non-animal and non-plant fiber content.  Two days ago, I whipped out the size 11 circular needle (shawls take a lot of stitches, so it's better to use a circular and just knit flat) and cast on.  I'm only about ten rows in, but I can already tell it will be perfect.  Of course, half of what makes prayer shawls perfect is the thought that goes into them.

Which got me thinking.

I'm going to do some research for my next article for this week.  When I was mentally plowing through what yarn I owned to make a cozy prayer shawl, I got to thinking about the box next to my dining room table.  This box is full of all of the half-balls of yarn I've had left over from other projects, and I usually whip them out when I need to practice a stitch or just want to put some color into something.  If I'm feeling extra-saucy, I might make a washcloth or coin purse, or eyeglass know...something teeny and not yarn-intensive.  I think I'm going to call the hospitals in Chicago and find out what their requirements are for shawl donations including fiber content and allergens, and then I was thinking of stash-busting a mismatched prayer shawl pattern for kids.  Who needs a bona fide woobie when you can be wrapped in something all yarny that someone knitted with love?

On the other hand, it may be good to have both the woobie and the shawl.

Anyway, be on the lookout for the article...I'll do the research and let all of you know what I find out.  In the meantime, if you would like to knit a prayer shawl or lap blanket for the donation in Katy, let me know and I'll send you the address to the Yarntopia (although they do have a website, blog, facebook page, etc.).  I'll get back with you as well about the kids' shawls...what a fun way to get rid of old yarn!

Goodnight, and thank you for reading about my silly ideas as always!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh, for the love of Schaefer

First and foremost, certain people just sigh over everything.  It is what it is (and in the words of infinite wisdom, uttered by my ex-boyfriend Patrick, "What else could it BE?").  Fellow yarners are often like that.  You can bring in a pile of knitted poo (figuratively, of course), and there will always be someone in the knitting group talking about how impressed he or she is with how pretty it turned out.

However, some things are just accepted without dispute.  Schaefer yarn is hand-dyed, good quality, stunning to look at and romantic to knit with.  It is expensive, but you are getting a lot of yardage on the hank, so it only hurts for a minute until you realize that one hank is enough to know...make something.  For reference, you can get an 85-yard hank of cashmere for about ten to twelve bucks.  The Schaefer "Laurel" that I purchaed (mercenized cotton...sigh) has 400 yards on the hank and costs forty dollars.  85 yards gets you a headband, one wrist warmer, a beer cozy...

So I was trying to decide what to make with this huge ball of Schaefer I purchased.  It really can't be just ANYTHING...I feel like I owe it to the Schaefer Yarn Company to make something stunning, even though "stunning" isn't exactly my middle name.  I wrote out a pattern on a chart, and thought I could just knit it at the Knitting Group last night and ask everyone's opinion.  There happened to be a knitting designer there named Anne Kuo Lukito (her website can be found at  I was being relatively quiet while she was showing off her samples for the patterns that are about to be carried at Yarntopia, not because I was being rude but more because I was yarning over and cabling and basically knitting a swatch that requires silence.  I finished the swatch, and I was about 84% happy with it.  I thought I would ask the opinions of the experts around me (and not just Anne...keep in mind there are about 550 years' worth of knitting experience in this room).

The poll was taken, and while I was still slightly on the fence, Anne asked me, "What are you making?"

"Some cabley, lacy, little-black-dress sort of a shruggy thing."  Probably not my most articulate moment, but obviously I hadn't written the pattern yet.

"Lacier," she said.  Exactly!  It's Schaefer!  The lacier, the better!

Here is my new and improved gauge on the lookout for the pattern in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New patterns!

Good morning, everyone. I have finished two patterns, and will be posting them in the next day or two on both Etsy and Ravelry. Here are two photos as a preview (I have better photos of the one Penny is wearing, but she was just too cute to post a picture without her):

I also got my first follower on Twitter!  I assume this means I will be famous before I turn 105 or so, right?  I thank you for your support, and appreciate you continuing to forward my posts and click on my articles.  Be well and be on the lookout for new stuff!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Power of Prayer Shawls article

Hey, folks.  I just wrote an article for on the power of prayer shawls...I can't share my normal, non-objective commentary too much in those articles, but here it is:

This topic holds a very dear place in my heart.  Someone once gave my father a prayer shawl as he was going through his cancer treatments, and I thought that was just about the nicest gesture ever.  When my friend Rossmid lost her baby, I wanted to do something for her but I did not know what to do.  Finally, I made her a prayer shawl out of this sweet, rose-colored yarn I thought she might like.  I was not there to give it to her in person, but I can tell you that after she received it, she saw me differently.  I felt like I was a more special friend to her somehow, and that in turn made me feel ridiculously special.

There is probably no such thing as a truly selfless act, as either someone gains something and someone loses something or both people tend to gain something, but I also don't see anything wrong with being selfless and reaping the selfish benefits of feeling good afterward.  In other words, if your motivation for doing something nice for someone is that you get something out of it, then so be it.  They do as well.

If any of you would like to learn how to knit, a prayer shawl is actually a great first project because you feel like you are knitting forever and you have the hang of the whole knitting thing when it is finished.  The shawl does not immediately have to have a recipient.  Please let me know if any of you are interested in knowing more abour prayer shawls, or learning how to make one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The stash that's not a "Stash"

Last night, after working from 5am to 8pm in a hundred-degree warehouse for three straight days, I found myself sitting up in bed and wishing my sleeping mojo was on.  See, I am one of those blessed individuals who can lie down, close my eyes, and be entering the Land of Honk and Shoe (thank you, neice Rachel) within two minutes.  Last night, I rolled over, watched the digital clock change numbers and then finally admitted defeat and turned the light back on.  Time to knit.

I first had to mentally go through my stash.  Hmm...there is the cardboard box next to the bed, the two balls of "good stuff" in the backpack, the Lion Brand Wool-Ease that I save for designing patterns on the dining room table (at least I was sure that midnight after three work-days is not really the time to design something, or so I thought), the tote of ball and skein remnants NEXT TO the dining room table, the cotton in the baby colors in the front seat of the car, the probably forty balls in the trunk of the car...

And then two things hit me:  one, I was not going to my car for yarn at midnight.  Two, my stash is not a stash.

The word stash, in my head anyway, draws the inference of maybe a bag of mismatched yarn totalling about eight or nine different balls and colorways.  My spread-out, yarn-in-every-corner-of-my-life stash has yarn from the honeymoon in Rome, the trip to Paris, sales at all three of my favorite yarn stores, one or two individual balls given to me by friends, and stuff I buy on sale so I can design queer little knitted stuff later.  My "stash" is not a stash.  It is more like a TJ Maxx for yarn.

When all was said and done and my Type A personality finished bitch-slapping the apparent hole in it...well, it might be its evil twin, Type B...I went for the Malabrigo Merino Worsted that was in my backpack.  One day, I was at Yarntopia in Katy, Texas.  The store has a promotional card with 25-dollar hole-punches on it.  After filling up your card with purchases in increments of $25, you can redeem the full card for 25% off your entire next purchase.  On this particular day, I was already buying a skein of Schaefer cotton that rings in around forty bucks per heavenly ball.  It made sense to me to bump it over fifty, so in addition to buying the Schaefer I figured it was a good idea to just buy two balls of heaven instead of one.  After I signed my Mastercard receipt, I loved up on the balls of yarn for a good ten minutes before I would put them into my backpack.

Last night, I was overwhelmed with inspiration from Italy.  Could have been the Soundtrack of the Snoring Husband, I don't know, but all I kept thinking about was the hats we saw at all of the little kiosks in the plazas there.  In addition to women never leaving their house after the Italian equivalent of Labor Day without a fashionable scarf or wrap, the winter hats sold there are all open on the top.  It turns out that they are plenty warm if you just pull them over your head like a normal hat, but they are also hair-savers for girls who want to keep their lush curls intact on the way to work.  I started making a tube hat sampler so I wouldn't go into a coma knitting stockinette stitch.  Looking back, though, the point of this endeavor was to make an effort to fall asleep. 

I finally did fall asleep, just after one.  And today, I am going to finish the stove stack hat after a few cups of coffee.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wool Is Not Knit-Friendly at 100 Degrees

So here I am, sitting on my friend Alex's couch in Chicago, and thinking about how I should really finish that scarf I started.  I want to hurry up and write the pattern so I can share it with the entire free-and-internet-reading world, however, I still have about eight inches to go and it needs a border.  Plus, since it's zig-zaggy, the unblocked version is still curled up like ridged ribbon on a birthday present.

It is not that I am currently incapable of knitting.  On the contrary; after spending the day with the Mixed Nutz at Federal Plaza and singing like a silly rock-star fool for the first time in months, I have the energy to knit a three-tiered underskirt for a prom dress.  The problem is the ridiculous heat and humidity.  Alex lives in a typical pre-1940 apartment with no air-conditioning, and the zig-zaggy scarf I'm creating is being knit from Cascade Rustic, which is a blend of wool and linen.  Not exactly a fabric that glides easily over sun-kissed, sticky and SPF-30-covered fingers.  The good news, though, is that I am using metal needles for that project, so I don't have to worry about them spontaneously combusting like I would if I were to use bamboo needles.

This dilemma has caused me to explore my knitting bag for suitable projects for heat.  I have two balls of Sugar N Cream yarn so I can figure out how to knit a pair of cowboy boots, and then there is the Malabrigo (same problem with this as I would have with the scarf yarn).  Finally, sigh, there is the ball of Schaefer that I purchased because I had been fondling it for about three months before finally breaking down and buying it.  I thought it would make a really pretty Little Black Dress shrug.

So while I can't knit at the moment due to the humidity...I refuse to drag a forty-dollar hank of stunning handpainted cotton yarn over the fingers described above, so the Schaefer will have to wait...I can, in fact, make a pattern chart for the Little Black Dress shrug.  In case any of you were wondering, by the way, I do occasionally knit garments with actual sleeves.  Shrugs are great projects, though, because they are usually just enough sweater for those in-between weather months (in other words, weather periods not at all like the current one, or the opposite of the current one).

I have written my first article for the Chicago Examiner, which should be posted in the next couple of days.  It was inspired by the sweat-dripping heat of the day, and I hope you enjoy it and that you send all of your friends to click on it for a fast read.  Tomorrow, though, my goal is twofold:  finish the scarf, and bust out the Schaefer before I go crazy thinking about it.

Have a good night!