Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bohemian Blogging

Pictured here is one of our resident felines, Boba Fett (the hazards of living with Star Wars fanatics ~ everything including the African violet is named after some personage from the Lucas saga) with the Magic Loop sock in progress. (Humor me.) As you can see, I’ve turned the heel, which I can almost do without referring to the instructions. Soon I’ll be upright on two feet in the knitting evolutionary scale of things and then in dire need of socks. As I was spinning and plying this yarn, I wasn’t all that impressed with it. Once it was knit? . . . Well, it just about floored me. Bear with me, I'm still in recovery. This mohair/wool blend is weighty and solid. The texture completely changed; not scratchy at all. So they’ll be my socks now. Knowing that I have more of this blend in different colors (including a screaming lime green ~ don't know what possessed me) waiting in the closet I’m formulating big, not very evil, plans. I have some fawn-colored alpaca spun/plied that’s been waiting patiently for something wonderful to occur. It might go well with some peach-colored mohair/wool blend to make me a fine sweater; something with heavy drape that can be enjoyed with jeans and a fine wine. Maybe just the wine. Time to search the Archives. Well, I’ll have to spin some wool first. Where’s that Harry Potter trilogy?

Thought for the Day: When life hands you broken digital cameras, let your Inner Bohemian Artist loose in Photoshop. (Give me another week and I might be able to airbrush the perfect bust and thighs on my knitted items.)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Keeping Face with a Photoless Blog

This is what I’ve been reduced to: computer-drawn images to vaguely illustrate those knitted items I’ve done recently. (Many thanks to Ruth and Evan for the pics of the socks. Without you, I’d be nothing that week. Now I can return to being slightly more than nothing with a mild limp.) I knitted Belated Birthday gifts for my niece and nephew in Arizona. Fiona received a variation of the Dammit Doll as found here http://www.fjsmjs.com/Mary/dammitdoll.htm. As you can see from the illustration, I changed the doll into a skirted cat. I followed the directions as per the link and then added I-cords to make the tail and arms, which were then knotted. Sensing that this doll might be seeing some teething action, I used funky-colored Sugar 'n' Cream cotton. This creature has been named Sally Knottentail as an Imaginary Friend (which we can all admit we still have now). I’ve heard she’s being enjoyed. I sent nephew Liam 6 finger puppets (too numerous to illustrate ~ sorry). These were knitted using that double knitting technique with different knitted bits added to create: 2 cats, 1 pig, 1 lizard, 1 mouse and a green fuzzy bunny. These are also being enjoyed. The Radiation Green bunny was my favorite. I wonder what Liam's favorite is . . .

And then I took that Kool-Aid dyed Wensleydale from the “Live and Let Dye” night at Knittingsmith and made this:

Clearly, it’s another one of those knitted pockets I like to make with small amounts of yarn. I used #4 circular knitting needles. With a knitted cast-on I created an even number of stitches (the number of which eludes me now) and created the pocket with the same double knitting used for the finger puppets which was something along the lines of:

Row 1: *k1, w/ yarn in front, slip st purlwise* repeat until row is done
Row 2: *k1, w/ yarn in front, slip st purlwise* repeat until row is done
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until desired length. This action should automatically make a pocket (thus saving the odious task of whip-stitching). (Would there be such a thing as pussy-whipped stitching? And would it involve cats who not only lack the ability to sew, but also thumbs? Sorry, went somewhere else there for a minute.) The only sewing I have to do is for the liner which will keep the bag from losing its shape. It would be a shame to lose those clean, crisp lines as shown.

To keep myself well-oiled knit-wise, I’ve started another pair of Magic Loop socks out of some handspun from February. This is a gray, magenta, turquoise mohair/wool blend purchased last fall at the Sheep and Wool. It’ll keep me off the streets.

Otherwise, I’m busy sketching and painting. This doesn’t keep me off the streets.

And then there's all that unspun fiber in the closet . . . Hmmm.

I’m having a Southern Culture on the Skids kind of week; sort of squishy and soft, directionless and floaty with a complete inability to make concrete decisions. Actually, I could probably make some great decisions about concrete; it’s the other issues in life that are eluding me at this time.

Tip for the Day: When feeling somewhat Southern Culture on the Skids, knit socks. If you don’t know how to knit socks; learn. It could save your life, if not your social calendar.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Hazards of Going Out

Sometimes I get to go out to a friend’s house for some fun without the immediate family. Usually, when I do, it means Dirk is in charge of the house. This term is used loosely. He will insure the children are fed, safe from harm and kept alive for one evening. I can’t say the same for the house. The house suffers an assault so brutal it ought to be captured live on CNN with a follow-up series on its recovery.

So here’s a handy list for the Happy Homemaker heading out the door (aka escaping):

1) Dinner. It has to be planned with the least amount of utensils as possible. There will not, I repeat, WILL NOT be fewer dishes when you get home after your pleasant evening out. In fact, a few of the Good dishes will be gracing the coffee table and the arms of the couch upon your return. The antique soup tureen from Aunt Betsy will be filled to the brim with stale chips, globs of dip that didn’t quite make it and some unidentifiable substance best handled with a Haz-mat suit. The best choices would be pizza (not homemade), fried foods, and microwaveable fare ~ all to be served on paper plates, no forks and plastic cups. This is not the night to plan on a Cordon Bleu sort of meal.
2) Cleaning up before you leave. Highly recommended. Along with the dishes that’ll be waiting for you, there will be a three-storey fort made from various bits of furniture, cushions, every available blanket in the house and possibly the curtains if someone is having a Scarlett O’hara fit of whimsy. It’s best to attempt to minimize some of the damage before heading out for fun.
3) Empty out the garbage bins. Certainly, this goes hand in hand with cleaning before you go, but needs to be addressed separately. Since dinner should be served on disposable items, it will be necessary to make room for the post-meal detritus. No one will ever think to change an overflowing garbage bag, but will instead continue to add to the pile long after the can has been buried in the excess. It will then take a team of excavators and nimble archaeologists to recover your 13 Gallon Sage Green Rubbermaid Tall Kitchen Trash Can, Model # 2330. Pray that you needn’t go further than the Jurassic Period to find and re-line the bin.
4) Determine how long you’ll be out by how much cleaning you want to do the next day. It’s been proven by Quantum Physics that the longer one leaves the house with children and a male (sorry, guys) Significant Other, the more of a mess one is likely to come home to. I think there’s even a mathematical equation for it, but it eludes me at the moment. If your energy levels can handle redecorating the next day, then stay out until 3:00 am. If all you can manage is sweeping up the popcorn, best to make your night out short and sweet. On the other hand, knowing what will be waiting for you might only encourage you to leave the state and assume a new identity.
5) Do a head count. For instance, last night I left the house with the full knowledge of having four children ranging in ages from 12 to 7 in said enclosure. Of the four, I remember bearing three; thus in the realm of mathematical word problems, one of the children was not mine and therefore just visiting. When I returned at the ungodly hour of 12:30 am, I walked in to discover not only that our original fourth visitor was still visiting, but that another child had spontaneously sprouted in the living room. Clearly, said Significant Other thought it would be a neat idea to have a sleepover in the living room (please refer to October archives for my diatribe on All Boy Sleepovers). No one slept.

And there you have my list of handy hints on surviving the Return from your Escape . . . This does not apply to paid babysitters (or are they referred to as Childcare Engineers now?).

Meanwhile, back at the soda fountain, Evan’s socks have reached their destination. He likes them, they fit and, on some level, they might even be making a statement ~ something along the lines of “Make Love Not War” or “For the love of little green men, go make your bed!” Someone will get back to me on that, I’m sure. (The only way I'll ever be able to get images on the blog now is to make gifties and send them to people with digital cameras.)

And spurious notes on past activities: I knitted that G.Overy pattern based on my rewritten instructions and it’s coming out just like the picture in the book, by golly. Small sense of accomplishment there.

I also knitted up some gifts, but lack the funds at present to get them through the USPS. Different hazards apply; that’s another list.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Forgetting to Breathe

I catch myself doing this frequently. I am hunched over my work and deeeeeeeply engrossed, lost in the details of a piece and then just before I pass out, I remember I really ought to breathe. My mind is prisoner to the concerns of getting the flavor of every detail in place; how that line translates into object, how that curve captures a feeling, how that shading creates motion and space. My body is possessed by the Inner Bohemian Artist who clearly thinks that breathing is overrated. The Piece is everything, the Piece is one, the Piece is all and then . . . I remember to breathe. It’s in these little spaces between breath I try suspend all judgment, good or bad, because living near my Inner Bohemian Artist is Klaus the Kritick (that’s how he spells it; don’t question him). Klaus is always glaring over my shoulder: “Who the hell do you think you are? What are you some kind of an artist? This is crap? What person in their right mind would even call this . . . this . . .this scribbling art? This wouldn’t even line the tray of my bird cage!” (Until that moment, I was unaware he possessed any pets.)

You’ve now met Klaus. Where my Inner Bohemian Artist dances to the rhythms of the colors before her and taps her belled toes to her own inner beat, Klaus is concerned with Convention and Proper Form. Inner Bohemian Artist is willing to make a mess to see what happens; Klaus berates her for not utilizing academic technique and, for goodness sake, clean up! Inner Bohemian Artist could hardly care less what anyone thinks about what she does, Klaus the Kritick thrives on the Critique and public approval, great accolades, even. Really, he’s the reason I hold my breath. To stop breathing is to stop living ~ literally. Even though my Inner Bohemian Artist might forget about breathing (she can be a bit absent-minded), Klaus simply stifles me.

It is then I try to be good to myself in as selfish a way as possible. I’ll pace myself, so that I’m not completely immersed in Faeryland and unable to come back (although, it’s looking mighty attractive these days). I’ll brew myself the perfect cup of loose leaf Lapsang Souchong tea. (By the way, I found the rest of that pound I was certain was dwindling; I.B. Artist and I are very happy now.) The most inspirational CD for the moment is turned on to create artistic atmosphere. I’ll light candles; yes, even in broad daylight, even with the kitchen overhead light on. It’s the Living Light that sparks the soul. In doing all this, well, Ritual, I find Klaus leaves the room in a huff, clicking away in his patent leather boots (he’s just not a purple Converse sort of fellow). He can’t be bothered with such nonsense. He’d prefer pummeling I.B. Artist in the worst way and stuffing her into the nearest linen closet. Klaus doesn’t like music (unless it’s Wagner), detests good tea and thinks candles are only useful for starting huge conflagrations with Bad Art as fuel.

Even then, I still forget to breathe sometimes. Every once in awhile I can feel Klaus peering around the corner to check my progress or, rather, lack of it as he hardly approves of what I do. I ignore him, sit up from hunching, move my body and breathe deep. Rooted in that time-space continuum, Inner Bohemian Artist and I brew more tea and carry on with what we were doing. And we try not to call it ‘work.’

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dyeing to Get In

It’s Live and Let Dye Night at Knittingsmith for the next couple of Thursdays (not a Broccoli production, 007’s involvement might result in a spectacularly choreographed fatality if not sexual harassment). I was warned that there’d be a big crowd; supplies would be short, so I brought my own wool ~ 2-ply Wensleydale spun up a couple of years ago, about 35 yards of it. Getting to the shop at about 6:00p, I helped (not much, Penelope and Mary were veritable whirlwinds at set-up) to arrange tubs and mix colors using Kool-Aid; we had grape, cherry, blueberry, green apple, orange, and lemonade. There was also some Crystal Lite powder in peach, pineapple-orange and raspberry. The beauty of Kool-Aid/Crystal Lite dyeing is that it’s completely non-toxic; no nasty mordents or noxious fumes. And if you’re hungry, you can just eat the wool. Be sure to use sugar free Kool-Aid ~ high fiber, low fat. Twelve people packed into the back of the shop to color their hank of wool. The cherry yielded a bright red, while the Crystal Lite’s raspberry gave rose-colored wool. The green apple went screaming green; the lemonade did nothing, but was helpful in diluting some of the more saturated colors. The grape would look black at first, but after nuking it up in the microwave, faded to a deep purple. The orange was just precious, especially if paired with the mixture of cherry and lemonade making a sweet pink (yet still sugar-free). And the blueberry knocked me off my feet with the brilliant turquoise color. It was grand fun painting up the skeins of wool; each experiment resulted in something interesting. Some people were afraid to make mistakes, others were happy to dive in and make many (that’d be me).

Next week, I think we’re playing with kettle-dyeing or using crockpots. I’m rather excited.

So painting wool by night, painting paintings by day ~ I’ve become a rather painterly person. Unless otherwise engaged, of course. Someone has to sling the hash and chip the underwear around here. I’m eager to get to Walmart and buy more Kool-Aid ~ the kids can help. I’ll need more wool. Donations welcome.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ode to School Bus Drivers Everywhere

Let me begin by saying: I don’t know how school bus drivers maintain sanity and functionality in their chosen line of work. I’ve been a passenger on school busses a few times for field trips and I come unhinged at Mile One of the trip. Today was no exception. Our 2nd Grade class went to a local historic site to see old buildings ill-equipped to deal with 21st century technology like running water, toilets, electrical outlets and phones (cell phones are this century’s equivalent of sending the most able-bodied child to run up the road a tick to let the neighbors know the British are coming, expecting tea and crumpets with varying amounts of submission and loyalty to the Crown). I toyed with the idea of bringing some knitting for the ride, but changed my mind thinking I might get to a point of self-mutilation if armed with even knitting needles enduring any ride from school to the planned destination and back again. Not to mention how the fair amount of jostling and bumping involved in said ride might render me sightless. Knitting needles are for knitting yarn, not impaling eyes ~ no matter the amount of mental strain or desperation. Needless to say, the children were experiencing varying degrees of boredom. I spent time pointing out that there was NO TV back then. Small shock there. And that big tin can with the handle under the bed, there? Well, that was your bathroom if you didn’t feel like making your way out to the Necessary in the middle of a cold winter’s night to do what’s . . . y’know . . . necessary. A resounding chorus of ‘Eeeeewww’ ensued followed by continuing bathroom humor and chatter. Fun for them.

Of course, my most fun part was getting to the textile demo. I get to play with someone else’s wool and check out the looms and spinning wheels. I couldn’t touch a wheel, let alone try one (as chaperone, one must contain one’s self and set an example), but it was fun carding a rolag with the crew. And then we got to churn some butter which is even less amusing than say . . . impaling one’s self with a knitting needle on a bus full of screaming kids.

The ride back to school is when I had the neat idea of bringing ear plugs on future field trips. I’ve been to rock concerts (they’re still called that, aren’t they?) and endured the screaming crowds, the blaring speakers and the surges to the front row. That din and chaos pales in comparison to a bus ride back to school from a field trip. Since I can not safely knit under such circumstances, I’ll tote ear plugs.

And I say again, unto All School Bus Drivers Everywhere ~ Thank you for transporting our children safely from home to school to trips and back again without driving directly into other large moving vehicles or off bridges just to quell the interminable noise. Thank you for being sane, alert, and functional despite the melee in the back of the bus, despite the blood-curdling screams, despite the sarcasm of pre-teens so that they may be joyfully deposited at their destinations. Bless you and your nerves on unbending, unmitigated steel. That you all manage your careers without therapy and ear plugs is a miracle. I am going to go have a lie down myself . . .

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Grounds for Homicide

I’m hittin’ the Sweet Spot of Savasana ~ most amateur yogis recognize it; that moment when one feels as though they’ve merged into the One, that point where it seems Death wouldn’t matter, because when you’re dead you don’t give a rat’s hairy buttocks about the incessant traffic or the neighbor’s barking dog (oddly, I’m used to the roosters). So, again, I’m nearing that Sweet Spot when there’s a knock at the door that jars me to my panicked senses. Clearly, I’m not dead because I have to deal with that knock at the door. In fact, I’m not dead; I’m infuriated ~ the guy who knocked on the door, however, may be meeting his Maker. It was Dirk’s buddy . . . A perfect moment to practice Forgiveness. But I would digress and that’s not the point of this particular rant. There’s few times in my week I get to meditate. Seated meditation eludes me; I seemed to have lost the capacity to sit without fidgeting since having children (rather like that permanent affliction of catching a spill before it occurs or cutting someone else’s steak even if they’re adults). I rely on the moving meditation of yoga. And when I’m practicing asanas, I don’t want to be bothered. The phone is ignored (the phone retaliates by providing the slowest dial-up connection possible later). The soothing music is turned on, the mat laid and the candle lit on the altar. Then, in the words of the great Greta Garbot, “I vant to be alone!” (Yoga classes are fun, social and great for learning unfamiliar poses safely, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of asana practice, solitude is the penultimate.) Dirk’s buddy will live to see another day. That is the extent of my practicing forgiveness. Let them walk away if even with an etheric limp.

Meanwhile, back at the barber shop (I’m nowhere near the ranch), Evan’s socks are nearing completion, I’m staring down the barrel of a Brownie’s camp-out this weekend, and, two days out of the chute, I have to bone up on my CPR. I’ll probably need it after teaching 18 girls how to knit (thankfully, not alone ~ teaching is NOT a solitary practice). I haven’t packed thing one. Bennie has only just begun practicing how to roll up her own sleeping bag. (In all honesty, we’ll probably just toss it in a large garbage bag and deal with it six months from now or in time for the next camp out ~ whichever comes first.) Enough of that; Evan’s socks look great, in my humble opinion. The heels are turned nicely, I’ve had my fun with the saucy blue colors on the shank by making different stripes on each sock and each toe will be different. Will his right toe prefer the lapis color or his left? Fodder for a future, photoless blog, I’m sure.

Thought For the Day: Let Corpse-posed yogis lie or suffer a gruesome, painful death.