Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Not In the Mood

I had a really interesting post plan about the circus I took the kids to this evening, but, as I told my husband a bit earlier, I've got a headache, so I'm just "not in the mood". I'll try to be a little less of a party pooper tomorrow.

Quick news: The kitties are doing well - eating and drinking the food and water I put out for them. They've become a little brave and are sneaking over in front of our front door a bit, too. Such cuties!

And, I'm just past the arm holes on my shirt. Remember, this side is top-down, so that means I've got the bottom half of the body to go. Quick knitting, since there are no increases or decreases and it's all stockinette. More about that later... for now, wish me sweet dreams and a headache free day tomorrow (and we should all wish my dear, sweet hubbie a wonderful birthday, as well).

Monday, May 30, 2005

An Experiment in Complicatedness

Here we have the ever-popular Bottom-Up/Top-Down Reversible Shirt. Haven't ever heard of it? Why, it's all the rage in the celebrity knitting circles. Really, never heard of it? Well, I guess you just don't know the right knitters.

Okay, the truth is that this is probably a never-heard-of construction for a shirt, though I'm not sure I've really invented anything new here (it would certainly only work with certain stitch patterns, at least). As its name implies, it's a bottom-up shirt, but it's also, as its name implies, a top-down shirt. How? Well, I started out knitting one side of the body from the bottom up. I got to the shoulder on one side, and I opted not to cast off. Instead, I decided to keep knitting over to the other side (anything to avoid a bit of seaming later on!). It also adds a bit of interest to the construction of an otherwise very easy design. I'm actually really enjoying making it this way.

If you look very closely, you'll see that I've done a bit of what I believe in the US is called seed stitch around the collar (the book I learned on is a British one, and in it, it's called moss stitch). I will be doing this stitch on the arms, which will be short-sleeved, as well as picking up the stitches along the bottom of the shirt to do it there too. I was about half-way up the body before I decided it would be nice to add some visual interest to this project, which explains I didn't originally knit the seed/moss stitch on the bottom of the shirt in the first place. I'll have to count how many stitches there are down there to see if it would be possible to do it in the round or not. We'll see.

Anyway, I love how this shirt is turning out. Aside from the fun construction I decided on, it looks great when I put it up against me to "try it on". I can't wait till it's done, and I'm so happy I put aside the striped alpaca sweater to do this one. I'll be getting lots of wear out of this during the summer.

Mommy's Day Gift

Mommy's Day Gift
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Yesterday was Mother's Day here in France, and though I wasn't given any time off for good behavior, I did get this, which brought genuine tears to my eyes.

That's a hand-drawn picture on a keychain. Lambchop #1 made it at school. Isn't it great? I'll cherish that one for a long time, I'm sure.

Feral Kitty

Feral Kitty
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Well, the canine companion we had for the weekend is gone now. Apparently, the local small-town cops are bored out of their minds and welcome any excuse to get out into the countryside for a little drive. Lost dogs constitute a good excuse, it seems. Good deal for me. I got front-door pick up for the pup. He was happy to hop in that paddy wagon, too. Did a few laps around the back and promptly lifted his leg on it. That's my boy! Ah, come on, now. How many of you have dreamed of doing this or at least watching someone else do it while friendly Officer So-and-so wrote up your speeding ticket? And, that doesn't make me a cop-hater - just someone with a good sense of irony.

Anyway, there are two bits of good news here:

1) Friendly Officer So-and-so thinks he may know who the dog's owners are.

2) One furry creature was replaced by three of the sweet little babies you see in the picture here (this little guy is the least timid and the only one willing to pose for me). I found them this weekend, and I've convinced my husband that it would be wise to capture them while their young and make them ours instead of letting them become more and more wild and eventually hunting our chickens. Smart, eh? And, we get sweet kitty fuzziness in exchange. I must be nesting, or something, because I've been craving furry companionship lately. These little guys should be just what I need, don't you think?

So, I've been researching a bit on the net, and they're old enough to be tamed, so we'll be capturing and taming them soon. It'll take some patience, but it'll be worth it to have some of these sweeties around for us to love on. Every farm kid needs some cats, right?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Knitted Wooden Bead Bracelet

Here is the most recent result of my foray into jewerly making. I knitted this, even if it was really fiddly with all the different size beads. It was a lot faster than working with the metal wire, though (and less painful).

It's made with linen thread that I bought at my favorite open-air market yesterday. There's a lady who sells all sorts of sewing notions and some yarn (most of which is not very attractive and looks cheap). I bought some better clasps (learn from my magnetic clasp error, please) that actually hold. The beads are some things I got at La Droguerie in Lyon when I was there to get enough yarn to finish a project I was working on and had miscalculated for. I bought them only to reach the amount needed to be able to use my credit card. And, I absolutely love wooden beads, so no arm-twisting was necessary.

Anyway, I'm not 100% sure about this bracelet. I love the look of it, but the big bead in the center makes it a bit top-heavy - hey, some of us have that problem, and I don't see anything wrong with that, except that in this case it makes the bracelet always slide to where the prettiest part is facing down.

I also made it a bit big for me, but I think it's just the size for my mom. We'll have to see if she thinks it's something she'll wear. If not, this is definitely getting recycled into something that won't slip around on me. Maybe it should have been destined to be a necklace instead. That could solve the problem of the top-heaviness, since the heavy part SHOULD be on the bottom.

So, we'll see what others think. Is it a keeper? Or, do we recycle?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Sucker For Big Brown Eyes

Despite the fact that I married a blue-eye man and both my kids have blue eyes, I'm still a sucker for a big pair of brown eyes - if they're attached to a sweet puppy dog face with big floppy ears. Yesterday, on the way home from playgroup, we saw a hound of some sort wandering in the middle of a windy road people tend to go way too fast on. I had noticed him when leaving a few hours earlier, so I was a bit worried. I checked him, and he had no collar. I ended up going on home and calling the neighbor about it. Finally, I loaded the kids back up in the car and went down to go get him. He got right into the car and rode home with us. As it turns out, he's the sweetest thing, and lambchop #1 and I have fallen in love with him. So, have we adopted a doggie? Nope.

Alas, dear hubbie doesn't want another mouth to feed, and if and when we get a dog, he wants it to be a Border Collie. How fair is that? I grew up with hounds (dachshunds, to be specific), and I love them. And, this dog really seems to have gotten under my skin because it's actually got me sad to think about taking him to the SPCA. I've tried to no avail to find out where he could have come from. This sort of searching is not easy over the weekend here in France. I'll try again on Monday, of course, because I imagine someone is missing him. He seems well-cared for and is very good-natured. I can't see anyone purposely dumping a dog like that on the side of a deserted road.

Anyway, so I haven't done much knitting today, though I did make another bracelet. I'm not sure about this one. It's interesting looking, but I'm not 100% sure I like it. Part of me says it looks really cool, while another part thinks it may be a bit too funky. I'll post a picture later to see what you think.

Other than that, I've done a little weeding in the garden, and we can now see all the beautiful lettuce that will soon be ready to eat. In fact, I'll have to do a bit of thinning soon in some places, so we'll have the priviledge of eating some baby greens again. Yum.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Just To Clarify

There was a slight error in my last post. I'll clarify here. It took me a while to understand the meaning of Distant Knitter's question about the sleeves of the shirt I made. In fact, the confusion stems from the fact that I obviously do not even possess one of the skills my three-year-old has mastered - counting to three.

There were, in fact three pieces to my pattern (four if you count the tie-string that I swiped from another pattern so I wouldn't have to mess with measuring and drawing one out). So, no, the sleeves were not part of the front or back. They were the third part I forgot to mention last time. So, no huge mystery there as to the bit of design genius that allowed me to fit them into the front and back panels of the pattern. I made them separately and sewed (is that how you spell that word) them on. Sorry about the confusion there.

Sewing Experiment

Here it is: what at least three of you have been anxiously awaiting! Now, aside from the picture, in which I look slumped over (there go my dreams of becoming the next big super model - well there's always knitting), what do you think?

Ever since last summer when my sister-in-law and I were poking around in a book at the store called something like "Dress for Your Figure," and I learned that I had been doing many things wrong for years, I've been aching to try a wrap around shirt like this. I figured they'd be all over the place, because you see people wearing them, but I couldn't find any that didn't make a huge show of my cleavage. So, I set out to design my own.

I'm really happy with this, because it's really the first time I've made a pattern on my own that wasn't something straight like a skirt or something like that. I have done a silly zebra costume for lambchop #2, but I wasn't careful about it looking good. For this, I actually got out my pattern drawing paper and made measurements of my body (which can be a bit depressing, doncha know?). This is what I came up with.

Ever the one to go against the grain, I decided to flip the fabric sideways. If you use it as it was apparently intended, it makes something of a horizontal stripe pattern with those boxes you see. And, we all know that with the chub I've got left from baby makin', that's a no no.

It ties in the back, and in the end, it was pretty simple. Just two pieces to the pattern, but you make two of the front piece.

My husband is a bit worried about his wife going out in something so low-cut, but hey, we must attract the eye away from the stomach, and anyway, it only gives the hint of a cleavage show, not an actual cleavage show.

Funny, though, this picture is the first time I've immediately gotten 8 viewings of my picture before even having time to name it on my Flickr account. Who knew putting a picture of a girl's boobies directly in the middle of a shot with no head would attract the attention of random strangers!?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Sewin' Up A Storm

No knitting took place in this house today, which is a real rarity. I was in the mood for something a little faster. So, spent the day with my sewing machine, instead. The other day at the fabric store, one of the things that jumped in my mini-cart (despite my protests) was a meter of this really cute, vintagey stretch fabric. Today, it morphed into a wrap-around shirt for me to wear during the summer. It's very cozy. I'm hardly a master seamstress. But, I can proudly say that I made the pattern myself and everything, so if it's not perfect, it's at least all mine. And, you learn from this sort of thing, anyway, so it was a good experience.

I'll be wearing it tomorrow, and if we're lucky, we can get my husband to take a picture of me in it, so you can all see it (my mom's probably the only person I'm leaving in suspense here by not posting a picture, anyway).

Knitted Wire/Bead Bracelet: A Pattern

Okay, now before I get into the explanation of how I made this bracelet, can we all just take a moment to ooh and ahh about the picture. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what you can do when you actually know how to work your camera. I'm not talking about point and shoot here. I mean, really know how to work it. And, my husband really can work it - well, that's another subject entirely, but he apparently knows about this cool function where you can select a certain portion of the shot to focus in on, blurring everything else. I must learn this, but for now, I'm just in awe of him. Look how sparkly he made it look! My heeeeerooooo!

Okay, 'nuff of that. The explanation:

I cast on twelve stitches with a very thin wire (it's not labeled for content, which I assume is copper, nor for diameter, but it's really skinny stuff) using 3mm metal needles (didn't trust metal wire not to hurt wooden needles or plastic). The wire was pre-strung with beads. Go for overkill on this part, because you don't want to have to cut your wire to add more beads. That would just suck. After I was done knitting, by the way, I did weave the two ends in, but not very far. I couldn't see this metal wire doing a Houdini on me.

Okay, so, I knitted in garter stitch for a really long time and my finger ached the appropriate amount (till it was as long as I wanted it - conveniently, and because I sort of swatched, the end of my beads). While you're knitting, you're going to want to pull on both ends of the bracelet to stretch - think of this as blocking while you knit. You just hold the needle in one hand and the cast-on row in the other and pull. This makes the beads more noticeable, not to mention lessening your workload by making you knit fewer rows.

After each stitch was knit, I slipped a bead in before knitting the next stitch. Now, I didn't put beads in the cast-on row (or the cast-off row), but this is one thing I'd do differently next time. How would I do this differently?

Well, in the previous picture I posted, you saw that I made a little link from the knitted part of the bracelet to the clasp. If you like this look, go for it. It's not too hard. What I did is this:

Double a length of wire to weave through the cast-on stitches. Slip 2/3 of the doubled wire through the first stitch, leaving the other 1/3 to be dealt with later. Slip a bead on the 2/3 part of the wire. Then, weave the wire into the next stitch. Continue this way - slipping a bead before weaving into each next stitch till you reach the end of the row. Wrap the wire around the ends of the row once to secure it (though, it's most likely not going anywhere).

Now, to make the link to the clasp...
You should have approximately equal lengths of extra doubled wire on each side of your cast-on row. Cut the folded end of the wire so you can work with the two layers separately. Twist the wires around each other twice. Then, slip a bead onto one of the wires. Twist again, twice. Then another bead, etc. until the chain you've made could meet with another like it from the other side of the cast-on row (forming a triangle), and the bracelet will fit without being too big. Keep the size of the clasp you've chosen in mind when doing this. You don't want to have to cut your wire and redo like some people I know). Repeat this process for the other side of the cast-on row. Then, attach the two links to the clasp in whatever way looks best to you (which may not be my way at all).

Repeat this entire process for the cast-off row.

The other option I would go for if doing this over is this:

Cast on one stitch, using your clasp as the "bead" for this stitch. Then, increase on each side of each row till desired width is reached. Once you've reached your desired length, do identical decreases for the other side. The cast-off row with one stitch on it, will hold the other half of the clasp. Much easier, and, I suspect, much nicer than the way I did this one.

A note about clasps: Unless you find one with industrial-strength magnets that you would trush enough to dangle from this bracelet off the edge of a bridge, don't get magnetic ones. I'm afraid this thing could actually get lost somewhere.

So, there you have it, folks, my recipe for an easy little knitted bracelet. Now, if you're aching to try this but can't stand the idea of the pain this wire can cause you're hands (arthritis anyone?), they also sell elastic thread for jewelry making. I'm thinking this could be a fun alternative, and A LOT faster. If it's stretchy enough, you may even be able to do without the clasp altogether. Just sew your ends together when finished knitting. That could be nice.

All in all, this was a fun project. Reasonably fast, and my hands will heal (it's mostly only my thumbs and forefingers that hurt from manipulating the wire on and off the needles). I'd definitely do something like this again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Magnetic Clasp (Will It Hold?)

Magnetic Clasp on what? I know this seems a bit backwards to post the clasp before showing the beauty of what you see when it's worn. But, I'm a bit backward myself, so hey, we'll do it this way.

No, there's actually a good reason for this order of things. I want the perty picture to be the first thing you see on the site, so I'm posting it last.

My sister-in-law asked for a little explanation on finishing for this bracelet. And, I'll do one better. I'll tell you how I made it and what I think I'd do differently the next time.

But, first a picture of the front of the bracelet...

Fresh From the Front Yard Salad

First off, before I get to the really fun stuff (an actual FO), we've got dinner. I know, this salad isn't even pretty (I'm more for taste than presentation), so why on earth do I feel the need to show it to the world? Two reasons:

1. My homegirls are no longer on strike. After what seemed to be eternal negociations, their worker's union seems to have reached an agreement with whoever (Maybe it was the fun they had watching me chase them around my kitchen trying to force them out while they feasted on the bread crumbs I was about to vacuum up. It was like a scene from the Simple Life. I actually had to call in reinforcements.). Whatever it was that changed their mind about egg-laying, I'm a happy girl, because this salad was delicious.

2. The salad. It don't get no fresher than this! This was really a case of straight from the source. It was about time to thin out the lettuce I had planted to give some room to grow. And, guess who got the priviledge of having those baby green leafies for dinner tonight? Yum!

Ahhh, the joys of country life...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Knitted Bracelet

Knitted Bracelet
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Tada! Even though this is not yet finished, I'm proud. Why? Because I was at least able to get the camera to focus well enough to take a semi-decent picture of it. Beads don't cooperate well in that regard.

Now comes the second question you're probably asking yourself - what is it? Why it's modern art/a fashion accessory. Can't you tell?

Wait, let's rewind and start from the beginning. I was at the fabric store to buy some new pinking shears (realized I've been spelling that wrong, by the way) as well as some notions I needed, when I happened upon their reasonably sizeable selection of jewelry making supplies (much better than their sad little knitting section, by the way - almost like Walmart gifted them with their most horrendous reject yarns.).

You know I've been working (well, not since I broke my pinking shears) on that recycled dress shirt rug for the Not Yarn Along. Keeping in that spirit, I was inspired by the array of thin wires and beads. I snagged up a spool of navy blue metallic wire and two packs of multicolored beads (one of transparent ones, the other of opaque ones).

Last night, I was so excited, I set right to work spilling the microscopic beads one by one onto the couch, convincing myself that I was actually attempting to thread them onto the wire. Many, many attempts later, I had a wire full of the slippery little doodads and maybe only a dozen scattered across the floor. So, I cast on for a bracelet.

I'm really happy with the look so far, and besides the fact that the wire is a bit hard to work with (not for those with sensitive fingers, for sure), the project I laid out for myself is really easy. I'm just doing a simple garter stitch, inserting one bead between each stitch.

If the bracelet turns out well, it'll be a birthday gift for my brother-in-law's girlfriend. If it turns out REALLY well, it'll have to become MY birthday gift. Yeah, don't tell me you've never done the same. What she don't know won't hurt her, right? No, I'm not so selfish (or at least not all the time). After doing one, though, I may find that I need to make some adjustments in the way I've made it, so a newer, better one may end up getting done.

Anyway, if you've got strong enough hands to mess with metal wire, this is great fun. It's cheap (all supplies were around 10 euros). It's cute. And, it's extremely portable (since you string the beads in advance, once you cast on, they're trapped and can't slip off). What more could you want in a knitting project?

Monday, May 23, 2005


Bamboo Shirt Just Begun
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Here we have the beginnings of the shirt (tank or short-sleeve - still undecided on that), I'm knitting with the Southwest Trading Company's Bamboo yarn I recently acquired for a ridiculously low price. I'm planning to call this pattern Presto-Changeo, because the back can be the front and vice-versa. You'll see what I mean when it's done.

Well, that's it for knitting content today, because I need to prepare for a trip to the fabric store to get a few "necessities" like a replacement pair of pinking sheers. My new hobby of shredding old dress shirts to make yarn is rough on those poor guys (which explains why you haven't seen that project for a while. We'll have to see if they don't have something a bit sturdier this time.

Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I've not put much thought or time (and most noticeably, pictures) into my blog lately. My life has been a bit busier this week. That doesn't mean, however, that I haven't been thinking of you.

So, today we've got a few photos, and by way of apology for my recent lack of enthusiasm, a recipe. Yum!

This is a Tarte Tatin, which is basically an Apple Upside-down Pie (to modify the Pineapple Upside-down Cake name). It's probably one of the easiest desserts to make, and the results are so worth the little effort involved.

The proof (I think I've made this from a recipe long ago, but this one is just of made-up):


1 flaky pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
2 large apples (doesn't matter what kind as long as they won't fall apart when baked), peeled and sliced to random thicknesses (I'm not very careful in my cooking)
4 tablespoons sugar
a bit of water

Heat oven to whatever temp you usually bake a pie on (mine's a gas oven, with 1-8, so I can't give an exact temp)

Place sugar in round metal baking dish (the kind usually used for layer cakes). Or in a sauce pan if cooking your baking dish on the stovetop makes you nervous.

Heat sugar till brown and bubbly. Add a bit of water to obtain a thin syrup. Lay sliced apples (hopefully in a prettier arrangement than mine) over caramel sauce you just made. Then, lay the crust over the apples. Fold whatever bit of crust edge hanging over into the pan so that it lays reasonably flat (not going up the sides of the pan). Poke a few holes in the crust with a fork. Bake in oven till crust is golden.

Remove pan from oven and flip out onto a plate (place plate upside-down over top of baking dish, holding plate and baking dish with two mitt-covered hands, flip). Carefully remove baking dish and pie should be apple-side up on the plate. You may need to re-place a few of the apple slices on the pie - some may stick to the dish. Let cool briefly then serve warm. It's delicious with a bit of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or some other type of topping - or all by its yummy self.

Tada! How's that for a quick/impressive dessert?

Happy Mother's Day - Let's Paaaaartay!

In France, Mother's Day isn't until next weekend. I couldn't tell you why that is, except that maybe the French just like to be different (take much pride in it, actually). At my daughter's school, they've pounded the idea of "La Fête des Mères" into the kids' heads, doing little crafties for Mommy and everything. What's great about this day in French is the excitement it plants in a child's heart. This isn't just a day for mommies! Because of the wording of the holiday's name, it's a grand ole party. You see, "fête" is the word the French also use for festivals. So, when Lambchop #1 hears about the coming of "La Fête des Mères," no doubt, her little mind is bombarded by visions of cotton candy, merry-go-rounds, and balloons. And, who better than Mommy, the lazy woman who'd just like a day off rather than have a huge party, to dash her dreams to pieces. So, the other night, I set the poor thing straight, by telling her it's just a day we use to thank our Mommy for being our Mommy. And, why do I love this kid so much? She showed me that very instant. Instead of visibly being saddened by the lack of real festivities involved, she turned to me and said, "Thank you." Who needs a special day, when your kid is willing to thank you any day of the week?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater!

My knitting fidelity was rather short-lived. Aren't we all happy my marriage vows have been easier to keep? What does this mean? Well, if you haven't been around this blog much lately, I'll fill you in. I was attempting to rid myself of several works in progress, one at a time - by finishing them, of course. And, though I had some success, I lost the battle this afternoon to a summer shirt I've been wanting to make.

The following is a list of my reasons - err excuses for casting on for a new project when I still haven't finished my husband's sweater:

1. Who really needs an alpaca sweater in the summer, anyway?
2. I could really use a nice-fitting summer shirt (may be tank, may be short sleeved).
3. I will definitely not have enough yarn to finish the sweater. I'll have to order more and have Mom ship it from the US.
4. I could really use a change in project (the textures, the colors, everything)!!
5. I've been anxious to try that bamboo yarn that has been calling to me since it arrived in the mail.

So, we've sat the Knit Picks Andean Silk sweater aside and cast on for something light and springy/summery. I'm excited, since I've only got one other knitted tank in my wardrobe so far. I'll post a picture of my progress a bit later, when I get around to taking it.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Forgotten Obligations

A little while back (actually a bit too long ago), my sister-in-law asked me for some details about my recycled dress shirt rug. My brother has an enormous number of colorful t-shirts that could make an excellent rug. And, to prove that I have not forgotten about her questions, here are the answers.

First, she wanted to know what size needles I'm using. I'm using the size 13's in my Denise needle set. Convenient, because I can just slip them on to the smallest cord and slap a couple of ends on them to make a needle holder.

The other question she had was a tiny bit more technical. Or, perhaps it wasn't actually a question she asked, but a tip I thought of that could make her life easier. Since my dress shirts are open in the front, I cut back and forth, but for a t-shirt, the job is much easier. I found

page months ago when playing with plastic bags for knitting. There are some wonderful instructions for cutting up bags to make "yarn" that would be perfect for t-shirts as well.

Whew! Now I can rest more easily knowing that I've not completely forgotten yet another obligation. Ah, the relief.

So, get to work on that t-shirt rug. You've got no more excuses.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Master of Medieval Torture

You never think that from your womb, the fruit of the love your share with your spouse, can spring forth a being that is equipped from birth with the gift of torture (Well, is that a gift really? Most likely not, but it certainly is a talent). And, yet, under that adorable, cuddly exterior lies dormant a creature so cunning... so... well... torturous that scarcely can be described. The child hides its cursed ways, slowly gaining your trust - even your sympathy and love. Then - BAM - it strikes like a snake, bearing its fangs and releasing its venim when you least expect it.

For us, the hidden talent is that of inflicting sleep deprivation, and it struck without warning last night. Mind you, this is no 1-month-old we're talking about. He's almost 18 months, is calm and sleeps well most nights. Last night was definitely an exception. And, let me just say that I get ugly when tired (and not in a physical way, although that may be true as well). Oh, sure most people would claim it must be teething pains, nightmares or perhaps gas, but we know the real secret - he must have studied under the great Medieval masters in a former life. And, as a result of his marvelous skill we did not even know existed, I've gone through the day in a haze.

But, he's cute during his normal waking hours, so we love him and rock him and comfort him as best we know how (he's soooo lucky Daddy is more rational at 2 am than Mommy).

In knitting news: I keep plugging away on the striped sweater, which I've recently realized I'll most likely not have enough yarn to finish. Not to worry, though, since I'm doing the Elizabeth Zimmerman bottom-up sweater. As she says, it's no trouble - you just switch colors for the yoke and act like you did it on purpose. Genius! Everything can be called a design detail if you think hard enough on it. I actually was considering making the yoke a solid color (I know that may sound weird), but this apparently is fate forcing my hand. We'll see how it turns out. I'm having a bit of trouble picturing it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Down With Knitting Adultery

Striped Sweater Body
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Say it with me, please. No more dipping your needles into new yarn. Somehow I've lately gained a much-needed desire to stay faithful to a given project without sneaking off for a tryst with another (no matter how sexily it crooks its little index finger at me, giving me that come hither look). After seeing how many items I have stuck on various needles, I decided that a little will-power would be in order. And, to show how much we can get done when ignoring other projects' advances, we have exhibit A: the manly striped sweater I've been creating so my husband will finally shut up about me stealing his blue Alpaca sweater (even if he is right).

I'm making this from Elizabeth Zimmerman's bottom-up/in the round sweater formula. This, of course, is the arm. No, it's not. Can you imagine? No way I'd make a sweater for my husband if he were that big. Sorry, but that's more than my fickle heart can stand of one project. Anyway, this is actually the body. I've got about 5 inches to go on this part. Then, I'll need to start the other arm (you'll remember I've already done one). Exciting to see such progress, doncha tink?

We've slipped this onto a long cord of my Denise needle set and have found that we're on the right track to a sweater that actually fits. And, to top that off, he even likes it. The more he sees of it, the more he seems to like it (by the way, that orange is much less "day-glo" in real life).

So, hold your picket signs high and chant with me - Down with knitting adultery! I'll soon be back to being able to use my Denise needles without taking something else off them first.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Attack of the Killer Grackles

What's a grackle, you ask? So did I. Apparently it's the bird that should have been used in the Hitchcock movie Birds. Maybe he just didn't think "Grackles" had the appropriate ring for a movie title.

What am I talking about? Well, since I'm feeling a bit blah (there are ups and downs in the process of grieving for deceased loved ones, and today's a downish day), I'm not much in the mood to blog. But, in the interest of giving others something fun to read, I've scanned the Odd News on Yahoo! (it always gives me a good chuckle, anyway), and I've come up with this story...

Notice that all of the attackees interviewed are lawyers or court employees. Coincidence or conspiracy? You decide...

HOUSTON - Like a scene from the horror movie "The Birds," large black grackles are swooping down on downtown Houston and attacking people's heads, hair and backs.

Authorities closed off a sidewalk after the aggressive birds, which can have 2-foot wingspans, flew out of magnolia trees Monday in front of the County Administration Building.

"They were just going crazy," said constable Wilbert Jue, who works at the building. "They were attacking everybody that walked by."

The grackles zeroed in on a lawyer who shooed a bird away before he tripped and injured his face, Jue said. The lawyer was treated for several cuts.

It appears that the birds are protecting their offspring. On Monday a young grackle had fallen out of its nest and adult birds attacked people who got too close, Jue said.

Another bird attacked a deputy county clerk.

"I hit him with a bottle," said Sylvia Velasquez. "The other birds came, and one attacked my blouse and on my back."

Two women came to help her after she fell to the ground, and the birds attacked them as well. The group escaped by running into the building.

"This is a very Hitchcock kind of story. Very Tippi Hedren," said downtown worker Laura Aranda Smith, referring to one of the stars of Alfred Hitchcock's move "The Birds."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

It's Official: I'm a Gluttonous Sloth

This explains the state of my house!

Your Deadly Sins

Sloth: 60%

Gluttony: 40%

Envy: 0%

Greed: 0%

Lust: 0%

Pride: 0%

Wrath: 0%

Chance You'll Go to Hell: 14%

You will die with your hand down your underwear, watching Star Trek.

Kid Silk Haze Bird's Nest Scarf

And, here we have it, ladies and gentleman, a real, live finished object. Okay, not live, but it is finished - blocked and everything. Sorry I can't offer you a better photo, with natural lighting and a nice outdoor setting, but it's grey and rainy here today.

You don't get an idea of its length here, but you can sort of see it's pretty wide. I might have been better off making it a little thinner, thus making it longer, but it works out okay. This way, it's a bit like Crazy Aunt Purl describes life: it may be short, but it's wide.

Southwest Trading Co. Bamboo Yarn Swatch

Am I boring you yet? If so, you always know the exit is only a click away, but to entice you to stay, I'll offer some actual knitting content for this knitting blog now.

Featured here is the lovely bamboo yarn I bought recently. I've made a swatch and am currently contemplating the design details of the shirt I will knit with it. I'm leaning toward a reversible one, though not reversible in the usual way. It will most likely be a square neck on one side and a v-neck on the other. This way, if I were a teenager, and I had to quickly redress after a hot session of "hanky panky", it wouldn't be obvious if I put my shirt on backwards. Should have thought of that years ago! Now I don't really need it all that badly. Ahh well, hindsight's 20/20.

Vélo Rail: View From the "Train"

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
I've saved the amazing Larzac landscapes for last in this little series. This is the view from the track you ride on. What's great about this is that, unlike a real train, you can stop briefly to take a few snapshots of things you find interesting (although, this was a motion shot - my excuse for letting my strong ox of a husband do most of the peddling - we can't have fuzzy pictures!)

In case you're not familiar with the area, this is near where Roquefort cheese comes from. We even saw the world-famous José Bové out mending his fences. He's the French sheep farmer who was jailed for destroying a local McDonald's with a tractor as a statement against globalization. The McDonald's was rebuilt, but he became a household name in this country and many others. Apparently, the fame has not brought him fortune, because he seems to carry on his business of being a shepherd just the same.

Vélo Rail Tunnel

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
You even get to go through several tunnels. How cool is that? Here we are coming out of one.

More Vélo Rail

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Here's me taking pictures of the things I thought were cool. Don't you just feel like you're on a train? I love those arches.

Be Your Own Train

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
This weekend trip to see some friends was so much fun. I expected a little hike somewhere pretty, but they surprised us with something even better: Vélo Rail. This roughly translates to Track Cycling, and it's the oddest/coolest invention I've come across in quite a while.

Someone has purchased property in the hills of Larzac (beautiful Southern French sheep grazing country) that had an old, unused bit of railway on it. They set up buggies like the one in the picture, powered by the strength of your own legs, that zoom along the old tracks. Very cool. The sounds are all those of a train, and the pedaling needed to propel the buggy isn't really all that hard. As you can see, there is a bench behind the two pedalers seats for the lazy ones to sit on. And, between the bicycle seats up front, there is a place to attach a baby seat, so it's an ideal family outing.

Here's a link for anyone who is interested.

Secret Pal Goodies

Secret Pal Goodies
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
We'll start the day off with the secret pal goodies, since that has been waiting in line to pose for us for quite a while. In the background, you see an issue of InKnitters and Stitch 'n Bitch Nation. The InKnitters mag has all kinds of interesting technical guides in it. I'm itching to try the plaid socks and some reversible knitting. The reversible vest isn't my style, really, but the technical instructions should get me on my way to a reversible scarf. That could be really cool. I'm thinking that I should use that technique on the Phildar cashmere/lambswool blend that I bought for my husband. If I do that, of course, I'll need to get some in another color, but that could be really cool.

Anyway, back to the picture. The two balls of red yarn are Cascade Merino Frappé, which I'm not sure what to do with yet, but they are unbelievably soft. Behind them on the right is a hank (or do we call that a skein? - weird, my mind went completely blank on that) of Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud in a really lovely colorway called Iris. Then, on top of one ball of Merino Frappé, you see a butterfly pin - very cute. And, up front are a tin of ginger Altoids and another tin of cherry tea, which I've yet to taste but that smells delicious. There is also a card with instructions for a baby blanket.

And, lastly (drumroll, please), as if all of that were not enough, she slipped in a hand-made scarf, which, unfortunately you don't see well in the picture. It's under the tea. I'll have to take a better shot of it alone so you can see the detail. It's really lovely. She apparently crochets, because it's unlike any knit stitch I've ever seen. I'd have to get out my craft reference book to tell you which crochet stitch pattern it is, but, trust me, it's pretty. If I had to guess what yarn she used, I'd have to go with Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud in their Smoke colorway. She doubled it, though, so it took me a little while to recognize the yarn. I'm assuming that one skein doubled makes a whole scarf, which, if you're familiar with the price of that yarn, is a real bargain.

Anyway, as you can see, I've been thoroughly spoiled. Thanks, Secret Pal Angel #2.

The Hit Parade

Like a thief in the night (except it was broad daylight), I snuck into my husband's office and stole his internet connection right out from under him. He didn't know where the connection password was, but we women have our ways of finding these things out! So, here we are with a series of fun pictures to show off my secret pal gift, the family mini-vacation, and my most recent FO (yeah, an actual FO). So, stay tuned for the hit parade...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Grand Day Out

Those of you into Wallace and Gromit may recognize that title. My daughter loves those little cartoons.

Anyway, that title for me means that we have been invited by friends of my husband to eat at their house tonight with other guests, and then to stay the night and go hiking tomorrow. They all have kids our kids' age, so everything works out well.

That, plus the fact that a heavy storm knocked out our DSL router last night (I am working with a backup modem on my husband's computer) means that you won't get much blogging out of me for a few days till we get a replacement. This is a real pain, because I usually blog while lunch or dinner is cooking, and I can keep an eye on what the kids are doing. I can't very well do that from my husband's office in the house nextdoor. And to top that off, typing goes really slowly on my husband's French keyboard.

For those of you who have never seen any foreign language keyboards, and you've not taken the time to think about why keys aren't in alphabetical order, here's an explanation for you: the letters used most in the language the keyboard is intended to be typed in are in the most convenient places. Now who decided what is convenient is another issue entirely, but there's at least a reason the Z is in the bottom left corner instead of the middle. So, naturally, different languages use different letters with different frequency. We barely ever use the letter Q in English, but since most conjunctions and question words start with Q in French (que, quoi, qui, quel...), it's right where the A key is on American keyboards. Luckily, there aren't tons of differences in our keyboards, but those keys that are different, are, of course, those that you use most frequently. So, I'm sitting here typing with my two index fingers like a computer programmer (only slower - against all logic, those guys fly). The one can't quite figure out, though is the period key. You have to press the shift key to use it. Otherwise you get a sentence that ends like this; Silly, if you ask me, since they use periods at the end of each sentence, too. I guess maybe they are counting on you holding the shift key down through end of one sentence on into the beginning of the next to capitalize the first letter. I wasn't taught to type in French, though, so that's just a guess. Either way itt's annoying for someone using the keyboard to type in English.

Well, very quickly, a bit of knitting news: I finished the bird's nest scarf, though it needs to be blocked. I'll pictures and give more details later.

Friday, May 13, 2005

I'm an Idiot and You're Not Psychic

I got in to the post office today to pick up my package, which was, indeed, from one of my Secret Pals angels. Everything in it is wonderful. I'll go more in depth about that (with pictures, and everything) in a later post. There was one thing in the package that made me realize that I'm an idiot, though. Many moons ago, when Secret Pals 4 began, I made a Froogle Wishlist. Then, I promptly forgot about it. Well, since then, I have had the occasion to purchase some of the items on my list. But, like an idiot, I forgot to remove them from my list. It has been done this morning, because - hey, better late than never, right? Oh, well. It's my own damn fault, right? Disorganization, once again, comes up in bites me in the dairy-air. On the upside, though, with the amount of disorganization around here, it's not unlikely that a double of something I own may end up being needed due to loss or distruction at the hands of a toddler (always look for the silver lining, people).

Anyway, thank you so much, Roxanne. That was a great package. All sorts of goodies were in there - even a hand-made one. I'll leave you in suspense about what was in there till I get the chance to take a picture.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I'm-Too-Lazy Note

I'm-Too-Lazy Note
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
For those of you unfamiliar with the French postal service, this is a notice of an attempt to deliver a package. Around here, it's also known as the "I'm Too Lazy to Drive All the Way Up to Your Door" note. We get these all the time. Luckily our mailbox is pretty large and can fit pretty decent-sized letter-shaped packages, at least.

Now, in the postal carrier's defense, our mailbox is at the end of our dirt road, which is about 1.8 km away from the house (about a 5-10 minute drive). So, though it's always disappointing to receive these, I can't really blame them. It is funny to see how they've lied on the paper, though. A handwritten section claims that they attempted to deliver, but I wasn't home. Liar, liar, pants on fire! We've been here all day.

What all of this brings me to is this:

Where can I get a stack of these notices? They could read, "I attempted to ____________ but couldn't". Think of the uses! "I attempted to cook your dinner... do the laundry... wash the dishes" (keep in mind all this really means is that I was too lazy/didn't feel like doing whatever is on the notice). I think I could make some big money selling something like this.

Now, the postal service notice gives a place/time after which you may come and pick up your package. I'm thinking my notices could say, "You may do _________ yourself at your own convenience. What do you think?

Okay, all kidding aside, this note probably means that I've received a package from the Secret Pals angel who wrote me an email last Friday saying something had been sent. So exciting! I can hardly wait! Is it inappropriate to camp out in front of the local post office like you would for concert tickets? Just curious.

Leek and Onion Pie

Leek and Onion Pie
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Just to prove to you that I have been doing a bit more than html and blogging (even if I haven't gotten much knitting done).

This started out as a Tarte aux Poireaux (Leek Pie), which is very tasty, and a typical dish around here. Then, I realized you needed 4 leeks, where I only had 1. So, I threw in several onions. From then on, the recipe became a complete ad-lib. But, it turned out very well (tasty, I mean). At least, I liked it. The kids wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot fork (but they've been picky all week after a gastrointestinal virus struck). More for me!

Htmler For A Day

Yeah, who was I kidding? Did I really think I could make the company website of my/my husband's dreams from a dinky html/css tutorial online? That's not to say that it wasn't helpful. What parts I was able to do actually worked. I just want more out of my html than that. I wasn't able to put the graphics I wanted on the site, which is a major sore spot. I just didn't find a good enough example of doing a background in an online tutorial. So, I've whipped out the ole credit card and gone shopping on Amazon. I want instructions on this sort of thing in English, so I couldn't just go on down to the local bookstore to get what I wanted (one of the down sides to living in a foreign country). Plus, I love to get mail, anyway. So, I'll have to put my dreams of a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am website creation experience on hold for a week or so till I get this thing in the mail.

But, when I do get the hang of this stuff... watch out! We'll be looking at some major changes around this blog! I'm kind of fond of this one's skin. I love the colors, but I have to say that I would like more for my header and that sort of stuff. I actually could do that much with the knowledge I have already. My husband doesn't read my blog. He'd never notice I did mine before his, would he? Shhh! You aren't going to tell, are you? Alright, I'll try to be good. Hmm, I could always say I was practicing on mine first. Do you think he'd fall for that? I can at least work on perfecting (or improving at the very least) my knowledge of Adobe Illustrator so that I can get the graphics exactly how I want them in the meantime.

Oh, and a bit of information about me that we've learned through this html stuff...

I'm totally obsessive about anything I get really into. I mean, scary kind of obsessive. I think I'd eat if I didn't have to feed others too, but I'm not really sure. I could actually forget. Hmmm. Money-making idea (my Mom is famous for this expression): I could write a book. We'll call it Html Yourself Skinny. The subtitle could be something along the lines of:Be As Thin As Can Be, Even Without the Crack Pipe. That could be a bestseller. Look for it on bookshelves everywhere, people.

Alright, I obviously have spent way too much time in front of the computer in the past couple of days. I must get some time away before nothing is left of my body or my brain.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

If You Have Nothing Good To Say...

... you can always count on strange news stories to give you something to talk about.

Here's a good one for you...

Ice Cream Vendor Punches Complaining Boy

PITTSBURGH - Throwing a punch at a boy complaining about the cost of his cold treat has landed an ice cream vendor in hot water.

Nazzareno Didiano, 44, was placed on probation and ordered to attend anger management classes after a trial Tuesday over the May 2004 incident.

The boy, now 14, told the judge that Didiano attacked him as he sat on his bike just blocks from an initial confrontation. The boy testified that Didiano pulled him off the bike, punched him in the face and slammed him into a wall.

Didiano acknowledged confronting the boy, but denied punching him. He said the boy had used various obscenities.

"He instigated the whole thing," Didiano said. "I wanted to tell him I didn't appreciate being talked to like that."

Didiano, who was found guilty of simple assault, lost his job with Paul's Ice Cream Co.

The story was found here.

Now, I know you're appalled, but I'm thinking we've all wanted to do that to some random stranger in our lives. Maybe it wasn't a teenage boy. Maybe, as in my case, it was an old lady nagging you on the train about taking too much time in the aisle while you had two crying, exhausted kids to get to their chairs after well over a day's-worth of plane traveling. Yep, she was evil. And, I told her as much (well, maybe not in those exact words, but I did give her a piece of my mind). She was just lucky my hands were full.

As for me, I've been very busy attempting to html and css my way into creating a business website for my husband. Going alright, so far... but this explains the lack of interesting things to post.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Mom's Stained Glass Flowers

Mom's Stained Glass Flowers
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Wow! I mean, really. What else can we say? Well, I guess there's always something else I can say. I never quit. It's pathetic, and most likely very annoying to those who can't just click and get rid of me like you can. My chatterbox of a daughter is starting to give me an idea of what I was like when I was little. It's a bit scary. She talks almost non-stop all her waking hours - and even when she's sleeping she sometimes can't shut up. But, that's not why we're here, and she's sweet anyway and has lots of fun things to say, so we'll stop talking about her talking.

Now, to the stained glass...

This is Mom's favorite. I had never seen it before, because she gave it to my Aunt, who loves her stuff and has been wanting one for a long time. I don't know when she finished it, since I no longer even live on the same continent as the rest of the family. But, I do know it's been way too long since she's done any stained glass work. And, we're here to convince her she needs to get back on it. Mom, you've always got an online gallery here at The Stitchin' Sheep. We're proud to show off your goodies (plus it adds a bit of variety to my otherwise one-tracked-minded endeavor here). So bring 'em on.

Mom's Stepping Stone Flower

Mom's Stepping Stone Flower
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
For those of you who were away this weekend and didn't get to see the Mother's Day posts, I suggest you scroll down or click on those posts in the sidebar labeled "The Untalented, Anonymous Commenter". I dedicated the weekend blogging to showing off someone else's finished work (don't we all get a little bored with my stuff sometimes?). And, since that someone (Mom) hadn't found any more pictures of her stained glass goodies, I only posted pictures of two of them.

Well, apparently, she can't help playing late at night with her new Mac (always been a PC user and just made the switch - never going back, I suspect) and found two more to inspire us with.

This is another stepping stone. Pretty, don't you think? But, I've saved the best for last. Her favorite will be the last thing I post this morning. After all, we want the most stunning, eye-catching pictures at the top of the page to attract attention, right?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Bird's Nest Scarf

Bird's Nest Scarf
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Here we have an outdoor progress shot of the Kid Silk Haze scarf I'm working on. I've been pretty faithful to this project, which is rare these days. I've worked only on it since I cast on. I guess I'm fascinated by the way that this super fine yarn can become what you see in the picture here. Lace is fun that way. Knitting is in general, of course, but when you throw in a few yarnovers and other tricks, you get such an amazing effect. I am still in awe of the fact that you can do such things with a couple of needles and some yarn.

Oh, and you may notice that the vertical lines caused by my stitch markers are no longer there. You can still see them toward the bottom a bit, but I decided to be brave and get rid of my crutch. So far so good. Oddly enough, the one error I made so far was in the section where I was using the stitch markers (it isn't really noticeable, though, so it doesn't bug me). Once I became more familiar with the stitch pattern, I didn't really need them. I can even do this while watching tv, which means that I am able to count easily enough with a bit of distraction - woohoo, the multi-tasking I am capable of!

Once again, my dear Secret Pal who sent this yarn - thank you, thank you, thank you for the hours of fun.

Wow, That Was Fast!

100% Bamboo Yarn
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I ordered that discounted bamboo yarn from England, what - Friday? And, it's here today. I love that about that shop (Get Knitted - over in the sidebar, if you're interested). They are very quick shippers. Another thing about them that I love is the smell of the yarn when I receive it. The first package they ever shipped me had a sample of their wool fat soap. I'm still using it in my bathroom, and it smells yummy. I was really hoping they'd send another bar with this order, but I guess at some point, they actually want people to purchase it, right? Anyway, I guess they store their yarn with the soap, because the yarn smells so deliciously clean. I guess it's possible they wouldn't send it with bamboo yarn for fear I was ordering it because I'm allergic to wool, or because I'm a vegan knitter. Anyway, at least the yarn smells good.

And, look at it. Beautiful, don't you think? I really like those colors. If I didn't already have a million projects already started, I'd most likely get right to work on it. I want to swatch to at least figure out the size needle I want to use, but I'm afraid that will tempt me enough to actually start knitting something with it. Oh, and you're probably wondering what I plan to knit with it. You think I actually know this already? You obviously have mistaken me for an organized person who doesn't make impulse buys. That being said, I do have some ideas, and it will most likely become a tank top for summer. Maybe something with short sleeves, if I have enough yarn for that. We'll see how the swatching goes. Either way, I'm very excited to have gotten this yarn on sale. Almost makes up for the fact that I didn't get to go to Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Untalented, Anonymous Commenter (Part V)

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
This is the only other picture of her glass projects she sent me. It's not a window decoration, though. The glass is set in some cement mixture to make a stepping stone. She has some of these in her backyard.

As you can see, she's obviously got no talent whatsoever with this whole glass cutting thing, either. Once again, time to throw in the towel and find another hobby to attempt. This one clearly isn't working for her.

I hope everyone has liked this Mother's Day installment of the blog. I'll add more pictures of her fun stained glass stuff if she sends more, but for now that's it.

And, Mom, I hope you've liked your Mother's Day gift. I feel a bit like a preschooler coming up with some homemade, unidentifiable gift-object, but I hope you like it anyway. The real intended gift here is to make you realize that you are, indeed, quite talented. And, though you may be right that you don't have "my talents", the implication of that phrase is very wrong. You are not talentless. You have YOUR talents, which are different than mine, but very wonderful just the same. So, appreciate my so-called talents all you want, but don't ever let them overshadow your own in your mind. You have many, and you need to recognize their value. Happy Mother's Day!

The Untalented, Anonymous Commenter (Part IV)

Mom's Stained Glass
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Here we have another installment of "How Uncreative My Mom Is."

This is her main hobby (the quilts were just a side thing as gifts for others). Stained glass work is her main passion. She does really beautiful work, though she doesn't feel she's creative enough to design her own. So, as far as I know, each of the pieces she's made to date are from someone else's designs, though I'm almost certain she picks the colors she likes (somewhat like those of us knitters who use someone else's pattern with a different yarn of our choosing). This is only one of at least 8-10 different finished projects she has in different windows around her house and out in the backyard.

Unlike the quilting, this is a very skilled hobby with many dangerous aspects to it that really can't easily be learned at home (that's not to say quilt-making doesn't require skills - skills I apparently don't have, as we discussed earlier). So, she's not self-taught on this one. She has taken several community college courses to learn how to do various different types of stained glass projects.

Oh, and in case you're wondering what goes into making stained glass goodies, I'm no expert, but I can give you a little idea. This is not a precut kit. She has a special cutting machine (danger!) that she uses to hand-cut each piece of glass to the right size and shape. CORRECTION: THE MACHINE IS A GRINDER. SHE CUTS THEM BY HAND, THEN GRINDS THEM TO MAKE THEM SMOOTH. Then, the black lines that separate the glass, while also holding them together, can be various different types of metal wire that are melted and shaped into place, if I remember correctly. Lead is an example (Did I mention, danger!?). So, as you can see, this is no paint-by-number kindergarten project. It's complicated and takes quite a bit of practice to get right.

She only sent me a picture of this one, so you'll have to take it as a sampling of her work, unless I can convince her to send more. But, you get the idea.

Now, tell me, is my mother really as untalented as all that? Nah, I don't think so either.

The Untalented, Anonymous Commenter (Part III)

Stitching Detail (Sun)
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
The picture is not excellent, and I apologize for that, but if you look closely in the white area of the quilt here, you can see the detailed stitching she did on this quilt (remember, the first one she ever did - before taking a class). Now that I look at it again, I realize the picture is sideways, but it doesn't really matter (I forgot to rotate it). It's the sun over the house that sits in the center of the quilt. There are lots of details like this in the stitching. I was thoroughly impressed when she gave it to me.

In case you're wondering, she did not sew this by hand, because she has had a long career of too much typing and has carpal tunnel problems in her wrists. But, actually, to me, that's even more impressive. I'm okay with a sewing machine myself, and I feel that I have much, much more control over the designs I make when sewing by hand. I can't for the life of me figure out how she made a full circle on her machine. I suspect there were some fabric pencil lines involved, but I'm not sure about that. Either way, I would have been all over the place with those stitches. I have pedal-to-the-metal-syndrome on my machine. I can't seem to go at a steady, slow pace.

I'm looking at these pictures, and I'm thinking to myself: untalented, indeed.

Tomorrow, we'll take a little look at another hobby of hers that she sucks at - stained glass.

The Untalented, Anonymous Commenter (Part II)

Pastel Quilt
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Here is the second quilt my embarrassingly untalented mother ever made. I really love this one. It's beautiful, of course, but it's also so soft. And, when she first shipped it over here, I couldn't force myself to let my daughter (its intended recipient) have it on her bed. I had to sleep with it until it lost the smell of Mom's house. It's amazing the things you miss when you move so far from home.

This is the quilt she made while taking a quilting class. The untalented one chose the colors and set up the design of this quilt. I'm not too sure about the last one, but I think she may have done it for that one, as well. So, obviously, she should just throw in the towel for everything craft-related. She just sucks. Don't you think?

In the next picture, we'll see in greater detail just how horrible she is at this whole quilt-making thing.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Untalented, Anonymous Commenter (Part I)

A few days ago, an anonymous commenter left a note on my Recycled Dress Shirt Rug post, saying, "I wish I had your talent." Even before reading another anonymous comment on a post with my hubbie's picture (saying that he looked pretty good except that he had taken her most beautiful - oh, and by the way, only - daughter away from her), I knew it was my mom. I am far from psychic (if I were, I'd know my children's every thought, thus making being a mommy a bit easier). So, how did I know it was her? It was the phrase: "I wish I had your talent." I've been hearing those exact words for pretty much as long as I can remember. So, this weekend, in honor of Mother's Day, Mom, this blog's for you.

We're going to show the world (or at least the small audience that comes here) just how untalented this woman really is. We'll put aside the fact that she's a kind, caring, generous person who was born to be a mother. We'll focus only on her creative talents - those that she claims are absent.

The picture accompanying this post is my mother's very first attempt at quilt-making. Pretty shabby craftsmanship, huh? I mean just look at it. Crap, obviously. And, to put this all in perspective, I too had a brief infatuation with quilt-making - one that netted me approximately 4 small motifs. I never even got a whole quilt out of my efforts. This quilt, in case you're wondering, is the product of self-teaching from a book. She only took a class later. We'll see the quilt from that class in a different post.

The Giant Anorexic Moth

Well, as KarenK mentioned in the comment section of the previous post, no worries about the enormous moth eating my stash. I wasn't really worried at all. I couldn't really picture it devouring anything (or letting its eggs do so) since I've never even seeen any in the house before. And, after some internet searching this morning, my husband found that it is a Giant Silk Moth (making a string of silk one kilometer long). It's actually the largest moth found in Europe, and as KarenK mentioned, the moth doesn't even eat. They apparently last long enough to lay their eggs, and that's it. They die before the end of Spring (if I remember right, they start out at the beginning of Spring). So, we were lucky to have caught a glimpse of one at all.

Anyway, as my way of apologizing for the awful quality of the picture in that last post, here's a better one (found on the net) so you can see the real beauty of this moth.

Hitchcock Flick?

Enormous Moth
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
No, just a scene from our kitchen window. This is a freakishly huge moth I found flailing against the kitchen window screen trying to get to the light in the house. I've never seen anything like this is my life. I'll bet if Hitchcock had known this thing existed, he'd have used these instead of birds in the movie Birds. Can you imagine getting that thing in stuck in your hair while having dinner outside some night? Or worse, at some fancy party, where your hair's lacquered enough to trap the thing? Scary.

I wish I had something for scale in this shot, but I'll just tell you it's got the wing span of a bat. No kidding. It's about 6 inches across,

I think I may have to start a Freaky Insect photo section of my blog for those who think they'd prefer to live where I live. I have a friend who spent 80% of her one-week visit with us snapping shots of all the amazing insects we've got in this part of the country. Off the top of my head, I can think of two other enormous beasts I've seen around - a huge striped grasshopper-type guy and a big black bumble bee (lambchop #2 tried to pick one up last fall - that's how cool they look). We've also taken a picture of an unnaturally large toad before. It was about the size of a softball (maybe a bit bigger, but I'm having trouble thinking of anything else for comparison).

Anyway, aren't we all glad there aren't any of these snooping around our yarn stashes? Can you imagine the damage?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Bird's Nest Scarf

Bird's Nest Scarf
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Here we are back in the present after a bit of nostalgia with the previous picture.

This is the beginnings of the scarf I decided to make with the lovely ball of kid silk haze I was given by my secret pal. I may actually be converted on my previous dislike of mohair. That little bit of silk in this yarn really makes something special out of it, I think. The early parts of it look a bit messier than the later parts, in my opinion, but we're getting a definite pattern, at least. I'm just wondering, though, what the best way is to block lace. I've never done that before, and I was wondering if you just put the pins around the border or what. And, how much do you stretch something like this when blocking? I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Anyway, it's not perfect, but it's a definite improvement over the Kiri Shawl, and I'm satisfied with the results so far. My main problem is the vertical lines you see between each "nest". Those come from the fact that I have stitch markers placed there to remind me of where each repeat ends and begins. I'm still a beginner on this whole lace thing, and I don't want to lose track of myself. Will those go away, or is there something I should do? Or should I just give up my crutch and lose the markers entirely? I'd love to know what more experienced lace knitters think about this dilemma.

And, lastly, since we're here talking about bird nests, I need to respond to a comment left in a previous post. I've asked my husband what on earth he was doing looking down into a pole when he happened to see the birdie nest next to our mailbox. Knowing how he is, and how he loves to know the structure of things, it's not so weird now that he has explained it to me. A new mailbox has been added to the pole, and it was not attached in the same manner as the other two, so he was compelled to investigate. While rooting around for an answer to his question, he found the bird eggs. So, I guess he's not so strange after all - well, not if you don't find it odd to care about the construction of a cluster of mailboxes.

An Old Friend Pops Up Out of the Blue

My Very First Project
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I was looking for a pair of shoes for Lambchop #2 the other day and happened upon this, my very first knitting project. Ah, the nostalgia.

I made it for Lambchop #1 some time around the 9 month to 1 year age. I had a sweet little baby girl to play dress-up with, so it never occurred to me to make a scarf. It was a great beginner project, if you ask me. The garter stitch, of course, is easy, but then, there is a bit of decreasing to shape it, so you're forced to learn a bit more than just the simple knit stitch. Keep things interesting.

The funny thing about this little sweater, though, is that I didn't actually use the knit stitch, at all. When learning, I had more trouble with the knit stitch than the purl, and since the result is pretty much the same, I used only purl stitches on this project. I learned to do the knit stitch better later on, obviously, but it makes for a fun story about my first project, right?

Anybody Hungry?

Homemade Whole Grain Bread
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
First, I have to say how exciting it is that we've located the camera cords again. I didn't even have to resort to thievery. And, to celebrate, I've got several pictures planned today.

Here's the first. I mentioned the other day that I had made some fresh bread. I don't have a machine, and my Kitchen Aid mixer is broken, so this is the real deal - made from scratch. I love to knead dough with my hands anyway, not to mention the fact that it's good for my wrists, which have a tendency to be weak and give out on me at weird moments.

I think this is one of my favorite recipes. I love it because it's pretty (I like that deep color speckled with grains), very healthy (100% whole wheat) and, of course, delicious. The recipe comes from Eat Drink and Be Healthy, which is a really good nutrition book, by the way.

Anyway, I love to bake bread, it had been a while, and we didn't have any in the house, so what better way to spend a part of my morning? What's great about bread baking is that you can always knit while it's rising. Then, you can knit again while it's baking. That, and the fact that it's edible. Edible hobbies are always good.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Fast Learner?

Okay, as far as lace knitting goes, I may not be classified as a fast learner, but we're starting to get the hang of things, here. I've gotten through the first little repeat section, and it actually looks like the picture. You know that's got me all "tickled pink," to quote good ole Mom. My little bird's nest scarf looks so cute. I'm so excited - oh, I guess "tickled pink" already gave you that idea. Anyway, so now that I'm starting to get the idea of how the whole SSK thing works, and the yarnovers are even coming out right, this scarf has an actual pattern to it (which is much more than I can say for the poor kiri shawl I threw in the towel on earlier).

Just thought I'd share the excitement with everyone. I'll share pictures later (the USB cord I use to connect my camera to my computer has grown legs and run off. I now have to sneak in my husband's office to steal his Palm Pilot cable when he's not looking). Oh, and I'll share the two morals of this story, as well...

1. Always do as your third grade teacher instructed - read the directions thoroughly (oh, and follow them, too - all of them, not just the parts that catch your eye the most).

2. When in doubt on the technical aspects of a job needing to be done, internet instructional videos are your friend (Is this why internet porn is so popular?).

Oh, and while we're on the subject of bird nests... a birdie has made a nest and laid some cute, itty bitty eggs in the pole our mail box is attached to. I'm a little worried that the bird can't get to the eggs, though. I've never seen a bird nearby, and I think it'd have to be a really tiny bird to fit in there. Did the bird lay the nest/eggs on top of the pole, and they fell in? Another question that comes to mind is what on earth my husband was doing looking down in the pole when he found the nest. Note to self: Ask crazy/inquisitive husband what he's doing looking down into strange holes. Oh, and while we're talking about eggs here, do you think it would be highly inappropriate for me to replace chicken eggs (since I still haven't found where they're stashing them) with these cutesy little birdie eggs??? I'm just wondering. How mean do you think I am? Yep, I'm probably the kind of person who'd pull the wings off a ladybug, aren't I?

A Little Learning Experience

I've been playing around with the ball of Kid Silk Haze I was sent by an oh-so-generous secret pal somewhere out there in the world. This stuff will be giving me hours of fun, not to mention some lessons in lace knitting. I have done two false starts on a scarf based on the Bird's Nest Shawl (I think that's what it was called) in the Folk Shawls book by Oberle. Obviously, there's not enough in one ball of yarn to make a shawl with, but I really like the stitch pattern in that shawl, so I'm giving it a go.

While working with it, I've realized three things about myself as a knitter.

1. I don't follow instructions very well. I apparently skim them, leaving out whole entire sections. This is something I'm sure my 3rd grade teacher could have predicted, right?

2. I wasn't making my yarnovers correctly. This has been rectified, and from now on, purling back on a row with yarnovers will be MUCH easier.

3. I had no clue how to properly do a SSK. I've looked at many of my handy-dandy books for instructions, and none of them did any good for me. Maybe it's because I knit Continental style and the photos (though incomplete-seeming anyway) were done from English style knitters. I've watched a nice little video, though, on (great site - even if it is done English style, at least you get videos) that enlightened me, I think.

So, with the three things in mind, I will cast on again for this scarf, and hopefully I'll come up with something satisfying enough to take a picture for you.

In non-knitting news, I created something else today using one of my other passions that I haven't done in a really long time. I made bread. Mmmm. Nothing like the smell of fresh homemade bread. And, it turned out really well. When you first start learning breadmaking, you get lots of not-so-great breads (even some that never rise at all). I have long since gotten at least good enough at this hobby to have consistent results that rise each time and produce yummy bread. Let's hope that someday, I will be able to say the same about my knitting! And, to better myself in that way, I've been wondering if it might be a good idea to get certified as a master knitter through the knitting guild (I forget its official name). At first, I thought it would just be a piece of paper, so what's the point? But, the more I think about it, the more I think it may be a nice way of making sure I try to perfect every technique I can, instead of just telling myself that it's good enough when I fudge it on a project. Has anyone done this? What did you think of it?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Wanted: Private Chick

What on earth does that title mean? Well, it's short for Private Chicken Detective, and that's what we needed around here. That, or a really thorough chicken stalker. Know any? Want to apply for the job? We need someone to follow the chickens around and figure out where they're hiding their eggs.

The first few days, they laid them in the coop. No problem. All you have to do is sift through the hay, and you've got yourself a tasty omelette or even a fancy soufflé. But, someone (okay, okay, it was me) had the bright idea of actually giving them a full coop of nice, brand spankin'new, squeaky clean hay. And, of course, they now refuse to lay in it. Sure, they've dirtied the new hay since, but now that they found a substitute place to hide their eggs, and they see that no one steals them, they don't lay in the coop anymore.

At first, I thought they were on strike. These are French chickens, after all. They often do that when they're molting, and given the season changes recently, it's entirely possible that they'd be changing feathers. I've waited and watched, though, and now I'm not too sure.

I think they've gotten smart and started a hidden stash spot. I see that only five of the chickens are roaming around most of the day. Then, today, when I saw the sixth one out, I noticed that her butt was dirtier than the rest, which makes me think she must be sitting a lot (we won't go into details on that). I remember with the last set of chickens we had that there's usually one whose job seems to be to sit on the eggs most of the time. There's no rooster, so there's not much point in her sitting on them, but she doesn't know that. Instinct is a funny thing, ain't it? So, the trick now is to hunt the girl down and find out where she hangs out all day.

The area they roam is pretty large, and since it's full of thorny bushes and other places I can't go, I'm wondering if we'll ever have fresh eggs again. So, does anyone know what typical chicken hiding places are? I'd love to know. I've looked under cars and other objects of that sort, but I haven't found anything yet. Ask yourself, if you were a chicken, where would you stash your goods? If you come up with something good, please do share.

Discounted Bamboo Yarn

Run, don't walk (or at least have your fingers click quickly) on over to Get Knitted's website for their bamboo yarn special. They always have a section of their site dedicated to discounted yarns at "silly" prices. I've been wanting to try bamboo yarn, and right now, they've got a limited quantity at a really low price (I checked around, and it's about 1/2 the price you see it at elsewhere). There's only one colorway available, but it's a pretty one, so if you've been wanting to try this yarn, you may want to take a look. And, now that I've made my little purchase, I'll allow you to go ahead and get some, too. They do ship outside the EU, so even those in the US may find this to be a good deal. I guess it all depends on the shipping. I don't think you'd have to pay the tax, though, and that was something I had to pay. Anyway, click here to take a peek.

Guess What!

Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Yeah, I think you all know what this is. Do I really have to tell you? Well, I guess, for those of you who are tuning in to our program a bit late, I'll tell you again. This is (again) the Recycled Dress Shirt Rug I'm working on for the Not Yarn Along.

Boy, is that yellow bright, huh? Wasn't expecting that. Most of the material I've got is blue, though, so this will be toned down a bit when all is said and done. I never realized how much my husband seems to prefer blue shirts till now.

Oh, and the pen you see in the picture is not a little mistake on my part. My husband said last time that I needed to add something for scale (just like a geologist to say something like this - they're always putting pens in pictures of rock formations to show scale). Not a bad idea, though, considering the fact that this will be pretty big later on, and you really can't tell how big it is now without the pen.

There you have it, now. And, with the pen, you can see that "it" isn't very much so far. We're getting there, though. And, sadly, it'll most likely be done before the house is.

Hot Diggity Dog!

Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Do you know what this is?

Yep, it's proof that an angel has been sent in by the Secret Pals 4 organizer to replace my original pal, who seems to be MIA. This, a ball of Rowan Kid Silk Haze, arrived in a little package the other day. Fun! I have heard tons of good things about this yarn. I have tried mohair before, and it wasn't pretty, but I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do with this baby. I've decided to make a lacey scarf, but I'll keep the details a mystery till I get around to working on it a bit.

So, thank you, Secret Pal. That was a great surprise. I feel loved again!